Ah, back to South Beach, a place where I spent a lot of time in my younger years. It was always a starting point for any Caribbean adventure. I also bought a sailboat in Ft. Lauderdale and spent several months living docked in the New River. I was excited to show Danielle the places that I used to hang out, but I also wanted to see something new.
Something that I have never seen in my life was Everglades National Park. I know it sounds pretty boring, but it wasn't! It was much larger than I had expected and there was a lot of diversity. Each area had it own appeal, such as a lake, swamp, ocean islands, kayaking trails, museum, etc. We even saw a few alligators hanging out. I have never been so close to a wild one before. Really! One was sitting on the side of the road. If I had stepped any closer, I might have lost a leg.
Even though the National Park took up most of the day, we had enough time to drive down the the Keys and stop for a nice happy hour on the water. Now I really don't care for lobster, but lobster bisque is awesome. So rich with flavor! Then, we had to sample some Conch Fritters at a local Crab Shack. Not too many places better to be than a crab shack. We enjoyed overlooking the swamps of Southern Florida while having a beer and watching some local fisherman doing their thing.
Before we sailed off on our Caribbean cruise, we also went out and walked up and down the A1A (Ocean Ave) and sampled some of the nightlife. If you haven't seen Miami at night, then I can't really compare it to anything else in this world. So many different types of people and it doesn't even feel like it is a part of the United States. This is really a good place to sit at a sidewalk table and have some drinks while people watching.
I really enjoyed our time in Florida because of Danielle and seeing something entirely new. It is always a new experience going down there. It's funny, but as I write this, we will be going down to Miami in 3 weeks for another cruise. I can't wait....
So when I think of Miami, I think “Jersey Shore Season 2”; when Jacek thinks of Miami, he thinks of Vanilla Ice cruising the A1A. Until we drove to downtown Miami, I thought A1A was a type of steak sauce. Apparently, it’s a road.
Either way, we were in Florida because Jacek’s parents decided to take us on a week-long cruise through the Caribbean before Christmas! This gave us the perfect excuse to add the state to our 50 dates list :)
So, we showed up a few days early so I could escape the December DC cold and Jacek could find some good crab shacks (no surprise there). I don’t know what I was expecting, but Miami wasn’t as exciting as I thought it would be. Actually, it kind of reminded me of the Jersey shore with all its boardwalks, shore stores and nightlife. Enjoying a caprihana on the patio of a local bar, the people watching was definitely as good as on the shore, too!
We did get the opportunity to rent a car and escape to the everglades – most definitely something on my bucket list! In fact, I even spotted a real life alligator… in person… just chilling on the side of the road. It was wild. The only other time I’d been so close to one of those scaly creatures was in an alligator farm-like situation in Ghana. But they were trained to be near humans so they were considered to be pretty tame.
After exploring the ‘glades, it was just about crabshack o’clock. Low and behold, on our drive back, we can across the perfect little dive bar on the side of the marshes that offered a great view of the sunset and an array of fried conch fritters – another new experience for me. Apparently, these small tough-muscled creatures are a well known appetizer in Florida. Plain they are pretty dull, but fried and dipped in tartar sauce, they were heavenly! But then again, what isn’t better fried?
But our 48 hours in the sunshine state quickly came to a close. It was time to board the ginormous Holland America ship docked in the bay. I loved the weekend we got to spend in Miami. Oh, and did I mention we found the gelato shop from Jersey Shore season 2? Yeah, buddy!!