Downtown Orlando On A Balmy Day

Where do I come up with these titles? Who do I think I am, Bulwer-Lytton?

The sun, a roundness whose color could not adequately be described as merely yellow, stared hotly down on us as we traversed the green mile around the city park. Leashed pit bulls snapped and snarled at our ankles, and fat fireflies fizzed through the waning air. The earth inhaled, and then exhaled as, somewhere, a swan squawked.

Kirk heading resolutely to the Aloma Publix.

I owed Kirk a walk down around Lake Eola, something he does a few times each month with friends; I put in an occasional guest appearance– a cameo, as it were, on the mucky lapel of that sinkhole in disguise.

Don’t forget to click on the pictures; they’ll get bigger, and you’ll be able to see all of the captions. I think. (Though some don’t have captions.)

First we had to stop at Publix for groceries which we would bring home AFTER the walk– coming home, Publix would be on the opposite side of the road, and who wants to deal with all that after such strenuous exercise? Central Florida, sadly, often concentrates more on installing limited-access roads than creating actual human convenience.

Lake Eola Park is actually officially known as Summerlin Park, but I’ve never heard anyone call it that. When I landed here in 1978, it was a messy-looking greensward that wrapped itself in embarrassment around the lake, which wasn’t anything to write home about at the time. Hustlers of all colors and stripes patrolled the streets surrounding the park, and more than a few multi-roomed flophouses lined the nearby streets. There wasn’t much reason to go downtown in search of leisure activities, but in a few years everything was beautifully transformed. The park is really nice, and the path around it winds for almost a mile– a good way to gauge your walks. Some days we do three turns, others four, rarely five. On other days I whine from the heat, or the cold, or the goose droppings, or the people walking four abreast while yapping on their cell phones.

Glossy new buildings have sprouted along its perimeter, giving the area a new cosmopolitan air.

Along the south side of the park.

In the shot below, the aqua-colored space ship at left is actually our famous fountain, and the deco-looking structure at right is the Disney Amphitheatre. They hold shows there, and chorales perform, and sometimes regular people get up there and do little tap dances– unscheduled, of course.

A camellia in one of the park's south side gardens.

Kirk, surrounded by pigeons. Doesn't he look like the bird lady from Mary Poppins?

The day we walked, the Traveling Vietnam memorial was making an appearance in the park. There were lots of veterans in attendance– homeless veterans. Think what you want about that, but I think the phrase “homeless veteran” is just plain wrong.

There are swans nesting and living all around the park– black ones and white ones, fairly tame. When cousin Nicola was visiting here from Italy, he felt like he was walking through a wildlife preserve. They expect to be fed and aren’t shy about coming up to you, mouths open expectantly. (Swans, not Italians.)

Here’s some planting they do on the west side of the park. Years ago there used to be an incredible wall covered with sweet peas here, and they would scent the air.

Here’s the fountain doing its thing. Tourists love this– and you’d be amazed at the various languages you hear spoken around the lake, not all of them spoken by people who live here. Buses regularly drop people off downtown so that they can realize that there is something more to the area than the theme parks. Downtown Orlando has its ups and downs; in the 1980s it was very popular due to attractions like Church Street Station and all the restaurants and shops thereabouts, but then the theme parks decided to install their own downtowns and line them with name-brand stores. Strange.

Here are the famous swan boats. You can rent these and then spend some time crossing the lake. The one time I did this, years ago with a friend, we pedaled too close to the fountain and I pictured us somehow being sucked into the machinery– sort of like that lady in the 1940s who was eaten by a faulty department store escalator. In any event, on the day I lose my mind (it happens to all of us) I hope they find me in one of the swan boats, giggling happily in the sun.


It was such a nice day; I think we did three turns on the path. Sometimes you encounter people you know, determined to make their quota of turns. You smile the first time and maybe say a short greeting;  you nod when you see them again; and then you politely look away on the third pass. People used to do that when their carriages passed one another in the olden days while driving through a park– there was a whole etiquette thing about it.

And here’s how we ended the walk, staring at this violently red hibiscus on Central Boulevard.


8 responses

  1. You know, Jimmy, despite all the beauty and interesting sights that you photographed so well, I think I’d STILL like to at least SEE what those flophouses looked like. (Like I always say, I think I’m screwed up in the head.)

  2. Thanks for the tour. I laughed at your swans/Italians comment. And I agree 100 percent. There is something seriously wrong with the term “homeless veterans”.

  3. In the early 70’s I biked (my ONLY transportation!) with a baby on the back down to Lake Eola. I rented close by and it was magical to me! Can you believe that? Yes, it was. Green. . .with water. A perfect place for a young mother and child to wander and explore. Thanks for bringing back some memories.

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