Greetings from Florida

At long last, I am in sunny Florida, where it is much cooler than was expected. When I arrived yesterday afternoon, it was just 15°C, although it was noticeably warmer than back home in England. With the sun shining brightly, the cool temperature didn’t really bother me.

The journey began at around 9.00am yesterday morning when I left home for Gatwick Airport. After making the 50 mile journey, checking in for the flight and then collecting some US Dollars, my flight was already boarding, so no time for looking around the shops at the airport and no time for one last unhealthy meal. As I boarded the aircraft, I walked through Club World and World Traveller Plus, and the further I walked, the worse it got. As I walked towards World Traveller (or Economy), I stumbled across the slightly less luxurious cattle class seating and sat down next to two excited girls. They rummaged through the seat pockets and took anything that was worth taking – the amenity kits in particular – before both moving elsewhere when they realised it was a very empty flight. With three seats to myself, it was a comfortable flight, but British Airways were not as good as they had been only four months previously. After 9 hours in the air, we arrived in Florida.

Immigration at Orlando Airport was a lengthy process and involved about 30 minutes stood in a very slow-moving queue. When I finally arrived at the desk, I had my photograph taken and some fingerprints as well – this is the norm for all visitors to America now. The immigration officer asked a few questions and then pointed me in the direction of a door marked ‘No Entry’. He kept my passport and did not tell me why I was being sent in the opposite direction to others who had just come off of the flight. This turned out to be another routine procedure, since unlike so many others, I was in possession of a visa, and somebody had to explain one or two things about the visa to me. The talk only took a couple of minutes and really was nothing to worry about.

Anyway, since I had no intention of hiring a car in Florida and reluctant to pay over the odds for a taxi to my hotel in Kissimmee, I did a little research and stumbled across a website for a company called Mears Transporation. From what I can make out, they are a shared minibus service based at Orlando, and for smaller groups, the trip to your hotel works out an awful lot cheaper than a taxi. Having bought my $20 ticket online, I sat in the very empty waiting area for my minibus to arrive. It was so empty that I was the only person waiting! After 30 minutes, the paging device I had been given shook about on the table and it bleeped constantly. This obviously meant that my transport had arrived, so I grabbed my bags – all four of them – and made my way to the bus stop. The driver was a very friendly and chatty lady named Sherri and she was really interested in the reasons for my visit. After a 20-minute journey, we arrived at the hotel and I quickly checked in. The hotel is called the Baymont Inn & Suites on West Vine Street in Kissimmee. It’s a good value hotel and it is here that the first two nights of my trip are to be spent. With free breakfast, free internet and a swimming pool, it’s an ideal place to stay. It’s just a pity that my room with two rather large beds is occupied by only one person – me.

I was not particular hungry when I arrived at the hotel, nor thirsty, and being so tired, it was nice not to have to go out and buy food and drink. I tried to stay awake for a few hours and eventually jumped into bed at around 8.30pm, watching an episode of Keeping Up Appearances before finally nodding off.

Today (Sunday) was my first day in Florida so I decided to explore the local area. Firstly, and most importantly, I needed to establish the whereabouts of the flying school, which was found with ease about a mile away from the hotel. Afterwards, I wanted to get something to eat. It was 12.00pm by now and I hadn’t eaten since about 2.00pm on the previous afternoon, so I was getting quite hungry. As I walked away from the airport and back onto the main road, I could see for miles into the distance and it looked quite busy. The logos of Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Wendy’s and Burger King could be seen hundreds of metres ahead, so I continued to walk, but as I approached KFC, another logo was suddenly visible – the golden arches of McDonalds! Of course, having now found a McDonalds, I wasn’t going to settle for anything less!

I hadn’t realised just how far away I was from the hotel until I returned and checked it out using an online route planner. McDonalds was 2.5 miles from the hotel, so what with walking there and back and also taking a detour to visit the airport, I must have walked in excess of 6 miles. Knowing this, I felt less guilty about the fatty lunch I had a short while before.

Tonight is a night to take it easy, so I will be having an early night before getting up and going to school for 9.00am on Monday morning.

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