America,  Florida,  TDM,  Travel Journal,  USA

Miami Beach (USA): Travel Diary, Part 1

Oyé oyé, it’s with an excellent mood that I start this travel diary on Miami Beach! I am in a good mood because unlike Canada, I don’t have to go to the dentist anymore, and when you are in a vacation place, sun, relax, fiesta like Miami Beach, with this blazing sun and this blue sky, it is impossible to get depressed.

So Miami is a city big enough that you can’t do everything on foot. There are two parts Miami mainland and Miami Beach which is an island city, connected to mainland Miami via bridges. Therefore, it is by staying in Miami Beach that you have better access to the beach.

And even Miami Beach is so long that you have to know where to stay. In 2015, JB was north of Miami Beach. And this time, we stay one month in the South: South Beach, extremely well known, thanks to the presence of models and celebrities. Its Art Deco style architecture can be seen onOcean Drive – another well-known name you’ve probably heard of. With its lot of clubs, bars, and restaurants attracting tourists.

Ocean Drive

Here is the famous Ocean Drive, with restaurants and bars on one side and palm trees on the other (Lummus Park). There are always traffic jams here, so that sometimes the police block the perpendicular streets and don’t let anyone turn to Ocean Drive anymore. Anyway, here is the parade of the most bling bling, expensive cars, convertibles, sports cars… It looks like we’re in the “Pimp my Ride” show, with cars transformed into a sound system – so loud (but very good). With the 60 second red lights, sometimes you feel like you hear a whole song before you can cross the road 😀

The beach

We are next to Lummus Park. A small road protected by palm trees is reserved for bikes, scooters and rollerblades… 10 meters of sand for beach volleyball players. And only after the green plants (in the distance) that we finally reach the beautiful beach, with fine white sand, which stretches for kilometers.

You can’t see a sunset from this side, but rather the sunrise. But when there are beautiful clouds like that, the sunset is very very beautiful too.

We see, like in the movies, small houses reserved for lifeguards, and deckchairs + parasols for rent.

It looks like a dreamlike landscape… but there is a lot of algae in the water . The water is warm, clean and transparent etc. but I don’t like to swim surrounded by algae. We are clearly not in the Bahamas. Even if we go far away, bof bof. This part of the beach is a bit deeper than in the North.

The sun is so strong here (UV index 10, i.e. very high) so most people come with their parasol. Very few (maybe only tourists) choose to burn without a parasol and regret it later. Hence the multitude of aloe-vera gels (burn relief) sold in supermarkets and pharmacies. Even walking on the sand barefoot is a feat. Note that there is no palm tree on the beach itself, so remember to take some cash to rent your umbrella (I think it’s about 20$ a day).

Our new activity: the drone

on the left the control lever, on the right the drone

I don’t know why this idea came to mind. We thought we were going to visit a lot of exceptional places, which deserve to be filmed by a drone. And here we are with a first price drone (159€)(amazon link), with a good autonomy (15 minutes) and very easy to use (especially for me who doesn’t like complicated things).

Here is the result:

Of course, you’re used to seeing images shot by quality drones (with high definition images and stabilizer), so when you see our video, you probably think we’ve screwed up somewhere. This is the sad reality of expectations/reality🙂

To have the beautiful images you are used to seeing, you would have had to spend $1000 or more. So we’re pretty happy with the images we got from ours. Especially since it’s a fun activity. We don’t want to invest more, because there are countries/locations where the drone is forbidden, or guarded at the border… we prefer to have something cheap, so we don’t cry if ours is confiscated.

The drone gives live images on the phone, but you have to use the joystick to control it. The whole thing is very light but in terms of size, it takes quite a lot of space, especially since the propellers aren’t retractable, so to protect the drone, it’s with a rather big box that we’re traveling at the moment.

Five Guys

At the 15th street is the fast food Five Guys, a tourist attraction that you must absolutely try because it is typically American. You choose a base (cheese burger, burger for short) and everything else is à la carte (included in the price), you have to specify if you want salad, tomatoes, pickles, …

Unfortunately, it costs a lot (30$ for all this, peanuts being free). In the fast food restaurants, they often give us just one drink and we have to go to the “fountain”, to choose the drink we want.

Espanola Way

Right next door is Espanola Way, where you can buy cigars and taste Cuban cuisine. There are many Cuban immigrants in Miami. The people have an accent that isn’t very easy to understand (in English), and they are almost all bilingual. Menus are also in both languages.

Northern part

Then we go to IHOP, a very American breakfast and pancake chain. There is only one in Miami Beach, all the way north. We wanted to go there by bus but the bus schedules here are as relaxed as the city. After 20 minutes of waiting, we can’t take it anymore and take an Uber Pool. Then we spend 30 minutes picking people up until Uber is full. Rhaallaa, too much effort (and the bus which we were supposed to take finally passed us :D).

Pancakes, milkshakes are good, to try absolutely.

In the northern part of Miami, the strips of sand are smaller, but there is less algae than in the south. The water is shallower too, but the water seems less pure.

Other remarks

So clearly, coming to Miami Beach for the beach is clearly not the right idea. There are other more beautiful beaches 1 or 2 hours away, but it’s more the atmosphere of the city that is cool. We don’t regret having chosen Miami Beach as our base – because we’re not too beachy either. We like to be in a city close to tourist attractions, and being in Miami makes it easy for us to visit Everglades and the Keys. The other point is that Miami is a city with enough public transportation so we don’t need a car, which is relatively rare in the USA.

I’ve already noticed it in New York, but here, girls can afford to wear whatever they want. It’s really cool considering the heat ! I’ve seen very low-cut bikinis, tops that have so little fabric that it covers just a minimum. In France, it wouldn’t have worked at all, as evidenced by the opinion of a French-speaking woman on Tripadvisor about Ocean Drive 😀 (laughing out loud)

But we always feel very safe, because there are no judgments, disapproving or embarrassing looks (from top to bottom, from bottom to top), wandering hands, insults, whistling… cat calling in bulk. Now I understand better why expatriates are shocked by the cat calling they experience in Paris or in France, because here, it can happen but *not* in such a systematic way.

Since they are heavy, they can be seen coming from far away, far enough to avoid them (they yell, they are clearly drunk, dirty, and they stink). If you ever feel unsafe and they’re bothering you too much, attract the attention of other passers-by by yelling *fuckoff*(Americans, unlike in movies, don’t use the f word too much, so when you say “fuck” it means you’re very very very angry)

On the other hand, every time I go somewhere without JB (it’s very rare), I get hit on. I’ve told you how a guy tried a dubious racist joke, but once I was sitting quietly on the bus when a guy complimented my hat. I didn’t really understand the codes here so I wasn’t sure if it was flirting or not.

I know that Americans talk to each other like this without knowing each other, and sometimes the comments and compliments are very “consumerist”, like “I’m going to buy the same thing”. Once, a man (who was with his wife), asked me, like that, what my “yes” ring meant. Another time, I was asked the brand of my shoes. And lately, a waiter noticed my little ring and complimented it (maybe he was looking for one for his girlfriend??).

So, when the guy told me about my hat, I didn’t know if I should add a few crunchy details about it, just to be polite and start the conversation? or just say thank you. So I just said thank you.

A few days later, while waiting in line at a fast-food restaurant, another guy made the same kind of compliment to an American woman in front of me, and it was while listening to their conversation that I understood the rules. So here, to approach a girl without scaring her, you shouldn’t say “hello” or “hola” or “hi, how are you?”. But compliment the girl on what she is wearing. Then the girl just says thank you. In this case, she was particularly flattered and gave her a high five. But she didn’t engage in any conversation.

A few minutes later, he asks her questions and they start talking to each other. So that’s how it works.

Near us is the fast food restaurant The Licking, which sells cheap fried seafood and chicken wings. Finger lickin‘ goodis a well-known KFC slogan, which was used to turn the inconvenience of having to eat chicken with your fingers (and put it everywhere) into something positive. It implies that KFC is so good that you wouldn’t lose a crumb of it (that you would lick your fingers). The expression has become part of everyday language for something good. For example, the name of fast food (The Licking) immediately makes you think of fried food, which you have to eat with your fingers, but which is so good that you forget the disadvantages. At The Licking, there’s all the time in the world, so we’re testing it to see. We were the only ones who were not black in this restaurant (out of about fifty people, customers and employees combined). It’s still very disturbing, it’s as if there were restaurants for this or that community.

We also tested the Cuban restaurant Puerto Sagua, which is better than in Cuba 🙂 The lobster grilled to perfection costs in the 38$ (without taxes, without tips). If in New York, the straws are metallic (and not reusable), here, they are made of paper, which is also good for the environment 🙂

On the other hand, the Asian community isn’t very well represented here, I am often the only Asian 5km in the round. Fortunately, I can still find Bubble Tea at Miu’s Tea. And there is a Mexican community selling exotic fruits at 16th Street (crossing with Washington Avenue).

To read : the 2nd part of this travel diary and our guide : Road trip of 14 days in Florida

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