Croquet Pro #01

Wagga Wagga to Jacksonville Florida

With daytime temperatures around 38C (100F) I took the opportunity to have an early morning walk around Wagga and simply appreciate where I live. The laugh of a kookaburra, the ripple of the Murrumbidgee, the empty main streets will certainly be missed over the next 4 months.

It was fitting long-time friends Carmel & Andrew Woods took me to the airport, as they were responsible for introducing to croquet when I moved to Wagga in 2000.

By and large the travel through to Jacksonville was uneventful, although a delay out of Sydney due to 2 passengers having anxiety attacks (fear of flying) and a 45 minutes search for their luggage  resulted in the transfer at Dallas through customs, security and sky train was a little stressful.

On the flight from Dallas to Jacksonville next to me was an expat Australian (Penelope) who lives in Ponte Vedra and had receive a recent flyer from the Ponte Vedra Croquet Club. So even before my feet were on the ground in Jacksonville my PR skills were called upon.

John Curington, the driving force behind the Ponte Vedra Croquet Club, met me at airport. We went to Taverna in San Marco for a very enjoyable US steak.

First IMPRESSIONS OF JACKSONVILLE

The strange part of the Jacksonville central business district is that it is primarily business. There are no retail malls! There are some cafes and small retail shops, however the main retail shopping district is 5 miles away heading out towards the Jacksonville Beaches area.

Jacksonville is situated 15 miles in land from the Atlantic ocean on the St John’s river. The river is very impressive with the widest point being approximately 2 miles. San Marco is located immediately across the river from the central business district and has numerous restaurants and night clubs.

Travelling east one travels across marshlands area to the Jacksonville beaches. The Ponte Vedra (pronounced pont-a-vee-dra) beach area was originally mined for titanium. Similar to Australia the beaches has transformed from being holiday shacks to very sort after real estate.

The retirement villages (I use the term village tongue in cheek) are amazing. No shortage of dollars here. The more modest estates are similar to Australia. The exclusive estates are simply astonishing.

 

New Year’s Eve

Went to a local entertainment venue – Pussers and enjoyed grilled swordfish while watching a one sided game of (American) football before checking out the Island Girl Cigar Bar to bring in the New Year. The smoking laws in (some parts of Florida) allow for indoors smoking. With the cigar bar there was an entire room of cigars to choose from – I found a specially made cigar to enjoy with your favourite porter or stout!

Throughout the evening spoke to a number of people, all of whom “loved the accent”, in particular Mark who had me say his name numerous times.

It was rather nostalgic feeling being in the same time zone as New York and experiencing the countdown to the new year and the famous Times Square ball drop.

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