On Sunday morning I got a call from my friend Jean with an offer I didn’t refuse. “Wanna go for a sail?”
You bet! Well, the sail — with eight other people aboard a 43-foot cabin cruiser — turned into more than just a cruise down the Indian River. One of our “sailors” was Evelyn G., a woman who came from an illustrious family. Evelyn’s father W. T. Stewart was a man of some means who settled with his wife and children on Merritt Island some 70 years ago. Today Evelyn still lives on a portion of the same estate, lush with palms, banyans, bamboos and bougainvillea. She has downsized and makes her home in what was the gardener’s cottage, renovated in Florida pine, soaring ceilings, and a funky, colorful bohemian decor.
We disembarked at her boathouse, the oldest on Merritt Island, I’m told. Today’s government regulations would never allow such a functional structure. The dock leading to it was built in 1947, and a written history of the area reveals that WWII had “taken away their yacht – they actually had one big enough that Uncle Sam took it for war use at the beginning of World War Two!”
We hopped off and made our way down the long dock to a private little beach where a white gravel path wound us through a tropical paradise. A pair of cherub statues stood guard at either side of an open gate, as if awaiting our arrival. Tiled mosaic benches along the path invited us to rest and enjoy the view of the sparkling river, feel the breeze playing with the palms and hear the birds happily chirping around us. Even the air was sweet with the fresh scent of minty pine or something akin to it. I never did identify it. But it was particularly fragrant throughout the grounds.
I hung back a bit to get the slide show shots you see below. Welcome to Peacock Alley, aka “paradise”. Once you’re there, I promise, you will never want to leave…