Well it is momentarily, but then the rain sets in 😲
After leaving the ship, we picked up a rental car and headed north as far as West Palm Beach, driving up the A1A scenic route. Florida is just so amazing with all it palm trees, waterways and bridges.
They are some heavenly holiday homes, marbled mansions, captivating cottages, charming condominiums, amazing apartments and glamorous gated communities (I think they are ‘gated’ to keep our the ‘gators’!!🐊) Sometimes there is only a small strip of land with a house on each side and a road up the middle. Sometimes there are groups of towering apartments lining the white sandy beaches, some with their storm shutters across [I wonder if they are not home?], and some houses that originally had great views have now created roof balconies to claim the views back.
It is warm and there are perfect people getting about half dressed (and some not so perfect people who should be dressed!) soaking up the sun, on beautiful beaches with palm trees swaying in the breeze. They are people walking, biking, jet-skiing, kayaking, fishing, golfing or just out on their boats. I can understand why people retire here as it is flat, warm and there are no state taxes. There are also ‘Senior Living Solutions’?!?! What?!? Do Seniors need a solution?!? I much prefer ‘Lifestyle Village’ or ‘Retirement Village’ [or Princess Cruises 😂].
So we decided to visit Flagler Museum [Whitehall home built in 1902 and “is one of the greatest Gilded Age Mansions in the world”] which was originally a wedding gift for his third wife [as a winter holiday home – I mean really 75 rooms and it is a holiday home for the winter!]. After he died, and she died it became a fancy hotel – where they added 10 stories to the original building. When that [hotel business] went belly-up Mr Flagler’s grand-daughter [who was rich, from his fames] bought the house back, set up a trust and set to removing the 10 extra stories returning it to its original [mostly] design.
It is an incredible building and just so beautiful. From the music room, to the lake room, to the grand hall and the ballroom it is WOW around every corner. Our guide was exceptional with his history and the knowledge he shared of Mr Flagler and the family was phenomenal. Mr Flagler was rich [actually super rich] and he grew his wealth by building a railroad in Florida and was the found of Standard Oil, with Mr Rockefeller, and also hotels – he was instrumental in making Florida the mega tourist destination and liveable state that it is now. He is one of the original industrialist and became a business ‘titan’. [Ok, have to confess that some of these notes are burgled from the brochure, as I just couldn’t remember everything!]
He was very philanthropic and has many institutions and foundations that are all over USA, but a lot in Florida, as his billions earned him [and continue to earn his family] significant returns. As I write this we are staying close to Flagler Beach, and we hope to visit the Flagler School in St Augustine. We have driven on Flagler Drive, there is a Flagler hospital, island …. you get the picture!
We also wandered around the grounds and went through the Flagler Kenyan Pavillon where his private Railcar was housed. This building is also grand and has amazing views out over the water. There is also a cocoanut grove that is the only remaining grove in the area.
So many other things we learnt about here, from the lace, to the music, to the art, to the painted ceilings, to the electric lighting, to the grand parties [Mrs Flagler (the 3rd) was a Grand Dame!] and the gilded (aluminium, but looks like Gold?!) rooms. So, many hours later and we are saturated with the Flagler history and it was wonderful.
As we were heading up the coast we found a local car club, so we called in to check it out. Wasn’t really a whole lot happening but we did see some snakes!! We wandered around and checked out the few cars that were there and chatted with the locals.
We carried on up the coast to St Lucie where we spent the night. The next morning we headed to the Navy UDT (underwater destruction team) – SEAL (Sea, Air, Land) museum. The US takes their national safety seriously and it was fascinating to see all the things that the SEALS are involved in. It was Veterans Day weekend, so was pretty busy with veterans and parades around the towns.
Everything I know about SEALS is from the movies!! But after being in the museum I have a better understanding what they do. Those men are machines and absolutely dedicated to the fellow man, and our general safety. Legends – no wonder they garner such huge respect.
Still heading up the coast we decided to stay a few days at Flagler Beach … who would have guessed!
I really wanted to go to the Bulow Sugar Plantation Ruins, as that history here in the south is everywhere. Just look at this incredible drive into to property. The canopied tree line was just so awesome. [Actually in this area there are lots of roads like this and we have tried to drive on them where we can / as we find them. They are so beautiful, and give you this wonderful feeling of being on holiday!]
So the sugar plantation [they also grew cotton] was built in the 1820’s and was one of the biggest in the area with 200 slaves. The ruin is of the sugar mill and it is much bigger than you think, and it now preserved by the National Parks. Through the ‘interpretive’ boards it tells you about this rise and fall of the sugar plantations, the Seminole wars [need to learn more about these] and how in the 1830’s the place was attached and set on fire, leaving what you see today, still standing 150 years after its demise.
This is me practising my camouflage technique, that I learnt at the Navy Seals Museum 😂
Just loved the mushrooms and the trees covered in epiphytes … so do the snakes!! The hanging ‘moss’ is not moss … it is an epiphyte as well. It is called Spanish Moss and it is in the same family as pineapples. It is one of the things that make the canopied tree’ roads so beautiful.
After our walk in at the ruins, the rain set in and we had a very warm tropical storm blow through. We headed back to the accommodation for a bit more planning and a coffee, and when it had passed we headed to Flagler Beach Pier. This pier has been built several times as the sea is pretty rough here [as we had seen when we stopped earlier]. We walked out to the end and felt the full force of these waves crashing into the pier and it movement! Colin tried to convince me it was fine, but having just read that it has been replaced several times – I wasn’t so convinced!!
Apart from us, there was only two boys out there fishing. Colin at one stage thought he saw a seal and this boy (probably about 14) looked at him like he was a peanut butter nutter and then said “we don’t have seals in Florida!” – I can just imagine he went home and said … “there was this ‘old’ dude on the pier today and he thought he saw a seal …. should have gone to SpecSavers!”. 😂
Actually Colin googled it and you can find the odd seal in Florida, so we will just have to believe him!! Now I was there and I think it was just the birds diving in and out of the ocean. So we have agreed to disagree, can’t be arguing about that when I don’t have my own car to take myself out shopping!!!!
See you soon ……..