Hello Florida! It has been a while, and boy, have I missed you! Your relaxed, constant-vacation like atmosphere; your fresh, crisp ocean air and the warmth of your suns year-round rays. Ah, Florida; you really are something special.
I am staying in Tampa with my friend, Christina and her husband, Mike. Funny enough, Christina used to be my Year 11 English teacher in high school back home in Melbourne, Australia. We used to get along quite well; always joking around and laughing at the most inappropriate of things, so we stayed in touch after I had finished high school. Since then, Christina married American hubbie, Mike, and moved to live with him in Tampa, Florida. When I told her I was flying over to visit, Christina and Mike put me up in their spare room; too kind. They are the sweetest of people! I have had so much fun joking and laughing with them all week.
I have visited Tampa and Orlando once before on a previous vacation in 2006, but there was still plenty to do and much to see. Apart from shopping like crazy (the USA is extremely cheap (compared to Australia) when it comes to electronics and big-name labeled clothing) with Christina I had some other friends that I was catching up with in Orlando; Jen from Florida and Jeremy from Iowa.
Mike and Christina drove me from Tampa to Cape Canaveral to visit the John F. Kennedy Space Center. I had never been there before so I was rather excited. I like visiting places that I can take away new knowledge from, and this was definitely going to be one of those excursions. The Kennedy Space Center is the NASA space vehicle launch facility and Launch Control Center. Unfortunately there were no launches scheduled for the day of our visit, but that did not make my time there any less enjoyable. We looked around then watched a couple of 3-D screenings on the IMAX screen there at the learning center. The documentaries we watched were extremely educational and I thoroughly enjoyed them.
Before leaving Australia, Jeremy, Jen and myself had made plans to all meet up in Tampa, Florida and Jen would drive us over to Orlando for a weekend of fun. I only get to see these guys once a year when I am in the USA so we try to make the most of the limited time we get to spend together. Our plans consisted of staying the weekend in Downtown Disney, visiting Islands of Adventure and partying it up by night at Disney’s Pleasure Island.
The last time I was in Florida I did not get the chance to visit Islands of Adventure which disappointed me because I am crazy about thrill rides and knew this place housed some of the finest. This time I was not going to miss out again. Being a resident of Florida, Jen was able to get us our tickets at a discounted price. We got there early and despite the beautiful day that is was, we were surprised to see short lines and minimal waits on most rides; awesome. I had so much frickin’ fun there, but since we got there so early and lines were short, we rode all the rides with plenty of time to spare. Jeremy, being the gentleman that he is, offered to pay for upgrades on all our tickets so that we could also go to Universal Studios. All three of us had been there before, but not since the new Simpsons Ride was introduced. Being big Simpsons fans, we were all extremely eager to try it out; and let me tell you, it did not disappoint. Not one bit. We enjoyed it so much we rode it twice! It was absolutely fantastic.
I was so pumped up and excited to go clubbing at Pleasure Island. The title of the place has its connotations, but, let me tell you, it was indeed pleasurable 🙂 The last time I was in Florida I was underage by American standards, but this time I was 22 and ready to party! The first club we hit up was awesome; the music was young and fresh and the crowd was kickin’. We started on the drink within minutes of entering and pretty soon we were well onto our sixth, seventh, eight drink each… I do not remember much except dancing a bit then attempting to walk our way back to our hotel room. I have a vivid memory of our walk back being rather hilarious.
Our weekend together went by way too quick, and before I knew it, I was back in Tampa with Christina and Mike and Jeremy was on a plane flying back to Iowa 😦
Christina took me to the Tampa Aquarium where we met up with Jen before going in. The aquarium was pretty neat. We checked the aquarium schedule we were given and decided to make the penguin show. We were amongst the first to attend the presentation so Jen and I got front row seats, right on the floor while Christina sat back and called us nerds. The penguin show presenters were going to bring two live penguin out and let them walk around on the floor right in front of us. We were instructed not to touch the penguins which was fair enough. They are such amazing creatures, so cute and intelligent. The two brought out in front of us were brother and sister.
It may seem weird, but despite having been to Florida now for the second time, I had never actually been to one of the beaches here; how shameful of me. Knowing this, Christina and Mike took me to Clearwater Beach for the evening. It was lovely. So peaceful and relaxing. We got there just in time to witness the sun setting over the ocean. I had never seen a sun set so beautiful as the one I was experience right there and then. The vibrant orange-colored sky made as amazing backdrop to the cool, shaded palm trees. Right there and then I was so happy but quickly saddened by the thought of having to leave this all and fly home in three weeks. I did not want this journey to end. Never.
On my second last day in Florida, Christina took me to Treasure Island beach. She knew of a nice little eatery right on the sand that she wanted to show me. It really was gorgeous and literally right on the sand. We found ourselves a table outside under a big sun umbrella. Christina sat in the shade but I opted to sit in the sun in hopes of gaining what ever tan I could before leaving. Jen drove down and met up with us for lunch. We had some good food and shared several laughs. Jen spotted some wild dolphins jumping around in the ocean out in the distance. I could not, for the life of me, see that far out so I shyly put on my glasses. Much better. What a sight. It was a lovely afternoon. Life was good.
Today I had to bid farewell to Christina when she left me to catch my flight at the airport. I was rather upset by this. I hate goodbyes and not knowing how long it would be before I got to see Christina again made it all the more worse. After she left I shed a few tears; I hate crying in front of people.
My flight was being announced so I made my way over to my gate and waited to board.