Posted on October 10 2023
As per every new year, Chris and I set out into the frigid cold of our backyard to make a fire, burn our regrets from the past year and start a new year with a fresh slate.
And as per every January, I spent time walking the woods near the river, looking for the beauty that winter brings in the form of ice, mist and moody skies ~
But January often affords a little getaway too. Because I was born in January, a winter holiday to celebrate a birthday is not a poor excuse to go somewhere warm and take a break from our long winters.
This year, we decided to fly out to Florida to visit my Auntie Pat, who has kindly invited us out to Jacksonville for several years now.
We arrived at her place and as a thank you gift for hosting us, I gave her a painting that Judy did of her dog, Toby with my beadwork around him.
My Aunt is super crafty and makes lots of beaded items, she makes glass beads too! Here she is showing me some of her bead collection ~
And insisting Chris try on a pearl necklace ~
We loved staying with her. Aunt Pat is such a curious person and into lots of neat things. Also, the vegetation in Jacksonville is so interesting, with huge Cypress trees and Spanish moss everywhere. Aunt Pat also had this gorgeous mural made at the front of her house to honour her son. There were lots of interesting and intricate details in it:
My aunt took us to visit some of her friends, including Gina, who is a pianist and artist. Her house was incredible, with statues and mosaics and fascinating design work inside and out.
I relate to this sign on Gina's door :)
Chris and I rented a car while in Jacksonville and drove to Gainesville, a really cool college town about an hour or so away. We went to see Tedeschi Trucks Band who were playing in town.
The next morning we drove to the Manatee Spring Park, an hour westward, in hopes of spotting the State Marine Mammal of Florida. We had no luck that day, but we found the park to be fascinating, with the swampy vegetation and lots of turtles and birds. We even saw a crocodile, though I have no picture to prove it.
Back in Gainesville, we toured around the city a bit, stopped in at the butterfly forest, and drove by Tom Petty's house and a park dedicated to him ~
At dusk, we drove to the University of Florida's Bat houses. And man, was that a sight to see as they all left their houses in search of their nightly feed! They estimate this colony to be between 450,000 to 500,000 with a capacity to hold up to 750,000 bats. Their nightly insect consumption is 2.5 billion which works out to 2,500 pounds of bugs. Needless to say, we had no issues with mosquitoes while touring around outside.
Roosting vultures on the grounds of the University ~
The next day was my birthday and we drove to St. Augustine, considered the oldest city in the United States and also known for its Spanish architecture.
I wanted to have a meal at the beach for my birthday so we stopped in at Beachcomber and enjoyed a pretty cocktail, some fish tacos and the sound of the waves in the distance. Then we had a nice walk on the beach before heading back into town.
We walked through the touristy streets of St. Augustine, learning about the history and popping into shops. We also wondered where's Waldo, but then we found him!
In the evening we walked to Columbia Restaurant for a Spanish dinner and afterwards, we went on a Ghost Tour.
It was nice to ride around at night because they have this Nights of Lights festival running through the winter and all the shops and homes are lit up.
The next morning, we woke up very early and walked down to the beach to watch the sunrise. It was peaceful and magical!
And then we drove to Blue Springs National Park to try again at seeing some Manatees and it did not disappoint! Those blobs in the water are manatees. :)
Better in person for sure. On our drive back to Jacksonville, we stopped at the famous convenience store chain Buc-ee's, which I had heard so much about. It was pretty mind-blowing inside!
Back in Jacksonville, we enjoyed more time with my Auntie, on walks and drives, visiting and seeing her world. On our final night, we went down to the Ragtime Tavern to see one of her friend's band, The Invasion, play live.
We had such a good time! It was so neat to see where my aunt lives, meet all her interesting friends and her granddaughter, Chloe. It was also a fantastic break from the cold and we are thankful for the hospitality, the fun sights and of course, the warmer weather.