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Our plans for Miami were simple. We expected to be tired and need time to relax and recuperate. For this reason, we were staying in the middle of South Beach, the popular beach area, so we could experience that easily. Otherwise, we just planned to go to Little Havana. Unfortunately, it turned out that aiming for this was too high.
WARNING: There is a fair bit of whinging in this post. If you don’t want to hear it, you may be better off scrolling to the end to the practial information.
Miami hasn’t been nearly as much fun as we had hoped. It has been marred by drama. Primarily the fact that my laptop is broken, but also some dramas with our accommodation that have just sucked the little bit of energy we have as we adapt to big time zone changes and recover from long flights.
We arrived in Miami on Wednesday for our three night stop, half an hour ahead of schedule. It is typical that we were early on a day when we were staying in an Airbnb holiday rental, as we had a set check in time. We took our time at the airport, ate some dinner and then caught the local bus to our accommodation. All easy to do although the bus stop had moved since last time I was at the terminal and it is now a long walk and then a train ride.
Our first impression of Miami was that it felt more like Latin America than the US, and that impression stayed true for us. We certainly heard a lot more spanish than english.
It was dark by this time, and we arrived at our apartment building half an hour early to stand outside in the dark. Thankfully, we weren’t there long before a nice person in the building let us into an entry way. Extra good as the weather was bad. Very windy and it looked like it might resume raining any moment. An hour later we were still waiting. Josh ended up leaving us twice to ring them on a payphone before he got through just as we were about to give up. They had some crap excuse which was basically that we were wrong and said they would be there in a few minutes. Half an hour later someone arrived.
We were so happy when we saw the apartment, that the wait seemed worth it. Over the next couple of days, we changed our mind about that. In fact, we changed our mind just a little bit later when we wanted to go to sleep and discovered the lounge room lights did not switch off! It is a small apartment with glass doors so the whole place was lit up. We all struggled to sleep. Jet lag is certainly not helped by lit rooms! We tried to ring the owners but no response.
It was a long night. Z screamed from about 11 – 1:30am, then S work up half an hour later and was awake for hours. Fun times.
Before the light incident, J managed to break my laptop.
This sounds incredibly sad and pathetic, but outside my family, the laptop is my life. As an online student and someone who is trying to build a successful blog, I rely on my laptop completely. I was devastated.
After a big fight where we blamed each other, J got to work on trying to fix it (he works in IT, as I also did a lifetime ago). He was up late but with no luck. He couldn’t even get any data off. His conclusion was that I needed a new hard drive and that my existing one would have to be sent off for data recovery.
The next morning, he worked on finding someone to fix it and then set off in a cab that ended up costing $80. He was gone all day but had no luck getting anywhere. Frustratingly, the person he had arranged to see who had even emailed him the address to go to, gave an incorrect address among other dramas! That evening, we finally had some luck and J found a place near us that could get my data and fix it.
Unfortunately, the store shut while he was talking to them, so they said he would have to come back the next day to drop it off! It would take 2-3 business days so we wouldn’t have it in time for our cruise and would have to drive back down here and get it before starting our road trip. An observation we are making about the US so far this trip is that they seem to like fixed rules with no exceptions. It can be quite frustrating.
I spent our first full day in Miami with the kids. S wanted to see the beach so off we went!
It is not that easy exploring places without J with two little kids and no pram. I carried Z in the carrier (he is a runner), but he is heavy and there is only so long that I want to do that, especially as he wants to walk so I get slapped a lot (literally). There also needs to be lots of bribes rewards to keep S walking. I often say on here that I find travel with kids quite straight forward and easier than being at home. This is true because J is generally with me all the time while we travel and not at home. It is not that easy when I am alone. Thankfully, we are in a great spot, so we were soon checking out Miami Beach.
There was lots of action at the beach. It looked like they were setting up for some event or something which kind of ruined the look of it. Oh well, it was still awesome! The lifeguard towers were especially cool (see the top picture!).
Along this part of the beach, there is a big esplanade/park called Lummus Park which includes a playground. It is a great place to hang out for awhile people watching and playing.
There are definitely a lot of well dressed beautiful people around here. I would feel out of place if there wasn’t also loud, white, badly dressed tourists in the mix. It is low season, and there isn’t that many people around. It is windy but otherwise the temperature and weather are perfect.
It was then time for a walk around admiring the art deco architecture that South Beach is famous for before a special treat and returning to our apartment for Z’s nap.
Not long after Z went to sleep, the power went off! Initially, I thought that this just backed up my impression that Miami feels far more like Latin America than the US. I expected it to come back on soon. It didn’t. I realised lights were still on elsewhere in the building and it was just us effected. Not happy!
We still didn’t have a sim card. By the time I worked out that it was just us with the power problem, it was starting to get dark and J should have already been back, so I didn’t think it was worth the effort of trying to find and ring the owner on a pay phone taking the kids with me. J ended up back much later than I expected though, and it was fun sitting round in the dark. Not.
J rung the owners on his return and thankfully got through. They said they would fix it straight away (and then hung up before he could ask for a timeline or tell them our other problems). Half an hour later, it came on. We had left them other messages in the meantime, but they never got back to us or told us what happened.
We then had dinner and another restless night thanks to jetlag (more mine than the kids this time).
We were determined the next day would be much better. J had to drop the laptop off in the morning, and we had some jobs to do, but otherwise there should be time for exploring South Beach – we had given up on time to see Little Havana.
J set off first thing, but with the bad nights we have been having with Z, first thing was not that early. The morning soon became stressful when he was gone longer than we expected, and we didn’t have any lunch or water for us. Unfortunately, we only had one key for the apartment and you need the key to lock the door, so I couldn’t leave. Both me and the kids were hungry and grumpy and time went very slowly until J got back about 12:30.
We finally set out to have lunch and explore more of South Beach. It wasn’t as nice as I had hoped as it started raining not long after we left and Z was already tired and grumpy and needed a nap. We weren’t the happiest group, but South Beach did cheer us up.
We headed to Lincoln Road Mall. It is a posh shopping and restaurant strip. At least it’s supposed to be. It is definitely very nice, but I didn’t feel like it was that posh. It is pretty with lots of plants and trees. It reminded me a bit of Lygon Street in Melbourne as there are many restaurants and many people standing outside of them trying to entice you in. Many had US$10 specials.
We had a great lunch in a Cuban restaurant. The meal and prices were good. A bit outside of our budget but far cheaper than what we would pay for the equivalent in Australia, and we needed one nice meal after the last few days. I had no choice but to order a sangria and it was like my mood shifted instantly! We were in the US, time to start enjoying this awesome holiday!
We walked around some more afterwards seeing more of the great art deco architecture. It is hard to capture on camera, not just because I am a crap photographer, but because it is really just everywhere and it is hard to capture the feeling of walking around surrounded by all the old buildings. Individually, the buildings don’t look nearly as impressive as they do all together. It is lovely, and South Beach is definitely an area I can imagine living.
By the time, we got back, Z was really overdue for his nap. By the time he woke up, it was getting dark again, so there ended our way too short visit to Miami Beach as we were bussing out to our cruise the next morning.
Our time in Miami wasn’t great 🙁 It was not Miami’s fault at all and that is part of what makes me grumpy looking back. We were unlucky and our own attitude didn’t help. It is very hard to remain positive while recovering from the exhaustion of those long flights, some bad nights and some problems. Given that, I am not sure we could have done anything different to improve things. We are just trying not to let our current attitude continue on into the rest of our trip.
I do look forward to experiencing more of Miami one day. We do have the option of spending more time here at the end of our road trip, but we hope to concentrate more on areas that we are unlikely to get back to, so we probably won’t spend much time on Miami. I know we will be back here one day. If nothing else but because it is the gateway to Latin American flights and I look forward to a chance to further explore then.
I have been reluctant to stay in a holiday rental for short stops such as these because of potential dramas. I decided to do it here as the apartment we rented in South Beach was about the same price as a budget hotel, looked great and had excellent reviews, so I decided I had to get over that. I wish I hadn’t!
It is a nice apartment and it is superbly located in the middle of South Beach near everything. There is great wifi (when the power is on!) and the place was very well stocked with bits and pieces of food, drinks, ice cream and toiletries. That side of it was very impressive. Unfortunately, there were also so many little things (and some bigger ones) that have made things painful and sucked out time from our stay which we didn’t have to lose. These things may not have been a big deal if we had stayed for a longer period, if we weren’t travelling with young kids, or if we hadn’t stayed here straight after a long journey.
The wait on check in was very frustrating. It is hard to suck that type of thing up after two days of travel with two little kids. The lack of communication with all the other problems we had was also a deal breaker. As was the power and the fact that we were unable to use the laundry facilities. I even asked them about how to use the washing machine when we checked in. You think they could mention the fact that you need a special card that they weren’t going to give me!
There were also lots of other problems – like wet linen on the bed – that I won’t bore you with further. It is just a shame really, as the place has so much potential.
The bus from the airport took about 30 minutes to our part of South Beach and cost $2.75 each, kids were free. I did realise later that S probably wasn’t technically free as she is over the height restriction of 42 inches. Oops. Apparently that height restriction is meant to mean that preschoolers are free. I guess most preschoolers here aren’t as massive as our S. The airport bus has some luggage storage, although we weren’t able to use it. It is not a big deal travelling round on Miami buses with suitcases though (you can read more about it in our next post!).
J also caught some other buses around Miami. It is straight forward and costs US$2.25. They are slow though, don’t run very regularly (usually about every 30 minutes) and it seemed rare that one would go directly where we would want so you need to catch multiple. He also caught some taxis which were quite pricey (as you would expect).
My budget is one of many things that I lost on my laptop, so it is making it hard to be precise about exactly what we are spending. I will try though!
Our budget for the US is AUD$200 a day, or about US$186 on current exchange rates. Our accommodation was US$425 for three nights, so that sucked up most of it. Thanks to self catering, only eating out cheaply once a day and taking public transportation, we kept to this budget (if we ignore the costs associated with laptop problem). Our place did come with a fair bit of food and drinks and that did help our budget.
The kids are very good! Z’s sleep leaves a lot to be desired but he is like this most of the time at home too, so I can’t blame it on the trip. The same with S’s incessant whinging. The whinging is probably annoying me more than at home though, as when she keeps whinges after getting everything she wants, it is more annoying. Plus she must be one of the loudest three year olds ever so it draws attention. Otherwise, they are both happy and don’t seem at all phased to be travelling again. Quite the opposite really, they both seem very happy and excited. They have handled the travel better than us!