Thursday, February 28, 2013

Cocoa Beach

I finally made it to the beach! And I swam in the Atlantic Ocean for the first time! (As super aware that I am that basically every cool thing I'm doing overseas is a first, this is still exciting).
It started off the night before when we went to play pool after work. My team won three times by the way :D
We ended up at a Steak'n'Shake at 2am because I'd never been (funny how so many of my adventures involve food, it may not be obvious on here, but they all do) and tipsily decided to head to Cocoa the next day, bright and early because I had to be back for work in the evening.

I'll tell you all about the beach in a moment, but first... Steak'n'Shake! Because it is the most clasically 'American' food I've tried so far.

 This is what the diner looks like - cute huh?

This is my amazing chocolate-strawberry milkshake that actually comes with a cherry on top!!!
I enjoyed it rather a lot.

Next came the food. I was told to order Chili Cheese Fries and three sliders which was far more than I could eat but I wanted to try everything even at the risk of a food coma. I got the sliders with three different types of sauce including A1 which I hadn't tried before and am now a convert of (though I still don't know what it is).
It may not look pretty but it was delicious, and I suddenly found I could eat more than I thought. Also yes, I became a douchey person taking photos of their food.

Food babies present, we all headed home to grab three hours of sleep before getting up at 8 for the beach!
A workmate drove us in a convertible he happened to have at the time which obviously made going to the beach much cooler.
Charline with the wind in her hair!
I don't know what this is but it was driving along beside us for a while and I'm an utter tourist so took photos.
There was a pier which I thought was just great. Maybe because it's not really a NZ thing?
Book, lemonade and cute hat - what more do you need at the beach? Sunscreen, as I found out later that afternoon.
On the pier - I was just super excited about it.

We went to a cafe on the pier for lunch (more food, of course). I got to be reintroduced to my new friend, A1 sauce. We had fish dip which was delicious and I got some kind of burger monster which was huge but not amazing.

Then it was back just in time for work, but not before stopping off and grabbing some chocolate dipped pineapple, something I was a little apprehensive about as I'm picky with pineapple. Turned out it was delicious and juicy and very difficult to eat! It also turned out that I should have put on more sunscreen after going for a swim!

Cocoa beach is about 1 hour east of Orlando. Steak'n'Shake website is here if you wanted to find your local. I have no idea what the second restaurant was called but we played pool at "Backstage Billiards" which was very fun and laid back though they allow smoking inside.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Nina in the Sky with... Mickey?

A couple of days ago I got the chance to go parasailing on Bay Lake with a workmate, Kelsey. It was sunny, calm and generally a great day. We arrived, signed all of our 'promise not to sue you if we die' paperwork and jumped on the boat with our lovely captain Dave.
Our lovely photographers were on board (haha get it) to help capture the moment so off we went.

 We indulged in some pin-up poses on the way to the centre of the lake because... well, we were pretty excited to be on a boat.

 Then it was time to get strapped in and get up there.

Taking off was surprisingly smooth and fast. We sat on the rear deck of the boat (probably has a technical name I don't know) with the parachute up behind us, but tethered, then they slowly let the rope loose. We cruised up to I-have-no-idea-how-high quickly then followed lazily behind the boat, figure-eighting around the lake.

 It was surprisingly smooth up there and very quiet, which I hadn't expected but I still enjoyed it immensely. I freaked out the captain and our paparazzi by leaning backwards and hanging in the harness, which lent an interesting perspective to the view. 
Yeah, we enjoyed ourselves.

Having nothing below you while you hang, suspended, from a giant Mickey head is a very cool sensation.
 It was time to come back down to Earth all too soon and we were winched back onto the boat. It looked excitingly like we might skim the water upon entry but no such luck.

 Then back to the shore for a celebratory Waffle House experience (a first for me and I ordered about three times too much food!)
Everyone post-flight.
If anyone is in Orlando and wants to try this then you can find Sammy Duvall's Watersports here, he also does jetski tours and tows biscuits behind boats (I'm not sure if that's a kiwi term, but I'm sure you'll work it out).

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Day

I've never been a big one for holidays but when in America... You do holidays big. So I've been as lame as possible without having someone male to be sappy about. Mainly my friends have benefited but I have a bit of a montage of Valentinesy stuff that I've done this week (it is America after all, all holidays last a week and are advertised for six).
Valentine's day is the day of Saint Valentine and it celebrates romantic love.Valentinus was an early Christian saint, and myth has it, he performed weddings for soldiers who were forbidden them and healed the daughter of his jailor, whom he bid goodbye "from your Valentine" before his execution.
So, as with most holidays it seems, this one is originally religious and involves some crappiness that everyone seems to have forgotten. But hey, who can get enough of that chocolate right?

The entire aisle at Walmart that is pink - yes, it is ALL candy (I would say lollies but I'm trying to translate into American, I'll be all "miles" and "y'all" soon enough)
 Had to do the Disney thing - it is where fairytale endings come from after all, isn't it?
Maja and bride and groom Minnie and Mickey - I had to get her to hold them because otherwise Mickey looked a little polygamous on the stand!

Our happily ever after
Even my dance studio went all Valentinesy - with a little bit of circus of course
A variation on the cupid, complete with bow and arrow, wings and halo

Cross-back straddle = Abby as a spiderman/cupid you wouldn't mess with

I have no idea what this is called, but look! A purple heart!
Finally my own Valentine's lameness - I made cards and candy for some friends... yes, there were glitter pens involved.

I included the lamest poems I could come up with/google. The words "dew petal", "sapphire pools" and "guns" are included (that last one makes more sense in context but hey, these are my poems - get your own!)
I am about to be a slightly more literal cupid and hand them out.
Happy Valentine's Day!!!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Chef Mickey's

So getting into the Disney spirit I had breakfast at Chef Mickey's which is a character dining restaurant in the Contemporary Resort.
The idea is that you go and stuff your face at a buffet and while you sit there gulping it down Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald and Pluto come around and pose for photos!
I headed in with three American girls and we mauled the characters when they came by. Goofy was a particular favourite though I prefer Donald - his fat tush when he waddles just gets me every time!
Everyone losing their s**t over Goofy!

Chef Donald!


Goofy cuddles!

Chef Mickey (I crouched, that dude is short!)

Minnie and me being delightful

And then I kiss her boyfriend...
However, as you can see from the chef's hats the characters all cook the food so it is completely inedible... kidding! It's great, and there's a lot of variety - even a breakfast dessert buffet. I had biscuits with gravy!
Every 45 minutes they play the celebration song - everyone swings their napkins above their heads and the characters run around boogieing. It is exactly as humiliating and entertaining as it sounds. You can check out Chef Mickey's here if you're interested, there are also Princess and Hundred Acre Woods themed dining if that's more your style.

Sunday, February 10, 2013


Last night I took off into Tampa for the evening with a workmate to attend Gasparilla! Officially called the Gasparilla Pirate Festival - and how can you go wrong with a name like that. I actually changed apartments to about 250m down the road in the 45 minutes before I left which was hot and tiring so I was more than ready for a cold drink (rum, obviously, given the occasion) and some pirates.

On our way. My first beads of the night - didn't last long.

Street vendor gyro for dinner - apparently lamb. I was suspicious but the sauce was delicious.

Street pre-parade
One of the pirates. He was about 60 and wearing high-heeled boots. I had to tip a dollar in his garter for the photo. 

 The festival is somewhat historic - the first parade was 109 years ago and it represents the 'invasion' of Jose Gaspar - a pirate who, legend has it, operated in those parts. Ye Mystick Krewe of Gasparilla sail across Tampa bay in their pirate ship Jose Gasparilla, along with hundreds of smaller boats, then invade the city. They take the key to the city from the Mayor then 'invade' by parading down the streets in their pirate ship floats. After a few weeks of festival antics they parade back, return the key and sail away into the sunset. 

The parade I attended was the Sant'Yago Illuminated Knight Parade. The floats throw beads and coins into the crowd and I was quickly adorned.
The pirates were proceeded by police in cruisers and on motorcyles, lights flashing and sirens blaring. Then it was onto the flotilla! The floats were spectacular and were interspersed with marching bands and dancing girls from the local high schools.
Police escort

Dancing girls

Marching band with awesome hats

Bead wenches

Drunken mermaids - watch for the cups that every member of the parade was holding.

A royal float

The beginning of my bead collection

Badass Neptune

A helpful (if dazed/drunk) pirate

More bead wenches - are you sensing a theme?

The Titanic

And one of its occupants

Obligatory patriotism

Have you got cannons?

Pretty good summary of the parade!

Oh yeah, and everyone had cigars!

Including the floats!

A frisky wench!

My developing bead collection and the front row seat that helped me secure it. Thanks Cole!

Firemen are always sexy.

Terrible photo but great pirate pose

Wench and the grandmother beside me that killed it - she got a ton of beads for her grandkids

About to be given beads

Even security got involved. Look how thrilled he is! (They genuinely did though - most had heaps of beads and some even had kilts!)

Old Nessy

One of the ships led by the Loch Ness Monster

The octopus float which I managed to get on later

Kelly - the lovely wench who let me on the float and was drinking straight vodka for the length of the parade.

My final bead collection - you can also see the back of Grandma's!

The police horse finally - they were very calm given that beads were being 'awarded' to them.

It was a tamer parade than expected so we added the obligatory flashing. My beads (and bikini - shh) saved my modesty.

The octopus again!

V meets beads

Delicious shrimp on Cuban bread and melon/cucumber cocktail to finish the night.
I'm a good friend - I share my beads!

 Yo ho ho and a hearty pirate farewell!