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08 June 2011

Sampling South Florida

Day 15: Saturday, 4 June 2011
After all the chaos of the past few days, it felt good to be settled in to a place. Benjamin could host us through the weekend until Monday morning, so at least for a few days, Ueli and I didn't have to worry about where we'd stay. Ben's an active guy, and he goes for a run every morning (5K on weekdays, 10K on weekends). If I had my shoes with me, I might have joined him (but my shoes were left in the other car in Miami Beach.

Ben drove us around in his dark green Mini Cooper. It was barely big enough to fit the three of us and our bags. We went to downtown Miami and walked around, seeing the area around the bayfront and art and history museums. We stopped by the gift shot at the AA Arena, definitely not buying any Heat gear, and the we walked south and took a ride on the Metromover, which is a short loop around downtown that is just like a people mover at the airport. Downtown Miami is nice but empty on a Saturday. It was also too hot and humid for many people to be walking around.

Ben then drove us to Little Havana, the old Cuban neighborhood which is now mostly populated by various Central and South American communities. We stopped to eat at El Rey de las Fritas, a cheap restaurant/cafe that specializes in Frittas, a Cuban type of hamburger covered with shoestring fries. I had one, and it was definitely unique but too salty and lacking in any real, fresh flavor for me to really recommend it. The food was so cheap that I also ordered 2 croquettes and an empanada for us to share, but Ben and Ueli didn't have any room in their stomachs, so I took on the challenge of finishing all the food, which was greasy and mostly just bread.

After Little Havana, we drove to Key Biscayne, which is just over a short $1.50 tolled causeway from Miami. We stopped at a beach just along the causeway to lay and soak up some sun. The beach was nice, the water was warm and shallow, you could walk out 50 feet into the water and still be only ankle-deep (it looked like people were walking on the water). There were families and young people throwing around footballs and letting their dogs roam free into the water. Ben lay down to tan, and the group next to him was loud, drunk and rowdy (in my book that means free entertainment). Ueli and I went for another long walk on the beach, and we crossed the highway, because Ueli wanted to see the other side and because I wanted to see the big boat dry dock, which was they place they went to on the last (finale) episode of The Amazing Race. The only problem was that we were barefoot and the pavement was so hot that it felt like walking on a hot grill. And there were gravel portions and sharp grass that really cut into my feet and made the walk extremely painful. I was dashing (awkwardly, of course!) from shady spot to shady spot. Having climbed in presumably much more extreme conditions barefoot, Ueli thought that the pavement was just "a little hot."

We walked back to Ben, who was still in the sun but not much browner. We packed up, dusted off the sand and drove around Key Biscayne. The state park cost like $8 just to drive into, so we instead drove around the neighborhoods on the key, choosing houses for ourselves to live on. There was no place near the water to get a drink, so we just drove back into the city and to Ben's condo.

The sun was going down as we got ready to go out for the evening. We had two options: An art show in South Beach or a free concert in Hollywood (yes, there is an actual city of Hollywood in Florida). I chose the concert, which turned out to be an En Vogue concert outdoors in a big traffic circle. We came a little late, but we still made it in time to catch all of their big hits. The show was really nice - it wasn't too crowded, and everyone was out there kicking back with a blanket and a drink and their partner. We met Ben's CS friends - Rob (from Ohio) and Monica (from Argentina) - and the Aussie, Glenn, staying with Monica. We went out to a nearby bar called Whiskey Tango, which had a vie cover band performing, and had a very good crowd, casual but still ready for a good night out. There were plenty of dolled-up middle-age women, and I couldn't help but smile as I thought that I really was in Cougar Town!

We kept the drinks flowing, Rob being generous enough to buy everyone a couple rounds. Ueli had wanted to drink a lot so we kept them coming to him. Time came to say good-bye, and so we peaced out. Ben drove us back to the apartment and he quickly fell asleep. I had to help Ueli out a bit, because all those drinks had apparently caught up with him, but it wasn't long before we passed out.

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