2016 was a crazy year. We all know about the celebrity deaths, (RIP Prince and Bowie) and of course the ridiculous election in the U.S. but, personally, it was also a wild one for my friends and I. First of all, I started 2016 without a job or a boyfriend and living at home. By the end of it, I had had 4 jobs, met my boyfriend Mitch and moved to downtown Hamilton. Meanwhile, two of my best friends moved back from Newfoundland, two of my other best friends, Brianna and Liz, bought houses and another one, Donya, had a baby! Also, the lovely Ali and Joao moved from London to Copenhagen. It will be a hard year to beat in terms of eventfulness. Even though it was an eventful year, I still managed to get some good trips in… including two trips to Florida.
Florida Round 1:
In January 2016, my cousin Ellie and I went for a quick trip to visit our grandparents in North Port, Florida. The week consisted of cocktails made from lemons from the tree in the backyard, gator hunting, and swimming.
A few of our days there were spent hanging out by the pool near grandma and grandpas house and playing shuffleboard. Basically, we pretended we were retirees. The community centre in their neighbourhood also held an Italian dinner where we ate spaghetti and danced to live music. The old folks sure know how to party.
We spent one day on an Everglades tour that had the stereotypical fan boat racing through tunnels of trees and swamp. We also got to hold some baby alligators that they had there which was neat. I felt a little guilty about the fact that on my last trip I ate alligator, but that little guy didn’t know that.
We spent another day at Siesta Key Beach, where we lounged on the white sands. It was gorgeous and sunny and everything a girl could want in Florida.
We also had a chance to visit the Manatees that come into the bays for warmer water. Grandpa described them as savages because of the way they eat and, based on the looks of them, they do eat a lot.
All in all, it was a great trip that helped get rid of the January blues.
I met Mitch in May and we had a fantastic summer together hanging around Hamilton and visiting my cottage on Lake Huron. We capped the summer off with a camping trip to Awenda, a lovely park near Penetanguishene. We missed a turn on the Friday, so we didn’t get there until late but it was fun driving through the quiet park at night. We had the Twin Peaks soundtrack playing and it was like we were transported into the show. We setup camp in the dark and realized that Mitch’s air mattress was not only just a single, but also vey tall, so if either of us fell off while sharing, it would be a long way to go. Luckily, it was pretty chilly so we didn’t mind sharing the small bed because we needed the body warmth anyway.
We spent the weekend hiking around the park, lounging on the beach along a rocky shore and sitting by the campfire. The days were warm even though the nights were cool and we could feel fall coming in the air. It really made me want to go camping in September every year.
Florida Round 2:
In December, the whole family, Mom, Peter, Trevor, Birkley, Megan, Megan’s Mitch, Ryan, Ryan’s friend Brad, My Mitch and myself all made our way down to Florida. Of course, it wasn’t easy getting there. We were flying out of Buffalo, which is always a good idea in the winter. Flights were getting delayed left and right the day before we were leaving so we decided to head down the night before in case the weather impeded us in the morning. Let me tell you, I have never experienced white-out conditions quite like that. We literally couldn’t see anything and had to stick our heads out the window to see where the side of the road was. We had to be right in front of our hotel to see it. But we made it. And miraculously, by morning flights were no longer getting delayed, though I will say that looking out the window of the plane at what the runway looked like was less than comforting.
Mom, Peter, Ryan and I were the first ones there and we spent a lovely night in Miami Beach at a boutique hotel. The hotel had a nice pool surrounded by palms and was just across the road from the beach. I spent much of the first day lounging and reading on the beach, swimming and walking up and down the boardwalk that was lined with ritzy hotels. We had dinner at an Italian place just down the road from us and Ryan and I went for a walk along the canals, gazing at the million dollar yachts before having a beer at the hotel. The next day, we went to Miami Beach proper where we walked along the main strip with its bars and restaurants and went for a quick dip in the ocean before heading to our timeshare in Fort Lauderdale.
I have been staying in timeshares since I was a kid traveling with my friend Brianna and I honestly think it has spoiled me. Our timeshare this time had a full kitchen, spacious living rooms and king sized beds. Not to mention the fact that it had a pool and ocean view. The rooms were also above shops and restaurants so we had everything we needed. We also had a really cool view of the Cruise Ships leaving the Fort Lauderdale harbor every night.
The week from this point basically involved a rotation between the beach and the pool, with breaks for drink refills. We also played Frisbee when Birkley, Trevor and Brad arrived. The ocean was a great temperature and fun to swim in except for one thing: jellyfish. We tried to avoid them but they were so hard to see and sometimes the waves would just push them right into you. I got stung really badly right on my arm and it even had a welt. Luckily they weren’t the deadly type of jellyfish and I lived to see another day.
My Mitch was the last one to arrive in Florida because he had to work but on our 3rd day, he made it. Unfortunately, I wasn’t very good at welcoming him. The night before he arrived I had had a few drinks but I didn’t feel drunk. Either way, in the middle of the night I woke up and proceeded to be very sick until the early morning hours. I was alone in my room and basically thought I was going to die. Trevor was kind enough to run out and get me a Gatorade and pepto bismol in the morning and I was able to get a slice of bread down. Mom, Peter and I then made our way to the airport and I was ok. But then, we were circling the airport because you can’t park while you wait for passengers, and I started to feel queasy again. It came so quickly that I didn’t have time to open the window. I threw my hands over my mouth and made noises for them to stop and Mom to open the door. I held it as long as I could but vomit spilled onto my lap until she opened the door and I vomited right in front of the arrivals. Welcome to Florida. I was covered in vomit and, before we found Mitch, I ran to the washroom to clean myself up. Unfortunately, I had been wearing white shorts. They turned pink from the pepto. When Mitch arrived my hair was still wet from the incident. After that I was fine. I have a feeling it was a bug from a surface somewhere or food poisoning.
The trip was everything you want out of a trip to Florida: sun and relaxation. We played cards and games at night with drinks at the table and, one night, we took over the lounge with a movie size screen to watch Elf.
Arguably the most eventful day for Mitch and I was our last. We decided to spend our last day on the beach and went down early to get a full day. As we arrived we saw the lifeguards rushing into the water, putting someone on a rescue board and pulling them in. The guy had red shorts on. “Okay, so are were running a drill.” we thought. Then the ambulance and fire trucks started arriving. The lifeguards were performing CPR on the man but he wasn’t moving. When they finally stopped and stepped away, it was obvious he was dead and seemed like he had been the whole time. I had never seen a dead person before and it was shocking that, on this beach where people were picnicking and playing football, this body was just laying there. They didn’t even rope the area off or cover him for some time. Eventually, CSI Fort Lauderdale showed up and he was covered and taken away but everyone seemed quite casual about the whole thing. People still swam in the water that he was taken from, people still had their drinks and read their books. We made sure we were a ways from it but I found the whole situation surreal and very distracting the whole day.
Eventually we went up to the room and had lunch before spending our last few hours at the pool. It was at this time that Mitch started feeling sick. I bought him ginger ale and meds but there was nothing we could do. Getting into the car to go to the airport, he needed encouragement. Then, just like me, as we were driving down the highway we had to stop the car for him to vomit. It was downhill from there. I was carrying his bags as he could barely stand in line for security. He was running to the washroom every 10 minutes and in between he was lying down on airport benches. We almost didn’t make it on the plane because he was in the washroom. I had to ask them to wait while I ran to the men’s room, got Mitch, and ran back as they were announcing our names over the PA. He was doubled over the whole flight.
Needless to say, it was an interesting way to end our otherwise great trip. The next week was Christmas and, next thing I knew, it was 2017.