Thursday, January 5, 2012


We got back to Madison last night.  Christmas break 2011/2012 is officially over.  Luckily I was able to take today off and get things like grocery shopping and unpacking out of the way so I wasn't stressed about having no food or a suitcase death trap in the living room.  Soon enough I'll have to think about returning to real life.  For now, a little vacation recap.

First, I got a new pet.

Yep... he's swimming in the bathtub right now.  He's a hungry little guy... good thing we picked up an extra box of Kentucky Fried Poodle.


We started off with a trip to Bok Gardens, which is a... well... garden with a large tower with a carillon.  Actually it was very pretty, and the weather was an amazing 70 degrees (which it remained for nearly the entire time we were in FL).  I hadn't seen the sun for the past month, and it felt really good to stroll around and listen to Sleigh Ride clanking on the bells in the tower.

Fun bonus fact: Bok Gardens is located on the highest point and near the lamest tourist attraction in peninsular Florida.  

It kind of works... kind of.

After Christmas, my in-laws came down and we drove down to visit the Ringling Mansion and Museum in Sarasota and the Edison and Ford Winter Estates in Ft. Myers.

The Ringling Mansion was a lesson in how the other half lives... or how they lived in the early part of the last century.  Although I admit I felt a twinge of jealousy when I saw the annunciator that could be used to call for an emergency late-night back massage or ice cream fix and the two story tall fat chick paintings, I felt good knowing we have one thing that they didn't that makes life in Florida 10000 times better- air conditioning.  And probably better pesticides, too.

The coolest thing at the Ringling was the giant detailed model circus.  And I mean giant.  And detailed.  Like there was a model "men's room" complete with a white sheet that said "face this way".  I guess everybody needs a hobby.

The Edison and Ford homes were nice and modern enough that no chamber pots were necessary I could imagine myself living there.  There were huge banyan trees, which are awesome giant trees with aerial roots, growing out front of the visitor's center.

  That is all one tree... crazy, right?

Although there were a couple antique cars laying around, Edison was definitely the star of the show.  He invented pretty much everything including... no joking... the panini press.

You'd think that would be enough but no... there was MORE waiting for us when we got back to Central Florida.

We went to the Stetson Mansion, which was awesome and beautiful and currently without a personal photo to accompany the description because my camera battery died and my dad needs to send me copies of the pictures (ahem).  

Anyway, the story behind the house is that it was built by Stetson- the hat guy- but had fallen into disrepair over the years.  Then these two other guys bought it to live in it.  Realizing how much they'd spend and how much more they needed to spend to make the house livable, they got a bunch of sponsors to cover the fix-up costs and opened it as a model home.  It was a strange cross between a historic house and a Southern Living feature.  You'd never know someone actually lived there until you went into Stetson's bedroom closet and there were all of the owner's clothes.  Crazy stuff.  I can't imagine having to do EVERYTHING (go to the bathroom, make some toast, etc.) with the knowledge that 50-100 people were going to be coming through my house later that day. 

We also went to see the new and improved fountain in Lake Eola on New Years Eve.  You'd think this was the lamest new years of my life, but once I spent New Year's Eve throwing up Chili's and waiting to watch some guy do a motorcycle stunt on TV at midnight.

Pretty nice.  There were actually a ton of swans walking around, including some black ones, but my photography skillz are such that this was the best image I could get.

That is a black swan at night.  You can kind of see the eye.

Last but certainly not least, we went to Weeki Watchee to see the mermaid show.  This is some seriously old-school kitch.

We sat in a half-submerged amphitheater and watched 20-somethings (I'm just doing this to put myself through school at USF...) do back flips and be accosted by turtles in a lovely blue spring.      

That turtle was all upon that mermaid.  Actually, it's kind of impressive when you think about how tough it would be to train yourself to breathe from what is basically the thing you use to inflate your car's tires, keep your eyes open and lip sync underwater, and hold your breath for a really really really long time.

I of course had to get my picture taken with a real mermaid.

I'm sure she was totally not creeped out by that.

Whew.  Um... I did some family stuff too, and went to Gainesville twice.  This is getting long, so that'll give me a little more material for another day.

What's the weirdest/funniest/lamest tourist attraction you've ever been to?

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