The weather was hot and sunny while Paul and Alexa were here, but the morning after they left we awoke to heavy rain. We decided that a trip to the cinema might be more suitable than our usual Friday night pub crawl, and discovered that La La Land was on at the cheap cinema out of town. Friends said it was good, and of course it got several Oscar nominations, but we missed it when it was on downtown, so were glad to have the opportunity of seeing it now. However, we were disappointed. It may be a good film, but was not our cup of tea.
In any case, the rain lasted only a couple of hours. We were soon back to the sunshine, and it was perfect the following evening when we had a party (with barbecue and dancing) at the poolside. The following Saturday we went to see the musical Footloose at the Players; again we were rather disappointed. Next day we went to the Asolo for Faces of Change. A number of local people had been interviewed, and five readers did a performance based on some of their comments. Apparently this happens every year, though we had not heard of it before. This year the theme was ‘Racial violence’. The reading is followed by questions, and then refreshments and a chance to talk to the readers.
We kept up our tradition of spending Sundays at the beach. On the 9th we went to Nokomis Beach, and walked north. This meant we saw the other side of the posh houses we’d seen other times from the road. There were remarkably few people on a long stretch of the beach, but we did see lots of pelicans, and an egret posed for the camera.
Welcoming more visitors
We were on our own for only ten days. Claire, Charlie and Oscar arrived on April 10 for two weeks in Florida. Their plane was due to land at 4.15, and (as when Paul and Alexa arrived) we set off in the morning, so we could have a stop on the way. This time we visited Fort de Soto Park for the first time. There are five connected islands, with a fort, two piers and some beautiful white sand beaches. It was really stunning! We never used to believe that flat countryside could be so picturesque. We saw a dolphin as well as pelicans and other seabirds.
Originally we’d planned to go on elsewhere, but time passed quickly and so we went straight to the airport. Claire and the boys arrived on time, and by 7pm we were back in our condo.
Next morning we took the boys to the circus-themed playground in Paynes Park, and then to the pool at CP2. In the afternoon we all went to Siesta Beach. The boys were happy there, and Charlie really enjoyed using the body board we’d bought him for his birthday. From the beach we walked to the village, and had Happy Hour drinks at Daiquiri Deck – one of Claire’s favourite places! Back home we walked round to the bayou, and were delighted to see some manatees.
Wednesday followed a similar pattern, although we played games in the morning before going to the pool. In the afternoon we went to Lido Key: we spent time on the beach, did the nature trail at South Lido Park, and had drinks at the Daiquiri Deck in St Armand’s Circle! In the evening we walked down to the bayfront and had dinner at O’Leary’s tiki bar.
We spent all day Thursday on Anna Maria Island. We managed to park at Manatee Beach, and had breakfast at the café there. Then we set up ‘camp’ on the beach, but to our surprise the boys did not want to go in the water – possibly because they were already sunburnt. Ian took them off hunting for shells. Later we took the trolley south to Coquina Beach, where we had drinks. Claire was happy with her enormous daiquiri! We walked up to Bridge Street, explored that area and then took the trolley north to City Pier. We had ice creams, then walked along the pier, but it was VERY windy. So we took the trolley back to Manatee Beach, and had drinks there. The plan was to spend another half an hour on the beach – but when we returned to our camp we discovered Charlie’s body board had disappeared. We hunted for it without success, then it was back to the café for dinner.
Off to Orlando
Friday 14 April was Good Friday – and Sandie’s birthday. In the morning we packed and set off for Orlando. We did a slight detour to visit the Manatee Viewing Center: no manatees to be seen this time, but it still made an interesting place to break our journey and eat our picnic lunch. On the outskirts of Orlando we checked into a resort where we’d booked a townhouse for six nights. In the evening we went to Disney Springs, which you may know as the Disney Village, or as Downtown Disney, depending on when you last visited! We celebrated Sandie’s birthday with dinner at the Rainforest Café.
We spent the next day at Universal Studios – much as we all love Disney, we’d decided to visit a different theme park for a change. We’d never visited Universal Florida before, and it was many years since we’d been to the one in LA. All but one of the attractions (the ET ride) were new since then, and several consisted of sophisticated simulator rides which required the use of 3D spectacles. Others were dark and/or scary thrill rides.
We enjoyed just wandering around admiring the sets and the incredible attention to detail. Particularly impressive was ‘Diagon Alley’, modelled very closely on the Harry Potter books. Gringotts Bank (complete with giant chandeliers and audio-animatronic goblins working at their ledgers) was amazing, and the ‘Escape from Gringotts’ ride was Sandie’s favourite. Claire’s thought the best ride was the Rip Ride Rockit roller coaster; Charlie particularly loved the Simpsons ride; Oscar’s favourite was Woody Woodpecker’s Nuthouse Coaster. But Ian, being traditional, still prefers the ET Adventure!