Thursday, February 2, 2012

Shabby Chic



Island House, 1428 Collins Ave, Miami Beach, Florida
Our Home Away from Home for the next week

Click on any picture to see in full-sized in a new window

When Kevin asked if I wanted to travel with him to Miami, of course I said yes. But first I asked why we were going to Miami, would the trip eventually pay for itself, could we afford it, etc., etc., etc. I can't say that he answered my questions appropriately, but when have I ever been known to pass up a trip. OK, Sandy, don't answer that one. I know I backed out of the Escalante Canyon trip back in grad school, but that was then. And so, even though I feel as if I'm fiddling while Rome burns, today I find myself in a kitchenette just a block from the Atlantic Ocean in Miami Beach, Florida.

We arrived on Monday night, and it's now Thursday, but Kevin had to have the laptop with him on Tuesday and Wednesday, so this is the first chance I've had to write anything down. I'm going to treat this trip the same way I did our trip to Las Vegas, a few weeks back, with one blog per day, starting with Tuesday, January 31st, 2012.

Well, ok, I'll actually start with Monday the 30th, but since that day was spent mostly inside a Delta airliner, it will be mentioned only as background. Our flight left Missoula at 8:15, so we had Ron deliver us to the airport at 7:00 am. This time the flight left on-time, and crowded though we were, the flight to Minneapolis was relatively uneventful. The flight on from Minnepolis to Miami was also notable only for the fact that we were in the air much too long when someone my size is crammed into the cattle car seating that modern airlines seem to favor. By the time we landed in Miami, my right leg was throbbing from the hip to the ankle, and I wasn't sure if I'd be able to walk. Miami International is prepared for just that thing--it has seemingly endless miles of corridors through which to walk just to pick up your luggage. Then more miles of walking to get to the rental car center. Kevin, as always, had reserved an SUV, but we ended up taking a Chrysler 200 convertible instead. My prefernce--the convertible, not the Chrysler--but the clerk said we'd have to wait for an SUV and the convertible was available immediately. That was Monday, and the car has sat in the garage ever since we parked it after checking into our motel. (Turns out you don't really need a car in Miami Beach.)

If I Could Fly Away
Miami Beach, Florida

Oh we did stop at the Delta "Special Requests" desk to see about getting exit row seats on the return flight, but were informed that such seats were sold at an additional cost unless they're still available 1/2 hour before departure. We'll see about that on Sunday when we return home.

Kevin had given me the task of finding us a motel, and had given me directions to the center where he would be spending his time--in downtown Miami. I looked for "gay-hotel-Miami" and found a listing for the Island House. What is more, the posted rates were half what everyone else seemed to be charging. I double-checked with Kevin, and then called to make the reservations. Turns out that the hotel is no longer exclusively gay, as young people today are "situationally gay" according to the desk clerk. Besides, all the gay action today is in Fort Lauderdale, not South Beach. Oh well. The room rate was still better than anything else I could find.

When we checked in Monday night, I thought I saw a trace of disappointment in Kevin's face. Yes, the Island House has a nicely painted art deco façade, but inside the best description I could come up with is shabby. Still it appeared clean, the help was friendly, and the room certainly had enough space. And did I say it was half the price of anywhere else I could find? Dinner Monday night was at the Grillfish, where Kevin had something (can't remember what) and I had a calamari dish served with linguine and marinara sauce. The waitress told me that most Americans didn't like that dish, but I pride myself on having more catholic tastes, and indeed I found it quite pleasant, if a bit spicy. We shared a bowl of Banana with caramel cream for dessert, and retired for the evening. I wanted a mojito, but didn't feel I could justify paying $13 for one drink. Oh well, live and learn.

Tuesday morning, Kevin left for his meetings, taking the laptop, and I headed out with my camera for a walk. Wearing my camo utilikilt knockoff which I'd purchased for my birthday in San Francisco a year ago, I stopped by a shop to get a new pair of swim trunks. Continuing on down Collins Avenue, I was practically pulled into a camera shop with the promise of a new lens that would exceed my wildest expectations. Now I'm normally not too gullible, especially where camera gear is concerned, but I couldn't say no to this insistent fellow, and I tried his fish-eye/macro lens combo. Suitably impressed, I listened to his sales pitch and when he got the price down to $299 (starting at $2100), I bought the thing. I have a feeling that even at the lower price I was ripped off, but I do like the clarity of the lens and the closeness available with the macro. I'll have to show you some examples.

Miami Beach Still Life
Eva's Bistro 1506, 1506 Collins Ave., Miami Beach

For lunch I stopped at a nice little sidewalk restaurant, Eva's Bistro 1506, where I ordered a frozen lemonade and a Cuban sandwich. I got into a discussion with another diner who made it a point to say that as an American, I could not go to Cuba, but she, being from Montréal, could and indeed had just returned from Havana. Our loss, I guess, but Cuba has never been very high on my list of places to visit. The restaurant crew was very friendly, from the female hawker on the sidewalk who lured me in, to the waitress, to the very handsome young man who made sure that my water glass was always full. I'll go back to Eva's Bistro.

On to the beach where I spent an enjoyable afternoon surrounded by handsome bears--all of whom were speaking Spanish. Most of my pics in this post are from my time on the beach. One thing I noted, you can rent just about anything in Miami Beach. I saw people riding by on rented bikes, rented Segways (I'd love to do that), and rented Y-shaped scooters in bright yellow. I'm sure these scooters have a name, but I've never seen anything like them before. I also walked past shops offering mopeds and more tradtional, Vespa-like motorbikes. It's almost an Alice's Restaurant of transportation.


Mr. Burberry returns from the Sea
(I didn't know you could swim trunks in the burberry pattern)

When Kevin was done with his meetings, we headed out for dinner. Now as I think I've implied, Kevin is a much more finicky eater than I. I have learned to pretty much let him choose the restaurant when we go out. Tuesday evening we walked past probably ten different restaurants, all of which looked fine to me, and ended up at 9 Ocean Drive. Yes, that's the name of the place as well as its address. The hawker on the street (all the restaurants have them) promised us that the steak special came with salad and potatoes, but when our waiter came to take our order, he insisted that everything was à la carte. At least I think that's what he said, as I was seated directly beneath a speaker blaring salsa music and the waiter's Spanish (Cuban?) accent was so strong I could barely understand a word he said. Kevin order the steak and I got a blacked chicken mango salad that sounded much better than it tasted. The steak also was not up to Montana standards, but we soldiered on. This time I did order a mojito, and it arrived in a small fish bowl of a glass. I should have had one Monday night, as my mojito at 9 Ocean Drive came at a cost of $24.99. I guess that's why there were no prices on the drinks menu. At that price, I felt obliged to drink the whole thing, and found myself a bit tipsy walking back to the Island House.

All told, it was a beautiful day, if a bit spendy, and I found myself enjoying life much more than I had on my one previous visit to Florida. I wouldn't want to live here, but hey, it's the end of January, I can walk around in shorts and a tank top,and even lie out almost naked on the beach. What more can you ask for?


Los Osos A La Playa
Surely someone in Miami Beach speaks English

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