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Greyhound (and Amtrak): My Ticket to Semitropical Splendour! Montreal-Miami/Key West Trip brings me a new appreciation for Florida. (Along the way, a great Virginia state park!)

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Greyhound (and Amtrak): My Ticket to Semitropical Splendour! Montreal-Miami/Key West Trip brings me a new appreciation for Florida. (Along the way, a great Virginia state park!)

Old Jan 7th, 2008, 07:01 AM
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Greyhound (and Amtrak): My Ticket to Semitropical Splendour! Montreal-Miami/Key West Trip brings me a new appreciation for Florida. (Along the way, a great Virginia state park!)

This trip I must admit was pieced together a bit accidentally. The first part of the plan remained the same... bus to NYC, train to DC (where I spent several days with my parents), then continue by train to Miami. And from there, catch a ferry to Bimini... unfortunately in the last few months the Bimini ferry went under, so I had to come up with an alternative plan.

For a number of years now, I had been turned off the idea of vacationing in Florida because I remembered visiting my grandparents and my memories of the state were of a giant sprawl of strip malls and concrete retirement communities around Lake Worth and Cocoa Beach. Plus I knew that much of Florida was only settled in the 1900s, so generally lacked the historic element of a destination I usually look for. The Florida beaches I imagined being horribly overcrowded during this period, the only week I could travel, right around New Year's, as it seemed to me that everybody and their sister goes to Florida in winter (which I also thought would make things outrageously expensive). So, long and short is that Florida had long been *off* my list of vacation destinations, as I opined that I would get neither history, culture nor a getaway by going there.

When the Bahamas idea fell through, I had already booked my train ticket from DC to Miami, so I needed to come up with an alternate plan. Unlike a lot of Florida, Key West I'd read was a walkable and bikeable community (I don't like the responsibility of renting a car on vacation); I'd been mildly curious about the town, so I thought let's catch the Greyhound bus from Miami to Key West and see what that community's all about.

My first trip to both Miami (other than Miami Airport) and Key West, my opinion of Florida has now rocketed upward, having now added to the Floridian equation the sights and sounds that these two had to offer.

Details to come...

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Old Jan 7th, 2008, 08:35 AM
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checking in....
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Old Jan 7th, 2008, 10:53 AM
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**Southward bound**

It was truly unbelievable to go from many centimetres of deep, powdery snow that covered all but the handlebars of a bicycle on the sidewalk out front in Montreal to only slushy snow in Albany, NY to absolutely no white coating south of NYC.

Although the DC area was mostly about visiting my parents and brother's family, a highlight was the one day we went out Route 66 westward and drove out about an hour west of suburban Virginia to spend an afternoon in Sky Meadows State Park. Unlike the endlessly developed Northern Virginia from whence we came, this park evoked a Virginia that has visually likely changed little from the time when Abner Settle and his family built his home and shed (both still there). This little-visited state park I found so beautiful in its simplicity of rolling meadows in all directions, the village of Paris nestled into one of the valleys and only birds (it's a known habitat for red-headed woodpeckers and bluebirds) and the occasional hiker for company.

**Train DC-Miami**

It was dark as the Silver Meteor train #97 pulled southward out of Washington DC around 7:30pm, as I pointed out the lit-up Jefferson Memorial and Masonic Lodge in Alexandria to some sociable snowbird Indianans that dined with me who booked a neighbouring sleeper car. When I opened my eyes after a good night's sleep, I was pretty pleased to discover that the train was already almost in northern Florida, a state (other than Miami airport) in which I had not set foot in over 17 years!

Well, not only was it a thrill having come from bicycle-height snow in Montreal to set foot on the platform in Jacksonville, Fla. in only a T-shirt, I was also quickly struck by and in awe of the abundance of life in the form of wild, overgrown vegetation that was ushered in seemingly upon crossing the border into Florida. Even though I had a good page-turning novel, I found that my eyes could nevertheless not help but be riveted to the window admiring the palms and palmettos, as well as the vines creeping up the spines of yellow pine trees as Spanish moss draped down from branches in the landscape outside. Such was the seeming lushness, I honestly could have imagined a dinosaur eating its way through the foliage of northern Florida.

Every time I looked out the window, it seemed I beheld a river or lake, with sometimes rickety-looking wooden docks and simple single storey homes. Near Sebring and Winter Haven, I enjoyed observing mile after mile of neatly tended orange groves on sandy soil where the bright orange fruit graced the branches kind of like an overdecorated Christmas tree. I found it curious that some plants were covered by a black mesh awning; the Indianan snowbirds explained that it was to protect some crops from the sun. A sign advertising "Catfish & Gator Tail" between Sebring and West Palm Beach in front of a roadside diner were a jarring reminder that this wasn't Kansas our train was passing through! Perhaps these views seem rather banal to regular Florida visitors, but to me coming from a wintry clime, it was all quite fascinating.

The time was 4pm when the train curved in to the shoreline, leaving the wild interior behind and entering the highly developed sun playgrounds of South Florida, where palm trees seemingly sprouted out of the roofs of the high rise hotels and speedboats spewed jets of water behind them in the rivers near Lake Worth. I don't think I'd ever seen so many yachts in my life as those docked in Fort Lauderdale's intracoastal waterways.

We arrived in Miami, shockingly about 10 minutes before the expected arrival time! $30 cab (a number of cabs were waiting) and 15 minutes later (why this train station is not more centrally located is beyond me!) and I arrive at my hotel in downtown Miami.

**My first ever visits to Miami and Key West to come!**
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Old Jan 7th, 2008, 12:25 PM
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What a nice trip report...and did you ever head south, all the way from Montreal! Look forward to reading more!
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Old Jan 7th, 2008, 12:31 PM
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" . . . I'm goin' where the sun keeps shining
Thru' the pouring rain,
Going where the weather suits my clothes . . . "
 
Old Jan 7th, 2008, 12:47 PM
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Harry Nilsson! Love Ya.
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Old Jan 7th, 2008, 12:59 PM
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I'm glad you changed your mind about Florida as being a historic and cultural vacuum. Do they not teach anymore that St. Augustine is the oldest city in the US? Cedar Key as a fort during the Civil War, the Seminole nation and the rich cuban history of Tampa are just a few of the historic developments/periods of Florida.

Hope to hear more from your tour!
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Old Jan 7th, 2008, 02:02 PM
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Daniel, your report, as always, is a fascinating one. Please continue!
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Old Jan 7th, 2008, 02:19 PM
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great report!!

Layla
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Old Jan 7th, 2008, 02:22 PM
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A brilliant start! Thanks!
 
Old Jan 8th, 2008, 09:47 AM
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**MIAMI DOWNTOWN**

I had been told by many (even on this site!) that *it would be a vacation from hell* if I did not rent a car visiting Miami given the sprawl of the city, that public transit was abysmal with the train useless to visitors, and that the only way that I could possibly enjoy myself without renting a car was to stay in South Beach. Well, I NEVER rent cars on vacation so I ignored ALL the above advice… thinking, how bad can it be?

I chose to stay in downtown Miami for two reasons 1) the Greyhound bus to Key West departed from close to downtown and 2) it was a whole lot less expensive than South Beach (especially around New Year’s!) at $60/night budget hotel I stayed. Sure, at the Miami Sun Hotel, I could hear my neighbour’s conversation as if they were in the same room (luckily the Brazilian fellow stopped talking before 9pm), the elevator was dysfunctional and the rooms were run-down, but for that price, I’m not complaining!

At first I was wondering if I really were crazy to stay downtown, as the stores seemed gated and deserted around 7pm when I arrived, with only a few solitary souls criss-crossing the streets (who, in one’s paranoia, especially when visiting an unknown city, one imagines are plotting all sorts of nefarious criminal deeds against unsuspecting travelers). Despite these concerns, it was suppertime and I was hungry, so I asked the front desk woman (who I found out later was an owner) where to go (I told her I was on foot) and she bubbly told me that there’d be lots open at Bayside Marketplace, only 3 blocks away. So, I “bravely” set out through the mostly quiet streets; one thing that’s a bit unsettling at night in downtown Miami different from other cities I’ve visited in the USA is that periodically one hears a loud whistling as if to get your attention (reminiscent of how a construction worker might compliment an attractive lady). My overactive imagination thought this whistling might mean “dumb visitor walking on NE 2nd St. Get him before he gets to Biscayne Blvd.!”.

Anyhow, unharmed and feeling a touch silly about my paranoia, I arrive at Bayside Marketplace. Although in some ways reminiscent of a Baltimore Inner Harbor-like shopping mall in look with food court and Hard Rock Café on the Bay of Biscayne, I’m quickly charmed by the overall ambience and realize this is NOT just another Inner Harbor. The colouring and physical features of the crowd made me quickly realize the overwhelming predominance of people of Latin American and Caribbean descent in the crowds that surrounded me; a swift reminder of Miami’s uniqueness in the USA. That Florida, despite ONLY being connected by land to Georgia and Alabama, is truly a “border” state adjacent to Cuba and Bahamas, with Miami truly feeling like the gateway from the USA to the southern portion of the Americas.

From the loudly squawking parrots to middle-aged couples dancing to salsa music emanating from the bandstand to a man dancing with an auburn-wigged mannequin, there was a fun energy in the air. Couples and families sat on the wall sticking their feet on the rocks next to the Bay of Biscayne, admiring the occasional yacht festooned with a web of lights and the dim purple colour tastefully lighting up the pillars of the Port Blvd. Bridge and the lit-up skyscrapers of downtown Miami as backdrop (the white light snowflakes scattered around the sides of the Bank of America building was a charming touch). The scene reminded me of the pictures I’ve seen of friends and families socializing at the wall at the Malecon overlooking the Florida Strait not so far away in Havana, Cuba.

The following morning, after a Starbuck’s muffin, I enjoyed a stroll over to Bayfront Park enjoying the palms and 80 degree heat of the grassy park (with some tasteful modern art) that overlooks the Bay of Biscayne. After a near-waterfront walk over to the distinctive Freedom Tower, I return to my hotel (there’s a lovely Spanish-style church by the way kitty-corner to the Miami Sun) to check out and catch my 12:15 bus to Key West.

Luggage rolling behind me, I walk over to 1st St. Metromover stop and grab the FREE monorail that usefully takes me up to 11th St. Metromover stop, with views of the city from a higher vantage point. From there, I walk through the vagrant-popular unkempt Overtown neighbourhood about 4 blocks to get to the downtown Greyhound station. While again I’m wondering what a bright idea this was, the homeless and mendiants were actually very helpful, they somehow knew where I was going and said, “oh, you’re going to Greyhound… it’s 2 blocks down and on your left!”

By the way, unlike some Greyhound buses, there truly is no need to arrive way in advance to catch the Downtown Miami-Key West bus since it originates in downtown and very few people get on at this location (it fills up more at Miami West). Even though I’d arrived far too early, a friendly Cuban-American security agent at the Greyhound station helped pass the time, chatting at length with me in Spanish; it was beyond me how he seemed to think I was from a Spanish-speaking country despite my pale complexion and what I consider only “functional” Spanish. Coming from another largely bilingual city Montréal, it’s fascinating to me how a number of Spanish-speaking Miamians (including this guy who was bilingual to some extent) seemed to enjoy me communicating in Spanish with them, despite my limitations and professing being strongest in French and English. Usually Montrealers do the reverse; as soon as someone even intonates a few words in a way that gives them away as a non-francophone, Montrealers will switch to English. Anyhow I appreciated this and other hispanophone Miamians’ attitude, as I’ll never get better in Spanish without practice.

As the bus pulled out of Overtown, I was thinking how underrated Miami is, a truly unique slice of America with character. I was almost surprised at the extent to which I appreciated the city as I tend to find the more sprawly US cities lacking in character. While I can’t deny that Miami is pretty spread-out, I found the Downtown Miami (combined with South Beach on the way back) area quite do-able and enjoyable even without a car, with enough amenities and attractions within walking distance to keep me fed and happy.

**Trip to Key West. Day in South Beach on Return Trip to come**
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Old Jan 8th, 2008, 11:15 AM
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enjoying your report ! Esp the train / bus travel and descriptions of what you see - my son is currently on an Amtrak/bus travel from the east to the west coast via northern US and returning through Canada rail .....
can't wait to learn what he is seeing too -

looking forward to more !
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Old Jan 9th, 2008, 10:49 AM
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**Greyhound Busline: Your Ticket to Stunning Turquoise Waters!**

I think this would be a great slogan for the much scorned busline (perhaps for their All-America Passes), and funny enough, not false advertising (of course you have to get to Miami first LOL)! And indeed, after the bus pressed past the seemingly endless clay-tiled roofs of southern Miami and went through a swampy looking area of US Rte. 1 approaching the tip of southern Florida whose main visible inhabitant seemed to be ibis, the road connecting the Keys had to be the most beautiful seaviewing stretch of highway I’ve been on in the north American continent.

The seven-mile-bridge over the sea was a real highlight, with pedestrians, cyclists and fishermen all enjoying an adjacent bridge to Route 1. The turquoise water below with the islands surrounding were bringing great contentment, especially when a Chinese college-age passenger behind me starting pointing animatedly and speaking quickly to her dozy-eyed female travel companion. Her friend was too slow, but I was lucky enough to have also glimpsed the large turtle flapping its flippers gracefully in the waters below and said “you saw the turtle?” and she smiled and said “tur..tle…yes”, and we had a brief bond through a shared moment. Wildlife was a real treat during the journey south, seeing a white ibis pecking at grass and my first brown pelican seemingly clumsily swooping down for a landing (haltingly as if it did not know how to apply the brakes). Mangroves were also a sight I was unaccustomed to, periodically visible with their twiggy, multiple-parabola roots, with usually a shorebird searching about in the waters.

**Key West**

At around 6:00pm (there were significant delays due to construction getting down to Key Largo), the bus arrived in Key West. The Greyhound bus station is out at the airport and I was a bit surprised to see no taxis anywhere. I was starting to get concerned until I saw a Red Line Key West public transit bus that happened to pull in; I asked if it were going downtown and luck in my favour, one downtown stop was 3 blocks from my B&B. (Plus the ride was only $1, significant savings compared to a taxi!)

The approximately 100-year-old Angelina Guest House, formerly a brothel, amusingly had names of women on each of the doors and a fishnet-stocking leg lamp with a lampshade as creative touches in honour to the home’s past. Continental breakfast was laid out each morning and the heated pool was lovely, shaded by palm trees. Ideal also was the central location, a few blocks from Duval St. and Hemingway House and immediately adjacent to Bahama Village.

To my eyes, Key West is like nowhere else I’ve been in the USA. The Victorian and Edwardian wooden shuttered and galleried “Bahamian-style” homes with bougainvillea and palm trees, the sense of fiesta and quirky openness on Duval Street, the above-ground tombs of Key West Cemetery… all served to remind me most if anywhere of New Orleans. On closer inspection, though, New Orleans and Key West at best seem like distant cousins. Key West has removed Old South and replaced it with a Cuban-American aspect in its equation. Rather than the wrought iron Italianate galleries and streetlamps that remind one of the elegance and grandeur of New Orleans’ past, Key West has in its place roosters and hens roaming the periodically unsidewalked streets with their jerky head movements, a reminder of Key West’s cockfighting, flyblown and away-from-it-all past. In place of the jazz and live oaks of New Orleans, Key West has its island-ness, lighthouse, shorebirds, fish and clear-blue waters.

My first morning (and each morning), I was both annoyingly yet simultaneously charmingly awoken by several strident cockle-doodle-doos (a truly terrible word to describe that sound… the English language truly could have done much better… maybe “bawkawkawkawkackawwwwwwwr”) from my chicken neighbours. The goal that morning was to work my way from guest house to beach, which I did passing Hemingway House, the Lighthouse, the barrel by “Southernmost Point” and an untold number of bougainvillea, charming shuttered/quirkily painted homes and handpainted convenience shops, roosters, hens and one white egret. Higgs Beach was my first taste of Key West peace and contentment, placing my feet in the turquoise water as I admired my bird companions: the sandwich tern, with its black hair with black beak & glossy cream beak tip, Forster’s tern with its orange and black beak, black & white plumage & invisible eyes, several variety of gull, and the much larger majestic brown pelican. All birds, which at 36 years old, I had never seen before. In the water, I admired the motion of translucent sand-dollars (?) and jellyfish compressing, dilating, compressing, dilating…

I rented a bike for 24 hours for a reasonable $12 at Paradise Rental. Like many Key Westers and visitors, since Key West is only 2 miles by 4 miles, the bicycle is an ideal way to explore the town. My first day (and second day for exercise), I did one of the most beautiful bike-rides I’ve ever done in my life, pedaling along the southern shore of Key West, past Higgs Beach and the more billowy-sanded Smather’s Beach, past the salt ponds, airport and near-airport resorts and all the way to where I could see Stock Island and the houseboats moored in between. How beautiful that water was, dotted periodically with islands and appreciative shorebirds sunning themselves on logs and cement perches jutting up from the piers in the Florida Strait.

My second day bike ride included the above but also a jaunt out to Fort Zachary Taylor Beach ($1.50 entrance), where picnic tables shaded by pines sat immediately adjacent to the beautifully greenish-blue water and sandy beach, with the pentagonal, moated Civil War fort remnants directly behind. Snorkeling seemed possible here in the clear water; even just standing in the surf, I could see the minnows darting in concentrated shoals not far from my ankles.

Duval Street and Mallory Square I found I was generally happy to be away from, finding the area a little tacky for my taste and far too often, the snippets of conversation I’d hear from the throngs descending en masse from the tourist ships were a little too whiny, self-important and obnoxious (sometimes unnecessarily rude to those in the service industry) than I cared for. However, I did see one sunset in the Gulf of Mexico (although on New Year’s Eve, it was hard to find a decent angle for the photo, it was so crowded) from Mallory Square; one guy amazed me in Mallory Square, getting house cats to jump through circles of fire… amazing since I could barely get my cat to jump on my lap with a tap-tap-tap on my knee. And New Year’s Eve, I did step out onto Duval Street and did enjoy watching drag queens hurl beads and offer shooters to the expectant audiences, and did find it amusing watching the party girls with their high-heel shoes and cocktail dresses smilingly trying to ride the mechanical bucking bronco.

Day 2, I biked over to the Hemingway House, where I learned a bit of the life history of the famed writer and saw the polydactyl cat descendants of his precious feline Snowball. I could not help but feeling wrong about participating in the house visit, thinking that here we were, not even 50 years since the man departed the earth, viewing his intimate writing quarters and intruding on his private space. Having read a bit about his cantankerous character, I somehow think he would not have been particularly amused by all this tourist circus. From there I biked over to see the sometimes amusing epitaphs on the above ground tombs at Key West Cemetery, as well as the monument inside dedicated to the sailors who died in the USS Maine in the explosion that triggered the Spanish-American War.

That last day, sadly, my plan of either snorkeling or biking was dashed. Snorkeling was out since the temperature had dropped from 82F to 60 & windy. So, I thought, fine, I’ll bike. But walking to the bike rack, I did a double-take as I saw BOTH bike and lock were gone… stolen. The $12/day deal ended up costing me $200. I tried not to let the weather and bike stolen sour my mood too much, so I visited by foot Heritage House, owned by a prominent Key West household, and where Robert Frost had rented a cottage in the back and Tennessee Williams used to drop by (what’s with great American writers and Key West?). A lovely window-shuttered home with orchids in the garden, dating from the mid-1800s. It was fascinating to learn that even in the 1930s and 40s, that water was collected as rainwater in cisterns and they just hoped it would last all winter… it was only later that the pipelines arrived from mainland Florida.

Visiting Heritage House, as with certain other places in Key West, even though this was my first trip, I could not help but feel a bit of nostalgia, a sense of loss. How incredible it must seem for Key Westers from the 1930s, to think of their town once seemingly so far removed from the north American mainland that they had to collect rainwater… had now become a land of pricey real estate or a stop for hordes of visitors seeking sun and fun via cruise ships and airplane. Maybe not the escape it once was, but the Bahamian-style conch houses, the bicyclists moseying up the bougainvillea-lined side streets and the roosters still make Key West unlike anywhere in North America I’ve seen. All in all, a terrific eye-opening trip.

**my first trip to South Beach to come**
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Old Jan 9th, 2008, 12:06 PM
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Thank you kealalani, Layla, and AnnMarie for enjoying! Layla, I know that you did a road trip from Montreal to Florida, which I hope was equally enjoyable!

cmcfong, bardo1, Escargot for checking in. You almost seem like old friends, as I remember you reading a number of my previous trip reports. Escargot, that train ride east-west across the northern US is one I've been wanting to do for some time now...and I hope your son enjoys the Canadian portion as much as I did!

Nolefan1...Seminole nation, Ste. Augustine and geologic history aside, Florida's continuous history seems for the most part still to me quite young compared to places in Europe, Africa, Asia and even parts of Latin America (US Civil War even seems moderately "recent" as some of my grandparents' grandparents were alive at the time). But recent history can be interesting too and I'm a bit more fuzzy than I should be on details of St. Augustine (pre-Googling, I had some recollection of it being destroyed by the British and later abandoned by the Spanish; something about Ponce de Leon and Fountain of Youth maybe too (?)). Thanks for your thoughts!
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Old Jan 9th, 2008, 12:07 PM
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What a pleasant contrast to those subject lines that leave everyone wondering exactly what the post is about.
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Old Jan 9th, 2008, 03:28 PM
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**South Beach**

Back in downtown Miami from the Keys around 1:30pm, I quickly return to my hotel, so I can gather myself together adequately so that I can see South Beach for the first time ever in my 36 years on this Earth. At approximately 3pm and I’m waiting on SE 1st St. for the bus… I’m told that three bus lines connect downtown Miami to South Beach, the S, the C and the K. In 5-8 minutes with only a $1.50 spent, I’m on the C bus and off to South Beach… maybe I’ve gotten lucky but public transit does not seem all as bad in Miami as some people made it out to be.

20 minutes later after a handsome bus ride across the handsome blue-green Bay of Biscayne and I’m stepping off the bus at Washington and 5th St. in South Beach. The art deco architecture definitely gives South Beach a certain cachet, but for me, it was walking over past Ocean Drive to the wide, soft sandy beaches, watching the waves of turquoise water gently crashing that is the highlight. In some ways I’m glad for the ominous dark clouds and 60 degree F temperatures, as it offers a certain serenity of landscape that I would imagine is not there when the weather is gorgeous and beachgoers leave few square inches of sand to admire.

Danceable Latin music generates from the chi-chi art-deco waterfront restaurants on Ocean Drive. I stroll and observe what seems a playground for the wealthy, where many patrons appear to be wearing the latest designer clothes; judging by the accents I hear, a sizeable moneyed contingent from New York City, Europe and Latin America seems to have chosen South Beach as their vacation spot. I amble over to Washington Ave. around 9th Ave. and walk northward, appreciative of the aesthetic efforts of the architects and planners of the pedestrian-friendly Española Way (Historic Spanish Village) with its mock pastel-painted Spanish colonial charm and the palm rows and fountains on luxurious Lincoln Road pedestrian mall as impeccably-clad trendsetters amble by communicating on some latest technological gadget. I feel somewhat out-of-place as someone couldn’t tell one fashion designer from the next, but find the whole ambience fascinating nevertheless.

Suppertime encroaches, and I’m glad to find a terrific down-to-earth hole-in-the-wall Nicaraguan restaurant, El Flamingo on Washington Ave. near 14th Street. I’m delighted to order in Spanish, see orange juice freshly-squeezed before my eyes and eat a Cuban sandwich at a barstool. Remarkably perfectly at home in South Beach, it’s cool to see an easy-going, friendly joint and the pretentiousness of nearby establishments amicably coexisting. $1.50 and a K bus later, and I’m back downtown.

Anyhow, this whole Florida trip was a real treat. While certain places (Duval St. at times, Mallory Square New Year’s Eve) in Florida felt overcrowded, my initial concerns about going to Florida in winter were unfounded as I was able to find plenty of peaceful spots to appreciate water and semitropical foliage. Both Miami (South Beach AND Downtown) and Key West have a unique character that has further enhanced my understanding of the mosaic that makes up the USA (and how vastly things can differ from one part to another). Feliz año Florida and thanks to all who helped me plan this vacation on this site!

**FIN**
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Old Jan 9th, 2008, 04:20 PM
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Well your trip report is a real treat! I so enjoyed reading it. It's been years since I was last in Key West, your accounts there really took me back. I hope experiences such as seeing the sea turtle made up for the louse who stole your rental bike, how unfortunate. Thank you for this wonderful report!
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Old Jan 9th, 2008, 04:34 PM
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Daniel Love your post. From start to finish. I give you a shout out. I would never take a greyhound from Detroit to Key West. I'm to hyper and could never sit that long in one place. But the way you did it I truly had the experience through you.

Thanks, Theresa in Detroit
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Old Jan 9th, 2008, 05:40 PM
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Thanks Daniel for one of the best trip reports I've read. Your ability to find and vividly depict the beauty and unique qualities in your surroundings is astounding!

I especially appreciate your observations about downtown Miami. Presently its right at the very beginnings of transitioning to a vibrant 24 -7 neighborhood. I'm sure you noticed all the construction. Although, right now, we are in a real estate downturn, those huge 60 and 70 story buildings will not remain empty. Eventually they will fill with people that will bring more urbane street life.

I had just returned from an early dinner and stroll around South Beach when I read this report. Its around 76 F and slightly breezy, with few clouds; a gorgeous night. I enjoy the pulsating cosmopolitan vibe. In the span of walking one block on Lincoln Road I discerned at least 9 different languages! I love this place. I'm glad you got a taste of what I'm lucky to experience every day down here.
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Old Jan 10th, 2008, 06:34 AM
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Thanks for reading Theresa, AnnMarie, SoBchBud.

Ann Marie--Indeed, the bike getting stolen (one of these beach cruisers that you push backward to brake; I'd locked it through back tire & frame; in part, I was amazed a thief would not pick a nicer one) put an annoyed feeling in the pit of my stomach that I had trouble shaking off that day. However, now that the initial sting is over, I accept that bad things happen; my thoughts today (the sea turtle, shorebirds, blue water and many other things) remain incredibly positive on the Keys and I feel lucky and privileged to have been able to have such experiences.

Theresa--Myself, too, I think only under dire necessity could I have endured Montreal-Key West entirely by bus. Sleeper car on a train, I do quite well though because I actually sleep a good night (8 hours!) lying horizontally on the bed and time passes nicely chatting in the dining car (I had delightful dining companions, people I'd never meet otherwise).

SoBchBud1-- I really didn't believe I'd like Miami half as much as I did. I look forward to returning and making Miami (and possibly Fort Lauderdale) the entire focus of a trip! I can see why you love living in South Beach.
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