|Subject: Return from the South|
I began my 6 week trip on February 11, driving to Florida by myself
from Appleton, Wisconsin. The weather was cooperative and with the help
books on tape I had an uneventful trip down.
I spent a week and half in Palm Beach, which was great. The second part of my Florida trip was spent on the west coast of Florida, in Holmes Beach on Anna Maria Island. so I was able to compare the two coasts. Anna Maria Island has prettier beaches and on a nice, sunny day, the color of the water matches that of the Caribbean. The restaurants on the east coast were somewhat better and I ate out more there. If you like Jewish deli, Wolfies is quite good. I think that it is in Boca Raton. I also had brunch at the Breakers which is copious and beautifully served. We ate at a couple of Italian restaurants which were good but not outstanding. One was in the new city center shopping center in West Palm Beach and the other was on a street with a flower name beginning with a C! I also went to a good stone crab place right by Wolfies. We went to the Norton Museum which had a wonderful Milton Avery exhibit that was just at the Milwaukee Art Museum. (As an aside, if you are ever near Milwaukee--like in Chicago, the new addition to the MAM is definitely worth seeing. It was designed by the Spanish architect Calatrava and looks like a big whale extended over Lake Michigan. The interior reception area took my breath away. It is almost like a cathedral.) At Boca Raton Museum, there was an exhibit was Chagall prints. Both are very nice buildings but their permanent collections are not terribly outstanding. If you like mansions, the Flagler is well worth a visit and one can see how the railroad Barons lived. The Festival Flea Market is worth a visit, especially if you like bargains and can recognize knock offs of famous designers. There is lots of shopping for sure, and the beach is very nice, even if it is not as nice as the Gulf beaches.
I rented a condo in Holmes Beach by myself for three weeks so I got to know the area fairly well. At Janet Solomon's (Travelzine fellow traveller) suggestion, I went up to Appolo Beach to see the manatees on a cool day. The energy plant there produces warm streams of water so the manatees come in on cool days to bask in the warm water. The day before was much colder and I was told that they counted 500 manatees there!! I saw quite a few noses and flukes, but not a complete manatee.
The Selby Gardens in Sarasota are outstanding. The orchid collection was fabulous (but not as good as Singapore!), and the gardens are right on the Sarasota Bay with wonder views of the water, fabulous homes, and a lovely marina. They have just started serving catered lunches which are pre made but very tastely and reasonably priced.
On cool days, I often went to the movies. We do not get many independent films in our area, so I especially enjoyed movies at the Burns Court Theatres in Sarasota which is on a great hidden street with 50s style bungalows. Lots of art galleries and restaurants in the area.
I did make it up to St. Pete one day and went to the Fine Arts Museum which was very nice.
Being from a place where you can get anyplace without a problem (except for long trains) in 10-15 minutes tops, I found the traffic on Florida's coasts a main drawback. Everything takes time and you have to plan extra time for traffic jams and road repair. It took me an hour and a half to travel the 20 some miles from Sarasota to Holmes Beach on several occasions.
If you are in the Sarasota area and want to eat at the fabulous restaurant, I would recommend the Beach Bistro in Holmes Beach right on the beach. It is somewhat pricey but worth every cent of it. It has been named by Zagat as one of Florida's 20 best restaurants for several years.
My husband flew down on March 15, and we drove back going through St. Augustine, Savannah and Charleston. St. Augustine, although nice, was the least favorite of ours of the three. Our impression was that it has a kind of honky tonk atmosphere. Our stay there was brief so perhaps we missed something. We got reservations through Hotwire or Priceline at the Renaissance Resort at Golf World which was very nice, and fun to see a place like that totally devoted to golf!
I received many helpful suggestions for Savannah and Charleston from Travelzine members. We were listening to Midnight in the garden of good and evil which gave us a great sense of place, but also it made the sites in the book come alive knowing where they were. We took a Grey line tour which was great and then had time to walk around Historic Savannah as well. Another day would have been nice. The squares were in full bloom as were the boulevards with azalias. tulips, and some daffodils. The fruit trees, dogwoods, and magnolias were also in bloom and the weather was lovely. We ate at a little Italian restaurant called Scuzi which was right off market place. We stayed at the Radisson on the corner of Bay and Montgomery which was convenient, and is a brand new hotel. The beds were 4 poster and very high so as a short person, the was a minor inconvenience!
We only has a few hours in Charleston which was too bad. We stopped at Middleton Place to see the gardens on the way. The was recommended by AAA as a gem and also in Cooking Light magazine which now has a travel section. The azalias were just beginning and the gardenias had finished blooming pretty much. The grounds and gardens are lovely but we would have probably enjoyed spending that extra time in Charleston. We parked at the visitors center in Charleston and walked down Meeting Street. We had a nice lunch at Hyman's Seafood Restaurant. The atmosphere is nothing to write home about but the food was very good and huge portions. I had a whole flounder which was deep, quick fried and my husband had seafood fettucini. We walked around the beautiful homes in the historic area. There was something about the taxing system, that the homes are not wide but they are very long with great three story verandas on the sides and gardens. The garden walks were in progress and so the city was filled with people in town for that. There are also row houses that are much like what you would find in the historic areas of Boston, Philadelphia, etc. We did not have time for a tour so we really only got a quick overview. It is a place we would very much like to go back to. We stayed in N. Charleston at a Sheraton which could use a good update. (This was also a Priceline buy)
Of the two cities, our impression was that, while both are beautiful, Savannah with its squares is the more distinctive of the two. The architecture is more varied as well in the historic area.
And here I am, back in Wisconsin where the weather is awful and the temperatures much colder than when I left in February. Only the calendar says spring!
Again thank you to all of the member who gave me great suggestions some of which will have to wait for another trip to the southeast.
Michele Missner Appleton, Wi.