Sunday, March 9, 2008

Not Disney

We just got back from four days in Florida. One day hunting for fossil shark teeth at Venice Beach (we found far more waves than teeth, but lots of good shells). One day seeing manatees and tropical birds at Homosassa Springs, where the shoreline is all mangrove forest and wetland. One day in Ocala National Forest, a rainy day when we had 2 state parks entirely to ourselves for snorkeling in crystal blue water. And our last day near Tampa, on Honeymoon Island, where we saw dolphins and ospreys and braved fierce winds for as long as we could stand it. The weather wasn't perfect, in the normal sense of the word.

But perfect sometimes isn't 75 and sunny. After day one, despite our efforts at sunscreen, all of us had at least one red spot, and I'm glad to say the girls had less sunburn than either of their parents. And we had two perfect, crystal-blue springs entirely to ourselves - so isolated I changed into my swimsuit next to a picnic table. The rain cleared just enough, each time, to give us the illusion of ownership in a place where ownership should have no meaning. Our only company in the springs were blue crabs, gorgeous fish (I don't know my fish at all!), moorhens, great egrets, great blue herons, cormorants, kingfishers, and a green-backed heron. Admission was $4 a person, and the pair of masks and snorkels $20. We had our own Disney princess towels packed for after swimming, a sight that amused me each time we emerged from the water to head out on a hike.

Disney, and other amusement parks, were just signs on the road for us. I know that we've damaged our daughters' social skills and cultural literacy, and I hear that Disney really does host a wonderful, relaxing vacation. We stayed in two questionable hotels, and we had to buy local maps for navigation, especially with the sometimes torrential rains on days 2-3. I've only been to Disney once myself, during a national academic team competition when I was 17 - and I actually really enjoyed it. But this year, we wanted to introduce Hazel to the ocean, and to remember a similar trip taken when Emily was just over a year old. We wanted to spend four days outside, at a time of year when a day outdoors in Pittsburgh tends to invite a day spend inside to recover from the cold and wet snow clothes. Disney can wait.


eva said...

You are putting La Rochelle to shame with these gorgeous Florida adventures! Wow. People definitely aren't swimming here.... Any crabs pinch your toes?

Nancy said...

Eva- I remember when I went to France back in summer 1997, my family took me to a beach they called "Les Falaises" which was a pebble beach with similar crystal blue water (I've never figured out what town it was). It was Normandy in June, though, so no one swimming there either - too cold!

No biting crabs - Brian used his snorkel to gently push one crab out of hiding for us to all see clearly, and that crab didn't seem like he wanted anything to do with us, even our tasty little toes. :)

Jessica said...

We too headed to sunny Florida for a few days this winter. Our 2 year old enjoyed the beach even though the air was a bit cool. It is nice to have the opportunity to head south when some sunshine is needed. Disney is Disney and it will probably always be there. The undeveloped beaches and privacy that your family encountered probably will not. I'll take nature over humanity any day!

Ser said...

Wow, what a trip! Ha, your "nasty little toes." One of the reasons I love visiting Alaska is because my grubby, fashion-challenged boys fit in there. And I love the image of your girls with their big disney princess towels out in the wilds of Florida, having never visited the theme park--nor seen a Disney princess movie, for that matter, right? :)