12/27/13 Friday at Clermont, FL (Orlando-TT)
We used an alarm (gasp) to get up so we could be sure to leave by 8 am, thus arrive before 10 am and have more time with Lynn and Nancy in Clearwater, about 45 miles SW of Clermont. On the way we managed to avoid the Florida Turnpike (toll road). To get there we crossed Tampa Bay on the expansive Courtney Campbell Causeway (“The Causeway),
passed through the edge of Tampa
and reached Clearwater which sits on the Gulf of Mexico. Lynn and Nancy said that Clearwater Beach is often ranked #1 in Florida and even in the US. It has the white sand that is very fine, whereas Tampa Bay has beige sand. They offered to take us to Clearwater Beach, but it was such a cloudy, rainy day I thought another place would be more fun.
Before we get into that, here is where they live: “On Top Of The World”, similar to Sun City and The Villages. They said it was the first-the others were patterned after it.
Above are Lynn and Nancy with their boxers, Molly and Sam. Molly is lighter and smaller. I loved how they lay down with their front paws in the same respective places.
After our visiting and catching up, they took us north to Tarpon Springs, the #1 source of natural sponges in the US. Many Greeks left their homeland to come here and dive for sponges. In the beginning they would dive “nude”, meaning without any gear/air, just using a rope to signal when to pull them up. Later, as they began to use iron helmets and air hoses, many would die because they didn’t know about the bends. They collect the sponges by cutting them at their roots, where they are attached to some permanent element. If the sponge is too small, it’s returned to the ocean to forever roll along with the currents (it’s called a “roller”) until it’s large enough and picked up by another diver. What we enjoy is the skeleton of the animal, the black outer skin and inner gray slime is cleaned off by those on the main boat. They string them into a wreath to dry, then take them to “The Sponge Exchange” where they will be auctioned off. A couple of my images are from the Sponge Museum (free).
Of course there are numerous gift shops with all kinds of different and lovely shells:
A couple Hand Made (Cuban style) cigar shops
John loved what this shop had to say:
By now we are famished, so we get in line (it took over 15 minutes-the place was jammed!) to get our seat at “Hella’s” Restaurant and Bakery. As you can tell, we drooled over the pastries as we waited. Was is ever worth the wait! Delectably delicious. Lynn treated us, first with the appetizer of “Flamed Cheese” It was a triangle of some luscious cheese lit with alcohol and flames. Saganaki. Fabulous. We all got to yell out Opaa! when the flames flared up. For our meal, Lynn and John had the Gyro, Nancy had the hamburger and I had “Dolmades” (grape vine leaves stuffed with ground beef, rice, spices, topped with a Greek egg lemon sauce. Heavenly. PLUS my plate included rice (also deliciously flavored), peas (again with neat spices) and a cantaloupe slice. So good we were too full for the pastries we had planned.
We made our way to Lynn & Nancy’s home for more visiting, then off on the freeway for Clermont. On our way we spotted alerts that Nancy had just explained. You know how Amber Alerts are a quick way to get information out to everyone about a missing child. These are Silver Alerts, similarly giving quick information out regarding a missing senior (silver haired). I thought that was cool-the perfect thing to come out of Florida. We were glad we saw such an alert, so I could share it with you all. It was evening, we were losing light as I kept trying to get a good shot from a car moving 70 mph.
We got home in time to eat some dinner (I, naturally, had my leftover Greek goodies), then walked to the clubhouse for entertainment-Karaoke and Dance. As we entered, we got a wave from Susan/Bill and Larry/Gail. Cool. Here are photos of a couple performers. The first is sort of your typical Rver (they didn’t sing all that well) and the second is a couple of cuties. The older girl sang very well. Susan and Bill can really do some nice dances. Wonder if John would take some lessons? He did in the good only days….
Life is good.