Saturday, Sunday and Monday, 23,24 and 25 September 2017 – Leaving Florida and Flying Home – Days 28-30

Saturday, 23 September 2017 – Leaving Florida and Flying home (Days 28-30)

I couldn’t sleep so I had my last dip in the pool.  Did go back to bed until 800 – had breakfast and took some photos of this “Home Beautiful.  Al and Anne had a tremendous builder and what really impressed me were two paintings set in the recess of the wall – one was the Great Wall of China and the other of one of the canals in Venice.  Brought back memories as I have climbed some of the wall in China and it was in Venice that the three of us were on the same tour. Actually, there was James, their 17 year old grandson as well. He is a lovely lad. I had a short chat with him while at his grandparent’s home. We laughed thinking of the night of a Cabaret in Paris.  I felt unwell so I let James have my ticket. We think he had his eyes opened a bit wider as I believe there was quite a lot of nudity

The rest of the interior has been very tastefully furnished at the hand of very talented Anne. She is a perfectionist!   After finishing my packing, we left the house at 9.30am for the Saratosa International Airport.

Al with me out front

Anne and I out front


I was leaving this part of Florida and have seen so many different varieties of foliage during my travels especially the palm family – there are at least 2,500 species. I will just mention a few  – Of course there is the Coconut Palm which is a universal system of the tropics.  – the Senegal Date, Christmas, Florida Thatch, Pygmy Date (commonly planted as a dooryard specimen) and the Royal (popular on boulevards and around large houses). So many of the Paurotis Palms that are down in Everglades area were damaged. But it is the Bismarck Palm that is beautiful and desirable.


Some of the many palms I saw in Florida

We arrived at the Sarasota International Airport and said by last goodbye to Al and Anne.  I was so very fortunate that Al, a returned Vietnam Veteran, was able to drive without too much difficulty but walking and standing causes him problems. I really appreciated that you “suffered” at times, Al when you took me to the attractions during my stay. I want to say a huge thankyou for your wonderful hospitality and welcoming me into your home. I had a very memorable week.

I booked my luggage through to Sydney and at 11.30am boarded my American Eagle Flight AA5139 to Charlotte, USA.  It was a nice smooth flight and on arrival, Kristi, my mobility assistance person met me and stayed with me all the time until it was time to boarded American Eagle Flight AA5139.  She was very helpful as I wanted a couple of postcards.

Boarding time for my next flight – American Airlines AA678 – Charlotte to Los Angeles – was at 3.45pm. It is about a 5h 40m flight.  I had about 5 hours to wait until my next flight but this gave me time to have something to eat and check on the gates.  I was very fortunate as I managed to get seating in the eating area and because I was by myself, a family asked whether they could sit with me. Of course I had no objections and when it was time for me to go to the boarding lounge, the gentleman escorted me there and carried my cabin baggage. When we got to the lounge on my ticket it had changed so we had to walk further along. People have been so kind along the way.  Boarding time was at 10.30pm for my American Airlines Flight AA73 – Los Angeles to Sydney and this is the “killer” leg of the journey – 13½ hours in the air.   When I boarded, I had a window seat and there was a spare seat next to me. A young girl, Saira said I could spread myself out. Settled down and 1-2 hours into the flight we were served a meal.  After that, I thought I would try and get some sleep and I did until we had been flying 7-8 hours we were served with an icecream.  Had some more cat nap until we hit some turbulence which lasted for awhile.  Then it was breakfast at the 12-13 hour. Because of the International Dateline sometime during our flight, it was now Monday, 25th. Lost a day coming home, but had an extra day going over.

Monday, 25 September 2017 – Flying from Los Angeles to Sydney

We landed in Sydney at 7.30am.  Was a nice feeling to get off the plane and stretch.  I then had to collect my case and go through Customs and get my flight to Canberra.  Once more my flights had been changed. Instead of being on the 11.00am flight, I was told that all flights had been cancelled in and out of the airport due to the Controllers’ computing system crashing and that it went out at 5.00am.  Do not know the real reason, as we landed at 7.30am.!! I then needed to book my luggage once more through but would you believe, it sat on the belt as Virgin’s computers went down.  Thankfully, I did not have to wait long before I could then get the transit bus over to the Domestic Terminal.  What a shock when I arrived. I have never seen the terminal so crowded. There were people stretched the full length of the terminal. This was because of the “crash” and to make it worse – it was the start of some school holidays and the weekend of a grand final in the football.  Because I was given a boarding pass for Virgin Airline Flight VA648, I was able to proceed straight through Security and board the 1.35pm flight to Canberra.  I was given mobility assistance from the tarmac through to the baggage carousel and where my son, Robert was to meet me. It was so good to see him and that I had arrived home safely.  The Virgin staff said we could take the wheelchair right to the car which we did. Having this assistance throughout the trip was very comforting and made my travelling so much easier and less painful by having to stand for long periods or walking long distances in the terminals.

Got into my little home at 4.00pm. As soon as I arrived home, my visitors – the kangaroos – were in my yard and hopping up onto the deck. If I leave the door open, one mother and her joey hop in – have on a couple of occasions but I quickly get them out. They give me a lot of pleasure watching their antics.


It has been a wonderful 4 weeks.  Saw such diverse country from flat terrain to the skyscraper mountains of the Canadian Rockies. Cool weather in Alaska to hot and humid weather in Florida. The weather on Vancouver Island was very pleasant. Certainly saw different foliage in the  areas I travelled and various wildlife – cranes, bald eagles, whales, dolphins and alligators. All the off shore excursions I went on were well worth it  and most of all met some lovely new friends and caught up with Al and Anne.

Cannot say what was the highlight as there were many and they were all different.  So finally finished this blog and has been rather long winded because of my right hand being very uncooperative. Also sorry about the out of focus when I send to Facebook – seems it is a compatible issue going from what I type to the “view post” part.








Friday, 22 September 2017 – Drive to Gasparilla Island, Boca Grand and Palm Island – Day 27

Friday, 22 September 2017 – Drive to Gasparilla Island, Boca Grand and Palm Island (Day 27)

After breakfast Anne and I had a long swim and chatted of course.  Al is a late riser (late to bed) so the mornings are usually just Anne and I.  About 3.30pm we headed south through Port Charlotte and then to Gasparilla Island, southwest Florida  where we saw workmen clearing up more of Hurricane Irma’s damage.  On to Boca Grande, a small residential community on Gasparilla Island.  We drove along the magnificent Banyan Street lined with the banyan trees – these trees are huge.We then drove through the Gasparilla Island State Park where we saw the historic Lighthouse and then the current lighthouse.  Seemed a bit disappointing as it did not look like a “proper” lighthouse.

Banyan Drive – Huge

Workmen clearing up from the hurricane damage

Anne and I under a huge banyan tree


Down on the Gulf of Mexico

It was then through Placida – and yes more Hurricane damage on the Boa Grande Causeway.  We then drove down to the Gulf of Mexico Beach – of course I had to put my feet in again.

We passed through Englewood to get on a water taxi to Palm Island about 9 miles south off the coast from Cape Haze. are very few cars on Palm Island and very few roads.  There is no bridge to the island and is only accessible by ferry or water taxi.  The main reason for this water taxi ride was for me to see dolphins!  They obliged and it was fun watching them do their antics at the rear of the boat.  Hard to get the photos though. No matter how many times you see dolphins frolicking you still get excited! Beautiful creatures.

One of the few dolphins showing off

We stopped at the access point to Leverocks Restaurant where once more we had a lovely meal.    We then caught our water taxi back to the car  – said goodbye to Dave and Dale  and made our way back home.  Was a beautiful sunset. As we were near Port Charlotte we saw a wild pig wandering along.  You never know what wildlife you see on your travels.  Another lovely travelling day.

Enjoying our water taxi ride

Thursday, 21 September 2017 – Drive to Venice. Florida – Day 26

Thursday, 21 September 2017 – Drive to Venice, Florida – (Day 26)

Today we left for a drive to Venice, Florida north west of North Port where Anne and Al live.  We picked up Mary a friend of Anne.  Along the way, we saw more hurricane damage.  Our first stop was at a condominium that Anne and Al have and Anne wanted to check it out as tenants were arriving early next month.  The condo property was lucky as Hurricane Irma missed it.  After being inside the condo, we made our way down to the beach.  Started walking without anything on my feet, but it was like walking on fire – so very very hot – so Anne got my flip flops.  We had a quick paddle in the Gulf of Mexico  before we walked along the causeway.

Anne and I paddling

The Soda Fountain restaurant, a favourite of Anne and Mary was our next stop where we ordered a pizza and soda and then it was home.  Adjoining the restaurant is the Smallest Pizza Hut.  Was an early night tonight!

Mary and Anne with me



Wednesday, 20 September 2017 – Visit to Babcock Ranch and Japanese Restaurant – Day 25

Wednesday, 20 September 2017 – Visit to Babcock Ranch and Japanese Restaurant – (Day 25)

Up and had breakfast of chirozo and toast – new on the menu!!!!  We’ve had eggs, bacon, hash browns, banana and walnut pancakes, french toast !!!!! At 12.00 we headed off to visit Babcock Ranch, 90,000 acres. Was a bit of a drive as we couldn’t find the entrance – with some instructions we double backed some way and entered the Ranch but to our disappointment it was closed – Hurricane Irma caused trouble here.  Just as we were about to leave, a chap (John) came out.  He was the chef at the Gator Shack restaurant at the ranch but apologised that he couldn’t even give us anything to eat as there was no power.  Anne explained why we had visited the Ranch – “My friend is from Australia and we were going to show her alligators”.

John told us to wait as he would go and get a buggy and give us a private tour to where the creatures would be.  We climbed in and off we went through quite thick vegetation and water marshes.  We rode as far as Telegraph Cypress Swamp and in front of us was an alligator!!  It swiftly swam into the swamp and then there about 8 others there.  At last I had got to see alligators.

Alligator there but hard to snap

Alligator watching

Another alligator at the bottom of the right hand side of photo!


After watching them swim about for awhile we then moved onto part of the 14,000 acres of the working cattle area in the pine flatlands.  There was quite a mixture of cattle including Andalusia,  Black Angus and the “Fire Crackers” which are descendants of the cattle brought by the early Spanish settlers.

After our fabulous ride in the buggy and especially seeing the alligators, John brought us back to the restaurant and gave us a drink and chatted.  He showed us his extra skills of riding on his unicycle.  As we headed to our vehicle we saw Lulu, a very unusual three horned cow.

It was then time to say goodbye to John and thank him for giving us a very interesting afternoon.

Our next stop was at the Kumo Japanese restaurant.  We were seated in an unusual seating arrangement but you soon learnt the reason for this.  A chef came out with his array of the choices we had made from the menu and then proceeded to cook them in front of us.  He was quite amusing and his food was delicious.  We then left for home and later in the evening went for another swim and once again, late to bed after an great day – thanks Al and Anne again.

Enjoying our Japanese meal

Monday and Tuesday, 18 and 19 September 2017 – Everglades and North Port – Days 23 and 24

Monday, 18 September 2017 – Everglades  (Day 23)

Was a bit weary this morning as only had 3 hours sleep.  At about 10.00am we set off for the Everglades, south west of Florida.  Had to make a slight detour as the road was closed due to Hurricane Irma destruction.  We saw lots of damage on the way.  When we got into Lee County the damage was quite extensive.  Fort Meyers was one of the areas that was affected badly.

Thomas Edison and Henry Ford frequented this area. Much of the business in the Everglades was out of action and were cleaning up the devastation – hence the tour boats were not operating.   You just felt so sorry for the people suffering such loss.

We left that area a bit disappointed. The next attraction to be sought out was the smallest post office in the USA.  As there was so much damage, you didn’t know what to expect but we were pleasantly surprised that the post office had not been affected.    Once more as we travelled along, destruction – lots of swamps and huge trees uprooted.

                 Outside the smallest post office in USA

                                  Plaque about Ochopee Post office

Travelling north, our fingers were crossed that the Cheesecake Factory in Naples had not been affected as Naples was one of the towns that was extremely affected by Hurricane Irma. Luck was on our side. It was open.  The Cheesecake Factory’s interior was magnificent. Anne and Al said it reminded them of when they were in Egypt.  We were seated and there was so much to choose from the menu. I chose lemon shrimp and noodles followed by a dessert of mudcake.  Just delicious.

Fingers crossed again as we were heading for the Shell Factory and Nature Park, north of Fort Meyers – another area badly affected. .

The Shell Factory  has been operating for 79 years.  In 1997, this landmark was suffering significant deterioration. Fortunately, Thomas Cronin, a developer, entrepeneur and philanthropist cast his vision, creativity and financial support toward the failing attraction. Tom and wife Pam oversee the day to day operations of this 18 acre iconic attraction and recently celebrated their 20th anniversary recreating the Shell Factory and now has a Nature Park and Fun Park.  A huge area.

The Shell Factory was closing so we then travelled back home arriving about 6.45pm.  Was a lovely day’s outing and Anne and Al were pleased that the three attractions were able to be visited – disappointed that I didn’t get to go on the Everglades boat tour.  We didn’t feel like eating after our lovely meal at the Cheese Factory.  I had a lovely dip once more in the pool.  Anne and I then tried to set up a texting system between us but after an hour of trying we gave up.  Anne went to bed and Al and I sat up talking until about 1.15am.  Al is a late to bed person. I had a nice chat to Rob who rang me that evening.

Thanks Anne and Al for a wonderful day’s outing.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017 – Around North Port  (Day 24)

Today was at home until about 2.30pm when Al’s vehicle had to be picked up after being in for a service.  Anne had a medical appointment and I went and had my hair cut and then into the huge Walmart store to get a couple of things and was to meet Anne at 4.30pm.  As we met each other Anne asked me had I been waiting long as I was outside with a shopping trolley (cart).  Anne gave me a strange look when I said “trolley”.  Evidently if I had left my trolley for a moment in an aisle and ducked into another aisle and then approached an employee of Walmart saying “I cannot find my trolley” I may have been taken away for an assessment of some kind – maybe I could have been accused of being on drugs?. We laughed about the difference of some words.  After dinner, Anne and I spent quite some time chatting while in the pool.

Lounging about in the beautiful pool

                                         Anne having a dip


Sunday, 17 September 2017 – Attendance at Mass – Day 22

Sunday, 17 September 2017 – Attendance at Mass (Day 22)
 Up and had nice breakfast and Anne and I left to go to Anne’s church at St Maximilian Kolbe Catholic Church. 

                                       Maximilian Kolbe Church

It is named after Maximilian Maria Kolbe (now Saint Kolbe) who was born on 8 January 1894 in Zdunska Wola, Poland. He was a Polish Franciscan Friar who was sent to Auschwitz concentration camp, located in German-occupied Poland for hiding Jews during the Second World War. When the Nazi guards selected 10 people to be starved to death in punishment, Kolbe volunteered to die in place of a stranger in the Auschwitz death camp. Kolbe died on 14 August 1941 in Auschwitz. On 10 October 1982 Kolbe was canonised by Pope John Paul II and declared him “The Patron Saint of Our Difficult Century”.  The interior of the church has some high windows and that is how some of the area at Auschwitz were during Kolbe’s interment.  From January 2013, Rev. Father Teófilo Useche was appointed to St. Maximilian Kolbe Venice parish.  The Mass was very interactive with the congregation and there was a lovely choir.  Before the conclusion of Mass, Anne was one of the people who had a recent birthday and was called up for  recognition.

                 Anne on left for birthday wishes

Beautiful stained window of Kolbe and Virgin Mary as seen from interior of church


  Before Anne and I left, I was shown some of the memorabilia of the church and there were copies of St. Kolbe’s name on the list of Auschwitz people there.

  Father Teó is a very “people person” and it was nice to meet him after Mass. He has spent some time in Australia’s Perth.

Father Teó and I

                                 Lovely church garden in background

We then went home and had a restful day until it was time to go to bed.  Ended up being a very, very late night for me as I managed to do unpacking and tried to cull down some of my photos.




Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 14-16 September 2017 – Qualicum Beach/Qualicum/Vancouver/Sarasota, Florida – Days 19-21

Thursday, 14 September 2017 – Down to Qualicum Beach  (Day 19)

Another quiet morning. About 2.00pm we drove down to Qualicum Beach for me to have a dip in the Pacific Ocean.  I needed my flip flops (jangles/thongs) on as the beach had lots of stones.  It was quite cool but then got quite surprised as the tide was very deceptive – rough.  It didn’t take long before I was knocked down and off went my flip flops and I had to hang onto my swimmers.  Well, that was my “putting my feet in the Pacific” episode.  A local lady who was very brave, swam out to where my flip flops were and kindly returned them to me.

My dip in the chilly Pacific Ocean

After I dried off, we then went onto the Arrowhead Golf and Country Club for another nice meal. 

As well as liking his fishing, Bob also plays golf.  He knows several around the area and because they were trying to find me deer, that is why we have called into a couple as there are usually deer on the course.After our meal, Bob obtained a golf buggy and away we went around the beautiful grounds of the Golf Course.

A stop off in the grounds of the Golf Course


Two deer were there and I was quite excited that at least there were some deer in the country.  Was a lovely drive around the well manicured course with Mt Arrowsmith in the distance.Then it was back home again – yes, another nice outing. Bob had to attend a Shriners meeting.  I had not heard of Shriners – Shriners International is a fraternity based on fun, fellowship and the Masonic principles of brotherly love, relief and truth with nearly 200 temples in several countries and thousands of clubs around the world. The fraternity is open to men of integrity from all walks of life.  Shriners International also supports Shriners Hospitals for Children. It is similar to what Lions/Rotary/Starlight Foundation do here in Australia?.  Each time we have been out, the vehicle is parked outside.  I learnt that the garage is full of quite a lot of provisions for Shriners  and with Bob’s kind heart, it seems that his place is a “stow it” place for friends’ equipment and his “on the spot” store. It was a joke – e.g. In conversation, I said –  “I have to get myself another watch as the face is hard to read”.  Next thing, Bob goes out and when he comes back, there he has two lovely big faced watches”.  I love them Bob and thank you for the other little gifts you gave me from the “shop”. Cheryl and I chatted for some time before it was time for bed.

The home of Cheryl and Bob

Friday, 15 September 2017 – Qualicum to Vancouver (Day 20) 

Up and after breakfast did my last minute packing as I was leaving this very hospitable establishment.  At 11.00am we drove through Parksville, Nanoose Bay, Lantzville and the outskirts of Nanaimo and at 12.00 we arrived at the Ferry Terminal of Duke Point. This is the terminal I should have arrived at when I first arrived and not at Swarz Bay (Victoria).  I purchased my ferry ticket for the 12.45pm  ferry departure and sadly said my last goodbye to Cheryl and Bob.  What a wonderful caring couple!!  I cannot thank them enough for the hospitality they offered me at such short notice.  They apologised that due to Cheryl being unwell, they had not taken me out more.  I really appreciated the places they did take me so I was really spoilt.  We certainly checked out several of Cheryl’s and Bob’s favourite eating places.  Once again a huge thankyou to my good Samaritans and I am sure we will not lose touch.

Boarded the “Queen Alberni” built in 1976. Was quite a large vessel that took cars/trucks/caravans as well as walk-on passengers.  The crossing took about 2 hours and was a pleasant cruise into Tsawwassen, ferry causeway at Delta (Vancouver).  As we were approaching the terminal, Mt Barker on the USA side in Washington could be seen.  I then caught a taxi to my accommodation at Cozy South in Burnaby.  Took about an hour to go the 37 kms but we were in peak hour traffic.  The owner, Nola greeted me and took my luggage into my nice room.  She kindly made me a bowl of noodles and then I went to bed at 6.00pm as I had a very early start next day.


Last drive on Vancouver Island_

Leaving Vancouver Island

Saturday, 16 September 2017 – Flight to Sarasota, Florida (Day 21)

A very early wake up at 2.50am and Nola’s husband drove me to the Vancouver International Airport.  I went to see what gate I needed to go to and I saw that the flight had been delayed until 9.10am.  Imagine my face.  Headed straight to the Delta Airline checkin and I was informed that I had been transferred to Alaska Airlines Flight AS964 for the hour flight to Seattle Tacoma.  I had Seat 6D and to reach my bag under the seat in front of me, I had to actually get out of my seat to reach it – First Class!  It was a lovely sunrise. After a short while in the air we flew over the Rockies.  Was interesting to see how the landscape changed from mountains, rivers and flat country. Had to get three trains to the terminal for my next flight on Delta Air Flight DL2864 that left at 7.45 – was about 5 hours to Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson.  Then an hour later was on Delta Air Flight DL1297 for Sarasota/Bradenton.



I arrived at Sarasota at 5.50pm and Anne was at the carousel to meet me.  Al was parked close by so in went my luggage and we travelled several kilometres to a very well patronised restaurant for dinner.  It was Anne’s birthday.  We then went to North Port – half way between Sarasota and Fort Myers – to Al’s and Anne’s home.  It was lovely seeing Al and Anne after two years.  We did some chatting and then I had a choice of two lovely bedrooms – I went in the “Snowman” one – all tastefully decorated out in a snow theme.  I did a very small amount of unpacking as I was very tired – realised I had been 21 hours without sleep.