MY TRAVEL,  Uncategorized

Florida, Always in My Heart

Owning a Tiny Bit of Florida

Since my first visit to Florida, I have always longed to be there. Florida is always in my heart. Thanks to Roger’s parents, we now own a tiny bit of Florida! This has been a dream of mine since I was 14. Words cannot even express how happy I am when we walk into our place after suffering through our cold Kentucky winters.

Florida Welcome Center

The First Time I Fell In Love Florida

The first time I visited Florida I was 14 years old. It was 1973.

All six of us piled into my parent’s station wagon and traveled  from Louisville, Kentucky to Tampa to meet with relatives. The second we crossed over the Florida line and stopped in the famous Welcome Center with the free orange juice, I was hooked for life.  The smell of humidity, the feel of the sand under my feet instead of dirt, the taste of that orange juice mesmerized me.  I knew I would love this state forever. Florida had stolen my heart.

Some people can take it or leave it.  Others think it’s okay but don’t care to go back.   I am in love.

Our first stop was the Florida Citrus Tower.   Back then you could look in all directions and see nothing but citrus groves as far as the eyes could see.  The gift shop  was filled with the scent of orange blossom soaps and candles. I remember feeling like I had stepped into another country.

Silver Springs

Our next stop was Silver Springs and Cypress Gardens.  I remember very vividly walking through the gardens eating ice cream with my family and the cool breeze brushing our faces on a hot summer day. The glass bottom boats were the highlight of my day. I sat next to my Dad and he was just as excited as I was about what was below our boat. 

Glass bottom boat with Dad and sister, Erin.
Me (in my floppy hat) with Mom and siblings at Silver Springs, FL.

Orlando

Then on to Orlando for Walt Disney World.  LOVE is the only word that can describe how I felt. I will never be too old to love Disney World.  We stayed in The Contemporary Resort this visit. On return visits we would try some of the others. It was AMAZING!  Although I think my favorite visit was when we arrived in a Winnebago a few years later and stayed in Disney’s camp ground which is called Fort Wilderness Resort. We would walk to the edge of our area to catch the train into the Magic Kingdom each day. It was such a fun adventure, even for a teenager. 

Magic Kingdom, 1973
Magic Kingdom, 1973 with Mom and siblings

Clearwater

By the time we arrived in Clearwater Beach it was late and the beach was dark.  I had never seen the ocean.  It was very scary to be standing on the black beach with my parents, listening to the loud crash of the waves but to only see darkness as I looked out. I wasn’t impressed at all. I got as far away from the edge of the surf as I could.

The next morning I woke up and felt like I had just stepped into heaven. The vastness of this body of water took my breath away. I don’t think anyone ever forgets that first moment they view the sea. 

Another vivid memory of the Clearwater area was the famous Kapok Tree restaurant. Dad was so excited to have us experience the restaurant with the large Kapok Tree outside of it. 

Courtesy of studiohourglass.blogspot.com

Kapok Tree Restaurant

I remember Dad’s excitement more than anything else about the restaurant. I do remember standing under the kapok tree with white lights glistening in the limbs and feeling the humid, salty air surround me. And the grounds and restaurant itself were slightly gaudy with old concrete statues and quite a bit of overgrown foliage, but as a teen, I knew I was in Florida and that’s all that mattered.

Those are the memories that are so vivid in my mind, 40 years later.

My Piece of Florida

Two or three times a year, from the moment I step off the airplane and walk out toe airport door into Florida, my senses come alive again. Every cell in my body remembers the scent and feel of the salty sea air and the bluest skies I have ever seen. I am happy and my soul is home!

Roger’s parents owned a condo in St Pete Beach right on the Boca Ciega Bay. The Gulf and the beach are directly across the street. It now belongs to us. I never quite get over the sense of awe knowing I own this tiny parcel of paradise. Florida will always have a place in my heart.

Quietly Saying Thank You

Sunrise over Boca Ciega Bay
Sunrise from our window!

I am perfectly content to sit on the porch and drink in the sights and sounds of this amazing place.  My senses are filled with the sounds of sea birds and the splash of fish jumping out of the water as well as a daily visit from dolphins.

Yes, the dolphins and manatees swim in our tiny piece of the bay daily. It’s always a thrill to have them visit. As I sit there, drinking it all in, I never forget to quietly thank the universe for such beauty. 

There is always a thank you to Roger’s parents as well,  for finding this wonderful place and giving us the chance to love it. And an appreciation to my parents for that first visit with the sip of orange juice.

Having Fallen in Love

To those of us who have fallen in love with the state, the smell of humid salty sea filled air awakens our senses in a way that nothing else can.  We spend the rest of our years longing to return. And the moment we cross over into Florida, and see the welcome sign and taste the fresh orange juice, we know we are home.

I now co-own a tiny piece of this amazing state and could not be happier.

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