Brian and Lynn Tonkin's seven week vacation tour commencing 13th March 2010

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This simple website serves two purposes. Firstly it is a personal diary we can return to from time to time in future to relive our vacation adventures. It is also a progressive newsletter and digital postcard to keep our family and friends in the picture as our vacation unfolds. We hope that it will prove to be a light diversion you'll enjoy and maybe it will set you to thinking about planning a nice trip for yourself sometime in the future.

It's 13th March 2010. Our daughter Anna kindly arose early and came down from Bellingen to pick us up and deliver us to Coffs Harbour Airport. In spite of our serious best efforts we have heaps of bags and equipment... as usual!! Jenny and Warren Colman met us at Sydney Airport Sydney took us to visit Lynn's 95 year old Dad between flights and then got us back to the Airport in time for our flight. Very much appreciated. It's time to celebrate my official retirement from business and our seven week vacation tour has now begun.

The Airbus A380 can seat up to 850 passengers!

Miami Beach - reminiscent of Qld Gold Coast

We're flying on a Circle Pacific fare with the One World Alliance which for us means a combination of Qantas, American Airlines and Japan Airlines throughout this tour. The flight to Los Angeles was our first on the massive Airbus A380. This one was only configured for 550 passengers. What a monster it is but we had good seats so our flight to Los Angeles was fairly comfortable. A scheduled stopover of two hours in LA turned into four hours but American Airlines eventually got away to Miami and we arrived there about 30 hours after leaving home.

Miami Beach
Miami Airport was absolutely chaotic. Huge numbers of people and our bags took at least 30 minutes to hit the carousel. We'd intended to wait for our hotel's shuttle bus but as we were now totally exhausted we just grabbed a taxi, reached our hotel and fell into bed.

Next morning we picked up our Hertz rental car. We'd deliberately booked something quite small but as usual Hertz couldn't deliver so we got upgraded into a Toyota Camry which was much bigger than necessary for this very short initial visit to Miami. Thank heavens for our Tom Tom GPS Navigator. Once again this little machine has made finding our way around in foreign places a piece of cake. Driving on the many freeways throughout Miami was another thing entirely requiring many lane changes and switches between freeways at spaghetti-like junctions.

We gradually worked our way from Miami International Airport to Miami Beach which seemed to be a mixture of shabby and luxury. Most of the buildings are art-deco in nature and one expected to see Humphrey Bogart in every bar (as a matter of fact we'll be driving out to Key Largo on our next visit to Miami in a couple of weeks time). There's a fabulous wide boardwalk along Miami Beach which seems to extend for miles and miles. However, it was a very hot day so we didn't follow it for any great distance. Nevertheless I must say the beaches had beautiful white sand and the water was that beautiful aqua colour one often finds lapping coral sand beaches in the south pacific.

A finger of land between a canal and Miami Beach.

Miami Beach from the incredibly long boardwalk.

I already knew that there was a big Hispanic influence in Miami but I never realised that Spanish is truly the lingua franca here in this huge city. It's more part of South America than the USA.... at least 80% of people are speaking spanish as you move anywhere around this city. I kid you not! 

I love lobster and whereas the price is off the planet in Australia it's quite reasonable in some places in the US when in season.... like now. A search of the net found a chain of restaurants called "Red Lobster" and as one was located just 10 minutes from our hotel we decided to give it a try. Well it was packed to the rafters at 9pm when we arrived but they found us a table in the time it took us to consume one drink at the bar. We had the Special which comprised two small lobsters with a large dollop of shrimp fettuccini, a salad, choice of potatoes plus beautifully light hot biscuits (scones) all for $29.95. Much more than I could possibly handle and I left the shrimp fettuccini on the plate. Some value huh?

I tiny fraction of the Miami Beach boardwalk

Living it up at the Red Lobster restaurant chain

Miami to Sint Maarten
Next day we were back at Miami Airport and less than three hours later we were in Sint Maarten (Dutch side) and St Martin (French side), It's a small Caribbean Island which is half Dutch and half French administered. We have a pre-booked beachside apartment at Nettle Beach Club on the French side of the island and after grabbing a small rental car at the airport we found our way there without difficulty. And whilst the apartment was a touch tired, with a kitchen where the proverbial cat could not be swung, it was still terrific value, especially given it's beachfront location.

Lynn takes it easy in front of our beachfront apartment

A hilltop lunch whilst we study the map

Our second day in St Martin saw us trying to circumnavigate the island before picking up son Matt and his wife Trish who were due to arrive on a non stop series of flights from Sydney via Los Angeles and Charlotte North Carolina. However the intended island circumnavigation had to be eventually aborted thanks to skinny rough roads, crazy native drivers, gridlocked market towns and our own timidity. In fact we only made it back to the airport by the skin of our teeth in time to collect Matt and Trish who'd spent something like 37 hours sitting in planes and airport lounges before finally falling into our arms in Sint Maarten.

And Matt said, "Worst 37 hours of my life"

And Trish said, "A piece of cake"

The following day is a time of great excitement as the four of us are scheduled to board the 57 foot catamaran "Cerulean" which we have chartered complete with skipper Alan and his wife, Liz who is the first mate and chef. In due course we meet up on a harbour dock and get ferried out to the boat in the inflatable tender. Alan was aghast at the weight of our luggage but our alibi is that our overall vacation lasts for seven weeks and covers tropical climes and some very cold regions as well.

The 57' catamaran "Cerulean" under sail

Matt and Brian relaxing in the cockpit

Sint Maarten to St Kitts
After a very tasty lunch under an awning in the cockpit, we set sail for St Kits which is a French island about 2 hours distant. Cerulean proves to be a very, very fast sailing vessel indeed and we are soon skimming across the waves in a very exhilarating manner. A long term dream is being fulfilled and our cruise has now begun in earnest.

After a very exhilarating sail we dropped anchor off a lonely beach on the island of St Kitts.

If it's good enough for them then it's good enough for Trish

"We send our greetings to all the workers back home"