Sunday, 29 May 2016

Sun, Surf and the Waving at the Rich and Famous

Saturday 21st May to Thursday 26th May 2016

Fort Lauderdale

….not having slept for about 20 hours we were, to say the least, a bit tired by the time we deplaned; Miami International had very kindly closed nearly everything down and American Airlines were of little use.
Even at this time of the morning the temperature was hovering around 28C and the humidity felt quite high.
Found the carousel where the bags came off, a lone AA representative disappeared quick smart when he found out there were some tired upset passengers.
It took a little while to find the link shuttle train to the hire car centre – the end result being that we finally arrived at our hotel at 5am – at least the front desk was open and a lovely person there was of immeasurable help – we were in our room by 5:15am and asleep by 5:30.
Both of us were tired but we woke around 10:30am and thought that a walk outside might help – it was even warmer than when we arrived and the sun was blisteringly hot – at least to us – there were plenty of very-fit people running around looking, well, fit.
After an attempt at walking along we sought the cool refuge of the shady restaurant and with it being close to lunch time anyway and not having eaten properly since early Friday morning we sat down to a scrumptious seafood and pasta lunch – very decadent and very expensive but worth every cent – on top of which it was lovely and cool and we had great views of the sea and the sand.
Lobster, pasta, mussels, pippis - delicious...

...and the view was great as well

Diane had wifi for the phone and found out that the FA Cup was on – I had thought it was a Sunday game – there was a bar right where we were staying which was a sports bar and we asked politely if they would be able to change the channel of one of the 20 odd screens to FOX for the game – “Where would you like to sit and which screen would be best for you to see?” came the reply – I love this place – so we sat at the bar; screen directly in front; lovely bartenders (female) to attend to our drinks needs and to talk to as well – this was a little piece of heaven – at least for a few hours.
And on top of of all of that, Manchester United one in extra time 2-1 – it couldn’t get any better than this; and we hadn’t even woken up yet.
Back to the room and Diane had a spa in the bath in the main bedroom, but we were both still pretty tired and made it as far as 9pm.
All-in-all whilst we had had the delayed flight on the previous day we had made up for that with a great Saturday.
Could it get any better?

Well for Diane it did – the French Open started on Sunday and with the time difference it meant an early TV start and she had a choice of 3 different TV’s to watch – depending an where she wanted to sit, so she was set for a while, but still managed to excuse herself away to make it downstairs to visit the Croc shop and leave some money there.
Sunday was essentially a day to rest and recuperate – and with the views that we had from the balcony it was hard not to do just that.

Here are the views from our unit - both during the day and night

Our plans had suffered a little due to a computer problem with our travel agent and we would only be here for 6 days and not the original 7 days and with the delayed flight this now meant 5 days, so we weren’t about to rest around too much.

Our apartment - the third level up and the right and centre windows - a 2 bedroom
apartment with lounge, dining and kitchen between

Monday came and we decided that a visit to see some of the local wildlife was in order; but we didn’t wish to spend a complete day there so a local wildlife park was found and we drove out to there – Sawgrass Recreation Park – to see the alligators and other locals.
Having only seen the air boats on screen it looked like an interesting way to get around and we had little or no time to brace ourselves for the experience – about 2 minutes after getting the tickets we were seated and off – the noise was dampened by the earplugs – Diane managing to get a couple of extra pairs – as she said, they were to help her sleep with my snoring – lovely.
It was a warm humid day and little sun so we were hopeful of seeing some but probably not a lot of alligators – the pilot found a couple of them on the surface and we happily snapped away at them, and then at more wildlife around – mainly birds – but equally enjoyable was the experience of riding in one of these shallow-drafted craft, skimming along the water and over the reeds.

Just breaking the surface to observe what is going on...

...still keeping an eye on us all

these guys were in the enclosure.... was this one

The little rain that fell was if no consequence.
After that experience and a coffee we went to see the other exhibits and to actually handle a “baby” (small) alligator – it was after all 2½ years old and could cause a nasty bite.

Not too dangerous - especially with it's mouth taped close...

...safely behind an enclosure

seeking shade

We had seen our fill of locals for a while – at least this variety of locals; Diane had in her investigations of things around the area, found a shopping mall which including factory outlets – I knew that she couldn’t get too much before she needed to start chucking other things out – our luggage limit wouldn’t allow too much more.

She found a Vera Bradley outlet and the same style of carry-on bag that Sam had purchased a couple of years ago and also a matching handbag – we could accommodate those – both within the luggage and the budget.

The spoils of the battle with the mall

With so many man-made and natural waterways around we thought that we really should take a tour of them as far as we could – it also afforded us a waterside view of how the other half live (whilst they were here).
For just $25 each we were able to use the hop-on-hop-off water taxi which took us as far south as Hollywood (Florida); into the eastern area of Fort Lauderdale and north to Wilton Manors.

The larger boat is a carrier - partly submerging to allow around 10-15 other
boats into the carrying area

The beach area was quite perfect; the waves did come up but were mainly flat

Down at Margaritaville with sunshine and wave machine to ride the surf a bit
more easily

The running commentary of the houses that we passed as well as the boats yachts mega-rich yachts that we were shown was a bit unbelievable – there was just so much money around this area, and you could tell that a lot was also spent on just being able to say where you lived and the size of the house and the boat.

This is listed at a cool $3,695,000 - not sure if that includes the boat

Just a lazy $49 million will get you into this one...

...and this a bit more for this at $100 million
Still deciding on which one we prefer

Roundly agreed as an ugly boat, but I think we would take it at the right price
This was originally owned by Johnny Depp but now it is called home by JK Rowling

We also found out that a lot of the large boats are being moved before the hurricane season starts which is generally from June to September – even the cruise liners do not come here during that period; a good point for us to remember for future visits.

at the Irish pub and the Guinness was as good as we have had anywhere
There is no doubt in our minds that we would love to come back here; we have enjoyed the hotel and all of its facilities (maybe we didn’t get to use the gym, but it was there in case we got silly enough to want to work out), but the hot tubs were very nice; the suite was great and the location was just about perfect; and that is before we think about the sports bars.

Diane was extremely happy after a victory at Fusball

We have managed to work on the tans without any effort; we have walked a bit more and just had a good time.

All of those things had to come to an end and so we had to leave on Thursday – early again -  but without any hassles – we found our way back to the airport, which looks lovely in the daylight; checked the bags in and this time with no flight delays we were off and in Dallas on time and in daylight – time for the last part of this trip to commence…

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

From Disney to San Diego to LA hold-ups

Friday 13th May to Friday 20th May 2016

Capristrano Beach, California

We now had a week away at a resort further down the coast at a place called Capistrano Beach, and that meant that we needed a car, so we had already arranged for that through Enterprise, which were just down the road, so it was an early pick up, back to load the luggage and we were away.
We had enjoyed our time in Anaheim and the hotel was very good.
The coast road beckoned, so that we could see a bit of the sea and just the places along the way – we knew it would take a bit longer but we had time and didn’t need to rush it.
The views were quite spectacular and it was the right decision – we arrived about 2:30 and there was immediate check-in; the suite was great, although the views out to the background hill were a bit low on substance – the hill being about 20 metres away, so couldn’t see much at all.
We were ready to just do a bit of relaxing with just a couple of trips planned for the week.

We were one side of a major road but on the other side was the beach, but it was not a particularly friendly one, with warning signs about strong rips and holes and that swimming there was at your risk. Luckily we are not really beach people, but it was nice to walk along and we found our way to – wait for it – a marina – no, there were no narrowboats, but there were some very pricey other types moored there.
Lovely to sit and dream about owning one day, whilst we enjoyed our coffees (lattes).

Boats and more boats - which one shall we buy?

The weather was sunny at times but a lot of the time there was plenty of cloud cover but still warm and t-shirt and shorts weather.

This little fellow was after a free fish dinner from the fishing charter - but sadly
for him it was nothing left for him

...nor for this one...

...or this one either
Took him a while to get it right, but looked fun
We had been advised by Mitch that it might be a bit cold and a coat each would be advisable – suffice to say that we haven’t used them yet and feel that it may have been additional inclusions without use – will see how it turns out.

Our thoughts before arriving here were that a visit to San Diego would be the order for one of the days – we are situated about midway between Los Angeles and San Diego, so it was just over an hour’s drive down the I-5.

Diane checked out the maps and saw a section called the Old Town which read as being an historical area and with plenty of parking, so as it was on the northside we headed to there.
It is an area where a lot of old and original-settlement buildings have either existed or been moved and rebuilt here to give people the opportunity to see them all and also to be able to properly preserve them.

We gained some history of the origins of San Diego from looking through the area, but for creating an area with some authenticity there was a little too much concrete paving around which detracted from it all.
Anyway, that aside, it was nice and after ensuring that the car was safe we caught a trolley (tram) into the city itself – just $5 for an all day ticket (plus a $2 charge for the travel card) – a lot cheaper than parking and the driving hassle.
San Diego harbour, bridge and fish place

The sculpture is named as a Sea Dragon, which I jokingly said
to Diane that it reminds me of her mother... a lady standing
nearby overheard and couldn't stop laughung

Fishing "fleet"in the foreground; larger and more ominous vessel behind

Hey Paul, just the Crocs for you - spotted on a Japanese tourist in San Diego

SD is just a few miles from the border with Mexico, but unfortunately we had not brought the passports with us (nor did we feel that we would do that this time), but it is also a Navy city and one of the exhibits available to see up close was the USS Midway (WWII aircraft carrier – actually commissioned a week after the end of the war).
The cost was just $20 each and it was worth a lot more than that -  we had a full tour through the entire ship.
USS Midway 

Hangar deck

Fo'c'sle with the winching gear for the chains and anchors - might be an overkill
for Ferndale on the Thames

For misdemeanors over the last 30 years... alas I had to let her out

Not really at the controls but she enjoyed the thought of it

Referred to as the "Island" this is the command centre

And a view from the bridge

It is rather cramped up there, as our guide explained

...didn't stop Diane from assuming command 

Afterwards we continued through downtown SD and found ourselves in the GasLamp district where we had a lovely meal at a convenient sports-bar.

San Diego GasLamp historic district
Dinner - usual small servings
Sante Fe trolley station in San Diego

On the drive back we passed these buildings and coupled with the
heavy power cables coming out of it suggested it was a power station
of some description -
San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station

Mitch and Sara came down to visit for a couple of days and we simply relaxed by seeing a few things and at the same time not doing much but we had a great time with them.

Happy, happy and happy 

This fellow was quite comfortable on the pier railing
and not the least bit concerned about anyone walking past

Sara is quite the competitor and wasn't letting Mitch in at all

Back in the unit and a game of cards

We had one more day on the Disney 3-day pass, so naturally we drove up to Anaheim to have a final day there at both parks – arrived early and by mid-afternoon we had exhausted ourselves and so had an early mark, finally leaving around 6pm. It was a relatively short 40 minute drive back and we gave the spa-bath in the bedroom another try-out to ease the tired bodies.
Her favourite ride - just one more time
Our final day was one where we didn’t do anything at all – virtually spending it either alongside the pool or in the hot-tub or reading. In hindsight we were perhaps preparing for the unknown.
Found these little beauties at a local supermarket and the price was not too bad -
but they stayed on the shelf
Friday was leaving day and we had arranged for an early departure which we did about 6am – wanting to try and beat the LA traffic to make it to Hollywood to drop off the car – Mitch and Sara were to drive us to the airport.
Well, we were OK until we reached downtown on the I-5 but the I-110 and I-10 interchange stopped the traffic dead in its tracks – we adjusted our route and managed to get around and through the major roads to the west and got to where we needed to.
Car dropped off (no problems with Enterprise – yet again) and after a little more time with Mitch and Sara we were dropped off at the airport about 10:30 am for a 12:25 flight – we had forward knowledge that the flight was delayed by a couple of hours but the airport was the easiest place to wait.

Having flown between England and Melbourne a number of times and experiencing long flights we are used to long travelling, but with the US being only slightly larger than Australia we didn’t expect that a normal 5-hour flight would turn into 13 hours.
Nothing else to say - delayed and more delayed
The flight was delayed by 6 hours with little information flowing from the staff at American Airlines – we were a wee bit tired when the plane finally landed in Miami at 2 am on Saturday…..