Thursday, February 25, 2016

Saturday Morning Market

There have been no postings recently from me because I have not even been near our computer.  I had   moved in with our daughter much of the time over the past couple of weeks because her husband, Spencer was studying for the bar at his mother's house in Dunedin.  All we could tell our grandson son Nathan was that his Dad was "studying",   Over time he eventually seemed to understand that concept.  His Dad did make it in for Nathan's birthday party.  It was a noisy party, as Nathan received drums and a guitar.  He did not care about any of his other gifts, not even the cake and ice cream.  He was either banging his drums, or strumming his guitar for the duration of his party.
Nathan,  his Mom Melissa and I have had lots of good times at the beach over the past couple of weeks.  Nathan loves running in the ocean, despite the fact that the water is cold and seems to cause his nose to forever drip.  When we can convince him to come out of the water he loves to play soccer on the beach, tear down other people's sand castles, and dig small holes in the sand to to explore.
Last Saturday we drove into St.Petersburg for the Saturday Morning Market.   According to the Tampa Bay Times, it is the largest produce market in Florida with over 170 rotating crop of  vendors.  Currently it is prime produce season in Florida.
It seemed as though everyone in Florida was at the market.  The  crowds and lines were difficult to deal with, what with having a two year-old along with us.  We soon discovered that it was not only the produce which brought out the crowds, but also the many food vendors.  Here at the market one can find a meal or snack of French, Ethiopian, South American, Greek food- to name but a few.  One farm was selling fresh strawberries- the line for that was to long for us to stand in.  Fortunately we were looking for certified organic produce, and that narrowed our search down to one produce stand run by the Worden Farm.  It is an 85 acre farm and had everything we were looking for, primarily;  tomatoes, lettuce, potatoes, green beans and broccoli.  While shopping one of us always stayed with Nathan at the bandstand.  He spent his whole time at the market clapping his hands to the music and just people watching.  It also helped to keep him fed!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Two Day Trips

We had been wanting to take our grandson Nathan to an aquarium.  The Clearwater Marine Aquarium may not have been the best choice, as it is more of a working marine rescue operation than aquarium.  A big attraction at the aquarium is Winter, the wild bottlenose dolphin rescued in 20006 by the center and featured in the movie Dolphin Tale in 2011. 
Winter needed help to survive after loosing her tail,  and at the center she received a prosthetic one.  At the time we saw her she did not have it on and noticed that her tail curves downward without the dorsal fin  A staff member informed us that it is too heavy for her to have it on all the time.   In 2013 the aquarium initiated a photo-identification program to study wild bottlenose dolphins in the Clearwater Bay.  They discovered that individual dolphins can be identified by photographs of their dorsal fin.  About 62 wild dolphins have been identified, given names, and studied to learn about their population's social behavior, biology, health, communication, and habitat use.  Recently they identified Troy, a dolphin rescued and rehabilitated in 2006.  If you saw Dolphin Tale 2 his release was featured in that movie.
At the aquarium we were encouraged to touch the stingrays, one is pictured above.
Yesterday, Monday, John and I rode the Pinellas bike trail through St. Petersburg.  The trail is 40 miles long, of which we rode only a small portion.  There was a fairly strong wind yesterday and we wore out quickly when riding against it.  Our drive took us on a bridge over a small inlet of the bay where we stopped to watch an oyster catcher searching for food.
You may need to enlarge the above picture, or get a magnifying glass to see the two gray willets in the picture above.  One thing you can see in the foreground of the picture are the stilt-type roots of a red mangrove tree.  The walking tree grows in saline coastal waters and is a habitat for oysters.  We saw willets and oyster catchers feeding near these trees.
That is a little egret sitting in the bed of a truck.  I at first thought he was sitting there because of the presence of wood in the truck.  Then the door of a nearby sub shop opened and the bird flew to it.  Unfortunately someone in the past has fed him bread crumbs and now the egret has expectations of a daily hand-out.  That is most unfortunate, such practice by humans has led to the demise of many wildlife!
One last item here.  Returning to our car I noticed a hawk on the ground tussling with some critter he had just caught.  A man standing nearby informed me that the hawk had just pounced on a snake and had to subdue it before swallowing it.  He commented to us that he frequently walks the trail and usually is fortunate to see a lot of wildlife around him.   Hopefully we can get out on the trail again at some later time.


Monday, February 15, 2016

Henry Plant Museum- Part two

The old Tampa Bay Hotel has been designated a National Historic Landmark because in 1896 it served as the headquarters for the United States Army during the Spanish-American War.  On the veranda of this hotel officers and career soldiers, some of who had perhaps not seen each other since the Civil War, rocked and sipped on their mint juleps or iced tea while planning strategies for the war which was raging down in Cuba.  Journalists observing the officers dubbed them the “Rocking Chair Brigade”

   As I gazed over the expansive porch I sure wished that I could turn back the years to that time, if nothing else but to watch the activity on the veranda!   By the way, one of the journalists reporting on the war was Stephen Crane (author of Red Badge of Courage).   He stayed at the hotel, as well as Edith Roosevelt who came down here often to visit her husband Teddy Roosevelt
The lobby of the hotel is now the admissions office for Tampa University.  Imposing statues and classical music flowing out of the music salons are now the only hints of the former ambiance of  the hotel.
The halls off of the lobby, which lead to administrative offices of the university, seem endless.  And while wandering down one hallway I espied the old wooden Otis elevator which at one time was powered by a hydraulic system.  In 1925 it was converted to electricity.  And pictured below is one of the grand staircases, which lead to classrooms upstairs.  Student notices hang on the marble columns.  Horse's heads are on the newel posts.  Also notice the key hole feature on the landing.
We had watched a video in the museum which mentioned the hotel’s dining room, back in its day it could feed 800 people at one time.  In my wanderings I came upon Fletcher Hall, which I later learned was the old dining room.  It now serves as a venue for weddings, bar mitzvahs and other social events.  
What a beautiful building!  I tried to imagine what it would be like to be a student within its walls today.  One last picture here, of the back of the building.  Again, take note of its length.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Henry B. Plant Museum

We first noticed the minarets of this building when we visited Tampa's art museum.  They certainly make for an interesting and unique city skyline!  They are part of what once was the Tampa Bay Hotel, built in 1891 by Henry Plant.  The hotel has been touted as "Florida's First Magic Kingdom".
Henry  Plant was a very successful industrialist, as Vanderbilt, Carnegie, and Rockefeller.  He built an extensive railroad system from South Carolina to Tampa, as well as steamboats and 8 hotels in Florida.  The Tampa Bay Hotel was the flagship of them all.  Two thousand people attended the grand opening and it had a "Grand Illumination".  Meaning that it was fully lit by electricity, of which many Floridians would not yet have for decades to come.  The opulent Victorian hotel was in operation for 40 years, and only open during the winter months.  During its time of operation it was visited by such notables as Babe Ruth, Thomas Edison, Winston Churchill, Clara Barton, Teddy Roosevelt- to name but a few.
Maybe the above picture gives you an idea of the size of this very large building which has 500 rooms.  When Jon and I walked around the outside of the building there just seemed no end to it!  Part of it now is a museum, but the majority of it belongs to Tampa University.
Story has it that Mr. and Mrs. Plant toured Europe and purchased  paintings, statues, antique furniture, Venetian-style mirrors and a variety of ceramics which filled 41 train cars.  Such furnishings decorated the Tampa Bay Hotel.  Many of them have been saved and now can be seen in the museum.  Pictured above is a polyptych from late 19th century Germany.  It was once used to hang in the music salon of the hotel.  The panel of pictures celebrates wine, women and song- which were daily activities at the hotel.  Famous actors, musicians, and entertainers performed here as John Philip Sousa, Anna Pavlova and Sarah Bernhardt.
The Writing and Reading room is the most historically accurate room in the building.  The yellow wall color was discovered and reapplied.  The tops of the chairs have swan's heads, which I found interesting.
Another interesting room is a bedroom tucked under one of the minarets.  Notice the key hole arches above the bed, an architectural feature of the hotel.  The round curved windows in that small nook had to be custom made.  In the bedrooms were musical instruments- guests could call for a piano to be brought to their room, which they could play themselves or hire someone to play for them.
We had to step out of the museum and enter the rooms of the university to see the rest of the hotel, I will save that part of our tour for the next posting.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Florida State Fair

There is plenty to do for all ages at the fair in Tampa.  Note I said all ages, as we had a toddler in tow and what he likes are music shows and livestock.  Also, we had only four hours before his nap time.  So that called for some major strategic planning as you can see in the photo below.
We were in luck.  At Cracker Country (a living museum celebrating Florida's rural past) a music show was going on.  Notice in the picture below the large live oaks and Spanish moss- not too often we see them at other state fairs which we have attended..  With palm trees and a small lake in another area of the fair, it was not the usual fair settings which we are accustomed to.
  The music was so good that Nathan did not care to see the rest of the fair.
Fortunately there was a donkey close by, pressing sugar cane.  Florida ranks number one in production of sugar cane in the United States.  Fortunately there are now better ways  of processing it!  A lot going on in Tampa's only living history museum; as tours of some older homes, blacksmithing and weaving demonstrations, as well as production of cane chairs.  While John and I spent some time in those areas, Melissa took Nathan to tour one of America's last wooden cabooses.
A wonderful feature of the fair this year is a White House Exhibit.  It is the result of 50 years of work by an Orlando resident, John Zweifel.  He collects presidential memorabilia as President Franklin Delano's custom 1939 Cadillac pictured above.  In the White House exhibit people have an opportunity to take selfies of themselves at the oval desk, a podium of the press briefing room, or in front of the capitol.  For people who have never visited Washington D.C. or any of the presidential museums, it is a fantastic exhibit. 
We did make it to the livestock barn where Nathan enjoyed feeding the goats and sheep.  There were also other interesting animals on display, as a yak, a water buffalo and 4 horned Jacob sheep.  Clydesdale horses were also in one of the barns.
Male and female of this breed of sheep may have 2 and as many as 6 horns.  Our final stop was at a butterfly house where I found another Biblical name given to a certain butterfly species.
Melissa and I were given special wands to capture the butterflies.  I not only had a monarch butterfly on mine, but also a Malachi.  One staff member informed me that the species is a native of Florida.
That was our day at the Florida state fair, and it was not long enough.  For Nathan it was all that he could take in for one day, he feel asleep on the way home.  As a rule, he never falls asleep in his car seat!