Saturday, December 1, 2012

Here comes the sun

Yesterday was moving day. Time to leave the Delta and fly to sunny Florida for some relaxation. We returned our trusty Kia Sedona (not without some issues because the return address on the agreement was an old one!) , put Soph on a plane back to Austin and then flew to Tampa via Miami.

Tampa was warm and humid when we arrived, very similar to Gold Coast winter weather in Australia. The airport is beautiful with a space age shuttle that runs across from the landing area to the terminal itself.

The first thing I noticed today was the Latin American influence in Central Florida. We grabbed empanadas (sort of fried pies) on our way through Miami and our new rental keeps giving us instructions in Spanish! When we visited an Hispanic supermarket I was thankful we hadn't traveled to South America because I don't think I'd cope with the jalapeƱo flavouring in so many of the foods! Nevertheless, introducing ourselves to this culture was an unexpected bonus of our trip.

This morning we set off down the Gulf Coast with no real destination in mind except that I was keen to check out the shells at Sanibel Island. Florida is Queensland on steroids. Same temperate winter climate, pretty beaches, palm trees and varying degrees of assisted care communities. We were wondering where all the older people in the States were and we found them in Venice! Venice Beach is also famous for turtles and fossilized shark teeth. You can even hire a shark tooth strainer to try your luck on the beach. We passed on the straining but Geoff and Taine took a dip in the ocean and we collected some sand to add to our collection at home.

We followed the Tamiami Trail road rather than the interstate and this gave us our first experience of over water roads, including a couple of what Taine calls 'roller coaster' bridges. In the middle of the over water roads these bridges appear to go straight up and then down again with only normal barrier rails on the sides (no suicide rails like we have at home). Not great for my vertigo but he enjoys them very much.

Arriving at Fort Myers in the late afternoon we found another trusty La Quinta (the best one yet, great pool, big bathroom) and also discovered that we could get a discount with our RACV membership. Score! Then we drove out to the very beautiful Sanibel Island in search of a beach. We passed lots of impressive houses on the long, narrow road out to the beach and then paid, yes paid! to park in the Bowman Beach car park. To get to the beach itself you walk down a path and over a river where fish were literally jumping in the air.

I think we've probably been spoilt as far as shell seeking is concerned given that most of our previous beach combing has been done at Papamoa and Mount Maunganui so I was a bit disappointed with the size and variety washed up on this beach. Still, it was a lovely spot to watch the sun setting on our first full day in Florida.

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