Thursday, March 11, 2010

Naplesun2Tue. March 9th : Arrival in USA

As usual, despite so much preparing we did not feel quite ready for this tour, but did arrive at Dublin Airport in comfortable time expecting, as usual, to get pre-immigration clearance, but found this is not so for Orlando. It is so less stressful go through all of the formalities before a flight than after.

Orlando immigration was very slow as there is a very thorough check of everyone entering, at least 5 minutes per person. Unfortunately I have a glitch on record, that’s nothing to do with criminality that totally confuses immigration when it pops up. We were held up for an hour while I explained why its there so the agent can write a report and cover his backside. Very tiring, but I applaud the immigration officers for their courtesy, kindness and good humour.

Then there was the discovery of baggage being sent to another terminal building, another 30 minutes or so hold up, followed by a mix up with the hertz car rental, but this is not a blot on Hertz. I do enjoy their constant courtesy, help and darn good cars.

It was a relief to head of to the hotel, over 3 hours after landing at Orlando Airport.

Kissimmee

Our booked hotel was Comfort Suites in Kissimmee, tucked well into a side road well away from main roads. It was a wonderful relaxing impression on arrival. From the moment we arrived what hit us was the incredible kindness and service of the staff. All very casual, all staff in Hawaiian shirts and shorts. Everywhere in the hotel had hums are various Caribbean and island musics.

The people staying there, very family hotel, reminded me of the old British saucy seaside postcards “weather’s here, wish you was fine” kind of cards. I am surprised I did not see anyone wearing “Kissimmee Here” hats at t-shirts.

Room was amazing, huge! Beds were great, just so very, very cozy and the morning breakfast was stunningly good in variety. I was down for breakfast at 6:00 am, still struggling with Ireland time. I thought I was going to be odd up that early. Wow, it seemed like all of the hotel residents were up. The breakfast room was full, no spare tables, gym was full of big bottomed virtual cyclist, rowers and walkers all strutting their stuff while watching the excited news once more telling us how the world is falling apart. The pool was also extremely busy. When Claire appeared to share breakfast at 9:00 am, I think a few people were already looking for lunch.

Price for Claire and I was below what most Irish bed and breakfasts can afford to charge. It was a surprising give-away for the quality of room and food we had.

The road to Naples

We were to meet various people for lunch in Kissimmee, but one by one they told us they could not make it. We were relieved in a way because our weather forecasting research showed this may be the only day of our tour that we may experience a warm sunny beach experience.

On the way to Naples along the N4 the sat-nav (GPS) surprised us by sending us off the freeway into a side road. We decided to follow its wisdom and then cursed it when we became wrapped up among the many red light stops of Winter Haven. Once it released us onto the country roads we enjoyed a relaxed journey of hardly any traffic enjoying the sight of prehistoric swamp plants and birds of the area such as the white herons, cranes, vultures and the glossy black ravens.

There were also many fruit farms and orange groves and we could not resist stopping at a roadside seller to buy a sack of local oranges, wonderful wonderful Florida strawberries, papayas and star fruits.

Claire was hungry, fruit was not enough, and suggested a lunch pull in at a Chilli’s. Nice choice Claire. I was surprised when she went for a fairly regular caesar salad but I went full hog for shrimp tacos, beans and rice, and lots and lots of blackberry iced tea.

USA people are wonderful for inventing dramatic names for items and situations such as house thieves being called “home invaders”, postmen/mailmen now being called either “rural (or urban) communications carriers”. I am noticing that “diet” foods and drinks are now becoming called “bottomless”. No longer is it a “diet coke” but a “bottomless coke” and a low calorie menu is a “bottomless menu”.

On the road again it was another stop at a Publix supermarket to buy up sacks of non perishable supplies for the RV. There’s just nothing like Publix in Ireland and probably not in the U.K.. I would need to write a whole new blog to describe it. We were there for an hour or so mesmerised at so, so, much variety and unique things on their shelves. The end bill also made us jump for joy in celebration, a van load of supplies for the cost of a couple of shopping bags back in Ireland.

To the beach

We arrived at the hotel in Naples, very different to the Kissimmee hotel. No grand entrance as The Naples Inn is a neatly dressed up old fashioned style motel, much smaller than a hotel. However, we had a good impression with its very old style charm, and very well kept, a very clean place. Room is about half the size of the room of our Kissimmee hotel, but very adequate, and has an amusing concrete block wall personal outside patio. Internet service here is very simple to log onto and use, and quite fast download and upload.

However, I suggested to Claire, lets forgot doing online work, its an hour to sunset, lets get to the beach. I had quickly looked up the weather forecast for the next 3 days, with an every 15 minutes forecast for the next 6 hours. It was not pretty!

We walked to the beach, only about 15 minutes away, and was delighted how Naples had been cultivated into a very pretty and fragrant town. Unlike bustling playful Kissimmee this town is peaceful, relaxing and sanctuary.

The beach is superbly powder white sand with a few interesting tropical and exotic shells. The sea very blue, but also quite cold, just good enough and bearable enough for a paddle.

The sky was getting cloudy but it still looked like were were to get a stunning Naples sunset. Not many people on the beach, but several had tripods and cameras at the ready. It seemed all were here to watch the setting sun. Several in old world deckchairs waiting for the moment.

I clicked away as the sun was setting and i think I got a few good shots. After the sun set, Claire and I just sat for a few quiet minutes absorbing and appreciating where we were and the whole experience of being there.

As we walked back Claire was hungry. The lunch caesar salad was not holding, though I was still quite full from lunch. We found a delightful waterside pub with an outside patio onto the inland waterway just a little in from the sea.

A Florida night life moment

During the years of living in Florida some time ago I used to often be a little envious of folks who could just let go and have an evening out at a pub, with a meal and a drink outside by the waterway. At last, Claire and I were going to have a real Florida moment.

Claire had blackened grilled shrimp with a huge taco and nachos salad. This time it was me with the caesar salad but topped with the best tasting grilled salmon I have had, for a long long time. The whole lot for barely more than the cost of fish n’chips in Boyle town in Ireland. Eating this with the peace and smells of being by the rippling waterway. Heaven! ….. and nobody smoking, even outside.

Back to the hotel ….. flop into the very comfortable beds here.

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