Yes I know it's been a couple weeks since I was in Florida...
Kelly and I flew to Sarasota and there were crying babies everywhere. Moral: if your kids are old enough to be entertained, bring stuff to keep them entertained! If they aren't old enough...they probably shouldn't be flying without drugs. Anyway, we arrived at Sarasota Wednesday night, rented a PT Cruiser and drove south to Englewood. The Florida air was so refreshing, we kept the windows down during most of the 45 minute drive so we could soak it up. The place where we stayed was pretty much perfect, too.
Thursday, we went to Manasota Beach and the water was COLD!! We did a lot of combing for seashells and we found these weird little bug-like things living among them. They were like pill-bugs, only lived in the water and had smooth exoskeletons. Finally getting to a beach, particularly a tropical beach, was so relaxing. While exploring a nearby river-dock, we saw HUGE pelicans and a tiny little lizard.
Friday morning was rainy and grey; the locals said "oh it's too bad you had to be here during such nasty weather." We just replied "a bad day in Florida is a good day in Chicago!!" And it was true! We drove to the Mote Aquarium, on a key off Sarasota, and the weather cleared up by the time we got there. That aquarium was really cool with an area for petting stingrays and everything! We checked out the bird sanctuary nextdoor and the area for larger sea life (dolphins, sea turtles, MANATEES which I had never seen before).
On our way back to Englewood, we stopped at a rookery. I'm fascinated by ciconiiformes so I absolutely loved getting to watch herons, egrets, etc. Two wild great herons got really close to us at the bird sanctuary while stealing the food of their caged counterparts. Sneaky birdies!!
That night, we had FANTASTIC seafood! OMNOMNOMNOM shrimp and crab legs!! I hadn't had crab legs in 14+ years and I didn't like them then; I'm so glad I waited for here to try them again SO GOOD!!
Saturday, we went to another beach - Blind Pass? It was warmer with bigger waves here, so I got some bodysurfing done. Bodysurfing: all the benefits of swimming with half the work. There weren't little bug-things here, it was probably too busy/warm/wavey. While driving around after the beach, I saw a wild alligator sunning itself on someone's front lawn!!
We returned on Sunday, a rainy and dreary day, which helped. On the drive to the airport, I saw a whooping crane! Those things are soooo rare, it was awesome!
There were comparatively few tourists where we were and almost no drunk frat guys, so that was fantastic. While driving to/from/around the city of Sarasota, I noticed something I wasn't expecting. Here in the Midwest, especially in Milwaukee and Chicago, there's a strong German influence with some Scandinavian, Celtic and Eastern European. Sarasota and the surrounding area is much more Venetian and Spanish; it wasn't until being in such an area that I realized how much I took for granted as far as cultural background - particularly because I'm German + Celtic + Scandinavian. That was a fascinating change...proving yet again what a nerd I am.
A big thank-you to Kelly's grandparents for everything!!