Searching for the nearest Hampton (part of the Hilton family of hotels), and also one of the cleanest, well-modelled, and quaintly furnished of the moderately priced inns, we were grateful to sink into the arms of sleep, and to slumber in a well-made boxspring mattress bed, in a perfectly temperate room, though not before exploring the grounds.

A gecko darts past a small, flowering cactus; springing into action, his so quick that his next resting area is totally lost on me; his hotel an outdoor oasis of peaceful solitude, interrupted only by the light traffic on the side streets, the whir and buzz of bees, the, soft breeze that gently lifts the leaves, the quiet din of human voices, and the occasional rainfall in what would otherwise be the eternal sunshine state. A butterfly or two flits past, seeming to join the tiny lizard, possibly, on a nearby shrub, seeking shade beneath a towering, jewel-toned, fuchsia pink bougainvillea.

Although on this trip, Florida was something of a passing fancy, a short-lived boyfriend, lasting only a handful of dates, and gone in less than sixty seconds, the memory of this vacation--unlike those less-than-memorable boyfriends--was more meaningful than the amount of time spent in this dreamy state. 

I felt I was viewing Florida through a photographic filter, which would have been aptly named Dream.  The wave of immediate welcome the warmth of this bright, beautiful place. 

Upon leaving the sunshine state, this feeling of Florida lingers. That makes all the difference. (by AVS)

 

Florida:

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There's a feeling that certain places leave me with that gives me a sense of longing and comfort, like a song that you remember was playing on the radio while counting the blue and red cars that drove past miles and miles of rows upon rows of corn fields, which were also counted until the end of the journey. Similarly, a childhood event as simple as playday, recess, playing hopscotch, tag in the park, or collecting acorns. Something about these journeys became a way to idealize an idyllic childhood. 

Certain places have it. Some places don't.

 

With warm tones of citrus that pop of persimmon, tangelos, mandarins, tangerines, and, of course, oranges, Florida has it.

 

Something about the immediate wave of warmth that lifts your spirits and makes you feel like you're in a daydream that you don't want to fall asleep during.

 

Florida is a place that can't wipe the smile from your face.

The difference between it and other places is that, upon entering the sunshine state, there's a wonderment and disbelief, a questioning: "Am I really here? Does this place really exist?" The warm and fuzzier rush over me. In a way that other places never seem to have--in the spring and summer seasons, no matter how hot or how humid, how dry, or how arid--Florida possesses this authentic welcoming feeling. 

Picturesque cranes, majestic birds, dipping their feet daintily in the occasional pool or wetlands, tickling their toes amongst the leafy and lush surroundings of their habitat. Cabbage palms dot the landscape as the car whizzes past, anxious to get us to our destination.

 

 Just passing through

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