Monday, November 30, 2015

November Sunset on the Lane

What little snow there was has melted but the streams are full of water and the trees bare against the evening sky. 

 You can see the lake a lot better now but the geese have gone - for a while.

It had started to ice up at the edges

 The sounds of shots from the hills, at one point a volley like the Battle of Stalingrad..

 It's hunting season in western New York and not a good idea to go off the road

Or wear deer-coloured clothes.

Hunters in camouflage and bright orange waistcoasts rumble by on all-terrain vehicles.

A few years ago, a beautiful big buck strode imperiously  through our back garden. He knew he was safe near the house. I hope he got away to enjoy more sunsets.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Hello from Golden Beach

"At times like this, I'm glad I'm not a turkey".

More after T-day (out of respect for my feathered friends above I don't spell it out.)  Hope it's a happy one for everyone!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Road Trip: The Last Leg

 We drove along the lovely coast road

The area blissfully undeveloped compared to parts of Florida further south

There were "Beware bears" signs on the road (were those bullet holes in the signs?)

 The houses

And blocks of flats along the coast

Were on stilts to guard against hurricanes and the related tidal surges.

There were some fun things to see en route, including various versions of "Gun and Pawn", places called Chassahowitzka, a quaintly named garage

 And a diner called "Mawvittles", though we actually stopped at a different one.

Here's an example of what was on the menu. I think "auce" is meant to be "sauce"

The customers were an eclectic bunch, including a gentleman who came in three times a day (though he did get his free seniors' coffee at McDonalds) and liked to philosophise rather loudly to whoever was willing to listen. It was an eclectic menu too. I had fried chicken livers which weren't half bad.

Soon we'd be at our destination.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Road Trip: Far Western Florida

It was a surprise to find out that western Florida is one hour behind the rest. Travelling through time zones is an interesting feature of living in America and one you never get to experience if you stay in Britain but I hadn't driven through one before. You'd think there'd be a big sign but there wasn't. You also wonder what would happen to built-up areas, part of which were in one time zone and part in the area. Apparently in that case people can choose which one to be in. Perhaps they take a vote. We just resorted to checking to see when our phones switched. The wonders of new technology.
  And old. Hubby tells me this Roller spotted in a car park en route might be some sort of American hybrid version. The side panels look wrong, he says authoritatively. 

Up and over one of those spectacular causeway-bridges. This was on the way to somewhere called Gulf Breeze. We were definitely in Florida.

In the village of Fort Walton Beach

 Was this sweet little old chapel.

There was also a coffee shop - one of those swanky roasting places. It had an interesting array of customers, young lads in camouflage presumably from one of the local military bases and an elderly fisherman who said he just wanted "plain coffee, the sort you got before the yuppies ruined everything."
  Then it was on along the coast road, past sand dunes and gateways to long drives, leading, I expect to desirable houses on the beach, live oaks, some arching over the road, some shading a little cemetery. Then through Destin, where we spied the most exquisite jewel of an art deco apartment block, perfect for the seaside but sadly no chance to get a picture. It was relatively undeveloped, with genuine fishing villages and houses on stilts to withstand hurricanes and tidal surges.
  "Undeveloped", however would not apply to Panama City.

A sort of Blackpool-with-palm trees, notorious for rowdy students on "spring break". Fortunately it wasn't spring.

We looked for a likely place for lunch. Hook'd was at least on the beach

And had nice views.

 We'd reconciled ourselves to a so-so meal but were pleasantly surprised. It was the best fish-and-chips I'd had since leaving England.
To be continued.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

From a Land of Contrasts

Dateline: Cattaraugus County, Western New York

There's plenty more to come on the road trip and Florida but I should quickly mention that I am now back in western New York, having left this

for this

In case you didn't know, America is a land of contrasts.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Road Trip: Pensacola Morning

We had time to explore the town a little. The main shopping drag in Pensacola is Palafox Street, named after a Spanish nobleman. Unfortunately it was early and most things were still closed, including the impressive-looking Basilica of St Michael the Archangel, dating from the 1880s. The priest at that time, Father John Baasen was born in Prussia. He travelled by train and on horseback down to his assignment in Pensacola and survived the simultaneous horrors of yellow fever and a church fire - he was carried out of the burning building on a cot. They made them tough in those days. And he survived to build the present church.

The roots of the parish are much older than that. I thought this gentleman might be Senor Palafox...

But no, it was Tristan de Luna y Arellano, who arrived in 1559, with eleven ships containing over over 1500 soldiers and settlers and 240 horses. Due to hurricanes, hardship and sickness his settlement didn't last but it earned him a statue.

And even a few pigeons, just like Lord Nelson in Trafalgar Square. Odd to see London pigeons at a Florida harbour but life is full of surprises.  Speaking of which

Appropriately the British owned Pensacola from 1763 until 1781, when Palafox Street was called George lll Street. The name didn't last.

  There were a lot of charming wrought-iron balconies.

And houses and shops that wouldn't look out of place in Chelsea.

With others more Florida-like.

The British actually laid out the city's street plan.

Then the Spanish got control back, followed by the United States.

Oh and the French had been there for a while too.

The sort of place where we'd like to have spent much longer. There are just too many of those.

To be continued.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Road Trip: Hungry in Pensacola

It was Sunday evening when we reached our first Florida destination, Pensacola, an interesting city with an interesting history and to go with that, an interesting Historic District where we were pretty sure we would find an interesting restaurant. So, rather by luck than judgement, we found an interesting little hotel called the Sole Inn very much in the interesting heart of things. "Just walk a couple of blocks", advised the friendly receptionist - "plenty of places there." So we walked and walked and found most places closed except for a succession of loud "Irish" pubs and bars which weren't particularly interesting to us, though they might have been to all the soldiers and sailors, Pensacola being in the heart of military base country. In short, we were getting desperate.  We fully expected that we'd have to find the nearest garage and buy day-old sandwiches and beer to take back to the hotel which normally happens when we hit a patch of restaurant-hunting bad luck. There was only the harbour left to try. Now usually the last place on earth for good, as opposed to touristy, restaurants is a Florida yachting marina.  But any port in a storm, as they say and we found ourselves at an eatery called Jaco's that really wasn't half bad. In fact it was everything you could possibly want - good food, tables outside overlooking boats and the sunset. Except that Pensacola being in the north of Florida, it was just a mite chilly.

So we chomped on cold cucumber soup and grouper and grits and slurped mojitos and Irish coffee and chatted to a charming young waiter who said he was going to vote for Bernie Sanders because he "seemed the most genuine" candidate but admitted he hadn't really looked at any of the others. Sister-in-law, who comes from Vermont, suggested he might like to do so. Afterwards we took in what appeared to be a huge cargo ship on the other side of the harbour.

 And walking back to the hotel, wondered if we'd been a bit heavy on the mojitos and Irish coffee.

To be continued....

Monday, November 9, 2015

Road Trip: Magnificent Montgomery

Just time for a quick spin around Alabama's capital, Montgomery. Again it was a pity we couldn't stay longer. This was the old railway station.

 There were some pretty French-style buildings.

And another charming Catholic church, St Peter's, dating from 1834.

Leafy parks and the sun beating down on neo-classical white, columns and monuments.

 With a lot of the futuristic going up as well. Montgomery certainly looks as though it's prospering.

The historic state capitol shimmered and dazzled in the heat.

 All the official buildings around it made it look a little like Washington. Or indeed like a little Washington.

Now here was an odd bit of history - the first White House of the Confederacy (the last was in Richmond, Virginia) temporary home to hapless Confederate President Jeff Davis and his family.

It was all very stately but someone had a sense of humour...

There was hardly a soul about but for some people visiting the Civil Rights memorial.

And a place where they evidently don't want you to park. We got smartly shooed away.