Sunday, May 19, 2019

Family, Friends, Flagler, Fun in Florida

We have been busy around the condo slowly making it feel more like our place. (More on that in the next post.) With the place shaping up, we decided it was time for more guests. We've also tried a couple new restaurants and are enjoying the local music scene with family and friends.
We had our first dinner party with our Stuart best friends George and Nan whom we met at Betty's. They also just bought a condo this year not far from us and we have had a lot of fun together. Nanc made her famous linguine with clam sauce seafood pasta dinner and it was a huge hit.
We invited Nanc's sister Michelle and her husband Keith to come down for a visit. Unfortunately, he could not make it so Mike flew down by herself. We tried to give her the full South Florida whirlwind tour, starting with a stop on Worth Avenue to see how the 1% lives. Here are Nanc and Mike on the beach in Jupiter.
On Sunday we headed to downtown Stuart for Rock'n Riverwalk, a weekly event with a farmers market and live music. Check out the beautiful tree by the market. Having flowers blooming year round is one of the great things about living in South Florida.
Of course the ladies had to do a bit of shopping. I caught Mike with money in hand buying a much needed new purse. They also hit several of the local shops.
The band this week was Micah Scott Project and they had the riverwalk rock'n. What a great venue for a concert overlooking the St. Lucie River. 
We were glad she was here and we have an extra seat for Keith on the next visit. Being able to comfortably dine outside on the water is another great thing about our new home. 
We even have birds to entertain us at every turn. This one seemed to be waiting for a handout (a big no no) while keeping an eye on the water for a meal.
Monday we went to Jensen Beach to do more shopping and these two could not resist the chance to sit in the big chair.
We finally made it to Bathtub Reef on Hutchinson Island. The last time we tried we could not get a parking place because it was still high season. It's a neat area with a reef you can walk to at low tide and a nice beach for walking. As you can see it was a beautiful day behind us looking north....
....but looking south these ugly storm clouds were quickly blowing in. You sure don't want to be on the beach during a storm as Florida is the state that has the highest number of people killed by lightening in the country.
We saw this pillow in a shop on Worth Avenue, but resisted buying it while we had a guest with us. Tuesday, the day Mike was scheduled to leave turned into one of those "If the world gives you lemons, make lemonade", kind of days. We were all up early, ready to drive Michelle to the Palm Beach Airport when she got a message that her 11:00 AM Jet Blue flight was delayed until 1:00. That was okay we would just hang out at home a bit longer. Before we left the condo the delay was extended two more hours so we decided we could go to lunch on the way to the airport. That four hour delay became six so we had time to tour the Henry Morrison Flagler Museum and one last lunch in West Palm Beach, making the best of a bad travel day for Mike.
Whitehall the 75 room, 100,000 square foot winter home of Henry Flagler was built as a gift for his third wife in 1902. They only spent six or seven weeks a year here. It was built in only 18 months and included all the modern conveniences, indoor plumbing, central heating, electricity, phones and more that were available at the time.
Henry Flagler made his fortune as one of the founders of Standard Oil. In the 1880's he came to Florida because of his wife's ill health. Seeing the potential he built the 540 room Hotel Ponce de Leon in St Augustine. He bought a small local railroad and over the years turned it into the Florida East Coast Railway which eventually became the Over-Seas Railroad going all the way to Key West. When he found St. Augustine could be chilly in the winter he built another hotel in Palm Beach in 1894. 
Whitehall is a classic example of the homes of the wealthy during the Gilded Age. The first floor has a huge grand foyer, library, music room (above), billiards hall, breakfast room, dining room, grand ball room and a parlor all to entertain guests.
The billiards room was were the men gathered to smoke and discuss business. It was one of only two rooms with a cuspidor as Mrs. Flagler did not like the habit.
The 3,200 square foot Grand Ball Room was the second largest room after the foyer.
After the Flaglers both died, an eleven story, 250 room hotel was built onto Whitehall. The hotel was open from 1925 to 1959. This was the lobby of the hotel. 
The dining hall was not large enough to accommodate all the guests who stayed in the 12 guest rooms. Only Flagler's best friends ate here while others were transported to his nearby hotel that had a huge dining room. I guess he knew how to let people know where they stood with him.
The parlor with a baby grand piano that was built especially for Mrs. Flagler who loved music. The music room also had a pipe organ. 
Several of the rooms have painted ceilings of Greek and Roman gods. The trim around this painting was aluminum leaf which was more expensive at the time than gold leaf.
Three of the second floor guest rooms which were facing east to get the warm morning sun. Each room was decorated with a different theme.
Nanc and Michelle in the Flagler's master suite. It was on the Southwest corner so it would get the winter sun for most of the day.
The master bath had it all; double bowl sink, toilet, tub and shower. There was even a phone on the opposite wall.
The servants had rooms on the second and third floors. Some were staff who traveled with the Flagers as they moved to each of their four houses each year. Others were permanent staff who stayed at Whitehall to maintain the property. 
In 2005 a pavilion was built to house Henry's personal rail car #91. This was the car he traveled to Key West in when the Over-Seas Railroad was completed in 1912.
When Whitehall was built the view across Lake Worth was of the Everglades. Today it is West Palm Beach and a marina for yachts. Believe it or not these were not the biggest yachts we saw docked here. 
We had a little more time to kill before going to the airport so we did a drive by of Mar-a Lago Club, the winter retreat for the rich and famous including President Trump. This was as close as we could get without activating the alarm for the secret service. We had a great visit with Michelle and feel like our new home is a welcoming place for friends and family.
On Friday evening we had one last get together with George and Nan before they head to Connecticut for the summer. We went to Terra Fermata, a great local music venue we discovered last year. It is outdoor and they only serve drinks. We went across the street and got Thai takeout for dinner and got to hear two great bands, The Shakers and Blues Beatles. It was a fun evening and we are already planning for our return next fall.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Tallahassee - Capitol - Friend - Foe

On our way from Abbeville to Stuart we spent an extra day in Tallahassee to see a former colleague and add the Florida capitol building to our visited list. We also had a unusual encounter at the Moose lodge where we stayed.
Florida Welcomes You  - I'm not so sure.
We have traveled all over the United States and Canada since July 2007. We have met hundreds if not thousands of people and have always been made to feel instantly welcome. Generally, they ask our names and that is usually followed with, “Where are you from?” We always saw Pittsburgh and then explain that we now travel full time in our RV. The conversation then turns to stories about our travels and places that our new friends have visited. Well, as you can see on the sign above, we are back in what will soon be our home state. We stayed for the first time at a Moose Lodge in Tallahassee. As we normally do when we stay at a club, we went into the bar for a drink. There were two people at the bar who introduced themselves and asked where we were from. When we said Pittsburgh they responded, “Oh, maybe we can forgive you for that.” I was a bit taken aback but the conversation turned to stories about our travels and we learned they have been to Cajun Louisiana so we talked about places we had all been. After a few minutes I had to ask what they disliked about Pittsburgh, thinking they must hate the Steelers or something like that. Well, it wasn't that. It turns out they said they did not like Pittsburgh because it was north of the Mason Dixon Line. REALLY?? That response left me in a very unusual position, I was speechless. You don't like someone or someplace you have never visited because it is in a part of the country that your long dead relatives fought against and lost? All I could do was shake my head and move on. I really feel sorry for people who have such a narrow view of the world. Sure hope this is not a reflection of all the people in our new home state.
Jim, Jane, Tom and Nanc at dinner. I worked with Jane in Washington and we were both very active on the union negotiating team. We spent many hours together working to get fair contracts for the staff. Her daughter works at Florida State University, so Jane and her husband Ron moved to Tallahassee a few years ago. Last year Ron passed away so we wanted to make sure we stopped to see Jane. Tom is her brother-in-law who just moved to Tallahassee. We had a great dinner and enjoyed getting caught up with all we have been doing. 
Florida is the 37th capitol we have toured. The new capitol, a 22 story high-rise, was completed in 1977. It is one of only four state capitols that are skyscrapers. After much discussion, it was decided that part of the old capitol that was built in 1845 and expanded several times would be left in place and used as a museum.
This shows how the old capitol was expanded in 1902, 1922 and 1947, then reduced to its 1902 size in 1982. It is interesting that the state capital is almost 500 miles from Florida's largest city Miami. When Tallahassee was chosen as the site of the capital in 1824, it was about half way between the two biggest cities, Jacksonville and Pensacola. 
We always love seeing people demonstrating about the issues when we are visiting the capitols. This is democracy at work. The legislature was in session but no business was being conducted in the chambers the day we were there. 
The first stop is the gallery on the 22nd floor which offers a great view of the city. This is looking down on city hall.
One of the things that really impressed us was all the trees you see out in the city. Jane told us that any developer who removes trees must plant an equal number elsewhere in the city. Great idea.
The Florida House of Representatives chamber. The House has 120 members who are elected to two year terms. Members can only serve eight years and then must sit out two years. If they are elected again they start over with no seniority. The portraits are of Speakers of the House. When a new Speaker is elected the last one on the right is removed and sent to the museum.  All the others are moved over one space and the new portrait is hung in the first spot. 
The murals on the walls of the House floor, painted by Christopher Still, are four of the ten that were put up starting in 2001. They depict scenes of Florida history from the earliest people to the space program. Here is a link to an article about the murals. I find it strange that the murals are on the walls of the House floor, a place that is used only sixty days a year and where few people are allowed to venture.
The Florida Senate Chamber. The Senate has 40 members who are elected to four year terms in staggered years based on the year being divisible by four, so even and odd numbered districts are elected in different years. Due to court ordered redistricting, all forty members were up for election in 2016. By far the craziest system I have ever heard of. 
Like the House, the portraits of the Presidents of the Senate are moved around the chamber when a new one is elected. The glass enclosed area is for the press.
The great seal of the state of Florida depicts the state tree, Sabal palm, a Seminole woman spreading flowers, a ship coming into port and, of course, the state's famous sunshine.
In the Plaza Level are a number of exhibits honoring different Floridians. This display honors those who have earned the Congressional Medal of Honor. I never realized that each branch of the military, Army, Navy and Air Force has a different medal.
In the hall leading to the offices of the Governor and Lt. Governor are portraits of recent governors. On the same level are exhibits honoring Florida women, fallen firefighters, artists, law enforcement officers and civil rights leaders.  
On the floor of the rotunda is the state seal surrounded by seals of the five major powers that ruled the state, the United States, France, Spain, the United Kingdom and the Confederate states.
On the walls of the balcony in the rotunda are the Florida Facts that we need to learn about our new home state.
The fountain in Waller Park on the capitol grounds celebrates the state's official wildlife, dolphins, with a 50 foot stainless steel sculpture.
Beautiful stained-glass in the dome above the rotunda of the old capitol. The pattern is based on glass fragments that were found during the demolition of part of the building.
There are several exhibits of various Florida historical events about civil rights, one person one vote and this one about the infamous 2000 presidential election between Gore and Bush. The election in Florida was won by Bush by a little over 500 votes making him the president. 
The old capitol had all three branches of the government under one roof. This was the Supreme Court Chamber. 
The old House of Representative Chamber.
All of the windows in the old capitol that received direct sunlight had these colorful awnings from the 1890's to the 1920's. Because of the red and white awnings people referred to the building as the ice cream parlor.
The old Senate Chamber.
Monument to the Vietnam veterans is across the street from the capitol. This was an interesting tour made even more interesting by the fact we will soon become official residents of the Sunshine State.

We have been enjoying our time in our new home in Stuart. We have been adding some personal touches to the condo and learning more about our new hometown.