Thursday, 6 March 2014

Sun, Sand and Swimming in Southwest Florida

After leaving Korea for good, Angela and I endured 16 hours of flying across the globe, and since the moment we got off the plane in Fort Myers we have been giddy with happiness that our next adventure is finally here. We'd been anticipating our trip to Florida for the last 9 months; even now that we've spent several days here it's hard to believe we've finally made it, that we're done with Korea, that we don't have to teach anymore, and that the sun, the beaches and the palm trees are really real.

Angela's parents have been very warm and welcoming, letting us sleep under their roof, giving us free meals, and taking us out to see the sights of Cape Coral, the city in southwest Florida where they live. We've been taking it pretty easy these first few days, mostly idling in the pool or bathing at the beach. We feel like we've earned the relax time.

I visited Florida with my family back in 1996 when I was about 10 years old. I had an amazing time, but of course the theme parks alone are enough for a child to fall in love with the place. Returning almost 20 years later, it's been interesting seeing some of the other things that stand out, some of the qualities that had been buried beneath my memories of Disney World and Universal Studios. When we first exited Fort Myers airport, something that struck us immediately was the smell: this fragrant, leafy, summery scent. We'd heard a lady mention it as she got off the plane: "Ah, you can smell that warm Floridian air!" We don't notice it quite as much now we've been here a few days, but my god, when we first arrived I was overcome by nostalgia for my last visit. It really smells like a perfect, tropical, summer day.

Another thing is the sprawl. Whenever I visit the US I'm always struck by the scale of the place, and the way establishments and roads are spread out so expansively compared to the compressed, cramped alleys and backstreets of European cities, or the overcrowded, polluted intersections of Korea. There's a downside to this, in that it makes many American cities a lot less walkable than ones back home, but frankly, after our exhaustion from overpopulated Seoul, we've found welcome relief in the the open, breezy avenues and canals of Cape Coral. Seoul is also an incredibly smoggy place, and we've been living in that smog for over a year, which has given Florida a crisp, luminous appearance to our eyes. Those palm trees really seem to be in super high-definition.

There's a bunch of other stuff that sticks out to me. The friendliness and warmth of the locals. The wide variety of food franchises that I've heard of but never tried before (Olive Garden, Chick-fil-A, Papa John's, etc). The ubiquitous "Support our Troops!" signs. The bench-ads. Also seen some interesting wildlife, including geckos, pelicans and bioluminescent jellyfish.

Here are some photos of the trip so far:

Our layover was in Detroit, Michigan, which was -10 degrees and covered in snow. Fort Myers was only a two-hour flight from here, yet completely different in climate.
Angela's parents met us at Fort Myers Airport and drove us to their house in Cape Coral. On the way we were overcome by the lush greens, the fresh air and the abundance of US flags, reminding us how far behind us Korea now was.
Florida is famous for its orange industry, and we stopped off at a citrus farm on the way home to buy some oranges, grapefruits and juice.
Crossing the bridge that connects Fort Myers to Cape Coral.
When we arrived at Angela's parents' house, Angela was greeted with great excitement by Boh-Boh the chihuahua.
Mike, Angela and Jung-Soon: a family reunited!

Cape Coral is known as a "Waterfront Wonderland," since it has more miles of canal than any other city in the world, beating even the likes of Amsterdam and Venice. Mike and Jung-Soon's house backs directly onto one of these canals.

After a good night's sleep, on our first morning in the area Angela and I went for a walk along the nearby streets, which were lined with palm trees and lovely houses.

Then we hung out in the swimming pool for a while.
There are lots of lizards and geckos that scurry around by the pool and the rocks. Some of them even make it inside the house.
After lazing around all day, we went with Angela's parents to Fort Myers Beach during the sunset.
It might be one of the nicest beaches I've been to, with pristine white sand and a cooling Gulf Coast breeze.

We went for a little stroll around the streets near the beach.

For dinner we ate at a burger joint called Ford's Garage, which is themed around Ford automobiles (you can see an old Ford Model T in the background).
On our second full day we did some more lazing around by the pool.
Then Angela and I went for a drive to Coconut Point. It was her first time driving a car in over a year and a half, and you can see how happy she was to get behind the wheel at last.
Coconut Point is an outdoor mall area where we intended to get my Nikon D-40 camera fixed. Unfortunately, even specialists we took it to couldn't open it up because the screws were too tight. No big deal. I fixed it myself when we got back home by prying it open and cleaning it out.
From Coconut Point we took a palm tree-lined backroad all the way back to Fort Myers Beach, where we had been the previous evening.

The beach was much busier during the high heat of the afternoon.

A walk along the pier.
There were fishermen at the end of the pier giving their catch to some friendly pelicans.

We hung out on the beach for a few hours, tanning and reading books, then headed home in the late afternoon.
More relaxing in the evening.
Around midnight we spent some time by the canal to watch the stars, though we became more interested in what was in the water. We kept seeing little glowing things just beneath the surface, and after some research it seems they were bioluminescent jellyfish, or possibly comb jellies. Couldn't really capture them with my camera, though you can sort of see some specks in the picture.

The stars were a little easier to catch.
Over the last couple of days we've been running some errands in preparation for our trip, and relaxing in the pool and around the house. So, not too many photos to post. However, my mum's coming to visit very soon, as is Angela's aunt, and we should be doing some more interesting activities once they're here.


  1. Wow, so you've finally made it! And to Florida no less. So jealous! Really nice Pictures which reminded me of my recent trip to the States (West Coast) and another trip to Florida in 2011. It Looks like a good place to relax after such a stressful time in Korea...
    It was great to read about your last days in South Korea. 16months is a Long time but it seems like you 2 have lived life to the fullest! :D And it feels like we (blog Readers) are a part of it since you've documented everything so well. I'm excited for your next adventures! ;) Enjoy the rest of your Holiday in Florida!
    I'll arrive in South Korea on 14th April... already excited too! I'll be working as a volunteer in a Hostel in Hongdae. Hope I'm gonna have as much fun as you 2 had.
    Many regards from spring-like Europe!

    1. Sorry I only just noticed your comment! Thanks so much for your kind words. I'm glad you've enjoyed reading my blog posts.
      It's so awesome that you're going to South Korea. I miss that place already! I hope you have an awesome time there. :)