Monday, September 30, 2013

Day 4- JB's Fish Camp

After canoeing next to alligators we found ourselves at JB's Fish Camp ordering fried alligator.  I had to try it!  It was a little chewy to me.  Fred said I must have got a chewy piece but I think I am just not used to that kind of texture.  Fred is a fan for sure.  
Apparently alligators are in abundance and permits are given out by lottery (like hunting deer in Arizona).  I think Fred was a little disappointed when he learned that shooting an alligator with a bow and arrow is not an option.  

I took some pictures of Jeff and Annie on the river as the sun set.  This candid one is my favorite.  (Not because they are laughing at my joke but because they look very comfortable together.)

Anne, Anne's friend who came from Australia for the wedding, Mark, Jeff, Annie and I all enjoyed the delicious food that JB's had to offer.  Its motto is "southern food with an attitude".  Fred and I wanted to try more Floridian food (via recommendations) so Fred got grouper and I ordered rock shrimp.  Everything was amazing.  I like rock shrimp because you have to peel each one so it makes you eat a little slower; they are really tender.  

We tried our first ever 'real' key lime pie.  It was not the green pie that we get in California but made with key limes grown in the keys.  It was incredible.  

I am so glad that the Smith family could meet up with us before we head back to California.  JB's has a well deserved reputation.  

Day 4- Silver River State Park, Florida

Fred and I had kayaking on our list of things to do but we could only find canoes available at Silver River State Park (probably because you cannot easily got out of canoes, and there are alligators in the water).  
The canoe was 7$ per hour, and the first hour is free since you have to drive 15 minutes to the parking lot and then walk 15 minutes to the river.   
It was some of the best 7$ we have ever spent. 

All I wanted to see was turtles and alligators, which we saw in the first two minutes of our river trip.  We joked that we could head back to shore right then.  

This turtle was just a few inches long, but already understands how to be turtle-like at such a young age.  It held up one of its legs just like all of the adult turtles we saw standing on logs.  

Fred and I felt like we were at Disneyland.  The only thing that could have made it better was if the animals started singing to us.  I was waiting... I swear the alligators were smiling at us.  Maybe it was more like a smirk.  Like, lets see what happens if you come closer...  

Turtles and alligators are best buds!

Florida is fascinating.  

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Day 3- Saint Augustine, Florida

Saint Augustine is the nation's oldest European settlement, founded in 1565.  It is rich in history and in amazing architecture.  
We walked past the Spanish Military Hospital museum and decided that this was as good of a place to start as any.  
The picture above shows a traditional rope bed on which the mattress rests on (and the sick patient in this case).  The rope would start to sag in the middle so there is a wooden key which is used to tighten the ropes.  This is where the saying 'sleep tight' comes from.  

We learned about teeth extractions and amputations which were offered at the hospital, all of which were done without any anesthesia (or alcohol which thins the blood).  The patient had to have at least four teeth or they could not be in the military (they had to be able to tear gunpowder packets with their teeth, and three teeth or less does not work).  It was gruesome but interesting.  We learned that when Spaniards owned the hospital the survival rate was about the same as it is now, a little more than 80%, due to their methods of separating ill patients, and their holistic medicine.  When the Spanish were outed the survival rate at the hospital plummeted to 20%.

Just one of the gorgeous buildings in the historic city.

This is the oldest surviving Spanish house in Florida, built in 1702.

Castillo de San Marcos has been used many times to protect the city against possible take overs from the British.  It is made with coquina (sedimentary rock formed with shells).  Unbelievably, it is almost indestructible.  When it is hit with cannon balls the wall envelops the cannon ball and leaves just a small hole as evidence (it doesn't cause the building to collapse).  There are letters written by the British to home stating that it was like cutting into cheese with a knife.  

They shoot a cannon every fifteen minutes which is heard throughout the city, and is especially loud in person.  When they say cover your ears you should really cover your ears. 

The liberal arts school, Flagler College, is named after Henry Flagler, a railroad pioneer and a John D. Rockefeller partner in Standard Oil.  Built in 1888, it used to be a fancy Spanish Renaissance hotel with Tiffany glass windows and other accents, but was converted into a college in 1968.  I could not even imagine attending such an incredible campus.  

The city is absolutely gorgeous.  

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Day 2- Tavern and Chapel in the Garden, Port Orange, Florida

I would not miss my second cousin Annie's wedding!  
We bonded when I was 16 and spent the summer at her house in Florida.  
Her and her now husband picked a wonderful venue.  

This is the church where the ceremony took place (they had a no picture policy throughout the entire wedding so my pictures were mostly outside when no photographers were present!).  
The church was built in 1897, although this is its third location.  It is beautiful inside and out.  

The train which is located on the property was built in 1946 and was in commission for almost thirty years.  It makes a great spot for wedding pictures.  

The wedding was also a family reunion for me.  I got to meet and/or revisit my Smith relatives (my grandpa's sister's side of the family).  Everyone was so nice.  

Mark and Anne are Annie's parents, and the family that I stayed with when I was a teenager.  It was wonderful to catch up with my relatives as an adult (I think spending time with a rebellious teenager is not so fun).  

My cousin Annie MADE her bouquet out of old broaches, one coming from our great grandmother.  
It was spectacular.  

Rick, Mark's brother (and his wife) sell spicy jam, which is delicious.  

Happy wedding Annie! 

Day 2- Blue Spring State Park, Florida

When I spoke with the ranger on the phone the previous day I was informed that there is virtually no chance of seeing manatees on this trip (one of my trip goals was to swim with manatees!).  The manatees live in the St. Johns river during the summer and only move into the springs during winter when it is colder.  She said the chances of seeing one would be like seeing an eel in the ocean.  
I was, of course, very disappointed but since it was raining (the spring is always 73 degrees) and the location was less than on hour away we decided to go to Blue Spring anyway.  

This is one of the many springs that feeds into the St. Johns river; it discharges 165 million gallons of water a day.

From the spring we swam downstream, enjoying every minute.  

Holy manatee batman!  
We were just about to get out of the water, down south of where we got in, when we saw them... we got to swim with manatees!  It was incredible. They are huge and beautiful.  

This was an experience that we will never forget.  
Later when we got out of the water we saw the many posted signs not to swim with them, but how could we possible know?!
Florida has some amazing organisms.  We cannot exactly help it if they want to spend time with us.