Saturday August 24, 2013
Yes. I am one of those people that likes to make (somewhat of) a big deal out of my birthday. Not only am I good at hijacking others’ birthdays, I’m pretty good at celebrating my own. No sitting at home prattling off ‘Oh, it’s just another day of the year’ for me. Like some people I know. (Ahem, Matt!) Although I usually don’t get turned down on things I want from my wonderful husband, it’s because I usually don’t ask for much either. But on my birthday, I can. The past few years has only resulted in Starbucks in the morning and a dinner out in the evening (see, I told you I don’t ask for much), but this year was looking like I wasn’t going to be able to do even that. Because this year my birthday was starting with a 5 am flight out of Chicago, an 8 hour layover in Ft. Lauderdale, and then arriving to Lima Peru around 11 pm. My best hopes were starting to look like a burger and a beer from an airport bar. Then comes to the rescue, our good friend Ana Bianca. Just a few days after we left the marina in Guatemala, she also left to go home for a few months. Home being Miami Beach. As in, just an hour’s drive from Ft. Lauderdale. Since she couldn’t stand the thought of me being cooped up in three different airports all day on my birthday, she offered to drive up to take Matt and I out for the day.
Getting picked up from the airport by Ana Bianca and her boyfriend Alfredo, we whipped and whizzed through the city’s expressways as we made our way towards Hollywood Beach. We were given a narrative along the drive that this was the happening place to be back in the 60’s, and much of the architecture hasn’t changed over the years. Lining the sidewalks in town were many bars, restaurants, and cafes with Cuban and MiMo flare, which are still frequently visited by people looking to get away strip malls filled with Starbucks’ and Outback Steakhouses. We stopped the car for just a minute to visit one of those cafes where I could get my birthday frappuccino, and then continued on to the beach.
Strutting onto the sand we made a quick costume change into our suits at one of the beach front restaurants and left with some cold Coronas in our hands. Spreading out the towels on the hot white sand, it felt nice to be back in a place with tropical blue waters glimmering in the distance. Hell, if the waters are this nice in Southern Florida, maybe we can skip the $300 entrance fee to the Bahamas next year and stay in the good ol’ US of A for a bit instead. Although I highly doubt the spearfishing would be as good, or even legal. Sigh, so many compromises in life. That’s a ways down the road though, and today was looking like a beautiful day at Hollywood Beach, so I was going to enjoy it to it’s fullest. When the beers had been drained and our skin was fully sizzling, we made our way down to the water where we swam out until the sand dropped out beneath our feet and sat there treading water for the next forty-five minutes as we discussed everything from politics to cruising to new hackers that apparently can get into ships systems and steer them off course. Good thing they’re probably not looking to move about little 34 ft yachts as they cross seas and oceans.
Having worked up an appetite we moved our party to a Cuban restaurant since I mentioned to Ana Bianca that all I really wanted for my birthday was a mojito and some ropa vieja. Instead, we did something even better by turning it into a tapas meal where we let Alfredo, who’s Cuban, pick about four different items from the menu where we each put a little on our plates so we were able to try everything. In the mix were: Mariquitas, which are crispy plantain chips; Yuca Frita, a cassava root that is boiled and then fried; Croquetas de Jamon, lightly breaded rolls with ham filling; and Masas de Cerdo, which was deep fried pork cubes served with sauteed onions, black beans, and rice. Everything was absolutely amazing. I don’t know why I haven’t gotten on the Cuban food bandwagon earlier. Add a nice tall mojito to all that mouthwatering food and I was in heaven. A perfect birthday with wonderful friends. Thanks again for taking us out Alfredo and Ana Bianca, it was truly an incredible day!
Sitting on the beach in front of Mamacita’s Cuban Restaurant.
Ana Bianca and Alfredo took a quick dip before the beer drinking started, too.
Like my new sandals? Birthday gift from my mom.
Not quite South Beach, but suits were noticeably skimpier here than we are used to seeing.
Ana Bianca & Alfredo. Aawwww!
Getting back to the airport, I hadn’t even changed out of my suit and my hair was a wet, salty mess. Making our way through security I’m sure there were a few unapproving glances shot our way of ‘Did they really just come here from the beach?’. Yes. Yes we did. What was even better was after we had gotten to our terminal and found a few people that had been on our morning flight from Chicago, sitting there waiting for the evening flight to Lima. And you could tell they had been there All.Day. I don’t even want to know the kinds of dirty looks we were probably getting from them behind our backs. ‘We’ve been sitting in this terminal all day and they’re out frolicking at the beach?!’. What can I say? It was my birthday, I made things happen. (Actually, Ana did. Thanks again Ana!!)
Our flight to Lima was long and uncomfortable, and we were living with our cheap Spirit Airlines ticket consequences. No leg room and the fear of falling asleep because if my head rolled even 20 degrees to the right I’d be getting to know my neighbor a little more than I wanted. (Fun fact: Matt will always make me take the center seat on an airplane or bus because he doesn’t like being in close proximity to strangers. This applies even on my birthday.) I was probably able to get a collective 30 minutes of sleep during our five hour flight and by the time we got to Lima I was surprised that I could even get coherent English words out of my mouth. Which unfortunately was not going to help me in this part of the world. Going through customs, the agent tried speaking to me in Spanish and I told him that I only knew a little, forcing him to switch to English. He then not so politely informed me that if I was going to be visiting his country, it would be considerate of me to learn his language. Thanks guy, that’s actually what I’ve been trying to do for the past four straight weeks, but Rosetta Stone hasn’t gotten me past colors or words for eating or running. You know, the useful stuff.
It was now 10:30 at night and even though all we wanted to do was find a bed to crash in, we weren’t too keen on having to navigate a strange city so late at night. I hadn’t even written down the address of the hostel we were planning on staying at. Grabbing a very late dinner of Pizza Hut, we made the decision to spend the night in the airport. No longer having access to the terminal where we might have been able to slide a few chairs together, since we had to exit that area to pick up our luggage, we relied on a post I had read in ‘Sleeping in Airports’, that Lima held only one spot off in a corner that was able to give resting travelers any kind of peace. So, using our bags as pillows and shoving ear plugs in our ears to drown out the constant announcements over the speakers, we comfortably passed out in front of the bright lights of Radio Shack, ready to sleep off our long and exciting day.