Flashback Friday – Watching a Shuttle launch from Cocoa Beach February 2011

Back in February 2011, on vacation with my brother and his family we decided to go and watch a shuttle launch from Cocoa Beach.

Parking wasn’t too bad – we managed to park at a meter on the roadside fairly near one of the boardwalks to the beach.

It was February but the weather was good and we had fun playing on the sand, eating a picnic while waiting with many others for the launch to take place.

Having waited several hours, bought binoculars to see the launch and a radio to hear it, we managed to almost completely miss the event by looking in the wrong direction!!

Before we travelled home we visited the massive Ron Jon Surf Shop for some essential souvenirs.

Combined with a 6 hour journey back to Orlando (it was Daytona weekend the same day and the toll road was rammed) it turned out to be a very memorable day for many reasons – we still laugh about it 6 years later and the best thing is that apart from the fuel, toll and parking it was pretty much free fun in the sun!

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens – Sarasota

Situated at 900 S.Palm Avenue, Sarasota, the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens are a little oasis very close to downtown.

William and Marie Selby moved to Sarasota in the early 1920s.  Marie loved nature and wanted to keep Sarasota beautiful and green.  When she died in 1971 she bequeathed her home and property to the community with the aim of forming a botanical garden and just 2 years later Selby Gardens were founded and opened to the public in July 1975.

We entered through the Welcome Centre, purchasing our admission.  From here we went into the Tropical Conservatory which was awash with many varied and beautiful orchids.  We went on to the Bonsai Exhibit – all labelled with when they were born! and then onto the Cycad Display.  Following the path we saw the Fern Garden and stopped to admire the Koi – with the buddhas and the Japanese bell.  We passed the Bamboo Garden and then onto Banyan Grove which was one of my favourites – the roots of the Banyan tree are absolutely huge, beautiful and fascinating.  We both hugged the hugging tree and explored the Ann Goldstein Children’s Rainforest Garden which had lots of colourful animal sculptures, bridges and steps, waterfall – great fun for all with an adult swing seat to sit in while watching the children play.

From here we continued along the short circular pathway, admiring the Desert garden, on to the Gazebo and then along to the Baywalk which hosted another large buddha and had lovely views across the Bay to Sarasota and Armand.  In the Mangroves we saw several birds including Pelican, Osprey and a Belted Kingfisher.  We rejoined the pathway and passed the palm and then on to the Payne Mansion where there was an exhibit of old botanical books and paintings plus living plants in jars which are used for research purposes.

We saw the display gardens – although it wasn’t really the right time of year to fully appreciate the Butterfly Garden.

A couple of hours soon passed by in a leisurely relaxed way.  There is a little shop selling garden themed items and plants.  There is also a little cafe for coffee and cake.

At just $20 entry for an adult we would highly recommend it.  For more info go to Marie Selby

2 girls, 1 holiday villa in Orlando, on a road trip!

We thought we’d have a change of scenery and with easy images coming to mind of cocktail drinking on fine white sand beaches we headed over to Sarasota on the Gulf coast.

Just 1 hr 40mins  along the I4 and I75 and we arrived at our destination – the Hyatt Regency.  We were able to check in early and then set off walking to funderstand somewhere nice to have lunch.   It was hot, the traffic heavy and noisy with a lot of construction.  After going round in a circle with sidewalks closed, our enthusiasm was fraying so we headed into the Ritz Calton to lunch as Jack Dusty’s overlooking the marina.  A mojito and lunch later we felt better.

Unfortunately we heard that all the beaches along the Sarasota area were affected by Red Tide which is an algae that kills fish and affects humans breathing – it also stinks.  The beaches are littered with dead fish.  With this in mind we headed off to the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens instead.

What a haven, not massive but absolutely beautifully maintained with lots of interesting gardens and play areas – greenhouses, waterfalls, tree hugging, mangroves and wildlife – we while away a couple of hours.

Then buoyed up we decided to risk it and head over to the shops, bars and restaurants of St Armands Circle.  When we gor there we couldnt smell the red tide (although I was a little wheezy) and free parking was abundant.   Reminding us a bit of Winter Park but in a circle with statues we had a little stroll and browse before heading back to the hotel.

We ended the day with room service and sitting out on the balcony looking back across the marina towards Jack Dusty’s.