Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Home Sweet Sarasota

After a fantastic week at Cocoa Beach, we headed out across the state to a week in Sarasota. We were sad to leave Cocoa Beach behind...but excited to visit the Gulf side of Florida again.

Our condo in Sarasota is huge and beautiful. Bizarrely, the condos we rent are generally more spacious and better appointed than our home. Ahh, Vancouver. You are lovely, but your real estate is preposterous. 

Just outside our door here is a little basketball hoop and a nice tennis court. We learned two things: basketball is a fun sport for our is not. The kids lasted about twelve minutes with tennis rackets in their hands. 

Here is Lukey playing a little one-on-one against Eric. 

I am looking forward to the day when these games are competitive. I don't think it will be too long...

Sarasota is home to Siesta Key, which is consistently rated one of the top beaches in the United States. We were a little skeptical. For us, Cocoa Beach is perfect. Great surf, great sand, no crowds.

But, we were open minded (tough job, right? Beach open mindedness...?).

Yep. It's pretty awesome.

The big draw here is the size of the beach and the quality of the sand. I have never seen sand this fine. Or this white.

There are no waves here to speak of, but you can wade out a long way. And the sand...I mean, really. Look at it.

We played a couple of soccer games, bumped the volleyball a few times, and read our books.

Oh, and then the girls played powered donut. How do you play? You turn your face guessed it...a powered donut.

Fun, right?

Kennedy Space Center

We didn't make it to the Kennedy Space Center when we were in the area last year. This year, we got excited because there was a rocket launch scheduled for November 13th, right in the middle of our stay in Cocoa Beach.

Unfortunately, the rocket launch was postponed until the 27th, but we decided to head to the Space Center regardless.

And look how close we got to a (picture of) a shuttle launch...!

Incredibly, woefully underfunded NASA maintains and improves this facility purely from ticket and merchandise sales. Our admission was well-spent.

There is tons to see. There was a lot of information about the now dismantled space shuttle program. Some displays heralded the current Mars missions, but we couldn't help but feel the glory days of the shuttle were sorely missed by NASA and its enthusiasts.

Another thing we found interesting was the "home craft" feeling of the construction of parts of rockets, boosters, shuttles, etc. It looks like the merger of a very technical AND creative process. Because they are innovating at every step, each component looks cobbled together and randomly (though I am sure it is not) stuck on. I mean, look at the...thing...behind us in the picture below. That's a lot of...stuff.

See how much I learned...?

One of the highlights is standing below the retired Saturn V rocket. It. Is. Big.

There were tons of incredible things on display, including this landing module.

I think the highlight for Eric and me was the truly incredible IMAX movie about the Hubble telescope. It was 3D and the images from the Hubble were mind-blowing. They were both beautiful and brain cramping in their magnitude. It was mostly over the kids' heads, but we were impressed.

For the kids, highlights included the Space Shuttle experience, which simulated a take-off. Lukey was very apprehensive, but ultimately really happy he did it. Unlike a lot of rides, it wasn't intended to be scary. It was realistic.

They also really loved the opportunity to touch a rock from the moon. Apparently this moon rock is 3.9 million years old. Older than 99.99% of the rocks on earth. Don't ask me how that works. I have no idea. But I trust NASA. It's an old rock.

We are still hoping we might see the rocket launch on the 27th of November. Even if we don't, our experience at Kennedy was already out of this world (sorry...!).

Myakka State Park

Well, it sure isn't like you can get sick of white, quartz sand beaches...nevertheless, one of our precious days in Florida took us to visit a site inland: Myakka State Park.

Saturday, November 17, 2012


This year, we decided to give Disney a pass. Last year was perfect and we didn't think we could have as much fun doing it again. Plus, doing justice to Disney is like taking on an intense full-time job for a week. I loved it, but it was daunting to think of repeating it.

So, we looked online for a bit and decided to buy a pass for SeaWorld, Aquatica and Busch Gardens. Unlike Disney, it is unlimited for 14 days. We actually found we liked that quite a bit. Instead of trying to get every bit out of fun out of one day, you can do half-days and be a bit more relaxed. 

After two great days at SeaWorld, we drove back to Orlando from Cocoa Beach to try out Aquatica, a water park run by SeaWorld. 

We had pretty low expectations, but ended up being really impressed with the park. It had a really nice layout and it was super clean. We all agreed it was the best water park we'd ever been to...

Possibly the nicest part was heated water. Most of the slides and pools were close to hot tub temperature. That's kind of my dream...

We discovered that Lukey isn't much for water slides. He tried a few, but mostly preferred to watch.

He and I watched Eric beat up on the girls in the racer slides. That's him in the green lane.

Molly, Finny and Eric went on every slide in the place.

Lukey waiting...

Our favourite thing to do was Roa's Rapids. It was an un-lazy river. You put on life jackets and there is a strong current that takes you around a long river. You can really fly. We held a bunch of family races, trying to see who could make it around the fastest. There were a couple of points I was laughing so hard that I couldn't breathe. Molly was super speedy. She knew where every single current was and could hit all the "boost" areas with flawless accuracy.

I could have done that one all day.

We would do Roa's Rapids, then do something else for a bit. Then back to Roa's Rapids.

And, because we were gluttons for punishment, when Aquatica closed at 5, we headed to SeaWorld for another hour until it closed, too.

Molly was desperate to visit the manatees...

Eric and I rode the Manta roller coaster again. Then he and Finny rode the Kraken two more times. Then they went on the Journey to Atlantis. Taking advantage of no lines at the end of the night. Classic.

I loved the roller coasters, but it also nice to stand with Molly and watch the sweet manatees gobble their romaine lettuce in the moonlight.

We love Cocoa

We spent a couple of very relaxing days down on the sand in front of our place. We pitched up our chairs and threw down the toys and Eric and I read, while the kids played.

Sand remains endlessly fascinating for all three kids...and their parents, actually. Here's Lukey sending me an abrasive love note.

Finny made some sort of bucket sculpture.

While Lukey and Molly raced to dig the deepest hole. Notice the overcast skies. Even when the sun is behind the clouds, the air temperature is nice and warm. Such a treat in November.

Finny finished her sculpture.

And the other two completed their holes. And what do you do with a giant hole? You bury yourself, of course.

And if you are a little taller, you have to dig a little deeper.

And if you were building a sculpture while your brother and sister were digging, you have to dig fast to catch up.

I have to say, Eric and I had a great time burying the kids in sand.

We contemplated leaving them there and going to a movie or something. Watching them try to get out was very entertaining. It was a personality study. Molly dug out slowly, laughing the whole time. Good thing for her that the tide wasn't coming in...she would have been a giggling goner. Finny, on the other hand, raged against the sand, punching it when it wouldn't yield. It took her less than a minute and a half. Lukey just stuck with it and got out in a reasonable amount of time.

Lukey lost patience and dug himself out first. Then, he decided to take the opportunity of immobilized sisters to play of bit of soccer between these two big posts. Look at Finny's face. She didn't appreciate being trapped and forced to submit to his will. The rest of us found it hilarious. Lukey most of all.

We did a bit of surfing to wash the sand off ourselves.

Soooo much fun!

Then dry off and more play before heading into the complex pool for a hot tub...then up to make dinner. A perfect day.