Florida (October 2009)

First stop for the tourists visiting Florida, unless they are getting on a cruise ship in Fort Lauderdale, is usually Disney World, over 40 times the size of Disneyland with twice as many theme parks 10 times as many hotels, and Cinderella's vs. Sleeping Beauty's castle. A convention centre in its own right with 24 hotels, and a multi-themed amusement park on 40 square miles of land, it claims to be the largest and most visited recreational complex in the world.

With or without children the exhibits, rides, and overall experience are overwhelming and nestled in amongst the alligators in the Downtown Disney Area we went about exploring the various theme parks over the course of a few days while attending a convention.




But an even more awe inspiring complex awaits at the nearby Kennedy Space Centre. On display are the rocket ships and spacecraft of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo space programs that culminated on July 20, 1969 with the first men on the moon. A feat repeated 5 subsequent times and then abandoned in favour of the Challenger space program and the International Space Station. The audacity of this endeavor in an era of slide rulers and mechanical engineering is so hard to imagine in the computer age, but they did it, and what a humbling experience it is to see and touch the equipment they used.

The size of the rockets themselves and the awesome power they are able to unleash is hard to comprehend never mind imagining sitting on top of them when they blast off.


But it would be equally scary having to depend on a spider like device to land you on the moon and then be able to get you off as well before finally sending you back to Earth and dropping you into the ocean. Talk about a fire and water scenario.


The scale of the entire Kennedy Space Centre/Cape Canaveral Air Force Station complex is overwhelming. Everything is so huge and there is so much going on with rockets being transported to various launch pads to deliver commercial payloads for satellites and the Space Station.


There are more than 1,100 miles of stunning, palm lined Florida coastline facing the Atlantic Ocean alone and, with the water so clear and warm, it's no surprise to discover what appears to be a continuous condo development all the way to Miami. From Cocoa Beach to Deerfield Beach we took advantage of the perfect conditions to swim and enjoy the sunshine.

Next stop was Key Largo to do some scuba diving and swim with a couple of very friendly and accommodating dolphins.


The road to Key West from Miami is called the Overseas Highway and it's a 113 mile long engineering marvel connecting the keys with a series of roads and bridges that seem to be right on top of the water most of the way.

Key West itself is the southernmost city in the U.S. and is a colourful little tourist town where Ernest Hemingway lived and now Jimmy Buffet has a restaurant. A town devoted to fishing and scuba diving and full of funky bars and great restaurants it's a very popular end of the road location.



But towards the end of October it hosts the zaniest party in America known as Fantasy Fest; a week long orgy of drinking, body painting, and crazy costumes that has nothing do with any religious festival but everything to do with imagination, not to mention stimulation.


For the final leg of the journey it was back to Miami, "the sun, fun, capital of the world". Originally developed in 1910, the 1930's brought in Art Deco architecture and, from the 1960's, it started to take off as a retirement community. However, by the 1980's the drug dealers had taken it over and some of the Art Deco buildings were demolished but, once it was declared a heritage area, the rest of the Art Deco buildings were saved and the "beautiful people" then moved in, making it a major entertainment destination.




The Art Deco splendor of South Beach makes this spot the ultimate destination for urban sophisticates and just outside the shady confines of the hotel and pool is a shaded and beautifully groomed seawall to take you to the beach. With all the delicious outdoor restaurants along Lincoln Avenue and Ocean Drive, there's no reason to venture any further. This is a very happy ending.

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