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Orlando Sentinel

Living By Water Is Shore Way To Soothe Soul

By María T. Padilla

August 28, 2002
Copyright © 2002 Orlando Sentinel. All rights reserved. 

A great benefit to living in Orlando is its proximity to water. Around nearly every bend there is a lake. Drive 40 minutes and you are at the coast.

Water is important to me, although I was not born on the island of Puerto Rico. (Does the island of Manhattan count?)

To see or to smell water is paramount, like watching or hearing the Earth breathe.

My husband and I hadn't spent one day at the beach this summer -- until we escaped recently to Canaveral National Seashore. My feet have stepped on many beautiful beaches, and Canaveral definitely would rank among the top.

It's clean, pristine, with azure water. The best thing was the absence of people.

Water and I have a history. My father grew up just steps from the shore in a little fishing village in Puerto Rico named Boquerón, which today is being overrun by development. The town is unrecognizable from the one I first visited at age 13.

The men would leave their homes at 3 a.m. to fish in the Mona Passage, which lies between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. The choppy, shark-infested waters were -- and still are -- abundant with fish. And naturally, fish and seafood is on the menu in all the restaurants and private homes. The simplicity of that life is hard to believe today.

I like to be reminded of the water, so while I lived in Puerto Rico I set out to find a fishing net with which to decorate my home. I looked for weeks and couldn't find one. Then one day I mentioned my problem to my father, who within a week gave me a handmade net from Boquerón. I still have it.

To keep the e-mail from brimming over, I must mention a few other island jewels: Vieques, Culebra, Luquillo, Fajardo, Humacao, Dorado and Rincón, a surfers' beach.

Elsewhere in the Caribbean, my personal favorite is St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands. The sand dunes are terrific, and so is the snorkeling. The entire island is unspoiled because the federal government owns most of it.

In the United States,Hawaii's Maui is terrific, especially if you can catch sight of a whale or two. The California coast is nice, if you like a rocky coastline and pounding surf.

I give a thumbs-up to the coasts along Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia.

But in the continental United States, Florida beaches are the best. Even here, though, a little ranking is in order.

The Gulf beaches are calmer, quieter and bluer than the Atlantic side. And they also are full of sea life.

The dolphins came nearly to my feet during a stay near Gasparilla Island several years ago.

Local beaches are -- OK. Daytona is bogged down by gentusa, or riffraff. My husband and I once spent a day in Daytona, where a guy and his pal drove up and down the beach waving a huge Confederate flag.

But Canaveral, which means cane thicket or sugar-cane plantation in Spanish, is . . . more sophisticated.

You cannot drive on the beach, which keeps out the gentusa. And if that doesn't work, the $5 admission may do the trick.

Canaveral has become my favorite local hideout for catching up with the natural rhythms of the Earth.

And, boy, am I already sorry I told you about it.

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