Florida’s Gulf Coast – Something for Everyone

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Apalachicola, FL

Alice Jean Art Studio Apalachicola FL

Alice Jean - Have a Coke and a Smile

Cape San Blas Florida Cape San Blas Florida St. Joseph State Park Cape San Blas Florida

Southern Florida & the Gulf Coast

April, 2008 - We dropped down to the northern suburbs of Miami from

Daytona, swimming at Hobe Sound, Hollywood Beach and South

Beach.  Each beach had a different flavor, and we enjoyed the beach

scene at each one.  The water was turquoise and warm and we played

like children.  In Miami we were hosted by my brother and his family

and he took us to a local park with banyan trees and mangrove

swamps.  It was dense, exotic foliage, and we had a great time traipsing

along the trails.

An iguana showed

up as we passed and

he paused for a look

at us before he

scampered off into

the underbrush.

We were intrigued that an old building

in the park had been built using coral

building blocks, rather than

the stone you might find at

in an old building elsewhere

in the country.

From Miami we scooted

across to Sarasota and the

southern Gulf Coast.  The

gulls flew overhead as we

struggled at times in traffic.

Southern Florida is crowded,

and parking can be quite a


In Sarasota we walked along Siesta Beach where the white sand is

groomed and resembles Dutch apple pie topping, soft and crumbly.

I had never felt sand quite as soft.  The scenic drive along

Sarasota's coast was lovely, and a little further north we had a

leisurely picnic at Coquina Beach.  We watched the sailboats

passing through the drawbridge and felt like we were in the tropics.

We wandered north along

the Gulf Coast, watching the towns get smaller and sleepier as we got away from the big

cities to the south.  As often happened in our first year travels, there were things we

missed as we skipped along.  But we felt pushed by the growing heat and humidity at the

end of April, and after three months in the Sunshine State we were ready for other kinds of


We stopped in the little

hamlet of Carrabelle to

stretch our legs and found

the World's Smallest Police

Station and a cute 50's

inspired coffee shop.

Sailboats were anchored

across the bay and it looked

like a glorious morning to sit

in the cockpit and sip coffee

while watching the world

wake up.

We were charmed by the small

town of Appalachicola.  It is a cute

walking town with fishing boats tied

up at the pier.

We poked our heads into a guitar

store because Mark needed new

strings for his guitar.  We got talking

with the store owner (and her

cockatiel), and it turned out her 90+

year old mother was an art teacher

in a studio down the hall from the

music store.  It was a few minutes before the art class was starting, so

we dropped in to check out the gallery and say hello to the teacher.  It

turned out her name was Alice Jean and she had been a Rockette and

a Coca-Cola model back in the days when Coke ads were hand painted.  She had some

memorabilia from that era on the wall.  What fun to talk to this elderly lady and imagine the

years peeling back to reveal such fresh beauty as we saw in the painted ads.

Continuing west along the

coast of the panhandle the

scenery got prettier and

prettier.  We drove out on

two peninsulas capped by

state parks --

St. George's

state park and

St. Joseph's

state park.

Each was


We began to

see homes

built on stilts, and the grassy sand dunes swept down to the turquoise sea.  This

area held the promise of long lazy days sipping cool drinks while dipping your

toes in the water.  But a sadness hovered over it as well.  Almost every home along the coast was for sale.  The country was in a

terrible real estate slump and credit crisis, and this area had been hit hard by hurricanes in the last few years.

Insurance companies were pulling out, and many people, like their stilt homes,

were being left high and dry.  We saw so many housing developments that had

been abandoned.  The plot plan billboards were faded and peeling, and the

homes stood half-built, knee deep in weeds.  I don't know how an area like this

can recover.  We traveled in an awed silence, searching the roadsides for

homes that didn't have a for sale sign out front.

Leaving the panhandle we zipped through Alabama and landed on the Gulf

Coast of Mississippi at a fascinating town called Bay St. Louis.