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" USA 2003"

My Florida & Louisiana adventures


 

29.07.2003 This year it really felt like my summer holidays would never come… And instead here I am now, ready to leave for Tampa, Florida! This trip hasn't been an easy one to organize (Tampa doesn't seem to be a very popular destination and the flight connections there are pretty lame!), not to mention the whole passport mess I had to go through last week! :o( But that's all behind me now: I'm once again at Milan Malpensa airport, checked-in and ready to go! I'm nevertheless quite anxious and excited about going back to the States! But is "going back" really the right expression? It is all so different from last time…I'm surely more prepared about the country this time, but I'm also very curious about these two new States I'm going to see and uncertain about what I'm going to find…But I've promised myself not to linger on memories & nostalgic moods too much and to try & have a great time! Meeting Jenn & Chanele, my two pen friends I'm visiting, will definitely be very interesting, too!!
I'm flying via Boston and I'm a little concerned about the immigration business, but everybody told me it sounds worse than it is, so I truly hope it will be no big deal! I'm also not too keen on the fact that the longest part of my flight is operated by Alitalia (in code-share with Delta), but I'm still hoping it will be okay…Of course, during the next 8 hours I will constantly be reminded of all the reasons why I usually never fly with Alitalia: no personal tv screen, no good movies, no service (a very American remark, I know!), no decent food.. nothing! Bleah! :o( Thanks goodness my neighbour on the plane is a very cool Dutch girl named Briana: a biochemist (!!) currently living in Boston because of her studies and... her American boyfriend! We spent most of the flight talking our ears off and playing dices and I'm very grateful to her for the really nice company! Thanks to her my intercontinental flight doesn't feel too boring and once in Boston (*Logan* International Airport, to be precise! ;o) )it won't take me too long to realize America IS different from last time. But finding out exactly how much will be a different matter…
My worries about going through customers in the Us these days contained some truth: things went very smoothly for me, but I had to help & work as translator for a couple of old, Southern Italians who not only couldn't speak any English but could also hardly read & write.. I'm blessing my education and my language skills!!
Anyway, apart from this little adventure, so far so good: there are only three more hours to get to Tampa now and the flight there will be ok, despite me being quite tired & bored by then… But once landed at 7 pm, I realize I should have remembered Megadeth's words: "So far, so good, so what?" As a matter of fact, my suitcase never appears on the rubber belt and that's exactly what you need after a 13 hour long journey, eh? Yeah, right! But I've been through this before, so no panic! I just report my missing suitcase at Delta desk and they are actually extremely nice & kind and even give me a cute "first aid bag"! And most importantly I'm told I'm getting my luggage the morning after at the latest, which is cool, as I guess I can survive without my stuff for one night! So let's go out now and look for Jenn, who is supposed to be picking me up from the airport…It takes us a while to find each other, but after a few phone call tries, we finally managed that! And it's so cool to meet her after about 7 years of pen palling! :o) She is with her boyfriend Chris and they decide to take me for dinner at Ybor City, that area of Tampa that, by night, looks like the Gas Lamp District in San Diego. Jenn is very nice and Chris seems to be, too, but of course during the next days I'll have more than enough time to get to know him and develop my own personal opinion of this guy…
After dinner, we drive around a bit and then go to Chris' place. It's over midnight by the time we get to Jenn's apartment in Clearwater and I'm totally exhausted!!

30.7.03 After getting very little sleep last night, I wake up around 8 am, just in time to hear my suitcase has landed and will be delivered to me shortly after! No need to say I'm quite relieved by such news!! :o) I'm taking it very easy today, trying to rest and to get adjust to the time difference as quickly as possible. So I don't mind spending most of the day inside, reading and waiting for Jenn to get back from work.
In the evening we're going to Tampa for a "wine tasting" at a wine & spirits shop, together with Chris (who actually gets there much earlier than us and is already not exactly sober by the time we arrive…). I must say I could have skipped it all: the whole thing is pretty tacky, wine is something I either take for granted or appreciate in different ways and Chris is pretty annoying this evening…Anyway, afterwards we go for dinner at a Chinese restaurant: the food is all right, but Chris is obnoxious (or "cranky", as Jenn likes saying!) and I'm not happy that he is driving…Yet, I guess I have to control myself…
Driving back to Clearwater a few hours later, Jenn shows me the area around the beach a little bit: I'm going there by myself tomorrow - by bus! - and that's definitely going to be an adventure! Americans are paranoid when it comes to buses/public transportation, but I'm going to ignore that! ;o)

31.7.03 After a good night sleep and a nice breakfast, I'm ready to start my little bus adventure to go to Clearwater Beach! And hadn't it been for the fact that it took me 1 hour & 15 min.s to get here (against about 20 min.s by car last night!), it would have been just fine!! Buses here are surely nicer than in Milan (and with air conditioning!) and bus travellers are not a bunch of freaks, although all drivers seem to think so over here! Sure enough the bus terminal is not the nicest place in the world, but I've been in worse places, too!
The beach area is very beautiful: the sand is so white and the water's so warm!! It's completely different from California (and let's not even think of Torrey Pines!!), more touristic and "tamed" in a way, but very nice indeed! While there I enjoy taking long walks along the shoreline & all around the Pier 60, a tasty strawberry shake and my first relax time in a long while!! I also get to gather a bunch of brochures & ideas for fun things to do next week by visiting the tourist info. center. And surprise, surprise I even make it back to Jenn's place in the record time of 50 minutes!! ;o)
Once she gets back from work, we drive to Tampa, where we spend a couple hours at a mall, visiting some shops and having a tasty veggie burger. And then we go see "Pirates of the Caribbean" with Johnny Depp & Orlando Bloom. And the movie is just so good!! Johnny is a real pirate: he perfectly found himself inside that role and plays such a charming, funny, absurd pirate! And Orlando is good, too.. and cute (although of course not as handsome as Legolas..!).
It's around 11pm by the time we get back to Clearwater and we still have to pack our stuff for New Orleans, where we are going tomorrow. Packing takes us forever because we obviously have to chat and look at Jenn's old photos in between ;o), but by 12.30 we're finally in bed!

1.8.03. Today is starting off with a pretty lazy morning, which is just as good, as it's going to be a never ending day…We slept until about 9am, had a long breakfast and talked about a whole lot of things ( we are actually finding out we've more in common than we ever thought and having all kinds of interesting conversations, which is very cool!). And by noon we are leaving for Tampa, where we are supposed to pick up Chris, switch cars and then go to the airport to catch our flight to New Orleans. Our plane leaves at 3.20 pm and we somehow don't manage to leave Chris' place before 2pm…which is LATE! Yet, I know Tpa airport is not very far way from his home, so I'm trying to stay calm about things…But although the way to the airport is not a very long one, his "life style" is NOT helping us to make it there on time and I'm getting really mad at this whole situation! I still hope we'll manage it and make it through the check-in in time, but once at Continental desk they let us know we're hardly going to make it because of the long security line.. I'm so angry now that I really have to bite my tongue to avoid bitter comments!! :o( Moreover, me & Jenn get restricted (probably because our tickets were purchased abroad) and that makes the whole security thing even longer…"Restricted" means that they make you take away your shoes, they search you and go through every single item you've got with you - it's horrible! And of course by the time we get through this whole process, our plane is gone…:o( We now have two options to get to New Orleans, but in the best of cases we won't be there before 10pm. My anger level is very high right now, especially because Chris keeps joking about this mess and doesn't even apologize for having been so late and disorganized!! So I finally snap at him.. I know it's not very polite towards Jenn, but I simply hate his attitude! Little did I know this would be just the beginning of some hard times spent with this guy…
After failing to make it on the waiting list for the next flight to NoLa, we finally get on the 7.40 one, via Memphis, and even on first class, which is a nice little treat after all these troubles! And by 11pm we do land in New Orleans, at long last!! After catching a taxi to the place where we're staying, we quickly drop our stuff in our room, change clothes and catch the trolley to the French Quarter. The first impression of the city and especially of this part is pretty overwhelming: Bourbon Street, the main road in the Quarter, is FULL of people (crazy people mostly!), pubs and restaurants with live music, weird shops, sounds and smells…This place is so lively that it seems on the verge of exploding (and this is off season!!) and by just walking here I think I can already start understanding why Joonas is so keen on this city: this place simply pours warmth, passion, sensuality, mystery and music!
After walking around a little, we go to The Dungeon, a dark, goth/metal club - it's the first nice thing Chris has done for me since the beginning of our NoLa trip and I quite enjoy being here!
But it's over 2am by the time we finally make it back to our hotel and I'm totally exhausted! It won't take sleep to long to catch me once in my bed!

2.8.03 This is our only full day in new Orleans and I want to make the most out of it. But the "happy couple" is not made up of morning persons and we don't get to leave our hotel before 10 am.. But there we go now, on our way to the Garden District (which used to be and partly still is the rich white area). My main goal there is seeing Anne Rice's house on 1st Street and once we get there I'm pretty speechless: her house is beautiful and there's even her limo parked in front of it! It's such a strange feeling for me to stand here in front of her home, after having loved her books for so many years! It's easy to start wondering what she's up to right now, ..maybe scribbling on her next book? After taking some pictures, we keep walking around in this lovely area, admiring the Colonial & Victorian mansions and the weird, huge oaks. Strolling around, we get to Lafayette Cemetery 1 (the one pictured in Interview with the Vampire and in many other novels by Anne): absolutely amazing with all those above-ground, white crypts! This part of the city does remind of the Vampire Chronicles a lot and I kind of wonder if vampires do come out here after dark! ;o) Next is another thing I was quite looking forward to: the Garden District Book Store, which is full of signed copies, rare editions and a whole lot of other cool, literary things. I could spend a whole day there, but I obviously don't have that much time.. Some shopping there is a must, though: I buy two of Anne's New Orleans books, Violin and Feast of All Saints. I also get to see the "famous" Vampire Compendium in its special edition: it's quite impressive, but sadly too expensive for my pockets…
But it's lunch time now - a tasty, Louisiana crab dish for me! - and afterwards we unfortunately have to face a pretty violent tropical storm, which gets us stuck in a furniture shop and at a Starbuck Coffee Shop for over one hour! :o( When rain finally stops pouring down, we head back to the French Quarter: it's interesting to see the Quarter by day, too, and while there I also get to visit "The Masquerade" (the shop where my pen pal Daena sells her masks), see the Mississippi River and even go to the Hard Rock Cafè to buy another t-shirt for my collection!
And then it's back to our hotel, to rest a little and get ready for a jazz night! Since we are going to a Michael Ray concert in a place called "The dragon's den", which is right above a Thai restaurant, we are in for Thai food tonight - I've never really liked it and although this time it's eatable, I guess it will just never become a favourite of mine. After dinner, we take a little walk in the quarter and then head back to this club for the concert: I have come to New Orleans wanting to learn at least a little bit about jazz music, since this is such a typical thing here, but it doesn't work very well…Part of the reason might be that I'm so very sleepy, but I just don't get the appeal of it…Still, I guess it is an experience and something you just have to do while in NoLa!

3.8.03 It's our last day here in NoLa and although I have got to see much, it's a shame that this trip has been so short and rushed because there would definitely be many other things I'd love to see and do (like a vampire tour!). Oh well, I guess I'll just have to come back here, right?! ;o)
This morning we are going for a couple of other traditions: a visit to Cafè Du Monde (an extremely popular cafè where they make bignets, local pastries that remind me a lot of fried bread) and one to the French Market (which is both what the name says and a flea market). After strolling around the market for a bit, we go for lunch at the House of Blues and then decide to split up: the happy couple is heading to the casino, but since I have no interest in it at all, I decide to stay in the Quarter and enjoy my last couple of hours in New Orleans doing some more sightseeing! But by 4pm it's time to catch a trolley back to the hotel and, once reunited with the happy couple, a taxi to the airport.
This time everything goes smoothly there and by 7.30 it's time for us to get on our plane to Memphis and say goodbye to NoLa. I've quite enjoyed the city (which I have not found nearly as dangerous as everybody seems to think) - in many ways, it's like I had imagine it and still it's not. It is a very unique place and it has such a special atmosphere around it I can now see why such books as Anne's ones are born here. I really hope I'll be able to come back here some day!
It's about 8.45 by the time we get to Memphis airport, where we are mid-landing on our way to Tampa, and once there I'm gladly giving up another plastic meal to make a certain phone call…I've decided to take advantage of the smaller time difference to call Logan. It's been a long time since we last talked on the phone and god knows how much I have missed that! It's so great to be able to talk again and once more I have to notice that no matter how much time goes by, our old, deep feeling & connection will always be there: we can always talk like we had met the day before…And that's just amazing, but it also means to realize once again the love I will always feel for him and the sadness for not being able to spend time with him.. But we agreed on talking again while I'm here in the States, so I'm looking forward to that now! :o)

4.8.03 We stayed at Chris' place last night and although that spared me & Jenn the half an hour drive back to Clearwater, today is nevertheless the third day in a row I wake up after barely 5 hours of sleep.. And I'm tired! Yet, I do have a long day in front of me today, too…Chris drops me off by Oceanside Channel a little past 10am and after having breakfast at a cafè there I go visit Florida Aquarium, which is right by there and is just so nice! I spend the whole morning there and then I catch the trolley to Ybor City, a little piece of Cuba here in Tampa, for some shopping & strolling around. It's about 7pm by the time Chris comes to pick me up: it's been a long day and I've spent most of it outside, in a heat I can not really describe…I would need a shower, but first it's dinner time at California Pizza Kitchen ((yeah, talk about memories!)…

5.8.03 Back in Clearwater, it's time for a second bus adventure! Today I have a few things planned in Clearwater Beach, the first one being a boat tour to go see dolphins up close. There are many dolphin encounter options here, but after some thinking and some chats with one of these tour ladies, I finally choose "The little Toot". And it proves an excellent choice because being a low boat from it you get to see dolphins from very close! There is a bunch of kids on the tour, but for once I don't really care as it's just too much fun to see the dolphins playing in the waves and jumping out of the water only a couple of meters away! :o) In the afternoon I catch another bus to Sand Key Park, a nature reservation which is a lot quieter and nicer than the regular beach. And a great place for a couple hours of relax!
After getting back to Jenn's home, we drive to Dunedin, a Scottish little parish not far away for a scenic drive, and then head back to Clearwater for an Irish dinner. Tonight is the first time since I got here that we decide to take it easy and relax at Jenn's place and I must say that some chill-out time was highly needed! We spend a couple of hours chatting and Jenn also reads my fortune with Russian Gipsy Cards. I have to admit I don't usually believe in such things, but some of the things she told me reading my cards made a lot of sense.. Creepy!

6.8.03 There's only one sentence that can sum up my day: I've fallen into a postcard! One of those cliché, apparently cheesy, still amazingly beautiful postcards from tropical or Caribbean places… I'm talking about Caladese Island & State Park, where I got after one hour long walk along the shoreline from Clearwater Beach. It's about 2 miles from the Pier 60 and I did not really know how long it would take me or how strenuous it would be, but it proved just fine and this place is simply wonderful! And this is said by someone who is not a beach fan and loves cold lands the best! But how can one not enjoy sitting under a palm tree with really white sand around you and the bluest ocean in front of you, hearing only the sounds of the waves and the birds crying?! I've also collected some beautiful shells and played in the water like a little kid.. eh, eh! ;o)
In the evening me and Jenn drive to Jonn's pass, which is supposed to be the best place for seeing dolphins at sunset. We actually get to see only one, but I guess that's better than nothing! Other than that, I have got sunburnt after two days on the beach and my back hurts.. ouch!

7.8.03 Since we're going out tonight and I already feel pretty tired, I'm trying to take it easy today. So I just catch a bus to Pinewood Cultural Centre, where I'm visiting Florida Botanical Garden and Heritage Village. The garden is a nice shady place with lots of plants, flowers, fountains and alligators I can not spot! ;o) While Heritage Village is a bit like an open air museum with some buildings dating back to the 1800 and looking like The little House in the Praerie ! ;o)
In the afternoon, after having taken care of a few herrances with Jenn, we go for a tex-mex dinner ( a bit too spicy for me!) and finally to Tampa. The plan for tonight is going to The Castle, a dark/gothic club in Ybor City. After hanging around at Chirs' place for a while, we make it to the club around 10.30, when the happy couple is already drinking and having open containers in the car.. Besides my own difficulties in handling this sort of behaviour because of some past negative experiences, I do know what kind of troubles you can get into if they catch you and I'm NOT happy. But this is only the beginning of a drunken night…
The Castle is a cool place, pretty much in the same style as Transilvania in Milan or The Dungeon in New Orleans. The music is a disappointment, though: it's not only NON gothic/dark/metal, it's not even 80's (as it supposed to be tonight)! I'm wearing my most gothic outfit, but the night is not really worth it.. The happy couple is too busy with PDA and even on the dance floor they pretty much ignore me…I don't need to be babysitted, of course, but this behaviour of theirs is starting to annoy me…We leave the Castle around 2am and I just shiver at the thought of who is going to drive.. I wish I did not have to witness any more drunken driving for this life. And I'm looking forward to getting to Daytona…

8.8.03 After only a few hours sleep, I'm visiting the local zoo today (Lowry Park Zoo), mostly to see manatees, an endangered species. The weather is pretty bad today and I'm generally in a not so good mood (and too tired), but the zoo is nice and I finally get to see both the very sweet manatees and the very pink flamingos! It's about 2pm by the time I decide to catch a bus to the mall where I'm supposed to be picked up later on and, although my plans are a little delayed because of another thunderstorm, I still have plenty of time to spend at University Mall. I'm not really in the mood for shopping, but it's still fun to go check out some shops and by 6pm Chris comes to pick me up and we drive back to his place, where Jenn joins us. While there I get to know our weekend plans have to be changed and that we can go to Disneyworld tomorrow rather than on Sunday. Cool, so I can meet up with Chanele then and get to Daytona one day earlier than scheduled! :o) We then spend the night dining at an Indian restaurant and collecting my stuff from Jenn's place, getting ready for a Disney day tomorrow.

9.08.03 Hammering from the nighbours' house wakes me up at 9 this morning.. And it's a rainy morning.. But despite that we are still going to go to Disneyworld in Orlando, where we get around 1pm (Disneyworld is actually just about one hour drive from Tampa, but you should have learnt by now I'm not staying with morning people..). It's still raining and it will be like that for most of the day, which doesn't make our visit too great but at least keeps the crowds away…I just wish rain would have had the power to keep alcohol, too, out of our Disney day, but obviously that was not the case…But come on, everybody knows there's nothing like whiskey to make Disney fun, right? NOT…:o(
Anyway, Disneyworld is a bit smaller than Disneyland in Aneheim , but it shares most of the coolest rides. We get to ride many of them and although I kind of missed Space Mountain, I definitely enjoyed The Haunted Mansion both times! :o) The day passes by pretty nicely, although the happy couple is pretty good at getting drunk and ignoring you when they are together…We stay at the park until closing time, mostly 'cause they want to see the fireworks (which would have been rather impressive if I liked fireworks in
general..) and then we drive to the House of Blues in Orlando to meet up with Chanele.
And she immediately seems to be so cool! :o) We are going out at a goth/alt club in Orlando, together with her friends Emily and Megan, who also seem very nice. It's over midnight by the time we get there and I'm surprised I'm still awake, but the club is a blast! Not as spooky-looking as the Castle, but with more interesting people and definitely better music, too! We spend a couple of hours there, watching people and dancing. And by 3am we arrive in Daytona…completely exhausted!

10.8.03 Considering the fact that we went to sleep at 4am, it's really no wonder we get up at noon today! And that's just fine 'cause it's going to be a pretty lazy Sunday - breakfast, a little grocery store stop, a movie about Dracula and a short visit to Daytona Beach Ocean Side. Although this town is probably not the most exciting place in the world (and not very "glamorous", as Chanele puts it!), I think I'm going to have a very good time here just 'cause Chanele & Alex, her husband, are such cool people!

11.08.03 Today we manage to get up at a decent time and, after having breakfast, we got to visit Ponce De Leon lighthouse - funny as it may sound, I have actually never seen a lighthouse up close, so this is going to be a cool new thing for me! The tall, red lighthouse is surrounded by a little open-air museum with the lightkeepers' dwellings and things from the beginning of the 1800 through a whole century. But of course the top sight is the lighthouse itself: it's quite a hike to get up to the top of the tower, but it's definitely worth it because the view from there is amazing! It looks like there's nothing out there but trees and water and the ocean from up here looks very beautiful!
After all those steps we are now quite hungry and decide to go to Pizza Hut for a tasty pizza buffet! After some more driving around and some more shopping, rain starts pouring down again, so we drive back to Chanele's place to hang around a bit.
Our evening goes by quietly, too, until 11pm when I call Logan again for something like a 1 & ½ hour long phone conversation! It's just great to talk with him again, about anything & everything, and laughing just like we used to do! We go through some pretty sensitive subjects, too, things that will stay in our minds & hearts…And around 12.40 our endless conversation has to reach a stop for us to go and sleep…Goodnight, my bright shining star! ;o)

12.8.03 It's Cape Canaveral & Kennedy Space Center today - yay! :o) Getting there proves a little harder than we thought because of some car problems, but we finally make it there and it's just as amazing as I had imagined! We first walk around the Visitor Center a bit, check out some rockets and space thing models and take a few pictures until it's time for an impressive 3-D IMAX movie about the International Space Station. And that's just unbelievable: it really looks like being there (despite having Tom Cruise as speaker on the movie! ;o) ) and it's just so beautiful! And interesting: it's easy to get impressed by all the different nationalities of the people working on this Space Station…If it only were so easy here on Earth, too.. After watching the movie and having a very quick lunch, we catch one of the visitor buses for the second part of our tour. These buses take tourists to "restricted areas" you couldn't otherwise see by yourself. The first stop is the Observation Gantry - the place from which you can best see launches. And of course it'd have been more exciting if a shuttle had been there, but it's still interesting! The bus tour then continues to the coolest part of our visit: the Apollo/Saturn V Center. There, after seeing a short movie about the beginning of human space exploration in the 60's, we enter a room which is actually a copy of a real firing room and we get to witness the firing of the 1st Apollo Shuttle that made it into space. That's absolutely amazing and accurate, with even a shaking window effect the moment the shuttle is fired!! We then get to see a real HUGE shuttle up close and another movie about Apollo 11 and the first man on the moon. Speaking of the moon: we got to touch a piece of it, too! ;o)
After shopping for some souvenirs, we go back to the Visitor Center, take some more photos and finally say goodbye to the Kennedy Space Center. It's about 7pm when we get back to Dayton and we spend a pretty quiet night with a Romanian dinner (as Alex is from Romania!) and some interesting tv shows.
I'm a bit tired in the end, but it's been a great, interesting day and me & Chanele have had some just as interesting conversations!

14.8.03 Wednesday was just a laid back day, with a visit to the local Sugar Mill ruins, some shopping, tv & slams. But we do have plans for today - and very cool ones, too! We are going to St. Augustine, the oldest town in the Us. It's about one hour drive there and the scenic route we take is very beautiful indeed: along the coast, with an ocean which is particularly wavy and stormy today, and mostly through a State Park.
As soon as we get to St. Augustine, the town looks immediately very interesting to me: I didn't really know what to expect from the "oldest American town", but S. A. is actually a very-well preserved Spanish settlement from the 1500's! Besides a lot of traditional looking houses and shops, it also has the old Spanish Fort and doors, the oldest school and some very cool graveyards, like the Hugounots cemetery. We spend some hours walking around and going sightseeing there: despite not taking a guided tour, I do get the V.I.P. sightseeing tour anyway because Chanele has been here so many times she can tell me all the stories and show me all the places herself!
We did decide to take one tour, though, and a very peculiar one indeed: Ghost and Gravestone Tour, that is a ghost tour by a black gothic trolley called "the trolley of doom"! Our guide is a summoned spirit that tells us about haunted places in St. Augustine and ghost stories. Along the tour we stop in three different haunted locations: an old Spanish military hospital, which is definitely the creepiest and weirdest place of them all, a drug store built over an Indian cemetery and finally the old jail. Two other ghosts join us: a military surgeon and a prisoner, thus making the whole tour more theatrical and definitely creepier and scarier! Obviously our spirits are actors - from the local college drama faculty - and they are all really good and perfect for their roles! And although you know it is all fake, you just can't help getting all jumpy and startled! The tour is about 1 & ½ hour long and it was definitely worth the 19$ we paid for it!
After the ghost tour, we drive back to Daytona along the same route: it's pitch dark out there and we get to see a beautiful starred night - the moon is rising, but Mars is already out there, as bright as it is ever going to be!

15.8.03 We have no big plans for today and that's just as fine since most of the day is characterized by a pretty intense tropical thunderstorm! And you don't really want to be outside in such weather! I do love thunderstorms, but this kind of rain makes you soaking wet and with no chance to get dry any time soon! Besides, staying at Chanele's has made me hooked up on some "weird" tv shows, such as ""Storm stories" & "Judge Mathis", so I do not mind watching some tv for a change! ;o)
In the afternoon, we nevertheless go out for some more shopping & a tasty shake at "Steak & Shake". And then it's time for a night out: we've made reservations for a ghost tour in Deland, Chanele's University town, and although that's probably not going to be as exciting as the one in St. Augustine, I'm pretty sure it's still going to be cool! Unfortunately, though, our tour girl never shows up and despite waiting for half an hour and calling the ghost tour company there's no chance for us to get our tour tonight. Later on we'll get to know the tour girl has got into a minor car accident.. What a bad luck! But at least this tour was not the only thing we had planned for tonight: at 10pm we meet up with Emily, her very beautiful, part Veela, very blond sister Holly and Megan for a little punk rock concert with a local band. The bar where they are playing is completely different from what we had imagined and dressed up for and it's also full with older people and frat boys..Weird!! But live music is always cool, so let's not complain!

16.8.03 It's party time! Well, at least by night! Chanele is having a little house warming party tonight, so most of the day is spent getting ready for that. It's not supposed to be anything big, especially 'cause Alex has got to work tonight and so it will only be Chanele's guests. And it actually turns out to be just 5 people, but it's actually cool anyway! We spend a nice night chatting, drinking and laughing at crazy people on the internet! And somehow it's 2am by the time the party is over.. Goodnight!

17.08.03 Today is supposed to be my last day in Daytona Beach, although since yesterday I've actually been pretty unsure about this whole matter.. I've been trying & trying to get in touch with Jenn & Chris, whom I'm supposed to meet in Orlando later this evening, but with no success. They are completely gone…Despite the many messages left on the various answering machines and all my tries, it's total silence from their side and eventually I do get pretty annoyed and worried about them! For all I know they could be dead in a car accident! I'm starting to imagine dark scenarios with Police and Embassy involved (I still have some of my stuff, including some important things, at Jenn's place)… But since sitting on a couch and worrying is not going to do any good, me and Chanele go to the local mall for lunch & some more shopping and then, back home, I watch a very peculiar but good movie: "Stigmata".
Finally at 5.30 pm Chris calls me as if nothing had happened and wonders if we are on our way to Orlando!! I honestly did not imagine he could be this crazy.. or this rude when he starts telling me to shut up and blame me for the lame organization of our meeting!! Not after a million unreturned calls, at least! I'm very much on the verge of insulting him, but I somehow manage to control myself and pass the phone over to Chanele so that they can agree about our meeting. But we are both furious by now and at this point I also know I'm not going to spend any more time with Chris and will have to talk about this with Jenn…
So we finally drive to Orlando together with Emily & Holly and, after having dinner at "Sweet Tomato", we get to the Hard Rock Cafè, our meeting point. Unfortunately once there, talking with Jenn in private proves impossible, but I still have the illusion she is going to understand my point of view and my wish (either we spend the next three days by ourselves or I'd rather stay at a hotel) in the most polite way possible. And then the illusion breaks down: somehow Jenn can not answer herself and Chris starts jelling at me blaming me of being ungrateful for all he's done for me (like what? Making me miss my plane for New Orleans? Or like putting my life in danger when driving being drunk?? Nad being really rude to me most of the time?? >:( ).
Discussing with people like him is useless and I know better than trying that. I just know I'm done with them. And here Emily enters the picture and saves me by offering to drive me all the way to Clearwater and get my stuff and then back to Daytona!
Eternal gratitude to her, Chanele and Holly for helping me out !!! :o)
The drive to Clearwater and back is very long and it's about 3am when we finally arrive back in Daytona. I'm exhausted but also relieved about the fact that my last three days in Florida won't have to be a Chris nightmare!

18.8.03 We obviously get up pretty late today but when we finally do all I have on my mind is finding a way to get back to Tampa in time for my flight to Italy on Thursday. My first try is with Delta, to try and change my departing airport from Tampa to Orlando. Yet, I know enough about flight tickets to be rightly afraid this is not going to be possible and after three tries I just have to give up…Another possibility would be renting a car and having Chanele driving me all the way there, but this solution looks pretty bad, too, because of the cost and all the inconveniences…We are both pretty worried now, but it's time for Chanele to write her Russian Literature paper and for me to try and enjoy my last vacation days. So I meet up with Holly and go to the beach with her. And she is a nice surprise: not only is she very beautiful, she's also smart and kind! And we do spend some nice hours on the beach together, talking about our international experiences (she's been in Germany for 4 months), playing in the waves and taking a long walk along the shoreline.
Once back from the beach, me and Chanele finally get to solve my Tampa airport problem: I'm going to go to Tampa by Greyhound bus, stay one night at Days Inn and then get to the airport from there the morning after. This is the cheapest and easiest solution for us all so, without any more thinking, I just book my hotel room and buy my bus ticket! After that, me, Chanele and Alex go out for dinner and then watch a brand new movie, "Sea biscuit", about a race horse and the lives of the people around him. Not abd at all!

19.8.03 Chanele still needs to dedicate her morning to her paper, so I'm out on my own for my final shopping at the local mall this morning! But in the afternoon she joins me for another shake and another bookstore visit before we decide to wait for Emily to get out from work and then go to the local bead store. Just like me, Emily is keen on beads and jewelry making, too, and it's fun to compare styles & creations with her! :o)
After shopping, we go for dinner at a country restaurant that serves very yummy food and has a very cool store! It's my last night in Daytona and I spend it partly at Emily's place playing with beads )she has got an amazing collection!) and partly at Chanele's, playing on the internet! ;o)

20.08.03 So the time has come for me to leave Daytona and start my long journey back to the horrible country.. Greyhound buses are another thing "standard" Americans are pretty paranoid about, but I have learnt not to trust their "nightmare myths" too much by now and my trip to Tampa goes just well. Once in Tampa, I get to Days Inn by cab and by 6pm I'm all set in an overly flowerly room! ;o) It's kind of weird to be spending my last vacation time in Florida all by myself, but it's not too bad.. In a way, it's almost cool: another little proof of the Wanderer's independence! ;o)
I'm not looking forward to going back to Italy at all, of course, but I think I have had al the time I needed here in Florida… Still it's bit sad to be leaving the Us - it's a cool, spoiling country and once again it's been a great vacation spot!




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