Tuesday, February 16, 2010

North Florida's Best Kept Secrets

I lived in Florida for more than twenty years growing up, and I had plenty of preconceived notions of the place that I called home. Yet, I never noticed the beautiful red blooms of the "nosie trees" in the Spring. I never visited the beaches in North Florida. And I had no idea that there were a great deal of incredible old Plantations open to visitors.

Plantations are places where many attrocities took place in the time of slavery. But, like concentration camps, if we divert our attention, thinking only happy thoughts, we will only see half of the picture. We will never know a place for what it is, until we look at where it has come from. Examining the roots - and core - of a tree give us a much better idea of what it has been through over the years. The same is true of places.

The Kingsley Plantation of North Florida was run by a free black woman and her slave-driving husband. And in addition to it's sad, but rich history, it's beautiful beyond words. It's a little piece of old Florida, set on the Timucuan Preserve, amidst many miles of wetlands and acres and acres of gorgeous old oak trees. It's so pristine that it looks as though it could have been the setting for an old tarzan movie.

Needless to say, I was in heaven. We toured remnants of century-old coquina slave quarters, completed the park's Junior Ranger program, and lost all control in their souvenir/book shop.

And that was just a tiny part of our day. We spent some time on Jacksonville's sandy white beaches, ate crab legs at Joe's crab shack, and got super silly on the deck of Joe's Crab Shack as we joined dozens of strangers in a little line dance. What a fun day!

Thanks to my Aunt Beth, Uncle Jim, and cousins Austin and Kathryn for a wonderful weekend, none of which would have been possible without my sister Jessie (who picked us up from the airport and brought us up to Jacksonville). We loved every minute of it. From bouncing around on your oversized trampoline, to swinging in your hamock and walking through your neighborhood (yes, neighborhood!) wetlands. So, so much fun.

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