Kurt enjoying South Beach
Carmen soaking in the rays
Looking south down the beach
11th Street Diner
Bayfront Park - Miami
Carmen on tour boat
03.30.2002 - Day 2
We awake in the late morning and determine that the first course of action is to check out the beach! We can sort of see it from our window – our room is facing south and of course the ocean is to the east – so we don our suits and flip flops and head out for a closer view. We pass right by the hotel swimming pool (who would want chlorine when you could have salt water?) and onto the sand. Our hotel’s beach is distinctive from the other hotel beaches because of the blue umbrellas and lounge chairs. Kurt and I find an empty set near an umbrella and kick back for a relaxing moment in the sun. There is a lot of activity on the beach, but the atmosphere’s not as extravagant as I had anticipated based on the previous night’s experiences. We see a few cruise ships and fishing boats off shore, the Coast Guard helicopter flies by a few times, and several small planes circle overhead sporting air banners. We are entertained by watching several individuals attempting to kite surf, and of course we have to check out the people scattered all over the beach. After a bit we discover, quite to our amazement, the beach appears to have a ‘bottoms-only’ requirement… interesting… very interesting.
Once the heat and humidity become too unbearable, Kurt and I head into the water to splash around a bit. We attempt a bit of body surfing, which soon tires us out. Once again we play the part of beach bums and spend some time drying out on the lounge chairs.
Soon, hunger strikes and our stomachs beckon us to the 11th Street Diner, a 1948 ‘dining car’-style eatery that we originally learned about on Food TV (www.foodtv.com). This chrome building was imported from Wilkes Barre, PA and is designed to remind customers of the days gone by, right down to the food specials and prices. We find a relaxing seat on the patio and watch the swimsuit-clad multitudes parade past as we dine. During the day, South Beach is decidedly more laid back than at night.
After satisfying our culinary desires, Kurt and I head back to the hotel to change out of our swimming suits and cruise over to the mainland for a little shopping adventure. The night before we realized that we were almost completely out of film, so on the trip back to the hotel we stopped by a Walgreen’s. We were vastly disappointed when we saw that they wanted over $8 for one roll of APS film - way too steep! So our next course of action for Saturday afternoon was to fire up our trusty GPS and locate the nearest discount store – a K-Mart a little ways south on the mainland.
On our drive into the city, we pass the Port of Miami and witness the gargantuan cruise ships docked there. The pure size of these ships is just amazing! We also spot an interesting-looking area between downtown and the Port that looks as though it might be worthy of further investigation. Not too much later, we spot a couple of extremely unique buildings. The first is a sizable cube supported only by a smaller inner column. The walls of this cube are composed entirely of stained glass, from floor to roof. Keep in mind this is definitely a lived-in building – it’s large enough to house several inner offices – yet there appears to be no way to get in or out of the building. The second structure is a regular-looking building except that two sides of it are plated in ceramic tile. There are no obvious signs outside these structures, but after a little searching we do learn that the buildings house the North American Bacardi Museum. Too bad it's closed, free samples are always enjoyable.
After locating the K-Mart and purchasing our needed goods, Kurt and I wind our way back to this area – indicated on the map as Bayside Marketplace and Bayfront Park. Upon investigation, we discover that Bayfront Park is the home of several statues by sculptor Isamu Noguchi, including a memorial to the Space Shuttle Challenger astronauts. We follow the action and noise over to Bayside Marketplace, which turns out to be a large collection of restaurants, bars, trendy shops and tourist attractions – all built surrounding the private marina of Biscayne Bay (the body of water between South Beach and Miami). After only a few minutes of traipsing around, Kurt and I know that we could spend the evening here, so we move the RAV4 to a ‘safer’ parking space (one that wasn’t guarded by a meter). We quickly find an intriguing restaurant for dinner (serving Cuban cuisine), a must-do boat ride on a topsail schooner, and a bar serving Rum Runners – a fabulous frozen drink that embodies all I imagine in a tropical drink. After a few drinks, we board the ‘Heritage of Miami II’. Unfortunately, the schooner does not hoist its sails but rather navigates under motor power. Even though that was disappointing, we are impressed with the view of the nighttime city skyline from the water.
Upon returning to dry land, Kurt and I head for the Cuban restaurant to squelch our hunger. As an appetizer, we request an order of yucca – a food new to both of us. Almost unsurprisingly, it doesn’t really have too much of a flavor. In fact, if not for the breading, it would have almost no flavor at all. Kurt orders a meat platter and I order Calamari enchiladas. I have to admit, I am a little surprised when my dish shows up without any tortillas at all. Oh yeah, and both dishes are served with plantains. It appears that yucca and plantains are staples of the Cuban cuisine. In all, the food is very tasty and filling. After a few more drinks, Kurt and I head back to South Beach to call it a night. (To Day 3)