Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Happy Unmentionable Day

 For tomorrow - (I'm not being politically correct - I just don't want to upset the chaps at the top of the page).

And Finally Golden Beach

 Well here we are again in Venice, Florida - to be correct we arrived a month ago but, well, it takes time to sort these photos out.

The beach was still there to greet us, I'm happy to say.

So were the weeds, unfortunately (I'm working on it - watch this space!)

Somewhere, under that lot,  were some flowers. 

You'll never believe how fast weeds can grow in the hot, humid summer,  until you come to Florida. (Western New York in June is bad but nothing like this.)

Though the Mexican clover does make what's left of the lawn look pretty. At this time of year there's quite a carpet of it.

The birds still rule the roost, as it were.

And Titanic 3 was still faithfully waiting at the neighbours'.

Though sadly she's now left us but I hope is getting more of a chance to rollick happily on the Gulf of Mexico with her new owner, who happens to come from Newcastle. How about that?

No I have to be off to tackle the garden....

Watch this space.....

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Road Trip: Manatees and Friends

  We were in Florida and on the look-out for manatees, also - and aptly - named sea cows. I'd only seen one in an aquarium before. During the winter they gather in warm waters, particularly around power stations, so it's a good time to see them. Unfortunately we were too early for that but at least the Homohassa Springs Wildlife Park (trying saying that in a hurry) promised some semi-tame ones that were there year round. It proved to be an interesting place for all sorts of reasons. For a start, guess what this is.

Yes, it's an alligator tank. First catch your alligator then make sure the lid is very firmly shut. Here's one that seemed to have got away.

There were a lot of birds in the park, some permanent residents, some what the staff called "freeloaders". Not sure where these vultures fitted into the picture.

I doubt the flamingos were wild. No one I know has ever seen a flamingo in the wild in Florida - or at least not in our part of Florida.

Funny then that they're such a symbol of the Sunshine State - art, furniture, garden ornaments, shower curtains  postcards, beach towels, fridge magnets, knick-knacks, all kinds of kitsch - you name it and it's got a flamingo on it.  A street near us is called Flamingo Drive. But, probably finding all the celebrity status a bit naff, the real flamingoes have decamped to goodness knows where.
  Time to find some more appropriate symbols - poodles, golf carts,  estate agents, Burmese pythons, I don't know. Anything but flamingoes.  Though vultures might do.

Or storks.

Or ospreys. 

There are a few bald eagles too, this one appropriately saluting the flag.

And here's an actual Florida panther, snoring under shelter. Someone we know had one jump over his garden fence just a few miles from us. People are passionate about saving them but perhaps it's a mixed blessing. Especially if you have poodles.

The wildlife park is meant for Florida wildlife only but there's one exception.

Though fortunately perhaps, that's all we saw of the hippo. Evidently he wasn't in the mood.  The park used to house a business supplying animal actors for films. When it became a wildlife refuge,  local residents petitioned the governor to keep the hippo, named Lu, so he was given honorary Florida citizenship. He's now 60 and the oldest hippo in the Americas.

  And finally here were the manatees.

They like lettuce.

Unfortunately they were a little camera shy too.

And that wasn't all. As we trundled back to the park entrance in our special train through the jungle,

There was something blocking the road. 

A gopher tortoise no less.

These like to burrow. Sometimes they burrow under people's houses, which is not a good idea. But disturb them at your peril.  The following from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission:

Gopher tortoises and their burrows are protected by state law, and a gopher tortoise relocation permit must be obtained from FWC before disturbing burrows and conducting construction activities (Chapter 68A - 27.003, FL Administrative Code). A disturbance includes any type of work within 25 feet of a gopher tortoise burrow. For additional guidance on activities that do not require a permit, refer to the Gopher Tortoise Enforcement Policy.

Gopher Tortoise Enforcement Policy. Gosh. 

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Road Trip: Ye Olde Oak

Quite by chance we came upon Georgia's answer to the Major Oak. It wasn't in Sherwood Forest though but an ordinary-looking street in Brunswick and there it was, slap in the middle, draped in the southern way of live oaks, with Spanish moss.

It's called the Lovers' Oak - perhaps because, according to legend, Native American young lovers used to meet there. The sign says it was there at the signing of the Constitution, which was in 1787.

But that's not the half of it. The tree is actually over 900 years old.

And its trunk 13 feet in diameter.

It apparently has ten main limbs

Although whether that's before or after it was hit by a truck in 2015, I don't know. We made sure to give it a wide berth.

to be continued

Thursday, November 4, 2021

Road Trip: Hang on to Your Phone

 Our next overnight stop was Wilmington, North Carolina, another place with a chequered history - blockade running in the Civil War for example - and some beautiful old houses.  From our hotel window we could see a battleship from a more recent conflict.

And something more modern, looking a little lonely. 

As always we wished we could have stayed longer to explore.

  Further south on the road to Charleston we drove the Sweetgrass Highway, dotted with stalls selling intricately hand-woven baskets. The stalls apparently run in families - one weaver we spoke to said she was the last of hers to be interested. The young generation just couldn't be bothered, she sighed. The baskets were eye-wateringly expensive but exquisite. 

Sorry to say we by-passed Charleston (with its beautiful architecture but also its bustle and crowds)  this time, though you can take a look back to  this previous post from an earlier visit, which has plenty of photos.

Then fate took a turn. As we happily bowled along, sister-in-law's phone somehow found its way down a narrow slit in the state-of-the-art console of her state-of-the-art SUV and remained firmly stuck. A minor disaster, relatively speaking but we realised it was beyond our powers to sort it out. 

We did hope to see something of Savannah - city of cemeteries and Spanish Moss and yet more history but the hotel which had promised us the historic district turned out to be on the historic riverfront,  which wasn't quite the same thing. Plus there were roadworks and building works all around. Once we'd worked out how to get into the hotel, we got a warm welcome.

Various hotel personnel tried their hands at extricating the phone, to no avail. This chap was no help at all.

So it was back to the car and the roadworks and a hunt for the nearest appropriate car dealer, where the mechanics did their best but again without success. "Come back tomorrow when our really great mechanic will be there," they said, comfortingly.  It was getting late and the walk to all the charming restaurants on the historic waterfront,  once we'd got lost, climbing up and down all sorts of steep hills to dodge the roadworks and building works, proved longer and far less salubrious than the hotel concierge had promised.  So there was nothing for it but to throw in the towel and head back to the hotel bar, where there were meagre pickings but at least it was food. And the bar was on the roof and had a lovely view. in the distance, of the real historic district. 

In the morning we were late setting out - having forgotten that sister-in-law's alarm clock and her incarcerated phone were one and the same. The alarm presumably went off in the car, which wasn't near enough to wake us up. The mist rising over the Savannah River was lovely though.

At the car dealer's, the ace mechanic rolled up his sleeves.  After an hour or so of chewing our nails in the waiting room, the receptionist appeared triumphantly waving the phone but said it would be another hour or so while the ace mechanic put the car back together again. As I said to sister-in-law, it's always the things you don't expect that go wrong.

to be continued

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Road Trip: The English Woz 'Ere

 As we left Richmond I had a yen to drive along the south side of the James River in the hope of seeing some interesting historical sites but at first it proved a little disappointing - a lot of industrial stuff, then a few swanky but modern country houses set in rolling acres and you couldn't see the river at all. It was well out of our way, so we were going to turn round and head south again, when we saw a sign for a place called Claremont. "Let's just take a look at Claremont", I suggested. At least it might be somewhere where we could see the river. The country lane seemed endless until finally we reached a little settlement. The houses were old, wooden and mostly seen-better-days shabby, although there were hints of more swanky estates hidden behind intimidating gates. We saw a sign for a beach, went over a roundabout, got lost, went back to the roundabout, tried another road and finally, there it was.  The James River. And talk about interesting historical sites...

Wow - how about that, as hubby would say. (The British-style roundabout should have given us a clue. No doubt those early arrivals stopped to build it before decamping to Jamestown, or rather what would become Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement on these shores, on the other side of the river.) Well in America that's about as historical as you get - unless you count St Augustine in Florida but that was the Spanish.  We savoured the moment, wondering how the would-be colonists liked the place. Evidently not a lot.  

 We couldn't see much of a beach.  Unlike a lot of places where you have to fight to get a water view, only a handful of houses lined the river. There were a couple of boats and a gate with a sign warning that access was strictly for the house-owners. Slightly incongruous under the circumstances but that's what they paid for, I suppose.

 But the river looked blue, wide and pretty, Apparently the area suffered badly from a hurricane a few years ago. But it was down on its luck way before then. Back in the 19th century it had been a bustling railway terminus but then the company changed it's mind about the line and poor Claremont was left in the lurch. Sleepy backwater it may be these days but it will always have its history.   

to be continued.