With the appropriate soundtrack, of course: Will Smith, Miami
Who in January would not opt for a little sun and sand to take the winter blues away? For such an excursion, little to no excuse is needed. But my wife and I have one, and will for all time, as our wedding anniversary is on the 27th of this month. So I booked the flight and hotel some 83 days prior and waited with anticipation, and mounting dread as our government went through its perturbations, to set off for the deliciously warm locale of Miami, Florida.
2:30 Am rolls in, and as a kid would on Christmas, I finally give up on sleep and head to my writing and reading room that we call a “man cave” to make time go a little more quickly. At 4:30, after a final check of baggage to ensure that I am bringing everything along that I wanted, I book the Lyft ride and we head over to Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU).
We sail through security with relative ease, being helped by workers in order to speed things up a bit. I keep beeping as I am forced to disassemble my electronic assemblage and my new belt with its big shiny buckle. That done, we grab the overpriced bottles of water past the checkpoint, because they know they can get you as you aren’t able to bring water through, and sit at our gate to await a 7:04 AM departure.
No other issues occur, and we board and take our seats only three rows up from the restroom. American Airlines charges extra for every row beyond 21, so I end up taking those far back seats. They also have very little legroom, as compared to our usual experience aboard JetBlue. The flight does touch down in Miami on time though, so I guess I can give them credit for that.
As we scurry through the relatively larger airport, I call for an Uber and there is some confusion as we discover that we need to be in arrivals and are in departures. The driver kindly waits the 7 minutes or so it takes us to make our way through the elevator and outside, we throw our things in back, and settle in for the long ride to Miami Beach. At least it is longer than it probably has to be as he opts to take a street-level route instead of the highway. She says we pass through a dilapidated section of the city with interesting graffiti that she decides not to comment on. Then we bounce onto the Bay Causeway and finally arrive at our destination, the M Boutique Hotel.
I am initially alarmed, because there is a gate into which we must enter a code and no one answers the phone when I call inside for assistance. The email had given me this code, but it had also stated that we would not need it until 3 PM. As far as I can tell, the code remains active at all times. Once I recited it to her though, she was able to successfully enter it into the keypad.
We enter a small, clean-smelling lobby where a French-speaking receptionist awaits. This is the first clue to the unusual atmosphere we are about to encounter. There are only 11 rooms in the entire building; 5 on the lower floor and 6 on the upper. Inside of the room, the sink has a faucet that is strangely canted and drains into a bowl placed in a metal frame. The shower comes straight down like rain. The room itself only contains two stools for sitting at the kitchenette table, but the bed is one of the more comfortable I’ve experienced at a hotel. As she says though, this is a room for couples, definitely not a business-type establishment. I love it’s location within easy walking distance of the beach, bus line, and several restaurants.
Once inside of the building at 11 or so, we are told that we will not be able to check in until 1. So we drop our luggage and head over to the nearby IHOP, reasoning that eating breakfast at a chain is ok as it’s well, breakfast. As we walk along the streets, the origin of my subject line becomes unavoidable: those folks honk at any and everything without provocation! Their leaning on the horn was at least on par with, if not exceeding, that I experienced when visiting Manhattan. It must be a pastime, an ingrained part of the culture.
The restaurant is absolutely packed, as it will be for the majority of our trip. Today I settle on a build-your-own-omelette with sausage and American cheese, and some hash brown. The orange juice is a bit pulpy, but tolerable, I guess.
After filling our bellies, we still have a little time to kill so we make our way down to the water. We quickly discover that there is nowhere to walk along the shore without falling in, as the sand slopes down to the sea. So we plop right in that sand and enjoy the stiff breeze and abundant sunshine. She says the water is a blue-green there, more beautiful than she has ever seen. I note how the waves sound a lot gentler, as if someone is flinging the water around. It’s as I’ve heard when listening to anything that takes place in the tropics. So pleasant and relaxing.
And speaking of relaxing, we are finally given access to our room where we crash on the bed for a couple blissful hours. Half of a vacation is enjoying the ability to sleep at will anyway, right. As I slip under, I can’t help but marvel at how incredibly different this feels, very much as if I have traveled to another country and not just a new American city.
Once we resurface shortly before 5, we determine that it is time for dinner. For this, we head to our pre-selected choice of Las Vegas Cuban cuisine. I select Pollo de Milanesa, a delicious chicken filet topped with Spanish Marinara sauce, ham, and melted mozzarella. Fries on the side, but a Cuban pineapple beverage that we both like. She has a fish platter of unknown type that she also enjoys. We hav the restaurant nearly to ourselves, though there is a steady stream of people picking up to-go orders. We surmise that Miami must be more attuned to a later eating schedule, which is fine because it creates the kind of quiet atmosphere we most favor.
We wrap up the day by venturing into their Publix, a grocery store and liquor store in one. The groceries are accessed on the second floor so we take an elevator up, a fairly unusual concept. She says that if you have a lot of items in your art and don’t wish to wheel them onto the elevator, there is an escalator that will take them down below for you to grab when you arrive. We only get a few snacks and more water.
And that wraps up the first day. Clearly, this expansive trip will take at least a couple more entries for me to get it all in. More soon.