Friday, December 24, 2021

More From a Florida Christmas

 A front garden sample...

And another....

And by contrast...


A Happy/Merry Golden Beach Christmas!

   OK, now time for some Christmas cheer - so here's some....

The Coastguard display at the Arboretum - 

where people and groups decorate individual trees and bushes to make a veritably fairyland.

It was almost back to its old self this year, though they cancelled the official opening night. But there were people strolling and admiring, kids running around, two little girls scraping away at Christmas carols on their violins. Here's one for the aforesaid Buddy

A dad walking past tried to explain to his very literally-minded offspring what the dog was up to. His guess was as good as mine.

Meanwhile the Living Nativity was back again behind the WaWa garage.

Along with numerous goats, "You can feed all the animals!" said one of shepherds at the gate which makes a refreshing change.

And carol singers (they call them "carolers" here).

And here's the archetypal Florida garden Christmas display

The Christmas palm tree. Well come to think of it palm trees are probably more authentic than Santa and reindeer  in the snow. As we await the Florida end of the Omicron deluge most people are getting on with their lives and trying to make the best of Christmas. Merry here, Happy in the UK. Wherever you are, enjoy it!

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

This is Not the Dog Beach

  Ah, peaceful Golden Beach at dawn, with the pinks and greys and blues of the sky and just the odd lone fisherman.

 And the shore birds out, looking for breakfast.

It's a magical time, to walk and think and gaze out over the water and collect shells and I cherish it.

Trouble is, no matter which direction I take, I manage to meet my nemesis - a dog walker. 

He'd just blithely walked past the sign. 

Well  actually that sign is an interesting variation. Mostly they say "No Dogs on Beach". I wonder what sort of other animals people have been bringing to the beach to inspire it.  There are plenty of animals already on the beach - crabs, rabbits, raccoons, bobcats, but they don't read too well. Or pretend they don't.

A couple of weeks ago a man was standing by the water and calling his dog to join him, "C'mon Buddy!" Buddy was a bit reluctant at first.

"I see", I observed, "that your dog can read and you can't."

Buddy then proceeded to chase me, getting more and more excited, his lead trailing and nearly tripping me up until I had enough, "Will you please call your dog!"

The man evidently decided to punish me by doing nothing. Finally after a major loss of temper on my part, he emitted a reluctant, "C'mon Buddy". Needless to say, Buddy took no notice. 

The trouble is, they have a rule but absolutely no way of enforcing it. If every dog owner in Venice - and they are legion - decided the rules didn't apply to them we'd have complete mayhem.

I hasten to point out that there is a dog beach just down the road, so they have no excuse.

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Shamrocks, Snakes and a Tortoise or Two

 After our British Pub lunch we checked out Shamrock Park, which sounds as though it should be a genteel bit of suburban greenery with a duckpond and a bandstand. In fact it's a real wilderness.

That's one of the good things about Florida. It gets more built up by the minute, with new gated communities popping up all over the place but they can still be cajoled to leave some wilderness behind. Shamrock Park sits alongside the intracoastal waterway, which divides Venice Island from the mainland.

I once overheard a chap at the farmers' market who claimed there were Komodo dragons in Shamrock Park. Possibly, possibly not. "Perhaps he meant iguanas", my neighbour said. Iguanas being those giant lizards from down south that fall out of trees in the winter, frozen solid, but then perk up again when it gets warmer. We once saw one the size of a dachshund waddling along the pavement in Palm Beach. It gave me a turn, I can tell you. 

 We didn't see any iguanas - or Komodo dragons - in Shamrock Park but we did see a small snake.

Which was quite enough excitement for one day. Of course the other famous inhabitants of Shamrock Park are my old friends (see below) the gopher tortoises, with all the rules and regulations surrounding these most mollycoddled of Florida's fauna. 

In fact we hadn't even got to the park yet when we saw one inching its way along the middle of the road.  I wondered whether we should stop and help it out of the traffic but that would constitute disturbing it and I didn't want to be sent to Guantanamo Bay. I hoped it could muster a turn of speed if necessary.

Then on the path by the intracoastal waterway we saw another one, 

...evidently looking for some lunch. I wanted to point it in the direction of the British Pub but sausage rolls probably weren't its thing. 

Saturday, December 4, 2021

A Whiff of Nostalgia

 It was a nice way to spend Sunday. We had lunch at the British pub, which does a mean Bloody Mary.

in fact - correction - a stupendous Bloody Mary. In  addition to the requisite fish-and-chips and meat pies, it also offered sausage rolls and Scotch eggs. I decided to go for it, wondering how they would match up to what I used to eat in the old days. (Funny how I never liked Scotch eggs back in the UK but suddenly started to miss them when I got here.) I was a bit dubious at first - given it's so hard to find proper bangers here - but one bite of the sausage roll and I went all dewy-eyed and imagined myself back on Wimbledon station platform wrangling with a hot, greasy, flaky handful. The British pub's sausage rolls were neither flaky nor too greasy but there was a whiff of something authentic about them. Any port in a storm. American-style Scotch eggs are also pretty good with a thinner, crispier outer layer and less of the pink sausage meat. If you get one in a fancy bar in New York City, it's usually soft boiled, which has a whole different feel to it.

  The ladies' at the British pub is easy to find:

I finally understood the waitress's ( sorry. server's) directions to "Turn left at the Queen."

And then we were were off to a little wilderness experience. Watch this space.

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