I just arrived back from a three week trip to Miami with the girlfriend, so I figured I'd post a trip report. This report will be a bit light on photos and heavy on text, since I neglected to take many pictures. I'll try to sprinkle in some photos I find online.
While the girlfriend and I currently live in Albany NY, she originally hails from Miami. Personally, I still think she's crazy for having moved up here (for school), as do most people who discover where she is from. Still, I'm quite happy she decided to move up here, as she is my best friend and lover.
She's had a decently tough time adjusting to the weather and culture up here; while she is much happier than when she first moved here, she still misses her family and home. Since we hadn't seen her family since Spring Break this past year (my first trip down with her), we decided a long trip following the end of the semester was appropriate.
While she is naturally dark skinned and fluent in Spanish, I am not. So I figured a bit of preparation was needed. So I went tanning and practiced my Espanol, which I hadn't done since high school. I went tanning a few times the week before our flight, which was entirely new experience. I mention it only because with the tanning (and liberal use of sunscreen), I managed to avoid a sunburn on a (summer/tropical) vacation for the first time in a long time. So for all you pale skinned folks, it's something to consider.
As for my spanish, I use a site called Duolingo. It's free and has improved my knowledge somewhat with minimal practice on my part. While I'm still not close to being fluent, I have picked up basic words and pronunciations, and can even sometimes roughly understand conversations (using context clues and my basic language skills). This is important, as Spanish is the go-to language in South Miami. Many folks are bilingual, and many sections of the city harbor those who speak solely Spanish. I was able to get by during my time since I was accompanied by my girlfriend and her family, but if I was to live there for any length of time I would need to pick up Spanish.
Without further ado, my report:
Day 1 - December 19, 2015
Our flight leaves at 3:30 pm from Albany International Airport. Temperature upon leaving: roughly 35 degrees. After a four hour layover in Atlanta, we arrive in Fort Lauderdale at roughly 1am (while her family lives in Doral, west of downtown Miami, the locals seems to prefer using Fort Lauderdale's airport over Miami's, as it's on overall easier experience). Temperature upon arrival in Florida: roughly 75 degrees. Unrelated to this, I tell my girlfriend that I love her. Her brother picks us up, and we head immediately to Pinolandia, a local Nicaraguan restaurant.
We got the above foods, plus a hefty portion of fried cheese. The rice and beans and steak are easy to identify, while the fried plantains are not. The cheese was the most delicious, and the worst for me. It's roughly the size and appearance of a slice of white bread; I mistook it for such my first time eating at and received some strange looks from the gf's family. Delicious food, but very heavy. I chugged alka seltzer after my meal and prayed for the best. This is probably my favorite food that I tried there, and I would recommend it to others.
Week 1 - December 20 - 27, 2015
We stay at her immediate family's house. Most of this week was spent reuniting with various family and friends. Not much to report, save for a few highlights. Before that, I should mention the general pros and cons of Miami that have become apparent to me in the month I have spent there so far. Pros: beautiful weather, delicious food, and an abundance of activities to do. The people are (mostly) nice and welcoming as well.
Cons: the traffic. Oh my the traffic. Perhaps some of you live in big cities with traffic; I do not, and thus dealing with nasty traffic all day everyday is particularly infuriating. Also, as I mentioned before, those who do not understand Spanish will find themselves at a disadvantage. Finally, I do not run well in the heat. I consider myself to be in decent shape, running around 17-18 miles a week. Running in the heat saps me of my energy and makes me hurl. Running at night generally wasn't an option, sadly, as we were usually out doing something. Thus my running was curtailed substantially. Combine this with the frequently heavy and delicious meals we ate over the three weeks, and I left a bit heavier than when I arrived.
Now, for the highlights:
A trip to South Beach. We had been last time we were in Miami, and it is just as wonderful as you can imagine. Very crowded and a bit touristy, but the beach is gorgeous. The waves that day were quite choppy, so we had a wonderful time in the water. Later, we went climbing on a breaking wall that sticks out in to the ocean:
That would be the girlfriend and myself! I do believe this is the first time I've shared a photo of myself on here...
Another highlight: Christmas Eve!
The girlfriend has a large extended family, and they all get together at her tio's (uncle, I told you I picked up a bit of spanish!) house to socialize and open presents. This is a bit stressful for me, as it entails meeting a lot of new people and making conversation. As an introvert and generally awkward person, this is not my strong suit. This difficultly is compounded by the fact that hispanic culture is quite a bit more open and rowdy than my own. Not that there is anything wrong with that; however, I'm not so quick to open up and talk in such situations, while her family expects this. Luckily, the girlfriend poked and prodded me, I mentally prepared myself, and we both had a wonderful time. We ate traditional Honduran food (this was with her mother's side of the family; her father's side is El Salvadoran), drank sangria, and open presents at midnight. Not to brag, but it was agreed we were the best dressed couple at the party!
This was my first Christmas away from home, and while it was quite different from my family's, I still had a wonderful time, all while learning how others celebrate the holiday.
Week 2 - December 28 - January 4, 2015
This week was marked by two "big" trips: one to stay with the girlfriend's cousin in North Miami Beach, and another to visit Universal Studios in Orlando.
Sadly, I forgot to snaps photos during our stay. She lives in a very nice area, though not quite as swanky and touristy as South Beach. If you're looking for the Miami Beach experience, just without as much of the hassle, visit the beach in North Miami. Also, check out Burgers and Shakes. I had a chocolate shake, fries, and the classic cheeseburger. Highly recommended!
Now on to our trip to Universal Orlando, or as I referred to it, our vacation from our vacation. We went with the girlfriend's immediate family, and spent New Year's Eve and New Year's Day in the park.
Day 1 was spent in Islands of Adventure, while Day 2 was spent in the main Universal Park itself. I personally liked Islands better. Perhaps it was because the lines were shorter, or the rides were more to my taste, but there you have it. Islands has The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which is worth the trip alone. I particularly recommend the Dragon Challenge roller coasters and my favorite, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. On the other hand, the main park has The Simpsons Theme Park. The main ride itself is fantastic, and you can visit fan favorites like Moe's Tavern and the Kwik-E-Mart. As a Simpson's fan, I found this to be a lot of fun.
Week 3 - January 5th - January 9th, 2015
This wasn't a full week, sadly. A lot of the time was spent saying goodbye to family and friends. On our last full day we visited the beach in Key Biscayne to catch some last rays. Personally, KB is my favorite part of Florida. While it is the richest part of Miami, it is not terribly touristy. It's a haven for those who like to sail and exercise, as it has plenty of pristine ocean front coastline and wide roads. It also is home to a State Park, where you will find beaches open to the public. It also has a 190 year old lighthouse, which we were able to tour:
I'd definitely recommend a trip to the park if you're ever in the area.
January 9th, 2015
We said our goodbyes and had a last meal of bajadas and churros (these are sold everywhere, try one!) We left Fort Lauderdale at 3:30 pm, and arrived back in Albany at roughly 10 pm. Temperature when we left Florida: 75 degrees. Temperature when we arrived in Albany: 35 degrees. Sigh...
There is so much more I could say in this report, but I simply don't have the time. Hopefully you enjoyed it!
Bonus picture of the Miami skyline:
You guys make a cute couple. :)
When I was in Orlando last year, I accidentally hopped on the Orlando-Miami turnpike to get to somewhere just a few miles south of town. That wasn't the right thing to do. We then turn on the GPS, and the robot lady proceeds to tell us, "In 76 miles, exit right!". So the rental car went off-roading that day. The idea of spacing exits from a highway somewhere approaching 100 miles apart still blows my mind.