Throwback Thursday: Miami Beach & Calle Ocho

Now that we’re sitting in Indiantown Marina and it’s obvious that we’re going to be here for quite a long time while we fix up Daze Off to sail, I don’t want to bore you with stories that are only related to boat work (but don’t worry, they’re still coming).   I know that’s what some of you crave, but if you’re like me, you also need a little fun in there.  A little travel and a little adventure.

So for the foreseeable future while we are doing nothing much more than boat work I will be adding a Throwback Thursday post in every week as well.  Cataloging our trip so far, giving you that needed sense of travel and adventure, and for those of you that haven’t started with us from the beginning, catch you up on some of the most important or memorable parts of our travels.

While we were in Fort Lauderdale we had a great time with Matt’s family, filling up our days at museums and even visiting a race track to see the kind of life our former adopted greyhound used to hold before she came into our home.

Just after they left we had a chance to visit with another kind of family of ours.  The one we formed in our marina in Guatemala where we formed our own little dinner club with a few of our neighbors and friends there.  Somehow it happened that every member of that party, with the exception of Luis (The Most Interesting Man in the World), happened to be in South Florida at the same time.  Such a strange coincidence since we’d all parted ways in Guatemala 6 months earlier.

Staying at the home of our friend Alfredo’s family in Key Biscayne, our group had the chance to come together once more for a reunion of our dinner club. It was supposed to only be a one night affair, but since the boat was anchored in such a safe spot and we left Georgie with more food or water than she could ever go through in 48 hours, we decided to keep the party going and used our next day to explore a few new parts of Miami.

You can find the original post here.

Monday March 31, 2014

Dinner Club

That place that was on the top of Matt’s list of where he never wanted to visit? Yup, we’re back there. Again. Except today had a lot more in store for us than just a stroll down the boardwalk or some good old fashioned people watching. Our day started early and went all night long.

Just as ready as we were getting ready to leave the DeLaro household this morning, those cute little ankle biters that guard the door tore out of the house and led to an early morning Chasing of the Dogs. Luki must be some kind of animal whisperer and he was able to scoop up one of the unsuspecting fluff balls and used it to lure the other one back home, as if it were running with a sausage dangling in front of it’s nose. Once they were secured back in the house we piled all six of us into the family golf cart to bumble down to Alfredo’s sister’s house for breakfast.  Even though my late night of mixing beer, wine, and RumChada had me barely able to get down a muffin in the morning (apparently even just a little bit of each will do that to you), it was great getting to know Alfredo’s sister and brother in law a little better, and we even had the chance to meet his dad who was full of questions for Matt and Luki about what it was like to sail around the world.  More of those questions were aimed toward Luki since I don’t think we’ve covered near as much ground as they have, but we were still able to throw in a few Caribbean crossings here and there.  

On the way back the keys to the golf card were handed to me, and it didn’t even take 5 minutes for me to almost kill all of us while running a red light at a major intersection.  The braking was just a little bit different than I was used to, and trying to pump on them would have put me right at a stop in the middle of the intersection.  I did manage to keep us alive long enough to get to the marina where Kajaya is anchored, and then pass back the keys to someone who knew what they were doing while we toured the rest of Key Biscayne.  All I can say is this place has some money.  If I thought the McMansions on Lake Sylvia were big, I was blown away by what was going up here.  We toured all the ritzy neighborhoods and even saw the house where Scarface was filmed.

running of the dogs

group at marina

scarface house

Back at the house it was a quick energy burst with a fill up of pop (they had Coke, and Pepsi) before splitting into two actual cars to hit up Miami beach.  I’m sure the golf cart would have made it just fine, but only if I was at the helm.  It’s obvious I’m the only one who knows how to handle that thing.

We parked right in front of Ana Bianca & Alfredo’s old apartment which was just a few blocks from the beach.  Even though I live on a boat, I’m always on the water, and always near a beach, I envied the fact that they used to stroll down the street with a coffee in hand to watch the sun rise over the Atlantic, or with a cooler full of beers in the afternoon, ready to take in the scene.  Surf and turf.  That’s the way to do it.

The six of us searched about the same number of bike stands before we finally came across one that had enough for all of us to ride.  With 30 minutes purchased, we hopped on those bad boys and pedaled the boardwalk of Miami Beach, an area that I’m now becoming quite familiar with.  I’m tell you, there’s just something about this place that keeps drawing me back.

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bicycling in south beach

 We found time in the afternoon to do a little strolling of the streets as well.  Apparently there’s a big shopping district that Matt and I missed the first time around and I had no problem this time running in and out of H&M and Forever 21, trying to find new bikinis or outfits at deeply discounted prices.  Matt wasn’t in the shops with me, I had the credit card, and everything was fair game.  Surprisingly I walked out of every store empty handed which is a sign that Matt’s just rubbing off on me too much.  It was slightly satisfying to walk up to him though and proudly say “I bought nothing“.

When everyone had gotten their shopping in and we enjoyed a sweet afternoon treat of custard, we piled back into the cars for a tour of Little Havana, or Calle Ocho as it’s also known.  It’s an area of Miami that’s full of Cuban restaurants, shops, and markets.  They even have a McDonald’s there that serves rice and beans as a side because it’s so popularly requested.

On the grand tour we walked by a park full of old men playing dominoes, and an area of statues and monuments with tribute to Cuba.  Since we were missing our great Cuban friend Luis, the last and only missing member of the Dinner Club, we thought it would be nice to get a group photo of all of us that we could send to him back in Guatemala.  Asking the first random guy we saw walking down the street, we soon found this was not a wise choice.  Because this man was a Cuban.  That wanted to give us all a lesson on Cuba.  Six people who had all actually been to Cuba, and one that was of Cuba heritage.  We humored him for a little bit and sang along to the songs he was trying to teach us while he simultaneously made a grasshopper from palm fronds.  20 minutes and no photo later, we finally pulled another guy off the street to take our picture, allowing our ‘Cuban Tour Guide’ to be in it with us.

Having lost most of the afternoon now and still needing to get back to Key Biscayne for dinner at Alfredo’s sister’s, we took in just a little bit more of Little Havana, stopping at one of the restaurants for real Cuban coffee, super strong and super delicious, and ham and cheese croquetas.  Mmmm, just like I remembered them.  Since we were in the area we popped into a market to pick up some meat and veggies for dinner and then made our way back to the island for a costume change before dinner since the clouds had come in bringing a huge temperature drop with them.

Calle Ocho memorial

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 Our night was rounded out with another family dinner, although not quite as big or with as many family members as the night before.  It was great though, sitting pool side of the complex where Alfredo’s sister Ivonne and husband Vance live where Luki got the brie (BBQ) ready, and Mimi (his mother) showed up with some freshly made peach daiquiris.  We sampled the mahi that Kajaya caught on their Gulf Stream passage from Isla Mujeres, and talked about the whens on where we’ll see each other next since we know that this can’t be it for our group.  I’m so happy that Matt and I decided to stay another night and can’t even imagine all that we would have missed had we gone home early.

It’s going to be a hard thing to leave tomorrow morning and go back to the boat where it will just be the two of us again for the foreseeable future as we move along to the Bahamas.  I am really, really going to miss these people as they truly have become family to us.  Long live the Guatemalan Dinner Club, you will always have a special place in our hearts.

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Matt & Jessica & Luki

Ana Bianca & Alfredo

 

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The Hidden Gem that is Crandon Park, Key Biscayne

Crandon Park, Key Biscayne

The condo we’re staying at with my parents in Fort Lauderdale happens to be about one block from the Bonnet House.  While brainstorming up things to do with our time there, it obviously came up as a contender.  It’s supposed to be a beautiful house full of history, and lavish grounds to wander. I’m sure many visitors have spent long afternoons there doing just this.  We were almost some of them.  Until I took a look at their website and found that tours cost $20/person.  Even if you only wanted to walk the grounds you had to hand over $10.  A quick tram ride could get you through for $2.

As soon as we saw these prices though, Matt and I did not want to participate in any of it.  Not that my parents couldn’t or didn’t want to hand over this money for us all to have an afternoon out, they were more than happy to have this as a possibility for ‘Things to Do’ during our time here.  The thing was…I knew of a much better place for us to spend an afternoon.  One that happened to be completely free.

Last May when Matt and I had about a month to kill in Miami waiting on specific paperwork for the cat before we could make our Atlantic crossing to Europe, we spent a lot of time with our cruising friends Alfredo and Ana Bianca, and family of theirs that lived on Key Biscayne. One afternoon while visiting, where we had a little more time on our hands than they did, they sent us off on a pair of bicycles to check out a nice local beach called Crandon Park. With the exception of having a house to tour (and based on the photos, I’m not sure it would have been my style), these grounds were much more appealing.

Here is one thing I can not understand about this park.  Every time we have summer here; summer; winter; weekday; weekend; it is always empty.  A complete ghost town, which is surprising considering how beautiful it is. As we parked our car in the vacant lot, we walked the sidewalk leading up to the beach, making sure to stop for just a moment to take in one of my favorite perks of this park.  Situated on the south side of the beach is a bird sanctuary, with it’s own trails and sitting areas, this area used to be one of the leading zoos in the country back in the 1960’s.  Having previously hosted over 1,000 animals of over 380 species, it’s open air animal exhibits now sit empty, and the birds which currently reside there are allowed to roam free.

Such is the case of the ostentation of peacocks we found lining the fence as we arrived.  Very accustomed to visitors and handouts of food, they are not shy of people and it’s quite easy to get a close up view of them.  Saving a more thorough stroll of those grounds for just a little later, we instead made our way to the palm trees and shoreline. Passing by shaded picnic areas and charcoal grills, we left the pavement and slid off our shoes as we entered the warm mid day sand.

One thing Matt and I agreed of why we love this beach so much is that other than it’s magnificent turquoise colored waters and tall sprouting palm trees, for some reason it looks as if it would fit much better into the coast of North Carolina than Southern Florida. With the exception of a few high rises at the very far end of the beach, the area appears very secluded and not at all flashy.  Although I do love a good afternoon of people watching and viewing all the vibrantly colored life guard stations on South Beach…this area just seems cleaner and more uniform.  But in a good way.

The light yellow lifeguard stands pop out perfectly from the vivid waters behind them and the palm trees lining each side. It’s a quiet area, very peaceful.  Just a short drive from the major metropolis of Miami, yet you still have the sense of solitude.  At low tide there are shallow pools to wade in, and any time is perfect for diving into a novel without surrounding distractions.  I don’t know, I can’t describe it. Just a little slice of perfection in Southern Florida that we never seem to get enough time to spend in.

Such was the case this afternoon as we had no suits on us for swimming or umbrellas to shade us from the sweltering sun. We did make a quick run of the sanctuary where most of the birds seemed to be hiding on this particular day, but the iguanas were have the run of the grounds. Once we realized that we were approaching late afternoon we did make our way up to bustling South Beach to find a nice outdoor cafe for some lunch and people watching. Since we couldn’t make the most of Crandon Park, it did seem only the logical thing to do.

peacocks at Crandon Park

picnic area, Crandon Park

Crandon Park, Key Biscayne

my parents at Crandon Park

Matt & Jessica at Crandon Park

Crandon Park, Key Biscayne

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Celebrating Birthdays with our Miami Family

Sunday June 1, 2014

kids with bubble gun

So there was no avoiding taking the bus today. Not that we really mind, it’s not like we have a bustling schedule where we need to be anywhere as-fast-as-possible, but we’re always singled out for the crazy people to talk to. There must be some sort of kindness in our face that the rest of public transportees in Miami lack. These people have chosen wisely though, because we are always too polite to abruptly end the conversation and let them go off on whatever tangent they’ve pulled out for the day. Don’t worry though, the two hour ride between riding, transfers and walking to get ourselves to Key Biscayne was totally worth it. Today was Vance’s birthday, and we wanted to make sure we were there to celebrate.

Walking in the door right at two o’clock when it started and finding only Ivonne, Vance, and Vance’s daughter Jenny getting everything set up, they laughed and told us no one mentioned ‘Cuban time’ to us. By arriving on time we had arrived too early. Which was fine because it gave us a chance to help set up and take a small load off their hands. Before we knew it, all the other guests began to show up and we were situated at a table with Ana Bianca and Alfredo, stuffing our faces full of veggies and dip and washing them back with cold Yuenglings. We let them know of our new plan to wait for a good 4-5 day window of south winds and finally get out of dodge. It turns out they’re planning on taking I-65 down to the Virgin Islands instead of the thorny path, and a buddy boat alliance was formed since we both needed to make the same 500 miles east out of Miami. (We later found out though that they can go through the NW Channel of the Bahamas while we want to be above it, so the buddy boat plan didn’t work out)

When the air conditioning indoors became too much for Ana Bianca and I to bear since we’re not used to living our lives with it anymore, we moved outside to one of the shaded tables where we watched Jenny prep the grill and layer it with what looked like the most mouthwatering cuts of chicken I’d ever seen. Luckily I was able to snag the recipe of the marinade from her and will be trying it out on Serendipity sometime soon. Things got even better that when the chicken had finished cooking I didn’t even need to remove myself from the pool to get a few pieces, it was handed right over to me. Trust me, it did not disappoint. Jenny, you are my new grill master. (Sorry Justin, I’ve supposedly heard that you’re also a grill master, but I honestly didn’t see you do much of anything in that area today. The title remains with Jenny).

pool at Toti's

Jenny at grill

Ana Bianca at pool

Alfredo & Gracie

Shortly after, we made our way back inside.  There’s just no pleasing us girls, and soon we were craving our air conditioning again.  Plus all the delicious snacks that lay inside.  Going for seconds of shrimp cocktail and bacon jam (no, not together), I almost filled myself up to the point that when the cake came out and we sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to Vance, I was tempted to pass on the carrot cake being placed in front of me.  A good rallying took me to accept it, and good thing I did because it was so delicious.  And after that I even had to snatch one of the last chocolate chip cookies before they ran out.  This party was full of food overload, but god do I miss those days where I just get to stuff my face.  They don’t happen too often on the boat, usually because that would mean sweating in a hot galley to prepare anything.  Yes, even the cold items.

birthday cake

me & Ana Bianca

kids blowing bubbles

While all the children, a whole gang of them under the age of 5, took their afternoon naps, us adults entertained ourselves out on the patio with glasses of Mt. Gay rum in our hands.  When the kids woke back up later in the evening though, the party got it’s second wind.  No longer content to only entertain among themselves, a collaboration between the children and adults began where some of the adults (mostly me) began acting like children and participating in their games.  There were races around the room on top of boogie boards, dancing to Disney’s ‘Frozen’ soundtrack, and Vance even joined in the childish games with me by whizzing the kids around the room in his motorized chair.  Of course no one could keep us kids away from playing with one of the family member’s labradoodle, Millie, and when we settled down just a little while later we were treated to one of the young boy’s a capella versions of a Disney song while standing on a table who proceeded to dive/crowd surf his way on to Matt’s lap directly after.

Even though we were the first ones to arrive this morning, we were the last ones to shut the party down just shy after midnight.  Good thing Ana Bianca and Alfredo were willing to drive us back to the dinghy because I don’t even want to imagine the kind of bus people we might have encountered on the way back.  We’re starting to become a little sad that our departure date for the Med has been delayed, but as long as it has, we’re just so glad we now have a ‘second family’ in Miami to be able to spend our extra time with.

Matt with champagne

Ana Bianca, Milly & Jenny

Gracie and Millie

Matt holding the crowd surfer

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Just Can’t Keep us Apart

Tuesday May 27, 2014

Crandall Park

It took us about two weeks of sitting here in Miami, but we were eventually able to pin our friends Ana Bianca and Alfredo down for an evening of hanging out. Both our groups have been pretty busy lately, and trying to find a day that we both didn’t have something going on (ok, maybe we’ve had a little more leisure time than them) did take awhile, but we finally planned on an night of hanging out in Key Biscayne with Alfredo’s sister Ivonne and brother-in-law Vance. Two more people that we’ve grown very fond of in our past visit to Key Biscayne, so we were very excited.

Spending my morning searching bus routes and times from Miami Beach over to the southerly island, as soon as I found out that Alfredo had to run into MB for something anyway, we jumped on the chance for a free and quick ride. Not that we couldn’t have taken the bus there, but….between transfers it would have been close to two hours. Plus this ride had air conditioning and someone much better to talk to than the passenger who wants to regale you with their release from prison. That just happened that day. (Two times this has happened to me!)

When we got to Ivonne and Vance’s place we found Ana Bianca waiting for us and ready to show off what all of their recent hard work had been going toward. If you’ve ever heard me joke on this website or our Facebook page about ‘Ana Bianca…saving the oceans!!’ (think of that in a Trey Parker/Matt Stone sing-song kind of way), it’s because she is! Between her experience as a photojournalist and his experience as a director of photography, these are making a documentary series of segments about our oceans in peril. Having already filmed a few of those segments while working their way up the coast of Central America from where we originally met them in Guatemala, this week was the big launch of their new website Element Zero, and they’ve been pouring all of their time and energy into it. We were given a quick tour of the new site where we spied the trailers we had already viewed on their Facebook page, as well as the awesome layout and beautiful photographs they’ve loaded.

They’re work for the day wasn’t quite over yet though, and since our bus wouldn’t have dropped us off there until 4, we’d just hopped a ride because it was available, we wanted to get out of their way for a few more hours so they could finish up their work. Having two bikes at our disposal though, man do we miss those, we were given recommendations of a few beaches and parks to explore and one tasty sandwich shop to grab lunch. Off we went into the bright Florida sunshine, ready to get some food before traveling the island. Hopping over to Oasis and brushing up on my Spanish, we had a mouth watering sandwich while chugging down an ice cold Coke before hitting the open road again.

Matt filling bike tires

Oasis, Key Biscayne, Florida

Word on the street, or out of Alfredo’s mouth, is that Crandon Park has the best beach in Key Biscayne, and since we obviously don’t see those enough, that’s the first place we headed to.  Honestly though, two weeks in the boat stuck in a large channel will leave you craving beaches again.  The parking lot was completely empty as we cycled in, a far departure from the crowds that must have been here the previous day celebrating the holiday weekend.  Waving back and forth on our bikes as we followed the asphalt drive we noticed a sign for a peacock sanctuary to our right and promised ourselves to check it out on our way back.  Suddenly a ruffle of feathers and a loud squawk off to my side let me know that these large birds were not confined only to their sanctuary.  Wanting to be as adult as I could, I refrained from chasing him down to see if he’d arrange his full plumage for me.  Or maybe it was because I thought the tables would turn and it would be him who would chase me down in the end.  So I settled for stepping off my bike and snapping a few photos while he idly eyed my can of Coke.  By the way he slowly advanced on me, I’m pretty sure he wanted me to share.

peacock, Crandon Park

As if seeing a peacock directly upon our arrival wasn’t enough, we locked the bikes up and walked into a scene that looked as if it was taken directly from the coasts of North Carolina with a few palm trees thrown in.  This place was stunning.  We walked out to the Atlantic and waded in the shallow pools of bath water before hiking further up the beach and peeked at a sandcastle contest that was going on between a large group of children.

When we decided it was finally time to make our way back we did still pop into the bird sanctuary which is a lush area of grass, trees, and ponds that’s just as alluring as the beach.  Plus the wildlife (to us) was just an added bonus on top of that.  Iguanas skittered across the path as we listened to more peacocks call and parade next to us on the lawn.  Our big goal was to spot an alligator in the ponds, of which the signs warned us there were, but was unproductive as there were none.  Or they were very very sneaky.  And I wouldn’t put it past us to miss any kind of wildlife that’s right in front of our face.  It may have happened like one or two (or fifty) times in our past. We actually couldn’t even identify half of the birds we did end up stumbling across there.  I mean, what is the thing that looks like a mix between a duck and a goose?*

Crandon Park, Key Biscayne

beach umbrellas at Crandon Park

Matt & Jessica selfie

low tide Crandon Park

lifeguard station Crandon Park

birds at Crandon Park

Once we were back at the apartment we enjoyed a refreshing beer and a little more website looky-loo before tearing ourselves away for a ride in the family’s golf cart, dubbed the Love Bug, for a ride up to the grocery store to stock up on items for dinner that night.  There were items to put on the grill, some chips to snack on, and best of all, a case of Red Stripe.  For cheaper than we bought it in Jamaica!  I’ll have to keep my eye on those sales more often.

Just like the last time we were here with Luki and Elmari, our group took over the area surrounding the pool although the afternoon clouds probably would have driven everyone else away anyway.  What can I say?, except we fell right back into our old dinner club routine and conversations picked up right where we had left them off two months ago.  Except this time instead of talks about our crossing to Europe we were slowly trying to be talked into following Ana Bianca and Alfredo on s/v Kajaya to Aruba and back up the Western Caribbean.  Extremely tempting based on the weather reports we’ve been seeing, and Alfredo’s testimony that today’s weather is typical for February or March, but not late May.  As I said, it was very tempting, but we’re still hoping to stick with our original plan of an Atlantic crossing.  Let me just go write those plans in the sand real quick, I think it’s low tide right now.

As usual, the night passed by way too quickly and before we knew it we were being chauffeured back to Serendipity.  We’re hoping this won’t be good-bye between the four of us, but I have a feeling it won’t.  And it’s not because we’re now planning on hightailing it south instead of east.  Nope, this family is always having get togethers, and the next one happens to be Sunday for Vance’s birthday.  Somehow I have a sneaky suspicion that we won’t be leaving on time and we’ll being seeing these faces once more.

Alfredo grilling

Ana Bianca's selfie

Alfredo, Jessica, Ana Bianca, & Matt

*Not the birds shown in the photo.  I never got a picture of the things I want to keep referring to as a mongoose.   Even though they are completely different things.

 

 

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Miami Beach & Calle Ocho

Monday March 31, 2014

Dinner Club

That place that was on the top of Matt’s list of where he never wanted to visit? Yup, we’re back there. Again. Except today had a lot more in store for us than just a stroll down the boardwalk or some good old fashioned people watching. Our day started early and went all night long.

Just as ready as we were getting ready to leave the DeLaro household this morning, those cute little ankle biters that guard the door tore out of the house and led to an early morning Chasing of the Dogs. Luki must be some kind of animal whisperer and he was able to scoop up one of the unsuspecting fluff balls and used it to lure the other one back home, as if it were running with a sausage dangling in front of it’s nose. Once they were secured back in the house we piled all six of us into the family golf cart to bumble down to Alfredo’s sister’s house for breakfast.  Even though my late night of mixing beer, wine, and RumChada had me barely able to get down a muffin in the morning (apparently even just a little bit of each will do that to you), it was great getting to know Alfredo’s sister and brother in law a little better, and we even had the chance to meet his dad who was full of questions for Matt and Luki about what it was like to sail around the world.  More of those questions were aimed toward Luki since I don’t think we’ve covered near as much ground as they have, but we were still able to throw in a few Caribbean crossings here and there.  

On the way back the keys to the golf card were handed to me, and it didn’t even take 5 minutes for me to almost kill all of us while running a red light at a major intersection.  The braking was just a little bit different than I was used to, and trying to pump on them would have put me right at a stop in the middle of the intersection.  I did manage to keep us alive long enough to get to the marina where Kajaya is anchored, and then pass back the keys to someone who knew what they were doing while we toured the rest of Key Biscayne.  All I can say is this place has some money.  If I thought the McMansions on Lake Sylvia were big, I was blown away by what was going up here.  We toured all the ritzy neighborhoods and even saw the house where Scarface was filmed.

running of the dogs

group at marina

scarface house

Back at the house it was a quick energy burst with a fill up of pop (they had Coke, and Pepsi) before splitting into two actual cars to hit up Miami beach.  I’m sure the golf cart would have made it just fine, but only if I was at the helm.  It’s obvious I’m the only one who knows how to handle that thing.

We parked right in front of Ana Bianca & Alfredo’s old apartment which was just a few blocks from the beach.  Even though I live on a boat, I’m always on the water, and always near a beach, I envied the fact that they used to stroll down the street with a coffee in hand to watch the sun rise over the Atlantic, or with a cooler full of beers in the afternoon, ready to take in the scene.  Surf and turf.  That’s the way to do it.

The six of us searched about the same number of bike stands before we finally came across one that had enough for all of us to ride.  With 30 minutes purchased, we hopped on those bad boys and pedaled the boardwalk of Miami Beach, an area that I’m now becoming quite familiar with.  I’m tell you, there’s just something about this place that keeps drawing me back.

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bicycling in south beach

 

We found time in the afternoon to do a little strolling of the streets as well.  Apparently there’s a big shopping district that Matt and I missed the first time around and I had no problem this time running in and out of H&M and Forever 21, trying to find new bikinis or outfits at deeply discounted prices.  Matt wasn’t in the shops with me, I had the credit card, and everything was fair game.  Surprisingly I walked out of every store empty handed which is a sign that Matt’s just rubbing off on me too much.  It was slightly satisfying to walk up to him though and proudly say “I bought nothing“.

When everyone had gotten their shopping in and we enjoyed a sweet afternoon treat of custard, we piled back into the cars for a tour of Little Havana, or Calle Ocho as it’s also known.  It’s an area of Miami that’s full of Cuban restaurants, shops, and markets.  They even have a McDonald’s there that serves rice and beans as a side because it’s so popularly requested.

On the grand tour we walked by a park full of old men playing dominoes, and an area of statues and monuments with tribute to Cuba.  Since we were missing our great Cuban friend Luis, the last and only missing member of the Dinner Club, we thought it would be nice to get a group photo of all of us that we could send to him back in Guatemala.  Asking the first random guy we saw walking down the street, we soon found this was not a wise choice.  Because this man was a Cuban.  That wanted to give us all a lesson on Cuba.  Six people who had all actually been to Cuba, and one that was of Cuba heritage.  We humored him for a little bit and sang along to the songs he was trying to teach us while he simultaneously made a grasshopper from palm fronds.  20 minutes and no photo later, we finally pulled another guy off the street to take our picture, allowing our ‘Cuban Tour Guide’ to be in it with us.

Having lost most of the afternoon now and still needing to get back to Key Biscayne for dinner at Alfredo’s sister’s, we took in just a little bit more of Little Havana, stopping at one of the restaurants for real Cuban coffee, super strong and super delicious, and ham and cheese croquetas.  Mmmm, just like I remembered them.  Since we were in the area we popped into a market to pick up some meat and veggies for dinner and then made our way back to the island for a costume change before dinner since the clouds had come in bringing a huge temperature drop with them.

Calle Ocho memorial

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Our night was rounded out with another family dinner, although not quite as big or with as many family members as the night before.  It was great though, sitting pool side of the complex where Alfredo’s sister Ivonne and husband Vance live where Luki got the brie (BBQ) ready, and Mimi (his mother) showed up with some freshly made peach daiquiris.  We sampled the mahi that Kajaya caught on their Gulf Stream passage from Isla Mujeres, and talked about the whens on where we’ll see each other next since we know that this can’t be it for our group.  I’m so happy that Matt and I decided to stay another night and can’t even imagine all that we would have missed had we gone home early.

It’s going to be a hard thing to leave tomorrow morning and go back to the boat where it will just be the two of us again for the foreseeable future as we move along to the Bahamas.  I am really, really going to miss these people as they truly have become family to us.  Long live the Guatemalan Dinner Club, you will always have a special place in our hearts.

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Matt & Jessica & Luki

Ana Bianca & Alfredo

 

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A Dinner Club Reunion

Sunday March 30, 2014

dinner club reunion

Back when Matt and I were in Guatemala we had a great thing going. I mean a great thing. We managed to sneak into one of the last open slips at the same beautiful marina our friends Luki & Elmari of s/v Skebenga were staying in, and made friends with the members of two other boats that were some of the very few to actually stay through hurricane season. Between the four boats, consisting of the four of us as well as Luis of m/v Hydromax and Ana Bianca of s/v Kajaya, we found ourselves getting together for dinner every single night. With each of the other boats consisting of at least one great cook, and then Matt and I to do the dishes, it was a perfect set up. I even dubbed us the Dinner Club.

For months we had a routine of going about boat work or daily upkeep and errands during the afternoons, always gathering just as the sun was setting to enjoy a fantastic meal and great conversation. We grew as close as family, and when the cruising season began and we all started to break away from the marina one by one, it was very hard to let our group disspiate and resume the lonely positions we had started with months before. Somehow though, through waiting weeks for weather windows or potential boat buyers, we all found ourselves spread out through Florida at the same time. Luki and Elmari up in Melbourne trying to sell Skebenga now that their eight year journey was over, Matt and I in Ft. Lauderdale, prepping for our jump to the Bahamas, and Ana Bianca and Alfredo in Miami, visiting family and taking care of personal business. Though we weren’t within a stone’s reach of each other we had no idea if or when we’d all be this close again and planned a get together. Ana Bianca and Alfredo, although still living on their boat in Biscayne Bay, were situated very close to Alfredo’s family on Key Biscayne with the option to stay whenever they liked, and even better for us, the ability to have guests over.

A plan was formed for Luki and Elmari to rent a car for a few days and swing by to get Matt and I on their way to Key Biscayne. When they pulled up in front of the Hyatt to retrieve us, even though we hadn’t seen them in over two months, it was like no time had passed at all. Nitoriously bad at emailing though, on my part, we used the drive south to catch up on all that had been going on with each other, the impending sale of Skebenga, and us trying to talk them into keeping her for just one more season, just long enough to buddy with us to the Med. We’ll have to see how things work out, but I think we at least planted a seed in their mind.

Arriving at the door of Alfredo’s mother’s house, it was a bit shocking to see these two again as we’d gone quite a bit longer since seeing them, not since August regularly, and just a quick visit in November as they came back to check on their boat. Yet somehow the fates had alligned, and here we were together again. The six of us took to the beautiful patio area behind the house, enclosed by wooden fences and tropical greenery, complete with a pool to finish the idealic scene. Over chilled beers and glasses of wine, our old group fell right back into step, although we had to admit that we were missing one of the best members, Luis, who was still back with his boat in Guatemala. Even with the lack of our favorite stories from The Most Interesting Man in the World, we found ourselves deep in speech of the transformation of our lives over the past few months.

Before we could all get too carried away though, it was the traditional part of our evening, the dinner. What was even better was that instead of enclosing the meal to only the six of us, it was a family affair with the rest of Alfredo’s family that lived near by. Before we knew it, this household was full of his Cuban siblings, cousins, and nieces. It was a fun and lively group that enveloped you immediately upon introduction. We weren’t Ana Bianca and Alfredo’s visiting boat friends, we were now just an extension of the family. A few more spots to add to the dinner table and new stories to be tossed into the conversation.

Our dinner club had now more than doubled, and we were all loving every minute of it. The night wore on so late that even after the non resident family members took their leave for the evening, us remaining members stayed out until well after midnight, not quite ready to end the reunion. With a planned departure early the next afternoon for Matt and I, by taking the Metro back to Ft. Lauderdale, we realized that chances like this don’t come up very often, and extended ourselves for one more nights stay. I’m sure the cat can make it one more night on her own. We have some exploring of Miami to do and at least one more meeting of the dinner club before we can all go our separate ways.

Ana & Elmari

Jessica & Matt

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Alfredo by pool

Luki & Elmari

grandkids making memories

adult slumber party

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