Friday, January 20, 2012

Christmas in America

There is far, far too much to write about in one blog post about What I Did Over Christmas, so I’ve split it into chapters.

Beloved Wife and Goat definitely wanted to travel away from the middle east over Christmas, and certainly wanted to be together for at least part of the time. The selection process finally boiled down to her family for Christmas, and meeting ex-Dubai refugees for the New Year.

Having more leave than the Goat, Madame set off a week earlier from Dubai, only to be bumped off the Emirates flight. How is it that the punter complies with every crossed T and dotted I of Emirates’ terms and conditions, turns up at the airport in good time to use her non-refundable, non-changeable ticket, only to be told that they’ve sold about 50 seats twice and no you don’t get to travel today? Compensation offered was a future free cattle class flight from Dubai to New York (and presumably back again). I’d have held out for business class and probably ended up with nothing more than a flea in my ear.

The Goat travelled a week later, ostensibly via United but actually by Qatar Airways, United and some minuscule jet-powered cigar tube that was late because of snow in Denver. The return journey involved larger aircraft and a whole different selection of airports.

Delays meant that the Goat was finally collected by Beloved Wife at 03:30 on Christmas Eve. He collapsed unconscious chez in-laws an hour or so later, but was up again a couple of hours later. Curse you, jet lag! You confuse the body and the mind. Beloved Wife suggested an early morning snoop around the local McMansions to see the festive bling adorning the houses.

From the sublime... the hilariously ludicrous

Christmas was a fairly low-key family affair, with stockings, presents, food and drink. There were some splendid gifts that Beloved Wife had obtained during her recent trip to Kathmandu, including scarves and carpets. And this goes part way to explaining these three wise men.


Also books and booze. The Goat was going to be unable to bring the splendid bottle of vintage port from his brother-in-law back to Qatar. It would have to be consumed on American territory. Oh lackaday.

The rainy weather cleared up over Christmas and the temperature dropped. The numbers don’t look very scary, but 26 is frighteningly cold for Gulf residents when it’s in Fahrenheit.

Pre-arranged plans for after Christmas involved a road trip south, ultimately to Key West, which is about as far south as it’s possible to drive within mainland USA. Father-in-law said that we should borrow his car, a Toyota Avalon, mostly on the basis that it was big enough for the luggage and the passengers CJ and J that we’d be meeting in Miami, and it might even be reasonably economical unless the 3-litre V6 engine were thrashed. Like with rigidly-enforced 55, 65 or 70mph speed limits that was ever going to happen. As it turned out, the 22 miles per gallon on the car’s computer soon rose to 25, then 28 and more. At one point it even got to 31mpg, and remember these are those titchy American gallons.

The GPS was already pre-programmed with south-east USA, and as for voice prompts, Clarissa explains it all.

The non-negotiable appointments were to drop off Christmas presents with relatives in Jacksonville and meet CJ and J in Miami at a particular hotel near the airport and travel with them to Key West.

Orlando is halfway down Florida, so it seemed sensible to drop in there. A trip to Universal Studios seemed to be in order.

It was surprising to note how much warmer the daytime temperatures were than even north Florida. 70F/21C. Cold at night, though, dropping to around 45F/8C.

Near Orlando is Cape Canaveral, so that’s a also a good place to visit.

Onwards, southwards and westwards. Key West is very much the End of the Road. Actually, Mile Zero of US Route 1 is in Key West, and is something of a tourist attraction. It’s right next to Ernest Hemingway’s house.

An uneventful yet picturesque trip back to Miami followed, including stops for shopping and photos. CJ was desirous of paddling in the ocean, so we all did this in the freezing cold water near Seven Mile Bridge. The one thing that we didn’t find time to do was dive. Beloved Wife and I had packed our qualifications, dive computers, swimmies and masks, but the ferocious itinerary simply didn’t allow a day of diving. Some other time, then. This despite the mid-winter temperature ranging from 80F/25C during the day to 60F/16C at night. No need for coats, then, although wetsuits would have been needed in the sea.

It’s quite a long way from Key West to Miami, but we found the airport and dropped off CJ and J without incident or hassle. Thank you Clarissa. Then immediately another 350 miles to the frozen north of Jacksonville to Beloved Wife’s relatives. Clearly we’d not misbehaved, and had been invited back. The following morning we drove the 450 miles back to North Carolina.

The trip ended up being some 2000 miles, and was faultless except for when the keyless ignition fob failed. Fortunately, it’s familiar technology to the Goat (who has a similar device on his motorbike) and was a simple fix with a new button battery. It would not do to be stranded in the back of beyond and unable to start the car.

A couple of days chilling, relaxing and running errands, before the great air-travel onslaught. Beloved Wife’s arrangement started two hours after the Goat’s, but we both arrived at our respective destinations within an hour of each other. And so did all our luggage, which was a bonus.

Now, about the next trip. Japan, perhaps?



Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mme Cyn said...

Japan for sure. =)

Anonymous said...

the magi hoot is one for posterity == someone's posterity. thmil


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