Florida Gulf Coast – February 2015
We were fortunate enough to first Florida twice this winter, and it was a welcome change in climate from the cold and sometimes grey skies of middle TN. Even better, we have Nicole and Jose to hangout and stay with whenever we visit! What’s great too is that there are direct flights on SW from Nashville, so we got roundtrip direct flights for roughly 18k and 23k, saving us $600 and $750, respectively!
Cindy, Terry and Brice joined us during our first visit in January. We spent most of the time in and around Tampa, with a trip out to St Pete beach. St Pete is definitely one of our favorite beaches on the gulf coast of Florida that we have visited so far. It’s easy to get to, relatively local and uncrowded, and has a great stretch of soft white sand, shallow waves and warm water.
Next up we visited the Ringling Museum in Sarasota. This is the former winter home and estate of John Ringling, one of the several Ringling brothers who owned the famous circus of the same name. The estate is home to some awesome architecture:
And a killer patio right on the water which reminds one of a scene in The Great Gatsby:
In addition, there are a couple wonderful sections of the museum on the property, the first one dedicated to the art collection of Mr and Mrs Ringling. It’s full of some nice impressionistic paintings (my favorite since they remind me of how the world looks when I take my contacts out!) as well as some other styles which I don’t care as much about.
There is also a building dedicated to housing the props and equipment that the circus used while traveling from city to city back in the day. It was fascinating to learn and appreciate the sheer scale of the circus operation, and the amazing ability to tear down and setup in a new city every couple days. It’s no wonder that the US military studied the circus to learn the logistical secrets of its success!
A museum exhibit which drove home the large scale of the circus was a “diorama” of the entire circus – with tents, actors, railcars, spectators, and much more – that filled a large room in one part of the museum. The coolest part was that it was all modeled by hand over a couple decades by a man who lives in Knoxville and attends the same Church (and Sunday school group) as my parents!! Small world indeed!
On our second trip in February we joined up with N+J for the Gasparilla half marathon. None of us did very well at all, but compared to how much we each trained, I think it could be considered a success! The Gasparilla festival itself wasn’t at its peak during our visit, but it sounds like a grand ‘ol time akin closely akin to Mardi Gras or Oktoberfest. For a relatively young festival, only about 100 years old, it seemed pretty popular too.
We also spent a short while in Ft Myers and braved hours of traffic on Sanibel island. Apparently February is peak season for elderly snowbirds in Florida. There were license plates on vehicles from all over the north and lots of yankee accents floating through the air. Pedal power seemed like the most efficient way to get around as all the roads are one lane and bumper to bumper in places with slow-moving traffic. Apparently the fishing in places is pretty killer too, which got me excited for a possible return.
By far the most unique aspect of Sanibel are the sea shells that wash up on the beach. Due to its east-west orientation into the Gulf, and the water the currents flow, the whole island acts as a scoop to “collect” deposits of a fascinating variety of sea shells. Since the whole island is in fact an accumulation of shells, its not uncommon for locals digging in their gardens to unearth whole, unbroken conch shells and other unique treasures! Since it was an overcast and foggy day on our visit – not great for lying on the beach – we spent our entire visit walking the beaches and collecting a set which we thought was pretty respectable…
…Until we visited a store which specialized in sea shells and realized that our little collection were pretty amateur.
And now some obligatory sunset photos to end with: