Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Part One: Checking off the Cortez area bucket list

March 15-March 23, 2014
Cortez, Florida
Holiday Cove Resort

* I decided to make this a three part series to capture all the adventures we have had in our last weeks here and to avoid posts that are way too lengthy.

With our third month in this area more than half over, we have found ourselves a little more intentional about ticking off things on our list that we still we want to do. One of those for me was to visit the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota. Vic was invited to go to a St. Louis Cardinals game in Kissimmee with our Illinois friends, so the girls and I decided it would be a good day to visit the Gardens and have lunch at the Lazy Lobster on Longboat Key (another thing on my local "bucket" list.) 

We started our exploration of the gardens with a short tour that helped us more fully appreciate what we were about to see. The tour guide said something that stayed with me throughout our walk: the garden has three important dimensions: aesthetic, scientific, and spiritual.  I tend to always be on the lookout for the oohs and aahs of colorful flowers—the obvious aesthetics, but the spiritual aspect of the garden seemed most dominant to me. Buddha statues, flowing water, swaying palms, and beautifully filtered light along the pathways create a wonderful element of tranquility. The garden even has a sacred tree, called the Bodhi Tree, like the one Buddha meditated under to achieve enlightenment.

marie selby collage

The garden also had a special collection of Costa Rican Rain Forest masks on display (and for sale) during our visit. We marveled at their colorful designs and the intricacy of the carvings and painting.  The photo below shows two masks in different stages of their creation.

All of the designs had tropical motifs from the rain forest integrated with a face mask of some kind. The red dots on each of the plaques next to the masks indicate that this particular mask was already purchased with prices ranging from $200-$800. As much as we loved the various designs, none of us could imagine having the right place to display one of these beauties.

Another major highlight of this past week was getting in two great days of kayaking. Friends we met in this area two years ago, Dave and Jean from Columbus, Ohio, are staying here at Holiday Cove for three weeks. We credit them with the purchase of our kayaks as they encouraged us to go for it and answered many of our questions about kayaking when we first met them; a few weeks later, we ended up buying our Hobies.

Our first kayak trip with them was one Vic and I have been planning on doing since we got here. The better part though was that Dave suggested we include lunch in our plan by beaching our boats at the Mar-Vista, a great little beach side café.

jewfish kayak trip

We had amazingly great sunny weather with light winds on our tour around Jewfish Key (the route in black above), but the trip back (red route) after lunch was incredibly windy with strong currents. It's amazing how fast the water conditions can change! The photo below shows the relatively tranquil waters we had on the first part of the paddle.

Along the way out to Jewfish Key, I saw a big shell that I just had to check out. Luckily, it was shallow enough to just reach into the water for it. It was, of course, alive, so after taking a photo, I carefully put this large whelk back in the water. (I didn't think to get a photo of the white caps we battled on the way back.)

Jewfish Key, with its tropical vegetation and idyllic looking private homes, is quite an alluring island. As we paddled closer, we couldn't help but fantasize about owning one of these island homes, especially for me, the one with the hammock.

We were pleased to discover the east side of Jewfish Key is less developed which meant a better chance of seeing wildlife in a more natural setting.

Seeing this carved totem was a fun surprise. Someone on the island has a good sense of humor.

Our lunch stop, Mar Vista, turned out to be a popular spot even on a weekday (spring break?), but we waited for a perfect table under the trees where we enjoyed a couple of adult beverages and a delicious lunch.

Our second day of kayaking with Dave and Jean took us to a kayak launch at Ted Sperling Park at South Lido Key.

lido key kayak park

We learned this place is quite popular—especially on weekends—because of its well-known mangrove trails and Sea Life Kayak tours and rentals. In spite of the crowds, we had no problem finding parking (no cost) and getting our kayaks in the water with only a short wait.

Luckily the very narrow mangrove tunnels were fairly deserted when we explored this magical part of the area.

Outside the mangrove trails, we enjoyed watching some paddle boarders, laughing at the cormorants who paddled along beside us, and looking at the homes with yachts along the waterfront of Bird Key.

We finished our lovely day back at the park with a tasty picnic lunch of shrimp salad, fresh fruit, and chocolate all courtesy of Dave and Jean. Nothing about our day came close to resembling the sentiments of Dave's comical t-shirt.



  1. I love the tee shirt!
    What a great way to spend the day! That second kayak outing was my the narrow mangrove tunnels! Isn't it nice to check such fun things off the list? And have friends to do it with!

  2. Beautiful kayak trips! I love your trip around Jewfish Key with lunch at Mar-Vista. Sitting outside under the trees offers such a great view. We are hoping to squeeze in a visit there in the next few days. This was one of the spots we took my mother to a few years ago. She loved it.

    Great totem pole...haha! That shell is huge! Glad you thought to take a picture:)

    You sure had a few fun trips with good friends.

  3. Those look like two wonderful kayak paddles. If we can meet up in the area next year, I hope you'll take us with you on them. I'll bet your pedals were a big help in the rough trip back.

    1. Sadly, we are seriously considering spending next winter on the West Coast closer to the grandkids. We will sure miss Florida winters, but hope to be back the following year. I am rooting for you to get out west where I am sure we can find some other kayaking places to take you. And, yes, the pedals make a big difference in windy conditions or with strong currents.

  4. Island living might look nice, but imagine how much fun it is to go grocery shopping and then bringing all the goodies home. Of course, if you're wealthy enough to own an island home, you can always pay someone to do that for you. I know I'll never find that out... ;c)

    1. The romanticist in me tends to forget the practical considerations of such things. It did look like a challenge even getting there on a boat because of the tide. Guess you would really have to plan your trips to the mainland accordingly--unless you had a heli-pad!

  5. That mangrove reflection is awesome. We are just discovering the joy of paddling. And you guys are enjoying it to the max.

    1. Kayaking is still relatively new to us (about two years). It sure adds another dimension to your travel when you can explore an area by water.


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