Jim Abbott on Travel
Postcards from Florida
12:34 PM EST, December 26, 2012
It's interesting to look at history, but it's even better to be immersed in it.
This week's road trip will offer options for both experiences, starting with a random thought that worked its way into my mind on a recent visit to the Edison & Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers (edisonfordwinterestates.org).
I was standing by the Tea House next to Thomas Edison's swimming pool, one of Florida's historic man-made ponds. Although it was built in 1910, the utilitarian pool — originally built of Edison's own brand of concrete — still looks inviting, with its view of the Caloosahatchee River through the lushly landscaped garden.
Suddenly, I wanted to take a dip, but thankfully I'm not that much of a free spirit.
A good thing, since the Edison and Ford homes, gardens and museum are all about observational history. Although the clutter of beakers and test tubes on the tables of the Botanical Research Lab are close enough to touch, you'd better not do it.
When it comes to viewing, however, this month features prime moonlight access to the Edison & Ford Estates. The attraction's "Holiday Nights" event runs from 5:30 to 9 p.m. daily through Dec. 30 (except Christmas Eve and Christmas Day). It includes guided tours of the grounds illuminated with period holiday lights and decorations.
What better time to see Edison's Moonlight Garden in the moonlight?
There are plenty of nearby dining options, including Cristof's on McGregor (239-791-8473), a good spot for a high-end burger on a lovely outdoor deck.
As for that hands-on dip into history, it's against the rules to splash around in most of Florida's historic pools. That includes the one behind Ernest Hemingway's home, touted as the oldest pool in Key West.
Two other pools compete for status as the state's oldest: One was built in 1887 at Flagler County's Princess Place Preserve, the other at DeBary Hall in southwest Volusia County in roughly the same period. Neither one looks tempting now.
There's at least one option for a historic swim: Built in 1923 from a coral rock quarry, the Venetian Pool in Coral Gables boasts a picturesque backdrop, with its 820,000 gallons of spring-fed water flowing into an area framed by grottoes and cliffs.
The pool is closed through January, but re-opens Feb. 1. Visit coralgables.com for hours, admission and other details.
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