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Trip Report Miami to Fort Lauderdale... great apartment, not so great W Hotel

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I awoke at 4 AM the morning the blizzard named Nemo was predicted to hit New England. Our flight for that Friday evening out of Hartford had already been re-booked by Jet Blue for Saturday (out of White Plains). As I watched the early morning weather update my heart sank knowing that Sunday or even Monday would be our earliest opportunity out of the area - if seats could be found. i did some on-line work and determined that with luck we could rent a car when they opened at 8 AM, rebook a one way out of Philly and with even more luck still make it to South Florida that Friday night (albeit to Fort Meyers on a connection). 5 AM text messages were sent to our traveling friends and Team Intrepid was born. We left Hartford in a one way rental car with air seats reserved just as the snow started, drove through a slushy New Jersey, made it o Philly, made it to Charlotte, re-booked our US Airways connection into Miami and actually were at our rented condo in Miami Beach ahead of the original plan. Jet Blue graciously refunded our outbound flights which had been cancelled and retained our planned return flights (Jet Blue gets high marks). So, for about $100 more per person or week in Florida was saved.

If you want to enjoy Miami Beach and the South Beach experience but don't want to live it 24/7, the South of Fifth neighborhood called "SoFi" is the place to be. We rented a one bedroom condo in a building called "The Fountain". It is a little known, small, well maintained Deco gem. The Fountain is a apartment complex of three low rise buildings built as apartments in the 1920's and fully renovated a few years back. The buildings retain their Deco charm while providing modern amenities you would expect of Hotel. (WiFi, cable etc.). The value is unbeatable in that for far less than the cost of a hotel room we rented a large one bedroom apartment with kitchen, and a living/dining room in which we were comfortably able to host dinner for six. The apartment is clean and fully equipped, to include beach chairs and beach towels! The neighborhood is just that, a neighborhood! Within a block or so are a market, pleasant places to eat and of course the beach (a short 5 min. walk). The on-site management team was very helpful and the recommendations were spot-on. We will return and have already booked for next year! Here's a link to the apartment:

http://www.homeaway.com/vacation-rental/p994620

Best place to eat, Otentic ….. it will transport you to France in a simple dining room (reservations are a must)… and the prices are stunningly low!

http://www.otentic-restaurant.com/menu.html

I'm struggling as I write this portion of the trip report on our few days in Fort Lauderdale this year. Best said, Fort Lauderdale is not for everyone and it is not for us. Let me explain. It appears to be a town reliant on car travel. Neighborhoods are missing in this sprawling landscape that has grown up and away from the beach. Clearly, the residential areas around the waterways filled with resplendent yachts are the place to live. But for the guest staying at a beach front hotel they act more as a barrier in that walking to good restaurants or good shopping just doesn't exist. In fact the Hotels are disconnected from the beach by the Highway A1A. So, to spend over $450/night to stay at the W and to find I have to dodge cars to get to the beach is just unpleasant.

The W Hotel in Fort Lauderdale just 4 years after opening is now "tired". Clearly there is a management problem that was evident on several fronts. Let me provide some examples, shower curtains in the rooms not connected to the tracks, A valet staff that is oblivious to lines of customers waiting for taxis (total lack of process), mini-bars not replenished over a 3 night stay, coffee pots in the rooms not replenished, in-room safe not working (despite 4 phone calls and 3 visits from staff)… tattered and shrunk bathrobes, and public spaces that are "worn"…at best …. bottom line, stay away from this a "low end" W property.

Bright spots - Ok as touristy as it may be, the water taxi is a lot of fun and I encourage anyone to take it. Shopping on Las Olas Blvd. is good and includes mens stores ( a rare treat) and YOLA (You Only LIve Once) is a nice place to dine, the menu does not appear inventive, but the delivered product is…..and the banana cream pie is worth the trip. …. notably the wait staff is amongst the best I have encounters in years. I'll drive up from Miami next year and eat at YOLA (and ask for a table outside away from the bar)!!!

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