Fun Times in England and Signs of The Platinum Jubilee (England Part 6)

Everywhere we looked, there she was! Queen Elizabeth’s face graced signs, banners, shirts, cups, mugs, totebags, bobbleheads, candy and cookie tins. Oh my! It was so much fun. Here are a few of my favorite pictures from the celebration.

Chinatown London

Fancy a read about the Queen? There is an unlimited supply of choices.

Handmade tribute to Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee atop a trash receptacle

School children entered a contest to pay tribute to the Queen on her Platinum Jubilee. Some of the winners were displayed in the shops near Windsor Castle.

These signs were peppered throughout London. I love how polite they are. “Apologies”

While we’re talking about signs, I’m thankful they are generous with their signage. I may be alive today because of signs like this:

I didn’t realize how ingrained in my little brain our American traffic flow is. There are a ton of tourists from the USA and other “right-driving” countries, and the Brits want to keep us alive and well. Jolly good!

You know those annoying humps in the road that are designed to slow traffic? That’s what I thought this sign might be referring to, but it’s not. Plus, when I think of an animal with a hump, I think of a camel.

This sign indicates a pedestrian crossing area. There is a slight hump to the crossing, but the broad white stripes seem to be the zebra connection.

Roads were closed for a bicycle parade one morning of our trip. I was pretty excited as I finally found Waldo!

I’m not sure if it’s because I’m a mother of three boys (and I can’t leave out my daughter Dena in this question) or if this is just who I am, but I can appreciate some bathroom humor – especially of this kind. I’m going with the mom thing.

I’ll hold it right there, for now. I have one more post to share before we leave England, but first here’s my own little tribute to Queen Elizabeth assembled with my own souvenirs.

The Theatre, Museums, and Harrods, Oh My! (England Part 5)

On our last night in England, our young folk took an evening bike tour. While that sounded good, it was a little too energetic for us. Plus, I had made it almost to the end without injuring myself, so why take a chance.

From our window at the St. Martins Lane Hotel London we could see the advertisement for Amy Adams in the Glass Menagerie at the Duke of York’s Theatre. I have been a fan since she was in Julie and Julia, plus we literally had only to walk across the street, so the choice was simple.

This play by Tennessee Williams is said to be brilliant. I found it interesting, but I’ll leave the critiquing to actual critics. My favorite part of the evening was being in the theatre.

The most unusual part of the evening was when the “ice-cream man” popped in at the end of the rows to sell ice cream during intermission. I had already determined that the British really like their ice cream. There were shops devoted to it everywhere. But I did not expect it to be pedaled at the theatre. I have learned since from my British friend, Mavis, that it has been that way since she was a child.

Not just vanilla – it’s luxury vanilla

While I’m mentioning St. Martins Lane, a few photos need to be shared. Not the typical spot for Bob and me, but Jesse, our son, stretched us out of our usual choices more than once. Thanks, Jesse. It sure was interesting. It’s fun to be shaken out of the norm now and then.

This wall appears to be a boutique tea counter, but the golden hand which my grandson is gripping opens an otherwise invisible door to a cocktail area.

Are these golden “teeth” for sitting upon or are they individual tables on which to put a drink?

This is the focal point of the restaurant. Makes you want to curl up with a drink and a book. We used the room for late night games of Azul, our favorite board game.

While we aren’t huge museum people, we do enjoy a visit. Because of my admiration of Queen Victoria and her husband Albert, not to mention Jenna Coleman’s portrayal of the Queen on Masterpiece’s Victoria, the V & A was a must. The museum itself was spectacular.

Finding a Chihuly was a pleasant surprise

The V&A is huge – the world’s largest museum of applied arts with over two million objects. It was founded in London in 1852. Had I done even a small amount of research, I would have discovered that the museum has very little to do with Victoria and Albert and is more about their legacy. I guess I was expecting another episode of Masterpiece – silly me!

The most interesting museum for me was the Churchill War Rooms, located near 10 Downing Street in downtown London. I am fascinated with World War II history, and this museum does not disappoint.

Notice all the different colored telephones – like modern-day phone cases so you can tell them apart

In this hallway the outside weather was posted. If it said windy that meant a heavy raid was going on.

British leaders worked underground while the Germans were bombing above. The fate of the war was decided in these rooms. They were closed and locked after the Japanese forces surrendered on August 16, 1945 and were left undisturbed until 1948 when they became an historic site. As I gazed through the protective glass, I could see telephones, maps, partially smoked cigars – it was like the people could return any minute. It’s one of those places where you can “feel” the history – was that PM Churchill’s cigar that I was smelling?

Would a trip to London be complete without a stop at Harrods? Yes, but why not! Harrods is a department store and considered the best there is in that, well, department. It is actually a store full of department stores and each offers service that is unmatched by just about any standard. Some of the services they offer are toy concierge, a cobbler, private shopping in the penthouse, luxury piercing, and fashion rental service. Restaurants include Gordon Ramsay Burger and The Harrods Tea Rooms, among others.

Prada, Gucci, Boodles, Tiffany & Co, and countless others that I have never heard of are found within its walls. It’s fancy. I think it could be better described as fancy-schmancy. It’s that upscale.

I guess stockings are more of a thing in England than they are in hot Florida.

This is an example of the saying – “There really is something for everyone.”

Stores beckoned shoppers inside via sight, sound, and smell. Even in the stores that did not carry perfume, the strong scent of it (or was that what money smells like?) was more than my sensitive, dry eyes could handle. Still, it was worth a walkthrough revealing how the other half (or some much smaller percentage) lives. All in all, I’ll take Costco.

Palaces and Castles (England Part 4)

What makes one massive, beautiful building a castle and another a palace? I had never thought about that, but those thoughts came with being in England. A little research revealed that the castle has fortification. Castles were built for defense and palaces were more for showing off wealth. If you cross a moat to get in, you’re going to a castle. If you see cannons aiming at you, yep, that’s a castle. If you need sunglasses to protect your eyes from the sheen and sparkle of all that gilded stuff, you’re probably in a palace.

Castles, like palaces, are often among the residences of royalty, but they were built more for defense and protection. When you go to Buckingham Palace, for example, you are more likely to be shown a good time at a state dinner while you are marveling at the artwork and grand surroundings. You have your massive thrones, enormous banquet halls, and gilded everything. Very palatial!

Queen Elizabeth had six official residences. She passed at Balmoral Castle in Scotland. This was her end-of-summer home and is thought to have been her favorite. I like the thought that she passed in a place she loved so much.

I visited two of her other residences during our time in the London area. Alright, it would be an exaggeration to say that I visited Buckingham Palace, but I saw it – briefly. It happened to be my birthday, and the whole of London was preparing for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. I had to give it a go. You don’t go all the way to London and not see the Palace. We got close, but that was all we could do. The Mall, which is a tree-lined road that goes from Trafalgar Square to Buckingham Palace, was blocked off from any kind of traffic, but they left a heavily policed area to cross. I was thankful for that, so as I was shuffled quickly across The Mall, I aimed my camera down the road and there it was!

This gives a lovely view of the barricades with the Palace in the background.

St. James’ Park and Duck Island Cottage, which is a great bird-watching area, are right along the way to the Palace.

I was rather shocked that the Oxford comma was not used on this sign.

While the guys were out golfing, my daughter-in-law, Dacia, and I toured Windsor Castle. I know they love to play golf, but I think we had the better day.

Windsor Castle seemed to me more like a walled city than a castle, but that makes sense as castles are built for defense. I suppose that also speaks to my limited knowledge of castles as much as anything. I was so impressed by the sheer size of it. Touring was splendid, but we were not allowed to photograph most areas.

The mail is delivered in royal fashion. I watched to see if perhaps Her Majesty would come to the curb to see if there was anything worth keeping that day, but alas, she did not. I imagined she was resting up for the Jubilee. I also wondered if The Queen gets junk mail, but again, she probably has people for that; plus, who would dare! What a perk.

Statue of Queen Victoria outside of Windsor Castle

Also at Windsor, this is as close as I got to a changing of the guard. It’ll do.

We also toured Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, which is the birthplace of Winston Churchill (1874). This palace confused me all the more in my distinguishing between palaces and castles. Inside most of it felt more like a government office or museum. The outside looked like a palace for sure. Parts of the interior were very palatial, but it lacked the overall pizazz that I want in a palace.

Hanging on the back lawn of Blenheim Palace.

Front view of Blenheim Palace – very palatial

The British know how to make magnificent gardens.

The Marlborough Mice were tucked here and there throughout Blenheim Palace. It was like a scavenger hunt. Here they are on prominent display at this banquet table.

The Mice close-up

The main reason we visited Blenheim Palace was because Winston Churchill was born there. Our son is a huge fan and named one of his sons Winston. Our Winston had lots of pictures taken throughout the palace and, actually, our entire trip. It was like a Winston BOGO.

Winston in the room Winston was born.

Winston by Winston in the Churchill War Room

Winston and Winston.

I’ll leave you here with this pack of Winstons.

The Cotswolds – Don’t You Love that Name (England Part 3)

Nothing to see here – at least nothing man-made like billboards or kiosks or switchbacks of people waiting to go on attractions. This region called The Cotswolds is the attraction. When you break down the word, “cots” means sheep enclosures and “wolds” are gentle hills. As we traversed the area, that made perfect sense to us.

This was how I pictured the English countryside. When we pulled up to the lovely Slaughters Country Inn in Cheltenham, I felt like I had truly arrived in jolly old England. All I needed was a cup of tea and a biscuit.

The Slaughters Country Inn

We passed along roads with names like Sheep Street, and Talbot Ture and the Monarch’s Way (which is an alley/footpath).

Some signs were not quite as fancy as others.

Each place we looked seemed a bit more quaint than the one before.

Here we got to take a stroll in the rain. Rain doesn’t stop things here like it does at home. Also, fences don’t stop people here like they do at home. Here in the Cotswolds they give you a right of passage through farmland filled with grazing sheep. Not only is it fine to walk through, gates are provided to allow you in and keep the sheep from wandering as well. This was one of the biggest contrasts to home. I loved it.

I loved the stone fences. Simply charming.

On our walk we passed Horse Chestnut trees. They reminded me of a fuller, taller version of our Crepe Myrtles. That is until we got up close. Magnificent!

Green is my favorite color. Our walk interspersed with lush, rolling hills and canopies of trees was truly a study in green.

Sunset after the most relaxing part of our journey.

The slower pace was helpful, because we were about to take it up a notch as far as activity went. Next we would tour a palace and be off to London.

Loving it in Liverpool, and Lytham St. Annes, too (England Part 2)

While the Royal Lytham & St. Annes Golf Course may have been the driving force (pun intended) for our stay in Lytham, there was much to see in the non-golfing world here. Visiting a pub during a soccer match was quite the experience. The pub was split into two sides with one side viewing and cheering for Liverpool in one game while the other half did the same for Manchester in a different game. Not having an allegiance either way, we went to wherever there was seating for the six of us and quickly became Liverpool fans – or was it Manchester? By the sounds of the room, it was an exciting game. Both sides of the pub rooted for winners that day, which meant that Manchester won the championship – an event that I still couldn’t explain to you. I’d have been totally lost if I hadn’t recently watched Ted Lasso.

Pub food is great and another must while in England.

Woops, I didn’t photo the food.

After the game, we walked the town. I was particularly moved by the flag of The Ukraine flying across from our hotel.

Golfing continued at Royal Liverpool the next day, so Dacia and I went on a Magical Mystery Tour. Honestly, it wasn’t that much of a mystery nor was it very magical, but it featured the Beatles, so it seemed like the thing to do. Plus, there was Beatles music – so just another “Day in the Life.” Oh, boy!

The blue suburban skies were showing off big time as we bussed around the home of the Beatles.

Penny Lane was a hit. It was in our ears and in our eyes, and I’m humming it right now as I write. There was a shelter in the middle of a roundabout, which you likely have heard of. Roundabouts are ubiquitous to England. They drive me crazy, so it’s a good thing I don’t live there.

I am a huge fan of Sir Paul McCartney. I’ve seen him in concert twice (even though he looked about the size of an action figure from our seats high above the stage floor). He brings you into the concert and makes it seem like you’re part of an enormous family reunion. So, I was especially happy to visit the modest home in which he grew up.

George Harrison’s Birthplace

Then there was Strawberry Fields, which began as a children’s home in 1936. It was originally a private home in the Victorian Era before it was bought by the Salvation Army. As of the early 2000s, the Salvation Army no longer maintains it as a home for children but continues to use it for other purposes.

This place has been here forever.

Hanging with John

Liverpool Skyline

To quote The Beatles – “There are places I remember.” Especially if I write about them.

England

The sad news of Her Majesty the Queen passing has given me the inspiration I needed to finally document our late spring trip to England. I hope you’re up to several posts with a British accent.

First, I must tell you how much I admire Queen Elizabeth II. Her love for her country and her people was constantly on display, as was her grace and sense of humor. Hers was a job which she did not choose but she executed her duties in a manner that will long be fondly remembered. I send my condolences to my friends across the pond.

Like Queen Elizabeth, I have four children and eight grandchildren; but this is where the similarities end. This American woman can’t imagine running a country while chasing kids around at sporting events, running carpool, and keeping up with laundry and meals. Well, maybe if I had “people” for those duties, but who am I kidding!

I had never been to Great Britain before, and I am so thankful that our trip was planned during Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee – the festivities and her smiling face were everywhere. The energy was palpable.

Bob and I made this trip with our son, Jesse, his wife, Dacia, and their teenage boys Manning and Winston. The guys are all avid golfers, and this trip was designed around five golf courses. That gave us a great overview of the countryside as well as London, and plenty for Dacia and me to do while they played.

We landed at Heathrow on May 21 and headed to York. How I wish we had more than a half-day to spend there. Perhaps it was because it was our first stop that I so quickly fell in love with York and England. Or maybe it was simply because it’s amazing.

York’s Roman walls have stood for centuries. They are the most extensive Roman walls in England and provide a lovely walking path and picturesque views of York Minster, the largest gothic cathedral north of the Alps, which I thought was a strange starting point for measurement. The 235-foot-tall cathedral towers over the city.

York Minster

As I was on the ready to find souvenirs, turning onto The Shambles took my breath away. Not only is it quintessentially British, but it was also inspiration for the Harry Potter franchise. Part of Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone was filmed in York. I discovered afterward that York’s railway station was used in the first film. Just as well as we would not have had time to visit it. While I enjoy Harry Potter, I’m not a huge fan, but I have children and grandchildren who are, so I figure any references to Harry or Hogwarts can only up my cred.

I walked into “The Shop That Must Not Be Named,” only to feel like I was in a giftshop at Orlando’s Universal Studios. Mentioning to the young staff that I was from Orlando gave me the only sense of royalty I experienced on this trip. If you’re a Harry Potter fan, coming to Orlando is like a journey to the Promised Land. Except for the excessive heat and humidity, of course.

So ended Day 1. Then we were off to Lytham via a country road which led us to follow signs to The Winehouse. Nothing says, “Welcome to England” like watching your grandsons taste their first scone at a winery next to meadows of sheep and cows.

This was a great foundation for our British experience.

The Problem with Passports

Bob and I gazed intently into each other’s eyes. “What color are my eyes?” he asked.

“I’m not sure, what color are mine?” I replied.

“I’m not sure either, but I’m renewing our passports and the Department of State wants to know.

We’ve been married 46 years, and looked into each other’s eyes so many times, yet I still have trouble discerning what color they are. Thankfully, he has the same problem. We have trouble distinguishing between hues.  

Surprise, surprise – the United States government has gotten pickier. The forms are longer and require more information. Things have changed since we renewed our passports ten years ago.

Uncle Sam now wants us to tell him what color our eyes and hair are. Isn’t that covered with our pictures? I wonder if someone at customs will even look that closely at our eyes. “Sorry, sir, you cannot enter our country because you claim to have green eyes and they are clearly blue with a greenish tint.”

Bob and I have that color eyes that seems to change from greenish to blueish depending on what we’re wearing. I’ve always claimed to have green eyes, but some people have commented on my blue eyes. It’s very confusing, but we knew it was our civic duty to finally lay to rest the eye color question. I wish you could have seen us getting in good light, naked, so as not to affect eye color change. On second thought, maybe not.

Next, it was time to figure out what color hair we have. Bob was easy – gray. As usual, I was more complicated. Typically I don’t think a flip about my hair color, as long as I can cover up the gray. There was not a choice of light brown or dark blonde or mostly blonde with gray roots. I decided to go with blonde – I hope they’re okay with that. (It’s quite the challenging form to fill out.)

Plus, as far as hair goes, it does. It goes for some guys, and it gets colored. Does this mean that I have to keep my appearance the same as my passport photo? If only! The last decade has resulted in some subtle changes in my appearance. I don’t think it’s going to get any better moving forward.

To further vex me, my beloved Costco no longer has a photo department where we can get inexpensive photos to send along to Uncle Sam during our weekly visits there. We were forced to use Walgreens like regular people.

The picture taking was disturbing, too. We decided to get ours done on the way to a dinner date. That way I would have fixed my hair, put on a little make-up and jewelry, and basically not look like I do every other day. Except that day I was suffering from dry eye syndrome and couldn’t wear eye make-up. That’s okay (I thought), I’ll put on some foundation, eyebrows, and lips. I’ll have jewelry on to give me some color and I wear glasses. As for Bob, he took a shower and combed his hair. Life is so much simpler for him!

At Walgreens, things took a bit of a turn. For the photos you are not allowed to wear jewelry or glasses, and you must put your hair behind your ears. Then, as before, they zoom in for a close-up that shows every open pour on your nose and all the new wrinkles you try not to think about, and there you go! Voila! A picture that haunts you because it’s going to be your identifier for the next ten years.

What have I learned through all of this? I am much more vain than I realized. I’ll do what it takes to be able to travel. None of this really matters. And Bob’s and my eyes are definitely green.

Extra credit: Can you distinguish between these Hughs?

Photo credit: depositphotos.com
Photo credit: depositphotos.com
Photo Credit: pngkey.com

I’m So Embarrassed

As I told you in my last post, June was a big month for us. Bob retired and we did some traveling. Looking back on that post, I realized there was more to tell than our effort to have steamed crabs for dinner. In hindsight it seemed wrong that I didn’t mention how proud I was of Bob as I attended his retirement luncheon. (I was extremely proud.) The words “workhorse” and “finisher” were among the many accolades he received.

It also seemed wrong that I didn’t focus on our family being together for the first time in years. We witnessed our youngest grandson seeing the grandeur of the ocean for the first time and take those first tentative steps into the water. Our eight grandchildren totally enjoyed their cousin time, and our kids and kids-in-law were reunited over approximately 300 games. Yes, we are gamers, and yes, I tend to exaggerate. We only brought 30 games (and all but about 2 were played).

I also didn’t tell you about our trip to Stanardsville, Virginia, Williamsburg or Monticello, but there’s time for that later. By now you understand the power steamed crabs has over me. It’s a little embarrassing that they were the first thing I wrote about. In all fairness, though, they were really good, and we hadn’t polished off a table full of crabs in a coon’s age! Even now, a month after we got out the mallets and crab crackers, I can still close my eyes and smell Old Bay Seasoning. (I may need to talk to my doctor about that.)

Oops, there I go again. Back to the family – there were 18 of us gathered in Hilton Head. Our 8 grandchildren range from 2.5 to 18 years old. The power of family was on full display as these kids embraced each other. There is something special about cousins. Even with this wide range of ages, the interactions were sweet (and noisy). Watching the older cousins care for and play with the younger was a gift to me. How I wish we all lived close to each other! But how thankful I am that we can be together despite distance.

They are all pretty cute and amazing, so I’ve included a few pictures of them. Trust me, I could have really bogged down this post with pictures, but I want you to keep reading.

The Beach from crazy to serene

Being a mom to Bob’s and my four kids has been the joy of my life. When grandchildren were added, my cup literally ran over with happiness. One thing I have really missed since we all haven’t lived in the same locale, is having an Easter Egg Hunt for the kids. My mom started doing those backyard hunts when my kids were young, and I have taken up the mantle, though sporadically now. When there are only two local grandkids and they’re both teenagers, a bit of the thrill of the hunt is missing. My two youngest grandkids had never participated in the hunt! I saw my opportunity for our June gathering. As Christians, we celebrate the resurrection of Christ every day, so why not do an egg hunt in June.

Who remembers The Unknown Comic from The Gong Show? I present, the Unknown Egg Hunters.

I have kept the plastic eggs over the years and had over a hundred of them. Even with the help of our kids and their spouses, it took a little while to hide them all. But at last, we lined up the grands and the hunt began. We released them by age to even the playing field. That Anderson competitive blood flows through their veins and they were off. Eggs and children were everywhere. At the end of the hunt, prizes were chosen.

We also did a jigsaw puzzle competition. Ella (our second grandchild) is a huge fan of Marvel, as am I. When I came across 48-piece puzzles in a tin with Marvel superheroes gracing the front, I made it my business to find 6 of them. It took four different stops to realize my goal, but I did it.

Our eldest grandson, Manning, and his mom came in first place

I am relatively sure I was much more excited about these puzzles and the whole competition to complete them than anyone else. Did they not realize that each puzzle came with an infinity stone? The older six grandchildren each chose an adult to team with them and the games began. When Layna (the youngest competitor) chose Bob, I felt like they were a shoo-in. Honestly, when it comes to puzzles, he is a ringer. But I hadn’t counted on them getting The Incredible Hulk, which is mostly a mass of green. At least they didn’t get angry when they came in last.

Jett enjoys finishing before Bob (Bumpa)

Games and puzzles and walks on the beach with our tribe are tucked away in my memory. I smile when I think of this group of people whom I love more than I can describe. I’m thankful that God made families and thankful that he gave us each one of ours.

Hilton Head sunset

Face-to-Face and Loving It

I don’t want to dwell on the Corona, but it’s challenging not to have it affect everything in life right now. Even my faith is affected but in a good way. I am reminded that God has everything under control and my seeming control of any situation may be just that – seeming. I am constantly talking to myself about how I serve a good God and he cares for me (and you!). Recently when I had a near miss from a car t-boning me, I was reminded that there is a lot of danger out there besides Corona – a lot that I am not afraid of even though the possibility of “bad things” happening to me is (as it was that morning) just around the corner.

When my sweet husband suggested that I go see our kids and grandkids in the Carolinas before school starts, I was hesitant at first. The internal debate began, but I felt like it was a good idea to go. Bob knew how much it would mean to me and them. I married well.

I set out on a Sunday morning for a week of real live, face-to-face time and hugs. It was medicinal. From Oliver, the youngest (21 months), to Mia, the oldest (17), I received plenty of hugs to warm my soul. It had been only a few weeks since Bob and I helped our son move, so Oliver needed no adjustment time. He is active and cute and squishy. I’m so thankful they are closer to us now.

The biggest reward of the trip was surprising our daughter’s kids. She wisely didn’t tell them I was coming because no plans are set in stone nowadays. My last trip had to be canceled and we didn’t want to make 8-year-old Layna cry again. Mia is recovering from knee surgery, and when she came down the hall on her crutches and saw me standing in the foyer, she hugged me and cried. She’s been through a lot and is recovering well.

I would have been satisfied hanging around the house with the family, but Dena thought we needed some adventure. Adventure that would take face-to-face to another level. She, Layna, and I headed for The Lazy 5 Ranch in Mooresville, NC.

Here is where the meaning of face-to-face ratcheted up a notch or ten. I’ll admit that I wasn’t really excited about our prescribed adventure, but it sounded like the perfect thing to do with Layna while the older kids were occupied with a church outing. Plus, I can never resist hanging out with her.

The greeting committee at The Lazy 5 is well-chosen.

They do not understand the words “social distancing” and are hungry for interaction – especially interaction with someone who might have a bucket of feed.

On my initial encounter with this wild bunch, I thought to myself – this is how The Beatles must have felt when they went out in public. It felt a little dangerous. I felt slightly violated to have large heads and hard beaks invade my space. But I couldn’t stop laughing. That was the best part.

Layna was hesitant at first but she warmed right up to feeding the animals.

Dena made fast friends with a hungry, aggressive ostrich.

 

We were told not to feed the zebras. Evidently they like to bite. My window seemed to be going up in slow motion as I wondered if I was going to be additional evidence of why one doesn’t feed the zebras. This is my mildly panicking face. Dena said it went up a notch after she took this picture.

When was the last time you laughed with people? I mean that deep, belly laugh that makes you tired afterward in the most contented and happy way?

I highly recommend this adventure. I highly recommend any adventure that will reconnect you with people and allow laughter and love to flow. (I know, I know. I’m not advocating throwing caution to the wind. Being safe right now is all you hear about, and we should keep that in mind. But think outside of the box. Think outside. Outside is good.)

 

Proverbs 17:22 – A happy heart is good medicine and a joyful mind causes healing, but a broken spirit dries up the bones. (Amplified Bible)

 

The Lazy 5 Ranch is a drive-through safari. “The purpose of the Lazy 5 Ranch is to educate in an entertaining way, as well as provide an excellent environment for the reproduction of some of God’s most unique creatures. The Lazy 5 Ranch also seeks to help the recovery of several endangered species including the Grevy Zebra, Scimitar Horned Oryx and Ring-tailed Lemur.”

 

 

Searching for the Worst Beach in Florida

Bob and I celebrated our 45th anniversary last weekend. This was not without its challenges due to the pandemic and a tropical storm/hurricane threatening Florida’s east coast. Isaias (ees-ah-EE-ahs) turned out to be a dud storm for Florida, thank God, but it caused damage up the I-95 corridor. It’s gone now – only clean-up remains. Other than the obvious reason to breathe a sigh of relief, we are grateful that we will not have to listen to people trying to say Isaias properly. One local radio announcer dubbed it “the storm with the name we can’t pronounce.”

And speaking of storm names – who are the ad wizards that came up with these? Later in the year we will have a storm named Nana. Seriously? Nana is threatening the coast. Nana is knocking out power. We hope Nana doesn’t come on shore. But I digress.

A day trip seemed a good plan. Being inside with all the masked people and pandemic reminders dampening our mood was not what we wanted for our anniversary. We love a good day trip and love to explore places we have not seen, so we headed for North Central Florida’s West Coast.

We threw our swimsuits, beach chairs, and a cooler in the car and were off for adventure. Who knew what we would find? Who knew what perfect little beaches we would discover? Who knew if we would find a place where we could use the bathroom?

First stop was Crystal River. It is famous around the state for its scenic nuclear power plant. Seeing the majestic steam billowing up to the sky, well, that’s nature at its finest. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy we have it. In Florida having power is what it’s all about. We get cranky when our AC is out.

We rambled down the road and found a crowded little beach right on the Gulf. I guess you have to get up pretty early in the morning to get a parking space, so we opted for a picnic by the river, which turned out to be the highlight of our trip.

Next stop was Lil’ Shark Park at Cedar Key. We had heard great things about Cedar Key, but in retrospect all those things were from people who had boats. We had a Styrofoam pool noodle.

You know those cute little couples who even though they have been married for 45 years still hold hands? We were one of them. Of course, we were motivated by the need to steady each other as we walked into the water. I was surprised by the slippery slime under my feet. To add to the ambiance, the smell of dead fish wafted around us like mosquitoes on a summer night. We stayed ten minutes.

It was 4 o’clock and we were riding around in our wet swimsuits still in search of a place to swim. Surely Pine Island would provide that. By 5:30 we were in the Gulf again. This was a step up from Cedar Key. We could walk in the water without fear of falling, but it felt like we were walking on fishing nets. I walked about a quarter mile before getting to waist deep water. It didn’t stink and although it felt yucky on my feet, it wasn’t completely gross. We got wet. We saw a small pod of dolphins. We left.

When we changed from our swimsuits in a beach house that was about 85 degrees inside and smelled like wet dog, I got homesick for our backyard (which is where we spent the next day). We were on the road again by 6:15. Little did we know that our real adventure was finding Florida’s worst beach.

Our day in summary:

Wildlife seen: 6 dolphins, 2 otters, 1 deer

Nuclear Power plants spotted: 1

Things I’ve never seen in Central or Eastern Florida: quarries, sawmills

Places to which I would return: 0

Worst beach to swim in Florida: Lil’ Shark Park at Cedar Key

Time spent with Bob: 13 hours of talking and laughing and enjoying being together. We can’t wait to go to Clearwater!