Sunday 10 November New Orleans
Yep, at an airport again, New Orleans, Louis Armstrong, Alice has left for NY via Dallas and I’m waiting for my flight to Miami, on the road again, really looking forward to a beach now!
Monday 11 November
Finally back to cooking my own backpackers special a la Ginski! Yay! So over the Southern fried everything. I guess I should explain because I don’t think I did much of a job of it in the Naples episode, if at all. Grisha (my son) aka Ginski, and I had a vegetable cook off in the Naples Hostel of the Sun (I love hostels, you can cook decent cheap food when you want to) and he won. Why did he win? Because mine needed an Italian tomato based sauce (extra expense and not always easy to find) and his didn’t. I give credit to my Mum and myself that my boys can both cook and come up with brilliant recipes of their own (it’s one of those mother/grandmother stories, but none of us could lose given that my Mum was a chef). So, I got to Miami Hostel, chatted to lovely Derick and found out where everything was located and hotfooted off to the Wholefoods down the road. I bought up a ton of vegetables and some really nice minced steak for rissoles, Wholefoods is not the cheapest place for shopping ( pretty expensive really if you are on a tight budget) but it is mainly organic so the food is good. The exciting thing was that in Miami they sell dill in massive bunches, for someone who was raised with a lot of Russian food dill is an essential ingredient and it’s not always easy to find. The down side was they only had giant Mexican garlic which isn’t quite right in flavour but better than nothing. I had a wonderful time cooking enough food for a week for me.
Tuesday 12 November Miami
Up at 5 to get down to the beach for sunrise, figuring out the shower here at that time of morning was a challenge, so gave up. Sadly the clouds were low and kept getting in the way of sunrise over the Atlantic so I didn’t get the sunrise I wanted but the one I got was pretty cool.
Tip: Enjoy what you get. Sometimes we over – plan and over-expect and miss that which is a blessing and is right in front of us.
The birds at that time of morning are fascinating, so are the other people on the beach! Most of them are crazy photographers like me, there is the odd vagrant and then there are the young guys thinking they can pick up a middle aged woman on the beach at sunrise! Oh sigh! But I have all my answers ready. These guys can be found all over the world, a girlfriend and I encountered two of them in a shopping mall in Singapore! I encountered one on South Beach. Mostly they seem to be of African descent, very suave and have their patter all figured out, there are probably others from other backgrounds but I can only talk about what I have experienced.
Tip: Have a repertoire of lines ready for all occasions and be definite when delivering them – ‘No I am not single’ My husband/boyfriend/girlfriend is just getting the coffee’ etc etc (unless of course you want to be picked up by a young fellow, then you figure that one out for yourself).
A very expensive coffee from a 24/7 cafe on the beach kept me warm while I waited. The sunrise really was beautiful. Slowly the dark began to lighten and what were specks of light out on the water became recognisable shapes of ships. Behind the dark clouds the apricot of the dawn broke through, the French call it crepiscule, a beautiful, indescribable shade of dawn. Slowly it became a darker orange and the first birds appeared. Fast little guys with long beaks catching some miniscule life form in the sand. the sun struggled, and just as I thought it would break through a bank of clouds would get blown in and shade the sunrise again. Then the seagulls flew in and they and the fast little guys kept my attention for a while as the sunrise was still struggling. And then, bit by bit the sun beat the clouds at their game! By the time it did, though, it was quite high and had lost it’s early morning colour, but the game was quite dramatic and the colours caused by the dark clouds against the apricot sky were worth the viewing. Bit by bit the sky became bluer and the sun lighter, the apricot and the dark grey were gone, the chill had moved on and it was morning. All the photographers, packed up their cameras and moved on as early morning swimmers and workers came to join the seagulls. The beach is beautiful, and as an Aussie from the land of beautiful beaches, I can honestly say South Beach rates highly.
After the sunrise effort I took myself off on a Hop onHop off trip around Miami, both the beach and the city. Interesting city this. I’m really not sure what the population is, the bus guide said 5 million people, but Google says 413,000 plus, who do you believe? It certainly doesn’t feel like millions but perhaps that’s because travelling from South Beach I didn’t have to go through all the suburbs to get to the interesting places.
There are 23 islands, 22 of them are fully man-made and the 23rd used to be connected to South Beach but they cut through it to create the channel for shipping to come through and turned it into an island, it is the most expensive of all of them and so elite that you can only get there by ferry or helicopter, and you can only go if invited by a resident, like Oprah. Two of the other islands are also populated by stars of various sorts like Shakira, Shaqil O’Neall and a whole bunch of others, Al Capone’s old holiday home is on Palm Island (that house just sold for $22mil). Another island is the zoo, which unfortunately I didn’t get to, can’t do everything.
There is a whole art deco area in the beach suburbs, very interesting buildings that are worth seeing. Over the bridge in the city area there are plenty of interesting places to see and visit. Little Havana with it’s Cuban cigar factories (as they say, as it is illegal in the States to import Cuban cigars, the next best thing is a cigar made by a Cuban). Downtown is the 3rd largest skyscraper area in the USA, Coral Gables (another elite suburb) – and yet it feels sort of chilled out, weird.
I now also have another hostel to recommend to those of you who hostel, that’s 3 so far – The Hedonist in Belgrade tops the list, Hostel of the Sun in Naples and now Miami Hostel in Miami South Beach both rate highly with cool staff and good facilities. This place reminds me of the Hedonist, nice people, chilled atmosphere, nice common rooms, a bar, a kitchen, everything you could possibly need. It’s really quiet at the moment but there are enough guests around to have conversations, mainly Spanish speakers but a couple of Greek girls and 2 American guys are here as well, nice. Oh, and I finally had some American football explained to me as the Miami Dolphins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers were playing – still don’t really get it, but at least a couple of things are a bit clearer.
I also learned that 11/11 is Veterans Day here, also commemorated at 11a.m for the same reason as we do.
Tuesday 12 November cont’d
I’m liking this Miami place! Everything happens here, everyone lives or visits here and it’s warm! My European tan is returning after 6 weeks in long sleeves and my ears are tuning into Spanish, you hear so little English here it’s crazy. Seriously, Miami is definitely worth visiting and exploring, my brain can’t hold all the information, just about every second hotel has featured in movies and TV shows along with most streets, it’s almost like living in a movie with the stories of murders and mayhem, stars and their businesses. Gloria Estefan features a lot around the place.
You will notice that I went out of my way to get photos of cars for my Summernats friends – I think I left a lot of drool behind. Ocean Drive is the people and car spotting street. It is also the street where Gianni Versace was shot down in front of his mansion (which has now been bought and will be another very elite hotel). Found very nice espresso and cappuccino on Washington Ave and stopped in Little Havana to try the Cuban coffee and some Cuban food.
Cuban coffee is interesting, very, very strong with lots of sugar, somewhere between espresso and Turkish. Supposedly they make it that strong so you can share, darn that! my shot of coffee is all mine! Tomorrow I’m off to Key West for the day, should be interesting.
At the end of the day I hopped off close to the convention centre as I’d noticed that the International car show was on, and of course, being just a little car mad I had to go and have a look , more drool left behind. No concept cars but a lot of beautiful machinery past and present.
Came home to find I have a dorm mate, lovely Georgia from Australia. We hit it off well, she is a delightful young lady also travelling on her own but meeting up with family in South America. She valiantly helped me polish off my bottle of honeysuckle vodka from Clarksdale, what some travellers will do to help out other traveller is just amazing! Happy travels Georgia.
Wednesday 13 November – Key West
Fun day at Key West and one day is not enough! My main wish was to see Ernest Hemingway’s house and the Southernmost point of the USA and discovered so much more in the process, just didn’t have time to do much of it. A 4 hour drive from Miami Beach on a coach and we got to Key West, unfortunately it is impossible to get shots of the road that joins all the keys out of a bus window. Had lunch at Amigos, the hugest plate of nachos appeared before me, no hope of getting through that! And then it was on to the trolley tour to get to the places I wanted.
Ernest Hemingway’s house (well I guess it was really his wife Pauline’s house) was interesting to visit, and being able to view his writing studio in the coach house, where he wrote 70% of his life’s work was indeed special for someone who is a writer (although I am a poet not an author). It was very special being in the place where so many of his works were written and even the original typewriter is still there, the whole place is just as it was when he lived there. And then there are the famous 6-toed cats. Apparently Hemingway was not fond of cats but a friend gave hime a six toed cat called Snowball and Hemingway’s heart was won over. The house at Key West is not just an Ernest Hemingway museum, they still have anything up to 50 of the original Snowball’s descendants many of them are polydactyl and one of them has 6 toes on each paw.
There are heaps of chickens and roosters running around the gardens and streets, not sure why but it’s all rather charming. Of course there are also masses of tourists, but where did Merlin come from? That is Melin isn’t it?
The southernmost point was busy of course with everyone waiting to get a photo with the sign ’90 miles from Cuba’. So I opted to take one of the structure and a ‘selfie’ and be done with it (not a very good one so I will not be displaying that, I do have a bit of vanity), I didn’t have anyone with me to take a photo anyway (of course I could have asked another traveller, but selfies work). A long walk back checking out the shops, the key lime pie (a very nice pastry indeed, if you are on the east coast you must try one). An interesting story told to us by the guide regarding Sloppy Joes and Capt’n Tony’s. The original Sloppy Joes bar was where Capt’n Tony’s now is and that’s where Ernest Hemingway used to hang out every afternoon. When the lease was up the owner of Sloppy Joes didn’t like the increase so he bought the current place and one day he and all his customers picked up their drinks and the bar and moved everything a few doors down to the new building, love that story but I’m not sure if it’s true, I take what guides on those buses say with a huge grain of salt after discovering that sometimes they just make some stuff up.
Thursday 14 November Miami
Tomorrow I am travelling again and it will be farewell to Miami so today is a day of getting organised. The laundry took much longer than I expected, had to go to the post office and send all the stuff I bought along the way, home (plus all the Elvis souvenirs for my dear friend who is Australia’s number one Elvis fan) and packing day, off to Guatamala tomorrow Friday 15th November.
Finishing off my vegetables I discovered that I still had way too much so shared with on of the guests. His comment was that they were the best vegetables he had ever eaten in his life! Go the Ginski backpacker method (and the Miami dill) I do wonder though what that poor man has been eating all his life.
And so it will be farewell to Miami, nice knowing you, thanks for the fun time.