Thursday, April 10, 2014

From Viewing Manatee to Dancing on the Veranda

Today was a full and fun day. Yesterday it rained all day—so we stayed in and did some paperwork and little tasks around the RV.  Today we woke up to clouds, so we were a little afraid we would have a repeat of yesterdays' weather.  We decided to start our day early and hope for the best.   We left our campsite in Wildwood headed toward Tampa.

We were so excited about the manatee that we had seen in Crystal River a few days ago that we were anxious for any opportunity to see these rare creatures again.  Tampa Electric (TECO), Big Ben Power station in Apollo Beach has become a manatee sanctuary.

The optimal season to see manatee in Florida is between November and March.  After March most of them leave their warm winter home.  The power station has a discharge canal that warms the water, making it a perfect place for manatee.  TECO established The Manatee Viewing Center as an educational facility and a state and federal designated manatee sanctuary.   During the height of manatee season, there can be as many as 600 manatees at one time in the channel.

Today, we see only 4 manatees, 2 of them are small and we think are very young.  These massive animals glide through the water almost motionless. 

We stayed for a couple of hours watching a variety of fish, birds and the manatee.

We drove through downtown Tampa to the Henry B Plant Museum. 

Henry Plant was a self-made millionaire with the desire for opulence in the sand of Florida.  He personally invested over $2.5 million to build a hotel that hosted guests such as Teddy Roosevelt and Babe Ruth.

The furnishings of the hotel took me back to what I would have imagined in the Titanic.  This hotel became a place of rest and recreation for the rich and famous. 

I imagine a time when people "dressed" for dinner and I imagine waltzing on the veranda.  This was not just a hotel; it was a full destination where guests are treated to hunting adventures, fishing, indoor and outdoor games; and then an evening of elegant entertainment.

I loved seeing the over-the-top furnishings and opulent hotel that represented the Victorian lifestyles of America’s Gilded Age.

We met Nancy, our son-in-law, Paul’s mom for dinner at La Septima Café in Brandon.  This restaurant specializes in Cuban food, which was a new experience.  We love trying new foods from the areas we are visiting.  This was a delicious surprise and we look forward to our next opportunity to enjoy Cuban cuisine.  We have always enjoyed our visits with Nancy when she has visited Colorado Springs.   I have been missing family and friends lately and so it was really nice see her and be able to connect with family.

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