South Beach, Bringing The Heat

Party time in Miami

Around the World Trip – USA (part 4)

I left New Orleans with my Aussie travelling companion Scott, having discovered that he has a strange habit of getting lost when he looks for the toilet in the middle of the night and ending up completely disorientated (when he’s been drinking of course!). In NO I was dead to the world when he jumped on me, thinking it was his bed, scaring the life out of me in the process, before saying “Sorry mate” and returning to his own bed to continue snoring. I was left with heart palpitations…

The trip to Miami was very long – 20 hours to Jacksonville for an overnight stay, then 8 hours to complete the trip. I was glad this was my last experience of Amtrak, fed up with screaming kids, weird people and air con that’s set to Arctic breeze. Jacksonville is the most uninspiring place I’ve seen, mainly due to its sheer size. It a such a sprawl that it covers 841 square miles making it the USA’s largest city in terms of area. There was little for us to do except admire the abandoned buildings and endless fast food outlets along the highway and crash out in our motel.

At the train station the next day we took advantage of the 5am train being 4 hours late and hopped on at the time our own train was actually supposed to turn up (it was 2 1/2 hours late!). The last leg of my train trip seemed to drag on endlessly, so we were glad when we finally arrived in the heat of Miami and booked in to our South Beach hostel. SB is an exclusive area (for that read ‘expensive’!) and there are many Cubans, meaning there are more people smoking cigars than at a Jimmy Saville impersonating contest. There’s also plenty of work for cosmetic surgeons here if you know what I mean. Our first night out gave us the chance to experience the ‘VIP’ culture here. In the line for a club the bouncer told us that we could skip the queue if we took one of the VIP packages – $200 – $4000… but there’s no cover charge (!). Inside the club it was a case of the riff raff (us) peering into cordoned off the VIP area where a dance floor should have been. 5 quid for a drink and nowhere to dance! Bargain!

The first weekend was a public holiday and we were told it was going to be packed, so I was looking forward to it when I went with some people I’d met to the Florida Keys for a day trip. The Keys are tropical islands at the southernmost tip of the US and there are actually massive bridges that link them all together – I’m sure the environmentalists loved that! It took us ages to get there due to bad traffic and even worse directions and when we did arrive we were completely underwhelmed. We drove to the furthest island, Key West. The place stinks due to a seaweed problem (I thought I was back in Rotorua, New Zealand) and the beaches were untidy and small. If sunbathing amongst rotting seaweed that smells like eggs is your thing then head for the Keys! The nightlife is supposed to be good but we didn’t stay past 10pm. It seemed to be like a cleaner, safer version of New Orleans, but still a little tacky, even if the street performers were fairly entertaining.

So it was back to Miami and the realisation that the Memorial Day weekend activities were based around Hip Hop culture, meaning black Americans from the east coast descended en masse to hang around the street all night, hassling women and staring at all the ridiculous cars slowly moving down the street in the night-long traffic jam. It was like being inside a rap video – clothes 5 sizes too big, loud car stereos with bass so strong it rattled the windows of our hotel and women wearing very little (most really should have borrowed the big clothes from their male friends – put it away girl!). There were also teams of police on mountain bikes patrolling the area – they moved faster than any car! I felt completely safe walking around as my white skin seemed to make me invisible in the Hip Hop world. Apparently some of them were trying to ‘pimp a ride’ – what does that mean, is it hitch hiking?

I met a great bunch of people in Miami – one of the reasons I extended my stay (two of them celebrated birthdays), and it was very hot although the earlier sun was slowly replaced by heavy showers as the rainy season approached. On a trip to the Everglades (actually a wide river not a swamp, I learned) we went for a ride on an Air Boat (flat-bottomed boat with jet propeller on the back) and got drenched in a downpour. Quite refreshing actually! We also saw a rather tame wildlife ‘show’. Good to see but won’t go back! Managed to see the exclusive Star Island on the way – where rich people live and where the house from the film Scarface is.

The rest of the time was spent between sunbathing, dodging rain showers and going out (of course!). One local guy we met took us to some exclusive clubs and a resort party that had a bikini modelling show, a band/DJ and we managed to blag free food and drink as well! Result! We all pretended to be rich and enjoyed the hospitality!!

Oh yes… before Scott left for New York he had another night-time ‘incident’. This time he actually left the room whilst trying to find the toilet, locking himself out in the process… wearing Superman-style red Y-fronts! After getting a key from reception he had difficulty with the lock and couldn’t get back in. A big black guy (Vladimir) who hadn’t yet met Scott opened the door to see what was wrong, much to Scott’s confusion. He looked startled and just said “Sorry mate, wrong room” and walked off. Vladimir scratched his head, wondering why a nearly naked Superman was trying to get in the room in the middle of the night and decided to look for him to ask what he was doing. Somehow they missed each other and Scott came stumbling into the room, heading for the toilet, before crashing out on his bed (not mine this time), mumbling “Don’t tell anyone”. Yeah right!! Both myself and Vladimir couldn’t sleep properly after that we were laughing so much!

So I leave the US after having a blast and meeting some cool people, but with some questions still unanswered, such as:

Why do the Yanks call Autumn ‘Fall’, yet they don’t call Spring ‘Grow’?

Why do they shorten cent to ‘penny’?

Why do they call the boot of a car the ‘trunk’? Last time I looked at an elephant the trunk was at the front… Having said that, a boot is worn on a foot. Hmm.

… and all this in a country where you can drive before you can smoke and buy a gun before you can drink booze. But I have loved it here!

So that’s it; I’ll be back this week so anyone who can get to Bournemouth for the weekend it will be great to catch up over a beer or two, just look for me down the Westover Road ‘circuit’ with the boy racers. I’ll be the one pimping a ride…

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