Sunday, March 31, 2013

Real Southern Hospitality

During our 6-month trip in the US we met so many nice people it is impossible to tell you about them all. But the people in Alabama and Mississippi take the cake. So gracious, polite and kind. And nothing represents their southern hospitality better than the Mississippi Welcome Centre on Interstate 10 at the Alabama/Mississippi state line.

On the outside it looks like a gracious southern home:
And as you walk in the door you are greeted by you know who. Probably Mississippi's most famous son. He actually says hello and welcomes you:
And an Easter egg tree:
And each room is furnished with beautiful antique furniture (or maybe reproductions -I am no expert):

You are welcome to peruse the literature racks, tastefully integrated into each room, have a seat and read about the local area, check your emails or even watch television. All while enjoying a complimentary cup of tea or coffee.

And each room contained several displays representing Easter:
ceramic Easter eggs
The Easter Bunny's village
And of course the Easter Bunny
Happy Easter to all from Arch, Anne, Tara and Princess

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Saturday, March 30, 2013

Things That Fly - Rolls and Blue Angels

While staying in Gulf Shores AL we caught up to Jekyll Island friends Linda and Jim and Karen and Mike. They were staying at different campgrounds near us.

The first night we were there Linda suggested we go to dinner at Lambert's - home of the throwed roll:
Apparently they throw the rolls that come with dinner to you. Flying rolls are a very successful gimmick as it turns out. When we arrived there was a 1 and 1/2 hour wait for a table. And people were lined up around to the back of the building. We decided to go up the road for a pizza.
Linda and Jim - apparently pizza does this to some people
Arch and I went back to Lambert's next day but the line-up was just as long. No flying rolls for us!

But we did get to see the Blue Angels fly that day. Their home base is the Naval Air Station Pensacola just a short drive from Gulf Shores. And they train there 3 to 4 days a week. Up to now. Apparently, due to sequestration, the training sessions have been cut and this was their last week. So we were lucky to get to see them

The show started at 8 am on what was a very chilly morning. We arrived at the base and showed ID at the entrance:
It was pretty informal. This part of the base is also home to the Museum of Naval Aviation and is open to the public:
We headed straight to the air field to watch the show. Did I mention that it was chilly:
Each of the manoeuvres in the following pictures has a name but I cannot remember which goes with which so I'll just show you the pictures:

Notice that two of the jets are upside down

At the end of the 47 minute training session the F-18 Hornet Jets landed 1 at a time, about 3 seconds apart, and taxied up to the grandstand to take a bow:
When the Blue Angels tour a C-130 Hercules called Fat Albert carries all their gear:
It has special booster jets on each side below the wings to assist it in lifting its heavy weight on take-off from airports with short runways:
All in all a great show - worth getting up early for.
Then we went off to a restaurant in Gulf Shores - The Shrimp Basket - for lunch:
From left - Karen, Mike, Jim and Linda
It was great to see you all - safe travels.

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Thursday, March 28, 2013

More Time With Friends

Many, many years ago, when I was 13, my family moved from a small rural community in Nova Scotia to the city of Halifax. The prospect of my first day in a city high school was pretty intimidating. I knew no one and so was preparing with great trepidation to set out for school on my own when a knock came at the door. A girl my age introduced herself as Judy and asked if I would like to walk to school with her.

She became my guide and good friend and, even though our lives took us in separate directions after high school I never forgot her kindness.

Then, about 5 years ago, Arch and I were in Toronto doing some tourism promotion work and a couple stopped by our booth and asked if we knew Nova Scotia author and journalist Stephen Kimber. "Well yes," I answered, "but I know his sister Judy much better - she was my great friend in high school. But I haven't seen her in years."

I cannot tell you how excited the woman became. It turned out that Stephen's sister, Judith and her husband Ross were great friends of she and her husband and were coming to a party at their house that night. Nothing would do but we come to the party and surprise Judith. Which we did and, as a result, we have been in touch with Judith and Ross ever since and get together when they holiday in Nova Scotia each summer.

Judith and Ross "winter" in Destin, Fl so we planned a stop there to see them and learn about Destin.

We had a lovely dinner with them one night - I would show you pictures but I made a mess of them so I won't.

The next day they took us on a guided tour of the Destin area. After visiting fishing village after fishing village after we left Tampa, Destin was not what we expected. I expected a city much like Fort Myers or Naples, Arch expected a fishing village. It was neither. Instead we found a very sophisticated beach community that has grown from a population of 15,000 in the off season to over 100,000 in the summer season. And it was spring break so the place was teeming with students.

The beach is beautiful - wide and covered with white, very fine sand:
But it was very windy and the ocean was wild, I am not sure what this machine is - a beach cleaner I assume. Despite the chilly air some kids were out trying to enjoy the beach:
When the double red flag is flying it indicates that the sea is very dangerous and you must stay out of the water.
But these surfers and a father with his child were ignoring the warning:
The western entrance to Destin is lined with sand dunes:
And to the east is a series of small beach communities that are rapidly developing into a playground for the rich and famous. Who are building some amazingly extravagant homes there. View at the proper angle (which I couldn't get) this one looks like a sail boat:
But most were simply large homes, many with "widow's walks" to provide a view of the ocean:
Bike trails and lanes are plentiful and we couldn't help but notice that bicycles are a popular mode of transportation in this area:
Judith and Ross showed us all the best restaurants and watering holes. This one, The Red Bar, is especially well known:
But we simply stopped for coffee. A Starbucks wasn't too difficult to find in this neighbourhood:
Thank you Ross and Judith for a great meal and a great tour of Destin. Hope to see you in NS this summer.

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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Way Down Upon the Suwannee River

Do you know that Stephen Foster, the composer of  "Way Down Upon the Suwannee River", never saw the Suwannee River or even visited Florida? Yet it became the most popular song ever published to that time, selling hundreds of thousands of copies and launching Florida's tourism industry in the late 1800s. As a matter of fact, the song had such a powerful influence on the state that Florida's legislature adopted it as the official state song in 1935.

So we could not leave Florida without a visit to the famous river.

The Suwannee River National Wildlife Refuge was very close to where we stayed in Cedar Key so of we went. The refuge itself in quite wonderful with lots of opportunities to view the wild animals and birds. But our goal was to see the river.

There was a 1 mile trail to take through the hardwood forest to the river:
The trail was like a causeway through a swamp filled with beautiful wild flowers:
After about 1/2 mile there was no more dry land and the trail changed to a boardwalk:
A long boardwalk, about 1/2 mile more:
With plaques telling us about the cottonmouth snake and other wonderful creatures living in the water below. Before total panic set in we reached our goal:
So beautiful and so peaceful:
With a couple of pleasure boats further up river:
We were the only people there that day. An amazing experience a lot of today's visitors to Florida miss, I think.

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Monday, March 25, 2013

On the Bounding Main

Arch's niece, Debbie, and her husband Gerry are visiting Florida from Nova Scotia to escape the last bits of winter and enjoy a few days of sailing.

They rented a sail boat in St Petertsburg and invited us to join them for a sail. Here are a few pictures.

Debbie and Gerry
This was the first time they took the charter boat out so Gerry spent some time figuring our the controls.
Then we were off and he relaxed to enjoy the sail:
Arch and I both loved speeding quietly across the water:

Tara not so much:
Although she did settle in once she was able to sit with Arch:
We had lots of company on the gulf:

And of course, no matter what you have, someone has one that causes a bit of envy:
After a great sail we headed back to the marina. Arch and Debbie lowered the sail (I held onto Tara - I don't think we will make a sailor out of her :).

And Debbie showed the way into the marina:
Thanks Debbie and Gerry for a great day!

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