Florida 2018

So!  Finally a spare moment to blog about our fantastic holiday to Florida in March!  Well, it was a great holiday in many respects but Aled got that terrible Australian flu so was out of action for at least 8 days of it which was really… crap!  It’s no fun being sick on holiday — poor old Dadda!

That aside… let me show you some of what we got up to after managing to escape snowy Britain!  Yes, the plane left on time from Gatwick on Saturday, 3 March by miracle so by dinnertime that same day we were in sunny Orlando.

On Sunday we met up with an old from friend Ramapo High School… yes everyone that is the lovely Suzanne Mastrogiavonni who lives in Orlando with her husband Cody and cutie-pie daughter Kinslee!  The last time I saw Suzanne was in 2007 when I was working on yachts in West Palm Beach, Florida.  It was so nice to catch up and meet each other’s families.  Thanks for coming across town to see us XOXO


My parents didn’t fly in until Tuesday so on Monday, Aled, Morgy and I went out to Cape Canaveral to visit NASA at the Kennedy Space Center.  I’ve only recently become more interested in space because Morgan loves planets, rockets, the sun etc, so thought it would be a cool place to visit — and I must say it was one of the highlights of the trip! Here’s me and Morgy about to enter a fantastic space ship exhibit.


Inside, we saw the Atlantis space ship, which operated between 1985 and 2011, making 33 missions into space.  Wiki has advised that the shuttle orbited the earth 4,848 times, travelling over 126 million miles.  Perhaps the jet lag made me feel a bit emotional but seeing these feats of science in real life made me feel incredibly proud to be an American!


Morgan absolutely loved pretending to drive shuttles…


It was also very interesting to learn about the evolution of various spacecraft, starting with rockets and space capsules.


We also went on a bus tour of the various launch pads where we saw huge rockets from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s Apollo missions — if you want to read more, see Apollo program on Wiki.  Look how big these things are — really incredible.


Anyways I will stop “nattering” on about NASA and get on with the rest of the holiday!

The next day my parents flew in and we all went to Sea World which was just awesome!  Of course an ethical debate rages about keeping such large and intelligent mammals in tanks but I will put that aside for the moment.  After all, the reason I perhaps am so interested in marine life myself is because of an early trip of my own to Sea World.

Here are the amazingly synchronised killer whales (aka Shamus)…


And then here we are watching the dolphin show…


Later we went to see the manatees, which Morgan really fell in love with.  As a hyperactive individual, I don’t really click with the manatee to be honest.  The speed at which they chomp on these lettuce leave drives me nuts — it’s SOOO slow!


Later we visited the penguins, a favourite shared by Morgan and Gramma…


I love this pic so have to put it in — just magical really!


We ended our day at Sea World with an unexpected ride on the “Manta” — a roller coaster which we were strapped into and tipped so we were horizontal to the ground before taking off and doing several loops… I loved it!!  Can’t remember the last time I was on one — thanks for the prompt Gramma and Grampa!


So that was Tuesday.  My sister Karen and her husband and boys (Anthony, Jack and Joey) turned up late that afternoon and we all met up at Animal Kingdom on Wednesday morning.  Again, we were delighted by the amazing attractions in Orlando…


Morgan met Mickey and Minnie in real life for the first time (cousins Jack and Joey are already old hands at encounters with the characters!).  They loved the characters and got lots of autographs in their autograph books.


On Thursday it was off to the Magic Kingdom, which was really, really crowded.  Luckily, my sister and father had done a lot of organisation with meal plans and “fast passes” so we avoided some long lines… but at one point, Anthony, Aled and I tried to go on a roller coaster without a fast pass and it would have been a two hour wait!  The business improvement people amongst us couldn’t help but come up with possible solutions to improve “the customer journey” — Disney!  Please either double the number of rides or reduce the number of people entering the park every day.


I can’t help but stick in a picture of an “oldie but goodie” ride — It’s a Small World — which I remember from my childhood.  It’s a little old school but I loved the boat ride through the caricatures of all the different countries and cultures of the world.  You do wonder how much of these early experiences influenced my world view!?


And here we are with a lollilop bigger than Morgan’s head (thanks Aunt Karen!) and a super duper Mickey balloon which I impulsively decided all the boys must have — imagine my delight when I found the total for 3 balloons was $36!  All part of the Disney experience!


Now that was the last day we really saw much of Aled — unbeknownst to most of us he was starting to feel really bad… so he missed out on Epcot the next day unfortunately.  Here’s the crew in front of the Epcot ball amidst some really beautiful flowers.


By day 5 of attractions, I was tiring a bit of the theme parks but still really enjoyed the sights and rides.  The boys loved the Nemo ride which emptied us all out into a really impressive aquarium filled with coral, sharks, reef fish, rays etc.

All in all, Orlando is an amazing place for attractions, hotels, and spectacular shows — but definitely not relaxing for parents!  Hahaha — I will just finish off the Disney section by mentioning the Little Polynesian, the hotel we stayed at with a really fantastic pool/slide section for the little ones — see photo below — and the quality of the food on the deluxe meal plan was outstanding in the Disney parks and resorts.  By the time we left Orlando, most of us never wanted to see food ever again– but man was it delicious!


Right!  And then it was a 3 hour drive south west to Naples, where we spent the second half of the vacation relaxing as much as we could.  Here are Gramma and Morgy by the pool at the beautiful house my parents rented to celebrate all three of the boys’ March birthdays.


The house was a couple of blocks from the beach which we enjoyed on the sunnier, warmer days.


It’s a popular place as  you can see but everyone loves the beach!  Yay sun and sand!


Naples is a about a 45 minute drive from the Everglades where we went on a few excursions.  All the boys came on a fan boat tour to check out the waterways wending through the mangroves.


It was really an interesting part of the world which I’ve been meaning to explore for years but never managed until now.  I was very interested to learn that there are no maps of these really narrow waterways — it’s all just local knowledge in people’s heads, passed down from generation to generation.  For the untrained eye though, every single mangrove passage looked the same!

Here we all are on the fan boat in one of the more open sections.


We caught glimpses of dolphins…


And pelicans…  what a clutzy bird!


For me, another highlight of the trip was going kayaking in the mangroves (in alligator infested waters) with my Dad and Anthony.  (Mom had done it last year and thought once was enough — and poor old Aled was still feeling horrible.)


The guide was superb and pointed out all sort of beautiful bird life … this one he called a “little green” — but I can’t find it on wiki so I don’t know it’s official name sorry!


And of course what we’d all been waiting for — alligators!  Gosh they lurk in the water in such a sinister way!


On the first half of the trip, we were in quite a wide section of water so the alligators weren’t too close.  I have zoomed in to photograph that one above .  But on the second half of the trip, we were in extremely narrow waterways with the possibility of bumping into 10-12 foot alligators.  Let me give you a sense for how close we sometimes got… see alligator in background on left.


Here’s an amazing shot of another alligator, basking about ten feet from the kayaks!  Yikes indeed!  I’d be lying if I said I didn’t find this part of the trip a little bit scary…!


Here we are on the way back, kayaking through some really amazing mangrove forests.  Incredible!


Right — just a few more pics of bits and bobs before I sign off for the day…  there was a fantastic zoo in Naples, complete with a boat ride around some monkey islands and then opportunities to feed giraffes…


And we also celebrated three birthdays in Naples — I only have a good pic of Morgy’s cake.  Only in America is it possible to walk into the supermarket and nonchalantly order a volcano and dinosaur cake…!  4 years old already!  Yay Morgy!


So we’ll add in one last hilarious photo of the boys with their coconuts.  Somehow they were obsessed with coconuts and palm trees so we bought some coconuts at the Publix supermarket and hid them in the palm trees in the front yard of the house — what a riot!


It was a fantastic break and great to see my family.   A million thanks to my parents for their generosity -and to my sister and father for organsing so many of the Disney World logistics!  I miss you already — and would love to live in such a sunny place — minus the hurricanes of course!