Exploring: The Everglades, FL

So we were on our way to Miami when we decided to make a stop in the Everglades – seriously you can’t go to Florida without checking them out! One of the German’s friends told him about a little park to stop off at on the way called the Corkscrew Swamp so that was our destination (after stocking up on aloe vera gel for our sunburn!) and it started off looking a little bit like this…

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Now my main aim of this trip was to spot some Gators! I was gonna be really upset if we’d made it all the way to their natural habitat and didn’t see any! So complete with our still very hot sunburn (ouch!!) we started to trot around the park on the hunt for Gators! Now this park was exactly how I would imagine the Everglades – full or trees and greenery, with bugs and animals of all kinds everywhere! To get around you had to walk along the trail of course – safety first and everything and it looked like this – a little wooden walkway that went all around the park…

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We had to walk around quietly so that we didn’t disturb any of the wildlife and could see as much as possible – something that can sometimes be a little bit difficult for chatty me but I managed to do it and we spotted some amazing things! Now I’m not the best with animals and bugs as anyone who knows me will testify but I think I did really well in the Everglades – I seemed to get pretty brave! The first thing we spotted was this little dude…

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He was one of the many different lizards we saw on this trip and our first wildlife in the Everglades! Things were looking good! Next up on the wildlife spotting list was a snake!! Credit to Jannis for this one – he spotted if first and we didn’t believe him – he’d already been winding Melanie up saying he’d spotted them because she doesn’t like them! But it was there clear as day – a big, long black one! Scary!! Now this little walkway was raised up so that the dangerous wildlife couldn’t get to you – phew! But it meant we had a little disaster…Toby the tourist managed to drop the lens cap from his camera and it fell off the walkway and onto the ground! ARGH!! How were we gonna get it back? Well the German tried to reach for it but he couldn’t fit far enough through the slats…so Jannis stepped up despite his fear for the wildlife below and this happened…

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Yep Jannis reached down with the help of the German making sure he didn’t fall in and retrieved the lens cap without any animals coming to get him! Result!! Drama over, we carried on our merry way in search of Gators!! What I failed to mention so far is that the bugs seemed to really, really, really like me! Every time I stood still I was bitten by something that even drew blood – evil thing!! Now I was determined to find some Gators after being eaten alive in the search for them! But next up was this beautiful butterfly…

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Followed by this guy – we have no idea what he actually is but he’s definitely something…

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But still there were no Gators….booooo! Our trip wasn’t over yet though and suddenly we made it to a swamp and look what we found…

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GATORS!!!! 2 of them and they were HUGE!!!! It was an amazing sight, they were just casually lying there in the water, catching a few rays and enjoying their environment! Most of the time they were asleep but one did open his eyes and check us out! They didn’t move though…they were happy enough chillin out and not putting on a show! That was fine for me – I was happy to just see some!! Despite the heat and our blistering sunburn we spent a long time checking them out before moving on to the next little swamp where there were MORE!! These were baby Gators too and they looked so cute although I’m sure they wouldn’t be if you were up close and personal to them!! They were amazing to see though!!! I did take pictures but because they’re so small and far away it didn’t really work! You’ll just have to imagine the ones above but much, much, much smaller!!

After a few hours we made it around the whole park and I was one happy bunny – we saw some Gators!!! Mission accomplished!! Next on the list was this place…

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So we said ‘See you later alligator!’ hit the road and headed for Miami Beach!

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Exploring: Clearwater, FL

Technically no. So our first stop on our Florida road trip was Clearwater Beach! Wooooooo!! Now this beach and the ones surrounding it are branded some of the best in Florida and I have to agree they are pretty picturesque…we’ll get to that bit!

So at the end of the last post we were all pretty miserable, not knowing if we’d booked 2 rooms or 4 and getting a hotel that wasn’t the best ever but also wasn’t the worst! Aaaanyway it turned out we did only book 2 rooms (thanks Hotwire for getting us worried there!! Unsurprisingly we didn’t use that website again to book a hotel!!) and the Beso del Sol wasn’t too bad, well apart from the dirty stain on the sheet…that I was definitely not impressed with!

But after a trip to a Greek restaurant in a mini Greek town for Jannis the Greek and a good nights sleep we got up to blue sky and hot temperatures…the Florida we were expecting! First stop was breakfast and the German found a little gem of a place that did amazing omelettes to start our day! (Yet again the blog includes a food reference!!) If you ever go there you need to check it out…it was a little place  called Broadway Deli & Cafe and it was AMAZING!! I had the salmon omelette and it really hit the spot! So after a good fill we hit the beach and it definitely didn’t disappoint…

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Pure white sand and bright blue sky – the perfect combination for a perfect beach but there was one thing that wasn’t right…the water! So it’s called Clearwater Beach but for some reason the water wasn’t clear at all! Boooooooo! Now I don’t know whether this is a year round thing or not (Can any of you out there clear this one up? Have you been when the water is clear?) but it definitely wasn’t clear enough to see the little fishes at the bottom – I’m presuming they were there, they usually are! Still it was beautiful and not something to complain about!

So we kicked back and relaxed, had a couple of dips in the sea and soaked up the sun! Before leaving for Florida the German and I bought a volleyball…something that was going to get used A LOT on this holiday! Off the boys trotted for some volleyball action, it was their new favourite sport! Although we did end up with an injury when they both went for the ball at the same time and crashed into each other! Toby’s knee took the brunt of it – he ended up with a beautiful scab like a child in the playground!! At one  point he even had a plaster on it to keep the sand out!!

So after a full day on the beach we decided to head home but not after we’d all caught one too many rays! Lobsters all around thanks to the wind and not noticing we were getting burnt! Whoops! It was after sun central before we headed out that night for some amazing seafood at a restaurant called Sea Sea Riders – you seriously need to go there!!! Delicious!! I had the stuffed shrimp – it had crab in there and a chorizo crust on top!! Mmmmmmmm!!!

Our stay in Clearwater was coming to an end…booooooo! But Miami was next and we had the task of finding a hotel again – something we were determined to do before we left Clearwater! So we went down all the usual channels – we looked at Hotwire (but decided not to use them after our previous drama!!) Priceline (where you map out the area you’d like to stay and how many stars then tell them how much you’d like to pay, they then ask the hotels if they’re willing to take that amount per night. Sadly for us in Miami they weren’t but you can get some really nice hotels for a cheap price on that site!!) Trivago and of course we checked out Tripadvisor! I think this is where we found it – the Riviera at South Beach! After checking prices on a few websites we discovered it was cheaper to book it directly with the hotel…Wooooooooo! The next day we headed off to see the beautiful people in Miami before we got there we decided to check out the Everglades…did we see any Gators? Well you’ll have to wait and see!!

Exploring: Florida Road Trip

So after all the big, huge, mahoosive news contained in my last post (have you read it yet? If the answers no get clicking to find out what it was!!) our friends from Germany came over to visit and we decided to do something very American…a road triiiiiip!!! (Yes that is me getting very excited and shouting the word!!)

So we packed our bags, loaded up the car so much that the boot only just closed (I blame the German’s bag – his was the biggest of the four!!) and set of on our trip! Let me introduce you to the road trip crew – obviously there’s me and the German but say hello to Jannis and Melanie…

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Introductions done…let’s start the trip! Now we’d had this trip planned before the German and I even arrived in the states and the destination was…FLORIDA!! Yep we were road tripping it from Atlanta to the Sunshine State and hoping to take in some of the best beaches and hang out with the cool kids in Miami! But when I say planned I mean it in the briefest of ways…when we left Atlanta we didn’t even have a hotel booked!

But we’d decided the first destination on our trip would be Clearwater Beach – one of the best in Florida! Despite not having anywhere to stay we popped it into the sat nav and started out on the 7 hour drive with the German getting behind the wheel first! Now when I say we loaded up the car we forgot one major thing…road trip snacks!! This is something that is usually on the top of my list back home…just ask my good friend Bammylish! Whenever we went on a trip there would always be snacks in the car including mini party eggs, mini cocktail sausages, mini cheese and onion pie things and of course chocolate, crisps and sweets! (Yes we always went for the stodgy, fatty stuff…who wouldn’t?!?!) But today I’d failed miserably so after a couple of hours we turned off the highway and stopped off at an American institution…Waffle House!

It’s somewhere me and the German have been planning to try since we touched down in ATL, they are everywhere! And where I say everywhere I mean everywhere…seriously…they’re on just about every corner! Now we didn’t really know what to expect or what type of neighbourhood we were in but we ventured inside. These places are kind of small…there were a few booths to sit in and some bar stool style seating. As there was four of us we picked a booth and checked out the menu! As you know this blog always revolves around food in some way! There was all sorts on the menu from omelettes, steak (yep steak is a breakfast staple over here!) bagels, french toast and of course waffles!! We all decided waffles were the way forward – we were in the Waffle House! Jannis went for peanut butter and Melanie blueberry while the German and I chose bacon and maple syrup. Now this was a show of bravery from me – I NEVER mix sweet and savoury…it’s WRONG!! But word on the street was that this combination was SCHA-MA-ZING and the Americans go mad for it so I figured you have to try everything once and I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised!!! It actually works really well! Take a look at the results…

Surprise of the day!

Surprise of the day!

Once our bellies were full we waved goodbye to the house of waffles and went on our merry Florida way! Now it was my turn to drive whilst the German tried to find somewhere for us to stay…I kind of thought it was a priority!! So he searched all the different websites (That’s another blog in itself!!) bid on hotels and got denied, found fancy hotels that were too expensive, found drive up motels that looked like the scary ones in the movies (we were definitely not staying there!) and eventually found a place in Clearwater that was next to the sea and look alright! The collective decision was to book, we were getting kind of desperate…although that took a lot longer that we thought seen as though we were in an area that had a bad mobile signal meaning the amazing iPad that allowed us to book the hotel en-route lost points! (Admittedly it wasn’t its fault and more AT&T’s fault for not having an ugly mobile mast nearby!)

Eventually during all the hotel searching we made it to this little sign and my driving took us across the border from Georgia and into the Sunshine State…we were now well on our way! Yay!!!

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We were now officially in Florida – obviously when we drove past this sign there was a collective ‘Wooooooooo!!!’ in the car followed by a chant of ‘Florida! Florida! Florida!’ Yes I think I started this off…idiot! A road trip wouldn’t be the same without it though! So after another driver swop and a few more hours on the road we neared the coast and Clearwater Beach! But as we got closer the sun seemed to disappear and the clouds moved in…this definitely did not make us happy!! We were in the Sunshine State (Did I mention that?!) but the sun had disappeared!! But after driving through a couple of areas that made us lock the car doors (they looked a little scary!) we eventually made it to our destination!! Wooooooooooo!!!

So we parked up at the Beso Del Sol and got out of the car and that was when it hit us…the humidity! Man it was HOT! This also meant my hair started to frizz uncontrollably…never a good thing! I was not looking good right now! I seriously needed some way to tame my mop of hair…I was having a Monica from Friends moment and it was not good!!

Hair problems aside, we focused on the hotel – from the outside the place looked OK so off we went to check in but it would appear the woman behind the counter wasn’t in the most helpful of moods! Basically because we’d only booked the rooms a couple of hours ago she didn’t have time to put them in the system so we were going to have to wait – not the best when you’ve been on the road for 7 hours! We also couldn’t work out if our booking problems meant that we had 4 rooms booked instead of 2 and had been charged twice and she was definitely not willing to help us out on that one so we trotted out of the office and headed for the bar – always a good place when you’ve been on the road!!

So we found a little table next to the sea (that ironically wasn’t very clear!!)  but we weren’t the happiest of crews…the sun wasn’t shining, we might have booked 4 hotel rooms instead of 2 and we were worried we’d face the same difficulties during the rest of the trip seen as though we didn’t have any hotels booked….ARGH!

But we had a beer (always helps!) picked ourselves up and checked in! What happens next…well you’ll have to wait for the next post!! I’ve got to keep you reading somehow! Here’s a little tease for you though…

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Big, huge, mahoosive news!

So it’s been a while since my last blog…I’m not gonna lie and I’m probably gonna make you all jealous when I tell you why – I’ve been sunning myself in Florida for the last week! I know…I’m a lucky girl!! The good news is this means I have LOADS to blog about so get ready for an influx of posts! Here’s a sneak peek of what’s in store…

Yes you are looking at 2 idiots on Miami Beach!!

Yes you are looking at 2 idiots on Miami Beach!!

First of all though I have something MAHOOSIVE to tell you about!! For this I’m gonna take you back, waaaaay back to Cinco de Mayo…remember I told you about this at the end of my last post and how I was hoping to get in on the celebrations but that the weather could prove a little difficult? Well here’s the story of Cinco de Mayo in the Cook-Richter household…

So after a very, very, very wet Saturday the sun shone on Sunday morning…also known as Cinco de Mayo! And after a disappointing Saturday that saw any plans we had rained off we decided to go to the Museum of Design Atlanta and check out the exhibition by Eero Saarinen. Now I’ll keep this history session brief as I know you’re dying to hear exactly what the MAHOOSIVE news is but this guy created the tulip chair – the one that looks a little bit like this…

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Yes that is the one that has just one leg! He was also an amazing architect, designing many airport terminals, the Saint Louis Gateway Arch and other public and private buildings.

History lesson over…see I told you it would be brief! So after the museum we decided to head to the Cinco de Mayo celebrations. Now the museum was in Midtown, the Cinco de Mayo celebrations were in the Centennial Olympic Park in Downtown so I suppose the logical thing to do would have been to drive or take the Marta. But it would appear I am not logical and despite the German complaining about his aching legs (he’d played football on the Friday evening and used muscles he hadn’t used for a while!) I insisted we walked all the way from Midtown to Downtown, especially as the sun was now shining and it had been raining all weekend! The German reluctantly agreed and we trotted off down the road!

Now I was obviously unaware of what was going to happen (that MAHOOSIVE news I was telling you about!) as we walked towards the park but the German kept telling me to slow down because of his achey legs and we kept a close eye on the weather that looked like it was about to turn nasty…probably as soon as we hit the Cinco de Mayo celebrations!

We eventually made it to the park about an hour later and as soon as we stepped through the gates it started spitting (EVERYBODY IN!!! A little bit of Peter Kay there for my British friends!! You need to fast forward to about 1 minute 54 seconds for the actual It’s Spitting part!!) but it wasn’t too bad so we carried on in! We took a little look around and noticed the Olympic fountain was turned on – yay! Now I’ve seen this before but the German hasn’t so, following his complaints about his achey legs he suggested we go and take a seat and watch the fountain for awhile…sounded like a good idea to me!

So off we trotted and found a spot right in the middle that looked a little bit like this…

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Then, catching me completely by surprise, the German turns to me and says…wait for it…here’s the MAHOOSIVE news… “I’ve got a question to ask you.” So me being me just looked at him with my usual goofy look and said “Go on then…” and the German replied with “Will you marry me?” WHAT?!?!?! Now this I was definitely not expecting! I mean I kind of was expecting it at some point, maybe in a year or so but definitely not in front of the fountain on Cinco de Mayo! So I then replied with “Are you being serious?” Yes ever the subtle one I did actually come out with those words! Anyway, turns out he was being serious and he was asking THE big question so I then replied with a big, fat “YES!!” and suddenly we were engaged!!!!! Yep, me and the German, we’re getting married!!! Here’s a snap of us following the big proposal…

Happy people!!

Happy people!!

So it was a very typical Toby proposal…no one knee and no little speech before hand but I wouldn’t have expected anything less…it was perfect!! Also, in true half a job Richter style, there wasn’t a ring but this means we get to pick something together…that mission is already on! And from the looks of it the German would have picked the perfect ring if he’d have got one beforehand! He’s a good un!

So now the fun part starts…we have to decide where to have our wedding and how we’re gonna incorporate both English and German traditions…it could be a disaster, it could be the funniest wedding of all time, we shall see!

What I do know though is that I am one very happy lady right now and I’m going to be Mrs Richter!!! One word…WOWZERS!!! See I told you it was  big, huge, MAHOOSIVE news!!

Home is where the heart is!

First of all this post comes with a warning…it may be slightly boring!! Don’t let the warning put you off though – give it a whirl and make your own decision…freedom of speech/thought and all that!

So we’ve been officially living in the United States of America for just over 3 months now but I think we’ve only felt finally settled here in the last couple of weeks! And this post will tell you why! So as you already know we lived in a temporary apartment for just over a month, then moved into our own apartment but didn’t get our container from England for weeks…not the best way to try to settle in when you don’t have your home comforts around you! Anyway it finally arrived in a Tonka truck (still love that fact!!) and my brother and sister-in-law were here (and made to help us unpack!!) then when they left the German trotted off to Chicago for a week!

All that jargon up there basically means that it’s only in the last 2 weeks that we’ve been able to chill out in our new apartment, on our own with all our home comforts around us! We’ve been here for more than 3 months!!!! But I’m pleased to report it’s all good!! I wouldn’t say everything is perfect yet…we do still need to buy some stuff but we’ve made some additions like this photo wall we created last weekend…

Homely!

Homely!

Yep we went to Ikea, Home Goods, Michaels and many more and came home with a shed load of picture frames that the German ever so quietly (who the hell am I kidding – sorry neighbours!!!) hung on the wall! We’ve got pictures of our families, my parents before they were even married (yep that was many, many, many moons ago!!) pictures of the two of us when we’ve been out exploring in places like Greece and…wait for it…some empty frames! We were so excited to get it on the wall that some of them are actually empty and still have those pictures in that come with the frame – technically we have random people on our wall! Never fear though – I think one of our jobs this weekend is to get some more pictures printed!!

We also made our balcony look a little more homely…

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Yep Ikea once again got our custom with some plant pots, plants and a watering can! Can you guess who picked the bright colours? A gold star is heading your way…it was me!! I decided to add a little colour to the German’s life seen as though everything he picks is either grey, black or at a push blue!! He wasn’t too impressed but decided to give in eventually!!

Things still aren’t perfect though…right now the weather isn’t amazing – it’s cloudy and windy but still quite warm. Now I’m sure you’re all thinking come on girl, you came from England so there’s no way you can moan about the weather! You’ve already had a fair few days that would pass as summer in England! This is all true, last Friday I even caught some more sun and have a slight watch strap mark on my arm! It looks great. So here’s where I prove you wrong…I’m not moaning about the weather – I’m gonna have a rant about the TV! So when we moved in we looked into setting up cable (it’s a staple over here in the States!) but as we don’t have a credit history yet because we’re little foreigners they wanted us to pay a $300 security deposit (that they’d pay back to us at $5 a month!!!) along with another $300 to have one of those box things that record the 5 channels at a time. Now if we had a credit history we’d have had both of these for free…co-incidently we didn’t choose this option and instead went for this…

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Yep you see that black thing on top of the sofa? That’s your bog standard aerial that picks up the free TV channels. Now personally, being a tidy freak, I’d like to have it on the table at the side of the telly but thanks to the trees outside it would appear it picks up a better signal when its on top of the sofa…doesn’t it look beautiful? Oh and every time it’s windy, or a helicopter flies over the picture is pixellated and cuts out. It’s great when you’re actually trying to watch something interesting!

Now hopefully this weather will do one soon because it’s Cinco de Mayo this weekend and I want to get involved in the celebrations!! There’s a huge one in the Centennial Olympic Park on Sunday that I want to go to but at the moment it’s looking like it might rain! Damn you Mother Nature messing with my Cinco de Mayo plans! I’ll keep you updated on that one – obviously if the rain holds off and we go there’s definitely a blog post coming out of that trip!!

So now Atlanta feels a little be more like home sweet home we have more guests arriving next week! Yep our friends from Germany are stopping by for 2 weeks and we’re all heading off for a week in Florida!! I’m sure there will be a lot of blog posts to come out of that trip! Brace yourself people!!