Florida with Claire and Charlie

From Honolulu we flew to
San Francisco, staying overnight at a motel near the airport. We had less sleep
than planned (about three hours), because the flight was delayed. The next day
we flew on to Dallas/Fort Worth, and then to Tampa. We arrived about an hour
ahead of Claire and Charlie, who flew out from Gatwick to join us. Claire’s
partner Raf was unfortunately not able to join us, due to a last-minute family
crisis in Poland. We piled into the large car we’d hired and drove south to the
4-bedroom villa we’d rented in Sarasota.

That villa was really
nice – spacious, with a pool and a lovely covered outdoor area (or ‘lanai’) where
we spent most of our time. It is on the same estate as the house we’ve owned
(and rented out) for 6½ years, so we were able to go round and see our house
and talk things over with the agent while we were there. We also explored parts
of the Gulf coast, including Sarasota itself and some of the excellent beaches
along there. Charlie enjoyed the beach, especially sitting in the water and
letting the waves wash over him. He even went to sleep on his grandmother’s
arms, sitting in the sea. Strangely, he was much less keen on going in the pool
at the villa.

One afternoon we went to
a nearby British pub to have lunch and see the final of the World Cup on TV.
The place was packed with Holland supporters, all wearing orange, but needless
to say they were disappointed in the result. Another day we went to Busch
Gardens, the theme park cum zoo in Tampa. Charlie went on some of the kiddie
rides with his mother, and she went (on her own) on lots of the thrill rides.
Our longest trip was the day we drove across to Boca Raton, on the Atlantic
coast, to consult with an expert on the type of visa we are considering. Claire
and Charlie came for the ride, and spent time in one of the big American
shopping malls there.

After nine days in that
villa, we transferred to another one close to Disneyworld. This was smaller and
not so nice, with an irritating pool door alarm which hampered our outside
living. We were not there much of the time, however, because we spent two full
days at Disneyworld. The first was at Epcot, where Charlie went on more rides
and we explored the different ‘countries’ around the lake, finishing off with a
spectacular firework display. We spent our last full day together at the Magic
Kingdom, with more rides for infants and adults, a parade, firework display and
electric light parade to finish off. The next day, after a visit to Downtown
Disney to stock up with presents and souvenirs, we saw Claire and Charlie off
from Orlando Airport. They had a reasonably easy flight home. The following day
we drove back to Tampa to fly on to New York. Our flight was delayed due to
sick cabin crew, but eventually we set off to the Big Apple.

Our fortnight in Florida was fun, and fairly
relaxing without the hectic sightseeing and travelling schedule of other parts
of our trip home. It was great to see Charlie and Claire, and get a taste of
what it might be like to live there for an extended period.

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