Sometimes traveling the US, you realize you can get a bite of a foreign country without leaving home. John Ringling of the eponymous Circus fame, collected an amazing amount of Italian Renaissance art, and set it all among classical gardens and a big pink palace, and he made it free on Mondays. He has one of three true copies of Michelangelo’s “David” as it was cast from the original sculpture. Why wait for hours in line at the Accademia in Florence, or see an imperfect replica outside the Palazzo della Signoria, when you can go see his beautifully muscled body at the beach, framed by swaying palm trees?
We were back at the Gulf Coast once again to meet up with our Santa Fe pals, and get a much needed Tango lesson at the Gulfport Tango Milonga. Irene, the beach babe, made us sit in delicious powdery sand at Siesta Key Beach. It is so fine it would feel yucky, like dust, if it weren’t so white. The ocean was about 65 degrees F., a wee bit colder than the freshwater springs we are used to and we had to scuffle our feet to move the sleepy manta rays out of our walking path, but it made for lovely swimming. Perfect weather for bicycling on Siesta Key, where we stayed outside their cottage in the shade of large banyan trees….very relaxing! Perfect for a big juicy kiss American style, too!
My cousin Ed in South Carolina recommended we return to the East Coast by way of the “Ag Trail”. We happily munched our way through the Strawberry Capital of Florida (Plant City) where a large gas tower painted like a strawberry overlooks the biggest sport field complex we have ever scene…Field of Dreams indeed! The Strawberry Festival takes over the county fairgrounds in 2 weeks; when we saw the snaking line dividers being set up, we were so glad we hit the strawberries at the peak of the season, and without the crowds.
We also decided to stay in the Ocala National Forest and visit Alexander, Juniper and Salt Springs to get in our last warmspring swims. Oddly, there were no signs warning of alligators, and every body of freshwater here has alligators we are told. Last week, two inebriated fisherman cast off at 3 AM at Lake Jenkins near here; their boat was found the next day but no remains have yet been found. These alligators really know how to clean up after themselves! Needless to say we not yet launched our kayak here.
En route we have found both the Potato Capital of Florida, and the best, yummiest, sweetest, biggest, and juiciest beefsteak TOMATOES, just like a vine-ripened home grown. We had them prepared with arugula, balsalmic vinegar, and fresh mozzarella at Katie and Simon’s. We also just ate them with salt, biting into them like an apple at the produce stand.
It must be the Donkey Capital of Florida as well, as we saw lots of ads at farms we drove by for miniature and full-size donkeys. Hmmm…where is the market for donkeys I wonder?