The sudden flurry of entries is due to me discovering a WiFi hotspot in the corner of my hotel room. I’m guessing that someone in the neighbouring condo has an unprotected base station. Thanks to this generosity, you should see more frequent updates.
I’m sat in a large, leather armchair, next to an expensive coffee table, on a plush carpet. The odd thing is that I’m sat in the middle of a shopping mall. Lorna described good US malls as being “a bit like Bluewater” which is like describing a Renault M�gane as being “a bit like a Porsche”. Frankly, this little rest area puts my front room to shame. It makes it look positively tawdry.
Oh, and there’s valet parking for about the price of an hour in a London car park.
No wonder America is a society of rampant consumerism. They’re just so damn good at making it fun.
I have a hire car. It’s an SUV. It’s roughly the same sizeas two identical cars to the one I drive back home parked on top of one another. It does far too many things automatically. It doesn’t have a clutch. It’s roughly like driving a mix of a dodgems car and a high-performance tank.
Just as well everybody drives at walking pace in Florida, really.
For the third time today, an American has just looked at me as if I’m mad. It’s not our fault. We can’t do anything else until tomorrow. Why should we be ashamed? We do it all the time in the UK. Just because the Americans find it strange doesn’t mean we shouldn’t enjoy ourselves the British way.
And so, we walked to the shops. The real hint that American roads are not designed to accommodate pedestrians is the epic wait for the lights to change at the occasional, surly crossing. After several minutes, the lights force themselves to endure a few seconds of red, before suddenly switching back, leaving their hapless victims to scurry the remaining few meters to the safety of the sidewalk. I’d always thought that scene in LA Story where Steve Martin drives all of two houses to see his best friend was a joke, until I saw at least two driver do journeys just that short.
And where did that walk take us? Lakeside. Yes, we’d travelled around 4,000 miles and we were still shopping at Lakeside. Of course, this Lakeside is significantly smaller than the one we’re used to, and a damn sight more friendly, too. We had a very pleasant lunch in a bar on the corner of the little strip of shops, paying for four people about what we would have paid for one back in the UK. I could get used to this.
Lorna and I were awake by 5am, our body clocks resolutely refusing to adapt quickly to US time. We threw open the glass doors of our room and ran down to the beach, ready to catch the first light of dawn. As the sun climbed over the troubled waters of the Atlantic, the whole resort was bathed in the most spectacular orange light.
There is a reason to be up at 5am after all.
The one major flaw in any intercontinental travel for me is this: you need to fly. Now, in principle I like the ides of flying. I love take-off and landing and I love being able to travel so far, so quickly. However, somewhere deep in my lizard brain, the primitive part of me hates turbulence. It pumps adrenaline into my system with such force that, all of a sudden, I want to fight, to attack, to break things. Clearly, this is not a good idea on an eight hour flight across the Atlantic. And so, wrapped in a warm cocoon of prescription tranquillisers, I flew to Washington DC.
The staff at Washington airport were great: friendly, helpful and unfailingly polite. I think we Brits are in danger of relinquishing our reputation for politeness to those damn colonials. If there was any fault we could find with the staff, in fact, it was their paucity. 90 minutes is just too long to wait in a hot immigration queue, especially with a transfer flight to catch. As soon as the US authorities had my fingerprints on record, and had take a quick snap of my tranquillised face, we were free to run for the boarding gate and catch the connection to Fort Lauderdale.
Technically, I suppose, this holiday began two days ago when we finished work and set off to Suffolk to collect my mother. These two days ahevn’t felt like part of the holiday, though. They’ve felt like a typical weekend at Mum’s, complete with haircut, shopping and a slightly drunken evening meal.
In less than an hour, though, we’ll be off, setting course for London and my brother’s place, before continuing on to Heathrow the following morning.
This is my first holiday with my family since my late teens, and my first with Lorna’s family.
Am I scared? Oh, yes.