Florida – September 2008

Day 29 – Palm Coast – Alligator Farm

Monday 20th October

Another nudge in the ribs this morning was once again my signal to get up and take care of the kids whilst Sandy rested some more. Not being a morning person, this is something I usually find quite difficult but I sprung immediately into again nevertheless and got the kids up, changed and sorted with a bottle of juice each in front of the TV.

Once the rest of the house was up and about, Ben set about making a delicious cooked breakfast. We’ve had cooked breakfast most days since we arrived in the Sunshine State but this would have been the first that wasn’t accompanied by a bill. The kids ate very well, polishing of some Wheatabix and a banana between them. Being confronted with new surroundings and different sleeping accommodation doesn’t appear to faze the kids nearly as much as it does us. I suppose having changed to a new bed on average every two nights for nearly eighteen months during our round-the-world travels has given us a certain appreciation of the serenity and comfort of our own very comfortable bed back home – which, I have to say, I’m rather looking forward to reacquainting myself with again in a couple of days.

I removed the entire luggage from the car to Patti’s front room and taped blue masking tape to all the hard suitcases so that they were better identifiable on the luggage belt at the airport. We’ll have to think of something else for the big duffle bags since they don’t have any flat edges for the tape to adhere to. We were debating whether to strap the two small buggies to an existing bag to prevent from having to have them counted towards our bag allowance. We know that we’re allowed a buggy for each child to take to the aircraft with us but we came with a double and have bought two singles since we got here so we technically now have three buggies for just two children. We weren’t sure if this was going to be a problem so I called the airline to ask for clarification. The staff was completely clueless and could offer no firm answer to the question. We’ve now decided to simply tie the two small buggies together and check them in. This now means that we’ll be checking in eight luggage items and this represents the maximum allowance for the four ticketed passengers travelling.

We weren’t entirely sure about what to do today and several ideas were floated about. In the end, Patti, Ben and the four of us got into our van (which was now empty) and drove over to Flagler Beach for a stroll on the sand. The sea was extremely rough with high winds when we got there but this had created near ideal surfing conditions and there were plenty of surfers out and about. We managed just a short stroll in the end. Patti was already unstable on her feet on the loose sand having had a leg injury not long ago and Jennifer wanted to be carried constantly. After less than half an hour, we gave up and got into the car to go to the Alligator Farm in St. Augustine instead.

We took the more scenic inside route up A1A and this brought back lots of forgotten memories of driving this very stretch of beach access road from years gone by.

It was quite a drive up to St. Augustine and we pulled into the Alligator Farm at around noon. I’m sure we’ve probably been to the Alligator Farm before but if we had, I’d forgotten it all. They have every species of alligator here at the park and we enjoyed wandering around the place. We got to sit through one of their shows, where snakes were being shown to the audience followed by a hands-on session where the kids would line up to touch and feel a boa-constrictor. After that we perused more of the park including a very nicely done Florida Swamp attraction, which consisted of perhaps a hundred yards or so of a raised walkway just inches above a large swamp. There were alligators as far as the eye could see all over this swamp and we were able to get just about as close as we dared. There were also quite a few species of native birds all over the place and it was a pleasure to ‘catch’ them all with the cameras.

We found a playground for the kids to run around in a bit and partook in some light refreshments and cool drinks before the alligator feeding session started. Central to the whole park is a lagoon in which some fifty or so alligators of varying sizes were sunning themselves. A park worker wearing a microphone wandered about the alligators talking to the crowd and periodically throwing dead rats to them. There were one or two slightly tense moments when she was nearly cornered by beasts.

After the feeding and some more wandering around looking at various monkeys, birds and other caged, exotic animals, we called it a day and browsed around the shop for a bit before getting back into the car and heading back South again. I started off back down the scenic route from whence we came but after people started to nod off in the car, I diverted back onto the more direct route for a swifter return back to the Palm Coast area.

Patti’s house isn’t exactly child-friendly and it took a fair bit of effort on our part to keep them either occupied or out of trouble for the remainder of the evening. We eventually managed to find a room with a DVD player so that they could sit in front of their favourite program to keep them out of trouble for a bit. I took a drive out to Wal-Mart to see if there was any last-minute shopping I could squeeze in but never really found anything in the end.

Ben fired up the grill and cooked burger and hot-dogs for dinner. Sandy went to bed not very long after the kids. Patti has bought a huge slab of prime rib for dinner tomorrow night so I popped over to Winn-Dixie’s to pick up some potatoes and a few other provisions before popping off to bed for the night.

We’re again not sure what to do for tomorrow. We may drive up to Jacksonville for the day but we’ll make a decision on that when we get up in the morning. I’m already wondering if the day will start with another poke in the ribs or not. We’ll see.