Saturday, 19 April 2014

Savannah, Georgia

So far we have had some travel problems.  When we were getting ready to pull out of Rainbow one of our slides would not come in.  With the help of a couple of our neighbors we convinced it to move.  We figured that it was likely corrosion from the high humidity over the winter.  That put our departure behind a couple of hours.  We got ready to pull out of St. Augustine Thursday morning and we could not get the landing gear to lift the 5th for hook up.  We finally called a repair man who for $60 got it to work.  Seems there was a blown switch hiding in the basement.  Must have been a power surge on the electrical.  In any event it was fixed and again we were a few hours behind our planned departure time.  They say RV'ing has its surprises!!

We arrived at the Savannah Oaks RV Park on Thursday afternoon without further incident.  Not a bad park.  Convenient to the I95 but the pool is closed for cleaning and the gym is closed for renovations.  Again we have poor internet and poor cell reception.  But we settled in and on Friday morning we caught the shuttle to take us into Savannah for the Old Town Tours again.

In 1733 General Oglethorpe and 120 passengers landed on a bluff high along the Savannah River.  He named the colony Georgia after England's King George II.  Savannah became its first city.  Savannah is known as America's first planned city. Oglethorpe laid the city out in a series of grids that allowed for wide open streets intertwined with shady public squares and parks that served as town meeting places and centers of business.  Savannah had 24 original squares, 22 still remain today.

Interesting bit of history on how Savannah escaped destruction during the Civil War.  Union General Sherman burned the city of Atlanta and everything else in his path on his "March to the Sea".  Upon arriving in Savannah he was so impressed by its beauty that he could not destroy it.  On Dec 22,1864 he sent the famous telegram to President Abraham Lincoln, offering the city as a Christmas present.  Lincoln accepted and the city was spared.  This is the reason that there are all those beautiful old houses still standing. Unfortunately all the old plantations that surrounded the city were destroyed.  What a horrible loss!!

Since it was a very chilly, overcast and rainy day we decided that we would just take the tour around and see the sights.  If we saw anything that we wanted to spend more time at we would come back the next day.   The tour was very interesting.  We travelled all over the city viewing all the beautiful squares with their monuments and statues and got to see all the historic houses and churches along the way.

One of the most beautiful squares is Forsyth Park.

When we found the trolley taking a turn down a narrow cobblestone lane curving down to the river we decided to get off for a walk about.  The cobblestones were actually ballast stones we were told.  They were used to all ballas to the ships when they came into port.  When they were ready to load up with the cotton or rice from the port the ballast stones were no longer required and they were tossed onto the shore.  The stones that line the riverfront are from all over the world.   Here you can see the stones that line the road that leads up from the riverfront.

As we walked back up this lane and up the flight of stairs at the back we were able to see that alley that runs along behind all the buildings that were all warehouses at one time.  The wagons loaded with cotton or rice would be brought along this alley.  The buyers would walk out onto the catwalks above from their warehouses to inspect the goods and bid on them.

We walked along the riverfront.  All the old warehouses are now shops and restaurants.

On the riverfront there were a couple paddleboats that you could take a cruise on if you were so inclined.  The weather was not conducive to that today.  We walked up those stairs and wandered around the historic market district where we stopped for lunch before catching the trolley to return to our starting point.

We saw this t-shirt in a shop.  Reminded us of John Hollinger who does put ketchup on everything!!!

  The gold dome on a government building is only allowed for the capital of the state. Savannah was at one time the capital of Georgia before it was changed to Atlanta.  The gold dome is tissue paper thin, 23 karat gold leaf on the City Hall. Beautiful.

St. Augustine was held by the Catholic Spanish and Savannah was Protestant British.  Sworn enemies but the cities are very much alike.

We got back to our park soaked to the skin - again looking like drawn rats.

I was somewhat disappointed with Savannah.  I was expecting that since it is spring that the magnolia trees would all be in bloom but there was not a flower to be seen.  Nothing much on the tour really caught our eye. We are not that interested in walking through old houses.  Been there - done that.  So on Saturday we are just taking a down day.  It is still chilly and overcast so we will see what happens.

Until next time - safe travels.

St. Augustine, Florida

On Wednesday morning we were up and on to the shuttle to continue our tourist activities.  Due to our limited internet access my posts are a few days late.

Our first stop was the Fountain of Youth.

Ponce de Leon first landed near this site in 1513.  They say he was running short of fresh water on his ships and when they landed they located this natural fountain of fresh water.  He was sure he had found the Fountain of Youth.  Well we found it today - been there - drank the water.

 The water has a high sulfur content and tastes like crap.  But I had a shot.  Don't feel any younger though.

Below Tom is standing beside a statue of Ponce de Leon.  He was just a little guy.  It is said he died at age 42 so the Fountain didn't do him any good either.

The peacocks put on quite a display for us.  This white one strutted his stuff big time.

After leaving the Fountain of Youth, completely rejuvenated, we walked back to catch the trolley along this beautiful oak lined street.

We took the trolley and got off in the downtown historic area where the narrow streets reminded us of Quebec City.  We walked around looking at all the old buildings, shops, restaurants and finally ended up having lunch on a back street at a really good Italian restaurant.  From there we walked to Castillo de San Marcos.

This beautiful Spanish fort was the northernmost outpost of Spain's vast New World Empire.  Ground was broken in October 1672 and the fort was finished in 1695.  It protected St. Augustine from pirate raids and from Spain's major rival, Great Britain, during a time when the Florida-Georgia-Caroline coastline was an explosive international battleground.

From there we hopped back on the trolley to take us to the Mission Nombre de Dios.

On this site Sep 8, 1565 Pedro Menendez de Aviles landed with a band of settlers to found St. Augustine, the first permanent settlement in the USA.  Father Francisco Lopez de Mendoza Grajales, Spanish Diocesan Priest, offered here the first parish Mass in this land.  The Spanish pioneers named this landing site Nombre De Dios - Name of God.   The statue at the end of the path is of Father Lopez.  The Great Cross in the background was given to the city by the Catholic Church in honor of the 400th anniversary of the city.  It stands 208 feet tall.

From this spot we walked to the Ripley's Believe it or Not.  We did not tour this building but I wanted a picture of this horse to send to my grand who is horse crazy, Karmen.  The horse is made out of old car fenders.

A replica of Michelangelo's David stands on the grounds.  Since is an exact replica they have him surrounded by a high hedge so as he is not on public display for those that may be offended??

That ended our tour of St. Augustine.  A beautiful city with so much history.  We enjoyed our visit.  From here we head up to Savannah on Thursday morning.

Oh I have to add this picture.  Even St. Augustine has it's Walmartians!!  These women had to be in their 70's.  Pretty cute!!

Until next time - safe travels.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

On The Road Again

We pulled out of Rainbow Resort on Monday morning.  It was sad to say goodbye to the friends we have made there but with any luck we will see them all again.  Here we are all hooked up and ready to roll.

We drove north east to St. Augustine, Florida for our first stop on the way home.  We plan on spending three nights here and take in some of the sights.  This is the oldest city in the USA and there is a ton of historic sights to take in.   

We are staying at St. John's RV Park.  Not much of a park.  A lot of really old trailers and no amenities.  There are a few sights available for renting and we did get a large pull through site.  We are parked on a cement pad which is badly broken up.  But it is handy to the freeway and we are only going to be here in the evenings so no big deal.  If we were to come to St. Augustine again we would not stay here!!

This morning the Old Town Trolley Tour shuttle picked us up at the park and took us into the downtown area.  There we transferred to the trolley and got the tour.  Since we have VERY limited internet in the park I am not sure how many pictures I will be able to post but will give it a try.

The trolley allows you to jump on and off at any of the stops.  Our first jump off was at The St. Augustine Distillery that has only been open to the public for a few weeks.  Until very recently these were not allowed in the state of Florida.  They only had their vodka on sale so far.  As vodka doesn't need to be aged they are able to get it on the shelves much quicker while aging the other products they will have.  Their vodka is made from sugar cane.  The distillery is in an old ice house which was built in the late 1800's. Here was a large and very interesting display giving us the history of the ice house.
 This young lady gave us the tour and told us about all the changes in the laws that were required to allow them to open this business and sell to the public.
 Here are a bunch of oak barrels that will be used to age their bourbon.  Their entire process is manual and they purchase all their product from the local farmers.  Wheat, sugar cane, corn, etc are all produced in Florida.
At the end of the tour they gave us a tasting of the vodka they produce and a moscow mule which is a vodka and ginger drink.  Neither were very good as far as I was concerned but the tour was interesting.

Our next stop was the San Sebastian Winery.  
 Again we had a tasting of several of their different wines, sherry and a port.  They grow most of their own grapes in Florida with the exception of one type of grape that they purchase from California.  Another local business and an interesting tour.
After all the testing we decided we should stop for lunch before we had our next stop for dessert.  The Whetstone Chocolate Factory.
Here we are given a lesson on the life of chocolate from the cocoa bean right down to the chocolate that we got to sample....yummy!! We learned the difference between milk chocolate, dark chocolate, white chocolate and how cocoa butter is produced as a by-product of the process.
Remember Lucy in the Chocolate Factory?  It was an episode of the old I Love Lucy show.  Probably way before your time!!!
 Here they are making chocolate covered pretzels.  The pretzels are hand placed on the roller, they then go through a chocolate bath and into this machine that hardens the chocolate.  At the end they are packaged.

Across the room was a lady that was making fudge in a large vat and pouring it into pans to cool.  This is considered artisan chocolate and all made by hand.  The sample were great!!

We hopped back on the trolley and got a tour around more of the city.  By the time we got back to the start it was getting to late to do any more exploring today.  We got on the shuttle and got a ride back to the park.  Today we just followed our stomachs.  Tomorrow we will head back into town and see some of the historic sites.

No internet access last night so was not able to post this.  So we are now Wed and I hope this goes through.

Until tomorrow - safe travels and good night from the Oldest City in America.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Time to Move On

Our winter in Florida is drawing to a close.  It is 5:00 am on Monday morning while I write this blog.  Can't sleep thinking about hooking up the 5th and heading out on the highway after spending 5 beautiful months here at Rainbow Resort.  We have made some great new friends here, had some pretty awesome adventures and did not have to shovel a lick of snow!!  This morning we will be moving on to St. Augustine, Florida where we will be spending three days seeing the sights in the oldest city in the USA.

Last Friday I surprised Tom by inviting some of our new friends over for Happy Hour and birthday cake.  Over the winter Tom played guitar with several people over at the home of Paul and Nita Taylor. They live all year around here at Rainbow.  Nita is originally from the Maritimes.   She said every man should have two guitars and they bought this one for him for his birthday.  It plays Happy Birthday as well as other cute little songs.   Here is Tom with Nita and his new guitar.
 John and Judy brought party crackers to add to the party atmosphere and to Tom's hair do.
 Duane and Marilyn Gordon have a big beautiful couch two doors down.  They hail from Indianapolis, Indiana. Duane has helped Tom with many things over the winter.  Marilyn is my Bunko playing partner.    On the right is Paul Taylor, Nita's husband who Tom has spent many hours with playing guitar.
 Nita, John and Judy. We are going to miss the Hollingers.  It has been a blast and we will see them again back in Canada this summer.
 Jim Davis on the left lives next door.  He and his wife Sherry also come from Indiana. Jim has a garden shed on his spot and in that shed he paints some very pretty landscapes.  He gave us one that we will take home with us.  
 Sherry Davis listening to Jim.  I think she has maybe listened to Jim for too long!!!  He is a chatterbox for sure.
Tom was sitting outside reading the paper when they all came around the corner singing happy birthday.  It was a nice surprise.  Very nice people and we are going to miss them all.  They have made our winter extra special.

I am not sure what we will have for internet connection at our next stop but hope to be able to post from St. Augustine.  I know that many people are starting to make their way north.  Wishing them all safe travels.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Myakka River State Park

Myakka River State Park is one of the oldest and largest state parks.  The Myakka River flows through 58 square miles of wetlands, prairies, hammocks and pinelands.  It is about a 2 hour drive from Rainbow Resort.  We were up and on the road by 8:00 am this morning and arrived at the park and were on the water by 10:00 am.  What a beautiful spot to kayak.  There are 39 miles of hiking trails, a canopy walk, the river plus 2 lakes.  There are airboat rides, tram rides, fishing, boating, biking, hiking, paddling AND ice cream!!  What more could you possibly want.

 Oh and by the way - there are alligators!!

and more alligators.  From little babies that were very camera shy to these big guys who just kept an eye on us a we paddled past.  Some of these were well over 10 feet long.  They were much bigger than our kayaks.

 But such a beautiful, peaceful place to explore.
 This turtle took a second look as I came close for this picture.  He was well over a foot long.  It appears he has managed not to be alligator food so far.
 and more alligators.  We must have seen at least 100 of these big fellows today. Many just laid on the bank and watched as we passed by.  Others in the water would float along and then sink beneath the water just like a submarine.  They are pretty shy of people and we had no reason to be concerned about them.
 By this point we had paddled down river into a preserve for a 5 miles round trip.  When we got back to where we parked we decided to continue to paddle up river to see if we could get to the Upper Myakka Lake.  We had been told they were selling ice cream at the cafe there.  So off we headed.  We had paddled for a couple of miles, up river, when we asked some fellow kayakers coming down river how much further.  They thought at least another hour.  We decided that it would be a smart move to paddle back down river, get the truck and drive to the ice cream parlor!!  Here we are heading down stream at a fairly leisurely pace. John, Tom and Judy all look pretty comfy don't they.
 We are finished.  Over 7 miles of water and 5 hours of paddling.  We are DONE!!!  Here Judy is bringing her gear up to the truck for loading. I think by the smile on her face either she had an awesome time or just damn happy to be back on land again.  or maybe both.
 As we were sitting enjoying our ice cream this airboat arrived with a load of sightseers.
 This great heron just stood there giving me the evil eye as I walked within a couple feet of him to get this picture.  He wasn't too concerned.
 After the ice cream gave us our second wind we headed to the canopy walk.  You walk through the tree tops on a suspension bridge to a 74 foot tower which you can climb to get a view of the park for miles around.
This is the view from the top.  I got up there, looked around, took a picture and when the tower started to sway I headed for the ground level.  I have a serious problem with heights so always surprise myself that I can get up there at all.  So pretty though.  Hate to miss something like this.
This is the tower from the ground.
And the canopy walk from the ground.
After we finished at the park we headed for home.  Stopping in Zolfo Springs for dinner on the way.  Tom and I sat outside when we arrived home to enjoy a beautiful evening.  Neighbors Duane and Marilyn stopped over to see how our day went and to see my pictures.

Another beautiful day in paradise.  Time is getting short here.  Not looking forward to going home.  I am going to really miss this place, the great friends we have made and all the activities.

Until next time - safe travels.