Fort Lauderdale / Miami September 2011

Posted by tom on September 09, 2011

Got a lie in today as I worked 4 x 10s instead of the usual 4 x 9s & 1 x 4 for the week. Our flight to Miami was at 1:30pm and our car for the otherside was booked. We finished off packing our stuff up and headed to the airport, dropping off Trees' rental car in the process. From the rental drop off we got on the shuttle to the terminal to catch our flight from Houston to Miami.

The flight was only 2 hours 30 long, so a nice short hop. The ride was a bit bumpy due to us crossing over tropical storm Lee, but nothing really too bad. We arrived in Miami on time, got off the plane, straight to the shuttle and picked up our rental. We had booked ourselves a convertable for the weekend, just as a bit of fun more than anything. We were hoping for a Mustang Convertable or something, but all they had were Chryslers. A bit of a disapointment in a way, but once Tree put her foot down in it all the "disappointment" disappeared. The weather was warm and humid and it seemed like they had had a bit of rain prior to our arrival, and judging by the sky, we thought more was imminent, so we decided it was a good idea to put the roof up. Our beloved SAT NAV, decided that no matter what, it wanted us to go on the toll road. Normally this isn't a problem, but the toll roads in Florida do not accept cash, and at any rate, we didn't have any cash with us :o) always a clever move!!! So with Tree driving and me on map, we soon got around everything and onto the freeway toward Ft. Lauderdale. On our way there we decided to take a pre-planned pit stop in Seminole, Hollywood, FL, to visit the Hard Rock Cafe & Casino. As always, we must visit the hard rocks. Also it was a good op for us to eat as they can cater for my Gluten Free Diet!

We had a walk around the area, where there was a band stand in the middle, with a rock band playing live on it - I thought it was a good idea, and loads of restaurants, bars etc in the area. Really nice place to walk around, and definately worth a day. We ventured into the casino and into the shop - spent copius amounts of money on Merch as always (and this was only the shop for the hotel / casino). We then had some food in the cafe and then went into the Cafe shop, where I had a free shop as I had racked up that many points on my card - get in there. Tree had a Hurricane in the HRC, so it was over to me to drive from Seminole to our hotel (Hilton Beach Resort) in Ft. Lauderdale.

We pulled up at the hotel, unloaded the boot, checked in and went to our room, leaving the car in the capable hands of the concierge. We were absolutely blown away by our Junior Suite. It was huge. We had our bedroom, a living room, complete with kitchette, bathroom with walk in shower and jacuzzi and a balcony which if you looked to the right you had a stunning view of the beach, if you looked left a stunning view of the city.

We called it a reasonably early night, having spent sometime looking at the view as it was already dark.

Saturday morning came along, so we had breakfast on the balcony, then went for a walk to a Gluten Free Shop in the nearby (1.5 miles walk) Galleria (as instructed by Tree). When we got there however we discovered that she had made a terrible mistake and it was infact a restaurant that catered for Gluten Free that she had found in the Galleria, so we walked back to our hotel. Luckily it was only 90F and 95% Humidity - so we got nice and sweaty in the process. We decided to go and actually find the G.F Shop that was supposidly nearby. So we got our car back and headed over to Davis - again we had no luck, as the shop that Tree had located had seemingly vanished, and we never did find it, so we went down the road to Plantation to a Whole Foods to grab some snacks. Nothing like venturing all the way to Florida to go to another bloody Whole Foods - but needs must. From there we went to Chilis for something to eat, and then back to our hotel.

Once back at the hotel we went for a walk down to the hotel I stayed in 20 years ago, the Bahia Mar to have a look around. To be fair nothing here looked familiar, then on our way the Heavens' opened and there was a down pour - this I do remember from my previous times in Florida. We quickly took shelter in the Ritz Carlton and watched everyone run off the beach. We were sat under cover for 15 - 20 minutes until the rain stopped. While we were there we did watch a group of guys, quite possibly on a stag / bachelor weekend, ride it all out in the sea - I guess if your wet, what difference does the rain make??

Once the rain stopped we carried on our journey to the Bahia Mar. On the way lightning started flashing and thunder started rumbling - typical of the weather here, but we carried on regardless. We heard the announcement on the beach that "there is an electrical storm approaching, please evacuate the beach and take cover!" Which is a fair enough warning. The electrical storm didn't last too long and we got to the Bahia Mar safe and sound. We had a quick look around and ventured to the swimming pool in which my mum taught me how to swim in all those years ago. Afterwards we walked back up the beach front and to our hotel room to chill before heading down to our hotel restaurant to enjoy some food and a bottle of wine. The food was excellent and they easily catered for my dietry needs. No problem at all. It was then back up to the room and to sleep.

Sunday we planned to get up at 8:30am and we did so. We were going out on an airboat gator safari and then onto Rock N' Roll Ribs (the restaurant owned by Nicko from Maiden). We got out and about on time, having had another balcony breakfast and headed to Sawgrass Reservation. We got onto our airboat, which is as we wanted, (i.e. uncovered) and blasted around the swamp. Our journey there was nice and tidy, I drove and we had the roof down on the car. Always wanted to experience it, so we blasted it up the highway at 70mph (as that is the speed limit and I am a good boy). It was about a 30 / 35 minute drive from the hotel to the reserve. On our way to the boat I decided i would take a short cut accross a grassed area and was nearly attacked by a peacock, who obviously thought I was invading its space. We were then called to get onto our boat and off we set in the hope of seeing at least 1 Gator. As Gators are nocturnal we didn't hold too much hope of seeing any, but shortly into the trip the captain found one and it came up quite close to the boat - that was really cool! But that was the only one we saw. We trekked around for a bit longer, to no avail except for a friendly bird who pirched on the front of the boat and came along for a bit of a rifde. Apparently he follows the captain on his travels most days. After we got off the boat we went and held a baby aligator, which was a really cool experience. We then saw an aligator come up to where the panthers were housed, but as soon as the panther jumped down it was off, can't say I blame it too much. After a couple of pictures of Tree posing in the car we headed off to Coral Springs and to R n R Ribs.

Tree drove this leg of the trip so that she could experience driving with the roof down. Once we got to R n R Ribs, we parked the car across the front and I hopped into the drivers seat for my posing pictures. What better place to do that for me?? We then headed inside into a cavern of Maiden Memorabilia - much like the late Eddies Bar in Portugal - but not quite as rammed. Loads of discs etc and of course an Eddie. Also a couple of the cats from the Powerslave stage set, it was really cool. Unfortunately Nicko was not around, but that was not a big suprise to me having had a big party there the day before - which I made sure we avoided. Otherwise I wouldn't have been able to snoop around the place properly. After a couple of hours / drinks we bought some merch and headed off. We were pretty sure they would be able to cater for Gluten Free, but we didn't take the chance on it - no point in risking these things, so we played the safety card and headed to the outback. After our food we got into the car and started deciding on where to go, West Palm Beach or Biscayne Bay. In the end we opted for neither as they were too far out of the way and we both fancied a lie down.

We set off, fortunately this time we decided to keep the roof down, as the heavens opened and a lovely thunderstorm again and the rain poured. As usua,l enough so you cannot see where you are going, but it only lasted 5 minutes and we were all good again. We got back to the hotel, had a lie down and a nap and then ventured down onto the beach for a walk. We had noticed that there were sections of the beach cordoned off, and we had an instinct that this was to do with turtles nesting on the beach - and we were correct. Whilst on the beach we decided that it would be rude not to have a paddle in the ocean, so we did, then went back to our room, sat out on the balcony and then went to sleep.

We got up fairly early on Monday as we were flying out that evening and wanted to go to a few places on the way back to the airport. Our first port of call was Seminole again, as we wanted to carry on exploring the area around by the Hard Rock as it looked quite exciting at night time. When we got there though we were left disappointed by the lack of things in the area - it was dead, so we decided to get back in the car and carry on our way to our next destination of Miami, and South Beach. It took us a good while to find it, but we did get there. We parked up and ventured to the beach. On the way both of us were busting for the toilet, so to the public bogs it was. I have to say that they were, without doubt, the most disgusting toilets on the planet, never seen anything like it in my life - it more sanitary not to wash your hands after going than it was to wash them - REVOLTING - and yet this place is known for being an absolute gem! Oh well, only first impressions I guess. We walked along the beach for a while and had another paddle in the ocean before heading back up to walk around the area. The people here are extremely arrogant and rude to be honest about it. Maybe it is a good place to go clubbing (and other things), but, I certainly am not in any rush to go back there. Ft Lauderdale, YES, South Beach Area, Miami, NO.

We then ventured to the Hard Rock Cafe in Miami. This was situated in a lovely area down by the port. Extremely nice and would definitely go back here. We bought our merch. and headed upstairs into the restaurant for some food. The service here again was done with a great deal of arrogance, and they really didn't give a sh1t to be fair about it. Neither of us were impressed. After that it was time to head to the airport, drop the car off and say goodbye to Florida for the time being. We will be back some day, maybe soon, maybe not, depends where we fancy going next for a trip! Mexico? San Francisco? Who knows........

Tom & Tree