We are back to real life after having had a grand adventure last week of the most delightful sort – a trip to Florida to spend a week with our friend Eric and his son AJ at their vacation home on the Gulf Coast.
Part of the great adventure was flying there. I can count the number of times I’ve flown since our honeymoon nearly twenty years ago on two fingers. And Edie had never flown commercial – she’s been up in a little four seater to do some aerial photography with her dad, but has never been on a big jet plane. Pat’s brother Chris gave us tickets to anywhere in the continental US for Christmas, so this seemed like a good opportunity to use them. I’m so used to driving everywhere that not being able to pack a cooler with the contents of the fridge and throw it in the back seat to use as dinner threw me for a little bit of a loop. It being August and the garden going gangbusters, I did what everyone does when they head out on vacation and spent two days pickling, canning and otherwise preserving the contents of my fridge before we flew out. (That is what people do, right?)
Our destination was Eric’s family’s vacation house in South Venice, Florida, along the Gulf Coast. The house backs up to Alligator Creek, not too terribly far from where the creek meets the Intracoastal Waterway. Just on the other side of the canal was the actual gulf coast, so a quick walk to the ferry led to a short ride to the beach, although one afternoon the three of us loaded up in boats – Pat and I in a canoe, Edie in a kayak – and paddled over to the beach.
Eric and AJ were wonderful hosts – Eric brought his boat down, so the guys went fishing a few days and we tubed on the gulf another. Eric manages to be both part of the bromance (he worked with Pat at CBF for many years) as well as a sister wife – he could catch dinner AND cook it up in a pan with a fully executed meal plan to go with it (he also made breakfast a few mornings, to the delight of my breakfast loving family).
There was an abundance of wildlife – there were lizards everywhere I looked and taking pictures of them never, ever got old. I also snapped lots of shots of birds. We saw manatees and dolphins, but they were harder to grab shots of, although the manatee that swam up to the beach one day that was close enough for the kids to touch did cooperate a little.
We collected shark’s teeth and all sorts of cool shells. On our way to the airport Sunday, we headed to Myakka River State Park to look for some gators – and gators we saw. It was hard to get a shot of those as well, as they stayed in the water at a distance, but I think I did get decent enough proof.
And let’s face it, that’s about as close to an alligator as one would probably want to be. Myakka River Park is absolutely beautiful -I highly recommend a visit there.
There were palm trees and live oaks galore. I uploaded 1601 photos from my camera and I’m pretty sure there were at least 500 lizard shots and probably 500 live oaks with spanish moss photos.
I also took loads of photos of all the tropical plants I encountered. So many hibiscus! We came across a gopher tortoise walking through the neighborhood as we were driving home one afternoon and stopped to check it out. We quickly came to the realization the old lady walking behind it was walking with it and we think it lived in her yard? At any rate, she was very protective of it, fussing at it to ‘get along home now’ and we think we figured out from conversing with her that the turtle was about 22 years old, but we’re not sure. It was a slightly weird encounter, the sort we discussed the rest of the evening, trying to pin point exactly when it got weird. AJ suggested it was when we got out of the car to check out the turtle and he’s probably right.
The dock at Eric’s has views to the east AND the west, so there were wonderful sunrise and sunset views. One evening we drove up to the pier in Venice to see the sunset, which was in doubt due to a late thunderstorm. That one turned out to be the one I thought was the most spectacular.
Both children managed to find snails in the water one day at the same time, which were totally cool and weird at the same time, with beautiful shells.
There was also my absolute favorite activity of sitting on the beach and reading, something that never, ever gets old. I finished three books during the course of the week, so combine that with someone else meal planning, cooking and cleaning along with cool things to photograph and it was a complete success of a vacation.
It takes a village to pull off a vacation like this, so many thanks and much gratitude to Uncle Chris and family for the tickets, to Virginia for schlepping us to the airport early one morning and to our neighbors, Jane and Sam, for keeping Betsy the beagle (on a very short notice too!) and most of all, to Eric and AJ for the invite and the outstanding hospitality. From start to end, it was a grand adventure.