sâmbătă, 30 aprilie 2011

Saturday Report

God, if we want to go out, we need more than one hour to get the kids in the car, wearing some proper clothes and shoes! Today was not exception, between the moment we decided to go out and the moment we climbed in the car passed more than an hour.

Radu was crazy about a pajama blouse with Lightning McQueen he found in his room today, so I had to dress him with it. Well, who really cares?

Mara wore what she wanted, as usually, but this time she mistook her blouse with a dress, refusing to wear trousers. Everybody went crazy around her, but I saved the day by convincing her to put on some short striped tights. It was a story with she shoes, too, but I spare you.

The big surprise was the I.O.R. park (its actual name is Alexandru Ioan Cuza, but we are so used with the old name) itself, with a total face-lift,  looking exactly the same like a Spanish of French park, beautifully restored and refurbished. We loved the cubic stone on the alleys, the fresh drinks kiosk, the wonderful tulips in bloom, the black swans from the lake... It was beautiful and clean, as it always should be a park. We liked it so much, we decided to go out in the evening in the same place. 

Quote of the day @Mara: "Daddy,  let split out! I will go search for Mom, you go take some pictures!"


vineri, 29 aprilie 2011

This Moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see. {from www.soulemama.com}

Ten Thousand and One Islands @The Dragon

Everglades has several different ecosystems, most of them with subtle or without boundaries. If I remember well from the ranger's Rick lecture, there are 9 of them. Among them is The ten thousand islands system - the mangrove small islands in the extreme west of the park. This is were I hit the road for in our last day in Florida.

Was literally a walk in the park. After exiting the highway, I drove 20 km though an impossible long and straight road traversing a typical American suburba nd then reach the park again on its famous Tamiami trail. Different than first day in the park, this path was very "human" meaning constructions, farms, alligators farms, airboat tours every 10 km, mostly Miccosukee Native Indians operated. 

Without being thrilled about this I understood that this was a compromise made by the state to ensure a living for those guys. Up to the level they allowed a Bingo / Casino 5 floors building next to the park entrance. 
So much not an American National Park.

Anyway, morning light was beautiful and after I stopped for the first time (violently break and roll back to reach it), I remembered what I came for and enjoyed the view. I did not include in the pictures the black guy fishing (very productively I would say) in the same place, talking a non-understandable English. I could grasp only: 
"This's a muuud fishhh. And I don't eat those.  Me wife does"

The drive to Everglades city was easy, the only problem was not to fall asleep. Klaus was not driving, so he spoiled himself with a "nap". We reached the harbor and decided to go for a boat tour. We had seen already the mangroves by close distance in Key Largo, so we took the big boat tour to the Ten Thousands Islands. Funny thing, last July I was in Stockholm and took a tour with the same name. But that was 1 day long, muuuuch colder weather and definitely 10,000 islands. Florida's one was over rated. But not the colors, the breeze and the views. 

The boat driver was right when he asked us if ranger Rick's has bored us to death in the few minutes we waited for the boat tour to start. But I guess we deserved that. Not long before we were reading from park schedule about ranger's presentation and we agreed it could not be something more boring on the world than to come to a park and participate to a ranger presentation. But I am mean. Those guys love their jobs, are very good and serious and sometimes telling interesting and not easy to find information.

The boat driver was nice, funny and willing to help (obviously we tipped him  well!). At his recommendation we reached the last island accessible by road in the park, enjoyed a healthy lunch (in America !!!) in Havana cafe and found this amazing place. We found a small fishing harbor with boat ramps and shaded long chairs were we sat and filled our souls with peace and clear our minds from any thoughts. At least I did this. It might had happen that Klaus to take a nap again.

And if I would have to summarize in one single word and one single image my impressions from Florida will be this:


Thx for being around for this long trip report and keep following The Apprentice, she really puts passion into this blog.

with love, The Dragon

marți, 26 aprilie 2011

The Seven Miles Bridge @The Dragon


As you know me, or imagine about me, I can't be a former governor and actor fan. But too much HBO made me seeing some of his movies. And made me aware of one of America's icon constructions: The Seven Miles Bridge linking two of the many many islands leading from Miami to Key West. So, gain, when planning for South Florida trip this was one of my points to visit. I actually intended to reach Key West .

So day #2 in Florida meant a trip to the keys. I was well placed again, with my motel at the last cross road in Homestead before hitting the long line to Key Largo, the first one of the keys on South Dixie Highway. Planning was bad though on a higher scale as Klaus, my colleague joining from Austria a day before, was way up north in Miami Beach. So I started the day by going the opposite direction and adding some 120 km to the days mileage. It turned to be a 600 km driving day anyway.

Before hitting the road we took a detour in central Miami Beach for a Sunday food fair which turned to be a big fuss with no food except a 3 USD fresh lemonade glass. So it was about 10:30 when we laid on the road to hit for the keys. Key West was already very very far away. 

But it was Sunday anyway, the sun was up, clear sky and no evaluation on hitting a certain point was at horizon :) So, we decided to stop in Key Largo, the first and the biggest of the Keys and check John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. It was a revelation.

We went canoeing !!!! I never experience this, but Klaus suggested it and he was sooo right. I had a great time. Of course it would have been better if I was not proud enough on my skin pigment and courageously leave my sun protection cream in the car. Imagine a canoeing trip at 33 C on clear sky in a metal canoe. The sun literally burned everything visible under my T shirt and short. I had to buy baby protection ointment later on a suffer for 2 days before calming down. But pictures taken were great and I don't regret it. And yes, if you don't have it, invest in a polarizing filter for your lens.

After 2 hours canoe we were craving for a bath in the ocean and we did this for 30 min cutting our feets in the rocks as we did not have any slippers. But the place was peaceful and calm

It was already afternoon and we had no clear plan. We kept driving, key after key. There are 4500 islands in Florida archipelago, most of them name keys after Spanish cayo - small island. Key Largo is the biggest and, west to Key West, all are linked by bridges. Key Largo is luxurious, with very nice houses, restaurants and resorts. We noticed, after 4 or 5 keys that everything became poor. Low quality constructions (if any), few people around, deserted. then we realize that the pretty ocean & sky colors that we see around can rapidly and often became dark grey when hurricanes strike. It was a place not avoided by God's fury.

We stop then and there as I was spotting a good place to shoot the ocean and take advantage of the lowering light. It was already late when we hit the seven miles bridge between Knight's Key and Little Duck Key. It is definitely impressive but not really photogenic. But the sensation of having ocean back, front and sides is overwhelming. Photographically, I was more impressed on the remaining of the Overseas railroad which operated to Key West between 1912 an 1935. Now is deserted (hope they will find the money to refurbish it) and reminds me of a scene from I, Robot (I know, I have seen too many movies).

Eventually we decided to go back and I guessed no further than 50 km away of Key West. We hit the bridge again and Klaus spotted a restaurant right at its end. We took out and we found this place

which turned to be a rather nice place with steak size sushi and cold drinks (not that I would be afraid of not finding cold drinks in America: they served us Coke on the rocks in Grand Canyon at minus 20 in December). And we finished the daytime period on the terrace watching the sun going under the bridge.

The rest is just the history of my life, having to drive safely back, stomach full, deadly tired. I ended the day at 2:00 AM in the morning, reaching the hotel after driving the last 30 minutes when I had to literally slap my face to not fall asleep while still in motion. 

That was it for today. There is still one more day to tell you about and, if you are still interested, don't miss it tomorrow because the most amazing pictures are still to come.