" USA 2003"
My Florida & Louisiana adventures
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
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!!
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.
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!
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
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
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
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
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?!
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!)
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!
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
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)
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)
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.
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
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!
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!
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)
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
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)
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!
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".
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
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
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
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)
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!
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