Florida – September 2011

Day 7 – rest day – Jacksonville

Sunday 25th September

A relatively slow start to the day was afforded us this morning owing to the fact that we had no hard and fast deadline to meet. Having reached the one-week milestone, we are taking a break from theme park trekking for the entire weekend and instead we are driving up to Jacksonville to spend some quality time with some very good friends of ours from when we used to live there. Carlos and Kristy still live just a few doors down from where we spent four years of our lives from around 1998 onwards. It just so happens that Carlos is also a Paediatrician and has been helping us tremendously with Joey in recent weeks. The kids have already been to their house three years ago during our previous holiday here but, alas, like much of the holiday back then, they will have retained very little memory of those events.

As we were going to be away from our temporary home base for the entire weekend, we had to pack for all contingencies and so getting organised and onto the road took a little longer than anticipated. We had decided to make some headway into the two and a half hour Journey Northbound before stopping somewhere along the way for breakfast. Today was Sandy’s day to choose where to eat and thus it was the IHOP (International House of Pancakes), with its readily recognisable blue roof, that would be the restaurant of choice. We managed to find one just in time, as Jennifer had been complaining that her neck was hurting, which we believe is her way of telling us that she is getting car-sick.

We made it all the way to our former stomping grounds by shortly after one and it was great catching up with Carlos & Kristy at their home. The neighbourhood has changed little since we lived here, although the streets feel a bit more established now that the trees and shrubs all around the place have grown that much more mature. Carlos & Kristy themselves have changed very little in character and are exactly how we remembered and loved them.

The weather had threatened to not play ball nicely with us but it eventually settled down into a lovely, sunny, Florida afternoon and so we jumped at the chance to pack a few things and headed off to the beach. Despite initially proclaiming a dogged reluctance, Joey had a smashing time. Both kids and myself enjoyed getting thoroughly wet and jumping into the wave breakers. Fortunately, we had the underwater camera with us and I think I managed to get off some really great shots with it. We called it a day just before the sun was setting and so managed to get ourselves all back into the rental car before the heat died down.

Back at Carlos & Kristy’s house, I jumped into the shower with both kids to rinse off all the sand and salt water and Kristy was good enough to find a pair of shorts for me to wear. This was rather fortunate, as I had neglected to bring any spare ones with me but also because I went into the sea still wearing what I had on. Ordinarily, I would have planned ahead for this but there’s something about being on holiday here that has led me to simply wing it and be damned at the consequences.

Feeling somewhat refreshed and human again, we chilled out for a bit before heading out for dinner. This time, much to Sandy’s delight, there was a Chilis that we knew how to get to and so this became the destination of choice. For good measure, Nico, their youngest Son, joined us for the evening meal.

We used to eat at this particular Chilis restaurant quite regularly and I must say that the food seemed even better than I remembered it to be. It was a fantastic opportunity to relax with good food and even better company and even the kids were relatively well behaved all evening

We rounded out the most pleasant of days by chilling out back at Carlos & Kristy’s house for the next couple of hours. I got to spend quite a bit of time talking to Carlos about Joey and his Asperger’s Syndrome. Quite amazingly, Joey has been really quite relaxed for the most part since we arrived here and he was particularly relaxed today. Carlos is fantastic with kids in general, and ours warmed to him very quickly. Indeed, Carlos told me that he felt that he would have serious doubts as to Joey’s recent Asperger’s Syndrome diagnosis if he were to rely solely on his observations of Joey from just today only. This doesn’t surprise me to much. I myself often swing between thinking that Joey is either neuro-typical or on the Autism spectrum. This often depends on how tired he is at any given time. It was absolutely fascinating to hear some of Carlos’ insights and to listen to some of his suggestions for how best to move forward with Joey in terms of techniques and tactics. Although we didn’t come here to Florida specifically to meet with Carlos to discuss Joey, once we decided to make this our holiday destination and once it became clear that we would have this opportunity to meet with him, I can honestly say that I’ve been looking forward to this with even more anticipation that visiting all the theme parks combined. We’ll see them again tomorrow afternoon, assuming things go to plan, but for now, at least, I certainly feel like the whole trip has now been worth it.

Having availed ourselves of Carlos & Kristy’s hospitality for much longer than we could have hoped for, we bad them goodnight and headed off down South towards Palm Coast, where we had arranged with Patti that we would spend the night. We are going to be the photographers at Patti’s Grandson’s baptism tomorrow at noon, and so we’ll be making our way back up to Jacksonville again in the morning. The plan is to do a bit of shopping and then to spend a bit more time with Carlos and Kristy before heading back to Palm Coast again to spend the night until Monday morning. Sandy had the excellent suggestion that we then go to Kennedy Space Centre on Monday morning, since it’s practically half way between here and Kissimmee. As such, this will save a lot of time in the car, which will definitely make Sandy happy.