It was a good thing it rained like crazy early Wednesday morning. The rain stopped by late morning and I was wanting a walk so we looked up “Parks in Gainesville Florida” and took off for a walk before the next round of showers.
We could not find the place we were trying to get to. It’s called Loblolly Nature Center and Google Maps knew how to get us there, however when we arrived all we found was a dead end street and a pedestrian bridge. No sign about the nature center or anything. One of these days I’ll try again to find the place but on Wednesday we got sidetracked…
The story of our lives. Right?
We haven’t really given Gainesville much of a chance to impress us thus far. We tried to find the Recycled Bicycle place — which was closed and didn’t post hours. But that day we drove up, looked around a little and left. And yet it’s the home of University of Florida and the Gators — most college towns have some nice features about them and this was a chance to give it a second once-over. 🙂 I’m more impressed the second time around.
What we found was the Ficke garden and a beautiful chapel. I was a little surprised when I saw a sign that said Ficke Gardens — and saw the beautiful chapel and public celebration building but we turned on a dime to check it out.
It turns out that the ‘gardens’ are really just along a short pathway near the parking lot but it was nice to stop and see them, the chapel, and Lake Alice behind. It appears that there is more ‘garden’ planned, but not yet completed. The lake is home to numerous American Alligators and Florida Softshell Turtles.
That made us think about our need for bulk bean coffee, which reminded me of the market one of our friends mentioned to us: The Fresh Market. It turns out The Fresh Market has a branch about 2 miles from where the car was … so our search for the nature center went on the back burner and we headed off for a food exploration.
It turns out that The Fresh Market is a pretty nice place. Not cheap, mind you, but pretty nice.
- Great selection of fresh fruit.
- Wonderful deli
- Butcher shop with actual butchers
- Reasonable selection of cheeses
- Nice artisanal bread selection
Our quickly conceived plan was to pick up a salad — in this case it was a cranberry/walnut/orange version, three different artisanal cheeses, and a Sourdough Baguette with a wonderful crust and hot-foot it back home for a lunch of bread and wine and cheese.
Clearly college kids and university staff drink significant amounts of alcohol. We saw much larger and better equipped liquor stores here. that I know because I went into a couple in search of 5 Liter Franzia boxed wine. For whatever reason, Florida groceries seem to only stock 3 liter boxed wine. Go figure. The stores I checked were well stocked with smaller size containers. And a lot of variety.
Once back at home we scrambled to test out the new bread! I don’t know why we get like this but it was a hastily put together table with nothing but the basics. Open the packages, slice 1/2 a loaf of bread rounds, pour a couple glasses of wine, open up the salad container and chow down. It could be a picnic, or it could be on the dining table of the coach. Just the basics (I sound Joe Friday on Dragnet). I don’t know what it is about a really good loaf of bread with a chewy, crispy crust, and a nice slice of cheese that makes me feel so good. I’m sure there are all sorts of memory receptors that I’m triggering but all our married life these simple meals have been like seeing each other for the first time — all over again.
And, with apologies to all the wonderful things to see and do in Floriday… that was MY highlight of our stay in Florida thus far. I’m sorry. Some people might say the tropical plants were the best part, or the warm weather, but the road to my heart is found on a crispy slice of sourdough baguette with a slice of cheese and a sip of nice wine to wash it down. A side salad of any sort is nice, but as long as the bread, cheese and wine are there I’m content.
Back to our Gainesville visit. The ability to find such delicasies as good bread and great cheeses are among the reasons that we tend to like college towns as fulltime travelers. College towns bring in a diverse student population. College jobs bring in a sophisticated and travelled worker for the jobs and enrichment that academic climates offer. We can find a more sophisticated community at the expense of not-such-a-large-population as you would need to find these same services because a lot of folks had settled in that area at random (without the university to attract them).
I also think that college / university towns are more likely to offer innovation in their communities. The proximity of local government and the opportunity to offset expenses as part of a grant program bodes well for creative problem solving. One of the “problems” that needs solving in the U.S. relates to law enforcement and I think Gainesvill has something goin’ on here…
Police Service Technicians
And now it’s time for a public service announcement. We’ve seen something here in Florida that I have not noticed in any U.S. city before. What’s that, you ask?
Police Service Technicians.
The look like cops. Wear uniforms, have radios, wear those cute reflective vests and sometimes reflective gloves.
The LACK guns, handcuffs, nightsticks, tazers.
Their purpose is public service, not enforcement. They drive around (when they are driving) in cars that say Police Service Technician — and their uniform clearly identifies them as pseudo-police but they do jobs like traffic control at accident scenes, and directing traffic at construction sties. I think this is a geat idea that I’ve never seen before and wonder why it’s not used elsewhere.
These are clearly not the same as “Reserve Police Officers” — We have reserve police in Wisconsin and they have always looked to be retirees and I’ve never seen them DO much of anything. But clearly the ones here in Florida are paid employees and all of them have been young-ish — meaning in their 20’s or 30’s. I don’t know if this is a career track to Enforcement or not, but I’m well impressed.