Monday, October 29, 2007

Day 7 - Travelling to Tampa

Final drive up the 75 to Tampa and back over the Skyway Bridge. Great holiday. The Atlanta flight to Gatwick had an entertainment system on the aeroplane that allowed you to pay a trivia quiz other passengers – a real hoot. It gave the seat numbers and scores for every player after each question. God - England is so grey! Jetlag here I come.

Day 6 – Guns, God and Google

“Google can’t satisfy ever search” said the church sign. Long walk down Casperson Beach to collect shark’s teeth – got about 50. It was deserted and we walked for a mile or so on our own - then lunch at Sharky’s – baby back ribs, shrimp and ginger, more cold beer. Carl popped into a ‘sports’ store to look for a tennis racket – it turned out to be a hunting and fishing store, full of rifles, knifes and killing gear. Up to Sarasota to buy an iPOD, external hard drive, books and tennis rackets. Gil skidded doing a broadside at a junction – a little frightening. A huge number of vintage car fanatics arrived at the hotel for the Pumpkin Rally – Cadillacs, Dodges, Fords, Buicks, Corvettes – the cars were beautiful, the owners less so.

Day 5 – Corkscrew Swamp

Down to Corkscrew Swamp Wilderness for a two and half mile walk in the woods. The boardwalk takes you through lots of different habitats where we saw racoons, an anhinga, herons, red shouldered hawk, ibises, woodpecker and catbird. Lunch at the Crow’s Nest – oysters, grouper, shrimp and cold beer. Down to the north pier for sunset – a nice spot and a fantastic sky. A late night swim in the Hotel pool under the stars.

Day 4 – Shuttle

Off to Myakka Park where we hired two canoes. Had a mishap on launch, spilling Callum and I into the alligator infested water. Gil and Carl had similar difficulties on crossing a flooded dam, where their canoe got grounded on the top of the dam. Then, out of the corner of our eyes we saw the Space Shuttle roar vertically white, with a huge orange glow, rising slowly then twisting and curving off out of the atmosphere into orbit – truly spectacular and quite moving. It left a huge plume of white smoke from the ground to the upper reaches of the sky. Then some birdwatching – loads of herons, anhingas, ibises and vultures. A kingfisher was hovering then diving for fish. Walking in the woods we saw an indigo snake and a wild black pig.

Day 3 – Shopping, surf and seafo

Off to shop in one of the huge outlet places – you name it we bought it. Then back to beach for swim in huge waves. We all got winded at one point or another by the sheer force of the water. The rip currents were very strong and you got dragged out as quickly as thrown in. We’ve seen dolphins every day now and today was no exception.

Day 2 – Sun, sea and sunsets

Bought a couple of fishing rods, some bait and set off to the beach. Must have had great bait as we were catching them almost immediately. Carl got a one foot Spanish Mackerel (Kingfish). Lunch at Sharky’s overlooking the sea then more beach. Picked the lads up after a walk and saw them looking up at an Osprey that had just landed on the pole they were standing under, with a fish in its claws. You could hear the ripping of fish flesh and cracking of bones. Mel’s Diner for dinner – had the works.

Day 1 – Venice via Atlanta

Another trip to Venice on the gulf coast of Florida. October in England makes us yearn for sun, sea, swimming, surf, sunsets and seafood. There are few finer places that the US Gulf coast beaches for all of this, and more. Venice (south of Sarasota) has miles of near empty beaches, warm calm water for sea swimming, good beach fishing, faces west for super sunsets and great seafood restaurants. Our third trip here so we know the lie of the land.

On top of this the beaches have prehistoric shark’s teeth for some fossil collecting. Then there’s the inland parks for canoeing, walking and wildlife spotting. Lastly, this year, there’s the promise of cheap shopping with the dollar at 2 to the pound. We dog-legged it via
Atlanta with Delta which was fine until we had a long delay to swap planes in Atlanta. I don’t mind dog-leg long-haul flights as I like to get off and stretch my legs. Arrived late in Tampa and drove south over the Skyway bridge – spectacular sight.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Madrid - food, art and pickpockets

Four days in sunny Madrid with my mates Big Ken and the Thane of Fife (Ronnie) were packed with visits to Galleries, huge meals, lots of wine and some larking around in the park.

On the first night, and night in madrid means after midnight, we managed to prevent a pickpocket from stealing an elderly couple's purse. he had his hand inside her bag when I grabbed both the bag and pickpocket. the woman swung round and though I was attacking her. I had to explain that it was the guy I was holding that was the thief. By this time a crowd had gathered but she eventualy thanked us and we gt a ripple of applause from the crowd.

This was my third visit to Madrid this year and second to the Prado and Thyssen galleries. The Prado with has the world's best selections of Velasquez, Goya and El Greco. But everything else is well represented. Lunch was an Asturian meal of prawns, fried stuffed red peppers, prawns, bacalo and Asturian stew - stuffed like peasants.

Having been to Egypt several times in the last few years we were keen to walk to the Temple of Debod, one of only four temples outside of Egypt, theothers being in Turin, new York, Leiden and . It's in the middle of a small but lovely park. In the early 2nd centuryBC Adikhalamani, king of the country of Meroe started its construction by building a small chapel dedicated to the gods Amon and Isis. Afterwards, different kings of the Ptolmeic dynasty added new chambers around the original nucleus. The Roman emperors Augustus, Tiberius and perhaps Hadrian , completed its construction and decoration.