This past weekend we celebrated Minock Day! Woohoo!
It was their turn to choose what we did and boy oh boy, it was a doozy of a choice! Instead of doing one thing, we did not two, but THREE things! Wow! AND all three of them were my favourite price....free! Do these people know how to make smile or what?
We started out at a place that Tim and I have been talking about going for a long time. The Manatee Viewing Center in Apollo Beach. Actually Tim and I did go there once, but they weren't open yet. We didn't know that it was only open from November 1st to sometime in April. Which when we thought about it made sense.
It is in the water alongside the Tampa Electric power plant which generates a lot of heat that attracts the manatees. When the weather and the water get cooler, the manatees, who prefer to be warm, congregate in the much warmer waters by the electric plant. Smart Manatees! The nice people at Tampa Electric decided to build a Viewing Center with a boardwalk and gardens and information and a viewing tower so that anyone who wished could enjoy it! What a nice thing to do!
Manatees are gentle giants. Roughly 10 feet long and about 1200 pounds as adults, they graze and swim and frolic in warmer relatively shallow waters. Much like a cat, they can sleep up to 12 hours a day. Known also as sea cows, manatees are mostly slow moving creatures although if they want to, they can swim about 20 mph!
Unfortunately, because the temperatures have been unseasonably warm the only manatee that we saw was the statue. We did however get to see some sea rays and that was coolio. We will return in cooler weather for sure. While it was disappointing to miss out on the actual viewing of manatees, it was a surprisingly pretty place.
Our next stop was something I had never even heard of, The Braden Castle Ruins. I knew of the town Bradenton, but Braden Castle Ruins? Interesting. It seems that way back in 1850, Dr. Joseph Braden and his brother Hector, bought 1100 acres at the confluence of the Manatee and Braden Rivers and created a sugar plantation and mill there. He also built a house. Oh wait? did I say house? For it's time, it was a mansion and locally it was referred to as Braden's Castle.
It was an exceptional structure built of "tabby", that is a mixture of lime, sand, crushed shells and water. It had 4 chimneys, 8 fireplaces and was strong enough to withstand an attack by Seminole Indians in 1856. Sadly, Dr. Barden lost the property through foreclosure the following year and died not long after. The property became a social center for the community until it was destroyed by fire in 1903. Now it's just sad remains.
It's history was fascinating, as is most history to me, and I couldn't wait to lay eyes on it. Nowadays the remaining rubble is slowly being reclaimed by nature and lays behind a chain link fence to protect it. But it's where the remains of the "castle" sit that is the most intriguing. A community of the most adorable little cottages have grown up around it and they have created a park around the ruins which are water front. I was as enchanted by the neighborhood as I was by the ruins themselves. And I am so sorry that I didn't take any photos of the cottages. So I had to borrow an image online to use by way of example, my apologies. I also found a picture of the "castle' as it once stood. Therefore, most of the photos are mine, two are not. Just by way of full disclosure
Onward to the seaside town of Cortez! Here the intended stop was the SeaHagg. As it turns out the Sea Hagg is a hoarders paradise. Especially if the hoarder has a passion for anything nautical or maritime. If ever you wanted a mermaid, this would be the place to find it. Port hole windows, they got 'em. Glass fishing floats, you betcha, and in many different sizes. Ships compass? Yeppers. Things octopus? Yerp. Jelly fish objects? Indeed. It was wild!
No matter what little section you were looking at, there was an abundance, no wait, an over abundance of things to catch your eye. If I stood completely still and starred directly ahead, my eye still didn't know where to land. So. Much. Cool. Stuff!
They even had loads of exceedingly fascinating stuff outside. So before we ever walked in the door we were already wowed! My favourite things was an old tugboat pilot house. Yes. The entire pilot house. Awesome!
Once done, we were famished and found food in a cute little place right there in Cortez called The Bridge Tender Inn by the waterfront. It was decent food, very relaxed atmostphere and, as always, it was delightful just spending time sitting, talking, eating, laughing with our friends.
After food, we wandered around town a little bit. I'm always interested in seaside towns down here. We had not been to Cortez before. It was a very cute little town. But kind of tourist heavy. Okay here is my take on the difference in a place like Cortez and my town of Venice.
Cortez seems to be a tourist town where some people live full time. Venice is a town of full-time residents that some tourists like to visit. Do you see the difference?
We ended our super fun day on the beach. It was a beautiful beach.
As always, the time flew by way too fast, we had a great time and we look forward to our next get-together.
I wonder what we will do next?
Yup, this is me. Some people said, "Sam, you should write a Blog". "Well, there's a thought", I thought to myself. And so here it is.