Monday, December 31, 2007

Our two weeks in Fort Myers

We have had amazingly nice weather here in Fort Myers. Out of our 2 1/2 weeks here only 4 days were not in the high 70's or low 80's. Our wonderful renters, Anne and John Jones, have been on an adventure in South America visiting Machu Picchu and The Galapagos Islands. We are looking forward to hearing all about their adventure. Maybe we'll visit there some time.

We arrived in the afternoon of Friday, the 14th. A little food shopping and a dip in the pool were the first order of business. Michael Gallagher and Mike Kostoroski (former colleagues at school) were down visiting Becky and Jon Hurwitz in their condo, which is 10 minutes from our place. We invited all 4 of them over for dinner on Saturday. We had a great time talking about life after Fort River School. The weather was wonderful and we spent the whole evening on our lanai. Here is a picture of the 4 Fort River retirees. When you look at that picture you are seeing over 140 years of teaching experience, the vast majority at Fort River School. AND all of us so handsome after all of those years! (The last sentence was an editorial comment from an unnamed source.)

Scott and Libby arrived on Monday the 17th instead of the planned Sunday the 16th. Something to do with being forgetful. They had forgotten what day their flight was. They thought that they left Sunday evening but when they went to check in on line Sunday morning they discovered that they were supposed to be in Chicago already! All worked out well and we were able to have a great week with them. They both had a lot of work to do so they spent a lot of time on our lanai with their computers on their laps. We did get the in the pool once in a while. Here they are working and doing water ballet!

Julie and Michael arrived later in the week. Michael had to come in 24 hours before Julie. Julie had been filming a small independent movie and they needed her to stay an extra couple of days in New York. She arrived on Friday morning and all 6 of us were all able to visit a non profit farm called ECHO. Check out their website here. It's a wonderful experimental farm whose goal is to "to network with community leaders in developing countries to seek hunger solutions for families growing food under difficult conditions." They gave a 2 1/2 hour guided tour of many of their projects. It was very impressive.

On Becky's birthday, the 22nd, all 6 of us drive up to Largo to pick up Becky's 95 year old mother. We then drove up to New Port Richey to have our Christmas dinner with Sandy's mom. We had a great time and Mom did a great job as usual! Here are a few pictures of that afternoon.

We dropped Becky's mom off around 5:00 and headed back to our home in Fort Myers to celebrate our Christmas. Scott and Libby were flying out to Duluth, MN the morning of the 23rd so we decided to exchange gifts the evening of the 22nd. We all sat in the living room and in the McNiven tradition we opened presents from the youngest (Libby) to the oldest (Becky). Every year this brings back such vivid memories of our Christmases in Altamont and what an amazing childhood our parents gave us!

Here are some pictures from that evening. Scott and Libby are soooo excited about what is in their stocking!

We dropped Scott and Libby off at the airport on Sunday morning the 23rd. They flew from gorgeous 80 degree weather to a mid-west snow event in Duluth. They made it all the way to their street but the car got stuck in the snow a half a block away from the house. They needed to get out the shovels and snowblowers and clear a path for the car to the driveway.

Meanwhile Julie, Michael, Becky and Sandy drove up to an animal sanctuary in Zolfo Springs. Here is the website. We learned a lot that day about how many wild animals are kept as pets by people who should just know better. Then they get too big or dangerous to keep and ask this place to keep them. This family that runs this sanctuary has found their mission in life!

One day we noticed black spots on the lanai and pool cover and they were like soot to touch. Sandy got out his power sprayer and cleaned it up but more came back. We were puzzled! The next day we found out the cause. There had been a tire fire in North Fort Myers and the wonderful breezes that we always have carried the oily soot all over the place.

Most of time was spent relaxing, reading, swimming and playing in our pool. Sandy managed to combine all 4 of those in one experience. Check out the picture of him doing just that!

Thursday the 4 of us went to Shark Valley. It is one of the four entrances into the Everglades National Park, located along the old Tamiami Trail which is US 41. We took an excellent narrated 2 hour tram tour. (This was our 3rd tour!) It's best to do it during the dry season (the winter) because that's when the birds and gators gather right alongside the tram road. It's very informative and there are plenty of chances to see alligators up close. Sometimes you can see 2 generations of baby gators all with 10 feet of you. Becky took these pictures of the female alligator and the wood stork while on the tram tour. (We were fortunate to see a total of about 25 wood storks. They're not a common bird!) Next time you see us ask us why it's called Shark Valley. Very interesting!

Julie & Michael went up to Busch Gardens in Tampa on Saturday, the 29th. They rode lots of roller coasters and had a great day visiting all of the sights. They then drove up to Sandy's mother's home in New Port Richey and spent the night. Michael had a 9:00 flight in the morning back to New York from Tampa airport. Julie dropped him off and then came back down here. She'll fly back late on the 3rd.

Anne and John Jones will be back on the 2nd and we will be spending a couple of days at the Kroodsma's condo in Naples.

Next: Our first cruise with Becky & Jon Hurwitz and a visit to Ron Moyer & Karen in Cocoa Beach

Thursday, December 13, 2007

A Week on Turks & Caicos

We just spent a week in a Club Med on the island of Providenciales in the Caribbean island nation of Turks & Caicos. It is truly a paradise at this time of the year. Read about the Turks & Caicos here. We left Sandy's mother's home in New Port Richey on Sunday, Dec. 2. We drove down to Naples and spent the night at the Kroodsma's condo. Thanks Melissa and Don! We had a 12:30 flight from Miami. There was a lot of road construction around the airport but our GPS helped us find our way. We parked the car at the Wyndham Hotel and took their shuttle over the airport. (What a great deal through (Thanks to Glen for this picture of us.)

It was only a 90 minute flight. We took a taxi to the Club Med Turkoise and checked into our room. Check out this Club Med here. The island nation is in the same time zone as the eastern part of the United States except Club Med Turkoise does not observe daylight savings time. This way the sun doesn't set until about 6:15. It gives us more daylight to play in.

And play is what we did. The beach is spectacular! The club is on a quarter mile of beautiful white, silky, sand beach. We took a number of walks along the beach since it's all public.

There are so many water activities to take advantage of. Tandem Kayaks, windsurfing, sailing, snorkeling, and scuba are all available with good quality instruction. We took out a kayak one day but there really wasn't anything to see, i.e. explore mangroves. They were too far away.

The windsurfing was disappointing. Sandy never went out since he had lots of other activities to keep him busy. Becky went out three times but it wasn't very good. Either the wind was inconsistent or it was too strong. (We've never tried to windsurf in the winter and will keep this in mind when booking another trip.)

Land activities included volleyball, basketball, tennis, softball, water exercise, stretching classes, a complete fitness center, pool games and much more. We found plenty of time to play as well as down time to read and take the occasional nap. Sandy played a lot of beach volleyball and a little regular volleyball. He also had the opportunity to use a trampoline and a trapeze. Take a look at this very short video of Sandy on the trapeze.

Sandy had done this 20 years ago but he needed to see if he could do it again at 58. It turns out that he could but his knees ached for several days afterwards. It was worth it!

The food was just spectacular. All meals were done in a smörgåsbord style with one ethnic food highlighted each night. After we filled our plates we were seated at tables of eight. This way we had a chance to eat with and meet people from all over. There were many Canadians there as well as vacationers from South America, Europe and the United States. We enjoyed these meals and made many friends throughout the week.

At 10PM every night there was a show in their open-air theater put on by the workers. Most were good. A few were excellent, like the trapeze and circus shows.

Scuba and snorkeling were good but some days it was a little rough on the surface. While snorkeling we did get to see two nurse sharks and a hawksbill turtle as well as the many common reef fish in the area. Sandy took two scuba dives on Thursday and had the chance to see a 7 foot green moray eel, a reef shark, barracuda, and a hawksbill turtle swam right under him. (We're waiting for a picture to be sent to us.) Snorkeling was much better in Hawaii!!

We spent the week playing in the sun and were sad to leave on Monday the 10th. (At least we weren't returning to a really cold place.) All in all it was a nice week but not as much fun as other stays at Club Med. Becky expected to have fun windsurfing and snorkeling everyday and it just didn't pan out. But she got a couple of books read, met some great people, and had 2 really good instructors for stretching and exercise in a perfect setting.

We left about 3:30 in the afternoon and arrived in Miami around 5:00. By 6 we had cleared customs and immigration, picked up our bags and headed off to Naples to spend another night in the Kroodsma's condo. Right now we are up in New Port Richey visiting Sandy's mom. We'll head down to Fort Myers on Dec. 14 to spend some time at our home there until Jan. 2. Our wonderful renters, John and Anne Jones, will be in South America visiting Machu Picchu and and then the Galapagos islands. Scott and Libby will arrive on the 16th and Julie and Michael will arrive on the 19th. We're looking forward to a wonderful visit with the four of them.

Here are some pictures of the beach and facilities. We stayed in the first floor room.