I’m in Miami, Babe [sic]

I’m still in the learning process with this WordPress Blog and finally figured out how to turn the „like“ button for each post back on. Yeih!  I get a little lost sometimes. Thanks for hanging in there! :)

During my Florida experience, my center has been the Orlando area with Daytona being my sunrise spot. I had the chance to drive over to Clearwater, Tampa, and Sarasota. All have incredibly beautiful beaches and accommodating warm Gulf Coast water. But a remark pops into my head that I actually hate… “I could never live here”. It’s what I said about Spain right before I moved to Madrid. It’s what I said about Los Angeles when we had a layover there some 20 years ago… I’ve lived in LA for several years. I’m not sure if I ever said it about Orlando when we went to Disney World around the same time (maybe 22 years ago), but I’m sure I must have… it’s a thing. Careful what you wish for!

Daytona Beach

When I visited Miami years ago with my parents, we stayed at the Hyatt Hotel where I befriended the barkeeper and had a crush on the bellhop. I think I was 12, but just as curious as I am now… I’ve just learned to pick my battles since then ;). I wanted to see the city again… just one more time. Even if it’s just to make sure I’m not missing anything. Talk about FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out)!

The drive from Orlando to Miami is about 4-5 hours, depending on traffic. After a breakfast stop in Fort Lauderdale, we proceeded to Miami and booked a hotel on South Beach. Fort Lauderdale itself is cute. I didn’t remember it like that – I went there with my parents in 2013, we had lunch and just looked around for a while. This time, I was closer to the beach and it’s a very harmonious, unproblematic city.

OJ in FL
Fort Lauderdale Ocean Front

Miami is crazy. I can’t handle Miami, but I was only there for two days this time and we drove around a lot. I like to visit filming locations (movies or TV shows) – it’s my way of exploring new places and the first thing I look for. I also prefer to walk or bike, but for cities like Los Angeles or Miami, you need more time to plan those exploration days without a car, with only public transportation.

Hotel :)

Miami has a very different vibe than the West Coast. The weather feels more humid even than in Orlando, but it was quite the opposite (at least according to my phone data). Florida is just very humid in general. Period. People keep saying that and I want to say I appreciate it because it’s much nicer to breathe and better for your hair and skin. Yeah, no. I thought I could handle it, turns out, I can’t. Or I don’t like to.

Miami beach is beautiful, but crowded. I particularly liked the colorful lighthouses – they stand out. Ocean Drive is alive and bustling.

Ocean Drive

Downtown Miami is busy, hectic. The Hyatt has changed a lot. My mom said it hasn’t changed at all… Funny how you remember things differently. There were no bellhops this time. The inside lobby has changed completely. At least from my memory.

Hyatt

A friend once told me “Miami is good to live in when you’re done”… meaning when you’re either retired or have a lot of money to spend and don’t need to bother anymore. Or not as much. Ideally, both fall within the same time span. Although two days wasn’t much, I got a little bit of a feel for the area and I have to agree. I could see myself living in South Florida much later in life. Or travelling back and forth between “here” and there, “here” being a relative option.

South Beach

I’m glad that I got to see the city again. I visited Miami’s hot and not so hot spots and discovered for myself that I’m not missing anything; that it is not for me right now. At this point in my life. I needed that.

Highpoint of My Day

  • Soft bells jingling me out of my slumber at 6:30am
  • Jump-started my thyroid with some good old Levothyroxine
  • Sat on the side of the bed for half an hour (as long as one is instructed to wait after taking thyroid meds… must obey directions)
  • Popped some electrolyte gummies as quick pre­-run fuel
  • Ran according to my training plan: 10 min warm-­up jog, 4 x 1600 meters at a 7:20 min/km pace, 10 min cool-down
  • Jumped over a turtle:
  • Inhaled 5 spider webs (that’s what you get for running first thing in the morning, before the other runners can get rid of the webs)
  • Traffic jam on the way home, but rocking out (softly) to Blank and Jones on my awesome Pandora station (yes, I rock out to meditation music)
  • Much deserved and needed shower (and diffused some tea tree oil… it works wonders)
  • Wanted breakfast, but headed out en route to Sarasota to see my sister
  • Cranky because I didn’t get coffee
  • Passed the Disney balloon (which just goes up and down, but is otherwise stationary) : instant mood-boost
  • Arrived at the hotel which was very welcoming with its zen scent and pink-and-white pillowed lobby
  • Met up with my sister and brother-in-law by the pool and relaxed for a bit
  • Decided we should head over to the beach
  • Couldn’t make up our minds where to eat, but opted for a Spanish Tapas Restaurant (should’ve gotten burgers)
  • My sister and I chose a Cuban dish “Ropa Vieja” which I suggested since I had it once in Spain and absolutely loved it
  • It was extraordinarily meh (like a soggy beef stew), but the Sangria did its job… Way to go me with my choice of food
  • The waitress dropped off lots of chocolate-covered mint balls though; not sure what that deal was, but she just kept them coming
  • Loaned my sister my second pair of sunglasses since she forgot hers
  • We strolled over to Lido Beach, but didn’t have a place to change into our bathing suits
  • Already at the beach, we debated where to change
  • Turned on our heels, quickly walked back to the car and had a short discussion about an expression involving sand in a female body part, meaning “annoyed” (don’t ask… )
  • Drove a few blocks
  • My brother-in-law just changed in the car
  • The rest of us chose the bathroom of a nearby shabby-chique hotel
  • Walked over to the white sandy beach where we spent a few hours baking in the sun
  • Had a nice talk with my sister, very relaxing
  • A walk turned into a quick swim through a patch of deeper water with strong currents before we climbed onto the sandbank
  • My sister found a sand dollar and we declared her the “SSDFA”, or something like that (again… don’t ask)
  • Made our way back (first to our towels, then to the hotel)
  • Changed clothes
  • Had a glass of wine (my sister had bought and chilled it, planning for tonight… I loved that)
  • Headed to the hotel restaurant in search of burgers (finally :D)
  • We switched the fries for a garden salad to be at least half nutrition conscious
  • My sister and I ran outside at 7:20 PM to catch the sunset
  • We were too early and ran back inside
  • Burgers weren’t there yet
  • Ran back outside at 7:40
  • Caught the sunset
  • We felt chilly, probably got too much sun
  • Burgers came after almost an hour, but were worth the wait
  • Back through the scented and pink­-pillowed lobby to the elevators up to the room
  • Finished our wine, told jokes of pirates and seals and other things
  • Made sure I had my frog (I have a stuffed frog which my stepdad gave to me before I came to the US; ­ I had left it at my sister’s place when I visited her not long ago)
  • I had also left my blanket which didn’t fit into her bag
  • Decided to get a new blanket
  • Not today though
  • We said auf Wiedersehen and promised to stay in touch and see each other soon
  • Realized in the car that I forgot my sunglasses
  • It’s ok, I have my frog back and she has a few days left in the sun
  • Way back home was easy, quick, and my nose is sunburned; I always look like a drunk because if anything gets a sunburn, it’s just my nose… might as well use it, no?! ;)
  • Washed the sand off my feet
  • Caught the intro to Baywatch, then drifted off; ­too much beach
  • Dreams of white sand and Spanish Restaurant chocolate-covered mint balls

 

#30DayWritingChallenge

Day 15: Bullet point your whole day

Back in the Groove

I just finished my second class for the day. I’ve been sticking with my Les Mills On Demand workouts since January, in an attempt to get my body back (in the shape it used to be, or a step further even). And in support of my half marathon training plan. On non-running days, I finish one or two classes. On running days, I mostly stick to running and stretching.

I remember the cool mornings when I mounted my bike en route to the beach, movie soundtracks and a Pandora station in my ears, and leave the world be. It was just the bike and I. And the breeze. And the beach. A few time, I even made it all the way to Downtown LA. I always used the GPS and left at 6 am or earlier on a Sunday to avoid traffic. I rode my bike all the way to the Disney Concert Hall, ate my banana, and made my way back. Ice cream at the Pier by 9 am. That was my Sunday, and I enjoyed every second of it.

It was different once I took on the new job in the valley. I was able to afford my living situation and transportation there, but I was mostly stationary. You get up, drive to work, sit down in front of a computer, get up and drive back home, and by the end of the day you’re so tired, you maybe get to the store, home, dinner, sit down, bed. It was a very different change in lifestyle ― but I wanted LA so much that I didn’t care about me anymore. I loved every LA second, but I lost part of me in the process.

In January of this year, my mom was visiting my sister and her family in Maine. My sister and I had texted and I decided to make my way up there and surprise mom. Two days on the Amtrak, crossing 15 States… really? 15? Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, DC, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine. Wow. I’ve crossed 15 States this year and wasn’t even truly aware until now. It was the best time and a decision I do not regret. The Amtrak was actually comfortable, even though I did not opt for a sleeper car. It had a café car with drinks and snacks; the restrooms were comfortably clean and the time passed anyway. It was good to see New England again, but most of all, my family grounded me. In those times when you’re all over the place, your family reminds you who you are, where you came from and that everything is ok. I needed that.

My sister got me back into my gym routine, and I’m pumping and combating and balancing and running almost every day. Mom kept encouraging me, as did my friends.

I have a feeling that I am where I’m supposed to be. However, the journey is far from over. I’m curious, as usual, where it (or I) bring/s me. I’m ready, and I don’t regret a thing.

 

 

#30DayWritingChallenge

Day 8: What decision/s are you glad you made?

Come with me!

I’m in the travelling mood today – and I’d like to take you with me. So grab your passport!

There are so many countries to be visited, flavors to taste, landscapes I can’t wait to see, and people I’m curious to meet.

Since we’re already here (yes, you and I), we’ll start in Los Angeles and go straight to Seattle. We’d have a coffee at a shore-side café, and watch the fishermen head out to sea as the rain beats down on the shop window. Our rain coats and scarfs keep us warm while we start talking about what awaits us on this adventure.

We would head over to Vancouver, Canada and visit some movie sights I’ve read about (and perhaps I should read about a couple more while we’re already there). Next, we would make our way over to Alaska. I’ve been there before and it’s a State that mesmerized me. We go whale watching and walk on a Glacier (if they still exist by the time we get there). And the seafood – oh, the seafood.

Let’s take a picture of “The Bean” at Millenium Park in Chicago and inline skate along the river… My big sister used to do that when she lived there. One morning at her apartment, she made vegetable juice for the both of us – my first time tasting beet root in juice form. I’d totally do it again.

As a last stop in the US, of course we’d go to New York… again. The city has it all and I’d like to feel it… again. Jogging through the streets in the morning (I understand if you want to sleep in – I’ll get some coffee and warm  breakfast on my way back), ice skating on a frozen central park lake and standing in front of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree (home alone, anyone?)… I always associate NYC with Christmas shopping because it’s what I did with my family when we lived in Connecticut. There’s no place like New York in December.

I’ve never been to Puerto Rico and would want to visit the Camuy River Cave Park. I know so little about PR and would like to know more – about the people, its culture and food. Let’s go swimming!

Costa Rica is up next. We’ll go and visit the wildlife reserve, bathe in the Montezuma waterfalls (without the revenge – please!) , and walk along the bridge in Monteverde. And have a banana. Is that a thing? Is it prejudiced? Doesn’t matter –Let’s have a banana in Costa Rica.

The Angel Falls in Venezuela look like the most peaceful place on earth. No words necessary, just collecting ourselves here and getting ready for the next adventure.

River boat tour on the Amazon River in Manaus, Brazil: Hearing undisturbed sounds of animals you’d never even dreamed of, seeing plants in their untouched habitat and taking it all in. This place looks like it smells great (weird, I know, but as you know, I have a thing for smells)…

Rio, Brazil – the picture my mom took in front of Christ the Redeemer – let’s reenact that. And do something crazy with it. And then enjoy ice cold caipirinhas by the beach, feet in the sand.

We’ll watch professionals dance a Tango in Buenos Aires, Argentina. And a soccer game at the stadium. We have to watch soccer in Argentina! I’ve only seen penguins at the zoo, so a visit to Tierra del Fuego in the South and seeing them in real life would be more than I could ever ask for.

Off to Europe – first stop would be Italy. Although I’ve been there, I haven’t been to Venice and would like to sit in a gondola, being driven down the river. We’d end the day with an original Italian dish and wine, gazing over the river which looks like it’s drowning the houses in its calm power.

London, UK – I’ve been there many times, but since we’re travelling the world in our heads, let’s revisit. The last time I was there was for a class trip – we all got insanely drunk on our first night and I started speaking Spanish (I did not know how to speak Spanish at the time). That time can’t be relived, but a walk along Piccadilly Circus, a picture with a Buckingham Palace guard and original earl grey tea have got to be in the cards.

Digging back in my family history, I’d want to take you to Warsaw, Poland, next. My grandparents on my dad’s side are from there and fled to Germany during the war. I’m not sure what I’d visit there, but just being at a place where my family lived at one point, is worth it. Of course that means I’d revisit Vienna. My mom’s side of the family is from there, so let’s make a stop and enjoy some Schnitzel, Sachertorte and Apfelstrudel (I so need to learn how to make Apfelstrudel!) .

It’s getting colder (again), and since it’s Christmas time (bear with me), we’re going to see Santa Claus Village in Finland. There is an actual Santa Claus Village. Who wouldn’t want to go there?

Moving over, the Northern Lights viewed from Sweden are something I always wanted to witness. If I see those, I know I’ve seen close to everything in this world. It must be magical.

Completing the trifecta, we’d go to Norway and visit the Tundra… another place that looks like you can do absolutely nothing there, but it’s just peaceful. I read a book about a girl who grew up with wolves in the tundra (I think it was in Russia though)… Why not, while we’re there?! Who knows what we’ll discover… in the tundra…

Moscow, Russia. Basilica… Yes?

Tibet. Monks (Brad Pitt?)

Let’s walk on the Great Wall of China. We’ve all heard stories that it’s visible from outer space – not sure if it’s true, but it must be very humbling. Weirdly enough, Asia is a continent that never attracted me much. Still, I’d want to visit at least once to validate for myself that it’s ok to not be attracted to a particular country or continent. Or to be convinced by the opposite.

Getting a massage in Bali – very eat, pray, love, but sounds fantastic. The masseuse hitting the gong while removing the hot stones from your back, and you get to enjoy hot tea to sweat out all the toxins in your body. Bliss!

I’ll take you to Sydney and Melbourne next. We have to see a kangaroo! And watch someone play a didgeridoo (preferably not my stepdad… he loves the didgeridoo)!

I’ve been to Africa before: Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe. I’d like to visit South Africa again and go to Cape Town instead of Jo-burg. Although I liked Johannesburg (a lot of people don’t, but they say it’s because they compare it to Cape Town, and apparently, there is no comparison). I’d like to validate that.

Coming back to the US, we’d make a quick stop at the Grand Canyon (probably not because this has been an insane trip so far –but, let’s keep it on the list).

The tour would end in Los Angeles. But not before a final trip to Hawaii. I visited Maui with my parents when I was 14. I’d like to see it again as an adult, or perhaps visit another Hawaii island. Let’s get lei’d (hah – get it?!), and have a Mai Tai while watching the sun set.

So many countries, so much food, so many people, so much to see, feel, experience. I can’t wait.

Bahama Jellyfish and Alaska Granola

I have been blessed with parents who’ve dragged me around travelling when I was a teenager. The latter being the reason why I say “dragged”. In retrospect, of course my point of view changed a little from when I was younger and I wish I had enjoyed it more. But the memories themselves are something that will definitely stick  forever.

We lived in Connecticut and had the opportunity to travel a lot. We went to Florida, Maine, Hawaii, the Bahamas, Aruba, Cancun, Jamaica, South Africa, Namibia, and Zimbabwe, among others. The two trips that stuck with me most were the Bahamas and Alaska. Come to think of it, there are crazy events that happened on each of these trips – say, in Florida for example, my stepdad was driving, with my sister and I in the backseat, mom in the front. We had been driving all day, and I insisted on passing through Jacksonville on our way to Orlando – because I was a huge Michael Jackson fan. He had nothing to do with Jacksonville except part of the name. Sounds legitimate though, right?!

We couldn’t find a motel no matter how hard we looked. Of course my sister and I didn’t look at all… we were being chauffeured. So when my stepdad pulled over to a convenience store to get something to drink, our natural reaction was “you’re not gonna stop NOW, are you?”. He was not amused – poor guy. His tiredness and frustration surfaced in the subsequent crazy car ride where he drove over the dividing island in the middle of the street and almost crashed into a road sign. Our heads were bobbing in the back from the bumps. The car had never been that silent. Of course at the time, we were a bit panicked, but now it’s hilarious. We found a motel eventually; and I loved its dirtiness, stinkiness, sticky blankets and broken air-conditioning.

The Bahamas were a dream – except that at 12 years old, I had developed a heavy crush on the bellboy who worked the Hyatt hotel in Miami just before we flew out to the island, and I missed him like crazy when we arrived at the Bahamas. Also legitimate, I believe. Plus, the bathroom in our little hut was so dirty, I remember spreading my arms and legs in the door frame and not wanting to enter. It was still one of the best vacations I’ve ever been on: My stepdad and I went snorkeling… you know, bonding. The water wasn’t very clear (not like you see in all the travel photos – I’m not sure what happened there), and we swam out and around a huge rock. We hadn’t even paid any attention to our surroundings or what else could have been swimming with or underneath us. So a couple of hundred meters out, we looked up and saw that we were surrounded by pink little jellyfish. Cute. Picture him staring at me, and me staring back at him, snorkels in mouths, panicking in silence. I don’t think I ever swam that quickly in my entire life ever again. Neither had he.

My stepdad also took mom and myself on a little trip on the island. This was probably the highlight. We had rented a car (this was in the 90’s and I’m not sure how far advanced the cars are there now, but at the time, the car itself already raised an eyebrow and knew it wouldn’t make it too much longer). For our jungle experience, stepdad took a right turn right onto an unpaved road. Deep into the woods. Windows open. The road started going uphill – so much so that we weren’t sure if we would suddenly fall off the other end without a warning.

I quickly had a reason for us to turn back though: It was rain season and the air was so thick and humid, it was almost unbearable… tropics. I felt a hair on my arm and brushed it off without even looking at it. The hair came back though. When I looked again, it had transformed into a black and white spider with a fairly thick body and endless Cindy Crawford legs. Six of them (legs, not spiders- oh G*d). As I keep retelling this story, the spider got bigger over the years. The only sound heard in the jungle that day was a 12 year old screaming her lungs out. My parents showed fantastic spontaneous reactions though: Mom panicked with me. My stepdad took a towel, threw it over the spider (while driving – I’m surprised he didn’t get whiplash), continued driving and threw it out the window. I’m sure there’s a pile of towels somewhere in that little forest in the Bahamas from poor tourists who did not prepare for uninvited animal passengers. Hilarious.

The trip to Alaska was a bit less eventful – it’s Alaska. We went through Seattle where it, big surprise, rained. To this day, mom has to listen to my stepdad and I telling her the story of how she missed the view when we flew over an Alaska mountain range. It was magical how the sun set and created all the colors of the rainbow. More colors and wonderfulness are added every time we describe the scene to her.

I love Alaska – mom wasn’t too fond of it, I think. We went whale watching, exploring glaciers and tried different restaurants, which were neatly tucked into the small streets of Homer. Walls and mountains of snow were everywhere we looked and it was freezing cold. I very much dislike boat rides (I’ve never been motion sick, but I’m always afraid that I may be… there’s a first time for everything. So whenever possible, I try to avoid them.), but we went whale watching, and saw some sea lions jumping out of the water next to us. Or it was the whales and the sea lions were sunbathing lazily in the sun. Yeah I think that sounds about right.

For the night, we wanted to rent a movie (again, in the 90’s, we had those crazy video stores)- the one in Homer had a great stock, but not the movie we wanted (Dances with wolves). So we looked for something similar and I remember my stepdad saying “I think I’ve seen this one” while he held up “The Fog”- one of Jaime Lee Curtis/Scream Queen’s first horror movies. I hadn’t, so why not… Mature choice for a 14-year-old.

Mom fell asleep and did not care to watch it, while my stepdad and I left the light on all night after that movie. I have to tell you, watching The Fog in Alaska definitely adds to the suspense and mystical atmosphere. I’m dying to go back!

In a different hotel, overlooking a lake, I was tired and hungry (which you may call “crappy mood”). While my parents went grocery shopping, I stayed in and consumed all the granola bars I could find. The rest of the trip, that’s what I carried around with me – to this day, I can’t look at a cherry granola bar without thinking of Alaska.

I have a long list of states and countries I’d still want to visit. There is so much to see, and just the experience and excitement of packing your bags, going to the airport, arriving at a hotel (or tent?), and seeing something you’ve never seen before, tasting new foods, trying new restaurants, walking new roads and breathing new air… But it’s not the same if you can’t share it with someone special…

(#My500Words Day)