March 31 - 8 April 2016 Florida - Orlando

Thursday 31st March – Lake City to Orlando 163 miles

Got to Orlando this afternoon and booked in at the Tropical Palms RV Park in Kissimmee.

This marks the end of our road trip from Mexico across the US. Since leaving Los Barrilas on the 20th March we have clocked up 3437 miles.

Simon, Nin, Tom and Ellie were staying at a nearby hotel, Simon and Tom were out in the car and called in not long after we arrived. We all met up for dinner later at The Kitchen Restaurant in the Hard Rock Hotel. It was great to see everyone again after fifteen months away. Carlton, a friend of Simon and Ninette, is the Managing Director of the Hard Rock Orlando and arranged dinner for us all.

When we arrived there was a queue for valet parking, the place was really buzzing, a great atmosphere.

We had a lovely meal and great service and the dessert choice arrived displayed on a guitar, nice touch. Around the restaurant are the uniforms worn by rockstar chefs that have cooked there.

Later in the evening Wilson (Carlton’s husband) joined us straight from the airport after flying in from Mexico and we all moved down to the hotel foyer. On the way we saw lots of rock memorabilia, including a pair of pajamas worn by Elvis, he must have been smaller in real life than he looked in films.

The hotel had one of their Velvet sessions on featuring Morris Day & The Time. Simon, Nin, Carlton and Wilson stayed to catch up and listen to the band. We went next door into Universal with Tom and Ellie for a look at what was going on at City Walk.

Tom and Ellie came back to stay at the RV.

Friday 1st April

Breakfast outside the RV.

Went with Tom to watch while he water skied at Phil Hughes ski school on Champions Lake, Clermont. This is a purpose built ski lake surrounded by houses with boats in the back yards.

Later in the day we went to Wild Willy’s Airboat Tours for a ride in an airboat on Lake Tohopekaliga.

Simon stayed behind because he is not well and decided to rest up. Mike our driver said that the lake was on the head waters of the Everglades and was one of a series of lakes linked together by canals which made it possible to boat to the Atlantic Ocean. The lake was abundant with wildlife and Mike described what we were seeing as we glided through the lily pads and grassland.

Wood Stork

Herons

The Lake has the third highest population of Bald Eagles in the US. Bald Eagle after catching a catfish.

Here there are three to four and a half thousand alligators but it was a hot day and most of them were hiding in the shade. We did see one out swimming.

Purple Gallinule.

Back on land we had the opportunity to hold a baby alligator.

This evening we had barbeque back at the RV.

Saturday 2nd April

We moved RV sites today to KOA Kissimmee.

Simon went to the doctors this morning. He has been ill since before arriving in Orlando and was not feeling any better after a week of being here. He had a battery of tests including a CT scan and the outcome was that he has pneumonia. He is now taking penicillin and painkillers.

This evening we went to Carlton and Wilson’s house for pre-dinner drinks and hors d’oeuvres. The house is just delightful, Wilson has a real flair for design and decoration. We met Wilson’s sister, Sheila who is celebrating her birthday this week and staying at the house for a few days.

Then on to Urbain 40 an American Brasserie for dinner. This a very stylish restaurant in the Doctor Phillips area of Orlando and is a little reminiscent of Sardi’s in New York although an up to date version and without the showbiz celeb photos on the wall. It has a 1940’s atmosphere with pictures of the ‘rat pack’ on the wall where the jazz trio played.

The food and wine was excellent and the staff great, all looking very smart in their shirts, waistcoats and starched white aprons. A really nice evening.

Tom came back to the RV with us to stay the night. Spring break has finished and he is starting back at Uni in Monroe on Monday. He will be leaving early tomorrow morning to pick up two Uni friends who are staying near the RV Park and going back with him.

Sunday 3rd April – Happy Birthday Tony

Up at seven to see Tom off. Later in the morning we went over to the Ritz Carlton where Simon, Ninette and Ellie are staying. Simon was feeling a little better and went off with Tony to find a nice big dog park for Sandy to run around in. I sat by the hotel pool with Ninette and Ellie where we had lunch and spent the day swimming and sunbathing.

This is a very nice hotel with grand décor, in a lovely setting and the staff are excellent, very relaxing. Before leaving we couldn’t resist a little game of table tennis, I was the ball girl.

This evening we had a birthday dinner for Tony at the BJ Brewhouse. Ninette produced a special extra birthday present for Tony – HP sauce.

Monday 4th April

Ellie flew back to the UK this afternoon. Her A Levels are coming and she needs to get back to prepare. We said a tearful goodbye at Orlando Airport. It was so lovely to see Tom and Ellie again after 15 months away but the time with them was so short. At least we will get to see Tom again soon as he is joining us in New Orleans.

Had a late lunch/early dinner back at the RV.

There are two ducks that come into the park from the adjoining lake. They came up to the RV very politely looking for some tit bits.

Tuesday 5th April

Moved back to Tropical Palms RV Park this morning.

This evening we joined Simon and Ninette at the Hard Rock Hotel pool. Wilson had organized for them to have a cabana at the side of the pool for the day.

It was a lovely warm evening and we stayed by the pool and had dinner in the cabana.

Wednesday 6th April

Went to the Bass Pro Shop to do some shopping then to Red Lobster for Lunch. This evening we met up with Carlton, Wilson and Adnan for dinner at Eddie V’s a very smart fine dining restaurant. Adnan worked with Carlton in the past and now manages a Hotel resort in Orlando. I had Lemon Sole with Parmesan Crust and for dessert, Hot Bananas Foster Butter Cake – wow!

Thursday 7th April

This afternoon we went to see Ninette’s cousin who happens to be holidaying in Orlando with her son Lee, two grandchildren, her cousin and husband and her daughter, son-in-law and their three children. They have rented a house in the Reunion Villas district of Kissimmee. The house is enormous with several bedrooms and a large pool and barbeque area. We had a lovely afternoon and evening visiting with them. Lee cooked barbeque and we went into the pool after dinner and played ball with the four boys.

Friday 8th April

We stayed around the RV today doing a few chores and repairs. Simon went to Camping World with Tony to get a few things for the RV. Ninette met up with Wilson and spent some time at the Hard Rock pool. Our last night in Orlando and Wilson cooked dinner for us all at their house, we had prawns, olives and garlic hors d’oeuvres and then for dinner salmon with vegetables and tiramisu and chocolate cake for dessert. It was all wonderful, Wilson is such a good cook.