Sunday 11 September 2016

"My escape is to just get in a boat and disappear on the water."

When planning a trip to Orlando it is easy to get caught up in the big attractions and commercial side that it is so well known for. Although there is nothing wrong with this it is important to know that there is a lot more to this beautiful part of the world and you can find out all you need to know through Visit Orlando. If you venture further out from the main tourist area you are rewarded with picturesque scenery and really interesting plants and wildlife.

For the first morning of our awesome family holiday, I had booked us an adventure in Winter Park. I am ashamed to say that I had done no research about where we were going and had based the outing on the fact that we planned on eating at Ethos, and it was in the same area. We had visited winter park during our last holiday to Orlando and driving through residential areas to get there, after going from highway to highway, gave us the chance to see a completely different side to our holiday destination.

Enter Charlie, a really sweet guy who after getting in his boat gave us an amazing tour of the beautiful lakes surrounding the idyllic suburban city, courtesy of Winter Park Scenic Boat tours. As we looked out on lake Osceola I thought 'Wow! this is beautiful but how are they going to make this trip last an hour?'. Had I have researched the tour I'd have found out that we would also be out on lake Virginia and lake Mizell which were connected by cool picturesque canals covered by cypress trees and other interesting plants.

As Charlie narrated the journey you couldn't help but hang off his every word. The story of the history of the lakes and its residents was fascinating and it was a really educational trip for the boys which was a huge added bonus for us. The architecture in the area was beautiful and there were so many stories being told about the people and families that have made Winter park the area it is today.

What stuck out for me the most was the story of the restoration of Capon house. A huge historic building for winter park that was set to be demolished before being saved by the local community. Charlie explained how the property had been cut in half and transported from one side of lake to the other via barge in two journeys so that it could continue to be a part of the historic area. I would have loved to have been there to watch that. The story had us watching videos of the move on YouTube that evening and it was fascinating.

The trip wasn't all about the architecture and its caring community though. We also learnt a lot about the nature surrounding the area and the plant life growing on the edges of the waterways. The most interesting to hear about was the resurrection fern that when subject to the sun and hot weather, shrivels, goes brown and looks pretty dead but as soon as it rains is completely rejuvenated.

There was a moment during the tour where the boys were hoping that Charlie was going to take the boat up this ramp, thankfully though we stayed on the water and continued listening to the story.

Despite all of the beautiful scenery, interesting architecture and fascinating nature, Opeie was loving these floating in the water and wanted to know what 'No Wake' meant. I had absolutely no idea until I had googled it. Clearly I have not spent much time on the water.

There really was so much to see during our hour on the lakes and I could have happily gone round again. It's great coming to Florida, the home of Mickey Mouse but if you take time to look at the historic side of Florida you'll find real Beauty and a more organic side to a holiday destination that will continue to drag in huge crowds. Charlie and the staff really made the visit and it's always great to be made to feel so welcome.

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