KLM, to Amsterdam. Always easier from our local airport.
The transatlantic flight, Amsterdam to Atlanta - another World! At check-in we’d been offered an upgrade to World Business Class and took it. And was it worth it!
Constant attention; amazing food (and lots of it); drinks and snacks; comfortable fully reclining seats. All we need now is a National Lottery win because there is no other way to travel. After a 9½ hour flight to arrive feeling still (fairly) fresh - amazing.
Firstly, US Border Control. Quite a wait. Arriving at about 1:15pm, it seemed like most of the agents were at lunch. Around 30 minutes later, more desks opened and we were seen after about 45 minutes by a not so charming young lady with the personality of a dead squirrel and the social skills of a rattlesnake. We smiled, were fingerprinted, photographed and let in.
Very efficient baggage transfer. We collected our bags from the carousel, went through US Customs (easy), and shortly after came to another carousel staffed by baggage handlers, who checked our luggage was labelled to its final destination and loaded it onto the belt; away it went.
Change of concourse - a long walk in Amsterdam - not in Atlanta. It’s got its own undergound metro system!
Right opposite our gate - the Delta Sky Lounge. Perfect for a near 4 hour connection. Comfortable seats, complementary drinks and snacks.
Out to the gate an hour before for check-in - and then the God of the Travellers decided it was time for a lunch break! Chaos entered the World as the Demons of the Airlines took temporary control.
First a gate change was posted. Just as we all started moving, it was cancelled so everyone sat down again. Then a flight delay was announced. Another 10 minutes passed and another, different gate change was posted. This time it stuck, so off we all went - except the previous flight for that gate still hadn’t boarded. A cheerful (but clearly annoyed) gate agent now coped with boarding her aircraft (to Dallas) trying to avoid the deaf or stupid for our flight boarding her aircraft. She did a good job and dispatched the Dallas flight.
The delay was extended to 1 hour. The inbound coming from North Carolina was late because of snow and de-icing.
We boarded (in fairness) promptly at the revised time.
Now, one thing you can say, normally in praise of US carriers (Delta) over European carriers is the amount of information flow. You’re told everything, often and in detail; never left to wonder what’s going on. This is not always a good thing. As we pulled back from the gate, the captain thought we’d like to know:
- we were heading into a bad storm.
- he’d not know the full extent until airborne but then his radar could pick it up in detail.
- he was “pretty sure” he could fly around it, over it or under it.
- not to worry - he’d taken on plenty of fuel in case he needed it for any diverts necessary.
Thanks, Captain, for keeping us in the loop!
It was a wingdinger of an electrical storm, but we landed safely on-time (revised) in Fort Walton and were greeted in baggage reclaim by our lovely host, Dave, who went to fetch the car to the arrivals doorway.
It was really great to enjoy a brief reunion with Wendy & Dave (brief as the storm was demanding our attention!) and then a comfortable 30 minute drive to Destin.
This storm had attitude. Just as we pulled in to the complex, a squall arrived. Winds must have been gusting to 70mph and the rain would have made Noah jealous. We all found something to laugh about.
Wendy had prepared a super light supper and finally, almost exactly 24 hours later, off to bed after a long, tiring but very enjoyable (well mostly) day.
And the sun came out. Jet lag almost under control… Almost!
Out for breakfast to a pancake place. These were serious pancakes. Delicious, but one portion could have fed a small army out on manoeuvres.
Back to the apartment to soak up some sun on the balcony, looking out on the beautiful Gulf of Mexico.
We went, mid-afternoon, for a walk around the harbour area.
Then a late lunch/early dinner at a seriously unique place. Live music, good seafood and drinks and lots of people letting down their hair (even if most of them had lost most of it a while ago). Great fun.
Maybe by tomorrow our bodies will have caught up with the time zone.
When you wake up in the morning, stand on the balcony and are greeted by emerald seas, life’s so good.
Mid morning, we drove a few miles to Fort Walton Beach to visit Gulfarium. The sun was out, the pace gentle; what an excellent way to spend a February morning.
Lots of sea-life to see. And some things that live in the waterways.
There were also some entertaining sea-lion and dolphin shows. Lots to see and do.
After lunch, a walk of a mile or so along the beach, toes in the water. If I was forced to, I could get used to this on a daily basis. After so many grey days at home, blue sea and sky refresh the parts that other weather cannot reach!
A little later we spent some time standing on the balcony admiring the sunset. Then a quiet evening in for dinner and some TV time. Simply magic.
The sun came out to play again today and we drove around 25 miles east to the imaginatively named town of Seaside, Florida.
Beaches, sunshine, arty-crafty shopping and far too much Southern style lunch. Life’s a beach!
The afternoon found us re-engaging the inner child (about 8 years old!) walking/paddling along the beach, calf deep in water for a few miles round trip. Totally liberating.
Another pleasant day.
Yesterday was another sunny day that we spent doing nothing special, except in this weather and location standing still is pretty special.
We visited a shopping village where I tried my first ever Corn-dog. The love-child of a frankfurter and a sausage-in-batter. Better than its parents and, I suspect, not the best example, so I’m looking out for more.
Another walk along the sand - great exercise and good for the tan. An Italian restaurant for dinner - great end to another great day.
We had breakfast out this morning and then we spent an hour walking where the poor people live. Most properties available for between $2m to $3 million. Such a slum, but someone has to live there.
Spent time watching MSU (Minnesota State) Mavericks Basketball livestream and the neighbours floating past the window.
I found some spices to cook up a curry for dinner - introducing our hosts to Britain’s National dish!
Florida is the place that just keeps giving!
A (what’s becoming) normal day. Walks on the beach, taking in the sun and generally chilling.
Our host, Dave, barbecued what appeared to be whole cows for dinner. T-Bones, Idaho potatoes, creamed corn, key lime pie and red wine.
Shock to the system today. Cloud and a few spots of rain. Twenty-four hours of storms on the way according to the TV weatherman.
Visited a gated community, called “Baytowne” today (Miramar Beach area). This place has controlled entry where you have to check-in and pick up a car sticker. Inside there’s some lovely properties around lakes and golf courses. The shopping area on the Bay reminded me of a theme-park without the rides. Best described as Shabby-chic. Built to look old.
We returned to Destin and had lunch in a beachfront restaurant, just along from the condominium. Great fish. Shrimp chowder made in heaven and the best onion rings on Earth. So many menu items, so little time!
I’m not sure how everyone else spent their afternoon - I fell asleep to aid digestion!
Enjoyed a home-style evening watching TV. The news channels are non-stop Presidential Primaries but when we get home I guess it’ll be non-stop Europe. Isn’t it strange how all of a sudden nothing is happening anywhere else in the World. News agendas are odd wherever you are.
Really interesting morning. We visited a USAF museum at Eglin. Many historic aircraft displayed in the grounds and, indoors, more aircraft and ordinance charting various wars and conflicts.
We found a great place for lunch. Off the beaten track, small and unassuming, but should be in the top-ten for Destin area eateries. Philly cheese steak was on my bucket-list for this trip, and this place made a great one. To be honest, I can’t swear that it was great authenticity-wise; who cares - it was delicious.
Later we went to a place called “World of Beer”. It certainly had hundreds of beers from around the world, but seemed a little deficient in British & European brands. Guinness, Bodingtons and Newcastle Brown represented the UK’s draft; not the crême de la crême! Germany was better. I had a pretty good weißbier. They also served pretzels around the size of a carthorse’s collar. Very, very, tasty bread that looked like pretzel.
We’d been to the area before, but after dark it looked even better.
There’s a storm coming in. Tornado warnings for a few dozen miles north of here. Hoping the promised electrical storm appears over the Gulf.
Final Day - Wednesday 24 February 2016
Fairly unimpressive storm… shame really; I was hoping for some great photographs.
Last day today. Flights home this afternoon. 20+ hours to enjoy the magic of air travel!!
The dolphins came to say “Goodbye”, (and wouldn’t stay still to pose for a decent photo!).
An uneventful and uninspiring journey home followed. A brilliant holiday.