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A – Z Guidebook: Florida Everglades, USA

Welcome to the A-Z Guidebook Link Up. If you would like to join, read the A-Z Guidebook tab at the top of the blog and write a travel post relating to the letter of the month.

Things have settled in nicely and it’s great to see some regulars and newbies joining in. Make sure you invite your blogging friends to join in for one letter or all of the letters. It doesn’t really matter as long as it’s the right letter!  This month:

F or Fast

I never thought I would find myself in Florida. I love the ridiculousness of the United States. Its fakery and bling. Its supersized lifestyle. Its cheap groceries. It’s an easy and fun travel experience. I just never saw myself visiting Florida as I thought it held little interest for me. Then the long, dark, freezing European autumn and winter loomed and suddenly, Florida became an appealing destination. We planned a two week trip from the UK to Florida in 2010 to coincide with the launch of the Space Shuttle Discovery on its last mission, STS-133. We figured: visit the Kennedy Space Centre, do some rides at Disneyworld, eat some pumpkin pie and food draped in cheese, watch the Space Shuttle take off from Cape Canaveral and above all, stay warm. NASA had other plans. In the two weeks were in Florida, Discovery’s launch was delayed four times. There was nothing for it but to see what else Florida had on offer. As we found out – quite a lot.

Two weeks in Orlando turned into a road trip along the east coast, all the way down to the tip of the Florida Keys at Key West. We crammed a lot in but one of the most memorable days was visiting the Florida Everglades. First stop was Everglades National Park. Americans do National Parks very well. We’ve been to many and have never been disappointed. The visitor information centres are always so interesting and the Rangers helpful. Visiting Everglades NP was a bit like visiting a NP in the Northern Territory. It was hot, sticky, there were lots of insects and warning signs about not straying off the path lest we should be eaten by a large predator. We took a self guided walk along wooden boardwalks, keeping our eyes peeled for alligators. There was nothing. We sat in a rest area with a shrill cicada soundtrack, our eyes becoming accustomed to the shadows and lazy currents. As we sat looking, we realised that there were eyes looking back at us.

USA, Florida Everglades - wild aligator closeup

There, camouflaged amongst the grasses was our first wild alligator. Not the biggest monster we’d see that day but certainly worth the wait. After a while, the alligator quietly submerged and disappeared without a ripple. Continuing along the boardwalks, we became better at spotting the gators hidden in amongst the grasses and lily pads, always watching us. Later in the day we visited an alligator park which included an air boat ride out into the midst of the Everglades where the big alligators lurk. It was just as thrilling as it looked all those years ago on Gentle Ben and though completely touristy with zig zags and donuts, was not to be missed.

That warm, balmy jaunt to Florida put it towards the top of my ‘must re-visit’ list. It was a holiday within a holiday where there wasn’t a care in the world, the Gulf Stream waters were warm enough to swim in and there were freshly baked Toll House cookies in the hotel reception every afternoon. Little did we know that when we arrived back in the UK, we were heading into the coldest winter ever on record in Europe. And STS-1333? It had another false start that November and did not end up launching until 24 February the following year.

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12 comments… add one
  • sherry from sherrys pickings November 15, 2015, 10:54 am

    Florida? funny- that is not a place i have ever thought of visiting.:) freshly baked cookies sound good. when we were travelling around north eastern USA we stayed in motels at times, which always had ice cubes in buckets in the corridors, and doughnuts and coffee at reception each morning. we sure don’t get that here in our motels do we? 🙂

    • Fiona Ryan November 15, 2015, 6:45 pm

      No – no ice in the hallways but then again, we do have kettles!

  • Tandy | Lavender and Lime November 15, 2015, 3:03 pm

    Out of everything I did in Florida, the Everglades was not one of them. Lovely to see it through your eyes Fiona 🙂

  • Sally November 16, 2015, 7:06 am

    What an interesting thing to do! Not sure I can say I really ever placed the Everglades on my must visit list but it does sound like a great experience to walk among the alligators!

    • Fiona Ryan November 17, 2015, 8:44 am

      It wasn’t high on mine either but it was a nice interlude from the freezing Arctic blasts.

  • Stuart November 17, 2015, 11:41 am

    I love the photo. The alligator looks so relaxed and sleepy; ready for a pat.
    It’s nice to be surprised when a visit is much better than the expectations.
    I agree with your comments that it’s safe bet to assume that the USA’s national parks will impress.

    • Fiona Ryan November 21, 2015, 8:45 am

      There are just so many parks and so diverse. We have been 3 times, based mainly around park visits and have barely touched the surface.

  • Emily (Cooking for Kishore) November 18, 2015, 11:06 am

    I had a wonderful time visiting the Everglades, the variety of wildlife particularly birds was awesome. That’s a great shot of an alligator. Did you hear them ‘dinosaur hiss’, it’s a crazy sound!

    • Fiona Ryan November 21, 2015, 8:46 am

      Yes, we did hear that noise Emily. Very prehistoric. We also saw some crocodiles which is highly unsual. The NPS ranger showed us where to look for them.

  • Francesca November 19, 2015, 4:40 pm

    Fakery and bling and cheese on everything sums up how I feel about the USA. But the parks sound good .

    • Fiona Ryan November 19, 2015, 9:56 pm

      Fakery, bling and chesee is all true but oh my, the parks! Arches, Yellowstone, Grand Canyon… so many wonderful sights.

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