Unable to snag a slip in Titusville, which is widely considered the most strategic spot from which to visit the Kennedy Space Center, our backup plan became Cocoa. Cocoa is a lovely village which boasts the 7-building Travis Hardware Store. Its history starts like this: “ In 1885, my great-grandfather, Colonel S.R. Travis, who served in the American Civil War, had a sailboat going up and down the rivers, delivering items and taking orders from Jacksonville to Fort Pierce.” Folks say that if Travis doesn’t have it, you don’t need it. I would almost agree—except they didn’t have the marine shackle that we were after. We enjoyed poking around the dusty store and exploring the charming beachy village.
We rented a car to get to the Space Center. It being our first visit, the standard tour filled our day, starting with a bus ride around the launch pads, the Vehicle Assembly Building where every space craft is built—the fourth largest building in the world, and a Crawler-Transporter, one of two shuttle movers which weighs over 6,000,000 pounds, moves about a mile per hour and burns more than 125 gallons of diesel per mile. Major attractions are the Apollo exhibit which details the 17 missions and 6 lunar landings (We wonder why our memories of this amazing history through which we lived are so fuzzy!), and the impressive exhibit of Space Shuttle Atlantis, the first shuttle to be reused, totaling 33 missions between 1985 and 2011. By the end of its final mission, Atlantis had orbited the Earth a total of 4848 times, traveling nearly 126,000,000 miles and making 7 trips to the Russian Mir space station, in addition to transporting several components of the current International Space Station and making upgrades to the Hubble Telescope. Our day was filled with big numbers—big everything—and sensory stimulation, and we left feeling awe for the dedicated scientists who made a daring dream become reality, for the national unity created by lofty goals, and for important developments and discoveries that are made when reaching for the stars.
Our exploration Sunday took us to Winter Park, a suburb of Orlando. We had learned of the small-but-worthwhile Morse Museum featuring the work of Louis Comfort Tiffany, and being admirers of the colorful stained glass art form, we were game. How little we knew about this giant creative spirit! One might nod at the privilege that paved his way, his father being Charles Tiffany, founder of a modest New York jewelry store, which grew to come the most prestigious silver and jewelry company in America, Tiffany and Company. Louis studied painting in Paris and by the age of 23 became a well-known and respected Orientalist painter, exhibiting in New York and abroad, but his fame was truly established through interior design. His own Bella Apartment in New York City served as an early showcase for his talent. Using family connections and financial backing and partnerships with established artists and designers, he was able to make a smooth transition from artist to interior designer. His unique approach of fusing Eastern and Western styles became very popular and led to his decorating the most respected homes, private clubs, and civic buildings of the day, and the teams of talented designers and craftspeople under Tiffany’s watch translated his all-encompassing vision into some of the most beautiful objects of the time. Tiffany Studios succeeded in turning art into a business of awesome proportions, producing objects desired by both the wealthy and members of the rapidly developing middle class. This museum is home to the amazing Tiffany Chapel, and in fact, this chapel was Tiffany’s tour de force. Created for the Chicago World Fair in 1893 by his newly founded firm, Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company, the chapel demonstrated the firm’s artistry and craftsmanship in producing ecclesiastical goods ranging from clerical vestments and furnishings to mosaics and leaded-glass windows. The chapel, it was reported at the time, so moved visitors that men doffed their hats in response. Such a jewel it is! And such indignities it endured during its history! It was finally rescued after fire and vandalism at Tiffany’s Laurelton Hall estate by the founders of this museum, Hugh and Jeanette McKean at the desperate bequest of his daughter. While Tiffany is most famous for his vastly popular creations in glass, his artistic vision left few mediums untouched: he was a painter, a decorator, an architect, a photographer, and a designer of pottery, furniture, enamels, and jewelry in addition to glass lamps, windows, mosaics, and vases. Nature was his muse, color his obsession, and exotic culture his bottomless well of influence. Late in his life, Tiffany elegantly summed up his long and prolific career as a “Quest of Beauty.” After the museum closed, we strolled down Park Avenue, window shopping and watching families and dog owners enjoying the lovely community park, and wondered what it would be like to live in Winter Park. There’s so much to do around the area! Italian dinner at a local favorite, Pannullo’s, ended a magical day.
And finally, two contrasting scenes from our cruise up the Atlantic ICW, at this point on the Indian River.