Sunny Isles: Day 3
We woke up and cooked our own breakfast of bacon and eggs and cold-brewed coffee. After we showered and got ready, we set back out to relax at the beach some more. Same as yesterday, we walked through the intense heat to get there. We were not getting used to it. We met a very friendly lady out in the water who seemed to chat with just about anyone who was there. We watched a boat full of young ladies who we surmised were celebrating a bachelorette party just off shore. After a couple hours of sun and sand and hanging out in the water, we donned our clothes and went to catch a city bus toward South Beach again.
We decided a better plan this day was to head to the closest bus stop, which was just outside the park entrance. We rode down to the 60s-streets and hopped off. There were a bunch of restaurants nearby, so we only wandered for 5 or 10 minutes before we picked one that looked appealing. We went into Masa Taqueria and ordered a plate of tacos and a drink each. The drinks were cool and refreshing, and the tacos were really good! I got pulled pork with pineapple. Mandy got tacos carnitas.
With our bellies full, we crossed a few blocks to Oriana Tattoo to see if they could take a couple walk-ins. They squeezed us in! Mandy got a tiny paper airplane and I got a palm tree. We are very pleased with the work we got done. And the shop was very clean!
After tattoos, we hobbled to Las Vegas 6 because the sign said they had Cuban cuisine. Mandy got empanadas and I got another Cuban sandwich. It wasn’t quite as good as the one I got the day before, but it wasn’t bad. We also shared some sangria, which was good. After we settled our bill, we continued back north towards our place for the night, although we knew we wouldn’t walk the whole way. The weather was much more tolerable in the evening, so it was a good time for a stroll. We walked along the area between the beach and the boardwalk, and we were surprised to find a lot of large parties ongoing. It seemed like most of them were graduation parties, or maybe just large family gatherings. It looked like a really cool spot to have a get-together. We discussed how that would totally not be allowed near home.
We continued until we were so sick of walking that we had to find a bus. As we exited the park area, we cut through a feral cat sanctuary area, which was interesting. It looks like the cats are watered and fed, but fenced off so they have a place they can hang out unimpeded by humans. The fence of course is coarse enough that the cats can pass freely through it. It took way too long for the bus to finally come pick us up. We were relieved when it finally came. We just needed to get back to our space and plop on a comfy seat and relax. When we hopped off the bus, we had just a short 5 minute walk up the road to our place. We were pleased to pass by a live concert of classic rock covers. When we got up to our room, we stepped onto the balcony with a couple adult beverages and we had an unobstructed view of the stage, and the music was clear to hear. It was a lovely night for a show, so we relaxed in the chairs on the balcony until we were ready to sleep.
Sunny Isles: Day 4
We woke up slowly and made breakfast. This was our last morning in the sunshine state so we got our things all packed up and did a sweep of the apartment. Everything was in order so we hailed an uber and got a ride to the airport. The flight home was uneventful and we arrived in the late afternoon. We quickly found our vehicle in the parking lot and headed home to pick up Loki and unpack after another enjoyable vacation.
Sunny Isles: Day 2
We took our time in the morning and woke up slowly. After showers we decided that we should start the day with coffee, obviously. We looked up coffee shops in the area and found one near the grocery store. We started walking and were immediately feeling the intense heat of the day. It was about a ten minute walk until we stepped into the Art Cafe. We each ordered a breakfast sandwich and a chocolate croissant. Rob got an iced coffee and I ordered an iced mocha. Everything was delicious and left us satisfied. We stopped at Winn-Dixie on our way back to the apartment and picked up bacon, eggs, coffee, and trail mix for the next couple of days. We planned to cook breakfast the remainder of the vacation but buy lunch and dinner while we were out exploring. The walk back to the apartment was quick in the hot sun. The air conditioning was a welcome reprieve as we dropped off the groceries before setting back out.
Before we left again, we put on plenty of sunscreen and packed towels and a few other items. We opted to walk to the beach, because it was pretty close. We were about halfway when we began to regret that decision. We felt like we were melting into the pavement it was so hot! We were used to the constant breeze in Aruba, which was non-existent in Sunny Isles. So although the temperature was approximately the same, we just couldn't stay cool.
Finally at the beach at Haulover Park, we found a spot to set down our belongings and all of our clothes, and went straight into the water. Though the water was warm, it was bliss. We paddled around and just generally enjoyed the relaxation of floating around with nothing at all to do all day. After a while, we decided to take back to the sand, and work on getting rid of some tan lines. We lasted a whole 15 minutes, at best, before we had to get back in the water. The heat was just so intense! The tide had gone out a bit since our arrival, and we saw a few other people far out from the shore, clearly standing. So we made our way out to the "Swim Area" marker, just because. We could walk most of the way there, about 100ft from the shoreline. We loved the beautiful sandy bottom and the crystal clear-blue waters here.
After getting out and back in the water another round, we finally decided to check out some more of the area. We made our way to the showers to wash off the salt and sand, and put our clothes back on. Then we walked down the sidewalk through the park, southbound. We stole into the shade whenever we could find it. Eventually, we made it to a large parking lot that had a bus stop, and we agreed it would be much better to take a ride. Our pace was quite slow on foot. Plus, the bus had air conditioning. Bonus! We got on just in time, because it started to rain pretty heavy once the bus started rolling towards South Beach. So lucky.
We rode the bus down to about the 20-streets by the time it stopped raining. We hopped off and checked out what was nearby to satisfy our newly-developed hunger. At 16th Street, we found the Liquor Lounge, which had seats outside, but under a roof, which was exactly what we were in the mood for. In case more rains came, we'd be covered, but we got to people-watch. We ordered a round of drinks and a pizza to split. I got a mojito. My favorite! There was a two-for-one on Long Island Iced Tea, so I got one, then another. They hit the spot, and then some. The pizza was better than we'd hoped for, so that was a nice surprise, too!
After lunch, we wandered around a bit, just looking at all the sights and fancy cars. Bentleys and Rolls-Royces became mundane, there were so many of them around. Eventually, we hailed a ride through Uber to take us to the mainland for our next meal. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to us before we began this leg of the journey, there was construction on the bridge. This caused a huge amount of traffic. So we were averaging about a city block per 10 minutes or so. Our driver spoke only very limited English, so I tried my best to communicate with him in Spanish, but I'm a little rusty. So we couldn't say much. But he was very friendly, and he tried his best. Eventually, we broke through to the other side of the bridg. From there, it was smooth sailing into the heart of Little Havana.
He dropped us off and we said our thanks. We walked around a couple blocks trying to find a good spot to grab a seat for some food. We found El Pub Restaurant and grabbed a table under the awning on the sidewalk. A few minutes later, we noticed some extremely dark clouds rolling in fast. The skies opened up again and dumped so much rain. It was a really impressive storm, and it brought a very welcome cooling effect. We watched from the shelter of the restaurant while we sipped sangria and patiently waited our much anticipated Cubano sandwiches. This was the main event of the trip, in a way. When we saw that return flights from Aruba to Boston had a layover in Miami, we decided to do an extended layover so we could get Cubans.
The Cubano sandwiches were tasty but not quite as delicious as we anticipated. They were pretty good, but didn't blow my head off. The ingredients were great but the bread that was used could have been better. We enjoyed our meal while watching the intense rain storm. We were happy that we chose one of the tables further undercover as we had contemplated sitting right next to the sidewalk. Once we were finished eating we waited for a break in the rain storm to continue walking down Calle Ocho and explore more of Little Havana. We stumbled upon La Colada that specializes in Cuban coffees. I ordered a capablanca. I ordered a tres leches. Our coffees each came with little cookie. I highly recommend checking out this coffee shop if you are in the area. Everything was so delicious and the owners were very friendly and chatty.
After our coffees we began walking again towards the heart of Miami. We didn't really have a destination in mind but were just planning to see where our feet took us. It was still drizzling outside but eventually the rain started to pick up a bit. At this point we decided to call it a day and get an Uber to take us home. We relaxed for a bit on our balcony until the coffee buzz wore off and we drifted off to sleep.
Sunny Isles: Day 1
Today is a travel day. But it’s a pretty relaxed one, so very low stress. We woke up and made breakfast. Mandy made it, not we. Credit where it’s due. We packed up all our stuff pretty slowly, and went over to the grocery store on foot. We wanted to pick up a couple things for snacks at the airport and on the plane. We’d been told to arrive to the airport 3 hours early because we would go through customs twice. This was a little unorthodox, but it’s because U.S. Customs and Border Protection has an office in the airport on Aruba. So you “leave” Aruba and “enter” the United States all inside the same building, before you fly across the Gulf of Mexico. The line was not long at all, and we moved through much quicker than the 3 hours we planned for. So we had plenty of time to chill in the airport before takeoff. We saw some of our party in the airport, and a few of them were even on our flight. We said our “his” and “byes”, and eventually made our way through the gate onto the airplane.
Once we got situated on the craft, we heard the occasional baby noise, and didn’t think much of it. Once we were up in the air and climbing, the noises became more frequent. They were emanating from the seat immediately behind us. At cruising altitude, we listened to nearly incessant screaming for the entire remainder of the flight to Fort Lauderdale. I’m pretty sure this is the least enjoyable flight I’ve ever been on. Someone probably told the parents at some point that having children would be ‘fun”. They were pretty nonchalant about the whole situation. Not that there was anything to be done about it, but they expressed no discomfort whatsoever. In fact, they chuckled at the thought of how many people around them were probably annoyed at their hellspawn’s antics. When the plane finally landed, we couldn’t run up the jetway fast enough. We booked it all the way outside the airport, ecstatic to be in the stifling heat, sweating almost immediately. What a relief!
We caught an Uber to our new temporary home in Sunny Isles, Florida. The ride was nothing noteworthy, and we arrived to our place around 6pm. We checked in and turned the air conditioning down. Or is it up? We never know. What do you call it when you make the setpoint colder? We dumped our bags and hit the street on foot. We found a restaurant online yesterday that we were excited to check out. It was right across the street, so it was pretty easy to get to, although Google Maps was trying to take us some roundabout way. We found a footbridge over the highway that Google apparently doesn’t know about, and that saved us about half of the distance.
We got to Chayhana Oasis in about 10 minutes, walking. We opted to sit outside on the sidewalk, since the weather was perfect. We chatted with our super friendly waitress about different types of Georgian wines they had, and she picked us out a bottle of sweet red that we could not read. But we could taste it! And it was quite good. We ordered some Uzbeki bread and one pumpkin samsa and one beef samsa. They’re sort of like empanadas, but not quite. We’d never had them before, but they were fantastic. The beef was so tender that we had to have more of it. So we ordered a beef kebab. And we figured we should have one with chicken too, just because. They were served with pickled onion and a sweet sauce. We also ordered a plate of pilaf which is cooked with lamb. When the food came, we feasted. It was the best meal we’d had on the trip yet! The chicken kebab uses thigh meat, so it’s naturally tender. The beef was even better than what was in the samsa! And the pilaf was awesome, too! We even enjoyed the pickled onion! We probably ate a tad too much, but we couldn’t help it. We people-watched a bit, and wondered if we were perhaps a bit early. As we were cashing out to leave, around 9pm, there were still people arriving to dinner. We walked a bit of the food off, but not nearly enough. We relaxed in our place for a little while before we crashed.
Aruba: Day 3
Today we woke up with no alarms. I’d had the foresight to cold brew some coffee yesterday, so I poured it through the drip machine and we had iced coffee. Then, I made us bacon and scrambled eggs for breakfast. We ate and cleaned up, and got ourselves ready to head out. Our camera strap had broken the previous day so we set out to find a new one. We biked downtown and stopped along the way at The Coffee Table. There’s always room for more coffee. I got a regular iced coffee and I got a vanilla latte. They were both really good. We sat a while in the café, just relaxing with not much to do. Eventually, we cashed out and continued downtown towards the cruise ports. There was a ship docked today. We’re always in awe at the sheer size of those behemoths.
We wandered through the outdoor shopping mall until we found a couple electronics stores. We found three different strap options. The first one neither of us really liked and we already have it back at home, so we passed. The second one was just like the one we broke, and we prefer this style. But it was way too expensive at $70. Also the piece that we broke is still stuck in the camera, so we would need to remove that first but we don’t have pliers. Thanks TSA. The third one was only $10 but we weren’t convinced that it would be sturdy enough for our camera. So we decided to purchase nothing and just carry the camera by hand or in our bag. We also decided we should head back to our room and apply more sunblock. It was just in time too. The downtown area was quickly becoming overrun with cruisers.
Once back at the AirBnB we slathered on sunscreen, packed a small bag and hopped on the bikes and pedaled over to the beach. We met with our people and hung out in the water for a while.
Since all of the cool kids seemed to be doing it, I opted to go for a ride with 5 other people on a tube thing, towed behind a boat around the beach area. It was more like a couch than a tube. It was pretty fun, but easy to stay on, so I dragged my feet in the water for kicks. We hit a wave, and my leg plunged a lot deeper into the water. The sudden increase in drag sucked me off the tube and I had to get picked up. I got hassled a little bit. When I did it again, everyone else was annoyed, so I behaved after that. After, we all hung out in the water a while longer until we were feeling inclined towards dinner.
We showered off the salt and redressed ourselves. We regrouped at the hotel shortly thereafter, and shared a cab toward California Lighthouse. We’d heard there were good sunset photo opportunities here, as it’s situated on the western point of the island. Unfortunately, even though we had arrived before sunset, the sun had already disappeared behind some distant clouds, so what we got wasn’t as good as we had hoped. Oh well, we had dinner reservations at Faro Blanco anyway, so it wasn’t a total waste! We were seated outside and we enjoyed the lovely live music. I ordered tortellinis with chicken in a wine sauce. The name was wicked Italian, I forget what it was actually called. I got the fusilli. The pasta wasn’t quite up to the new standards we set when we went to Italy, but it was good, and the rest was great. After dinner, we caught a cab back home, and we pretty much crashed immediately. We were exhausted, probably from being in the sun all day.
Aruba: Day 2
This time, our alarm worked! Not that it mattered as much, since we had plenty of time this day. We were able to get up and get showered and dressed at a much more leisurely pace than yesterday. Once we were ready to go, we headed back to the hotel to meet with a fairly large party of about 25 people. It mostly consisted of friends of James and Braden and their parents and siblings. Once we were all grouped together, which was no small feat, we were shuttled in three trips to a marina a few miles up the coast. The group was then herded onto a replica pirate ship, and we set sail on the open sea!
We were to be on board for about 4 hours (I had a thought we might have a similar fate as Gilligan, but then I remembered that he set off for a 3 hour tour), making a few stops to swim, snorkel, and eat lunch. The friendly captain introduced the crew and explained the rules as we cruised out from the dock. The bar was opened shortly, and music began playing. The fun was immediate and shared by all. After cruising for about a half hour, the captain parked in some fairly shallow waters. Many of the guests donned flippers, snorkels, and goggles to explore the area around the water. We got in the water straight away and swam around. The water was excellent and there were tons of beautiful fish, though the winds and current were fairly strong. It took a bit of effort to stay near the boat. After a time, our captain Tito honked a great big horn, signaling everyone to climb back on board so he could take us somewhere else.
The next stop was at the Atilla shipwreck. Tito explained the history that caused the ship to end up on the sea floor. He explained the best method of viewing the wreckage which was to swim up-current away from the ship we were on, and then to let the current drag us back as we looked over the ship. Mandy stayed onboard, while I donned all the necessary gear and hopped into the water. I began viewing the shipwreck almost immediately, but I did as Tito suggested and swam away from his ship until the wreckage disappeared into the murky depths. It seemed that most of the other snorkelers did not heed this advice, and I felt rather isolated so far from the boat. Looking down into the ocean gave me a mild feeling of thalassophobia, so I kicked a little harder for a couple minutes to get a little closer to the ship. The wreckage was closer to the surface here anyways, and thus easier to view. Some people were swimming through parts of the shipwreck, so I took a deep breath and plunged downward. As I approached the historic steel, I felt the immense pressure in my ears and was barely able to touch the tip of it before I had to swim back up. It was not extremely painful, but I did not want to risk injury and I have no real training on how to dive properly. I gained a deep respect, and maybe a mild jealousy for those who were able to swim through the old ship. I did not want to push my luck. I continued to look over the ship from the surface, and thought about what it might have been like, back when it could still float. I eventually made my way back to the boat and rejoined our group to relay what I saw down there.
Soon, we were back underway toward our third and final stop. Here, we were moored in much shallower waters, probably about 15-20 feet deep. One of the crew setup a rope swing off the bow of the ship, and soon a line formed for those who wanted to enter the water in a more fun way. I waited patiently until I was told it was fine to enter the water. I just jumped off the side of the boat from atop the ladder to climb back on. I got to be the first one in the water, and watched as people began swinging in from the front of the ship. After grabbing some pictures from the water, and realizing how difficult it was proving to be to both tread water and snap pictures, I climbed back on and joined the line for the rope swing. My first attempt was probably the closest I got to completing a backflip off the rope. I had a blast trying time and again, though! Even when I landed flat on my back, which stung like heck. While Rob was off playing in the water I jumped in myself for a short swim and then spent the remainder of the time on board enjoying the open bar and capturing all of the rope swing jumps on photograph.
It seemed we’d be parked here a while, so I grabbed some flippers again and a snorkel, and I cruised around viewing the aquatic life. I heard reports that there was a lot more to see closer to shore, so I headed over there. There was a tiny alleyway between some boulders and the coast, so I paddled through there. It was a little unnerving how the tide was tossing me around; I thought I might get smashed into one of the jagged rock on either side of me. The fish didn’t seem too worried about it, though, so I surmised I would be fine. After I saw all there was to see, I headed back towards the boat. Along the way, I tried my best to pick up some trash I saw on the ocean floor. Unfortunately, I was only able to collect three hair ties. I grabbed what looked like a goggles strap, but it slipped out of my hand as I was resurfacing, and then it disappeared. I saw an empty beer can, but when I dove to grab it, I breathed at the wrong time. I resurfaced to try again, and then it was gone. Oh well, I did my best.
When I got back on board, lunch was served. There was grilled chicken, grouper, rice, and veggies. It was all tasty, and although it was a light meal, it was just what we needed. We did a little bit more swimming before the TOOT TOOT to get back onboard. Tito skillfully navigated us back to port, where we disembarked and thanked our whole crew. We caught a shuttle back to the hotel with everyone, then we went back to our own place just down the street. We unloaded and unwound a bit, until we were ready to head back out again.
This time, we just went a couple blocks to the grocery store. We picked up some dinner items, including a bottle of wine, and some stuff for breakfast tomorrow morning, and some snacks. In the grocery store, we had found some stroopwaffles, which we wanted, but we only wanted one each and the smallest package contained ten. We figured we could share the remainder with James and Braden and their friends. So we hopped on the bikes provided by our host, and we pedaled the few minutes to their hotel. We didn’t really have a good system of communicating, so we just parked the bikes at one end, and started walking towards the other end of the resort. We had almost reached the far end when we found everyone near one of the pools. We distributed stroopwaffles to anyone who wanted one, and we got our one each. There was one left, so I had two. Then we said, “See ya later!” and rode back to our place.
We got back and assessed the kitchen, then began preparing dinner. We sliced and spiced some brussels sprouts, and got the necessary utensils out. We put the wine on ice and brought everything out onto the shared patio area, next to the pool. Mandy set to work manning the grill, and I read the newspaper and sipped some white wine. It was super relaxing and the dinner came out amazing. After we cleaned up, we brought the remainder of the wine with us as we slipped into the pool. Our host, Rik, joined us for a few minutes. He was super friendly, and just wanted to check in with us and make sure we were content and had no issues. We informed him that everything was perfect, and we had no complaints. He left us, and we worked our way through the rest of the bottle of wine. When we were feeling a little water-logged, we went to our room to rinse off and head to bed.
Aruba: Day 1
We had each set our alarms for 3am. At 4am I woke with a start. I told Mandy we had to get up immediately. Our bus was to leave in a half hour, and was about a ten minute drive from our house. We scrambled through final preparations while we tried to understand how we got into this situation and how we should get back on schedule. Once our brains reached about half-power, we reasoned the best plan was to skip the bus and drive straight to the airport. It would be more expensive, but we didn't want to to forfeit the whole trip.
We hit the road and worked on some coffee. Eventually, we were fully-functional. Traffic was light, though somewhat heavier than expected. We passed our missed bus on our way. We parked and caught a bus to our terminal. The security line stretched most of the way around the lobby, across the front of the building in the way of the ticket counters. Yikes! We joined the end of the line and waited patiently. Fortunately, the line moved rather quickly, and we got through security with no issues. We left shoes on this time. We made our long way to our gate which was at one extreme of the terminal. Mandy was curious where all the people were that we'd be sharing our flight with. Good question! We double-checked the screen which showed us we were at the wrong gate. The correct one was at the opposite extreme of the terminal. We hustled, and we made it.
The rest of the journey was fairly uneventful. We boarded the plane for our direct flight to Aruba, and we sat patiently for four and a half hours until we landed. We got out of the airport and immediately found our ride waiting for us. Kelly was appointed by our host, Rik, in his absence, to pick us up and bring us to our temporary new home in Oranjestad. Kelly was super informative and very friendly. She showed us all the things we might need or want to do during our stay.
We dropped our bags and decompressed for a few minutes. Then, we set out towards Santos cafe. We met some people along the way who opted to join us for coffees. Once there, we ordered a round of iced coffees that were all delicious, and much needed to boost our energy levels.
After we were recharged a bit, we made our way to the beach. Along our way, we stopped at a bar. At the bar, we met several more people. After a round of drinks, we made it out onto the white sandy shore, and finally into the warm turquoise water. It was fantastic! We allowed ourselves to relax completely and drift with the motion of the tide.
When we were good and ready, we got out of the water. We showered and changed and made our way to Gaucho's steakhouse for dinner. Apparently there is a law in Aruba that taxis can't have more than 5 patrons riding with them at a time. But our driver was gracious enough to allow us all to go with him. We arrived at the restaurant and were promptly seated. I got a surf and turf with fried plantains, sautéed broccoli and rice. Mandy got petit tenderloin steak with sautéed broccoli, French fries, and onions. We both got sangrias. Everything was delicious. We had so much that there was no room for dessert for us, but James and Braden found room and continued to eat as the dining room was serenaded by a man with an acoustic guitar playing some classics. After dinner, we decided it would be a good idea to walk back rather than take a cab. It saved us a few bucks and helped to digest the massive amount of delicious food we’d all just consumed.
Along the way, we heard what sounded like a huge marching band practicing. We could tell they were nearby, but we couldn’t see them. The echoes of their drumming followed us all the way to the hotel, where we picked up some of our belongings before heading to our AirBnB just down the road. The band were still banging their drums, and the sounds increased as we got closer to home. As we approached our street, we saw the band in a vacant parking lot. There were fewer than ten members, which surprised us, just because it sounded like so much noise. They were pretty good, though, and we enjoyed the music as we walked. It seemed like they were packing up, which was perfect, because we were exhausted from a long day of travel, and we were hoping they wouldn’t keep us awake. When we got to our spot, we crashed very shortly after setting our alarm clock for 7:30am.
"It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to."
- Bilbo Baggins
We're just an adventure-loving couple with a puppy looking to share our stories with the world.