Natalie and I are going to tell this week’s story. Our first highlight came as a gift from an Indianapolis friend and neighbor who once lived in Orlando. She was able to fix us up with tickets to Universal Studios! (Thanks Missy!)
NATALIE: At first I was really scared because I thought I would have to go on every ride and that most would be really scary.
We went on Wednesday afternoon in hopes that the crowds would be smaller. We crammed all our school and work in the morning and arrived just after lunch. No lines to get in — so far, so good!
Once inside the park, we could get on most rides in just 15 minutes. We were able to do a lot in just an afternoon.
NATALIE: This was one of our family’s favorite rides! It was fun because the cart would move all over to make you feel like you were in the movie.
Here we are in our cool 3-D glasses waiting on the Despicable Me ride.
NATALIE: This was my other favorite ride because there was a roller coaster in the movie and you felt like you were really on a ride, but it was just a movie.
And at the end of our short day, we were exhausted, and wondered how we would have managed any more walking in one day!
NATALIE: When we got there, everyone would walk on these flat escalators, probably wanting to get in line for the rides. But when we left, everyone was too tired to walk!
One thing I had been wanting to do while in the Orlando area was to visit Blue Spring State Park, a winter manatee refuge. I called ahead and learned from the rangers that only when it is cool enough to wear a jacket will you find manatee in the warm spring waters of the park. We had enjoyed almost two weeks of beautiful 80 degree days until Thursday! The weather then turned cool and rainy, so we packed up and left on Friday for the state park.
We weren’t disappointed! There were many manatee seeking refuge in the warm spring waters. Of course, there were lots of people there too.
NATALIE: Mom and I got up early the next morning to see the manatees. We were the only ones there and counted 18 manatee in the first spot. I loved how the water was clear so we could see the manatee. They are now one of my favorite sea animals!
Later on Saturday, we traveled a little further north to St. Augustine. It has been almost 500 years ago that Ponce de Leon’s landed in “La Florida” looking for gold, silver and the fountain of youth.
We were surprised when we had to drive around several times to find parking and then encountered long lines of people everywhere!
We stopped at the Castillo de San Marcos, a nearly 350 year old fort. We arrived just in time to hear the ranger give us a brief history of the place.
…and witness the powerful Spanish cannon drills:
This fort was built from coquina (very old shells). It’s quarried as a soft substance but the sun bakes it into a harder material suitable for building. This unique, local, natural resource proved to be the perfect building material and withstood a number of sieges over its lifetime.
I love our Sunday morning hikes, but they aren’t always everyone’s favorite. No one complained this morning when I suggested we walk the beach near our campground.
The beach and it’s soft, warm sand were very inviting even though the wind and currents were strong.
It was a great way to end our time in eastern Florida.
We headed back to the west coast this afternoon and are looking forward to spending the week with family again. Uncle Walter and I have signed up for a race next weekend that I am really looking forward to.