To see Jenna and me walking around my aunt and uncle's development here in Bradenton (Florida), cameras in hand, you would think we were visitors from another planet. Hearing our oohs and aahs as we came upon yet another tropical bloom in all its glory must sound a bit amusing to those who enjoy these things every day.
But we are from The North. The land of snow and ice and gloom and cold. Jenna and I are delirious with the the feel of the sun on our skin. We close our eyes and raise our faces to it so we can get its full benefit. We are sun-starved by this point in our northern winter.
I was looking forward to seeing the bougainvilleas in bloom and I worried that the freezes they'd recently experienced here would rob me of it, but I wasn't disappointed at all. Pink, purple, magenta ... they are all here. I have two bougainvilleas at home and both were purchased right here in Bradenton on previous trips.
There are other beauties, some of which I know the names, and a couple that I don't.
Berries on a Schefflera - I have one of these in a small pot at home, but of course, it doesn't even bloom, let alone get the berries.
Later in the day, we made our traditional trip to Mixon's Fruit Farm, a place we've loved since I was young. We sample the oranges, the juice, and the fudge, and decide to buy some 'Honey Belles,' a.k.a. Mineolas. We ate lunch here and of course, had to have the orange soft-serve ice cream. I felt just a little tinge of regret while eating the ice cream, knowing it is one of Romie's favorites and that he was still back home and wasn't here to enjoy it with us.
We swung by the park where my grandma used to come for the winters for many years, just to see her place and reminisce about the times spent here. While my aunt and uncle visited with old friends in the park, Jenna and I walked over to nearby Braden Castle to see the ruins of the castle there. Not much left to it anymore, but it's always fun to see it and the pier.
We hear they've had the coldest winter in years, but we picked a great week to be here. High 70s and 80s all week.
Tomorrow, I get to meet Meems of Hoe & Shovel. We spoke on the phone today and chatted for over an hour. I have a feeling meeting Meems is going to be like meeting an old friend.