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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Throwback Thursday: Visiting That Place We Said We’d Never Go – Aka Miami

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.

Waiting so long for a weather window to get from Mexico to Florida, you’d think we’d be on the go again as soon as we arrived there.  Due to a little more bad weather though, and honestly, some sheer exhaustion from the passage over, we ended up taking a week pit stop in Key West.  Although most of the days we were content to sit on the boat relaxing, and listening to radio stations in English again, we did find a few chances to get out and explore.

One afternoon was spent taking a tour of the town by scooter. It turns out the island was a bit smaller than we had anticipated and the latter part of the day was using to scooter to make grocery runs, stocking up on necessities like Coca Cola and Kraft Mac’n’Cheese.  For days we didn’t feel like going to shore and getting yelled at by the guy at the dinghy dock for parking in front just so I could ask him a question, we brought Georgie to shore for a little terra firma and a chance to stretch her legs and explore.

Still wanting to get a move on, our next stop was Marathon, which unfortunately we were a little underwhelmed by. Boot Key Harbor was just a little too crowded for our taste, and we found ourselves anchored outside the bay instead.  With it’s amazing sunsets over Seven Mile Bridge though, it wasn’t a bad trade. Heading north again as soon as the weather allowed, we made a 24 hour passage to Coconut Grove, riding the Gulf Stream and encountering lots of ship traffic in the middle of the night.

Finally nestled in a place that we actually wanted to be in for awhile, I drug Matt out for a day to the one place he said he never wanted to go.

You can find the original post here.

Saturday March 1, 2013

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“I can’t wait to get to Miami. Such a big city, all the lights, right on the water. I think it’s going to be really cool.”

“We’re not going to Miami”

“Why not? We’re going to have to pass right by it anyway. Oh! Maybe we can go to a nightclub there! Hmmmm, what will I have packed that’s kind of night-clubby? See, I told you there are times I will need heels.”

“First of all, we’re not going to Miami. Second, even if we did, we’re not going out to a night club there.”

“Why can’t we going to Miami?”

“Because it’s Miami. If there is one place in the world I do not want to hit on this trip, it’s Miami.”

 

That’s a conversation that took place two years ago between Matt and I while we were still sitting back in Michigan and planning this whole adventure out. Could you have guessed because of my nightclub comment? Ha, like I even think about those things now.

 

He was serious about it. If there was one place he never wanted to go…. I’m not sure if it was the idea of the crowds combined with the non-Manhattan like culture that he didn’t want to deal with? Or maybe a preconceived notion that everyone there would be fake and pretentious? I’m not sure, he never really went into his reasons. Just that it was never ever going to happen. And guess where we are now? That’s because I always get my way. (No, honestly, I just brought it up again as a stop along the way and he never said boo. Until we got here.)

So this morning we found ourselves at the Metro station in Coconut Grove, trying to figure out how to buy a day pass on the transit system and read the timetables and routes. We were getting ourselves to South Beach, but we were doing it poor man style. Which was probably apparent to anyone watching as I sat on the bench at the metrorail station, covering my feet in about sixteen bandages to ease the pain of the blisters I’d received the day before from walking miles in non broken in shoes. Classy were were..not. But at least you couldn’t tell that from far away.

As we stepped off our second bus that had brought us past the causeways and to the beach front, we had no idea to start or even what we were looking for. Of course I had wanted to do the Art Deco tour while we were there, a style of architectural style of the 20’s and 30’s featuring bold geometric shapes and bright colors, but the only information I had on me was a snapshot on my camera taken from a PDF on my computer screen. A now very small and hard to read photograph. Throwing away the plan of actually following a plan, we wandered until we found a beach walk and water. There didn’t seem to be any art deco buildings here, just mammoth hotels and waiters catering drinks between the pool and the beach.

Strolling the boardwalk on this absolutely gorgeous Saturday morning, we wound our way around until finally hitting Ocean Drive..and a Starbucks. Those gift cards my mom had just sent me back in Key West were still burning a hole in my pocket, and I dragged Matt through the door to get us a few iced coffees. Another establishment that Matt can’t stand. Now, according to him, we matched all the pretentious a-holes out on South Beach that day. (I still loved the gift cards mom, thank you!) I paid him no mind and just kept thinking ‘Oooh, free iced coffee!’

Stepping out on to Ocean Drive we were instantly greeted with the art deco buildings we had come to see, starting with the Betsy Ross hotel. From there we slowly looked at each passing building, not knowing the history of any of them because I forgot to print out all of the information I had just researched, but appreciating them nonetheless. Or at least one of us was.

“I hate the stucco. They’re not even built well.”

“They may not be built well, but at least they’re different.”

“But look at it. It doesn’t even look good.”

“It doesn’t have to look good, it just has to be different from what we see every day to make it special. I’m not saying these are the most beautiful buildings we’ve ever seen, I’m just pointing out that they’re something new and different for us to look at.”

 

Our tour down Ocean Drive didn’t last much longer. And don’t worry, if you’re thinking that Matt was being a jerk or ruining my day by complaining, I was just happy that he took me out there period. Again, this was one place he did not.want.to.go. So the fact that he still went, willingly, and just because I wanted to, well that’s love right there. And every time he gave something a repulsive look or made a loathsome comment, I just laughed instead and thought ‘Aaww, he really cares about me for being here’.

After a delicious lunch of ropa vieja at a Cuban restaurant we hit the sand to check out the gaggle of girls in small swimsuits that South Beach is supposed to be known for. Maybe it’s just not spring break yet, but there weren’t as many of the perfectly molded plastic women as we thought there would be out here. Isn’t this one of the plastic surgery capitals of the US? Maybe all those women had more procedures booked for today? We didn’t see them out on the beach. Just a bunch of natural all American girls. Ok, with some noticeable plastic surgery here and there.

Loitering on the beach until we returned to the spot we started out in the morning, we picked a spot on the boardwalk to relax in the shade and watch the people go by. It was, I have to admit, some of the best people watching we’ve been able to do in a long time. By the time a few more hours had gone by, we were both having a great time and I think Matt even forgot that he didn’t want to be here. I think some sun, sand, and waves (ok, and maybe a cold can of Mt. Dew) can have that effect on anyone. In fact, I may have just talked him into coming back tomorrow to lay out on the beach. I must have some pretty awesome powers of persuasion.

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Freedom is Another Word for Choosing Radio Presets

Monday June 2, 2014

Georgie

 Look at that face.  She’s totally worth all the trouble.

 

Today we had the world at our fingertips. That is because today is the first time ever in our lives we have rented a car. I know, strange right? What have we been doing for the past two years that we have not had a car of our own? Oh right, borrowing other people’s cars or relying on them to drive us around.

Normally we’d be stubborn and try to take the bus, Matt has made it an actual point to see how long he can go without driving, but it just wasn’t a possibility today. Oh, not for him to not drive, he readily handed the keys over to me, but taking Georgie on the bus, even if she happened to be allowed, would have been a full afternoon of sounds being emitted from her that I’m guessing would be close to what you’d hear from a baby seal being clubbed. Of which I never want to hear. From either side.

This on the other hand would give us the chance to hit multiple places in one day and the opportunity to fill up a trunk with goodies from Walmart. I love you Publix (you’re the closest thing I can find to a Meijer), but some of your deals are just beaten to a pulp by Walmart. Though, if you thought our day might go simply smooth because we happened to have a car at our fingertips, think again. Here’s a little bit of what our day went like:

 

  • Woke up to alarm after six hours of sleep. Had a really good time at Vance’s party yesterday, feeling the effects this morning.
  • Walked a few blocks to the car rental facility and had keys in our hands in less than 10 minutes. Wow, sometimes things actually go right on the first try.
  • Back at the boat, loaded up Georgie and and a spare fridge that we’ve been carrying around for the past 3 months. We finally sold that thing!
  • While Matt went to bring the car around and rain started to pour, I lost Georgie on a ledge under a balcony hanging over the water. Her harness tugged right off and it was a battle of strength which I finally, and thankfully, won. I hope the vet doesn’t notice that her nails just scratched across four feet of cement.
  • With a pounding headache (remember my six hours of sleep or less rule?) I got behind the wheel and drove us through a blinding rainstorm to South Maimi where we’d found a cheap (enough) Accredited vet to inspect Georgie.
  • Found out that even though we let her run rampant in Guatemala, she must not have picked anything up there because she was pronounced in perfect health, albeit a little gingevitis. Guess we need to start brushing those teeth.
  • Left the assistants to figure out the required paperwork while we went up the road to Home Depot and spent way too much time there to only end up with about six things in our cart. Among them, a new tool organizable bag for Matt. Hallelujah, I was literally about to throw the strewn one overboard.
  • Get back to the vet and find out they’re still interpreting the paperwork. All in all, it took four hours to complete.
  • Leaving our destination of South Miami/Kendall behind where we’d had every place we needed to visit mapped out, we tore back up the expressway to get the newly obtained forms to the USDA before they shut their doors at 3:30. This is the second time I’ve walked in just as they were about to close. I think they hate me.
  • Googled new location for West Marine and did three drive-by’s before finding it tucked in the very back of a strip mall.
  • Found out they only have yarn tell tales, and even though we knew they pretty much wouldn’t work out, bought them anyway.
  • Noticed that Walmart happened to be just across the street.  Score!, we never even had to hunt a new one down!
  • Stocked up on a bunch of things that I can’t wait to tear into once we get on passage, including a 2.5 lb bag of Skittles and Swiss Miss hot coco with dehydrated marshmallows.
  • Getting back to the dinghy, Georgie seemed to still be alive and untraumatized, having spent the whole afternoon huddled on the floor of the backseat.  She even had her first cry-free dingy ride on the way back to Serendipity, much more interested in the sights around her instead.
  • I actually found a non-permit requiring spot on the street to park instead of leaving it in a lot all night.

 

For having a car at our fingertips for 12 hours, it wasn’t as freeing as I thought it would be.  Things went right, things went wrong, and we still ended up ragged and exhausted at the end of the night.  I thought the car would alleviate things like that.  But looking back on if we had to try and do all of that on the bus, I guess it could have been much, much worse.

 

 

 

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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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South Beach at Night

Wednesday March 19, 2014

South Beach at night - Colony Hotel

So you know that place that we said we’d never visit, but ended up going to?  Yeah, we went back.  As much as I hate to admit it, Miami beach kind of has a hold on me.  Maybe it’s because we’re so used to seeing the same expanse of deserted beach that it’s nice to find a place with something different going on?  I’m not quite sure yet, but it was calling my name again, and with a car at our disposal and two extra tourist looking for something to occupy their time, I kind of slid it in as a suggestion of things to to.

With one catch.  Last time Matt and I were here I had wanted to stay late enough to watch all the neon signs adorning the buildings of Ocean Drive light up, but we stayed nowhere near late enough to watch that happen.  As our watch was hitting 3:30 in the afternoon, we were passed out on a park bench trying to think of ways to fill up the next four hours until it got dark.  Although there are always things to do here, we were just too tired to actually motivate ourselves to do any of them, so I resigned myself to remembering South Beach at night from scenes I had watched in Nip Tuck.  Until the opportunity to go back popped up once more.

Forcing ourselves to not even arrive until three in the afternoon this time, we did the beach walk, the people watching, and even appetizers and happy hour on the strip.  Then, better than I could have even imagined, we watched the sky go dark and the strip light up.  There’s no denying it now.  This place really has a hold on me.

South Beach at Night - Majestic

South Beach at Night - Park Central Hotel

South Beach at night - Avalon

South Beach at night - Beacon Hotel

South Beach at night - Johnny Rockets

South Beach at Night - Colony Hotel

South Beach at night

South Beach at night - Boulevard Hotel

South Beach at night - Pelican

South Beach at night - Waldorf

South Beach at night

South Beach at night - Breakwater

South Beach at night - Starlite Hotel

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From Bays to Lakes

Monday March 3, 2014

Miami proper

The sun was up, the engine was on, and we were ready to move ourselves from Dinner Key harbor, just south of Miami, up to Ft. Lauderdale, our last intended stop in the states. God I hope it’s the last stop. If we go any further north we’ll be backtracking on places we’ve already been last year. The Bahamas I can handle backtracking to. The rest of Florida…meh, not so much. Though I would love a few nights in St. Augustine if it happened to be the next port north. With an easy inlet to enter this time.

Once again I was behind the wheel for the few miles of ICW which would lead us back out to the cut an into the Atlantic. Between the two of us we’ve worked out a little system where I’m on watch or behind the wheel for situations that requires acute observation, since Matt is a little more easily distracted than I, and then I’m still on watch unless I’m sleeping. No really, it took me until our Mexico-Florida crossing to realize this. If I am awake, it is assumed I am keeping a watch out for boats. Add that to all the navigating, the cooking, and the cleaning, and I think I might have to come up with some more blue jobs for Matt to earn his keep on this boat. It’s a good thing he knows how to trim the sails a hell of a lot better than I do, or else this operation could be a one woman show. Did I also mention I’m the one to check us into all the countries and deal with the officials? Ohhhh, right. Now I remember the reasons I tend to get almost anything I ask for, including forcing my better half to places he doesn’t want to go, like Miami.

Where was this story leading? Oh, yeah. So I was behind the wheel trying to get us out of the inlet at Miami when I came to a fork in the road. By turning right it gave me a short cut, taking me by all the unloading docks for the tankers. If I went straight a little bit further, I’d be able to go down the main part of the inlet and past all the pretty cruise ships. Maybe it was because I had already seen the boring tankers on my way in, but I wanted to see the pretty cruise ships. Passing the Miami proper skyline and the Hard Rock Cafe, I cut the wheel to join into the inlet and was greeted by pretty blue flashing lights. I had no reason to believe they were for me and assumed it might be a police escort for one of the five cruise ships getting ready to depart. I kept on my path, happily trotting along and taking in the view of the cruise ships, closer than we’d ever been to them before. The police officers waived at me, and I waved back.

Wait a second, they weren’t waiving at me, they were waiving at me. But what had I done? Was this just a routine check?, because we were about ready to pull out our Coast Guard boarding document and call them on harassment if they tried, well, harassing us. Pulling up along side me I could just make out the words ‘Turn around’. Ummm, ok? Is there construction? Nope, it was me. I was breaking all the rules, the dirty little rebel that I am. Turns out there’s a law against passing through an area like that if there was more than one cruise ship in port. For security reasons. I picked a day when they had five. Even more embarrassing is that I’m sure they were trying to hail us on the radio, but one of us hadn’t turned the radio on along with all of the other instruments.

Along with instructions of how to exit via the ‘shortcut’ that I had taken in, I received lots of slow talking and a few pitiful looks. I’m sure as they saw this wide eyed girl behind the wheel (out of embarrassment and nothing else) and thought to themselves, ‘Poor little lass, she wanted to see what it felt like to be behind the wheel of ship, but has no idea what she’s doing. Let’s hope they get that boat back to dock where it belongs and she can spend her afternoon on it sipping margaritas instead of trying to drive it.’   Ok, maybe that’s not what they were thinking.  But it is what their faces said.

It was fine.  Soon enough we were out of the cut and on our way up the 20 miles to the Port Everglades inlet, which Matt had promised me was only 10.  Maybe he had been glancing at Hannover?  No biggie, it just allowed me more time of seclusion on the water, laying out on deck and reading a book while ridding myself of tan lines at the same time.  It was another extremely calm day where the sails couldn’t even hold wind and we were reduced to motoring instead.  Before I had even realized that a few hours had passed by, we were quickly surrounded by masses of fishing boats just outside of Fort Lauderdale and I once more took position behind the wheel to dodge them and their erratic patterns as they cut back and forth in front of us.

Holding the wheel until it was time to wait for our first lift bridge in about a year, I passed it over to Matt and let him do the dance of trying to maintain no forward motion as the currents moved along beneath us.  He kept on the helm as I guided us just a little further up the ICW and to our new home of Lake Slyvia until we leave for the Bahamas.  Lake would be a generous term for this spot, it’s more like and extravagant pond, but the multi-million dollar mansions surrounding us along with the glass calm waters to rest in for a few days definitely made up for the small size.  It was anchors down at 4:00, and dinghy down at 4:30.  Next stop was finding internet to alert friends we had arrived, and I think a cold beer is on the list too.

Miami proper

Sailing by Miami Proper.

Hard Rock Cafe Miami

 Hard Rock Cafe Miami.

Bimini Super Fast

 Tell me again, how fast can I get to Bimini?

South Beach, Miami

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Visiting that Place We Said We’d Never Go a.k.a. Miami

Saturday March 1, 2013

3.1.14

“I can’t wait to get to Miami. Such a big city, all the lights, right on the water. I think it’s going to be really cool.”

“We’re not going to Miami”

“Why not? We’re going to have to pass right by it anyway. Oh! Maybe we can go to a nightclub there! Hmmmm, what will I have packed that’s kind of night-clubby? See, I told you there are times I will need heels.”

“First of all, we’re not going to Miami. Second, even if we did, we’re not going out to a night club there.”

“Why can’t we going to Miami?”

“Because it’s Miami. If there is one place in the world I do not want to hit on this trip, it’s Miami.”

 

That’s a conversation that took place two years ago between Matt and I while we were still sitting back in Michigan and planning this whole adventure out. Could you have guessed because of my nightclub comment? Ha, like I even think about those things now.

 

He was serious about it. If there was one place he never wanted to go…. I’m not sure if it was the idea of the crowds combined with the non-Manhattan like culture that he didn’t want to deal with? Or maybe a preconceived notion that everyone there would be fake and pretentious? I’m not sure, he never really went into his reasons. Just that it was never ever going to happen. And guess where we are now? That’s because I always get my way. (No, honestly, I just brought it up again as a stop along the way and he never said boo. Until we got here.)

So this morning we found ourselves at the Metro station in Coconut Grove, trying to figure out how to buy a day pass on the transit system and read the timetables and routes. We were getting ourselves to South Beach, but we were doing it poor man style. Which was probably apparent to anyone watching as I sat on the bench at the metrorail station, covering my feet in about sixteen bandages to ease the pain of the blisters I’d received the day before from walking miles in non broken in shoes. Classy were were..not. But at least you couldn’t tell that from far away.

As we stepped off our second bus that had brought us past the causeways and to the beach front, we had no idea to start or even what we were looking for. Of course I had wanted to do the Art Deco tour while we were there, a style of architectural style of the 20’s and 30’s featuring bold geometric shapes and bright colors, but the only information I had on me was a snapshot on my camera taken from a PDF on my computer screen. A now very small and hard to read photograph. Throwing away the plan of actually following a plan, we wandered until we found a beach walk and water. There didn’t seem to be any art deco buildings here, just mammoth hotels and waiters catering drinks between the pool and the beach.

Strolling the boardwalk on this absolutely gorgeous Saturday morning, we wound our way around until finally hitting Ocean Drive..and a Starbucks. Those gift cards my mom had just sent me back in Key West were still burning a hole in my pocket, and I dragged Matt through the door to get us a few iced coffees. Another establishment that Matt can’t stand. Now, according to him, we matched all the pretentious a-holes out on South Beach that day. (I still loved the gift cards mom, thank you!) I paid him no mind and just kept thinking ‘Oooh, free iced coffee!’

Stepping out on to Ocean Drive we were instantly greeted with the art deco buildings we had come to see, starting with the Betsy Ross hotel. From there we slowly looked at each passing building, not knowing the history of any of them because I forgot to print out all of the information I had just researched, but appreciating them nonetheless. Or at least one of us was.

“I hate the stucco. They’re not even built well.”

“They may not be built well, but at least they’re different.”

“But look at it. It doesn’t even look good.”

“It doesn’t have to look good, it just has to be different from what we see every day to make it special. I’m not saying these are the most beautiful buildings we’ve ever seen, I’m just pointing out that they’re something new and different for us to look at.”

 

Our tour down Ocean Drive didn’t last much longer. And don’t worry, if you’re thinking that Matt was being a jerk or ruining my day by complaining, I was just happy that he took me out there period. Again, this was one place he did not.want.to.go. So the fact that he still went, willingly, and just because I wanted to, well that’s love right there. And every time he gave something a repulsive look or made a loathsome comment, I just laughed instead and thought ‘Aaww, he really cares about me for being here’.

After a delicious lunch of ropa vieja at a Cuban restaurant we hit the sand to check out the gaggle of girls in small swimsuits that South Beach is supposed to be known for. Maybe it’s just not spring break yet, but there weren’t as many of the perfectly molded plastic women as we thought there would be out here. Isn’t this one of the plastic surgery capitals of the US? Maybe all those women had more procedures booked for today? We didn’t see them out on the beach. Just a bunch of natural all American girls. Ok, with some noticeable plastic surgery here and there.

Loitering on the beach until we returned to the spot we started out in the morning, we picked a spot on the boardwalk to relax in the shade and watch the people go by. It was, I have to admit, some of the best people watching we’ve been able to do in a long time. By the time a few more hours had gone by, we were both having a great time and I think Matt even forgot that he didn’t want to be here. I think some sun, sand, and waves (ok, and maybe a cold can of Mt. Dew) can have that effect on anyone. In fact, I may have just talked him into coming back tomorrow to lay out on the beach. I must have some pretty awesome powers of persuasion.

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