Florida scenery is a little monotonous. There are, for example, no mountains or deserts, and thus no canyons or waterfalls. But there is a lot of Black swans in Lakeland water, including bays and beaches, quiet rivers and murky swamps, and fountains with a tall vertical stream of water surrounded by a curving sheet at the bottom. There are also lots of trees, from stocky palmettos to citrus orchards to majestic royal palms and stately oaks with wisps of Spanish moss.
All of this is very well, and an extra pleasure is lots of big birds - egrets and ibises and herons white and blue. We saw some sandhill cranes in a field crowded with other species of birds and a few cows, and most impressively, the beautiful lakes of Lakeland, filled with black swans, white swans, and a couple of mottled swans. Around the lake in front yards of offices and homes were giant gaily painted ceramic swans. Does anyone know where this painted animal habit originated?
Also in Lakeland is Florida Southern College, with 18 Frank Lloyd Wright buildings -- a veritable glut. He designed them starting in 1938, but the Frank Lloyd Wright chapel project was finished by his student architects. We're not great Wright fans -- he's too cold and geometric for our taste -- and this college did not change our minds. We were the only tourists in sight dutifully photographing the campus.
Lakeland is close to Tampa, which was put on the map by Henry Plant, who was laying his railroads down the west coast as Henry Flagler laid his down the east. In an orgy of competition, Plant designed a sprawling moorish style luxury hotel and invited royalty from all over the world for the grand opening. The crescents on top of the metallic minarets are unusual, but these days the Homeland Security Department is probably suspicious of the Islamic connotations. The hotel is now the home of the University of Tampa.
If you can find a non-chain restaurant these days, it's apt to be interesting. Lupton's Buffet in Tampa was filled with big good-old-boys in bib Plant's former luxury hotel overalls and full-size pickups. They came to eat seriously, partaking of barbecued chicken, ribs, meat loaf, accompanied by beans, greens, potatoes, gravy, salads, fruits, cakes, ice cream and strawberry shortcake. Lunch was $7, all you can eat, including coffee or iced tea. Out back was a stainless steel barbecue cooker, along with two large delivery trucks -- Lupton's apparently does an even bigger business catering. It's on Busch Boulevard.
Naples is an upscale place, and the Chop City Grill is an upscale restaurant, but unlike many such, it had excellent food and equally good service. It's on Fifth Avenue South. We entertained a cousin and her friend and enjoyed steak, pork porterhouse, as well as two kinds of fish. We'd be happy to return.