Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Up, up and away

First hot-air balloon ride ever and it won't be my last. Blue Water and Orange Blossom Balloons have merged and created a stupendous experience in Orlando, Florida.

Alright. I was a little concerned when they told me to meet them one hour before sunrise. Turns out they have an ideal two hour window for flying before the thermals start pushing the balloons around. So we arrive at 6 am. Brief intro and off in the van to the launch site. What a sight it was!
Ten Balloons filling up and rising to the sky as the sun broke the horizon.

We rose gently on the wind and floated above the earth like feathers. An amazing hour later, we touched down softly in a field with the field crew greeting us with a champagne toast before we made the short drive back to the hotel and a hearty breakfast. Whew! What a rush. I'll be back.

The Lion sleeps tonight.

I stood on the African veldt with the King of the Beasts staring at the elusive Zebras just ahead. The slightest movement would give me away. I had to remain perfectly still...

That's what it felt like as I sat in my comfortable car exploring Lion Country Safari near West Palm Beach in Florida. This wonderful attraction was created in 1967 as the first drive-through animal preserve and it's still a delight.

The experience is really in two main parts. You begin with the drive-through safari where animals large and small often stand right next to your vehicle. I was amazed at the size and power of the rhino's, who took little notice of me. The best part is that you can tour at your own pace with room to pull over and allow others to pass you. This way you can gawk at the lions for as long as you want.

The second part of the adventure has you parking and walking for more animal displays and demonstrations and a terrific giraffe feeding. I met the oldest giraffe in captivity! (26 years) They also have the largest Zebra herd outside of Africa and the largest Southern White Rhino herd in North America. This part of the park reminds me of the county fair or going to a carnival. Games, rides and food are plentiful. They even have a ferris wheel. A KOA campground was created in the 1980's so you can wake to the sounds of the jungle. What an adventure!

Suddenly, the Zebra raised it's head and I knew the chase was on.

In the jungle, the mighty jungle. The Lion sleeps tonight.

Tiger, Shaq, Rosie and Me

Okay, I have to admit that I enjoy celebrity watching. The antics of the rich and famous crack me up. The dramas seem so big when the cameras are clicking. I also enjoy boating.

Island Queen Sightseeing Cruises combines both! Sweet!

Launching from Bayside Marketplace in Miami, Florida, we smoothly made our way past Fisher Island and the Port of Miami to "Millionaires Row". Wow! Tiger Woods, Shaq, Rosie O' Donnell, Sylvester Stallone, Gloria Estefan and many more have property here and we Ooohed and Aaahed at the lavish homes.

The Ship is large enough that you can walk around easily while listening to the bilingual narration. The ride is stable with plenty of chairs and snacks and drinks are available while you enjoy the cruise. At 90 minutes, the timing is just right to enjoy the sights and sounds while rubbing elbows with the "who's who" of Miami. We even saw Al Capone's former house.

One of the best features is the starting location. Bayside marketplace has a parking garage and wonderful shops and restaurants to enjoy before and after the Island Queen cruise. What a great way to see this part of Miami. It just doesn't get any better than this for me.