Tuesday, December 9, 2008

What To Do In Miami When It's Cold.

And thus the European Adventure begins! And what better place than in a city that feels so international as to cause one to wonder if she is still in the US when walking its streets? Miami. Jon and I made the trek down to Neverneverland on Monday in order to brave the great bureaucratic process known as “Applying for a Visa.” We thought we were in for a great deal of heartache and hair pulling, and thus had put this part of our preparations off for as long as possible. But, seeing as how the entire year abroad thing hinges on this one particular detail, we really needed to go. So we did.

Monday, Dec 1. The drive down was uneventful (other than almost dying, twice, on I-95). Thanks to our trusty Garmin GPS device (we like the Australian accented computer voice lady), we were able to find the French consulate quite easily. Because of my infinite, almost OCD desires, I felt this was necessary to do. I didn’t want Jon wandering around downtown Miami the next morning when he was supposed to be waiting in line for his visa. Upon spying the HUGE tower in which resides the consulate, we went to the hotel, threw our stuff down, and headed over to South Beach.

What a dream of pastel and neon is Ocean Drive! I loved all of the Art Deco buildings, and it really is fantastic the way the city planners (or whoever is in charge of this sort of thing) are holding true to the original feel of the place when renovating and restoring. We walked along the beach side of the street and then stopped at a hotel called The Tides for a pre-dinner cocktail. Let me just say that two glasses of bubbly and 5 ham croquettes should never cost 50 dollars. But they did. At least the people watching was stellar: complete with two members of the Wu-Tang Crew (Jon says I’m crazy, but I swear they were rap stars, or at least they thought they were), a very old man and his much younger lady friend (we’re talking George Burns old), and a young couple in bikini and swim shorts. It was no warmer than 60 degrees out. Perhaps they were from up north.

The first night in Miami culminated in a trip over to Coral Gables to sample the wares at Ortanique on the Mile, a restaurant we’d seen featured on the very cool show, “After Hours,” on the Mojo Network: http://www.cindyhutsoncuisine.com/dsp_miami_main.cfm. The menu claims to be “an eclectic fusion of different nations and their natural bounties.” While the interior was beautiful, the service was mediocre and the food was so heavily spiced one lost track of its natural flavors. All in all, a bit of a disappointment.

Tuesday, Dec 2. And so we arrived at “Go Time.” Jon got up at 7 am, dressed well, took his fully appointed briefcase (The almost-OCD struck again: I made sure everything the French government could ever want to know about him was included in the contents of his visa application folder, down to when he learned to pee-pee in the potty and who his favorite action hero is. We’re dealing with the people who invented bureaucracy here! ) and walked himself down to the Consulate. He was there at 8:30 am. We had heard in our research of this whole visa process that the lines could be quite long. Jon got there before the employees did! There were no lines. There was no wait (other than the initial, wow there’s no one here yet, wait). There were no questions asked of my husband other than, “How would you like to pay?” It could not have gone more smoothly. He was out by 9 am and told to come back the next day after 2:30 pm to pick up his visa. Voila! Now the fun began… how to kill time in Miami Beach when it’s cold out. Hmmmmm.

So we did what any self-respecting young scamps do when there’s not enough sun for bathing, we went drinking! We drove down to the Lincoln shopping area (a real mall in the European sense, as in- strolling territory with outside shops, cafes, fountains, etc.), wandered around a bit, stopped at a café or two (or four) and had some cocktails. We also saw the movie “Australia”- we had HOURS to kill.

Around dinner we wandered back down to South Beach. It was COLD. Cold for Miami, cold for Florida, whatever. People were walking around in fur coats, for God’s sake! I think that was a little extreme, but I did see the necessity of purchasing a jaunty hat at Anthropologie to keep my noggin warm. Hat on head and husband in hand, we stopped at this place called News Café for a drink. All of a sudden, our lovely people-watching reverie (we sat at a table right on the sidewalk of Ocean Ave) was interrupted by loud music coming from the street next door. A woman was singing jazz standards with the help of a huge band. People were sipping champagne all around us. What the hell was going on? A street party! The 20th anniversary of this joint and they were celebrating with a party complete with live entertainment, fireworks, and free champagne all night long! The luck!!!! Needless to say, the sipping turned into swilling from all parties involved as the night wore on. I saw men stealing bottles of pink bubbly from underneath the service tables. I saw two drag queens: one who was at least 6’5” and another who was quite chunky with a huge blond beehive wig and looked a lot like Martin Sheen. I saw vagrants break-dancing. It was a veritable feast for the eyes. It was a hell of a good time. I dubbed it an auspicious start to our year of adventures.

Wednesday, Dec 3. Nursing champagne headaches, we decided to get some real food and drove over to Little Havana to Versailles Café, apparently a famous Cuban restaurant (although why they chose a name that hearkens to French fare is beyond me). Delicious!!!!! We wanted to order everything on the menu. But, we decided to be reasonable and settled for Navy Bean Soup and Cuban sandwiches. Oh, and the sampler appetizer with croquettes, fried yucca, plantains, and something else I couldn’t pronounce but that tasted incredible. Bellies full, we managed to wander over to the café where I had to buy guava pastries. I’m a sucker for guava anything. If I lived near this place, it would be a problem. Trust me.

It was time to pick up the visa, which we did. Then time to head on home, which we did as well. All in all, we had a great trip. The complete lack of any sort of nonsense or imposition of Donovan Law (think Murphy’s Law, only catered specifically to those of the Donovan Clan. Seriously. Ask my brother.), I think, bodes well for our entire year. Hopefully the adventure gods will continue to shine upon us as we continue down this path. Ole!


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