Today had evidently been proclaimed The Day of Much Whining, for the children woke up full of grumpiness and sass. We pressed on, however, because of the joy set before us in the form of a continental breakfast (gratis, of course). Reading between the lines, this implies that I enjoyed much, MUCH caffeine with my yogurt and fruit.
Leaving the hotel at the leisurely hour of 9:30 or so, we wandered down to visit Sunken Gardens, improbably located in the middle of a bustling part of the city. The gardens looked cool because of all the shade, but after only a few minutes, we were all drenched.The boys were distracted from bickering by the occasional appearance of a lizard or of a parental scowl. Chris and I (we notice from reviewing the photos) apparently spent the time taking pictures of the exact same flowers from the exact same angles.
It was a lovely walk, though. It now has a small children's museum next door, and it has a tiny little gift shop, not at all what Chris had remembered from his visit years ago.
We collapsed into the car, cranked the air conditioning to "deep freeze," and hit the Sunshine Skyway, which carried us all the way across Tampa Bay and also gave Chris and I the heeby-jeebies. We had lunch in Sarasota at a Taco Bell before we drove to the Thomas Edison Winter Estate in Ft. Myers.
The TEWE is very vague about what it offers. We had tried to get some information beforehand about what the various tours entailed, but all the write-ups were a little sketchy as to what you could actually expect to see. When we got to the ticket counter, there were two tours: the full tour of the house, gardens, lab, and museum ($20/adult) or the lab and museum only ($11/adult). We weren't sure how long each tour was, so we plunked down the fee for the partial tour of the laboratory and museum.
Yeah. Never again. Let me tell you. The tour of the laboratory consisted of standing at the mouth of a long, narrow lab, filled with workbenches and paraphernalia. You could not actually enter the lab, or see anything close at hand--nope. Basically, you stood there and looked and took a few pictures, and that was it. The museum bit had a movie (LONG) about Edison's inventions, and a few exhibits, but it was mostly stuff like, "Here is Edison's desk. Here is Edison's wheelchair that he wouldn't use in public." I mean, it was all right, but very surface-level stuff. I didn't feel like I got my $11 out of it, and I would be curious to know whether the home/garden tour is any more comprehensive.
There was an awesome banyan tree out front, though, that has grown to be simply massive. There are several signs cautioning against climbing said tree, but the symbol they've chosen to use looks more like it is forbidding people to dance with palm trees. Make of that what you will.
Knowing that the day had been heavy on educational stuff and light on either junk-buying or mindless goofing off, we decided to take the boys to The Shell Factory in North Ft. Myers. The unofficial motto is "More junk under one roof than you will see in two weeks' worth of other inferior gift shops." Toy barking dogs? Got it. T-shirts with lewd sayings? Oh, yeah. Tacky seashell accessories? In every size, shape, and color. Each boy chose an item for themselves and I found some lovely freshwater pearls that I liked and were reasonable (when I die, one boy will inherit all $30 worth of pearls that I own--the lucky, lucky boy).
We had planned to partake of a Reuben and a Grouper Reuben at Captain Fishbone's Grill, right next to The Shell Factory. You could tell that a similiar mind had decorated the two (possibly a native Floridian interior designer with a sense of humor and a hangover, possibly the work of an itinerant beach bum searching for his lost shaker of salt), because there were totally-natural-and-not-at-all fake milieus of pirates and pirate lasses (oddly dressed like French mimes) grouped around shimmering plastic gold coins. In case you were slow on the uptake, big signs proclaimed, "Photo Op!!" I mean, because you could think that it was just a serious art installation.
Anyway, we got all settled into a booth in the dim and damp-smelling Cap't Fishbone's. And waited. Looked at the menu. And then realized that they only served sandwiches until 4 p.m.--and it was now 6. The waitress finally staggered to our table (that one other table of guests must have been running her ragged) and she confirmed that yes, yes, they did stop serving sandwiches at 4. So we left. Because there were only like five other entrees that weren't sandwiches and none of them looked at all appetizing.
We drove to Cape Coral in search of sustenance. Either Cape Coral is a pre-fab ghost town, or we were on the front edge of a building boom that the developers hadn't caught up with--there were simply dozens of scrumptious-looking buildings and strip malls that would seem to herald civilization and food, but they were devastatingly empty. We finally spied an Outback Steakhouse, but it was so busy that people were parking in the grass verges outside the parking lot. I don't know whether they were pouring free beer or what!
We drove and drove and drove and we were all, let me tell you, totally cheerful this whole time. Hahahahahahahaha! At long last, I spotted trees growing on a roof and cried, "Pasta straight ahead!" It was a Carabba's, cute Italianesque waiters and cold beer and lovely, lovely pasta. There was a problem with contaminated water, apparently, so Chris was denied sweet tea; but I had chicken that was ohsogood and Chris enjoyed salmon and the boys played with dough while we waited and basically, we left with our faith in Italian food intact.
By the time we got to camp, it was raining and we couldn't swim, so we went to the grocery and then mucked around with pictures and stuff until we all collapsed, totally ready for another thrilling day!