I’ve always had a fascination with clouds, so just had to share these in the Word A Week Photo Challenge.
I’ve always had a fascination with clouds, so just had to share these in the Word A Week Photo Challenge.
It’s hard to believe that we’ve been home for two weeks and I’ve had no time for any writing. Welcome back to reality! Returning home in late spring, after over a month of travel, meant lots of work to catch up on, especially yard work. And there were the elderly mother’s who were long overdue for some attention. The passing of my brother-in-law, who we’d just seen in Florida, just three days after we got home, added to the mental mayhem.
Now things have settled down somewhat, so I’m finally going to tell you about our visit to Tarpon Springs.
We arrived at Tarpon Springs Florida mid-afternoon — an easy day-trip from Punta Gorda. The route we chose took us straight to the historic area, which had the atmosphere of a quaint little Greek “fishing” village with numerous old wooden boats squeaking against the docks where they were tied. We were at first concerned about finding a place to park the RV, since the streets were quite narrow, but we saw a large parking lot with a fee of $5.00 for the day. A nod to the man at the gate and his ten finger reply told us that we could park there for $10.00.
The boats aren’t really fishing boats, but sponging boats. A sign over one of the many gift shops claims Tarpon Springs, Florida to be the Sponge Capital of the World.There were certainly a multitude of sponges of various sizes, shapes and quality available in nearly every little shop along the street.
One shop in particular caught our interest because of the variety, and it sold very little else besides sponges. We had a chat with the owner. He assured us that all of his sponges were authentic, harvested from the port of Tarpon Springs. He owns some of the boats sitting at dock. They are in dock because he can’t find enough people who are willing to take on the hard work of sponge harvesting. The money is good, but the work strenuous and if the weather is good, the boats could be out for a week or two straight, until the boat is filled with sponges. His family has been in the business for three generations.
We wondered how the sponges could continually be harvested without eventually being completely depleted. He explained to us that the sponges are never pulled out from where they are rooted, but cut off a few inches above the base. From that bit left, the sponges rejuvenate themselves, thus never growing too big and too old and eventually dying. That is why there is a never ending supply. The best quality sponges are found 150 feet down. Harvesters wear wet suits and masks, but unlike in the old days, they don’t wear oxygen tanks. Instead, they wear weights to take them to the bottom and they are attached by hoses to large oxygen tanks aboard the boats. They walk the bottom looking for sponges, which are usually spread out. It is a rare treasure to find a full ridge of them.
In his Tarpon Springs Sketchbook, Michel G. Emmanuel, a native of Tarpon Springs and whose Greek born father had been a sponge broker, tells us:
“The sponge in its natural form is one of the lowest and most ancient forms of marine life. It is composed of many animal cells and attaches itself to a rock or coral reef. In it natural state the sponge is hard and covered with a tenacious black skin. The tiny sponge cells are filled with a gelatinous matter called ‘gurry’. When the sponge is taken from the sea bottom, its animal matter is allowed to decompose under controlled conditions and then the gurry is removed by scraping and squeezing. This leaves the skeleton of the sponge which is the gray, porous product of commerce. Sponges are frequently bleached to give them a lighter, more attractive colour. The common types of Florida sponges are sheepswool, yellow, grass and wire.”
By the time we got to Tarpon Springs, we were feeling that our budget for souvenirs was about depleted, so we didn’t purchase any sponges, which sold from about $3.00 for very small, harder ones, to $50.00 for large, good quality ones. Nor did we follow the aromas wafting from the many Greek restaurants to sample the cuisine. It was time to get back on the road, but we learned some amazing things about sponges during the two hour diversion.
When I later did a Google search for Tarpon Springs, I was surprised to learn from the website that it isn’t a village at all, but a city of over 23,000 inhabitants. Apparently we could have spent many more hours there, being fed and entertained, had we had the time. Perhaps next time we’ll plan to stay longer. 🙂
We did find a Walmart where we replenished our supply of groceries, but RVers take note: it is not one with a large enough parking lot to accommodate over-night parking.
There wasn’t too much to blog about during the last week in Punta Gorda, as our time was spent mainly relaxing in the pool, or catching up on email business. We did take my sister on a day trip to Marco Island for a tour down memory lane. She’d spent a week there forty years ago and for some reason wanted to see if she could find the house that she’d stayed in. If you enjoy looking at grandeur and seeing how the wealthy live, then Marco Island is the place to go. Although I got a few photos, it isn’t a place that I would go to again, and the five hour trip proved to be not what my sister expected. We did find the street where she’d stayed, but the house had either been renovated beyond recognition, or had been torn down and replaced. The water front avenues now are lined with huge mansions or high-rise condominiums, most gated and preventing public access to the beach.
This past Monday, we all went on another road trip, this time to Miami where my sister had a day of hospital tests booked for the next day. We arrived early in the afternoon so had enough time for some shopping and an excursion to Miami Beach. That’s a funky place with it’s renovated retro style restaurants and outdoor cafes and lots of colourful people!
We stayed at the Springhill Suites Marriott Hotel in Miami and we were all impressed with the cleanliness, the very accommodating staff, and the large modern rooms at a very reasonable price. I would highly recommend it.
Jim and I had Tuesday to ourselves, but it was too hot to be outdoors for any length of time so we took refuge in the massive Dolphin Mall for a few hours. After a light lunch and a yummy dish of gelato, we took a drive through “Little Havana”, a stroll down memory lane for Jim as it reminded him of his trip to Cuba many years ago.
We were back in Punta Gorda in time to pick up the RV (we found out that with a permit it could be parked in the driveway for up to a week) and started to get ready for our departure on Wednesday. We’d planned to make it into Georgia by Wednesday night, but by the time we got away and then decided to make a side trip into Tarpon Springs, we didn’t get quite to Ocala!
Tarpon Springs was worth the time. I’ll tell you more in the next post.
Sunday was “another crappy day in Paradise”, as Jim likes to say. tongue in cheek.
It was another beautiful day in Punta Gorda. We started the day by accompanying Marilyn to her church — Faith Lutheran Church. We’ve been there with her before and always found it very welcoming. This day the pastor proudly announced that the outside murals had been completed. Apparently a parishioner had made a generous donation with the stipulation that the walls of the church tower be adorned with murals. A local artist, who has done many other mural around Punta Gorda, was commissioned to do the work. The pastor and his committee spent many hours designing and deliberating over the proper messages to be included.
The result turned out beautifully.
After church, we went to the local Farmer’s Market for some lovely fresh produce.
One stall sold a variety of plants. It was so busy, I was unable to get close enough to ask what this interesting plant was. Does anyone recognize it?
Yesterday we were out running some errands and returned just as the people who use my sister Marilyn’s boat lift arrived. They were going out for a boat ride and asked if we’d like to join them. Of course Jim and I said “We’d love to!” Marilyn was tired so bowed out in favour of a nap.
We puttered out through the canals, viewing the vast estates on either side, until we were out in the open waters of Charlotte Harbour. We’ve been to Fishermen’s Village many times, but this time we saw it from a different point of view. Once past there and the very shallow waters near shore, Bob opened the engine up and we were off. It was another very hot day so the wind in our hair felt wonderful. For nearly an hour we traversed the waterway, watching pelicans dive for fish and hoping for a glimpse of dolphins. Although one young woman aboard said she saw a few in the distance, they disappeared too quickly for the rest of us to catch a glance.
Bob pointed out the red roofs of downtown Punta Gorda as we made our way back. Back at the dock it was interesting to see just how much more work it is to go for a boat ride in salt water. Once we were all off board except Captain Bob, the hoist was turned on to lift the boat out of the water. While he waited for this to be done, Bob refastened all of the curtains into place to enclose the back of the boat. When the boat was in place, the engine had to be turned on and fresh water from an on-shore hose was run through it to wash out the salt water. We then all held our breath as Bob stepped cautiously onto the little aluminum later and then down onto the dock.
Later in the evening, after our usual swim in the pool followed by a great dinner prepared by Marilyn, we enjoyed a spectacular light show provided by Mother Nature. We did jump a few times when the thunder clapped loudly and the lightning seemed to hit very, very close to us!
Punta Gorda Florida is a beautiful place, even after the vast devastation during Hurricane Charley in 2004. There are still empty lots where houses once stood, but those have been cleaned up and now appear as just green space.
The area where my sister lives is called Punta Gorda Isles. It features a number of canals running through the “back yards” of the lovely homes, and converging to run into the Peace River at Charlotte Harbour. Most homes have boat lifts and some impressive boats hoisted on them, out of the destruction of the salt water when they aren’t in use.
It’s a photographer’s paradise, with the various types of Palms and other trees showing off their blooms, sparkling calm water ways and pink sunsets. Although I’ve yet to experience it, I’m told that dolphins can sometimes be seen playing in the canals too.
This time of year the temperatures climb a little higher than is really comfortable for us non-residents, but there is always the pool to cool us off, and every home, store and restaurant is well air-conditioned. Speaking of stores and restaurants, there are enough here to meet everyone’s needs.
One thing to remember though, if you happen to be visiting someone here and are coming by motor home or pulling a trailer, you can’t park either one in the driveway or on an empty lot. We moved the motor home on Wednesday; when we got back we found a ticket on the door saying that we could not leave the little motorcycle trailer where it was, pulled up close to the house, nearly hidden by the bike! My sister had to remove her car from the garage so we could put the trailer in there. Just to be safe, we put the bike in too. 🙂 That turned out just as well; we had a thunder storm last night.
If the weather stays clear tonight, we will probably go to listen to the music in the park.
The sun was bright and hot already when we left Savannah. We pushed on through, stopping only for gas and to make lunch at a rest area, and a quick stop at a little shop that sold freshly made jams, jellies and other condiments. Jim was hoping for ice cream, but they had none, so we settled for bottles of Peach Cider.
We were ready to jump into the pool when we arrived at my sister’s in Punta Gorda Florida at 6:00 pm.
We had to park the RV a few blocks away, where my sister still owns a modular home, but it wouldn’t fit in her driveway so we left it in an empty lot. Don’t know if that’s allowed or not!
Tuesday: We found out this morning that it’s not! We had to look for a storage site, which we found for $35, and have to have it moved before the end of the day.