Monday, March 27, 2017

Brownwood–the newest area of The Villages


Stage at Paddock Square in Brownwood


There was one more area of The Villages that we hadn’t been to yet, so on Friday we met up with Mark and Janie for another tour.

First, they took us to see their Villa Home, which they maintain as a rental property.  The Villas are more like condos – with less square footage and smaller yards, but still really nice, especially as a rental.




From there, we made our way down to Brownwood, which is the newest Town Square area – it’s marketed as Old Florida with a touch of Michigan.  All the streets are named after cites in Michigan.

Riding in style!

The town square is not quite full yet, but it’s really cute, with a country theme – even the movie theatre,

Cool Theatre

and the sales office.

Sales Center at Brownwood

Cow theme











The recreation center in this area is the Eisenhower Recreation Center,

Eisenhower Recreation Center

and that was our next destination.

Eisenhower Recreation Center

As I think I mentioned before, each recreation center has a theme – this one is military-themed, and it’s stunning. 



All branches of the Armed Forces are represented, but as a Navy Mom, I found myself continuously drawn to the Navy memorabilia.



As you walk through the front door, your eyes are drawn to the life-sized models of service men and women on display on the 2nd level.


In the Lobby

Ike Sailor


We recently found out that Nicolas will be assigned to the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier when he completes his training next month, so it was particularly emotional for me to see the many bits of “Ike” memorabilia.

I need one of these!

He needs to get me one of those buttons!

CVN69 – Nicolas’ ship

There it is - Nicolas' Ship



Each Room in the recreation center was filled with military memorabilia, all of which was donated by residents of The Villages.

Navy Uniform Brochures

Lots of memorabilia












Even the chairs are cool!











It was like walking through a museum, so beautiful . . . even the furniture stayed in the military theme!



This Japanese flag was captured at Iwo Jima, and was signed by each of the service members who were there.

Japanese Flag captured at Iwo Jima

The floor in the main ballroom was really beautiful!

Decorative Inlay in the wood floor

The recreation center is named for President Eisenhower, and there are portraits of him throughout,

President Eisenhower

as well as bits and pieces of his life.  He was a painter, and painted these portraits of Washington and Lincoln.

Presidential Portraits

We really enjoyed our visit to this recreation center, and are glad Mark & Janie included it in our tour.

Our last stop of the day was the Rohan Recreation Center. 

We checked out the outdoor areas first.  Like all of the recreation centers, there is a pool and various sports fields,

Bocci Ball

Bocci Courts

Pickleball Courts (Check out the height of those fences, Bryce – even you probably wouldn’t hit over the top of those!)

Pickleball Courts

and an outdoor fitness center.

Tom and Mark had to try out a few of the machines!

Outdoor Fitness Center

Mark & Tom trying it out











This looks like trouble!!

Two hamsters on a wheel

Next up was the rowing machine.

Rowing Machine

Tom made it look easy, but Mark  said he was going to feel this one the next day!!

Mark says he's going to feel this tomorrow!

The theme of this recreation center is the history of The Villages.  As you walk in the front door, your eye is drawn to the ceiling, where there is a huge mural of the community.

Murals on the ceiling

Ceiling Mural











Displays throughout this recreation center chronicle the development of The Villages – from a single 55+ mobile home park to the 35 square mile all-encompassing retirement paradise . . . which is continuing to expand!

The founding families

Founding Family

In the ballroom, we studied the annual aerial photographs that show how the community has grown and filled in over the years.  It was really interesting to see.

While Mark & I studied the photos, Tom and Janie were taking a break!

Taking a break

That wrapped up a long afternoon of touring, and we were all starving!  It was well past dinner time!  We headed over to Sumter Landing for dinner, where the Mini Cooper Car Club was having a car show.

While we waited for our table, we checked out the little cars!

Mini Cooper Club in the Square












One that embraces its British heritage, and a couple of vintage Minis.

British version



Vintage 1967

We enjoyed a delicious dinner, and called it a night after that – it was another great day in The Villages!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Mount Dora–I could live here!

Mt. Dora



Back at Santee, the Refuge Manager had told us to make sure we visited Mount Dora, so we kept it on our list of places to go while we’re here visiting The Villages.

I heard about a Vintage RV Show that was taking place at the Flea Market last weekend, so we made plans to head that way on Sunday.  Renninger’s Flea Market was south of town, and there was a Catholic Church just down the road, so that was our first destination.

We arrived at the Flea Market after mass, and it was very crowded!

There was supposed to be a vintage RV Show!

We walked through the inside part, and that was pretty typical of all the Flea Markets in Florida – not much new to see there!  Then we headed outside, and this area of the flea market was pretty unique . . . oh, there was the typical “garage sale” booths,

I'm not sure what he thought he'd find in there!

but there was also a nursery,

Mt. Dora Flea Market

and chickens,



and an Artist’s Village.

Art Village

It was a pretty sparse village . . .

Bone Wind Chimes

but way in the back of the flea market, we found this “place” . . . really interesting!

Circle City

Treasures under the tree!


Surrounding the trunk of the giant Live Oak, underneath its sprawling branches, were this man’s creations.  Lots of unusual stuff, but the majority of his work was metal electrical conduit bent and curved into varying shapes – as sculptures, wind chimes, and just things to stick in the ground in the garden –really different!





We walked all through that flea market, and saw lots of interesting things, but we did not see a single Vintage RV!  So much for the Vintage RV Show!

From there, we drove towards the Mount Dora historic downtown.  We thought we walk through some shops and get an early dinner.  As we got close to the main business district, we saw lots of cars and people, and signs for “Event Parking” . . . there must be something going on!

We drove around a few residential streets, and finally found a spot to park on a side street several blocks up from the main street.  These were old neighborhoods, with tree-lined streets that reminded me more of Michigan than Florida.  Some of the houses were really cute!

Nice house

Another pretty house










This one is for sale!



This is exactly the kind of little town that I can imagine myself living in – someday!

Historical Building

We reached the main street, and found out that the Spring Festival was going on – Bonus!  The streets were filled with artist booths,

Cool Wind Chimes

Drums for kids











and there was food, and music.


Be the Hamster - really cute!


You could even take a run in this hamster wheel to build your own snowcone!









We walked by a lovely hotel that overlooks Lake Dora,

Hotel overlooking the lake

Beautiful Hotel


and as I took this picture, a local artist stopped us and told us about a park at the south end of town where there’s a light house and a boardwalk along the edge of the lake.  He pointed out that you could often see alligators, and Blue Herons, and occasionally a wood stork.  We told him that we would definitely check it out.





We visited several shops,

Cute Gift Shop

and studied the menus of several restaurants before settling on the Goblin Market Restaurant for dinner.

The Goblin Market Restaurant

Lunch on the back patio


We got lucky and a table opened up on the back patio just as we walked up to the host.

It was a cozy little corner!

Tom couldn't figure out where that tinkling sound was coming from!

We shared a salad and burger, and both were delicious!

Our cozy corner

After lunch, we walked back to get the Jeep – at that point, I think we officially climbed Mount Dora – all 98 feet of elevation change!

We found the park by the Light House (one of only three freshwater light houses in Florida), and snagged a parking spot by the marina.

Light House

Lake Dora is actually a pretty big lake, popular for boaters,

Lake Dora

including pontoon tours and little rental boats,

Boats on Lake Dora











Little rental boats

and even seaplane tours!  We watched this one buzz around aver our heads, and even saw it take off from the water.  Pretty cool!


From the light house, we found the Palm Island Boardwalk,


and as promised, we spotted alligators in the lake,


a water moccasin sunning itself on some weeds,

Water Moccasin

and plenty of birds and ducks.

Anhingas in another tree

Ibis in the trees


Gator waiting for that Heron to fall


I guess this isn’t a swimming lake – too many gators!  This one looks like he’s just waiting for that heron to drop something!

We followed the boardwalk into the hammock,

Walking on the boardwalk

and back out to the edge of the water,

Along the shoreline

where we flushed out a group of ducks from the weeds.


Taking the trail back


We circled back, following the trail through the hammock this time . . . thankfully we did not run into any gators or snakes on the trail!



That was the end of our adventure in Mount Dora, and we thoroughly enjoyed this cute little town – it’s definitely one I’ll keep on my list of potential future homes . . . although we’re not looking at real estate just yet!