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Mike’s 50th Trip to Siesta Key, Disney’s Boardwalk, Universal and New York, June 2014 - Part 2

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by Mike, Jun 25, 2014.

  1. Mike
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    Mike Imagineer

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    Day 2 - Myakka & Drumdown

    Sunday 8th June 2014

    Well, you would imagine that following an exhausting 25 hour day travelling, finishing off with some powerful cocktails, we would sleep well.... I had a bit of a broken night, waking at 2:00am and again at 4:00. We are both wide awake at 5:00 and make a coffee, which we take outside onto the front deck. It's a lovely temperature, well into the 70s, and we enjoy the peace and quiet (broken by the sound of crickets and occasional rustling in the bushes). Having performed two essential tasks (coffee, and updating Facebook!) we wander over to the beach shortly after 6:00 and stroll along the sand as the sky gradually gets lighter, with sunrise at about 6:40. The
    pelicans, egrets and skimmers are all busy catching breakfast.

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    Amanda finds a perfect sanddollar:

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    We time the walk so that we are back in the village just before 7:00 and make our way to our breakfast venue. On previous visits I have always eaten at the iconic Broken Egg, but sadly they closed down at the end of 2013 when the directors retired. A couple of spin-offs have subsequently been opened by former staff members, but the reviews are mixed. The best reviews seem to be for the Village Cafe http://www.villagecafeonsiesta.com right in the
    centre of the 'strip'.

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    We are the first customers and take a table on the patio (basically a
    section of screened off sidewalk) and are warmly welcomed by the server. We both order orange juice, but decline coffee as we had some earlier at the cottage.

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    Amanda chooses Siesta Key Benedict with home fries, I go for 2 poached eggs, bacon and home fries.

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    Service is laid back, but we're not in a rush. The food is lovely, and we
    leave $30 to cover the $26 check. It's 7:35 as we wander back to the cottage for showers.

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    The plan today is to visit the Myakka River State Park a few miles inland.
    http://www.floridastateparks.org/myakkariver/

    I have been before and enjoyed it enormously. Any description I give will not be better than that on the official website, so please pardon my shameless plagiarising:

    "One of the oldest and largest state parks, Myakka protects one of the state´s most diverse natural areas. The Myakka River, designated as a Florida Wild and Scenic River, flows through 58 square miles of wetlands,prairies, hammocks, and pinelands. Visitors can enjoy wildlife viewing from a boardwalk that stretches out over the Upper Myakka Lake, then take to the treetops with a stroll along the canopy walkway. The park´s river and two lakes provide ample opportunities for boating, freshwater fishing, canoeing, and kayaking; a boat ramp provides access to Upper Myakka Lake. Hikers can explore trails that cross large expanses of rare Florida dry prairie. Scenic lake tours are offered daily on the world´s two largest airboats."

    We set off east from the island at 8:10, and arrive at the park entrance just before 9:00am. A proper park ranger requests the very modest sum of $6 for entry (car and any number of occupants) and we head onto the stunning drive towards the Lake. The trees (swamp oak, the ones with the feathery beards hanging down, and a wide variety of palms) line the road, often meeting overhead to give the effect of driving down a verdant tunnel.

    It's a couple of miles to the main Lake parking area, which has the airboat dock, the former ticket office and shop, now a cafe,

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    and an impressive, relatively new building on stilts that includes a large gift shop, restrooms and offices.

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    We book in for the 10:00am airboat tour, at a cost of $12 each,
    and are asked to be on the dock by no later than 9:45. The lady ranger who takes our money advises us that a short, 5 minute walk along a path leading into the trees will take us to a fishing platform where several large alligators have been seen in recent days.

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    We follow her directions and walk along a sandy path to the railed, wooden platform at the lakeside.

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    And lo and behold, a very (to us!) large gator is
    cruising towards us! Thankfully we are elevated several feet above the
    water! From a previous trip I recall the slightly alarming statistic that
    for each inch between an alligator's eyes and his snout, he (or she) will have a foot of body length behind!! This fella, or lady, looks to have a foot long snout/eye thing going on, indicative of being 11-12 feet in length!

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    We take photos and stroll back to the dock, rest rooming and having a swift browse of the gift shop along the way.

    A few people are already in line under the covered waiting area, so we join them at 9:40. Within a few minutes more people arrive and it looks like the tour will be full (they usually are).

    The ranger on duty takes our ride tokens and allows everyone to board. We take the very front row on the prow of the boat, in front of the wheelhouse.

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    A few latecomers, a family group of Mexicans delay us setting off for a few minutes. The pilot/guide gives a safety talk and, having to compete with the last boarders to be heard, gently but firmly devises everyone that this is a narrated tour, and would all guests please be quiet when he is speaking. He is ignored, by the Mexicans, makes a slightly less subtle request for good behaviour and sets off, shortly after 10:00 am.

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  2. Mike
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    Mike Imagineer

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    We head out across the lake. If you have ridden the airboats at Boggy Creekor in the Everglades, you may have a false impression of our craft. It is a slow vehicle, with a very low draft, allowing it to navigate the shallow waters of the Lake - which although measuring approximately 2 x 1 miles, is mostly under 4' deep (7' - 8' maximum) and sometimes under 2 feet. The fan propulsion means that almost no wake is generated, preventing disturbance to
    the lake flora and fauna.

    Having made our way to an area opposite the dock where we hope to see alligators, the guide once again has to shout to be heard above the noisy chatter from the back of the boat. He gets quite annoyed at this point, but it makes little difference.

    We encounter a large number if alligators small and large over the next 30 minutes or so. Some a relying stationary in weed beds, and swim off as we approach, others are up on the banks. Brilliant!

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    Other species viewed include a pair of bald eagles circling above the boat, and 2 or 3 osprey. Some wild deer and turkey's are also visible in the lake side water meadows.

    We return to the dock at 11:00. Thankfully, as we were outside the main passenger cabin (roofed, but no side walls) we were not much disturbed by our ignorant companions in back, but several people there complained about them. A blue heron is staking out the area next to the large pole used to (gently) crash the airboat into, as it has no reverse gear!

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    We tip the driver and return to our car. Halfway back to the entrance, about a mile from the lake, there is a nature trail that includes an aerial walkway and a 75' tower (it seems a lot higher!) that affords fabulous views across the entire park.

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    A family group descending below us doesn't seem to
    notice one of their children, a girl aged about 10, spitting happily over
    the edge onto the tree canopy and potentially other visitors below!!

    Trail and walkway completed, we set off in 91 degree sunshine, roof down, back to Siesta Key. After a quick pit-stop to freshen up, we walk the short distance into the Village looking for a suitable lunch stop. One of our hot-listed venues, with good Tripadvisor reviews, is The Cottage Restaurant http://www.cottagesiestakey.com/ just set back slightly from the main drag, but with good people-watching potential.

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    It is only 12:15, so the front
    terrace, pleasantly elevated from the sidewalk, is mostly free and we are seated immediately.

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    (Amanda checking the accuracy of my trippie notes!)

    We both order Bud Lite and choose Sliders from the lunch
    menu - one each of crab and lobster. They are served with 'house chips' (crisps!) made from plantain, purple and gold potatoes and corn.

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    We trade one of each and enjoy.. they are lovely.

    I notice that one of the Broken Egg spin-off venues, (Another Broken Egg) is located opposite and slightly further down the street. It looks ok, with a large, covered terrace, but doesn't have the ambience of the original.

    We pay the check - $34.22 (left $40) and wander back to the cottage at 1:05pm. It is still hot and sunny. Time for a swim! We change into swimwear, and take only the basics (a couple of towels) plus our phones, keys and some cash in an Aquapac pouch - these are supposed to be 1005 watertight, but I admit to some reservations as I submerge £1200 of iphones for the first time! The nearest beach access is at the end of the street.

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    We head across the wide beach and into the delightfully warm sea!

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    The beach is busy, but it is so long (2.5 - 3 miles) and very wide in
    places, that the impression is far from that of the Spanish Costas. The
    water is only about 3' deep 50 yards off shore, and then at 100 yards a sandbank, or shoal, runs parallel to the beach for several hundred yards, allowing us the unusual and pleasant experience of sitting in a few inches of water watching people swim between us and the main sands.

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    We swim and soak for an hour or so and then walk back to the village. My old 40th birthday haunt, the Daiquiri Deck is bustling, due no doubt to a 2-4-1 offer on cocktails.

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    We take the last couple of stools at the bar and order a
    Kraken and a Pina Colada. However, having slightly misunderstood the offer, we receive two of each! Ah well, it's a hard life, but we rise to the challenge! Cheers!

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    Feeling slightly merry we decide to return home to avoid alcohol poisoning. We sit on the sunny patio with a lighter beverage and catch up on Facebook and trippie notes. I also take advantage of the facilities and wash and dry everything we've worn so far!

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  3. Mike
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    Mike Imagineer

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    The driveway is worth a brief mention here – I may have already mentioned that it is made from crushed shells (the gleaming white beaches are the result of being composed entirely of the same, ultrafine material) but on closer inspection, it isn’t that crushed! Thousands and thousands of tiny, perfect shells of all shapes, some as small as a couple of milimetres!

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    At 6:00pm we shower and change, walking the very short distance to our new favourite watering hole, the Blasé Cafe.

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    We want an early dinner so that we can get up to the main beach, about a mile away, for the regular, Sunday Drumdown ceremony. We order a Margarita (Mike) and a Cosmo (Amanda) and both
    select Jambalaya and salad from the menu.

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    We enjoy our food and drinks for an hour or so. The check is $53.50 (we leave $65) and head off towards Crescent Beach at 7:20pm. A solo guitarist is setting up to perform next to the patio, so we might pop back later to see how good he is.

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    The stroll up to the widest part of Siesta Key beach (known as Crescent Beach) takes about 30 minutes.

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    These are turtle nests, and we see quite a few marked along the beach each day.

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    There's a huge crowd gathered around the Drum
    Circle performers and we make our way through to the action.

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    This has certainly evolved since my last visit 9 years ago. Then it was an informal group of hippy/tree-hugger types, banging away on an eclectic mix of kitchenwear, buckets and a few bongos and actual drums. Now it seems much more organised, with virtually everyone kitted out with proper instruments, and the viewing crowd easily numbers 1000.

    We take a few videos and photos, but decide to walk away at 8:15 to see the sunset more clearly. Dozens of photos are taken!

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    It's full dark when we reach the northern end of the beach, past the
    village, and we both admit to being weary. Instead of returning to the Blase we elect to 'stay in' and head back to our cottage by 9:00pm.

    Coffee, wine and social media all play a part over the next hour or so. It's very warm and I sit in shorts and bare feet, listening to the crickets and occasional snippets of 'Margaritaville' music from the Blase up the road.

    Amanda is falling asleep by 9:45 and heads off to bed. I'm not ready yet, and I relax with my wine for a while longer. At 10:00pm I hear the first booms of thunder, and by 10:15 it starts to rain, hard! I quickly retreat under the lovely covered lounge area and watch the lightning show until about 10:30, when my eyes also feel very heavy.

    Time for bed! Goodnight all!

    Mike and Amanda x

    TOMORROW - Busch Gardens!
     
  4. Watchinherskip
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    Watchinherskip Better known as "That Guy"

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    Mike, another great installment! Looks like a great time.
     
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  5. DisneyFreak
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    DisneyFreak Serious Forum Regular

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    Great stuff!
     
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  6. Wendy
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    Wendy A hui hou kakou makuakane Staff Member Administrator

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    I love reading your trip reports. Thank you can't wait to read the next part.
     
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  7. Mags
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    Mags Serious Forum Regular

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    Another great day Mike. You both seem to pack so much when you are on holiday. How you get time to keep up with writing your trippie notes, I don't know. More great photos of food, scenery and sunsets - oh and cocktails of course.

    Mags
     
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  8. sarah
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    sarah Addicted to Mickey

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    I have enjoyed reading your trip once again.
    Now I'm off to bed
    Night x
     
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  9. uscwest
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    uscwest Senior Cast Member

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    You two certainly do pack a lot into a day. Another great installment.
     
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