Thursday, August 3, 2017

Winter Park, FL

To get closer to the Disney attractions in the Orlando area, we move from a St. Augustine vacation home to a condo in Kissimmee which which brings the theme parks within a 10-15 minute drive. On a recommendation from Jill and Mark, we stop in Winter Park to take a Scenic Boat tour.

Winter Park is a small wealthy community on the north side of Orlando.  It was founded in the 1881 by Chicago businessmen Loring Chase and Oliver Everett Chapman as a resort community after railroad tracks were laid nearby to Lake Osceola. The town of Winter Park was incorporated as a town in 1885.  The town soon became a favored winter home location for the very wealthy fleeing freezing temperatures in northern states.

The map below shows Winter Park's chain of lakes.  Narrow channels were built connecting these lakes to provide boaters with more opportunities.

We arrive at the boat launch around 2pm and sign up for the next tour which is only about 20 minutes away. The man selling us tickets directs Peter to a local French bistro to pick up sandwiches for a late lunch.  Peter literally runs up and back with fantastic sandwiches.  Apparently Winter Park is well known for it's excellent eateries.  We wish we could stay longer and explore the area, but will have to leave after the tour to meet up again with Christine and the kids at the condo.
Boat docks for the Scenic Tour

The caretaker's house

The homes perched on the banks of the various lakes are extravagantly luxurious and obviously owned by 1%ers.  Apparently, you'll need much more than a mere measely million dollars to get into this neighborhood.

The channels between the lakes are narrow with overarching tree branches festooned with Spanish moss.
Love Florida's Spanish moss

Navigating through a channel

Floridians love gators (as concrete lawn ornaments)

On Lake Virginia we pass by Rollings College, a pricey liberal arts college. A year's tuition including room and board will set you back approximately $70,000 per year...  but disrepair not. If your little darling is a crack water skier, then he or she can win a water skiing scholarship (Rollings is the only college in the country to offer one).
Rollings College

Rollings boat house

We move through another lush channel onto another lake.

This lake must be for the nouveau riche as the homes are spaced much closer together.

Passing through the next channel we see a plein air artist. Our tour guide tells us the annual Paint Out Contest, sponsored by the Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens, is currently underway.
Cypress tree roots

Plein air artist

More Spanish moss

As planned we meet Christine at the Kissimmee condo.  We all have stories to tell when we get back together. They have had a great time on their parasailling adventure in St Augustine. The next morning the kids are up surprisingly early and chomping at the bit for the Disney theme parks.
Brooklyn, Christine & Cody

Come on push faster!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

St Augustine Alligator Farm, FL

On a beautiful day in St. Augustine, we take Christine & the kids to the Alligator Farm Zoological Park.
Great old safari vehicle


Our first stop after paying our entrance fee, was at the gator photo ops.
This one's big enough for all to ride

Brooklyn for breakfast - good thing it's not real

There's lots to see and do here - not just alligators and crocodiles. 
Florida turtle ?

Baby gators

Rare albino baby gators

There's a ranger led show starting soon, so we quickly make our way to the Theater area.  Among other creatures, she introduces us to Tilly the Armadillo. Tilly is a bit shy at first coming our of her carrier, but once she realizes there are worms waiting for her, she warms up to the crowd and gobbles down the worms with relish. After the main show, the ranger lets the kids individually come up to meet a friendly snake. It really is a good show and we all enjoy it.
The range introduces Tilly the Armadillo

Tilly on the big screen

Christine and the kids getting introduced to a snake

The Asian Crocodilians exhibit was a real eye opener for us. We had no idea how widespread they are in the world.  What's the difference between an alligator or crocodile?  According to a plaque at the Alligator Farm -
Alligators have a more rounded snout, and somewhat of an overbite. Rarely do an alligator's lower teeth show when their mouth is closed.
Crocodiles usually have a more pointed snout, and have a very prominent fourth tooth on the lower jaw.
Rare Chinese gators

 Cuban crock

Indian Gharial

Ancient Egyptian Nile crocodile mummy

Tortoises and turtles are well represented:
Galapagos tortoise

Yellow-bellied sliders ?

Florida Box turtle ?

Many of the birds on exhibit come from Africa or Australia.
Griffon vulture

Cassowary eyes Cody

Cockatoo parrot

It's getting close to lunchtime at the Alligator Lagoon. Of course we have to see the feeding of the gators.
The ranger introduces us to the local gators


What a puny stick you have

Heh - heh - heh

Feed me!

We're hungry

This lucky gator gets its lunch tossed to him

Feeding frenzy

Wow - that was exciting. After watching that feeding frenzy, I can see there's little chance of escape once the gators come after you (chills down spine). Time to move on to other exhibits.
Brooklyn waves to a Komodo dragon

Ugh - scorpion


Then onto to see huge gators that have passed on.
Gomek - the park's biggest ever

prehistoric monster

Before leaving, we take the boardwalk through the Alligator Swamp & Wading Bird Rookery. It's nesting season and there's a large group of photographers all sporting large telephoto lens. I do the best with the lens I brought, but sorely miss my longer telephoto back at the house.
Trees are full of nesting birds

A last photo op before we leave.



Of course, the exit is through the Gift Shop.
Brooklyn with new pal Lucky the monkey

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Retired and enjoying life.