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?



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About Sally

A Studio Artist and painter trained at Stanford university, Sally has since then graduated from a long career as an Attorney with the Public Defender, and returned to painting. Living in Mexico with her son for a year, they adopted a feral dog, Lety. Sally's son left for college and their dog adopted her new best friend, Steven.


  1. Steve Jenner

    We have been enjoying your posts throughout the South. So glad you saw Plant City. I have wonderful memories there. My grandparents had a small winter cottage there and several times in the mid to late 50s, we drove down to see them. Dad would wash the car on Christmas day and Mom would take his picture. Then he could brag back at his job in Illinois of what he did Christmas day.

    I have tried to see if that cottage is still there on Google maps. The address from then doesn’t exist now – maybe some streets have had name changes. It was so great to get a break from the ice & snow in the north for a week in Fla. I remember once we were heading north and ran into a sleet storm somewhere in Kentucky.

    Love to you both,
    Steve & Barbara

    1. Steven

      Steve, It is just great hearing about your memories of this area. Florida is a very big state given the agriculture, eco-tourism, beaches, freshwater springs and diversity of cultures here. It has surprised us that we would be fully entertained for almost 6 weeks here! Give our love to Barbara, and wish her the best at her exhibition in San Antonio. We are so sorry to be missing her! Love, Sal and Steven

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