After the revelries of New Years Eve we dragged ourselves sleepily out of bed for an early start on Jan 1st, Leo & Nat had their first experience of making ready for the road. We were heading for the Everglades, but they had been inspired by our blog photos of Naples so we “overnighted close by at Bonita Springs nipping into the elegant town for a quick stroll along the beach, followed by a delicious meal at “The Dock”. Next morning saw us on the road again…Leo took over the navigating which gave me a rest! (He didn’t get shouted at! Perhaps because he made fewer mistakes.) It was a novel experience travelling comfortably in the back on the sofa.
We skirted the Northern border of Everglades National Park http://www.nps.gov/ever . All along the road where there were ditches on one side, Nat& I must have infuriated the boys with excited shouts of ”Look at that huge gaitor, did you see that heron?” When we turned south towards the camp site, we passed through an area of intense agriculture…row upon row of squash, tomato, guava etc. Vast fields stretching into the distance, rows narrowed by perspective, sitting soaking up the goodness of the sun. Then there were the garden centres, stands of palm and other tropical trees and plants. Huge specimens of plants we carefully nurture in our homes in the UK, stood beside the road waiting to be bought and placed in someone’s garden, or maybe shipped abroad. Oh for this climate at home, what a wonderful garden I would have!
As we neared our destination it began to rain, as we got closer, it began to rain more, when we arrived it was a deluge…no wonder the vegetation is so lush. Poor Malc volunteered to book in…see photos! Thankfully it did eventually stop and the site was perfect, miles from anywhere, and so peaceful. It was our base for 3 nights, where we were enchanted by the wildlife. Guided by the park rangers we took walks both during the day and at night, we learnt so much about the park and the delicate ecological balance within it, as well as spotting gaitors, otters, turtles and lots and lots of native birds. Much of the wildlife was at close range, we felt privileged. Yes we really stood 3-4 ft from the wild alligators, none of the photos were taken with a zoom lense.
Leaving Bree (the name the kids have given the bus) at the campsite, we took one day to drive down through the Florida Keys to Key West. Leo took over driving toad, so Malc was able to soak up the scenery in a way that he’s unable to normally. This scenery was the stuff of holiday brochures, white sand, turquoise seas and palm trees. We stopped along the way to soak up the sun, also to see “The African Queen” http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000007/ which was a rather sad spectacle that meant little to the kids. Key West was inevitably “touristy” but none the less interesting. We (and half the world it seemed) stayed to watch the sun go down at Mallory Square, where street entertainers (most of whom would know The African Queen!) drew large crowds. We half expected a cheer as it finally slipped below the horizon, but there was none. The sunset wasn’t particularly spectacular, but it’s what one does when one’s there. The town took on a new buzz after sundown, an international crowd wandering the busy streets and filling the bustling restaurants.