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Miami & the Keys

The flight from Grand Cayman to Miami only took an hour or so, we landed mid-afternoon and we went to pick our car up from ‘inside the airport’. What ‘inside the airport’ means at Miami airport is; a 2 kilometer walk, then down a ramp, back up a set of stairs, then to a lift for three floors, then a train, then three escalators, and there was the car hire desk of our choice.

It didn’t take more than five minutes, before the friendly guy behind the desk gave us some paperwork and said go to row 11 in the car park. This is the part where I tell you, that we’d decided to treat ourselves, by being as cliche as possible, and booking a convertible Mustang to cruise around Miami in. Row 11 was all the convertibles, five or six Mustangs and one Camaro, that had just been taken, so we chose which mustang we wanted, and hit the road.

We stayed in a lovely AirBnB apartment on our first night, close to central Miami, and by the time we had called to a shop for some bits, almost cried at paying $5 for toothpaste (that’s the USA), it was almost dark when we arrived at the apartment. We were still driving with the roof down.

After getting showered and changed, we headed down to Brickell to go to Coyo Taco (which Chloe reliably informed us, is the best thing to do in Miami), this is a hipster Mexican cafe in a trendy part of town, which was delicious. Although this time, as it was dark, and about 10 degrees outside, the roof stayed up.

The next morning, we got up early ready to drive down to Key West, we only had four nights in the USA, so we decided we would drive all the way to the end of the Keys, before coming back to Miami the next day. We set off out of Miami, and drove through endless suburbs for the first hour, but the scenery soon changed to looking like island life once again.

Unfortunately, the recent storms back in September that decimated parts of the Caribbean, also damaged a lot of homes and buildings in the Florida Keys, and this damage can be seen for the whole length of the single road that runs from Key Largo at the northern point, to Key West at the very south. At the side of the road, for almost the entire drive, there is pile after pile of rubbish and debris of destroyed homes, waiting to be cleaned up. It’s a very real reminder of real life here, unpredictable and deadly weather is just normal in this part of the world.

We stopped off in Marathon, about half way down the Keys, to have some lunch in a road-side diner. I had a big breakfast of sausages, eggs, bacon, pancakes and more, Stac had blueberry pancakes and syrup, it was delicious, maybe not too healthy though.

That day we arrived in Key West, checked in to our hotel, which was gorgeous, and it should be, because it is the single most expensive place we’ve stayed this year, the cheapest hotel in Key West started at $140 per night, so we were definitely only staying one night!

The town of Key West is lovely, it’s touristy, but the adds to its charm, it’s like a little holiday village, and people are happy when they’re on holiday, so the mood is good. The people who live and work there are friendly, our hotel was fantastic, and provided a free wine and cheese happy hour in the evening, which we used to its full extent and made back some of that $140.

We ate that much of the free snacks, we didn’t even need any dinner, so we got a few beers from the shop and sat on the terrace listening to music and playing cards, even though it was about 12 degrees and the locals were acting like it was minus 20, because they’re not used to this ‘cold’ weather.

We did the drive back to Miami the next day, stopping off at Key Largo to go to one of the more famous of the Keys’ Diners. Stac didn’t have many requirements for the USA road trip, except stopping in our American convertible car at a real American diner for a milkshake, sitting in a booth, and eating real American food. I swear she thinks Grease is a documentary 🙂

That’s exactly what we had, and we left feeling full to busting from the steak, prawns, milkshake and Key lime pie. We carried on back to Miami and checked in to our apartment in North Miami Beach for a couple of nights.

We wanted to come and see the famous Miami Beach area, we knew it was winter, and we still couldn’t afford to stay in the main South Beach area, but we thought we might get a beach day. Unfortunately, Miami was having a bit of a cold snap, and temperatures were barely reaching 20 degrees in the day, so standing on the beach and taking a couple of photos had to suffice.

The apartment in Miami beach wasn’t great, it wasn’t terrible, we have just got used to getting better value for money than the USA provides when it comes to tourist accommodation. It did however, include more free drinks in their sister restaurant, so we went and had a couple of free drinks down there on our first night.

We went back and fried up some instant noodles with some vegetables for dinner, and found ourselves sat at the table of the cheapest reasonable apartment we could find, eating instant noodles because restaurants were too expensive, but with the keys to a Mustang on the table, I’m not sure if that’s how the priorities should be really, but we enjoyed ourselves.

On our last day, we weren’t flying until midnight, but we had the car, so we checked out of the apartment in the morning, then headed to one of the huge retail outlet centers that Florida seems to be full of. It had an outlet there for pretty much every brand you can imagine, we got some new clothes that we needed, including some warmer clothes for Barcelona and when we get home, and Stac got some bargain new trainers.

We went and ate in one of our favourite places, Chili’s, the Tex-Mex chain that we’ve been to in Peru, Mexico and here, and headed to the airport, once again, far earlier than we actually needed to be there. After arriving in the airport around 8pm, we found out our flight was delayed until 1am, so we had a fair few hours inside the terminal, and it didn’t help that everything in the airport was closed by 10.30 so we couldn’t even get any more snacks or drinks.

It eventually turned 1am, we had boarded the flight, ready to set off for the seven-and-a-half hour flight to Barcelona, when the pilot announced that the flight time today would be ten hours, on a budget flight, with no free food or drinks, it was a good job we had taken snacks on board with us, because by the time we arrived in Barcelona, it had been 27 hours since we checked out of our previous accommodation.

But… we were in Barcelona, and we loved it…

 

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