Friday, July 8, 2016

Signing Off

Today is my last post. Tomorrow, I will no longer be a Brit Abroad. After near 17 years living in Japan, Thailand, China and Mexico, six and a half of those writing this blog, I will be back 'home' in Britain, dragging my family back with me. 
It's been fun, documenting our adventures and sharing experiences of other cultures, while at the same time writing about music and books and stuff. I've been incredibly fortunate having had this opportunity to live in four amazing countries - the last three captured in this blog. 
I didn't think I'd keep it up, let alone write so much (some 1,750 posts!), but living in different cultures has meant there's always been stuff to write about. Not sure that'll apply when being back in Britain. Although thanks to last month's referendum it hardly seems the same country as the one we left, so maybe there will!  But that will be for another blog, maybe.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016


A daytrip to the Everglades National Park, west of Miami - the last tropical wilderness in the US. My first trip in an airboat (very fast, very noisy) and the first time I've ever held a crocodile - even if it was only a baby one. There were big ones a plenty elsewhere. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2016


Miami Beach, particularly South Beach (or SoBe as it's called locally) is famous for its Art-Deco architecture. Our hotel is a fairly typical example, a couple of blocks back from the beach. It's been beautifully renovated, as have most buildings in the neighbourhood. It has a pristine feeling, or even that we're in a theme park, but that's a minor gripe: it really is beautiful. Interestingly, the hotel doesn't have a restaurant. Its reception area simply has a help-yourself assortment of croissants, fruit & coffee in the morning and cheese & wine in the early evening. Civilised.
Outside is a small but decent pool and glass table tennis table.
Across the road is a classic 50s diner, converted from one of those wonderful aluminum (did I get the spelling right?) rocket caravans. Fantastic brunches, burgers, pastrami-on-rye, and apple pie milkshakes (they just cut a big slice from an apple pie and throw it in the liquidiser along with some milk & ice-cream). Heaven.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Happy 4 July

Drove 240 miles down the Florida Turnpike from Orlando to Miami Beach. It's Independence Day so plenty of stars & stripes everywhere. But what really grabs our attention are the cool, lo-rise art-deco buildings, the steel diner across the road from our hotel (where we will eat pretty much the whole time) and the crystal clear sea. Perfect. Check out the temperature: it's off the scale.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Kennedy Space Center

Today we got educational and drove east across Florida's pancake-flat landscape to the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral. Fascinating place where they launch most of NASA's rockets and which these days has an impressive visitors centre. Got to see the control rooms, space shuttle, lunar modules, launch gantries and a 'terrifying' ride in a space shuttle simulator (which was laughable compared with the Harry Potter rides yesterday). It was a relief to be indoors for the most part; outside must have been 40 degrees.      

Shoot 'Em Up

In our Orlando hotel, we spotted this tempting leaflet. Three weeks ago a guy walked into a nearby club and killed 49 people and wounded 53 others. The word 'inappropriate' comes to mind.  

Saturday, July 2, 2016

The Wizzarding World of Harry Potter

Hogsmeade & Hogwarts
All day spent at the Wizzarding World of Harry Potter in Universal theme park. It's actually two separate places: Hogsmeade in one part of the theme park, and Diagon Alley in another - the two linked by a short train ride (the Hogwarts Express).
It was fantastic and of course the girls loved it. Architecturally, it looked exactly like the films, down to the last detail. The vertiginous Hogwarts, the village with its wand shop, wonky Diagon Alley and Gringots Bank, butterbeer at the Leaky Cauldron, the triple-decker bus and so on. The rides were amazing - somewhat terrifying for a 50something adult, but the girls kept going back for more. 
I particularly liked the Hogwarts Express with its very realistic Kings Cross and Platform 9¾, including clever 'push-the-trolley-through-the-wall' trick using mirrors. The train interior took me back to grimey but comforting 1970s British Rail carriages, and we loved the video and visual effects as the train compressed London-to-Hogwarts in 5 mins.
We didn't spend much time in the rest of the park - Jurassic Park ride, Dr Seuss. It was all about Potter. Worth the money.