Day 20 – De Soto National Memorial Park & Sarasota

Got up at 08:00 and did the blog. After breakfast at the villa we headed off to the De Soto National Memorial Park which commemorates the landing of Spanish explorer Hernando De Soto and an army including over 600 soldiers, 220 horses, a herd of pigs and war dogs at Tampa Bay in 1539. They arrived in 9 ships with orders from King Charles V of Spain to conquer, populate and pacify the land known then as La Florida. The truth was that De Soto’s personal objective was in fact looking for treasure like they had found previously in Peru and Mexico. The expedition which lasted for 4 years and covered over 4000 miles of Southeastern America was a total failure which cost the lives of De Soto himself and over 300 of his men and all the horses as well as hundreds of native Americans through fighting, enslavement and the diseases which the Spanish Conquistadors brought with them such as Smallpox, Chicken Pox and Measles to which the locals had no immunity against. They found no actual treasure but what they did find was the richness of the land in La Florida which became the journey’s enduring legacy. The visitor centre itself was interesting and after we watched a short film about the expedition I got the chance to try on some of the equipment worn by the Conquistadors. I tell you I will never complain about carrying a camera bag again – the helmet weighed a ton. The park ranger told us that the Mosquitos would get under the rim and cover their faces in bites! After a few serious photographs we went for a walk around the park which was very pleasant although we saw very little wildlife apart from the obligatory flying fish and squirrels and a lone turtle. It was well worth the visit, although on reflection I am not sure who looks the most silly – me wearing the hat or Jan holding hands with a cardboard Indian! After all that culture and exercise it was time to get back to reality and head off to Hooters as Jan had a shopping list from people at her work and I was in need of some breasts (Chicken ones of course). The standard of service and friendliness of the staff was as good as ever and we ended up spending a nice long lunch in there. Eventually Jan managed to drag me kicking and screaming out of there and we headed off to Sarasota. On the way we stopped off at Sara Bay Marina as Jan wanted to see the Floating Chapel. This is in fact a chapel built on a boat and every Sunday it heads out to sea with 100 good people on board for the Morning Service – only in America! From there we parked up at the Bayfront in Sarasota where we had our picture taken in front of the giant sculpture of the sailor kissing the nurse and then we went for a very pleasant walk around the Marina itself. There were some expensive boats there to admire but what was really nice was the friendliness of the people especially the ones with dogs. We stopped and talked to a number of people and on top of that the weather was wonderful – we just didn’t want to leave. From there we headed off to St Armand’s Circle and a final ice cream float at Kilmin’s. As we had eaten such a large lunch we decided to eat in at the villa for dinner so we stopped off at Publix for the final time to get something to eat. Jan cooked a nice meal and then we watched a film we had bought earlier The Lake House starring Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock. We both really enjoyed it even though the story was complicated. Tomorrow we are going to start packing (sob sob) and then later on head back to the beach for a final spot of sunbathing.

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