Gators, Lights, Friends
13 December 2009 | Ocala, FL (boat still in Fernandina beach)
Beth - long pants but no sweaters!
I had my first bite of Alligator. Good thing it was that way round and not the alligator having the first bite of ME!
We visited the Stumpknocker Restaurant on the banks of the Withlakoochee River (don't you just love those names?) with Christine and Art - our Florida friends who spend their summers in NS (smart people!). It was a very cool locale - all drippy with moss and water and tree roots and vines. Just the sort of place alligators and swamp creatures would live. We didn't see any though so we went into the restaurant and ordered catfish platters and gator nuggets - neither of which I'd had before. The gator was white meat, chewy and quite tasty. I don't think I'd want a whole plateful, but a few nuggets were good. The catfish (farmed) was a sweet, soft textured fish, and the batter was really light and crispy. After making our best attempts at finishing off the huge platters, some of us left with take-away containers in hand. Art didn't leave a morsel of his fried oysters!
We were interested to learn that Ocala is significant horse country. We passed great numbers of fenced fields, classy gateways (one with fountain and pond), well kept barns and paddocks. If I had a dime for every board foot in those fences, I'd be rich! Christine said the airport there is an international one, but the clientele is horses - not people!
Evening saw us at Silver Springs - a park near Ocala. We got there in time for a glass bottom boat tour over the seven springs that feed the river. We got a look at a canoe that has lain on the bottom for over 500 years, some statues left from movie shoots, a variety of fish, and a downed cypress tree that apparently would still make good lumber after being submerged for many years. Sea Hunt - that show that I remember watching as a child was filmed here, along with scenes from many other movies - like Creature from the Dark Lagoon.
As the sun went down, the place came alive with lights. It was truly magical to walk along paths with lighted archways, looking at candy canes and tin soldiers, angels and a nativity scene, flowers and birds and bows. It reminded me of the family Christmas visits to Stanley Park in Vancouver, BC, but instead of the climbing aboard the little train there, we climbed into seats on a rotating tower and were lifted high above the folks below. It was like being at a carnival - but the purpose was to get a better look at things - not a scare! The Silver Springs part of the evening finished with a parade of decorated boats, and the chez Miles part ended with frozen Margaritas and sweet fudgey brownies. Then off to bed, perchance to dream among Christine's beautiful quilts and teddy bears.