FLORIDA: september 17 till october 3 2004

schedule:
We booked through the travel agency Travel Agency Spillemaecker a 14-day tour through Florida. These formulas are offered by Whings & Wheels and include pre-booked hotel overnights, a roadmap and a rental car from Alamo . We took too elks an access pass for the parks, which is advantageous if you want to visit several. For our flights we chose Amercican Airlines , the most profitable company. Meals are not included, but in the US you have an ample supply for this. After having bought some good guides and maps, we were ready to go.

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Friday 17-09-2004: Brussels Orlando After a long but successful flight we land in Orlando around 20 hours. We pick up our rental car, a Pontiac Montana , and drive to our first hotel in Orlando Holiday Inn Mercado . In the dark it is to get used to American roads and signage, but after half an hour we were already on the ground. Soon the luggage to the room and looking for a restaurant to get some food. It is late and quickly crawl on time under the covers.

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Saturday 18-09-2004: Orlando The first day in Orlando we had a visit EPCOT planned, one of the five Disney parks. EPCOT has two parts: The first is Future World, where you'll find the latest innovations in various pavilions in the area of electronics and can enjoy the following instructive attractions: Mission Space , you sit in a spaceship and is undergoing a complete space travel. Spaceship Earth , where you make a virtual tour of the creation of the Earth to date. Test Track , a circuit where you undergo all tests in a car which cars are subjected, and you end up tearing at a speed of 60 miles on the track. Imagination , where you can let your imagination enjoy 3D movies. The Living Seas , a town deep in the ocean. Universe of Energy , a virtual tour seeking various forms of energy and The Land , a boat trip where you get to see all kinds of power sources of the Earth. The second part is World Showcase, where 11 countries want to share their culture through exciting rides, shows, shops, restaurants and much more. After this first day we find the American theme of an entirely different order than what we are used in Europe and can therefore still enjoy our delicious the next day.

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Sunday 19-09-2004: Kennedy Space Center Today we drive through the 528 to the East Coast and visit there the Kennedy Space Center , an hour's drive from Orlando. The site visit provided include guided coach circuits , which you through the immense assembly hall, badly damaged by the recent hurricane Frances , to oberservatieplatform driving near the lanceerplarform of the space shuttles. You look out on a huge area which left several vehicles to space and form the structures integral with nature and its inhabitants. Then you drive on to the Apollo / Saturn V Center , where you can enjoy first flight from the original center of a true launch of this huge rocket on a giant screen. Then enters the hall where an original 111-meter Saturn rocket is, which one then undertook the journey to the moon. You have to see it to believe how huge vessels in the 60s already got off the ground. Back at the Visitor Complex you can visit more than 16 sites on which to explore the space has. You'll find include a toegangkelijke copy of the Space Shuttle in real size. Be sure not to miss the IMAX Theater where you can be accurately followed the launch of one of the Space Shuttles on a 21-meter screen. The Rocket Garden contains the different types of rockets from past space travel. The Astronaut's Memorial honors those who died during space expeditions. Furthermore there are plenty of sights and we go through the Space Shop back to the car. An inspiring day is over and we return to Orlando. Enough time to do a walk along Universal Boulevard, with its many shopping and dining options.

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Monday 20-09-2004: Orlando This day is a visit to Universal Studios planned. This park consists of two parts; Islands of Adventure , full of roller coasters, water rides and other attractions, Universal Studios Florida , full of attractions based on several well-known films. The sets are beautifully recreated and you have the feeling that you're part of the film. Such as the latest set of Revenge of The Mummy , where you're in a rollercoaster high speed forward, backward and already falling races through corridors of the temple. On the set of Twister you come in the middle of a tornado contact with water, fire and wind, of course. The set of Earthquake we first get an explanation of the special effects, and then we get on a subway and then end up in an earthquake. Other attractions include famous movie Jaws , Men in Black , Back to the Future , Terminator 2 and Shrek . The latter two you can not miss, 3-D and 4-D effects mixed with live stunts. This park is a must with dozens of attractions, films, shows and attractions for all ages.

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Tuesday 21-09-2004: Orlando Today we choose Magic Kingdom , the main park of Disney World. The huge parking monorail brings you to the entrance. There is much to see and do. From Main Street USA (main street) you end up in different countries, elks various theme parks. At the end of Main Street USA is the magnificent Cinderella Castle . The four countries Adventureland ( Jungle Cruise , Pirates of the Caribbean ), Frontierland ( Big Thunder Mountain Railroad , Tom Sawyer Island , Diamond Horseshoe Jamboree Splash Mountain ), Fantasyland ( Mad Tea Party , It's a Small World , Ride to Tomorrowland , Mickey's Starland ) and Tomorrowland ( Space Mountain , Stich's Great Escape , GP Cars , Walt Disney World Railroad) . A large number of Attractions were renovated over the years and / or adapted to modern technology. Disney fourth namely the 25th anniversary of Disneyworld, so new shows it was not missing. We decided to take it easy out three and walked atrakties good through the park and enjoy all the beauty and the famous Disney locations. At any place in the park you will find several animation, always tinged with a touch of Disney music. At the end of the day we go to Main Street for the parade to attend, wonderful for all the different Disney characters come to see as beyond. With a ferry we stabbing again about the direction of parking. That night we meet even our friend Peter, a native of our village and now working for some time in Orlando. This cozy chat is a nice end to end the day.

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Wednesday 22-09-2004: Orlando The last day in Orlando, we spend at SeaWorld . This park is very soothing and besides the many shows that take place at fixed times you can view a lot of experience and some nice attractions. Obviously we want first to the Shamu Adventure Show , a magnificent spectacle with the huge killer whales. At this show you have to be careful not to sit close to the huge basin. The chance that you will then wet is very large. Other shows are Clyde and Seamore , with several sea lions, and Key West Dolphin Fest , a brilliant show with dolphins and whales black. Other shows, which are quite free to visit the day include: Shark Encounter , see a glass underwater tunnel you sharks swim above you; Wild Arctic , a ride along the polar bears, walruses, and many others; Penguin Encounter , many species of penguins in a hall with real snow; Dolfin Cove , a large pond with dolphins where it is possible to feed the animals to touch and admire below the surface; Manatee Rescue , the latter are protected here in their kind. Also, this park offers great attractions and a ride on the roller coaster Kraken and whitewater Journey to Atlantis must. Our time in Orlando is almost over and we return to the hotel. Vanovond we have a meeting with my American friend Larry, like me a former sailor in the Navy. After dinner together we prepare tomorrow to further explore our trip through Florida.

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Thursday 23-09-2004: Orlando - St.Petersburg We have the whole day to take the 110 mls (180 km) long drive south via Hwy 4 and Hwy 27 south to St. Petersburg and was therefore time. Especially since the planned visit to the park Cypress Gardens has to be canceled due to maintenance works. We decide to go to the beaches of Clearwater Beach to ride and there to spend a quiet afternoon. After a nice walk on the beach we drive to our hotel Holiday Inn Marina Cove in St. Petersburg, located on Tampa Bay with a magnificent view of the massive Sunshine Skyway Bridge , a unique piece of architecture. After checking a dip in the pool and lounging. Tomorrow we explore the city.

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Friday 24-09-2004: St.Petersburg After breakfast we drive to the center and bring first a visit to the Salvador Dali Museum are exhibited, where a large collection of works by the Spanish painter. Not that we have suddenly become lovers of this art form, but the entrance fee is still in our access cards and what is not can still come, right? Then we drive to the Pier , an inverted cone-shaped building that is an end in the bay and is a major attraction of the city. Minibuses bring you free to the entrance, and you can shop cozy in the many shops, visit the aquarium or enjoy the view over the city from the roof of this building. Afterwards we went into town and visited there include the Museum of History , where you mostly get a clear look at the history of the comercial aviation. In the afternoon we drove here to Sunken Gardens , a grand garden with hundreds of species of flowers and plants and various birds. Our day was over and we drove back to the hotel.

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Saturday 25-09-2004: St.Petersburg - Naples This drive of 160 mls (260 Km) dealt with the huge Sunshine Skyway Bridge over the 41 to Sarasota to Fort Myers and Naples. Although there are today several stops on the program ( John Ringling Museum , Asolo Theatre , Circus Museum ) we decide to go straight to our hotel Quality Inn Gulf Coast in Naples as Hurricane Jeanne is coming up and we want to be sure our pre-booked rooms would not be resold. Along the way we see the previous hurricane damage Charley who pulled over here. What we feared is almost truth and we have just two rooms. They're not adapted, but because of the migration because of the coming hurricane, we have no choice and are content to sit inside. Feverishly we follow the news on several television stations, because around midnight would Jeanne reach the east coast of Florida. By evening we notice that cloud silted up and the wind begins to stir. We are however at a relatively safe distance from the eye, but you never know. There awaits us a fearful night.

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Sunday 26-09-2004: Naples After a night of heavy rain and strong wind begins to subside at dawn the storm. By noon, the sun breaks through the clouds again and mark you out some big puddles, broken branches and fallen dishes nothing of the natural disaster. Somehow we have had tremendous luck, because the hurricane came the height of Cape Canaveral ashore and drew include further land through Orlando. Had this happened a week earlier, our visits were during the first days in Orlando literally fallen into the water. The parks were there all now closed, thousands were without electricity, streets were flooded, buildings damaged. We realized that we had crawled through the eye of the needle. Because the weather did not allow it to return to Fort Myers to drive to visit include Edison Winter Home and the Waltzing Waters , but we make a virtue of necessity and we visit the huge shopping center Fifth Aveneu Mall . In the late afternoon was to detect the storm nothing, so we returned the trip can finish as planned in the coming days.

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Monday 27-09-2004: Naples - Key West Because today we have the longest trip to the bow of 255 mls (410 Km) we are extra early, have breakfast and leave Naples on 41 South. Soon we drive through the Everglades , a huge protected wetland. After about 50 miles we reached the Miccosukee Indian Reservation where we went exploring in the park of the Everglades. Unfortunately, people here had not pulled the boats out of their safe haven from the storm so we rode to Gator Park . Here we made time for a trip by airboat through the swamps and lived an alligator wrestling show at. One downside were the mosquitoes which saw in us a tasty prey and we have several days afterwards suffered from. We continue our way and halt to Homestead for lunch. An hour later we drive to Key Largo, the upper key programs, and continue on Hwy 1 about the many islands (Key's) to the southernmost tip of Florida (and the USA), Key West. The connection between these islands by the 'overseas highway', low bridges just above the water. We stop at the longest of these bridges, the 7-miles-bridge . In addition to this new bridge you can also spot a portion of the old connection, which consisted of a rail link. Arriving in Key West we will immediately move into our hotel Holiday Inn Beachside . After a drink at the pool, we drive by car to the center, first explore even the surroundings and parking our car near Mallory Square . We choose to enjoy during dinner the unmissable sunset and find a café on the quay of the square. Here they make every day a celebration and everyone gathers at Mallory Square to enjoy it. While waiting, the people are entertained by the many street performers who get their share of the tourists. After the spectacle we enjoy for a while from the hustle and bustle in the narrow streets of Key West and we drive back to the hotel. It was a long and tiring but very exciting day.

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Tuesday 28-09-2004: Key West We take it easy today, taking after breakfast drive to the center and let him stand tasty. Enjoy strolling and shopping in Duval Street, the most important street of Key West and where Highway 1 ends, to regard the sign '0 miles. Duval Street runs from Mallory Square right through the heart of town to the other side of the island where the Southernmost Point located. This place is the very south of the USA and is only 90 mls of Cuba. Even a short visit to the local church, St. Paul's was not missing after strolling through the busy street with many shops, we arrive back at the dock of Mallory Square and we see that a cruise ship has docked and there are quite a sight prohibited for seeing the 'sunset'. The numerous shops in this neighborhood were obviously delighted with the hundreds of tourists who disembarked and curious go souveniersjacht. Again we dine on the dock and enjoy again the spectacle that offers sunset views. Then back to the hotel to drink a glass of beer without us even having to drive. This beautiful day there is never forget to ...

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Wednesday 29-09-2004: Key West - Miami We catch our last ride to Miami, a distance of 170 mls (275 Km). Through the hwy 1 we drive over the bridges and stop just past Key Largo at the Coral Castle , a structure built entirely of thousands of shells and realized by one man. Just got back in the car we get a tropical rainstorm on our roof and stop safely stop along the way. A great opportunity to call the airline, which asked for 72 hours for the trip to confirm the flight. After a minute or five, the sun and the storm over again shines. We continue our way and arrive in Miami. It is getting busier and decisions because of that buzz to drive directly to the hotel. This is Miami Beach and if you get the first in this metropolis have to find your way, it does pay attention blown. It's also a shock if we find that our hotel Ramada Plaza Marco Polo are all located on the other side of the 20 Km long Collins Avenue on Miami Beach. A little later than expected we come, check in and get a glass of drink at the bar by the pool, just on the beach. We have tonight craving something delicious and ask at the information desk of the hotel for advice. The Dutch employee advises us a known seafood restaurant, not far from the hotel. An hour later we sit at tables near the harbor and enjoy our first evening in Miami.

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Thursday 30-09-2004: Miami Our last day, we want to take it easy and drive further into the southern part of Miami Beach . This part of town has modern hotels and wider beaches than where we are in North Miami Beach. Also you will find here the typical art deco buildings that remind you of times gone by. However, we are quickly bored here and drive to the famous part of the city Coconut Grove , a lively suburb along the bay with nice shops, clubs, outdoor cafes and theaters. This district already existed before Miami emerged. Naturally, this city offers many other attractions such as the Italian-style stuffed Vizcaya Palace , the Museum of Sience , the Space Transit Planetarium and the Miami Seaquarium (one of the first marine parks), but we decide in the late afternoon return to the hotel drive and to prepare for the return trip. Tomorrow we have a tiring day.

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Friday 01-10-2004: Miami - Brussels Up early, because we have over the i95 to the Miami International Airport and afraid to sit in the morning. It is huge pressure on the ring but traffic in the US is much quieter than in Europe, so that we can return half an hour later our car. An hour later our luggage ingechekt and we can safely eat something before we embark. 13:30 increases our plane and we think wistfully of the past 14 days in beautiful Florida. It was an adventurous journey, but one never to forget!

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Saturday 02-10-2004: Brussels Check in Zaventem. Daily life goes its normal course again ...