Monday, March 24, 2014

Our Perfect Date Weekend

It was really nice to have a rare date weekend while Maddy was in Tampa. Long sleep ins, lovely healthy foods, a couple of movies and the weather was perfect too so we got our nature fix hiking in the beautiful Tibet-Butler Preserve :)...

And then we went to Oakland where we saw mother and baby golden eagles on the water tower :)

We had heard that next to the Oakland Nature Preserve there were wild animals in a field so we went to check it out. It's true - there are zebra out there!
And Ankole cattle!!

They must be hand-fed because this one came right on over...

...for a Facebook selfie...

Thanks Jen and Rich and Mya - we had a perfect, romantic weekend :)

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Snorkling with the Manatees

You may remember that last year Mike and Maddy had an amazing experience during Mary's visit when they went swimming with manatees. A couple of weeks later, they couldn't wait to share their encounter with me but the manatees had already left Crystal River for the summer (link here!) :(. This year we planned ahead a bit better to make sure that we didn't miss out again and stayed overnight in a hotel so that we could get out at 6 in the morning when the manatees are most visible and active:)

Manatees are endangered animals and Crystal River not only has the largest migration of manatees each year, but is also the only place in North America where you can interact with them legally. There are lots of rules to observe and you are closely supervised. However, aside from the fact that breaking these rules can lead to a year in jail, manatees are really beautiful and graceful creatures so we wanted to be very careful not to disturb them too much during our encounter.  
As soon as the sun came up and we were out on the water, there were manatee mating pods everywhere - it was crazy! Maddy and I stayed close to the boat so that we could both interact and get away when it was overwhelming. It was actually quite scary at times!

This one loved chewing on Maddy's foot :) 

Our trip was with Bird's Underwater Dive Center (link here!) and they did such a phenomenal job! They are the only company that goes out as soon as the sun comes up and Bird's stays out for much longer than the other manatee tour groups. They even take a movie of your experience which you can buy afterwards:).

It was an amazing day - and if you haven't done it before, I would definitely add it to your bucket list for sure. And I know a lovely family you can look up while you're in town - they'd love to see you :).


Soccer season is over and Maddy is playing Lacrosse!

Great job Maddy and Go Lakers! :)

Bok Towers and Spook Hill

For Funday Sunday this week we went over to Lake Wales to see Bok Towers! It's only about an hour's drive and we'd heard it was really pretty. Mya was with us for the weekend so she joined us for the trip too:). As soon as we arrived in Lake Wales we saw signs for 'Spook Hill' which we'd seen on Roadside America. Apparently Spook Hill is a 'gravity hill' (an optical illusion where cars appear to roll uphill.) There's a large sign on North Wales Drive explaining "The Legend" and how to experience the effect. Here's a guy who has more time than I do who kindly made a little youtube to explain the whole thing...

It took us a while to figure out how to experience it and we definitely rolled uphill :)

Bok Tower Gardens (just down the road) was Edward Bok's gift to the American people. The property encompasses Iron Mountain, one of the highest points in Florida. The famous 5-foot neo-Gothic and Art Deco Singing Tower was built on the 295-foot high hill and houses one of the world’s finest carillons, a bell-based instrument and the heaviest of all musical instruments. It was designed by architect Milton B. Medary, with stone sculpture by Lee Lawrie, the creator of Atlas at Rockefeller Center.

That's the girls at the bottom of this photo:)
There are also over 200 acres of woodland gardens, offering a variety of tropical plants and the opportunity to view some central Florida wildlife.
The Bok gardens 60-bell carillon is played every day at 1 and 3 p.m.

It's a great place to go for some peace and quiet but the girls were bored silly. In fact the only thing that kept them entertained was feeding the koi carp:).

Overall, if you fancy a picnic and a quiet, peaceful day - it's perfect. For adults :)