It is crap being back in the UK. From the moment I touched down at Gatwick Airport it was raining, and the situation hasn't changed much over the last week. So in a way it was rather cathartic to put together this post about a trip that Clare and I did whilst in America - it meant I got to see some sunshine again, albeit rather two dimensional sunshine.
Anyway, I digress. For out day out in America, we decided to visit 'Bok Tower Gardens'.
"What the blazes is Bok Tower Gardens?" I hear you cry.
Well, let me explain. In 1863 a bloke called Edward Bok (opens in new window) was born and when he was 6, his whole family moved to America.With him of course, otherwise that would be child cruelty.
Then, after growing up, Bok turned out to be a combination of a 'clever dick' and 'philanthropist'. As an Editor, his magazine 'The Ladies Home Journal' became the most influential publication in the US. As if that wasn't enough, he championed social causes, and strove for world peace (sounds like an applicant in 'Miss World' if you ask me, just needs to add that he loves children).
And the cherry on the cake was a place called 'Bok Tower Gardens'. Bok created the beautiful paradise gardens so that he could bequeath them to the people of America, as a thank you for the opportunities the country had given him (cue - chuck up).
I don't know about you, but if I had that much cash lying around, I would be buying myself a gin palace staffed by scantily clad men, not spunking it on a few bushes.
Anyway, that's where Clare, Jody (Clare's bloke), and I went for the day - the magnificent Bok Tower Gardens. And because I am like Mother Theresa, except that I don't help as many small children, I have got some (a lot) of pictures for you. So many, it put me off writing the post for a while. I'm easily distracted in the face of largish tasks.
Map 1 The journey from Clermont to Bok Tower Gardens
Vid.No.1 Driving to Bok Tower Gardens - our first glimpse of the tower (17 seconds)
Pic.No.1 This is the entrance to Bok Tower Gardens. The place was awash with bingo warriors
Pic.No.2 A flower (sorry Masher, I know you don't like flowers)
Pic.No.3 But this was cool - a bee in a flower
Pic.No.4 A flower bed
Pic.No.5 That big green thing is me outside the entrance
Pic.No.6 The inner courtyard of the entrance building - tres Mediterranean dahlink
Pic.No.7 The inner courtyard had a fountain as well
Pic.No.8 And I found this really cool flower. The colours were better than a painting
Pic.No.9 Edward Bok liked to include weird specimens in his garden collections
Pic.No.10 This was a bowl of cacti with the inner courtyard behind
Pic.No.11 In the Visitor's Centre, there was a mock-up of Edward Bok's desk, with a quotation next to it saying: "An institution is the lengthened shadow of one man." It was a bit profound for my liking. But I like the definition of 'institution' when used in relation to the word pub
Pic.No.12 This was a picture of Edward Bok's grandmother (nice ear-muffs Granny). She was the cheesy one of the family because she said to Edward, "Make you the world a bit better or more beautiful because you have lived in it." It's because he listened to chuff like that, that he ended up with a nice back garden and not a private yacht
Pic.No.13 The centrepiece of the gardens was a bloody great carillon tower, and you could see a model of it in the Visitor's Centre, above. In case you were wondering what a carillon was, it's a bloody huge piano-like instrument, but unlike a piano, when you press the keys, the bells in the tower ring. If you ever wanted to pimp your piano, you would end up with a carillon
Pic.No.14 And finally we headed out from the Visitor's Centre into the gardens themselves. This was me. I was a human sundial and as you can see, it was 2 o'clock
Pic.No.15 We went into a hide to view the wildlife in a nearby pond. A Ranger pointed out a squirrel to us, and I told her that in England, they are viewed as vermin and are killed
Pic.No.16 Now this was cool. A 1930s Mediterranean villa called 'Pinewood Estate' had been built in Bok Gardens. An industrialist called Austin Buck used to live there
Pic.No.17 Pinewood Estate was designed to nestle inconspicuously within the rich Florida vegetation
Pic.No.18 The main entrance to the Pinewood Estate. As you can see by the plaque, it was on the 'National Register of Historic Places'
Pic.No.19 A colourful fountain in the Pinewood Estate courtyard
Pic.No.20 Hark, who is that making the world a more beautiful place?
Pic.No.21 A Mediterranean tiled bench was a feature of the garden, and you can see the Pinewood Villa behind
Pic.No.22 Look at these crazy bat-shit flowers!
Pic.No.23 They had these funny shaped trees in Bok Tower Gardens
Pic.No.24 "Look at that bloke next to that pond," I shouted to Clare. "That's not a bloke, that's St Francis," she said. Either way, he was wearing a mental dress and had a bad hairdo
Pic.No.25 A notable feature of Bok Tower Gardens was that it was created atop Florida's highest Peak. This meant that there were fabulous vistas to peak at through the gaps in the trees
Pic.No.26 Lots of the trees had this weird grey shit hanging from them. Apparently it was moss, but it sure can look eery
Pic.No.27 As we climbed further up the hill, we encountered this fountain. I say fountain, but it didn't have any water in it, so it was more of a patio
Pic.No.28 And then we got our first glance of the centrepiece of the gardens - the Carillon Tower (also known as the singing tower)
Pic.No.29 We headed towards the tower, following the beautiful paths that wound their way through the gardens
Pic.No.30 Would you like extra cheese with that?
Pic.No.31 Then we emerged at the base of the tower. Look at that amazing Great Brass Door. And you can see a white square of flowers just under the door? That is where Edward Bok was planted
Pic.No.32 The tower was extensively detailed using a weird pink coloured stone
Pic.No.33 The gardens were filled with exotic flora and fauna
Pic.No.34 Architecturally, the tower was pretty amazing
Pic.No.35 It was covered in stunning carvings which were mainly at the top so you couldn't really see them. But we did hear the carillon being played at 3pm. It was like elaborate bell ringing
Pic.No.36 This was me being arty. It's the singing tower reflected in a pond. See what I did there? (touches side of nose in a knowing fashion)
Pic.No.37 These were the wrought iron gates leading to the entrance of the carillon tower. I included them to try and balance out all the flowery crap
Pic.No.38 We fed the Koi Carp in the pond at the base of the tower. Totally amazing - they were like goldfish that had eaten all the pies
Pic.No.39 This was my last picture of the tower. And that dahlink was Bok Tower Gardens. I am not much into tree-hugging and stuff, but I have to say that it was an inspirational and amazingly picturesque place to visit. So get yourself over to Lake Wales
Pic.No.40 Another cool thing about Bok Tower Gardens was that it's situated in the middle of the orange groves - rows and rows of trees heaving under the weight of their oranges, and you have to drive past them all. I was tempted to partake in a bit of 'scrumping' but was rather daunted by the scale of task, so I decided to give it a miss
As we started to headed home, I shouted to Clare and Jody, "all that towers and fishy stuff has made me hungry."
"You wanna try some authentic deep south cuisine?" Jody asked me.
"Is it lardy with a lard dressing, and a lard side?" I asked him.
"What does that mean?" Jody asked.
"Is it healthy?" I replied.
"Nope," he said.
"Let's go!" I hollered, and before long we pulled into a carpark.
Pic.No.41 Let me introduce you to 'Freds Southern Kitchen' - purveyors of traditional Southern cuisine, just like granny used to make when she wasn't in her rocking chair on the porch
Pic.No.42 The food was bloody marvellous, if not the healthiest option in the world. There was a huge buffet with things like pulled pork, sourthern friend chicken, macaroni cheese, BBQ beans, corn bread .... and the list goes on and on
So dahlink, that was my day trip to Bok Tower Gardens. What on earth have you been up to this weekend and last week? Pray, give me an update.