Road to the Everglades

With my host Sherri & her roommate Penny @ Winterpark, Florida

With my host Sherri & her roommate Penny @ Winterpark, Florida

Florida, Sunshine State… the last state Chris & I would cruise on this epic road trip. Our first stop was Winterpark, a small town in the outskirts of Orlando and home to Sherri who lived there with her son Zane & her roommate Penne. She was so kind to host us and took us right away to one of her favorite places, Prato restaurant in Park Avenue followed by Taps bar for a few drinks because downtown Orlando was not an option since it was raining cats & dogs.

The Orange County city of Winter Park, situated north of Orlando, was once considered a winter resort but also is a nature lover’s destination with more than 70 parks & numerous lakes/canals.

With Augusto, Penne, Fay, Sherri, Brendan & Chris @ Sherri's place

With Augusto, Penne, Fay, Sherri, Brendan & Chris @ Sherri’s place

On the second evening, Sherri invited Fay, Brendan & Augusto, some other cs’ers to hang out in her place.  Chris & I were really lucky to have to opportunity to have stayed with Sherri in such a nice place.   She told us that the only way to see the true beauty of Winter Park with it’s Rollin’s College, Kraft Azalea Gardens, Isle of Sicily, tropical birds, plants, flowers & magnificent mansions was the famous Scenic Boat Tour.  A relaxing, narrated cruise through the beautiful lakes & canals of historic Winter Park including Lake Virginia, Lake Maitland and Lake Osceola.

Adrienne & her cute baby-girl Naomi

Adrienne & her cute baby-girl Naomi

From Winter Park we decided to drive the West Coast of Florida all the way down to the Keys.  First stop was Sarasota, a coastal town in the northwest of Florida near Tampa.  Sunnie, a local girl was keen to host us and show us around but when we got there, we didn’t feel very welcome and after talking with her for a few minutes, we decided to explore Sarasota on our own. I contacted Adrienne, a good friend of our New-Orleans host Annette to join us for drinks.  She was alone with her baby girl so couldn’t meet us but when she heard what happened, she insisted to come to her place for drinks.  Adrienne was a great traveller herself and explored so many places.  She now had chosen for a family and lived in cosy Sarasota with her husband & her daughter Naomi. Being a friend of incredible Annette, Adrienne was as we expected a fantastic woman and adviced us some great spots around Saraota such as Longboard key, St Armands key, Siesta key, …  Nice beachtown area’s with white sand beaches & clear blue water.  We spent half a day on the keys before leaving for Naples, a small town in the southwest of Florida.

My CS host Bill

My CS host Bill

Nestled within the Everglades & Ten Thousand Islands, delicately trimmed with sugar sand beaches, we reached this tropical sanctuary in the late afternoon to soak up its natural beauty.  Bill, a great entrepreneur lived here for years and enjoyed a quality life while he ran some succesful businesses over the years as well such as a travel channel, real estates,… His current business consisted of selling bio diesel. Bill had 2 daughters & 1 son of 24, 22 & Sarah, the benjamin just turned 14.  He had also had 2 brothers & 1 sister of 68, 66 & 64. Bill was the youngest and still had his mother who was 92yrs of age!

The Naples century-old wooden pier

The Naples century-old wooden pier

What intrested me the most was that Bill owned his own travel info channel about Naples. He was the host of activities around Naples and brought some intresting documentaries about the Everglades.  We talked for hours about our common intrests and Bill showed me his favorite town and drove me to the century-old wooden pier where we spotted dolphins, sea turtles & shore birds fish for minnows at water’s edge.  We took off our shoes and meandered along the white powdery sand to admire the historic homes tucked behind the sand dunes.   Other places we visited were the fancy neighborhood of Port Royal with its gigantic mansions, the harbour & the Old Naples peninsula.

Floating with an airboat on the 'River of Grass'

Floating with an airboat on the ‘River of Grass’

Bill gave us also great inside tips about the Everglades and so we drove the Tamiami trail through the swamps to some hidden spots in search for alligators.  Another must-do in the Everglades was an airboat ride, whipping through the mangrove tunnels at top speed only to stop on a dime and spin around 180 degrees!   Along the way we found a bunch of companies offering such rides but we stopped at Miccosukee, an authentic & ancient hammock-style Indian camp with nature’s finest exotic plants, alligators, birds & other wildlife.  An amazing ride on the ‘River of Grass’

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