Sunday, March 5, 2023

Surprise trip

First, let me explain my silence. I have been concentrating on writing my first novel. Yes, I wrote and self published Peeling the Onion, but that was not a novel. I am sure you have heard that writing a novel is difficult. It isn't, It is very nearly impossible! Anyway, that is why I have not posted here for some considerable time. In between bouts of writing, I have been following courses on the Writing Mastery Academy and following up on early beta readers' feedback. I have now sent my draft off to a book club for a full beta reader experience, so back to blogging.

As I have mentioned before, I frequently write as a form of therapy, to calm anxiety. This post is no different. I have written before about my 'travel mode'. I love to travel, but I get very anxious; thinking of all the things that could go wrong. See here for the previous post. The day before my trip to Florida—two weeks ago— was no different, well actually, it was a bit different. I was more anxious that I have every been. Perhaps in part, due to the fact that I have not done a lot of traveling in the past three years. Once up to Seattle, with my husband, to visit my son and his family there. And once last August to finally get to see my all of family again, where I got COVID and spent a week in isolation, but still managing to spread the germs to my sister and her daughter. This trip, tomorrow as I write, but it will be over by the time I publish this, is to be a big surprise for my son and his family, therefore by the time you read this post, the trip will be over—obviously or the surprise might be ruined. 

At Christmas my son, the one who lives in the north of England, and his family received an amazing gift from his mother in law. She had booked to bring her children, their spouses and their children to Disney in Florida for a week, followed by a week at St Pete Beach just outside Tampa. She contacted me with a plan to surprise my son by arranging for me to join them at St Pete Beach for a few days.

I have been to Florida before; back when I was doing a lot of travel for work I attended a conference in Disney, in Orlando. Because it was a State I had never visited, and because it was Disney, I was very excited to go. Since then I have felt absolutely no inclination to return. Oh of course Disney was fun, but there is one in Paris and another in California (and my roller coaster days are over), and there is no other reason to go to Florida, and lots of reasons not to. Yes, the weather is amazing but it is pretty okay in Texas too. To see any of my children, I would travel to the moon, so I arranged to go to Florida.

Amazingly my co-conspirator and I managed to keep it a secret. That was not easy I can tell you. The plan was for me to join them for dinner their first evening there. They were coaching from Orlando to arrive in the late afternoon and I was flying in from Texas the same afternoon.

The day before my flights I was in full on travel mode. Worst case I have ever experienced. I was packed and all my electronics were charged and ready. I checked in online and all I wanted to do was head to the airport and wait there. The smell of aviation fuel calms me. I managed to get through the day, because I had no choice; and because I started writing this post—you know, therapy. Next morning I was up at 2.45 a.m. The shuttle was due to pick me up just before 4 a.m. So plenty of time to have coffee and get myself ready. At 3.45 a.m. I was outside on the sidewalk with my suitcase waiting.

My flight to Atlanta was uneventful and with two hours to make my connection there was no problems there. I took a Lyft from Tampa airport to St Pete Beach. I was staying at the Postcard Inn. A fascinating motel. Very eclectic. When I walked in I felt like I had gone back in time and not because it was old fashioned, more that it was like one of those fun surfer hangouts in sixties movies. I had to wait about an hour for my room to be ready, so I sat at the bar and chatted with the girl who served me a healthy pour of wine, and people watched while I waited.

Once in my room I had a four hour wait before heading to the restaurant, which was a five minute walk, almost next door to my hotel. I unpacked and showered and then got on my laptop to burn up the time. Finally I headed to the Rumfish resort restaurant. Yes, naturally I was early. I always am. I wandered around the shop, through which you had to walk to get to the restaurant, and waited. At twenty past eight—the table was booked for eight thirty—I talked to the hostess and explained that I was with a party of eleven, booked for eight thirty and was hoping to be seated first as I was a surprise guest. Our table was not ready but she went off to check on it. While she was doing that I got a text from my co-conspirator to say they would be delayed by about ten minutes and could I tell the restaurant. I think they were glad because they clearly were having problems getting rid of the party at our table.

I found a seat in a corner of the shop and waited. Finally I saw my son's mother in law come in and waved to her. She said the others were just behind her and the table was not yet ready. A couple of minutes later my son, his wife and their two children stood in front of me and their faces were priceless. Dinner was amazing and I highly recommend the Rumfish if you ever happen to be in St Pete Beach. The next two days went by way too fast. 

An added bonus for me was that my husband's cousin and her partner—they live in Sarasota, about 35 miles south of St Pete Beach—made the trek, over an hour's drive, to meet us for lunch the day before I was due to leave. 

St Pete Beach is one of the barrier islands inTampa Bay. Everywhere is literally on the beach. In the early morning each day I was there, I walked down the silvery sand, soaking in the sun and the sound of the waves. The beach was empty except for the birds who took absolutely no notice of me. And naturally, the sunsets there were amazing.

Early Friday morning I was once again in travel mode waiting outside the Postcard Inn for my Lyft back to Tampa airport. I only had one hour for my connection at Atlanta and my flight out of Tampa took off twenty minutes late but I made it! 

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