Monday, November 07, 2011

Home (2nd) Sweet Home

As I sit here in my recliner, Pixie at my feet (that's the dog - I'm not suffering from heat stoke just yet) and look out upon a glorious panorama of blue skies, palm trees and old people in shorts, I'm feeling at home. My 2nd home. Buttonwood Bay, Sebring, Florida to be precise.

And here is the story of how I got here.

I'd known last Friday evening that my flight on Saturday from Manchester to Orlando would be delayed almost 2.5 hrs from a departure time of 13:10 til 15:30. This was said to be down to a technical fault but in fact, when I asked around at the airport, was down to 'my' plane being needed elsewhere and a replacement being flown up from Gatwick on Saturday. Empty !

Can you image that ? A totally empty 747-400 flying to Manchester. Bet Mr. Branson wasn't too happy about that little piece of unscheduled scheduling !!

Anyway Daffy (my trusty airport taker too'er) and I decided to leave at our agreed initial time as I was fine with hanging around the airport for a few extra hours as opposed to having her waste even more of her Saturday. So we got there at about 10:45am and I was happy to see the Virgin check-in line was almost empty. (notice no obvious jokes from me there).

I was checked in and through security in no time as it seems with the delay in the departure time, passengers had spread out their arrival times at the airport accordingly.

So I had plenty of time for a leisurely browse through duty free and then had a meal in case the flight meals were as minimal as usual.

Sadly the replacement Gatwick Jumbo was a little late arriving and despite being empty so that no time was 'lost' kicking passengers out, it still had to be refuelled and the galley stocked up.

Yes, I know it looks like there is a "giant" little girl flying the plane but don't worry, it's just a reflection from inside the terminal. The sun was right behind the plane so this was the best I could manage.

Once on board we didn't have too long to wait before the doors were closed and we all settled down for the 8.5hr flight to Orlando. I find flying with closed doors is the preferred way.

The plane was old. Very old. In fact as well as toilet graffiti from Orville & Wright, there was an ashtray behind the door ! Who'd have thought it. Orville & Wright were smokers !

Virgin Atlantic had introduced a new food initiative on November 1st which to me seemed like they were making a positive about giving us less food ! I'm afraid that telling us the food tray would be smaller to give us more room on the drop down 'table' didn't cut any ice with me. I read smaller tray and thought....less food. And so it was.

We were each given a menu to again make us feel special but as there were still only 2 choices for the main meal, I saw nothing new. However, as one meal option was sausages and mash, I actually cleared my dish which had to have been a first.

Mid flight, and while some of us were watching a movie, the flight attendants came down the aisles with those over the shoulder goodie trays that we used to see in theatres back in the day after the B movie and before the main feature. They were giving out a sort of frozen popsickle which was very nice and very acceptable at the time.

I watched 3 movies back to back.......Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Super 8 and Captain America, The First Avenger. I'd not recommend any of them but Super 8 wasn't too bad. Basically E.T. meets The Goonies.

After an uneventful flight (sorry, Air Crash Investigation......nothing to see here) I arrived at the Orlando immigration area at 9pm local time. As we'd been delayed leaving the UK, they weren't expecting a Jumbo full of passengers at that time so half the Homeland Security booths were empty. The resulting line snaking around the room was very long as I'd been at the back of the plane, I was also at the back of the line.

It took an hour to get to the front and despite my usual concerns about it all, I was through without any hassle and was reunited with my luggage all within 10 minutes.

I met Debby in the arrivals and she called Dennis who had been waiting in the car in the nearby cell phone parking area and within minutes we were all on our way to Sebring. It was almost a 2 hr drive (ok so we stopped at a Hardees !!) and so it was around midnight when we got here. Despite being very tired, I was still buzzed and I didn't go to bed till just after 2am by which time it became 1am (clocks went back) but I'd still been up for 23 hours.

So I was very thankful for the extra hour in bed as I was up and about again at 6:30am. That's just how it goes with me the first night. Can only sleep about 5 or 6 hours.

Yesterday (Sunday) passed in a bit of a daze. We went out shopping to get me food basics and stopped off at the local diner for breakfast of 2 eggs, 3 bits of bacon (not worthy to be classed as rashers of course), home fries, toast and jelly and all for $3.99. Lovely jubbly.

Back home I unpacked, tidied up my bedroom and chilled for the rest of the day.

Now it's Monday and my first proper day here as I'm fully awake and raring to go. I was up again at 6:30am and now it's time for lunch. I've been for a short golf cart ride around the park but after lunch I'll take my bike to have its tyres blown up and then go for a proper investigation as lots of work has been done over the summer to improve the place.

I took this view outside the house a few hours ago , looking westwards. It was a little cloudy (they've burned off now) but still a very pleasant 79F/26c and it's to get to 83F/29c later on.

And this dull post has brought the blog up to date. I may now go for a bike ride. I may go for a walk. I may go for a swim. I may even go wrestle a gator.

This is the land of opportunity so anything is possible.

Ok lets get real here. I don't think I'll be wrestling a gator !!


Daphne said...

"Toilet graffiti from Orville and Wright" - - love it!
But a smaller tray to give more space on the drop-down table - - ohhh Mr Branson, do you think we were born yesterday? Has your tray got smaller when YOU fly, Mr Branson? - - No, I didn't think so!

I'm so glad you got there safely, Silverback.

Jennyta said...

What a marathon journey, but you got there safely in the end = AND they let you in! Enjoy the sun and blue skies. Here it could not be greyer or wetter. :)

Milo said...

Slate grey skies, very damp and noticeably dropping temperatures here; you got out at the right time.

Yes, the last time I flew Virgin Atlantic (to Nairobi, 2 years ago I think) - I remember exclaiming to my brother at just how OLD the plane was. Real dinosaur.

Enjoy the cycling and the warmer climes! Weather forecast here is just for more rain rain rain. Les Miserables!

Helsie said...

Sounds like you have it all timed perfectly for the good life.
For me here in sunny Queensland Winter is my favourite time of year and unluckily it is the best time of year to travel to countries in the Northern hemisphere too.
I'm eagerly waiting for more tales of Provence as that's the place I'll be aiming for next.

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