Monday, February 25, 2013

Punta Gorda, Florida on a Thurday Night

                                     Gulf shrimp, pasta  & Dogfish Head Ale

                                                             Key Lime pie

                                                White Ibis in the park

                                             authentic tourism tackiness

                                                dockside sunset

                                       traditional Thursday evening mini-jam

                                        traditional Thursday evening jam

                             sunset + rainbow trace

The last night spent in Punta Gorda was an interesting one.  The mile walk from the hotel to Fisherman's Village was accompanied by an off-shore breeze that made the late afternoon pleasant, as did the White Ibis flock that was seen along the way.  Fresh Gulf and pasta ....I am always into fresh sea food...and the cold glass of Dogfish Head Ale was a taste delight, complemented by a slice of Key Lime pie and a cup of dark Colombian coffee. The walk back gave views of another glorious Florida sunset , as well as a musical surprise.  Thursday night in Punta Gorda is when musicians jam in the parks that line Charlotte Harbor!  The musicians were a sturdy group-they continued playing even when the rain came along with winds gusting to more than 40 m.p.h.!  It was a fine way to end a three-night stay before moving southward along the Gulf Coast.

As I look back on the stay, Punta Gorda had many good features.  It was walkable, scenic, had friendly people, good food and drink, and even informal live music performances.  In terms of exploring nature, there was also a wildlife preserve that I'll post about another time.  The stay really only had one thing lacking-a walkable beach, one where you could hang out if you wished . I didn't really realize how important the beach factor was until I discovered that it was missing there. For the short time, it wasn't a problem, but we were looking for a place to spend a whole month next year.  A month on Florida's Gulf Coast without access to a beach would be a problem.  In spite of that, it was a good stay and one that could easily be repeated.

Thank you for visiting, please feel free to stop by again. Until then, may your travels be interesting and enjoyable.


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Placida, Florida-A Pleasant Surprise

Let me start by saying that our short visit to Placida was a pleasant happenstance. Our base was Punta Gorda and we were exploring the surrounding area looking for a place to rent for an extended stay next year. Florida's Gulf Coast is a beautiful, laid-back area and it was obvious a prime location, if we could find something that was reasonably priced. Map and phone GPS app in hand, we drove around sightseeing and became temporarily lost.  Perhaps it is true that "not all who wander are lost", but we were.  In the process, we ended up in Placida.

Leading up to the Florida trip.  I'd been rereading novels written by Randy Wayne White.  The settings of his novels are a fishing village on Sanibel Island. There, the people are quirky, the docks are unreconstructed, and the general feeling is "casual".  While Placida is not on Sanibel, there is a distinct similarity between it and White's fictional setting.  It's a good similarity, one to be savored.

The visit started with a cup of delicious conch chowder literally served in a white ceramic coffee cup. As lunch went on, the eye was attracted to both the "nautical" restaurant decorations and the fantastic view of the bay.  After lunch, a wander along the extended provided views of fishing attempts by people and pelicans, a rusty,crusty sailing ship, and mangroves.  As we walked along the parking area we found a cannon aimed out toward the bay, a jelly-fish crossing, and an interesting-looking art shop.  Inside the art shop was an artist who had often traveled to our State to participate in art fairs.  Besides an eclectic of art work, she gave us a lot of information about the ins and outs of finding a rental in the area.  It was a good time, and one that was not expected as we had never heard of Placida before we happened upon it.

When you think about it, unexpected finds add a great deal of flavor to any trip.  Even though we didn't find what we were looking for in terms of potential rentals, the couple of hours there have left good memories and good photos.  Having the flexible mindset to enjoy what comes along, even though it isn't exactly what you are looking for, makes travel all the more enjoyable.  If you're fortunate to travel with someone who also has that attitude, you are fortunate indeed.

Thank you for stopping by the Tavern.  I hope that you enjoyed your visit and will stop by again.  Until then, may your travels be interesting and enjoyable.


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Punta Gorda, Florida-First Impressions

I just spent a week on Florida's Gulf Coast, partly for sheer enjoyment and partly searching for a place to spend an extended stay next January/February.  The photos in this post were taken the first day of our stay in the town of Punta Gorda.  Natural beauty and a laid-back attitude were part of the expectations we'd developed from our stay a bit further north along Tampa Bay the previous year.  In these respects, there was no disappointment.

A key element in any place that I stay is nearness to water, the more the better.  There is something that attracts me to a large body of water and gives me a sense of belonging.  Punta Gorda had that for certain-park trails along the water's boundary, a working harbor, and streams lined with mangroves-all along Charlotte Bay.

Another element that I was looking for was character.  Yes, there would be touristy aspects like Fisherman's Village with its shops and restaurants.  That is to be expected in a state that depends heavily on tourism.  Still, even Fisherman's Village was not overwhelming with come-ons and there were friendly people, taste treats, and good people-watching to be had there.  Punta Gorda also had some of the older aspects represented in some of the houses and the murals that remembered the area's history. There was also a quirky side to the people who were there-I happened to catch a car with unusual bumper stickers that showed just one evidence of it.

Last, but far from least, was the traditional brilliant colors of yet another spectacular Florida sunset. I am constantly amazed by the day after day variations in natural beauty that happen at day's end. One of the rituals that they generate is people seeking an advantage spot to sit quietly and admire nature-a shared experience that creates a temporary sense of community.

At the end of the first day in a new place, the traveler often steps back and reflects.  Did I make a good choice?  Will there be enough to occupy myself during my stay? Am I comfortable staying here?  Should I move on and find someplace better? What should I try to do next?  Let's face it, deciding to visit a new place and explore it is a gamble.  We are often surprised, sometimes for the better and other times for the worse. For me, the end of the day seemed to tell me that I was  off to the start of a good visit and a good choice had been made. A sigh of contentment and relief was breathed.

Thank you for visiting the Tavern, feel free to stop by again.  In the meantime, may your travels be interesting and enjoyable.