This photo, taken from the plane as we approached Orlando International airport, shows my first sight of Florida, USA. It was taken just after we crossed the coastline. Fortunately it was a clear day, with just a little haze, but one of the first things I noticed was how much water there was … and I don’t mean in the ocean, but the sheer number of lakes and ponds I could see.
The plane journey had been good, with little or no turbulence. I had left Manchester airport in the UK at about 10.30 am that morning, but because of the five hour time difference, I was about to land in Florida at about 3.00 pm that same afternoon, after roughly a nine-hour flight. The weather was good all that day and our take-off had been in bright sunshine, enabling me to see the landscape of England, Wales and Ireland quite clearly as we flew over it. It was like looking down on a map.
I always choose a window seat on the plane, whenever possible, so that I can not only see out easily, but so that I can take photos whenever I want to without disturbing my fellow passengers. The scattered clouds over the Atlantic Ocean looked beautiful, like giant icebergs or snow-covered islands, with shadows cast by the sun on the undulation in the clouds, the white contrasting with the brilliant blue of the ocean and the sky.
Economy Class is not the most comfortable way to travel, but it is generally worth putting up with the lack of leg room in order to save the considerable extra cost.
This was only my second long-haul flight … well, the third, if you count the return leg of my first trip to the USA, to Boston, MA, in 1996. On that occasion, I had been travelling with my late husband and we had been to visit my sister who was living about fifteen miles outside Boston. My husband had never flown at all before and my only previous flight had been a short hop from Dublin, in Ireland, to Liverpool, UK. But that first US trip is another story altogether.
It was a gentle touch down in Orlando, followed by a lengthy wait to disembark once we reached the gate. There were approximately four hundred passengers on board, so it took some time to reach the immigration hall. Next was the long queue to get through immigration. I had my green visa-waiver form ready for my turn at the desk, where they checked my passport, took my fingerprints and photographed me, and asked the usual questions about where I was going to be staying and if I was carrying any forbidden goods.
Once clear of immigration and customs, I was free to go and wait for my suitcase to come round on the carousel and, once I had retrieved it, I walked outside to find a taxi to take me to my hotel in Sanford. The first thing that struck me was the heat. Even though it was only April, it was still a shock to experience it … not only hot, but so humid as well.
Sanford is about thirty-five miles from the airport, and from the taxi I was able to get my first glimpse of Florida from ground level. On arrival at the Comfort Inn in Sanford, I checked in, went to my room and had a quick wash and change of clothing before phoning my new friends, Jack & Misty, to tell them I had arrived. A short while later, they arrived at the hotel and they took me out for a meal. Afterwards we arranged to meet up again the following afternoon … but more about that in a later blog.