South Beach Miami
We live like locals in the best part of Florida
Winters chilling tales 117
Days 259 to 265
Every Gloria Estefan song, that I secretly danced to, pops into my head as soon as we arrive in Miami.
“Turn the Beat Around…….”
Then we have to go to the taxi rank and I soon get a head ache. Here we go again.
We landed in Miami late about 2300 and had booked into a hotel close to the airport before moving to an apartment in South Beach the following day. At least we thought it was close. It was on the other side of the airport and it cost us $50USD in a taxi. The hotel has a shuttle service but they never picked us up and we kept ringing but no one on reception answered. So now it was midnight and we just wanted to get to bed.
We got in a taxi and the driver said she knew where the hotel was and as we got off the highway (we could see the hotel sign) she took a wrong turn putting us back on the highway for another 20 minutes and then she had to backtrack. We didn’t get to our hotel until 0100 and were so exhausted.
The next morning, after setting the alarm, we headed down for the included breakfast and was pleasantly surprised to find porridge sachet’s, apples and muffins. The coffee was good too. We grabbed the free shuttle to the airport (at least we got one free ride) and took the monorail train to the bus station. We then got on the bus to South Beach.
It was a sunny day and the bus was packed with tourists. As we crossed the bridge to the man-made island that is South Beach, we hit bad traffic. There was a serious flood up ahead and the traffic had to be diverted. I chatted to the bus driver and he explained that it was very common for floods in the streets here.
We got off at our stop and walked the 500 metres to our apartment. It was a small one bedroom apartment right in the centre of everything. We were only 10 minutes from the beach and 10 minutes from the lagoon. We were right in the heart of the art deco district, with heaps of cool buildings everywhere you looked.
After settling in, the girls refused to go to the shops. They had caught up on their school work and just wanted surf the net and watch tv. And so Summer and I did heaps of walking to find the right place to pick up groceries and other supplies. Totally weird, there was no large or cheap shopping centre close to us at all. There were heaps of small grocery stores but they didn’t supply what we wanted or were used to preparing so we had to adapt a bit.
We went to the beach as much as possible and just cruised around our area. It was so Hispanic, similar to our experience in Washington DC but heaps better. We were able to walk down Espanola Way each day we headed to the shops or beach and enjoyed the music and atmosphere but stayed away from eating there because the price was too high.
We ate out at one restaurant which was picked by the girls. It was Senor Frogs, they are a franchise restaurant specialising in Mexican food.
It has a fun atmosphere and the staff dance and sing with some even getting up on the bar. Again Spring joined in some dancing with girls, just like her time in Florence. The girls were from New York but originally from Kolkata. She has made friends all over the world.
We did a little bit of shopping but not much touring. We mainly walked everywhere even though it did flood every day after lunch time when it was high tide.
Then nearly every night it stormed and rained heavily. We didn’t care because we were just happy hanging out, self-catering and walking around the flat area.
We walked North of main beach and all the way along the causeway.
After walking the full length of the causeway we decided to catch the bus back. What a shock it was really expensive, $2.90 USD each. The bus driver told us not to catch the city bus to get around South Miami but take the little shuttle bus. It was $1 USD each and you could sit on it and do the entire loop of South Miami and the Art Deco district as many times as you like. Thanks for the tip.
We did one lap and then headed to the beach.
Another great find was the burger place on the corner of our street. It was called ‘Five Guys’ and it was the best, most simple burger we had had. They play loud music and have peanuts in their shells free on the counter for customers while their burgers are being cooked. The fries are rustic cut with their skins on and tasted awesome.
We had lunch there twice but could have had it every day it was that nice.
On the last day of our visit we decided to hire a car and head down to Key West. We had booked an early morning flight the next day to Mexico and then Cuba so knew this would come in handy to take us from our apartment to the airport instead of paying another taxi driver.
I booked a little Nissan Micra but when we got to the counter they had upgraded us to a Dodge Calibre. These cars are shit. They are plastic, a dime a dozen and have no guts in them or feeling in the steering wheel. But we didn’t care we just wanted to get out of the area for the day and see the marshes.
Unfortunately, we all slept in and arrived at the airport during the peak time of 10am behind a huge queue. We then headed out of the airport and I thought we could drive back over to South Beach and turn right to head down to Key West. Summer reminded me that it was an island and looked up the freeway number and we were soon on track.
It was a really long drive and the girls were not into it because there was nothing to look at. On our left we had the Atlantic Ocean, which was smooth and blue and on our right was Florida Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, which was dark and chopped up by strong winds.
We made it to Key Largo and stopped for lunch on the Ocean side.
We had to have the famous fish taco’s. We had no idea how they would turn out. It was a Japanese-Mexican fusion dish served with chopsticks.
Autumn and I polished off the large chunks of tuna, they were fresh and tasty.
We then asked the girls if they wanted to go all the way to Key West but they were adamant that they did not want to drive in the car for the further 2 hours down and 4 hours back so we headed North. But before we left the area the girls reminded us that we promised them a swim. We told them about the crocodiles and then saw a bar sign and pulled in. It was Gilbert’s Restaurant and ‘tiki bar’. It was an open plan wood grass hut roof with live music, market stalls and small beaches. When we arrived, it was flooding and a bit windy and choppy for beach swimming.
Fortunately, there was a pool. So while the girls had a swim we sat and checked out the music. Next thing there were dolphins swimming past.
Summer tried a cocktail, ‘pussers painkiller’, made with ‘British Navy Pusser’s Rum’. It had the opposite effect and gave her a headache.
We then headed back to South Beach and drove along Ocean Drive on the coast. We had walked along here a few times and saw heaps of hum vee’s and hotted up old cars. What we were looking for was the hydraulic jack up Cadillacs.
Unfortunately, none of them did their trick while we were there.
We managed to drop off our car and get our flight as planned and we were all sad to leave America but believe we will be back one day.
The best part of Florida to vacation is without a doubt South Beach, Miami. The cool architecture and easy laid back atmosphere was such a nice change from Washington’s intense seriousness. Sure there were homeless street people and a tattoo shop or electric cigarette store for every ten shops you walked past, but the huge clean beach and flat neighbourhood meant we were able to wander near and far with ease.
Next time we would not sleep in and get all the way down to Key West.
Stayed tuned for our adventure to Cuba.