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2023 - Florida - November - Day 11

This morning was a lazy start to the day as we were not in a rush to get out. It also marked a change to the weather as we had gone to sleep to the sound of rain and woke up to cloudy start, but at least it was still very warm.

Before leaving the villa, we had a very welcome Facetime catchup with Barry & Ellie. It was lovely to see and hear from them even if they were all wrapped up against the cold at home.

Then at 10.30am we headed for the 70-mile drive to the Raymond James Stadium in Tampa to watch the Tampa Bay Buccaneers plays the Tennessee Titans in the NFL. This will be the third NFL game I have been to (one here 6 years ago to the very day in the same stadium and one at Wembley). I cannot say I am a big fan of the sport but do enjoy the whole razzamatazz surrounding it and it is a good day out. Neil really enjoys it though and that makes it even more worthwhile. I had managed to get our three tickets relatively cheaply on StubHub.

The drive took much longer than Waze predicted. We thought any hold ups would be around the stadium but instead we got caught up in lots of traffic issues on the I4 some 25 miles before we got there. After crawling for about 25 minutes, it just all miraculously disappeared and around the stadium the traffic flowed.

Under pressure from Karen & Neil I had pre booked parking before going to bed as they were worried that there wouldn’t be anywhere unless I did so. When we got there, there were lots of people offering slots on their land but in the end the one I had booked was very close and not much more than they were charging. We parked on land about the same distance away as the Morrisons car park to Carrow Road.

Entrance to the stadium was easy and we then made our way up to our seating section via 4 very steep escalators. I had thought for the price that our seats may be high up and that they being 2nd row from the back at the very top. We had a fantastic view and few people around us. There was a great view over Tampa and the airport. The weather in Tampa was much better than Kissimmee and the sun was out and was hot. We sat ourselves down, Karen & Neil with their very expensive beers to watch the build-up and the game itself.

As it was Veterans Weekend there were some military ceremonies which were done well. There were parachutists landing on the pitch and a flypast by some helicopters in formation.

Every time anything significant happened the large pirate ship at one end of the ground fired its cannons, causing Karen to jump out of her seat each time.

Another good thing like Rugby is there is no segregation between fans. There is lots of good-natured banter and chants between people sitting next to each other.

The game itself seemed to me (and Neil confirmed) was between 2 teams of lesser quality. There were mis throws and missed catches aplenty. There were a couple of touchdowns in the game which ended 20 – 6 to the home team, which was a change as whatever sport we seem to watch in the US the home team always seem to lose.

There are several changes I think they should make to the game to move it along. Like why bother having a kick off after one team scores? It seems a waste of time when they always kick it to the end zone so the game then resumes again from the 25-yard line. Why not just restart from there each time. More radically why not allow the game to flow more by allowing passes between players providing the ball doesn’t touch the ground more like Rugby?

The entertainment they had during the breaks in the game were no better than Carrow Road although the prizes were much better than the current prize of a Hot Dog that seems to be on offer at home.

At half time they had more than 200 military recruits on the pitch pledging their oath of allegiance as they signed up. Each branch of the military was covered including Coastguard and Space Force.

We all really enjoyed the game and it was a relatively easy drive away from the stadium and then back to the villa.

Neil & I then had a quick dip in the pool whilst listening to some late-night programme on Talk Sport about South American World Cup qualification. Then we headed out to dinner at Outback to use the reward points we had earned with them this trip. It was only £5 off the bill but more the principle that we wanted to use them. The food was good although not as good as Saltgrass.

From here we drove over to the Sunset Walk in Margaritaville for a quick walk around. It was very quiet. The whole thing has been done very nicely but seems to lack something. There are loads of restaurants in fact it is mainly just restaurants, some of which look very nice. There are very few shops and most were closed in the evening, meaning there was very little to walk around and actually see and do.

As this hadn’t taken us very long, we decided to get Karen’s desire to visit a Super Target out of her system. I had pointed out that there wasn’t such a thing anymore but she insisted that the old one we used to visit at the other end of the 192 was bigger and would have what she was looking for. It wasn’t and it didn’t. However, it did give us an excuse to drive along the 192 at night past Old Town and some of the places we used to visit. Even Old Town looked very pretty at night.

Back in the villa we had a nice cup of tea, watched yet more Shark Tank before going up the stairs to Bedfordshire.

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