Places to go and things to see by Gypsy Bev

Archive for the ‘Florida’ Category

Relax with Snowbirds of Florida

Lunch at an outdoor patio.

Lunch at an outdoor patio.

Ever wonder how the Snowbirds live in Florida? Come along for a trip to southern Florida and see how these folks entertain themselves from day to day. Actually, they seem more like children than adults, playing at being grown-ups while enjoying the freedom of children.

This is basically a life of leisure, and everyone runs on their own schedule in the mornings. Some are early risers and like to swim in the pool or exercise before the day gets warms. Others tend to sit back in their recliners and watch the morning world come to life outside their windows. 

Most live near the water so there is always entertainment nearby. The appearance of egrets, ibises, sea gulls and turtles in the nearby lake adds joy to the day. One of the neighbors might decide to throw some bread towards the birds and then the fun begins.

Dolphin statues line the streets as part of Sea Venice Arts Project.

Dolphin statues line the streets as part of Sea Venice Arts Project.

More sea gulls than you thought were in the area, suddenly appear wanting a taste of bread.Turtles even rear their heads out of the water for a tasty treat. They are usually unseen in the water, but when feeding time comes along, their long necks reach out to grab a bite. Once in a while, they will climb out on a rock to sun themselves. 

Shopping seems to be one of the favorite activities for men and women alike. The men usually head to Home Depot while the women check out all the downtown stores almost every day. Most of the time they just look, but sometimes they are tempted to buy a colorful blouse or capris – Florida style. 

Buckeye Ladies gather for their weekly luncheon.

Two tables of Buckeye Ladies gather for their weekly luncheon.

Of course, shopping without lunch isn’t a possibility. All the Buckeye Ladies gather once a week to keep in touch with home news as well as form new friendships. Their weekly gatherings also give them a chance to try a different restaurant every week. You can be certain that quite often seafood is a part of the menu.

On the days when they’re not shopping, lunch on the patio is the order of the day. Everyone enjoys sitting out in the sunshine where they can enjoy fresh air, a gentle breeze, and a quick sandwich and soda.

Afternoons are spent visiting.  These are the friendliest people you could imagine. Ladies ride their three-wheel bicycles from house to house, sharing their latest purchases and bakings. Somehow these ladies still find time to bake the tastiest cookies when they are home for a few minutes.

Surprise visitors pop in unexpectedly quite often. If you have a home in Florida, you can expect company from the northern states to stop by to say hello anytime they are in the area. Refrigerators are well stocked so there is always something the men can throw on the grill, while the ladies can whip up some extras without too much problem. Steaks and hamburgers are quite popular on the grill and the guys seem to handle this with ease. Then the ladies will toss a salad, fix some potatoes, and always seem to manage some fresh fruit for dessert.

Sunset on the lake at their  backdoor

Sunset on the lake at their backdoor

Evenings might be spent playing cards or Scrabble around the table with friends who just happened to stop by. A card game called Head and Foot seemed to be popular as it could be played without too much concentration. That way everyone could visit and play cards at the same time. 

The Club House is also a popular place for friends to gather in the evening for Bingo. They are quite serious about plans for the evening as snacks are packed in coolers and everyone makes certain they have their Bingo spotter with them. The game is a fast moving affair with helpful eyes on everyone’s cards.

These adult children enjoy their relaxed lifestyle and that is what retirement should be all about. 

View of the causeways leaving Tampa

View of the causeways leaving Tampa

There is no doubt that the climate is perfect for the Snowbirds during the winter months. But visitors must return to the cold blasts of northern winter. Flying out, the scene of the causeways crossing Tampa Bay is a great way to say goodbye to a beautiful Florida visit.

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Way Down South – Key West

“Cayo Hueso” – Spanish for “Bone Island” – was the original name for Key West because of all the skeletons found on the beaches during the days of pirates and sunken treasures. This is the southernmost city in the continental United States with Cuba just 90 miles away! With the Atlantic Ocean connecting with the Gulf of Mexico on its shores, the sunsets here are spectacular and always accompanied by a gentle breeze.

Just getting here is an adventure as you travel across forty two bridges through the Keys on US Highway 1, the Overseas Highway. The route is only 113 miles from the southern mainland of Florida to Key West with the longest bridge being seven miles long.  All the way you are surrounded by tropical beauty and aquamarine waters. You see the coves where pirates landed long ago, and where drug smugglers currently hide their stash.

The highway here is actually built on the original route of the Overseas Railroad, which was constructed by Henry Flagler back in 1912. When the railroad and its bridges were destroyed in a hurricane in 1935, it was rebuilt and reopened as a highway in 1940.

Ernest Hemingway, John James Audubon and Harry S Truman all were frequent visitors here. The Hemingway house is one of the favorite stops and has a relaxing garden, which is a photographer’s dream. Nobel Prize Winner  Ernest Hemingway called the island home for ten years and found solace here along the turquoise waters. Be sure to look for the 40-50 six-toed cats that are descendants of Hemingway’s favorite tomcat, Snowball. Did seem fitting to take home one of his books, so selected his final work published during his lifetime, which not surprisingly had an ocean theme, Old Man and the Sea.

Conch Tour Train gives a guided tour of the island and even makes a stop at Sloppy Joe’s, the most famous bar in Key West. Opened in 1933, the day after Prohibition was repealed, owner Joe Russell had previously operated an illegal speakeasy. Hemingway and his “Mob” of literary cohorts were regular customers, who philosophized and drank the days away.  Today the bar is filled with historic memorabilia dating back to the days when Hemingway – known as Papa – stopped in for a drink with one of his best friends, Joe Russell – known as Sloppy Joe.

Heritage House Museum, the historic Porter family home, gives visitors a taste of the pirate folklore and island life. Built in 1834, this is one of the oldest houses on the island where Jessie Porter established a creativity haven for many famous artists and writers.  The Robert Frost winter cottage in the garden has a beautiful orchid collection. Each year the Robert Frost Poetry Festival is held at this site to promote Key West as a literary destination.

Sunset Pier on the Gulf Coast of Florida is the best seat in the house for the fantastic sunsets of Key West. Here at the Sunset Celebration you watch the sun sink into the Gulf of Mexico while the streets are filled with arts and crafts exhibits, entertainers, psychics, and of course, food!

As poet Wallace Stevens once wrote: Key West is the real thing – the sweetest doing nothing contrived.

Key West, Florida can be reached by crossing all the bridges through The Keys down US Highway 1 to its very end. It is the only highway going that direction so there is no possibility of getting lost.  Enjoy the journey!

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