Due South

Trip Start Jun 12, 2012
Trip End Oct 18, 2012

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Flag of United States  , Florida
Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Howdy folks,

We didn't get much sleep last night. That is a bit of an understatement actually as it was more napping than anything else. We didn’t see the point of booking a hotel room to get 4 hours of sleep, so we ended up finding a 24hr McDonalds and having a look at the internet until 1am. Then Steffie had a nap in the backseat after I accidentally caught her big toe in the car door! Ouch. Then I crashed in the backseat for 30 minutes before we had to drive to the airport. Our flight was 6:15am and we had to checkin 90 minutes early, but by the time we dropped off the rental car and lined up we were running out of time. The Toronto Pearson Airport is surprisingly busy at 4am in the morning and Steffie had some trouble with her US Visa expiring so she had to apply for a new one. By the time we had sorted that out and gotten through customs (delayed thanks to a magnetic bookmark), we had 15 minutes before boarding.

The plane we got onto was a tiny 50 person jet that looked more like a private jet than a commercial airline. After a short delay on the tarmac, we were up in the air high above the clouds before the sun had risen. Steffie and I managed to get in a short nap on the 90 minute flight to Ronald Reagan Airport in Washington DC. The landing was smooth and we didn’t have far to walk to get some breakfast which was big enough but airport food is rarely satisfying. It was a 2 hour layover which was plenty of time to relax. The flight to Fort Lauderdale was on a Boeing 737-400 which had over double the seats meaning longer boarding time.

Once we were up in the sky we had 2.5 hours to do the usual time killing things like crosswords and napping. Unfortunately we weren’t by a window so had no idea where we were except somewhere over the coast. US Airways didn’t give us a meal, but we got a drink at least and soon we were circling around for landing. The airport was busier than expected and we had to circle around before a bumpy landing. Thankfully our bags arrived when we did and my cousin Matt was there to pick us up. He offered to take us for a drive down the main strip to the beach where we stopped at a loud local bar and had some beers. Once the band left, we headed next door to the German bar for a few more before walking down to the beach across the road. It was a tropical paradise with palm trees, sandy beach and warm water: just perfect.

We drove back to his house where we met his darling wife Kai and their beautiful daughter Kailee. The combination of quite a few beers, a long day, warm climate and no sleep ended up catching me and by 7pm and I was sleeping on the couch. We were just happy to have arrived safe, sound and ahead of schedule!

In the morning, we woke up as Matt was heading off to work and had the whole day to ourselves. We spent the morning planning out or time in Florida while Kai went out to meet her friends and their two munchkins who came back to spend the day playing in the lounge room. It was a pretty lazy day only broken up by a short trip to the playground which was cut short by a thunderstorm that rolled in. The weather here is sub-tropical meaning that there is a wet season and a dry season. It isn’t quite the dry season yet which starts at Christmas and also marks the start of the busy tourist season down here. Everyone tries to escape the winter blues by hitting Disney World or going on a Caribbean cruise.

When Matt came back from work, we watched a bit of TV before they got Kailee off to bed and I didn’t have to watch or hear any children’s songs and music anymore. I don’t know how parents do it day in and day out watching the same stuff on TV and managing to retain their sanity. I guess it is good it only lasts for the first 5 years.

This morning we got up after 7am and quickly got ready so we could get a lift with Matt to downtown Fort Lauderdale. Matt has been under a bit of pressure lately because he is a luxury cruiser captain and his boss is coming down to inspect the boat. He was nice enough to drop us down at the Art Museum through the crazy Floridian traffic. The art gallery wasn’t very big, but they had an interesting exhibit on sharks where revolved around the relationship and perception between humans and sharks. Apparently only 11 people die from shark attacks worldwide, but several million sharks are killed each year for local delicacies and herbal remedies. It was sad to see how sharks are killed for their fins and then left to drown in the ocean. There was also a pretty big exhibit on the Jaws effect and the role that Ron and Valerie Taylor and Rodney Fox helped introduce sharks to the world on film.

The other exhibits weren’t as good. I just don’t get contemporary art; as often as I’ve seen it I just can’t warm up to it. We headed down to the river walk to catch the water taxi which stops at various points along the canal. Florida and eastern USA has this huge Intracoastal Waterway which stretches for thousands of miles. Fort Lauderdale especially is split up by dozens of small canals so that all the millionaires can park their boat right at their multimillion dollar mansions without having to deal with any of the little people. We got off further down Las Olas Boulevard to have lunch at The Floridian which has a bit of a local reputation for big meals and they weren’t wrong. It was good because the medium OJ I ordered was tiny.

Back on the taxi, we went for a good 30 minutes around the waterways past a $75 million dollar behemoth of a cruiser plus lots of littler ones that would easily be more than a million each. It’s hard to imagine any more money being in any other place other than New York real estate. Every house was a mansion and every one had a boat or jetskis or both.

We got off near the beach and walked across to put the sand between our toes. There were a couple of tankers and container ships off shore as well as a kite surfer and a few guys working out. There weren’t too many people swimming, but it was a perfect day so I decided to go for a dip. It was like taking a bath, the water was so warm. I could have stayed out there for hours.

We walked past the bar we had been at the first day before going up to the next water taxi stop past all the souvenir and surf wear shops. The taxi came early so we just missed it and had to wait 45 minutes for the next one. On the way out to the end of the line we cruised past some iguanas relaxing on the waterfront. Apparently they used to be pets, but overgrew their homes and were released into the wild. Now they run rampant through the place and quite like it.

We walked to the A-1A to catch a bus, but had to wait 20 minutes. By the time we got on the bus, we realised we only needed to walk a mile down the road to catch the connecting bus, but that we had missed it! Talk about bad luck! Instead of waiting 30 minutes for the next bus, we decided to walk back from Lauderdale by the Sea to home which took a little longer than expected in flip flops. Thankfully we managed to beat the thunderstorm home and were happy to sit down and do nothing for the rest of the evening.  
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