Category Archives: Florida

We Are Going To Florida Next Week

We are going to Florida next week to see my two daughters, which is the only chance I get to see them every year, and as usual I am beginning to panic slightly.

As well as wanting to make sure that everything goes perfectly, gone are the days when I used to travel regularly for work, knew exactly what I needed to take, what clothing to pack etc.  The older I get, the more forgetful I get, the more aware I am of having A.D.D., and the more I fret about forgetting something important.

As well as the obvious items like passports, flight and car rental bookings etc, it’s things like the cameras and MP3 Player, making sure that these are charged, clothing, making sure I pack the right things.

Silly to fret about some of these things I know, but with money being tight I can’t afford to buy replacement items while we are away, and I can feel myself really finding it harder to remember things the last 3 or 4 years, which is worrying.

Even though our trip coincides with the Olympics in London, Delta for some reason are not flying direct between London and Miami for the summer, and so we have to change planes in Atlanta on the way out and Detroit on the way back.  A change of flight time has already forced us to leave Miami two hours early on the way back, and now we will have 4 1/2 hours in Detroit, which we are not looking forward to, especially as it will be late evening.

My other worry is whether Debbie will get held up in Immigration.  She is usually ok unless it’s Miami, where she always gets pulled over, even though she now has a 10 year visa in her passport. It’s a long story, but an interesting one that you can read about HERE if you have time.

But hopefully all will go well, and we are staying at the same condo in Hollywood Beach that we stayed at last summer. I know Hollywood pretty well, and we know the condo too, so that makes me more confident that it will be a good trip.

I am really looking forward to seeing my daughters, and will tell you all about it when we return mid August. If you want to see where we are staying and to read about last year’s holiday, it’s all HERE.

Tony And Debbie’s Florida Vacation – Part Six

Part 6 of our holiday in Florida sees me injured while Ice Skating, doing a Belly Flop on the ice, and then continuing with a stormy week in Hollywood.  If you haven’t read the previous articles in this series, you might enjoy starting at the beginning HERE.

A Belly Flop On The Ice

On Tuesday of the second week I took the girls to Pines Ice Arena in Pembroke Pines, since they enjoy learning to skate, and hadn’t been there since I last took them 18 months ago.

We had a good time, until my eldest challenged me to a race, and seconds later I was headed flat on the ice in what can only be described as a belly flop!   Being in my 50’s and overweight, putting my arms out did little to soften my fall, and as a result 2 weeks later I am still very sore with bruised ribs and pulled stomach muscles. 

It’s hard to sleep at night because I can only lie on my side, and so I get woken up by a sore/numb shoulder and arm, which causes me to struggle to sit up, twist around and lie on the other side.   I still cannot pie on my front or back even after 2 weeks, it’s that painful.

I guess next time I take them skating I will have learned my lesson, and therefore absolutely no racing.  If they are skating better on their own too by then, I might just let them do more while I sit and watch.


Swarms of Dragonflies over Hollywood Beach in FloridaWe took the next few days quietly, since I was hurting, and the girls spent lots of time in the pool while I tried to walk around in it, but found lifting my arms up too painful to allow me to swim unfortunately.

It stormed a lot the next couple of days as well, and before the rain on several days the sky was filled with thousands of dragonflies.  It was quite amazing to watch, and if you click on the picture here and look at the sky, those are not specks of dirt that you can see, it’s dragonflies.

A beautiful Dragonfly that posed for me at Hollywood Beach in FloridaFortunately they rarely came close to us, and we aren’t scared of them either, but if you were then it might not be too pleasant.  I did manage to capture one that was perched on a wall, which I posted to Fine Art America.  I wonder if I will get any sales?

Thunder And The Smurfs

One day we took the girls to one of our favourite places to eat, Sweet Tomatoes, and then since it was set to rain again, to see the Smurfs movie.

We opted to not see the 3D version, since neither of them really enjoy that, but managed to get good seats at the back of the theatre and settled down to watch the film.

About halfway through we could hear what sounded like thunder, and although I thought at first it was sound coming through from one of the other 17 theatres in the location, we soon found out that it wasn’t, as we began to hear the rain pounding on the roof.

Then, as so often happens in Florida, the power went out, and we all sat in virtual darkness for about 20 minutes until they could get everything back to normal.  During this time we were making noises, sound effects, singing the Smurf song, and others in the audience were repeating it, so it was quite funny really, and the time passed quickly.

I wouldn’t say the movie was great, but it wasn’t awful either, kind of cute really.

The Last Night And A Full Moon

Full Moon over Hollywood Beach in FloridaIt’s funny isn’t it how the first part of a holiday goes slowly, and then as time goes on the days just whiz past.  So before we knew it, it was time to say goodbye to the girls and to fly home to the UK.

My youngest decided to go home to her Mom on Friday night, as she was feeling homesick, but my eldest stayed with us and helped us to pack on the Saturday morning.

Friday night there was a full moon, and we went for a walk along the broadwalk at Hollywood Beach as the sun was setting to catch a glimpse, but there were thick clouds along the horizon and it was clear that the moon would have to rise quite a lot before anyone could see it.

However, about an hour later I was able to catch some good pictures of the full moon as it rose through the palm trees.

Goodbye Hollywood Beach

Debbie and the girls at Hollywood Beach in FloridaAll too soon it came time for my ex to pick up my eldest, and for us to give the girls hugs and kisses and say goodbye. 

Then time to complete the packing, loading of the car, and to leisurely drive to the airport in Miami, return the car, and wait for the flight home.

With my ribs being sore, having to try and lift the bags in and out of the condo, the car, and a shuttle bus, then into the overhead bins on the plane, I was really hurting.

It was actually for once not so bad trying to spend the night sitting half upright instead of trying to lie down, but after landing at Heathrow airport, and lugging the bags on and off another shuttle and into the car, I was about all in.

I had to grip the steering wheel all the way home to try and take some pressure off my ribs, but fortunately with it being Sunday morning the traffic was light, and the journey took just over an hour.

Once home, a quick check to make sure everything was ok, then off to bed for a couple of hours, to try and catch up on a bit of sleep, and to prepare for the reality of going back to work the following morning.

Well that is the story of our trip to Florida.  I hope you enjoyed it, and if so any Shares/Tweets or a Google|+1 would be much appreciated.


Tony and Debbie’s Florida Vacation – Part Five

This is the 5th part of our holiday in Florida, and covers a trip to the Miami Metro Zoo.  If you would like to read about our trip from the beginning, you can start HERE.

A Day At Miami Metro Zoo

Miami Metro Zoo LogoAlthough I had lived in South Florida for 4 years before returning to the UK, I had never been to Miami Metro Zoo, and despite living in Hollywood all their lives, neither had my daughters, so this seemed to be a good choice of location for a day out as a treat for their upcoming birthdays.

Much of southern Miami Dade County has been rebuilt since Hurricane Andrew hit the area in August 1992, the zoo being just one of the locations that suffered enormous damage.

Miami Metro Zoo lies well south and west of downtown Miami, over 40 miles from Hollywood, and if driving by car you do need to be aware that the toll sections of the Florida Turnpike in South Florida no longer accept cash, so you either have to have a Sunpass transponder, or face hefty fines.  We opted to take the old road, US1 from where I95 ends just south of downtown, and despite having to go through a number of red light intersections, the journey wasn’t too bad.

The first thing that is noticeable about the zoo is the sheer space that it occupies and the open layout.  The parking lot is enormous, and we were thankful that on the day we went there were few other visitors, since trying to walk around the zoo on a hot sticky day with 20,000 others is not my idea of a fun day out.

The other thing is that all the pathways and trails through the zoo are very wide, allowing for lots of visitors on foot, as well as for the 4-wheeled cycles that you can rent, albeit at a hefty price.  As well as walking around the zoo, you can take the road train, or the air-conditioned monorail.

On arriving at the zoo we could already see the dark storm clouds looming in the distance, and we knew that the storms had arrived early that day, and soon after going into the zoo we were almost certainly going to have to find shelter.

Reading a book at Miami Metro ZooWe were not wrong, as within 15 minutes of beginning out walk around the zoo, the rain began to fall, and it came down in torrents for a good hour, during which we sheltered at an excellent exhibit hall, which had a lot of hands-on items, as well as a children’s library that my youngest daughter took an interest in, reading several books while we waited in there for over an hour for the rain to stop.

Hands On Exhibits at Miami Metro ZooWell the rain kept on coming down in torrents, and fortunately there was enough in the building to keep the girls occupied, my eldest spending time doing some puzzles, while my youngest sat and read, and Debbie sat and waited.

Finally the rain slowed to a light drizzle, and we decided to venture forth into the outside, which by this time was very wet, but we managed ok, being optimistic and upbeat, while the drizzle just continued.

Siamang Gibbons at Miami Metro ZooBy the time we got around what I estimate to be about 1/3 of the zoo, we decided that it would be a good idea to try and find somewhere to eat lunch, since we were now soaked through, having neither rain wear or an umbrella with us.  However, the main restaurant was closed for remodelling, a second grill was not cooking anything because the grill was in the open and therefore exposed to the rain.  There was a third facility by the children’s zoo, which just sold well overpriced burgers, so we decided to make the best of it, to wander around what we could, and then made our way back to the car.

It must have rained for most of the 4 ½ hours that we were there at the zoo, and looking at the guide just now there is a lot that we missed, so maybe next time we are in Florida we will return to Miami Metro Zoo.

It would have been nice to just have a rain shower, since it kept many of the visitors away, and it was actually nice not being surrounded by hordes of screaming kids, however not being able to see everything and with so many sections closed, it was a bad choice for us to go there on the day that we did.

Miami Metro Zoo Tiger EnclosureThe zoo is highly rated though, and with the animals having for the most part a lot of space and no cages, it would make a good family day out provided that the weather co-operated.   In the event that it’s extremely hot, the zoo does have places where you can get misted with a fine spray of water, which does help to cool you down.  Nobody seems to mind getting wet on a hot day in Florida, however there are limits, and walking around the zoo in a downpour is never any fun.

Miami Metro Zoo The End

CLICK HERE for the Sixth and final part of our trip to Florida.

Tony and Debbie’s Florida Vacation – Part Four

Thanks for visiting and I hope you enjoy reading about our vacation in Florida.  This is the 4th post about our trip.  If you would like to start at the beginning, just click HERE.

A Trip To The Nature Center

Anne Kolb Nature Reserve Broward County FloridaThe Anne Kolb Nature Center is situated just across the intra-coastal waterway from Hollywood Beach, and although it’s close to the beach and where I used to live, I had never been there.  We thought this might be a good place to take the girls as a change from the pool and the beach, and educational at the same time.

The center is located in the middle of a mangrove swamp, with walkways that allow visitors to walk out into the swamp and to explore the wildlife close up, which includes various species of mangroves, and land crabs that can be seen climbing trees as well.

As well as the walks, the center does have organised boat rides through the swamp and evening excursions to see the turtles hatching in the summer months, but the latter are fully booked about a year in advance.

Steamy Day at the Anne Kolb Nature Center Broward County FloridaThe only problem was that on the morning that we decided to visit, it was 95 degrees and extremely humid, in other words a typical summer day in South Florida, so by the time we had taken a walk we were all ready to cool off.

We followed up with a refreshing dip in the pool, dinner, and then in the evening a nice walk along the broadwalk, which was fairly quiet for a change.  Sometimes the beach area gets really busy, especially at the weekends, and where they rent cycles and carriages that you pedal, it can be a bit of a nightmare, since many of the users don’t keep to the lane that is set out for them.

Hollywood Beach Boardwalk FloridaWith the girls having been with us a few days now, time began to pass quicker, as it always does, and before we knew it, it was Thursday evening, and their Mom came to pick them up, as they had an Irish Dancing competition in Georgia at the weekend.

So while the girls spent the weekend being driven all the way to Georgia and back, Debbie and I prepared to see friends of ours in Deerfield Beach and to do some planned shopping, since many items are much cheaper to buy in the USA than in the UK, as well as there being a lot more choice.

Visiting Friends In Deerfield Beach

Before I moved back to the UK I spent 2 years living in Deer Creek, which is a development in Deerfield Beach, between Fort Lauderdale and Boca Raton.  We went back to see some friends there, and if you would like to see what it’s like, you can take a Walk Around Deer Creek on a Squidoo lens that I created before I moved.

It was good to see my landlord again, as well as some of the other people that we had become friendly with, including an elderly couple who had made sure that Debbie was ok when she came over to visit and I had to go to work.

We spent several hours by the pool, then had dinner with my landlord, and got an invitation to go out to dinner on Sunday at a typical Jewish New York Style Diner in Boca Raton to experience traditional Jewish food from New York.

A Day Of Shopping

With the girls away in Georgia, that left us free on Saturday to go shopping.  We usually stock up on things which are cheaper in the USA, or that we just can’t get in the UK.

The day began with a trip to one of our favourite breakfast places, Golden Corral.  It may not be everyone’s choice, and does attract the “Wal-Mart crowd” if you know what I mean, but the food is good and it’s excellent value.

Then a trip to Ross Dress For Less to see what they had in the way of bargains, and after that Kohls, a store that I have always liked, not only for their choice of items but their prices and special offers.  Kohls had special discounts this weekend for their store card holders, so we both purchased some items, including gifts for the kids.

Next off to Wal-Mart again to stock up on food etc, and back to the condo as the heavens decided to open.   It’s rather sad that we spent a nice day shopping and then when we would have liked to go in the pool it rained, but that’s summer in Florida for you.

Sunday we relaxed by the pool and then headed up to Deerfield Beach, firstly to see my landlord who has a shop at the Festival Flea Market and to get some cosmetics for Debbie as there are some discount stores there.

Dinner At A New York Style Jewish Restaurant

Our friends from Deerfield took us to Ben’s Kosher Deli in Boca Raton so that Debbie and I could experience some traditional New York Jewish food, and the place was buzzing, despite it raining.

Service was excellent, and as well as munching on pickles and trying pickled green tomatoes for the first time, we got to try Matzo Ball Soup and some real corned beef.

The meal was good, as was the company, and the atmosphere was wonderful too.  The walls of the restaurant are covered with humorous quotes, for example this one:

Moses led us through the desert for 40 years until we came to the only place in the Middle East without any oil.

It was good to see our friends again, and with them being in their 80’s, you never know what the next year may bring as far as health, so it was good to spend some time with them.

Exhausted after a long dayThen after dinner we rushed back to the beach condo, in time for the girls to be dropped off to us after their long trip to Georgia.   They didn’t get back until after 9:30pm, and I had promised them ice cream before bed, so of course having driven down from Georgia and had a late night, both were ready for a good sleep.

Coming Up Next Time

CLICK HERE for Part Five and join us next time for a trip to the Miami Metro Zoo.

Tony and Debbie’s Florida Vacation – Part Three

This is the third part of our vacation in Florida.  If you missed the previous parts, here are the links to parts ONE and TWO.

Shopping And Relaxing

Hollywood Beach CondoSince my daughters were not coming to stay with us until the evening, that allowed us to have a lie in after our first night in Florida, and to try and overcome some of the jet lag before they arrived, since adding an extra 5 hours to the day having flown from the UK and then going to bed late, catches up with you sooner or later.

Much of the day was already planned, and I had looked up the location of an IHOP restaurant for breakfast (Debbie’s choice) and also the nearest Super Wal-Mart, which is the cheapest and best place to shop.  Although I had lived in Florida for 4 years, the decent Wal-Mart stores that I know are all north of Fort Lauderdale and further away, so we had to do some exploring and make our way to Miami Gardens, not the best of locations, but the drive was simpler than it looked on the map, and made easier because the store was right next door to Dolphin Stadium.

We had an enjoyable breakfast at IHOP, stocked up on groceries at Wal-Mart, then relaxed around the pool until it was time for me to pick up my daughters.

My How They Have Grown

My how the girls have grownThe girls were so pleased to see me and I got some wonderful hugs and kisses from them.  it was really hard not being able to see them for 18 months, a combination of not having enough money for the trip and Debbie getting sick, and despite having seen them regularly on Skype, it’s only when you see them in the flesh that you realise just how much they have grown.

My eldest daughter will be 11 next week, and it won’t be long before she is as tall as I am.  Her younger sister, who will be 7 in a few weeks time, is not too far behind her either.

This trip was very special in another way, since it’s the first time that their Mom has allowed them to stay over with us, so the first time I have been able to tuck them into bed in 4 years, and it felt really good.  We brought some books over for them, both are excellent readers, and so before bed we managed to read some stories, which was nice.

The following day the girls woke up early, and I took them to the beach early, allowing Debbie to have a lie in and to get ready.

We spent the morning in the pool and then the afternoon at the beach, the girls having a great time playing in the ocean, something that they rarely get a chance to do, despite living only 20 minutes from the beach.

Topeekeegee Yugnee Park

The girls at Topeekeegee Yugnee Park in HollywoodBetter known locally as “TY Park”, this is a large park in Hollywood that I usually take the girls to, and which has a children’s playground, water park, a large lake, and lots of paths to walk.

We decided to go here the next day, to make a change from the pool and the beach, but as so often happens in Florida it was hot and humid and at times just too hot!

Fortunately there are shady patches in TY Park, and when you walk close to the lake it’s large enough for there to be a cooling breeze.  The City of Hollywood also provides plenty of drinking fountains with chilled water, as well as water misting stations to help cool you off.

The girls had a great time there, and we returned to the condo exhausted.

Birthday Time

The girls on Hollywood BeachThe next day, since the girl’s birthdays are coming up and we won’t be there to celebrate with them, we took them to the movies, to see Monte Carlo, starring Selena Gomez who they both like.  This was a fun teen movie, which they both enjoyed, and was followed by a surprise trip to Toys R Us where they were given an allowance each to spend on birthday pressies.   Then back to the condo for dinner, followed by an ice cream cake.

Coming Up Next

CLICK HERE for Part Four and join us for a trip to a Nature Reserve and to the Zoo.