29/9/16 – All good things

Final get-up of the trip. Was a little earlier today, since w wanted to make the most of the pool whilst we could. The forecast is… sunny, yay. Got into my bikini, put together my beach bag and down to the pool we went. We found ourselves some sunbeds in the sun and we were well away. It was blisteringly hot.I started off reading and ended up finishing my Kelley Armstrong book, so I then switched to lying on my front so that I could tan my back. Had to take short breaks to go and stand in the shallow end to cool down every now and then.

When the sun disappeared behind the very big hotel, we figured we’d be best to go back to the room. We Skyped Kel, all showered in procession and got the rest of our stuff packed up. We moved everything downstairs and got a shuttle service to the airport. The first thing we wanted once we’d got through customs was food. Went to some little take-out restaurant place. I had what was supposedly Jamaican jerk chicken breast with rice and plantains. It definitely wasn’t jerk anything. Just a grilled chicken breast with a bit of sauce on it. I’m still not entirely sure what plantains are, other than that they’re not nice. It was filling enough though.

After that, we went to check out duty free. Always a good place for restocking our alcohol cupboard and Miami airport didn’t fail us. I got a big, fat 1.75L bottle of Smirnoff for only twenty-three dollars. Sometimes you’re hard pressed to get even a litre for that amount at home. They also had the fancy Belvedere stuff for only thirty-three dollars – again, cheaper than at home. Since I’d never tried it before, I decided to get a pink grapefruit bottle as a birthday present to myself for next week. We also got a refill on Cointreau, since we get through quite a lot of that when we do cocktail nights in.

We went to a little bar afterwards for mimosas, then I ran to grab some drinks from one of the shops before we had to board. Fabby in-flight entertainment once again. I’d watched half of Elvis and Nixon before we’d even taken off. Charming film, though they really couldn’t have got an uglier Elvis. At least Evan Peters kept it up on the eye candy front. Following the same actor theme, once we were up in the air, I decided to rewatch X-Men Apocalypse. I then got distracted by a spectacular electrical storm that we were flying by and managed to get some good photos through the window.

Food then came during X-Men. I forget how weird Air France food is. Bread roll, fine; wheatgerm and shiitake mushroom rice salad, eh; chicken and rice, ropey; apple sauce, okay; chocolate brownie thing, okay. Even the cheese was really weird. I remember Air France being better for the snacks, so maybe we’ll have to wait for that. The one upside was that I got a glass of champagne with my meal, so I guess I can’t complain too much. Unsurprisingly, I felt a little tired after the food and champers, so I decided to go with a movie I knew well, since it meant I wouldn’t have to concentrate too much.

That meant opting for Princess and the Frog, which instead succeeded in waking me up, as it made me want to have a singalong. Like any Disney, it also has its super sad moments. I already felt super emotional about leaving America behind and if I didn’t shed a tear over Princess and the Frog, then I definitely did over Big Hero 6, which I saved till last and watched afterwards. I have a definite love-hate relationship with that movie, very much like with Clannad. Serious adoration for it, but it still breaks my heart every time. Fuck you, Disney. I switched to writing after that and did another couple of flash fictions.

We landed in Paris after the eight hour flight and were now six hours ahead in time. These time zones really are so confusing, especially when you haven’t slept. The flight was then delayed half an hour. That always sucks worse when you’re coming home, because you have nothing to look forward to. By this point, all you want is to get home. Thankfully, the flight itself was only about an hour long. I listened to some music for a bit, watched some Psych and was so tired by that time, that I slept through on and off until landing. I kept doing that whole nodding dog thing, but at one point when I did it, we’d already landed. Guess it worked out to an extent. My ears are usually excruciating when landing, so I was glad I skipped that part.

Baggage claim and passport control were fairly simple and we were outside and in a taxi within twenty-five minutes. Thank god. It had been a long day, made worse by the fact that I’ve never been so depressed to come home. What with the fact that my closest friends don’t live so nearby – two of them technically living overseas – besides Kel and the dog, I really didn’t feel much reason to come back at all. My love affair with America is just far too great and seems to be getting stronger all the time. Maybe now it won’t be so much as saving for the next trip, but saving towards moving there on a more permanent basis. I need to hurry up and start getting my books published.

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Now that’s entertainment.

8/3/15 – Tone vs. Food

Tasha actually beat me as first up this morning. That was a new one! Had a cookie to munch on and Sar and Kel both got up not long after. Dad then popped round to tell us that they’d overprepared this time and cooked all of the breakfast already. Last night there’d been a bit of hoo-ha over us being late over there for food, so we all hurried over sharpish to make sure it wouldn’t happen a second time (minus the boys, who were still asleep again). Breakfast was yummy once more. The oldies all decided they were going for another walk. Since it was raining we decided we’d had our share of walking for the holiday and went back to our own cabin.

The four of us spent the next few hours having a good natter and gossip about everyone and everything. Ben and Mark got up amidst the chatting and joined us. We had a run over to the other cabin to collect some more fresh pizzas to cook at ours and all got super invested in the Take Me Out re-run. Last of the series, sob. Ben took a real interest in my Superfreaks story, which always really flatters me. He also got what was probably the most in-depth rundown of it that I’ve given anyone so far. After a while we decided to check out the game room. I beat Kel at darts, but she beat me at foosball and our crazy long game of ping pong. We also played with some giant dominoes, but as we’re not entirely sure of the rules we don’t know who won. We’ll call it a draw.

I came back up to the cabin just as Sar had gotten out of the hot tub. Boo. She went in the shower so I got some Fall Out Boy going on the sound system, got my notebook and a can of cider and went to do some writing in the hot tub. It should have been the most ideal way to write (apart from sitting out in the sun and catching a tan at the same time) but it didn’t last very long when Dad, Auntie Ann and Uncle Colin came creeping round to chuck cold water over me. Normally I’m all for cheeky antics, but this time I wasn’t impressed because A) I’d tried so hard to keep my hair dry so that I wouldn’t have to wash it before going out for food, and B) my notebook got soaked and I don’t have any of it backed up. Thankfully best cousin Sar had been stood out in her towel chatting to me after her shower and she ran inside with my notebook before they chucked more water. Saviour of the day!

I didn’t stay in the hot tub much longer after that. Came in and got dried off and sat watching most of Mulan on telly with the others. Things are always better with a bit of Disney. Found out amidst the compulsory Disney talk that Mark loves Princess and the Frog. Oh yeahhh. Most underrated Disney film ever! Since my hair had gotten wet I then had to go in the shower and wash it. My notebook seemed to have survived the drenching so I guess I couldn’t really complain. Once I was dried and ready we all got into cars and headed back to the George and Dragon Pub Inn from the first night. They had the Stowford Press on draft and an amazing looking menu so I was certainly happy to go back.

I had a mixed grill this time and asked for my usual no veg of any kind (in this case peas, mushrooms and tomato. Bleugh). Even still it was friggin’ huge! I had a steak, a big piece of gammon, a pork chop, two sausages, two pieces of black pudding, homemade chips and onion rings. I pawned off the black pudding after having a little taste and being unsure if I actually liked it or not. Still can’t decide. But I of course devoured everything else and everyone cheered. Apparently I have hollow legs – I always seem to amaze people with my capacity for food, The worst part was that I wasn’t even full! I still had room for an Eton Mess sundae afterwards. Did feel a little bloated once we got back to the cabins, so I just chilled in the hot tub with Sar and Ben for an hour or so. They asked me a million and one questions about writing, which again was incredibly flattering. It was really hot in there again and I ended up having a major granny attack (i.e. a sweat) so we all got out. Got changed, grabbed a cider and we all settled down to watch 22 Jump Street for the night.

I didn’t stay up to watch the whole thing. Kel had already gone to bed so I knew that meant we’d be packing everything up first thing in the morning. Sob, just when I was starting to get attached to this place. Goodbye for another year, hot tub holiday!

Goodbye, super nice cabin!

Goodbye, super nice cabin!

2/10/13 – Going down the bayou!

Oh wow, what a day! Started early yet again. Our continental breakfast was even more exciting this time – they had a waffle iron! Jayda helped me to make one. It was very yummy. Had a four and something hour drive with another Walmart stop in between. As soon as we got to Honey Island Swamp Tours we were herded straight onto the boat.

I think everyone felt a certain level of apprehension upon seeing just how tiny our little river boat was. We headed on down the Pearl River and into the swamp itself. It actually really was a fascinating place. The air was so clean and a lot of people clearly live backing up onto the swamp. One place even had a rope swing over the swamp and a ladder leading out of the water! It gave me some great research ideas though for Argo stuff (decided that Ricki’s definitely gonna be a swamp homegirl). Our captain Mel was funny and extremely knowledgeable. Always a plus!

We saw quite a variety of wildlife including the gators, turtles, snakes, various birds and a raccoon! Mel was feeding the gators marshmallows because apparently they resemble eggs that they eat. He also did some creepy-ass gator call, which quite literally brought all gators within earshot crowding round the boat. More than a little unnerving. The website described the tour as a ‘gentle cruise around the swamp’. Gentle cruise, my ass. On the longer stretches of the Pearl we were going at ridiculous high speeds that gave us all ‘swamp do’. Then at another point Mel had an eight-foot gator called Jumper (take a guess why) jumping up the side of our tiny boat. Terrifying experience doesn’t quite cover it.

The monster that nearly gave me a coronary!

We had a quick look in the gift shop afterwards and were amused by the baby gator that was called Sid. We got Sar a Louisiana fridge magnet (because the geek collects them) and I got a hematite gator necklace. We had a swift lunch before getting back on the road to finally reach out hotel in New Orleans. Our hotel room is totally cute and we were impressed by the style of the complex straightaway. We did some wandering around the French quarter before and after getting something to eat.

I decided instantly that New Orleans is the best place we’ve visited so far. Bourbon Street is really something else – everything you see, hear, smell, etc. is just so incredibly cultural! We quickly checked out the steamboat on the Mississippi too. It looked amazing. We ate at a place called the Gumbo shop and I had my first real gumbo, partly on Derek’s recommendation and partly because of Princess and the Frog references. Mine was chicken, Cajun sausage and okra with rice. It was gorgeous! I had a lovely frozen strawberry daiquiri too!

After that we went to a bar called Pat O’Brien’s. They do one of New Orleans’ two signature drinks – the Hurricane. Not entirely sure what was in it… Mostly rum, juices and a shitload of sugar, I’m guessing. Over food I’d gotten to speak to Derek quite a bit more, which was nice. Turns out he’s a writer too! Me and Kel didn’t stay out too long because we both still needed to shower. But before that we had a game of Gladiators on our beds with our big sausage pillow things. We also had the cooler in our room this time so I was able to help myself to alcohol! Night of win.

Kel taking spy shots of us in the courtyard

The set of our Gladiators game