Friday, February 3, 2012

hable espanol?

OK - so the answer is no, unfortunately -

but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express recently (not really - just couldn't resist)

anyway- this is a post about Wednesday (this past one in particular)

On Wednesdays I am taking a class called "passport to Cuba" which is a six week exploration of Cuban history and culture taught by visiting presenters.  my friend Georgia mentioned that she was taking this class and I was able to sign up even though it had already met once.  So on Wednesday mornings I go to the Tampa History Center to learn about Cuba before I leave for my own trip to Cuba in April.

GA and I had lunch after class in the restaurant in the Center - it is a mini Columbia - an outpost of the renown Ybor City one founded in 1905 during the heyday of the Cuban community and cigar manufacturing here in Tampa. 

after class I went home and picked up Phil and we went to visit our friends in St Pete, where we went to a wonderful little Italian market and then had dinner on their lovely patio....

and just for fun after lunch on Thursday we took a "scenic route" home and on the way we found a surprise - a nice farm stand (right on the farm itself) where they had lovely heirloom tomatoes for sale.

wherein I come to the rescue of turtles...

LOL I thought the Victorian style chapter heading appropriate for yesterday's actions here on the River.

When I awoke I went into the main room (one of 2 and 1/2 rooms total) and from the window I saw an extremely LARGE bird sitting in the yard near the deck... then as I moved closer to the window and grabbed my camera I saw there were actually THREE large birds and that they were clearly black vultures - sitting and waiting...

after taking a few photos of them through the glass I saw that there was a turtle by the fence and she was laying I snapped into turtle rescue mode and went out and yelled at the vultures to leave--- that didn't work very well...guess their fear of humans is limited.  so I went closer to them and started waving my arms and and moving towards them and finally they all flew off...

my poor momma turtle was still hunkering down and dropping eggs and I stood waiting for her just in case they came back to either eat the eggs or disturb her.  she finished and then waddled (I know - that is what ducks do but she was so slow and ponderous) off to the river and sunk herself below the water and eventually swam away...

I was of course messing with mother nature but seriously - I want little turtles not well fed vultures to be my experience at River Cottage...LOL

so here are some photos of the dramatic events...LOL

there she is back in the river...

below- a blue heron in flight:
 and a great white egret wading and fishing:

and the big guy is back and waiting for his dinner:

all in a morning on the river here at River Cottage:

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

st augustine

time flies here- actually, it flies everywhere but tomorrow it will be February and I feel like I am always catching up (how can this be when I am "retired"?)

last week I went to my first class on "Passport to Cuba" - and heard a very interesting lecture on the intertwined history of the American Revolution and Cuba, especially Havana. I think I have mentioned it but in case you didn't remember I am going to Cuba in April with my travel buddy Jennifer (see Tunisia posts of last year)

anyway back to St Augustine.  we had already planned a trip there before I heard the lecture but I was excited by some of the history.  Settled far earlier than Jamestown and Plymouth... St A is a town steeped in history - both older - explorers landed there in 1513 (next year 500 year celebrations) and newer - Flagler built a railroad there during the robber baron era and a magnificent hotel (the Ponce de Leon)
where it cost 9,000 to stay by invitation only for the only option of three months in the winter. Cash up front too by the way- LOL.

so off we went to St A and what did we find- - -

the Dells.... but hold on- this was just because we wandered into retail hell right out of the parking garage that serves the historical center of town.  the long main street is a pedestrian only street and is lined by lots of t-shirt shops etc... filled with sparkly handbags and pirate related  items - I had been hoping for a more Colonial Williamsburg style experience and so by an hour into it was ready to go home.

however- it turns out that we just started off on the wrong foot with this lovely and interesting town.  once we got to the bottom of the "shopping street" we found a lovely plaza and a number of historical buildings in a warren of tiny narrow streets that were full of charm and very picturesque.

so if you go here is a plan I would recommend.  take the Old Town Train tour first- ride the whole loop despite the get off get on thing.  Then on the second loop get off at the Oldest House and take the tour. It is worth it for the long perspective of St A history.  Walk around the south end of town amongst the alley like streets and explore the area south of the plaza first.  Then spend some time exploring Flagler College which is the current tenant of the enormous Ponce de Leon hotel that Flagler built.

then walk the narrow streets of the north of the plaza are (except the shopping street) and then do the shopping street for souvenirs etc.  Along the way you will find lots of off the beaten path dining and drinking options and be sure to make a dinner reservation for someplace in town as after dark even the shopping street is delightful.  When most of the shops have closed and darkness has fallen there is a sense of the old in old town.  lit by a lot of tiny white lights (especially the plaza) the town becomes magical.

so go - and enjoy yourselves - and since we didn't have time for the Alligator Farm - get back to us with a report on that one...

old city north gate 

the fortress 

depiction of original settlement 

the hotel was magnificent- included below are interior and exterior shots as well as some memorabilia from a bygone era

and here are some of the shots of the things you can also run into - the "dells" type experience- or for those of you unversed in Wisconsin Dells- think Tijuana- LOL

Our second day started with a lovely outdoor lunch at the Conch House on the water- where the local Mustang Club was having their weekend brunch apparently-

I had the Minorcan burger which was a combo of ground sirloin, ground pork and chorizo with pepper jack cheese- very yummy!

We headed home in the late afternoon of day two having enjoyed St A once we got the layout of the place.  Definitely worth the trip.