Archive for the ‘orlando’ Category


Swan boats on Lake Eola


The lady covered in green


The lady being prepared

greenfacehandsMuse of Discovery

Outdoor Sculptures That Make You Think.

Found in Lake Eola Park, downtown Orlando, FL

As most people probably know by now, I am a huge fan of outdoor art of any type, but especially sculpture. Public art is so important as it’s available to all, and I don’t think anyone (except perhaps the current USA Administration!) would disagree that art enriches people’s lives in many ways.

Whenever we travel, I’m always on the look-out for public art, both new and that seen before.

I wrote before about the “Muse of Discovery” in Eola Park, Orlando. See here


So, we were delighted on our recent visit to Orlando to find the lady still there and to discover that she is organic and changing. I’ve included photos of both our visits, as a way of comparing.


greenfaceTwo years ago, the lady was covered in live greenery and our then-5-year-old granddaughter dubbed her “The Lady with a Green Blanket”, which was very apt. At that time, the grass was ‘resting’ for winter and visitors could not sit on the statue’s hands, as the artist encourages the viewer to do. The artist invites the viewer to “ sit in the hand of the Muse and discover your hidden potential as she whispers to you”.

This time, we could sit on the lady’s hand but she wasn’t covered in greenery. In fact, a group of gardeners were working on the mound of soil over her body, preparing it for planting a lot of flowers. I’m sure that will look stunning in the summer.


us3The lady, with a very pretty face, is reclining in the park, her head, hands and limbs made of limestone. The information board tells us that the name is “Muse of Discovery”, by Meg White of Stephensport, KY and was gifted to the City of Orlando by Wayne M. Densch Charities, as part of the See Art Orlando Public Sculpture Program, 2013.

I can’t say there was an opportunity to discover hidden potential, as we were trying to get the kids to smile for the photo, but still it was fun!


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Boardwalk onto the beach



Be aware of Rip Currents

Central Florida: After our great lunch at Fishlips (see previous post) we drove a short way to the beach at Cocoa Beach.

A long sandy beach, perfect for making sand castles, playing ball or frisbee, or taking walks along the water line looking for shells. There is a lifeguard, but one must still be aware of potential rip tides.

Cocoa Beach is a small city in Brevard County FL, along Florida’s Space Coast, not far from Titusville and Merritt Island (a wonderful nature reserve). It’s the closest beach to Orlando, so if you’ve come to visit Disney but you also want a beach experience, this may well be where you’ll come. It has a sunny shoreline with many activities besides beach swimming, such as para-sailing, casino cruises, and the Brevard Zoo.


Sand play


Cousins watching the waves


Hope the sea turtles continue to come here

This area was first settled by freed slaves after the Civil War. In 1888 a group of men from the nearby town of Cocoa bought the tract of land, but it remained undeveloped until 1923 and was incorporated as Cocoa Beach in 1925.

The town started its major growth during the 1960s because of America’s space program—-NASA’s John F Kennedy Space Center is about 16 miles north of town.

It has a humid sub-tropical climate and even in the coolest months the high temperatures are around 72 F (22C)—on December 26 a couple of our party got into the sea to swim even!


Getting into the water on Boxing Day!

The economy is based largely on tourism—the beach and surfing, and cruising—with


Beach, and Cocoa Beach Pier in the distance

2.4 million day trippers annually (a parking nightmare). Ron Jon’s is a famous surf shop (supposedly the world’s largest) and Cocoa Beach is home to the East Coast Surfing Hall of Fame. There are also surfing festivals and a surfing parade.

One of the landmarks is the Cocoa Beach Pier, built in 1962 (formerly known as the Cape Canaveral Pier).

More information here http://www.visitflorida.com/en-us/cities/cocoa-beach.html

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glassesFishlips—an Intriguing Name for a Restaurant

Fishlips Waterfront Bar & Grill, 610 Glen Cheek Drive, Port Canaveral, Florida

Their slogan: From hot burgers and cold beer, to fresh fish and fine wine – Fishlips Waterfront Bar & Grill in Port Canaveral has “Something for Everyone!”

There is a row of four or so restaurants near the port terminal at Port Canaveral, but our Florida family has been to Fishlips before and we were happy to be guided by them. We were not disappointed.


Our family group


The baby loved the boats and birds


An interesting logo

This lovely place is close to Cocoa Beach, so if you’re planning on spending some time at the beach, this is perfect for lunch or an early dinner before driving back to Orlando. You pay $15 per car to park in Jetty Park for the beach, but parking at Fishlips is free.

On Boxing Day (December 26) our large extended family group did just that: drove to Fishlips for lunch and then spent the afternoon at the beach. Coming from the Mid-West, where frigid and icy weather had been the norm, we were so happy to feel warm sunshine.

It’s a nautical-themed seafood grill and bar, with an extensive menu (see here http://fishlipswaterfront.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/FishlipsMenu_March2015.pdf ). They have a special Sunday brunch, and can also offer special facilities for parties, banquets etc.


A surfing photo op!


View from waterfront patio


Cod encrusted in mashed potato

You can dine downstairs inside, or outside on the waterfront patio. They also offer an indoor sports bar, and sun deck with Tiki bar upstairs. We opted for the outside waterfront tables that face the port inlet and it was wonderful to see and hear the sea birds wheeling and calling, to see dolphins splashing in the water, and to watch boats of different sizes and shapes glide by: from a small motor boat with two people and a dog, to a ferry, to fishing boats, to a huge container ship. Cruise ships apparently also pass by here, but none came the day we were there.


Fresh oysters


Triple skewers

We were a large group, with varying tastes, so many different items on the menu got chosen. Everyone in our group seemed to be pleased with their choice—from a dozen fresh oysters, to conch fritters, to coconut shrimp, to baked cod, to burgers, to a crabcake sandwich, to scallops risotto, to mention some of the dishes. My daughter has a baby and our server was very happy to bring small side dishes of vegetables for her. Considering the number of people in our party, we thought that our server did very well—she was accurate and always smiling and pleasant. Prices are pretty reasonable too, if you remember this is Florida and this is close to where huge cruise ships dock.


Fried conch

I hope that we can return here on our next visit back to Orlando.

Open 11am-2am

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Easter Bunny with a modern twist—A Marshmallow Drop, a Sweet Alternative to Egg-Hunting

ingardenThe Easter Bunny has been charming children in many parts of the world for years. The tradition is that the Easter Bunny leaves Easter eggs on Easter Sunday. Parents hide eggs in the garden and the children go on an egg hunt to find them. This used to be real eggs, dyed different colors, and perhaps decorated.

How did this tradition come about?

Rabbits have been associated with springtime since ancient times. Many believe that the Anglo-Saxon Pagan Goddess of Spring, Dawn and Fertility—Eostre—had a hare as her companion. Legend says this was after she transformed a wounded bird into a hare as a way to help it—hence an egg-laying rabbit. The hare symbolizes fertility and rebirth. The symbol of the hare later changed to the rabbit.

Eggs also represent new life, and it’s thought that decorating eggs for Easter dates way back to the 13th century. “Eostre” became “Easter”, and the link between rabbits and eggs much firmer.

Some sources say that the Easter Bunny first arrived in America in the 1700s with German immigrants, who settled in Pennsylvania and brought their tradition of an egg-laying hare called “Osterhase” or “Oschter Haws.” Their children made “nests” with their caps and bonnets and, if they were good, this creature would leave them colored eggs. Eventually, the custom spread across the U.S. and the mythical rabbit’s Easter morning deliveries grew to include chocolate and other types of candy and gifts, and decorated baskets replaced nests. In addition, children often left out carrots for the bunny in case he got hungry from all his hopping.

I find the parallels between the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus very interesting: a “person”


Easter Bunny photo op

who brings gifts to children if they are good at a certain time of the year. The Bunny and Santa both usually come in secret, get around the whole world quickly, and children often leave out food of some kind to help them on their way. Sadly, it’s also true that both have become much more commercialized, there are far more candy and various gifts involved now, and we find the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus in public places, like big shopping malls, dressed up, ready for photo ops. The bunny has a white furry costume and a big smile and is ready to hand out candy or chocolate eggs, or sit for a photo.



Helicopter starts dropping thousands of marshmallows


Kids wait patiently behind the pink ribbon

So, back to the flying rabbit.

This Easter we encountered a new Easter Bunny tradition, not in the “normal” style at all. This Easter Bunny was in a helicopter, and pushed out thousands of white marshmallows. In Oviedo, Florida, on Easter Saturday was the city’s annual Marshmallow Drop. Thousands of children and their families gathered on the softball and baseball fields at the Oviedo Sports Complex on Saturday morning for a chance to collect marshmallows and redeem them for a goodie-bag. Four different fields were used for four age group: 0-3 years on one field; 4-5 years on another; 6-8 years on another and 9-12 years on the last one.


More marshmallows dropping


Kids run towards the marshmallows on the second field


Marshmallows raining down!

Kids lined up behind a ribbon on the edge of their field and waited. Soon, a helicopter appeared in the sky, landed in an adjacent field to load up with marshmallows, and then circled over the first field. It hovered, as the door opened and the Easter Bunny pushed out thousands of marshmallows, which tumbled onto the ground. The MC called out “1-2-3” and kids rushed out onto the field to gather the sticky white blobs in their Easter baskets.


kidspickingThe helicopter went to fill up with marshmallows again and the whole procedure was repeated for each field. Kids were super excited, but we didn’t see too much pushing and shoving, and we even saw kids allowing a child in a wheelchair to be pushed across the field. By the time all the marshmallows were collected they were actually grassy and dusty so not terribly edible really (although a few kids did try). So, kids proceeded to the Marshmallow Trade-in, dumped the marshmallows in the bin, and each child got a blue goodie-bag instead—like a small backpack, with some plastic eggs with jelly beans inside and a couple of fridge magnets.


Afterwards, kids could meet the Easter Bunny, play on the “jumpy castle”, get snacks at stalls etc. Great excitement and great fun. Cost? Only $3 per child.

A new experience for some of the kids, and certainly something we’ve never come across before!


A blue goodie bag instead of marshmallows

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My granddaughter and I point out features of the sculpture

My granddaughter and I point out features of the sculpture

“Lady With a Green Blanket”

Found in Lake Eola Park, downtown Orlando, FL

Maria del Valle, executive director of Art Center South Florida, was quoted in a recent American Way magazine article about the New Face of Miami (new art centers, shows, murals). She said, “Art is a form of creativity, and creativity generates energy, and energy creates hope.

This really resonated with me, as I also believe that offering art to people makes their lives better in many ways. This is especially true for public art, and outdoor art that is available to all.


My granddaughter asking questions

My granddaughter asking questions

So, in early January when we were wandering along the edge of Lake Eola in Orlando, this stunning piece of public art near the outdoor café really jumped out at us. My 5-year-old granddaughter dubbed it “The Lady with a Green Blanket” and I can see why. The reclining ‘lady’ has a very pretty face and her body is covered in growing greenery, which led to questions like, “why is she lying down?” and “why is she covered?” and “what’s she doing with her hands?”

We read the information board and find out it’s called “Muse of Discovery”, by Meg White, Stephensport, KY. It’s made of limestone and earthwork, and was gifted to the City of Orlando by Wayne M. Densch Charities, as part of the See Art Orlando Public Sculpture Program, 2013.



grass sign

facecloseThe artist invites the viewer to “ sit in the hand of the Muse and discover your hidden potential as she whispers to you”. I’m sure that would be an interesting experience, but it’s not possible right now, as the grass around the sculpture is resting for winter.

But, still the sculpture put a smile on our faces and got us pondering, so no matter if we couldn’t sit on the hand.


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Park entrance

Park entrance

Blue Spring Run

Blue Spring Run

Two manatees come up for air

Two manatees come up for air

A Manatee Hot Tub, and place of shade, peace, reflections

Blue Spring State Park in central Florida is Florida’s premiere manatee refuge.


Spot the manatees swimming over there

This wonderful little park (2,643 acres) is an easy drive north from Orlando and a must-see in the winter months if you want to find out about endangered West Indian manatees. It’s the winter home to more than 200 manatees, as these creatures swim up the St. John’s River and into the Blue Spring Run. Why they do this is because the water that bubbles up from underground into the end of the small stream (the Blue Spring Run) is warm (72-73F). This makes the Run warm and a welcome respite from the colder waters of the river. In addition, the Run is roped off and during the winter months no boats, canoes, or swimmers are allowed in, so it’s very safe for the manatees.

It’s a pretty place, as the waters of the spring are bright blue-green, with Sabal palms and huge trees—many live oaks dripping with swathes of Spanish moss—lining both sides. The park has constructed a boardwalk along the Run all the way to the end where the spring bubbles up, and along the way there are look-out platforms over the water where visitors can stand and look down on the manatees.

We went last Friday on a cool day (for Florida) and apparently the park rangers had spotted 233 manatees that day. We could believe it, as we saw more of these giant gentle creatures than we’ve ever seen on previous visits. They swim in herds, and some herds were very close that day. One came right under the viewing platform and we were only a few feet above them so we could see very clearly the injuries and scars that some of them have from boating accidents.

Manatees swim around the spring bubbling up

Manatees swim around the spring bubbling up

We felt very privileged to watch these large grey animals swimming, foraging for sea grass along the bottom of the shallow spring, rolling over, flipping their tails and frolicking. They come up for air every few minutes, snorting noisily and you can see their sweet faces and whiskers. One was cleaning and licking another’s back. We could also see fish cleaning the manatees’ backs.

Swimming around the spring entrance

Swimming around the spring entrance

The highlight of a visit here is the manatees, but there is much other wildlife. Fish jump, and plop down with a splash, white egrets and grey herons swoop, turtles swim lazily in clear blue-green water. Note the black gar fish with their big snouts, blue herons, small white herons, scrub jays with their loud call. Anhingas flap their wings to dry and squabble over space on one of the poles dividing the spring and the river. An alligator lies sunning itself on the opposite bank.

Strolling along the boardwalk

Strolling along the boardwalk

We felt very fortunate being able to visit the park. It’s a peaceful place, even with people. It’s a pretty place, with its clear blue-green water, and lush foliage. It’s a hopeful place—as we see these endangered creatures come to the safe haven, their endearing, almost dog-like faces popping up for air; and as we see the reactions of the visitors, especially young people, who hopefully will be concerned enough, stimulated enough to continue to help in the future.

There are information boards telling about the manatees, also the story and history of the park (from the indigenous Indians, through early settlers who came by steamer on the river, to later settlers who came by train). We also visited Thursby House by the car park, now a small museum. It was on Thursby Landing on the St Johns River in the days of steam ships.

Gentle giants

Gentle giants

Blue Spring Run---note the viewing platform

Blue Spring Run—note the viewing platform


*The park’s about an hour north of Orlando, close to the small old town of Orange City.

*You can go north on SR 417, the Seminole Expressway (toll), which goes over Lake Jesup with many ospreys perched on the lamp-posts, most with a fish in their mouth. SR 417 ends at I-4, so go east on I-4 to exit 114 and follow signs about 5 miles to Orange City Historic District (established 1882) and the park.

*Or, just go east on I-4.

See how close they are to the viewing platform

See how close they are to the viewing platform

*$6 per car entrance

*Tel: 386-775-3663

* http://www.floridastateparks.org/bluespring/

*When the manatees are there (usually mid-Nov to March) the park can get very crowded, especially on weekends and holidays, and park rangers will sometimes turn away cars if there are too many people. So, try to arrive before 10am or else at about 4pm —it closes at 5:30pm and times are strictly enforced.

*You can also camp there, or stay in cabins, which would be fun for anyone with extra time.

Light snacks at the cafe

Light snacks at the cafe

Trail sign

Trail sign

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Patrons’ Marks

Plaques. Lists of names. Framed photographs of donors. Just a few ways of mentioning and remembering those who give—either financially or with their own time—in order to support and help an organization or special attraction.

Recently, I’ve come across interesting parallels in this concept in two entirely different places. These both have the patrons’ names engraved in a consecutive fashion, outdoors.

First, at the Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto, Japan: This large shrine is famous for its red ‘torii’ gate “tunnel”. All shrines in Japan have at least one or two large red entrance gates (torii), which have become iconic of shrines (pic, left). At Fushimi Shrine, a series of larger and smaller gates placed closely together form a long snaking tunnel, through which visitors walk. There are supposedly 10,000 gates, creating a tunnel of over 4 km, but broken up into sections.

It’s a lovely experience, especially on a sunny day when the sun makes the red pillars glow even more warmly.

Each gate, or toii, has been donated by a company or group and their name(s) are inscribed in bold black characters on the pillars of the gates—but only on one side. So, when you begin walking the loop you don’t see the names, but on the way back you are confronted with the series of names. All written in Japanese, of course, but our hosts, Hiro and Mina, pointed many out to us, such as universities and large corporations. It’s important to give to the shrine and it’s important to have that recognized, so this is very visible—-a kind of free advertising!



Second, at the Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens in Sanford (just north of Orlando), we also find a series of names. But, here they are inscribed/carved on the wooden boards of the boardwalk that meanders round the zoo gardens and passes by, or over, many of the animal enclosures. So, people actually walk on the names, reading as they go along—personal messages, remembrances of family members or friends, dedications, names of companies are all there. Look down and see “Yellow Pages”, look up and see a Siamang (a black-furred gibbon ape) in a large fenced enclosure, for example.

What fun!




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