From enjoying the historic neighborhoods, cultural offerings, springs, and wildlife of North Central Florida to reveling in the incredible array of delicious food offerings, we had a blast. Best of all, we even had some very fun visits with friends.
We Could Live Here
Our Airbnb was on the edge of the historic B & B district, walking distance to downtown, and just a few blocks to the charming Duckpond neighborhood, which is brimming with adorable vintage homes. I could see us living there. Except, as Eric reminded me, we are building a tiny house in North Carolina. And we do not want a 1920s house to maintain, no matter how appealing it looks.
The Birding Is Glorious
Sweetwater Wetlands Park was only three miles from our Airbnb. The trails and the abundant birdlife drew us back several times a week. We never tired of it.
In addition to lots of birds, there are lots of alligators at Sweetwater Wetlands. People get really excited about seeing alligators. We’ve seen way too many alligators in our Florida travels, and we’re not excited about them. But here’s a mother alligator with a baby on her back, which is sort of cute, in a reptilian kind of way.
The La Chua Trail, part of vast Paynes Prairie State Preserve, was a five-mile bike ride from our apartment on the lovely Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail. The bird life is fantastic there, including an established population of the endangered Snail Kite. These picky eaters almost went extinct until they decided that the invasive apple snail is an acceptable substitute for the native apple snail.
The Gainesville Food Scene
I can’t believe how many times we ate out in Gainesville. It was GREAT. In Apalachicola, we were mostly stuck at home with our own cooking for three years, which is not a bad thing, but it’s fun to have options.
We had too many good options in Gainesville.
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Other Fun Stuff
Gainesville is a university town, which means there is always something interesting going on. South Main Station was just one mile from our Airbnb and offered frequent music events on an outdoor stage, a weekly farmers’ market, and a couple of our favorite restaurants with outdoor venues.
With lovely outdoor space for more of our favorite restaurants, Fourth Avenue Food Park was our other regular hangout. It’s also a gathering space for community events, like the Flora Fauna Festival where we met some enthusiastic entomologists from the University of Florida who offered to let us hold their creepy crawly friends.
In addition to our many, many field trips to Goodwill (to donate stuff from our RV travels) and Target (to try to find the perfect containers for Airbnb travel) we managed to squeeze in a couple of culturally enriching field trips to the museum complex affiliated with the University of Florida.
The Florida Museum of Natural History is one of the top natural history museums in the country. It’s a fantastic collection of all-things Florida.
The beautiful Harn Museum of Art is one of the largest university art museums in the South. Their vast collection of paintings from artists worldwide who have been inspired by Florida’s landscape is especially delightful.
Eight Springs In Eight Miles
We were intrigued by a kayak trip down the Santa Fe River that promised eight springs in eight miles. Just like our trip on the Ichetucknee River, we rented kayaks. But these were beat-up old kayaks, the opposite end of the spectrum from the brand new, well-maintained kayaks we rented on the Ichetucknee.
The seats were uncomfortable, the paddles were ridiculously heavy, and I didn’t realize until too late that one of the foot braces was missing in the front of the kayak. It was a long eight miles.
Most of the river was peaceful, except for the two mile run past Ginnie Springs, which is a private park. That place is wild, and not in a good way. Unless, of course, you like being on the river with hundreds of other people and loud music obliterating the sounds of nature.
Meeting Up With Friends
Our stay in Gainesville was made even better by visits from friends both old and new, all of whom we’ve serendipitously met in our travels and/or through blogging about our journeys.
Ed and Diana are now long time friends who we first met on Dauphin Island in 2016. They rented the Airbnb next door to ours, and we spent several days birding and exploring Gainesville.
Annie of WynnWorlds and Mary and Alan of Reflections Around The Campfire are new friends that we connected with through the blogging world. It’s so much fun to meet up with fellow bloggers who share a love of travel and nature..and of course, to discover how much we enjoy them in person!
Despite our best efforts and many trips to Goodwill, on the day we left Gainesville—AKA our Day of Reckoning—packing up our new Subaru didn’t quite go as planned. Even with the new car top carrier, we struggled to find room for everything.
At the last minute, we left our grill behind, figuring that wherever we’re traveling, there will be a grill available. And we donated our 20-year-old bikes to the owners of our Airbnb. We’re getting new bikes, and we don’t yet have a bike rack for the car.
Unfortunately, Magnolia’s cat tree didn’t make the cut. But Eric did bring along the basket from the top of the tree, which she continues to enjoy even though she barely fits into it.
At the moment, my feeling is that simplicity isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Maybe one of these days I’ll be writing a post about the joys and freedom of simple living, but at the moment it just feels annoying. It was so much easier to haul anything and everything we wanted with us. LOL.