25/9/16 – Rollin’ on the river

Up earlier this time in order to get the complimentary breakfast in and get to the Everglades fairly early. I was actually ready before anyone this time, so I did some reading before we went for breakfast. First place we’ve been to that actually has a waffle make, woo! Safe to say that went down a treat. We then headed off to the Everglades. I watched an episode of Psych on the way. We stopped off at a little information centre to figure out a bit more about what we wanted to do, since the Everglades is a seriously huge place.

When we actually got into the park, it was chucking it down. Feels like home when the weather’s that typical. We bought our ticket for the Stingray boat tour, which leaves from the bay, goes along the canal and out into the lakes. The shop backed right onto the dock. I saw the fin of a tarpin cut through the water a few times. It’s kinda freaky; they’re like mini sharks. Armed with my brolley, I wandered further down the dock to have a nosey in the bay to see if I could see anymore, looked sideways and had the shock of my life when I instead saw the head of a three-metre crocodile rising up out of the water and against the side of the dock. I mean whoa. Talk about scary. I kept my distance, because I’ve seen how high those things can push themselves out of the water. I was certainly ready to be back inside the shop if it looked even remotely like it was going to try and climb out.

The croc disappeared when the boat came back in to dock from its last trip, but we saw another couple swimming further down the bay before we got on the boat ourselves. Apparently, this is the only place where crocodiles and alligators share the same water. I’d seen plenty of alligators when I did a swamp tour the first time I went to Louisiana, so getting to see wild crocodiles was a new and interesting one. They’re also scarier looking than alligators. However, our biggest problem on the boat wasn’t the crocodiles, the alligators or the horrible giant banana spiders we saw underneath the bridge we drove through; it was the goddamn mosquitoes. The boat ride was certainly interesting, but I felt like I spent the whole time slapping bugs away.

We had our ride cut short by about twenty minutes when a big thunderstorm hit whilst we were out in the middle of the lake, so we had to turn around and come back. I was super hungry when we came back in to dock, but with the weather being so temperamental, we wanted to keep seeing stuff rather than sitting down for a proper lunch. Instead, lunch was a pink lemonade and a bag of Funyuns from the little shop. Whilst we were having a munch, we went over to the other side of the bay and got to watch some baby manatees surfacing and sticking their noises up out of the water, ahhh. I really love manatees and they’re actually not endangered anymore. Well done, world.

We had a wander around the park and tried to do one of the trails you can walk along to look for wildlife. However, it was super overgrown and you had to try and cut your own path – not only unappealing when you’re in shorts sandals and a low-cut top; there was also the possibility that there could be snakes and all sorts lurking in the grass (in America, a lot of their snakes are poisonous). And we’d barely got anywhere before we were getting fully eaten alive by the bugs. We hastily changed our mind on that idea and returned to the car to drive round to the other side of the park to find Shark Valley.

Unfortunately, that idea also fell through when the satnav went on another mad one. We drove a really roundabout way, didn’t find anything for ages, then realised that we’d somehow bypassed the entire park and were suddenly a lot closer back to our motel. Well, bloody hell, satnav. We didn’t really feel like trying again, so we hit the next Walmart we found to get more drinks and things. I found some cute little jester gloves that are blatantly Harley Quinn inspired and will go great with my costume.

Mom had had a taste for KFC for ages now. We knew there was one nearby and had planned to bring some into the room last night before we’d spotted the Applebees, so that was moved to our plan for tonight instead. However, like the Applebees, it was also disappointing. We asked for a regular twelve-piece bucket and when we got back to the motel, we realised the dopey server had given us boneless chicken strips. Still nice, but nowhere near as good as the proper Kentucky coated stuff and when that’s what you’re expecting, chicken strips are definitely disappointing. Homestead have really failed us in the food department.

At least the TV selection was more satisfying. Mom turned it on to find 22 Jump Street, so that had us occupied for the night. After that, we found more Impractical Jokers and I had a mad reading spree to finish off my Clive Cussler book. With more Seagrams on the go, of course. As nights in go, not half bad.

173crop

Now this is what you call a holy crap moment.

24/9/16 – Everywhere she goes, Toni loves mashed potatoes!

Much slower get-ready today as we had a later check-out. Packed everything up and then went for a very poor breakfast that consisted of just fruit, most of which was tasteless melon. I just stuck to the grapes. We then Skyped Kel for a little bit before eventually leaving the room. It had been our most expensive, yet worst stocked room so far, but I was a little sad as the Key West had a hell of a lot of different Pokémon to catch. I’d say it was the geek in me that was sad, but that’s basically all of me. We’d had the option of going to the Key West museum as I’d seen an advertisement on a bus that they had the famously haunted Robert the doll, which weirdly, they’d been talking about in the episode of That Anime Show that I’d been listening to on the plane. I’d initially been interested in going to see him, but after Googling pictures, I swiftly changed my mind.

We finally thought to hook up one of the iPods in the car rather than listening to the radio, so we listened to my fifties and sixties playlist on the road. Had a several hour drive with a stop-off at some restaurant along the harbour for lunch. Couldn’t quite decide what I wanted, so I just ordered from the starters menu and had chicken tenders with honey mustard and mozzarella sticks. Yummy food, but shame about the server with the really bad attitude – though she did forget to charge us for our drinks – and the weird, cabbagey smelling toilets. Gross. We had a little nose out on the harbour afterwards and saw some beautifully coloured trumpet fish. We then got petrol from next door to the hotel and went back on our way.

Stopped off at a Walgreen’s en route, where I replenished my Red Bull stash – some of which I enjoyed in the car – and I wrote a couple of flash fictions. I8’ve barely done any writing whilst I’ve been here; it’s really not acceptable. Our satnav then had a mad moment when we got into Homestead and kept trying to take us to a Best Western, rather than the Super 8 that we wanted. We hit a seriously huge thunderstorm and had to wait it out in their car park, before sending Dad in to ask for directions. Thankfully, we found our real motel in the end. I do love Super 8s The first thing I did was fill up the fridge, yay.

Milled in the room for a while, did more writing, read, showered and broke out more of the Seagrams. There was an Applebees right in sight of our motel, so we knew exactly where we were going for tea. Me and Mom shared a pitcher of red apple sangria. Lovely, but the size was a lot more stingy than I remember. I then had an eight ounce sirloin steak with garlic mash and new crispy cheddar bacon potatoes. When it all came out, my mash was cold. And I don’t even mean it was lukewarm; it was stone cold. There was no other way to describe it. I hate to be the person to send food back – particularly as I was starving and it means you have to wait longer – but I like my mash to be at least warm. Sent it back, had to wait, then when I got it back, the mash was still cold. I was too hungry to care by this point, so I just ate it. Put a little dampener on the meal, but everything else was still lovely. With a nice peppercorn sauce, it would have been damn perfect. Sadly, steak sauces don’t seem to be much of a thing here.

Back to the room after that. Mom liked the Super 8, so she booked us a second night there in order to give us somewhere nearby to come and go from when we visit the Everglades. That was cool with me. Got more Seagrams on the go and read and watched Psych in between watching some interesting documentary on telly about cyber predators who killed and kidnapped young girls. Morbid, I know, but then when have I ever had normal interests?

170

I’ve waited a long time to have these again. Jamaican me happy indeed.

10/11/13 – Help is on the way, dear!

Up early to make sure we had plenty of time to get down to Fisherman’s Wharf. Finished off my yummy rice and watched a bit of Chamber of Secrets. America have a serious problem with re-sharing the same set of films. It’s worse than ITV2 with The Mummy! We got different trams down to the Wharf. We had breakfast at Maccies – word of advice: don’t ever have McGriddles. They’re weird as fuck! The pineapple and mango smoothie more than made up for it though.

We then had our movie location tour. It wasn’t quite as great as we’d expected, probably not helped by the fact that we were both young and British – we hadn’t even heard of most of the films mentioned, let alone see them, so about ninety-two percent of it went straight over our heads. Annoyingly there was a parade going on down one of the streets so we couldn’t see the apartment from Interview With A Vampire. One of the two places I was most excited about! We did get to see the other one though, which was the house from Mrs. Doubtfire. We also saw locations from George of the Jungle, X-Men 3, Star Trek and Dr. Doolittle. Our guide Whiley was very knowledgeable, though it wasn’t too surprising seeing as he was an actor too. He was apparently in a TV series about Alcatraz and an extra in the new upcoming Tim Burton film!

The big-ass tree kinda ruined our shot. Where were you in the movie, tree!

We went to Applebee’s again for lunch and then went to catch our cable car. We had to wait for over an hour which was annoying, but it was fun going down the big hills. We had a bit of a mishap with some tickets we’d booked, so we then got the tram back to our motel. Guess what was on TV? Chamber of Secrets. Again. Come on America, there are other Harry Potter films. There are other films in general! We showered and watched some Yes Man early on, ready for bed before nine o’clock. God, I won’t miss these early flights.

A nice man took this for us! Though it was only fair, since he then shoved his bum in my face during the ride.

6/11/13 – The real life Azkaban (because I’m a geek)

Up early again and down to Fisherman’s Wharf for our ferry over to Alcatraz. It was a really interesting morning – we were there for almost three hours. There was a whole community that used to live on the island, not just the prisoners of Alcatraz. The prison was totally creepy when looking at it in detail, but also extremely fascinating. We even got to go inside a few of the cells!

Azkabannn. No, wait…

Easily the most popular prison you’ll ever see.

Part of me would kinda like to stay in one for a while if it was allowed. Maybe I could work it into some kind of writing method if I ever came into some money somehow… We learnt more about the various break-out attempts and that only three prisoners ever successfully accepted, though it was never known if they survived the waters. We also kicked up our wildlife count whilst on the island – we saw a hummingbird! It was really strange up close, but totally gorgeous.

Kel’s very professional shot!

After getting back to San Fran we booked in for one of the segway tours – something I’ve always wanted a go on! Whilst waiting we had a quick Subway stop (chicken and bacon with honey mustard and sweet onion, mmm). We then kitted up ready for our segways. It was fantastic! It was surprisingly easy and even more fun than I’d expected. It felt like second nature by the end of it. We rolled our convoy along some of the famous piers, through the harbour and some seriously cute housing estates. Our guide Hana was really nice and funny and turned out to be a writer too!

We hit one of the piers where we were allowed to run wild and test the limits of our segways. Of course that meant we all turned into speed demons and I typically ended up killing mine (who was called Dirty Harry). Hana was able to resurrect him for me though and said it had just cut the power. Oops. I felt a little better about my mishap because Kel had already crashed into a parked car earlier on, ha ha!

We had tea at an Applebee’s and I finally got to try my French onion soup. Was pretty good too! Had more of that lush red apple sangria and a bright green Bacardi cocktail called a Zombie Shiver. We then came back to the room pretty early since we were both knackered. Why does standing in one place take it out of you more than walking? (Plus we’d had to trek up a few big-ass hills on the way back). Spend the night drinking pina coladas and watching TV.

Too cool for my segway.

10/10/13 – The big apple

Woke up after more annoying dreams. I feel this is going to be the routine, at least for a while now. Weh. Skyped Mom whilst getting ready (she finally got her audio back, so we didn’t have to play charades anymore! Woohoo!) She told us that Nan had gotten our Graceland postcard and was really chuffed with it. Apparently it’s pride and place on the mantelpiece too! Special!

We caught out bus into New York and the first thing that snared us was a giant Disney store. It even had an upstairs! The only Lilo & Stitch thing I could find was an adorable Christmas ornament, so of course I had to get it. Sod the tree though – it’s going in my room! Got Theresa a new winter Belle too. We then walked through Central Park for a couple of hours. Feck me, it’s huge! We found a mini Beatles section, an Alice in Wonderland statue, one of Hans Christian Anders, and Balto’s memorial!! Safe to say we were most excited about that one.

Who else has seen the amazing Don Bluth movie inspired by Balto’s story? ❤

We did lunch at Applebee’s. I had chilli soup, honey pepper chicken tenders with fries, and some amazing red apple sangria that we discovered last year. Everything was lovely! We found the music in there appropriate because they played ‘I Think We’re Alone Now’ (sad times!) followed by ‘Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves’. They even played Erik Hassle, which I was definitely impressed by! They also had the most brilliant Halloween decoration – a moving ghost on a zip wire that would occasionally take trips around its circuit, making ridiculous noises. It was hilarious, we were crying!

As we were looking at a machine with broadway show information to try and decide which one we wanted to go for, a really camp waiter tried to help us out. He told us about a booth that sold discounted tickets all day. A girl came through as he was talking and he asked if she needed a table for one. She gave a very non-committal ‘yeah’ and just carried on in. We asked the guy if he wanted to go and serve her, rather than us taking up all his time, and he was just like ‘No! Not with that attitude!’ Too funny.

The ticket idea then didn’t pan out because they were still really expensive even when discounted (which was a shame because there was one with Zachary Levi in it!) But on the way to the booth we were stopped by a comedian called Dan Tamayo, I think, who totally reminded us of Jon Lovitz. He pegged us as ‘funny British people’ straightaway and gave us half price tickets to a stand-up comedy show for twenty dollars. He named all of the comedians, including Simon Amstell of all people! Of course we were definitely up for it, so he reserved us a couple of seats.

From there we went to the Rockerfeller Centre to check out the skyline view. Going up sixty-seven floors in the lift was pretty cool and the view really was quite good (thought I really thought everything just looked too crowded). Not to mention it was bloody freezing up there! We had some fun in the Breezeway Showcase room though. The wall and ceiling tiles light up, assigning a different colour to each person and reflecting their movements. So I had a green light following me round the room, even when I literally ran. Some Americans in there clearly thought I was crazy, but they at least seemed to find it funny. I hope.

Apparently green is my colour… I’ll take it.

After grabbing a yummy cinnamon pretzel we headed over to the comedy club. It was only very tiny, meaning our seats were pretty good. We soon learnt though that Dan had lied to us. I even asked one of the staff, but apparently Simon Amstell wasn’t playing at all. In spite of that though, it was still a great night. Every one of the comedians were very amusing – in particular we liked one called Michael Lawrence. He looked like Zach Galifianakis with glasses. He asked if there was anyone from Britain, so of course me and Kel woo’ed and he said we sounded like a pair of drunken ghosts (the image probably wasn’t helped by the fact that we had a bucket and six bottles of Magners in front of us). He then started going on about Voldemort and how we wouldn’t speak his name. Very amusing.

We were feeling a little merry by this point and had to grab food on the walk back to the bus station. I was craving cheesy chips, but didn’t really get to satisfy that craving. FYI America; cheese sauce is NOT the same as real cheese. I did like the crispy onion touch though, so I guess you saved yourselves a little. And to make things worse, when we got back we realised that the maids had been into our room and that Ed and Stitch had mysteriously disappeared! I rang the front desk but none of the staff were able to shed any light on the situation. And apparently the maid who’d cleaned our room didn’t start work till nine the following morning. This didn’t bode well because that was the time we needed to have checked out by in order to catch our coach. I was definitely not impressed.

Overall our New York experience had been pretty hectic. I’d never actually expected myself to be a fan of New York… and I was right. It’s like America’s version of London, only ten-fold. And we already know how much I dislike London. I found that New York was ridiculously busy, expensive, people on the streets hounded you for money over many various things (and were very pushy about it), the whole place looked dirty, all the crazy tall buildings were just too crammed together, and all the noises, sights and smells just felt like an assault on my senses. Central Park was the only nice area. Wouldn’t ever want to go back.