Three Trips to Florida in Three Weeks, the debrief

I love Florida!

I love Miami Beach… specifically South Beach or SoBe for short. I like to go every opportunity I get. Last year I got incredibly lucky with some cheap $35 each way flights to Miami International with American Airlines… this year JetBlue had a similar promo flying to Fort Lauderdale in the neighboring Broward County for $39 bux so I jumped on that offer. I booked one two day round trip, followed by another a week later… and then realized that if I book one more flight on JetBlue I’d qualify for the 5,000 point bonus which they award for any 3 round trip flights booked with the airline in the calendar year (I already had 1 JetBlue flight under my belt flying to Oakland, California for the Miatas at Laguna Seca a month earlier).

The Daytona Beach road trip I wrote about a little earlier and the fiasco I got to experience with Hertz and their Black and White VW Beetle’s I was blessed with. It wasn’t a perfect trip because of a few glitches along the way, the most disappointing of them all turned out to be the weather. The seas were especially rough a week or so after Hurricane Matthew blasted through the area.

Miami Beach wasn’t that much better. The first trip was a dud… seas were super rough even when the weather was nice and sunny. I didn’t get a chance to do what I specifically came there to do: swim! Luckily second and final week in SoBe was almost perfect and I swam, and I swam, and I swam.

But there’s only so much swimming one could do in a day so I totally worked the schedule around to optimize my foodie tour opportunities and I didn’t waste any time to enjoy some of the finest cuisine US has to offer… specifically very authentic Latin cuisine from the huge Cuban community in Miami and Little Havana around Calle Ocho. Below are some pix from those visits… and recommendations along with captions:

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I used a different NYC area airport for each one of my trips. Daytona Beach flight arrived at JFK in Jamaica, Queens. The first Ft. Lauderdale flight used LaGuardia in Queens and the final Ft. Laud/Hollywood International flight used Newark Liberty in NJ. Both LaGuardia and Newark departures saw a real traffic jam of flights on departure, we were something like 10th in line to use the runway, so each flight departed about an hour late. Both of the return flights experienced close to an hour delay because of ground holds in Newark. The LaGuardia flight was especially interesting because shortly after leaving South Florida and while I was watching CNN on the JetBlue IFE system, the vice-presidential candidate’s Boeing 737 crashed at LaGuardia… the airport we were flying to. Luckily the only issue was that the plane overshot the runway, so the airport re-opened and we arrived there eventually. For a moment though it was looking pretty hairy… I was wondering where they were going to re-route us to. Upon landing it took the pilot a few attempts to negotiate the landing. I haven’t done an aborted landing before this flight yet.

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Upon arrival in SoBe the red flags were out. And much like in auto racing, red flag means no racing… or in my case no swimming! Boo…

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So on the first trip the alternative was a foodie tour of Calle Ocho in Little Havana… a short bus ride across Miami.

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The cocks are obviously very uniquely cuban “thing” and are running around on the streets pretty freely.

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Sopas at Rey de las Fritas are outstanding!

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And so are the little Cuban Hamburgers with the little fritas sprinkled in… a pretty unique taste and very filling.

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No trip to Calle Ocho could be complete without some Guarapo… or freshly squeezed sugar cane drink. I ordered a whole bucket which was a bit pricey at $7 bucks… but oh so delicious!

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A short drive down 8th Avenue is Brickell Mazda… I got off the bus to check out their ND Miata’s on the lot. While Miami looks amazing in post cards and on TV in shows like CSI Miami, the reality of it is it’s hard to maintain the exotic image, especially with a dark colored car. The mix of dust and recent rain drops made this car look a little neglected…

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Back to the beach…

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and it was still red flagged… so I continued with the foodie tour!

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One of my favorite dishes in South Florida is ceviche… and I got a real nice octopus version on Washington Ave between 2nd and 3rd. It’s a take-out only place next door to a hostel, very tasty!

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Next time give them a try… look up My Ceviche, Miami Beach

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Though I tried to organize a little mini meet with the local Miata community absolutely nothing materialized, which was disappointing especially since this little “Mazdaspeed” gem was parked outside my hostel both weeks I was there.

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So instead I went car spotting along the streets of Miami Beach, and the local PD always had something interesting parked outside their HQ… like this pink CVPI cruiser

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Or this one the next week… Police Car or Taxi?

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Lots of interesting cars driving by also… plenty of Maseratis, Aston Martins, Ferraris, Bentleys and Rolls Royces… the Bugatti was probably one of the few I got to see out in the wild though:

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Funny enough, plenty of exotics are available for rent, even as short as 1 hour period… saw a few beat up Ferraris, Lambos and Rolls’s:

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I went in asking if they had any Mazda Miata’s available, and the answer was NOPE!

So a Mazda Miata is a more rare car in Miami than most exotics!

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For some reason they really love Trump in Florida. kind of surprising!

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For another surprising reason I really drink a lot of Cuban coffee whenever I’m in South Florida… I don’t know what it is, I never drink coffee at home… but whenever I’m in Miami, cafe con leche is a must!

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One of my favorite places to get cafe con leche in Miami Beach is Playa Cafe on Washington Ave between 16th and Espanola Way. The other is Las Olas Cafe on Euclid and 6th Street.

Playa I visited especially frequently, trying many things on their menu:

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Most had some kind of combination of rice and beans as well as beef, pork and chicken. You really can’t go wrong, whether rice or yuca, it’s all finger licking good!

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But after a few days of Cuban I was ready for a change and sampled a few other places… like this Vietnamese on Washington called either Miss Saigon or What the Pho… depending what sign you read. The Pho was outstanding and so were the summer rolls wrapped in a thin condom-like rice pancake and lubricated by peanut sauce… Yum!

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Super delicious!

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More Trumpism!

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A french sandwich place behind a Walgreens on 14th Street was an amazing find. I had a “frenchie” sandwich with french salami and brie and all the fixings and it was a really excellent value. All the green stuff was super fresh, though the baugette was not. I should have come there earlier in the day rather than evening so it was my own fault. I would highly recommend this joint!

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One place that did disappoint me was South Beach Sushi on Washington and 17th. It was basically supermarket sushi quality even when the price was below typical SoBe prices. I was not a fan.

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The night I went for sushi it almost didn’t happen as I got caught out in a bit of a tropical rain storm… I wish I would have missed it!

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But like most rains in South Florida it went as quickly as it came after dumping a whole lot of water on unsuspecting tourists (like me). I waited it out over a coffee at a Mediterranean joint, on second thought I should have ordered a shawarma instead of going for sushi. There’s always next time!