Friday, March 13, 2009

...and then Disney came.

Friday, we meet again. It's another low key day at the office, so I'm here to post.

I've been browsing the web and came across and I'm having a blast reading! I've got about 10 new "must make" craft projects and recipes to try. There is no place like the South. I am a girl with many obsessions, but few top my obession with "being Southern".

Now, you may say, "but you're from Florida". That's a major pet peeve of mine: assuming Florida is not the South. Now, I'll readily admit that Orlando, FL is not Savannah or Charleston. And no, Miami does not equal The South in any way, shape, or form (maybe WPB, but that's more about being 'old money' than being Southern, really). Florida has been invaded by carpetbaggers and have corrupted much, BUT if you take the time and know where to look, Florida is oh-so Southern. We just have our own special twist on a few things.

Maybe it's the way I grew up. My parents relocated to Florida shortly after they married in the '70s. My father is from Pittsburgh, PA and my mother was born in Memphis and raised in Southern Maryland (which, if you know the area, is nothing like the rest of the state--think rural NC). The law firm my dad came to is the oldest in the city, and was full of good Southern gentlemen married to sweet and beautiful Belles. They immediately took my parents in, so these are the families I still know today. They are Orlando to me. They are the beautiful old traditions, the families that current Orlando neighborhoods are named after, the old homes that have century-old stories, the comforting accents, the traditions and ways I have come to love.

You may think of Orlando and think humidity, urban sprawl, and Disney. Now, you're right about the humidity, and we were in need of a public transportation rehaul decades ago. But "The D Word" has absolutely nothing to do with my Orlando, real Orlando, which truly lives up to its nickname of "The City Beautiful". I know Disney is what made Orlando grow, but it also ruined (or at least, has overshadowed) much of what made Central Florida's history.

Think of the grand old hotels built by the railroad tycoons Flagler and Plant. I'm picturing Great Gatsby style parties, and they were opulent. Old and new money alike came from the north to vacation. We once spent the day at the Don Cesar ("The Pink Lady") and it gave me chills knowing I was sipping a martini at the same bar that F. Scott Fitzgerald and Al Capone frequented. Think of warm gulf breezes blowing in to greet you on your porch swing. Maybe at Key West? (The Hemmingway House is a fabulous place to visit, by the by). The Panhandle is one of my favorite areas of the state, very lazy "old Florida". I actually hope it keeps its undue nickname of "Redneck Riviera"--to keep people away who don't deserve to partake in its loveliness.

Instead of peaches, we have citrus. In addition to pecan pie (which we do have plenty of, I have spent many an hour in a pecan orchard) we have key lime and grapefruit pie (sooo good!)

Even today in Orlando, Old Florida is everywhere. From our stately old oaks draped with Spanish moss, to the charming homes on the Winter Park chain of lakes, to the kids in Cotillion, to the debutante balls at Dubstread and The Country Club of Orlando, to the beautiful holiday parties and decorations we all look forward to year after year. Old Orlando, Old Florida and the Old South are still here. There are those of us who have held on to old traditions and tried to preserve a beautiful way of just have to look for us. We haven't gone away.

The true icons of Orlando, our fountain and swans at Lake Eola ("e-O-luh")

Beautiful Rollins College in Winter Park.

Leu Gardens, home to some of the most beautiful azaleas and camelias in the state (and the largest formal rose garden in the Southeast!)

"Being Southern is a state of mind."

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