2/5/17 – Just a hunk-a hunk-a burning love

This time, we had a trauma just from getting up. The oldies knocked on for us for breakfast, but Kel hadn’t even got up, so they went on without us. When she did get up, she spotted something above the balcony doors, but we couldn’t figure out what it was. Whilst she was then getting changed in the bathroom, the thing suddenly an across the ceiling and I could see exactly what it was. It was a huge red spider, albeit one that had been through the wars as it only had five legs. The less legs didn’t make it any less scary. When it’s big enough for you to count how many legs from a distance and your eye sight is as bad as mine, it’s definitely cause to be scared. We had to wait for it to run enough down the wall so that we could reach it. Kel hit it with her flip flop (after turning into Lee Evans on the windup) and I then attacked it with hair spray to make sure it was dead. We make a good team.

We were suitably traumatised when we went down to breakfast and had to just sit for a little while with the oldies first, after filling them in. General breakfast stuff, as usual. We went back to the room afterwards for sun creaming and had another inspect of the smush on the floor, just to be sure. The crazy hot was on again, so I took to sunbathing on the sunbeds in the pool again. Still a bit hard on the ribs, but I was determined to get my back more tanned and this seemed like the most chill way to do it without melting. I finished off my Kinsey Millhone book and wrote another short story, as I’d already done one in the room before Kel got up and enlightened me on the spider trauma. They’re a real nice break away from big projects sometimes.

We went for lunch for the general stuffs and finally, finally, the mash was back to its amazingly creamy, whipped self. The holiday suddenly went from being all about the rice to all about the mash. After lunch, I popped back up to the room to get a new book. Next up was one of Kelley Armstrong’s ones. The first in the series was awful, but since I’d already been bought quite a few, I decided to try a couple more. Glad I did, because the follow-ups are far better. Kelley clearly improved a lot after the first flop. Went back down to the punishing heat, dodging in and out of the shade to start with before eventually just settling down in the sun, utilising the frozen margaritas to keep cool. Even wrote a little more of my main NaNoWriMo project before coming back to the room. Not bored with it yet!

Watched a bit of Clannad before shower time and then that was when I realised how sunburnt I was. I’d been wearing factor thirty all holiday and then just a fifteen on my back, since that didn’t see the sun whilst I was writing. Only I forgot I was still on fifteen when I decided to tan my back. I succeeded a little too much – I burnt the backs of my legs from the bottom, right up and onto my bum cheeks. This is Jesus getting me back for laughing at Mel when she burnt her bum in Greece. So sad. Needless to say I slathered in aftersun until I was literally slimy. Lovely.

We decided to go to the Mexican restaurant when we came down, since they had space available. They didn’t seem to mind about the sittings. Had the same taco roll, nachos, refried beans and beef tostadas as before. You really can’t beat authentic Mexican food. Followed that with chicken in green mole sauce. Green mole sauce turned out to taste very much like coriander and nothing else. It was quite nice though, even though I’m not usually a fan. Just in small doses. Not the huge dollops they piled on my chicken, most of which got pushed aside.

We spotted Daria, Danielle and Gelisa in the bar, so we decided to sit with them for a while for a catch up, since we hadn’t really seen them around the last several days. They’d been at the water park all day. We got the cocktails in and added one another on Facebook in time for the entertainment to start, because that’s what you do in the modern age. We had an Elvis show tonight, which I’d obviously been excited about, but it turned out to be a disappointment. The Elvis was only okay and although he did some of the classics, he also did some really odd song choices, like Bossa Nova. They had dancers on stage again and whereas last night, nobody could take their eyes off the Michael Jackson, this time, we all just watched the dancers. Says it all really. I think this Elvis was ready to put out to pasture. I was probably also a teeny bit more critical, because God, it hurt to sit down. Even more to get back up. Plastic seat cushions that stick to you really aren’t nice on burnt bottoms.

Came back up to the room after the usual JC wind down, this time accompanied by one hell of an aftersun application. I later learnt that I’d burnt some of the front of my legs too. Looks like I’ve gotta sleep on my side tonight and not move at all. One thing is for certain and that’s that I’m not wearing any shorts to sleep in tonight. Bottoms up!

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Capybara chilling in the shade. Which is what I should have done.

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.

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Now this is what you call a holy crap moment.

16/9/16 – Hush up and look at the gumbo

Got up early, but not crazy six o’clock early. Jet lag usually has me awake much earlier, but waiting until ten-ish to go to sleep clearly helped to get us back on track. Slowly got ready for the day and headed down for breakfast. I was delighted to see that there was a self-serve pancake machine. Never knew such a thing existed, but it was super easy to use and they had maple syrup, cream and rainbow sprinkles to put on top. Had my pancakes, as well as an egg patty and some mini sausages. The sausages were so tasty that I went back for more. Was tempted to do the same with the pancakes, but a queue had developed by that time. I’ll have second breakfast tomorrow instead.

We went out for a wander and found our way down onto the riverfront. I spotted the Natchez further down on the dock and actually managed to do some navigating on where to go, based on what I remembered from last time. We managed to get tickets for the morning Natchez cruise, since Mom wanted to go on a real steamboat and I knew that was the only real one here. Hopefully, the boring narrator guy that we had last time will have retired by now. We had a few hours before we were due to board, so we went off in search of drinks in the meantime.

We found Café du Monde, but it was horrendously packed with the queue lining up outside, so we opted to keep going and find somewhere else instead. No beignets today. We went to the Market Café and I had a very nice Mango Madness cocktail. At ten o’clock in the morning. Because why not? They had a jazz band playing, like many places in New Orleans, and it was a nice relaxation spot. From there, we had a wander through their version of the rag market and popped into a couple of shops. I got a jazzy shot glass from Aunt Sally’s Praline Shop.

We then came back to board the Natchez. They had the woman on top again playing the pipe organ from the steam. No Carpenters this time though. Mom thought it was cute, but then quickly got annoyed by it. We got some seats up on the top deck and surprise, surprise, the boring narrator has still retained his job. I chose to ignore him, since I remembered a lot of the history from my last visit. The lasting damage from Hurricane Katrina is still astonishing on the docks. I then started to rain a little too much for us to want to sit in, so we moved down a deck and grabbed a little table near the open side and spent the remainder of the cruise there.

After we disembarked, we were in need of food and I was also super in need of a drink from being sat in the heat. We went to a steak and seafood bar and I had loaded cheese fries. Except they told me they were fries. They were actually potato wedges. I don’t mind potato wedges, but there’s only so much you can eat before they become really sickly, so I didn’t actually finish mine. We then spent forever looking for a Walgreen’s that we’d spotted earlier, to the point where even I was remembering all the same streets as we kept looping round, since Dad’s a horrible navigator. I miss Kel and her in-built satnav. Thankfully, we eventually stumbled upon a CVS instead and I was able to replace my heat protection spray that had emptied during the flight and also bought some Red Bull and Funyuns for the room. Yay, Funyuns. I’ve missed you.

It started to rain by this point, so we decided to head back towards the hotel for a while to shower and things before going back out for tea. The rain was sporadic and switched between being heavy and light. We tried to wait out one of the heavier spells in a bar and had some homemade Hurricanes – which were way too strong – but it didn’t lighten up again, so we had to chance the rest of the way with our umbrellas. Showered as soon as we got back, then Skyped with Kel for a bit, had my Red Bull and did some reading for an hour or so before getting ready to go back out.

I’d already iterated my deep love for the Gumbo Shop from my last trip here, so that was where we were headed. The wait for tables was actually out of the door, which was initially concerning, but their turnaround service is crazy good and we were in there in no time. I had everything I had last time. Chicken andouille gumbo with bread and a frozen strawberry daiquiri. God, it was just as good as I remembered. Mom had the same and loved it too, so I was pleased that I hadn’t just bigged it up. Even more pleased that she wants to go back, because I’m clearly down with that.

From there, we found our way onto the wonderful Bourbon Street and I directed us towards Pat O’Brien’s. We were given a table out in the courtyard. It had stopped raining, the fire fountain was going, they wiped everything down for us and brought Hurricanes over to our table. Best. They were properly mixed Hurricanes too and way better than the ones we’d had earlier. We sat in there for a while and ended up making friends with a lad from Boston called Nick, who I think Mom wanted to adopt. He was super big on traveling too and wanted recommendations for time-lengths and things to do in the UK and other places in Europe too.

After we left Pat O’Brien’s, we carried on down Bourbon Street. I stopped off at one of the Tropical Isle places to get a Hand Grenade to-go. Just as yummy as I remembered. I pretty much downed it all by the time we got back to our hotel, but didn’t feel in the slightest bit merry. Sadly, the downside to going with the oldies is that they were point blank ready for bed. I stayed up and read for a while before conceding to do the same. I then had to get up twenty minutes later and be horrendously sick, despite the fact that I still didn’t feel like the drinks had touched me at all. Guess that’s just a mark of a good night.

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Gumbo, gumbo, in the pot… We need a princess; what you got?