Miami sound machine

Trip Start Oct 05, 2005
Trip End Apr 06, 2006

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Sunday, January 22, 2006

Miami - another culture shock. Just as I was getting used to NYC, Miami comes along and blows all my theories out of the water. After a hairy ride to South Beach with a guy who was convinced Prince Charles had murdered Princess Diana, we checked into The Clay, a hostel and cheap hotel that was reputedly where Al Capone held his gambling den back when the mob ran the city. Vice had not completely left the building, however, as the owner claimed he had a record of our booking for three days' time, not tonight, and because of this tried to charge us and extra $30 a night to stay in "the only room available". Sarah promptly gave him a piece of her mind, and within minutes we were installed in a private room with bathroom for the cheaper price we had originally intended to pay. It was still a rip-off, though, and the music from the bar underneath didn't stop until 3am, but at least we weren't in a dorm, and for that we were grateful.

Miami was hot and humid and full of shady characters so we decided to leave as soon as we could. The only saving grace was the French cafe on our road, which served delicious crêpes salées, tartines and café au lait in huge bowls. Car hired and bags packed we set off to Homestead, gateway to the Everglades. It was one of those blink-and-you'll-miss-it kind of places, the only noteworthy establishment being the Mexican restaurant where we were given the most disgusting food of our lives. I ordered the "vegetarian platter", a joke of a title, as I was told there were no vegetables in it, and what came made me gag - corn burritos (the ones that break) filled and topped (just in case you weren't sick the first time) with cheap, plastic cheese, with a side order of refried beans/baby puke. When I complained to the owner, I was met with the infuriating response, "What can I say? I just don't do vegetarian food", to which I replied, "Well don't call it the vegetarian platter then" - oh, and you might want to look up the word "food".

The Everglades were good, a bit too reliant on the car to get people in and around, and I did see more than one bumbag, but ok. We saw lots of alligators, and walked through a couple of mangrove swamps (smelly), and I had a go behind the wheel, but had to hand it over again after I tried to turn into a junction on the wrong side of the road, swerved to miss a car and nearly landed us in the verge.

We drove down the Keys all the way to Key West, stopping at diners and motels along the way, taking in the high Florida culture. A couple to mention were Marker 88, where we had gorgeous fresh fish and seafood pizzas, watching the sun set to a man playing guitar; another was stumbled upon the next morning, called the Midway Cafe, where we had a lovely breakfast of eggs, muffins and coffee before making our way to Key West. A highway joins together all the islands; on one side was the ocean, on the other the bay, both glistening in the sun.

We hit town on one of its busiest weekends of the year. There was a regatta on and all the hotels were full, so we had to make do with the HI hostel, charging a whopping $35 a night for a dorm bed. The evening was passed watching the sun set, eating Caribbean food and drinking margaritas at Jamaican Me Hungry, accompanied by an ageing rastafarian playing reggae on a Casio keyboard. The next day we drove to Bahia Honda park, and spent the day sleeping on the sand. One morning we went snorkelling, but I think this was the beginning of a week-long illness for me. Still not sure what it was, but I developed a rash on my arms and legs and was told that I'd had an allergic reaction to something in the water. Twas not nice. Had to lie in bed lots and watch Sarah do all the things I wanted to be doing too, such as swimming with dolphins.

Back in Miami, still sick, we took the Art Deco walking tour, although it was more of a hobbling tour for me. It was very interesting and I now have a new-found appreciation of the place, especially after having some good food experiences in Lincoln Mall, and a fab night at the Indian Creek Hotel, which had a great restaurant. The time had come for Sarah and I to go our separate ways; she to New York to start drama school, me to Houston to continue my travels. It was horrible saying goodbye, but at least there is some comfort knowing she's in the same country.
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