Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Snippets from Vacation

Spending Easter weekend in a warm environment is a tradition that I think I will need to continue (does 2 consecutive years make it a tradition). The weekend in the Keys was very relaxing and fruitful. We couldn't have planned it better if we tried. We managed to go deep sea fishing - I spent the majority of the time feeding the fish but did manage to reel 2 in which were then promptly thrown back as they were either too small or not edible.

The marina next to our hotel in Key Largo has a famous resident "The African Queen." When we first walked by I commented that somebody had made a replica of the boat, but it is actually the real boat from the movie. And now for the random snippets.

Everglades National Park

We spent a rainy Saturday afternoon wandering around the Everglades.
Got fairly close to some alligators, I never want to be any closer than this.

In addition to lots of gators we encountered numerous birds including turkey vultures:

We also spotted a little frog. I have to give credit to my sister for spotting the frog and taking the photograph. She kept trying to explain to me where it was and I couldn't see it, I handed her the camera and told her to take the picture. After she showed me the picture I moved over to where she was standing and I could clearly see the frog. He was slightly camouflaged from other angles.

More Photography

Other notable photographic events include playing with my new macro lens and a strategic purchase. The exchange rate is really in my favor at the moment, so I took advantage of it and bought a new camera bag retail price in London 135 retail price in US 135 (for those not too good on math that's half price). The one problem I encountered with the purchasing of the bag was finding a store that actually sold them.

I stopped in every camera shop I saw in South Beach but none of them had the camera bag I wanted and none could seem to think of a camera store other than theirs. I searched the handy dandy Internet and found a Circuit City - that seemed like a good starting place. While they had a large selection of bags they didn't have the one I wanted - a backpack to hold both my laptop and camera gear. Yes I know I want it all. Luckily the people in Circuit City recommend a full-fledged camera shop just down the road. Sure enough they had a wide range of bags and exactly what I was looking for. Unfortunately or fortunately depending on how you look at it I was parked sort of illegally so I didn't have time to browse around the store and buy more toys. The only problem with buying the bag was I now had 3 bags to manoeuvre and this means checking one.


When I checked into the Hilton I was asked if I wanted an upgrade, as a gold member I qualify for free upgrades if a room is available unfortunately they rarely are. I guess Easter Sunday is not a busy night at the hotel, not to mention it was only recently converted to a Hilton. The recent conversion probably has more to do with it. I was very happy to have a queen suite, the room had a great view of Biscayne Bay. It soon became apparent that they were still working out the kinks after the conversion. None of the lights in the room were plugged in, some lamps didn't even seem to be anywhere near a power outlet. The data port for the Internet connection was next to the TV not on the desk where it makes sense, and it had no power cord. When I returned to my room after dinner there is a letter under the door stating that the water on my floor is going to be turned off from 12 to 5, luckily I wasn't planning on needing running water during this time period. And to top it all off at about 2 AM there is a public address announcement that runs throughout the entire hotel indicating that the fire alarm that had gone off had been investigated and it was found to be a false alarm and there is no need to evacuate the building. This was a major relief especially since I didn't wake up to any fire alarm only to the announcement stating that there had been an alarm.

Car Rental
It always surprises me how different the rates for a rental car are depending if I say I reside in the UK or in the US. Sometimes I get a better rate if I say I live in the US other times I get a great pre-paid rate by residing in the UK. For this trip the UK rate was better. When I returned the car I was expecting a charge for keeping the car a couple of hours longer than I originally stated but I was not expecting a charge for the GPS system. This was a pre-paid rental. After about 5 minutes of explaining to the customer service rep that this was pre-paid and I had the email to prove it she finally agreed that the GPS was included in the pre-paid price and would cancel the charge. To make up for my inconvenience she also eliminated the extra charge for the couple of extra hours - YEAH!

Even though I have silver status on Virgin that really doesn't give you much - no access to the lounges, no upgrades, no priority boarding all I get is extra miles when I fly. Of course that didn't stop me from asking at check in if I could get into the lounge. The agent informed me that I can pay $35 at the door for access - since I had a little bit of a headache I thought it was worthwhile to sit in quiet as opposed to the hustle and bustle of the main terminal. At the lounge I requested a day pass and was told it's $35 if you pay by credit card $20 if you pay by cash. I went for the $20 option and am pretty sure that money was pocketed directly by the desk clerk. I think this is the first time I've greased a palm to get access someplace.

As I got off the plane at Heathrow I realized the plane at the next gate over was a Singapore Airlines plane. For those of you that are not in the know this is currently the only airline flying the A380 and it just started flying into Heathrow last week. I took a moment to scan the plane and sure enough it was the 380 - easily identifiable by the 2 stories. Unfortunately they get rather mad when you take pictures at the airport especially when you are supposed to be heading to passport control something about security, and given my "detainment" on the way to Miami I was going to try to make this as smooth as possible. It's times like these that I wish I had a camera phone as I could easily take a picture with that without attracting attention.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like a great vacation. Mine in Daytona was enjoyable. We were paired up with members at three of the courses and the men in the twosome acted like caddies telllinig us where the best location for othe ball was. Sometimes I even hit it where I was supposed to.

Have a good day!

Melissa said...

Man I wish I could have gone.... Maybe next year.