A Day Exploring Gainesville

While visiting Ryan in St. Augustine, we had a free day with zero plans. We decided to fill up the day with a mini trip to Gainesville. Neither of us have spent much time in Gainesville in the past, and while it's a small town, there were definitely a few places that caught our interest to check out.  We hopped in the car and took our time making the hour and a half drive west. We stopped at Finders, Keepers in Palatka to see if they had any new items since we last visited in March. Parked right out front was the coolest VW bus, elaborately covered in dozens of stickers. Unfortunately, it wasn't for sale :'( it just belonged to another shopper. The only items that we purchased were a couple of letterpresses matchbooks that were hidden in a fishbowl in the back of the store.  

Stopping into Satchel's for lunch was a given, and we were sure glad we did. We braved the heat to once again sit outside in the VW bus. We ordered a small, yes that's a small, Satchel salad and a large cheese pie. We were completely stuffed at the end of our meal, but I made Ryan ask for a dessert menu anyways. They bring it out in the form of a viewfinder....ah-mazing. So then, of course, we ordered chocolate chip and peanut butter chocolate chip cookies to-go as snack for the drive back later that afternoon. 

After lunch, we decided to spend a few hours roaming the Florida Museum of Natural History. Although the Florida museum doesn't compare to the history museum in New York, my personal favorite, it was absolutely worth the trip to visit. The museum always has a permanent exhibit, which is free to the public, and they currently have two featured exhibits that you pay for separately. One exhibit is of Sue the T-Rex and the second is the butterfly garden. In 1990, paleontologist Sue Hendrickson discovered the largest and most complete T-Rex skeleton found to date. The fossil was eventually auctioned off to the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, where the fossil is still kept on display today. The fossil displayed at the Florida Museum of Natural History is just a replica, however the entire exhibit was really interesting and taught Ryan and I some fun facts we didn't previously know. My favorite were the displays that showed how dinosaurs have been depicted throughout pop culture over the last several decades. While scientists have a pretty thorough understanding as to how dinosaurs lived and survived, there's still so much left to speculation. The exhibit itself was educational and truly amazing when you think of all the possibilities and what imagine what life would be like if dinosaurs still roamed the earth today. If I ever had the chance, I would love to see the real fossil in Chicago. 

Ps- they had an entire wall in the exhibit dedicated to post-it notes listing what people thought about Sue. It was thoroughly entertaining to read through them all, especially ones written by children 5 and under. Ryan and I couldn't leave without posting our own jokes, seen below. 

Ryan and I will both agree when we say our favorite part of the museum was the butterfly exhibit. As we wrapped around the museum, from the Florida history section and into the butterfly exhibit, there were several museum employees working delicately to pin a variety of butterflies and beetles into shadow boxes. I've never had the opportunity to watch people pin the different butterfly varieties before, and it was beautiful and slightly gross all at the same time. I'm really not a fan of bugs in general, butterflies included, but they way they were displayed was an art form in and of itself. Some of the bugs were beautiful shades of blues and greens, while others were a bit terrifying and I am glad I've never come across the living versions. The museum had several shadow boxes on display; however, behind the workers in the laboratory were rows and rows of several hundred shadow boxes. If only we had the opportunity to look through them all, I am sure that's where the keep the most rare and delicate species. Following the butterflies and beetles on display, came the best part: the butterfly garden. You enter the garden and walk through a pathway that leads you through beautiful, lush plants and tropical flowers. As soon as you look up, you realize there are hundreds of butterflies, all shapes, colors and sizes, flying above you. Some land right next to you, but as soon as you blink, they are in flight and on to find the next plant to feed from. There were butterflies I had never seen before, neon green, red, and vibrant blues. In one summed up word, it was magical. Every time I looked in a different direction I would point out and exclaim a new butterfly that would flutter by, and how each one was "my favorite." They were all just too beautiful!  They had benches set up throughout the garden so viewers could sit and spend a fair amount of time observing. It was overwhelmingly peaceful in there and I instantly began to plot how to recreate the scene in my backyard. If you go to the museum, pay the extra seven or eight dollars to go into the garden, I promise you it's absolutely worth it. 

Before going back to St. Augustine we made a special trip over to one of the two Gainesville Hyppo locations. This one is my favorite Hyppo location out of all the shops they currently have. I mean, how could it not be your favorite with that amazing fruit wall?  This trip, I had the guava hibiscus pop and Ryan had the classic papaya pineapple pop.