At the end of May I spent a week in Orlando, Florida, courtesy of Visit Florida, along with fellow travel bloggers Becky, Kash andVictor
What I didn’t realise when I saw the Clearwater Marine Aquarium on our itinerary was that it is home to a movie star; Winter the dolphin. A few months ago I watched ‘Winter: A Dolphin’s Tale’ with the children. Winter had been rescued, having been caught in a crab trap. With her tail damaged the people of Clearwater worked round the clock to save her. You can see Winter, in the aquarium, where for an hour a day she wears a prosthetic tail to help strengthen her remaining tail and help her to swim. Clearwater rehabilitates and releases turtles and dolphins and the success of the film has meant that the aquarium is busier than ever. You don’t have to have seen the film to appreciate the aquarium. Our guide, John, had incredible knowledge of the aquarium and made the tour very interesting. When I got home and told my children where I’d been and that I’d seen Winter they were amazed … if not a little jealous.
Lunch was at Cassis, in St Petersburg, a very laid back restaurant. We sat outside and met up with David Downing and Mary Haban from St.Petersburg / Clearwater Convention and Visitors Bureau. I had a (dirty) burger and Bloody Mary – the perfect combination to ward off the evils of the Lycheetinis the night before. They definitely hit the spot! We got to taste a selection of desserts and I would definitely recommend Cassis for a relaxed lunch. I also saw my very first ‘doggy pushchair’ – seriously, dogs so relaxed they don’t need to use their legs …
We wandered, from Cassis, down to the Chihuly Collection. Not one for museums and staring at things I wondered whether a collection of glass would light my fire. From the moment I walked in the door to the moment I left I was mesmerised and at times had to remind myself to shut my gaping mouth. I loved it, the multicoloured glass exhibits were breathtaking. Wayne Atherholt, who showed us round, was lovely and allowed us to take pictures. I managed to take some amazing photos which still make my mouth fall open.
We visited the Dali Museum and again, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Normally I would wander round an art gallery and not quite get it. We were shown around the Dali Museum by Janice, an eccentric docent (guide), who wore an upturned shoe on her head, inspired by the one that Dali had designed for his wife Gala. Janice moved us round the pictures with the stealth and determination. Dali’s style is unique, he was bonkers and quite clearly a genius. Janice went through the finer details of each painting pointing out things I would never have noticed and I found the whole experience fascinating. Janice definitely helped me to appreciate Dali, which is why we kidnapped her ……..
We kidnapped Janice from the Dali Museum and headed over for a Segway Tour with David. Getting on the Segway I realised that my lack of coordination could be my downfall. To go forward you have to lean on the balls of your feet, to stop stand still and reverse lean on your heels. It was a bizarre feeling that went against all my instincts. I realised that I’d be OK after watching Janice reverse into a bollard and go off-roading on the grass, still wearing her upturned shoe. After some training with, the very patient, David, where Janice managed to crash into a tree, we were off. We had a tour of St Petersburg pier which was a great way to take in the sights. David also does architectural tours of St Petersburg, but we were sadly lacking in time.
That evening we checked into our condo at Sunset Vistas. Becky and I shared a condo and took in the beautiful sunset as we changed for dinner. The condo would be perfect for families, with two bedrooms, a lounge, dining area and kitchen. The condo overlooked and had easy access to a beautiful beach. We ate at Sloppy Joes, which was a short walk from Sunset Vistas and sat on the decking, which looks over the beach. It was a very relaxing end to a very busy day. I can recommend the Firecracker shrimp and the Jumbo Crab Cakes!
Seven nights in Orlando with Virgin Holidays, including scheduled flights with Virgin Atlantic from London Gatwick or Manchester direct to Orlando, two nights accommodation at the 5V Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek, two nights accommodation at the 3V+ Sunset Vista Beachfront Suites, two nights at the 5V Longboat Key Club & Resort and one night at the 5V Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Hotel, all on a room only basis with car hire included starts from £949. Prices are per person based on two adults travelling and sharing a standard room, price includes all applicable taxes and fuel surcharges which are subject to change. Prices are based on departures 12 – 14 Nov 2012.
Start your holiday before you’ve even taken off in the v-room at Gatwick Airport or Manchester Airport; Adults £20, Kids £12
Virgin Holidays is a member of ABTA and is ATOL protected