Blog2006 ≫ Welcome to Miami!

Or, rather, from Miami, or even (by the time I write this up) hello from England, Miami sends its regards. Just BACK from a trip to the US of States to visit Clare's bro and sister-in-law in the pan-handle bit of the Americas. Tiring flight over to Miami. I am not a good flier at all, and nine hours plus an hour's delay is too much for me, hope we have the wind with us on the way home.

Our hosts live in a fabulous tenth floor corner appartment in the Venetia building (I think) and so we get a free holiday in the proper hot heat. There's a balcony running right round, and the whole shebang overlooks a bay and marina and things, the view is quite spectacular. Our first day we went to Lincoln Road to find dinner and had our first humungous American feast in Nexxt1. This has the biggest menu around, so there would be food for all of our special dietary needs, and was a hit. Lincoln Road is lively and eccentric, an enjoyable place to hang out.

Next day, first full day of our holiday, a trip within a trip, to Key West. This is the Southernmost tip of the Southernmost tip, and a big long drive on slow roads, but we broke it up with a couple of stops. First a roadside distraction of tarpons and pelicans, these are mostly tame but hungry aggressive buggers that you can feed, and if you'renot careful they'll feed on you. This is a place called Robbie's - robbies.com - and like a few places we saw in Key West they have a live webcam set up - if you were tuned in at the right time you could have seen us being fed on.

Next stop Duck Key2 for our dolphin encounter. This is quite a fancy resort3^[Hawks Cay, very nice...] were we'd booked a swim with dolphins, and it was just fine. We had a little lecture first on the sea and how to take care of it, then into the water with these mighty beasts. It was just the three of us (being slightly off season, post spring break and pre summer) and there were six flippers with us, ranging from about three years to over thirty - I didn't realise dolphins lived so long. It wasn't the emotional experience I'd heard about, but glad I've done it, and have some pictures.

Key West is a real party town, the sort of place Americans go to let their hair down, it's hard late drinking and lots of fairly shops. Tacky, but fun. We went in lots of bars that I will try and find the names of later, some of these had webcams too so if we were organised we could have phoned you and you could have seen us drinking. A few of the bars have live music and comedy and it was of a Roy Chubby Brown type standard with songs called "Fuck You" and "Fat Ass Bitch". Certainly felt a bit redneck in at least one bar, and it felt unusual for me the blackest man in the place. I didn't carry on drinking back at the hotel like Clare, Emma and Kev, so I managed to get up for a nice relaxing breakfast reading USA Today4 - the other three looked and smelled of death by the time they'd struggled out of their pits. Not sure if it is like me, or not like me, to be the first to bed. Anyway, Key West is well worth a visit, look forward to it if you're off on a Carribean Cruise, I expect you are...

Saturday, WHOPPING night out, did a few hotel bars, a club where a friend of a friend was DJingand ended up cool indie dancing at Buck 155. This was my favourite night out of the week, though it nearly ended in drunken disaster. Two of the wives bounded up to the DJ booth to ask for some 'Jovi a little too enthusiastically, and basically smashed the whole place right up. Music was off for about forty five minutes, and we were not at all popular.

Since here (there, hmm, excuse the mix of tenses I wrote up some of this in situ) we have eaten a humungous amount, there's lots of vege choice here, possibly we've been helped out by having locals with us to assist. We've had most types of food that's been on offer so far, and large portions of each. I stocked up with vegan treats in Wild Oats6, a Fresh and Wild7 / Planet Organic8 type place, but I've brought some of it home as I had no difficulties eating out everywhere. This might be the chain that is taking over one of our chains, don't think I made that up...

One day we hit the beach proper style, trunks on, in the water, everything... we'd only been splashing about for twenty minutes or so when I noticed lots of people were stood at the water's edge looking in just a short way down the beach. Then I realised there was no-one in the water down that way too. Then people starting shouting and running and trying to get out of the water, a rapidly emerging Mexican wave heading our way - what could we do but start screaming SHARK! SHARK! EVERYBODY OUT OF THE WATER!

I can't remember if I ran out and left Clare in the sea, probably. As it turns out, she was safe, we all were, the coastguard appeared with a quad bike and a megaphone repeating "That is not what you think it is", the massive fast moving shadow beneath the surface of the water was apparently some more friendly tarpons.

Clare and our fellow traveller (and flatmate of old) Emma have been playing tonnes of Pacman, old school stylee, on a plug in TV game of Kevin's. It's a [froogle]Namco retro game[/froogle] number, with authentic arcade action, amazing to think that it's got the equivalent of five old arcade boxes in the base of the joystick. Gameplay is all, and this is fun, so much so that they've each bought one to take back. I hope they'll work OK on a UK type TV, or there might be tears.

I'm not much of a fillum buff as you may know, but while here we did catch TWO movies in the same day. First off, to the cinema for The Davinci Code. I hate trips to the cinema generally, but we did well this time, getting a comfy row of the best seats in the house, and there was none of the usual irritations of UK cinema, no whooping kids etc. The film wasn't at all as bad as I'd been led to believe, it was enjoyable, though the story itself is nonsense. The film, the book, and the tale they're based on have enough little factual bits in there to give the impression that the whole is more truthful and substantial than it is - real people, real things, mostly undesputable, so when small bits of rubbish are dropped in that the bigger bits of rubbish are built in, you might not notice. Also were there little messages and subtle visual messages in the film too? Was Silas' body laid out in a particular way for a reason? And that Victor Hugo poster? Are these clues left for us? Or are you just a mental if you read too much into this? It's entertaining enough, don't take it seriously. Bible-tastic. Let me re-write this later, I'm sure I have a point worth making. Hmm this site points out more of the rubbish9. Second movie was The Weather Man10 btw, cool in a downbeat kind of way.

Did a bit of a blitz of clothing purchasage in Urban Outfitters11... seemed to take a little while to warm up - when we first went in the door I was disappointed, everything was a bit crappier than I remembered, but then we got some great bits. My vintage style Lynyrd Skynyrd shirt has drawn positive comments from random strangers in the street. Do they not go in that shop? You could all have one of your own! I know we have one in the UK but everything's less than half price in the US versions. Hmm, the other option is that people were gently mocking me...

Went to the Dadeland mall12, via some outlying shops... bro-in-law Kev took us there in the car to check out some local shopping action. First stop was possibly Target, a superstore that sells everything imaginable, where we picked up a couple more gifts, then on to Container Store13. This place only sells storage "solutions" but it really is fabulous, not just boxes and things as I first suspected but all sorts of DIY type things relating to keeping your house in order. I can't do justice how cool it was, maybe I'm just a nerd for that sort of thing, but I loved it. Been looking for a thing to go inside our cupboards and organise all the stuff that's on the floor for AGES, and not been able to find anything like I wanted, or even explain to anyone just what I was after, but this place did the deed. Not sure (at the time of writing, 7.30pm on Tuesday) how I will get all this stuff home...

Next onto the mall proper, usual suspects for stores I suppose, but some great places like Brookstone14 for gadgety type things (like Sharper Image15 but a bit cooler), Arango for chic designer houseware type things, and some big smart department stores like Saks16 and Nordstrom17. Didn't get much for ourselves but bought gifts for other people in each of these.

Spent one night eating drinking playing pool and bowling at Lucky Strike18 bowling, this was great. We ran up a huge tab and just about killed Kev - he's been in America too long, he just can't keep up the drinking pace any more. Lucky Strike is a bit of a celeb hangout apparently, but that's probably the LA branch of it, we saw no-one of note.

To get our quota of tackiness up, we did a "duck tour" of Miami, this is an amphibious type vehicle taking is on a round round the town. It was fun for us, but I've no doubt embarrassing for a local like Kev with all the audience participation. Look, there are some people on the beach, everybody quack! There are the houses from Scarface10 and Miami Vice10, quack! Here's where Giani Versaci19 was gunned down, QUACK QUACK QUACK!

Our last days felt a little more subdued, though we still ate and drank lots more. We had another meal in Nexxt (not quite as good as the first time) and then boldly headed off to find boozing action on our own. Cafeteria took too long to serve us to hang about and The Playwright was a bit rubbish (and while I'm being negative, Miami is no place for pedestrians generally, bah) but Sushi Samba was nice and quite swish (think I got that right, we ate in a restaurant with a similar name too, Sushi Siam) and then Finegan's Way had a band on and was just the sort of place I'd been hoping for.

Flight back was fairly dreadful, a badly behaved toddler screamed all the way home, with headphones in I got a couple of hours kip though. I did get to go through one of the new explosives scanners - it blasts air over you then picks up particles from around you, to tell what you've been in contact with or what you have in your pockets. Clare missed this treat... Great to be met at the airport, good work Jim, and then we spent the day unpacking, winding down, and watching TV. Even took in a couple more films, Walk The Line10 and The Truman Show10, both actually great. Maybe I'm getting into movies again. Our plants all survived our week away, the Pacman game works fine, and the picture frames we bought are filled and looking good. Welcome home us.

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Paul Clarke's blog - I live in Hythe near Folkestone. Married + father to two, I'm a full stack web engineer, + I do js / Node, some ruby, other languages etc. I like pubbing, parkrun, eating, home-automation + other diy stuff, history, genealogy, TV, squirrels, pirates, lego, + TIME TRAVEL.