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Family Fun in Miami Beach


View 2019 on mrb430's travel map.

I'm writing this from the Costa Coffee at Gatwick Airport, London. We arrived at midnight EST, 5 AM UK time, and 7 AM Cyprus time. Take your pick we're tired already and have another 15+ hours of travel until we reach our "home" in Cyprus. The glamour of international travel!
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But it gives me time to reflect on our last week in Miami Beach and our visit with Morgan and her boyfriend, Steven.

THE VENETIAN POOL

Morgan came down a few days before Steven and she and Scott were kind enough to indulge me in a trip to The Venetian Pool in Coral Gables. This place has been on my list since I was in Miami Beach during college and I finally made it! Originally a quarry where stone for many of the first buildings of Coral Gables came from, including the original house of Solomon Merrick, it later became, and remains, a public swimming pool.
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It's a lovely example of 1920's Coral Gables, along with Vizcaya (see my previous post) and you can just see the bathing ladies of the time and imagine what it must have been like back when Coral Gables was the place to be in Miami.
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It has grottoes...
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...waterfalls with pools to climb and soak in...
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...and one big one you can swim underneath.
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It was a great day and really a unique place to visit.

SUNSET SAILING

Next up, after Steven joined us, was a redo of the sunset sail Scott and I did three years ago. After hanging out at the bars at Bayside, we boarded the Caribbean Spirit catamaran for our sail. We had a great sail and a great sunset.
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We never tire of the view of the Miami from the water.

WYNWOOD WALLS

We always enjoy visiting the neighborhood of Wynwood with it's amazing collection of murals. It has changed A LOT since three years ago. There is building everywhere, mainly new apartments and condos, and it makes me fear for their ability to sustain the murals long term as most are on dilapidated or abandoned low rise industrial buildings. Hopefully they have the foresight to protect some of these spaces. The new buildings are adding huge murals to them but they're "professional" and don't give the same feel as the originals. If you can, visit it before it's gone!
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We really had fun hosting "the kids"! Lots of beach time, pool time, and of course a Sunday Funday to top it all off.
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It was really good to be back in the States for a month. Much as I might hate to admit it, it did feel like being home. But it's a new month and that means on to new adventures including our first house sit. Cyprus, Marrakesh, and the Canaries up next so stay tuned.

Posted by mrb430 04:19 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Back "Home" in Miami Beach


View 2019 on mrb430's travel map.

We overheard an American tourist here in Miami Beach the other day say "I'm going back to the US tomorrow". I suppose for many the idea that there are places here where English is not the primary language spoken, say Little Havana, or where the diversity rivals any other international city is a downside but for us it means we feel at home here. Of all the places we've traveled in the US, Miami is the place we fit right in.
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Unusual for us, we are staying in a hotel suite (yes we still have a kitchen, although we still had to buy a tea kettle and a sharp knife!)
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Miami Beach has passed some of the strictest short-term rental laws in the US. No lease can be less than 6 months and a day. As a result, Air BnB is almost non-existent, except illegally. And let me just say, staying in a hotel for three weeks is a hoot. The staff has gotten used to me walking around in my bare feet and beach dresses like I would in a house and they've stopped trying to get us on the Hop-on Hop-off bus. Maybe this is especially true at 5th and Ocean where most tourists this time of year only rent for one or two nights over the weekend. During the week, we have the hotel largely to ourselves. It's as amusing to us as I'm sure it is to the staff to watch all the party kids come in for the weekend. So, thank you hurricane season. And thanks to the powers that be that all the current hurricanes are turning north! We've had some very windy, blustery days and lots of afternoon storms but that's par for the course. Sometimes I can't tell if we're in Miami or Bocas del Toro!

But the "tourists" make the weekends fun for us while we're out indulging Scott's football passion. Last weekend we spent Saturday at a dive bar whiling away the hours of college football with the locals and cheap buckets of beer and then changed it up for Sunday at the Clevelander, our favorite Sunday Sh!t sh0w. You can simultaneously watch football, the incredible scene unfolding on Ocean Drive, and the extravagance of the pool party - for a price of course!
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A few words about being back in the US. If you don't count our overnight in Orlando in April, it's been seven months since we spent a week or so in L.A and over a year since we were in the US full-time. Coming from Croatia, a country of great homogeneity, the diversity of Chicago and then Miami has been particularly striking and welcome. So too is the amazing wealth of the US. We saw an amazing example of historic American wealth on our visit to Vizcaya, James Deering's mansion in Coral Gables. The house and gardens are worth a visit if you're ever in Miami. As an aside, we feel like Americans may not appreciate the "palaces" that are here in America as much as we do those in Europe. You know, we go to Europe and tour Versailles and the Scottish castles but we forget about the Hearst Castle, the Antebellum Mansions in the south, and places like Vizcaya. Maybe it's the discomfort we have with the "robber-barons" and before that our shared disgrace of slavery but the result of our history is places of equal worth for a tour as the palaces of Europe. We suggest you search them out as you travel.
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Built right on Biscayne Bay, it has taken some hits from hurricanes over the years but remains an outstanding place.
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Of course, for me, the gardens are the best part. The use of local limestone and coral is really fantastic. And the lushness of the tropics combined into the landscape were a real change from the dry, desert-like places we saw in Spain and Croatia.
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But perhaps the most striking thing about the US is the result of two things: efficient tax collection and a "trust society". You may hate taxes but the infrastructure and public investment in the US that flows from them is awesome and results in such cleanliness, beauty, and comfort. I think we take this for granted but it really is a gift of public works. And we may rail against the "over regulation" of the US but this too is a very different and much appreciated aspect of the US that I think goes unnoticed until you don't have it anymore. Crosswalk lights, crosswalks for that matter, public parks, paved walking and biking paths, all of this is very rare in other countries if it exists at all. Of course, it all comes at a cost and makes the US overly expensive for basic things like phone service and health care. So it's nice to be back and enjoying our tax dollars at work (yes we still pay taxes too!) but we still are of a mind that it's not yet time to come back for good.

But it's a great place to celebrate my birthday! This will be my third birthday if Florida, second in Miami Beach, and it never stops being fun. We spent it this year touring Vizcaya and then in Little Havana. Calle Ocho, at it's heart, it a fun-filled wonderland of cigar stores, Cuban restaurants and bars, and amazing food.
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After walking the Calle, we ended up in the Ball and Chain, in existence since 1935 it's hosted the likes of Chet Baker, for some awesome Cuban cocktails and music.
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Finally, we had dinner at the iconic Versailles Restaurant, serving Miami since 1971.
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More football fun today hanging at Monty's at the marina on the bay - avoiding the wind off the ocean. Feels a lot like our old DC favorite Cantina Marina. When I asked Scott's feeling about what's different being back here, his response was "the bars are better". Which basically translates to "there are outdoor bars with multiple screens playing football", yes American football not soccer, on each one! And then there are the Dominican (alas Cubans aren't legal) cigars...Romeo and Julietta men say yes!
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And free WiFi means I can finish up the blog with a Bloody Mary! So we're both happy.
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We leave for Cyprus, Marrakesh, and the Canary Islands at the end of the month but not before Morgan and Steven come to visit so stay tuned for more fun from Miami Beach.

Posted by mrb430 09:46 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Chillin' with Family in Illinois


View 2019 on mrb430's travel map.

Well we made it back to the USA uneventfully and landed at O'Hare. It's always fun to fly back to Chicago as I grew up just north in Evanston and it's the airport I took my first international trips from back in college. We grabbed a taxi up to the North Shore and settled in for a week of family. It was a really relaxing stay with my brother and it was great to be with my mom on her birthday.

As planned, we ate a lot! So much good food in Chicago. A favorite is Char Polish from Mustard's Last Stand - a place that has been there since I was a kid!
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And, of course, we did our normal pilgrimage to Greek Town for a family dinner and to celebrate Mom's birthday.
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It was really nice to meet Claire, my brother's new friend.
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We really enjoyed her company as we hung out watching football and on a trip downtown.
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We even got treated to fireworks.
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The Chicago Riverwalk is such a cool place! Chicago would be on our list except for the weather! It was already pretty cold and I always forget how little the sun shines. So we are very grateful to Marcello for hosting us all and for my Mom and Dad for making the trip out to see us. It was a really wonderful visit.

But we are also grateful that as I write this we are back in Miami Beach in the sun!
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Posted by mrb430 08:53 Archived in USA Comments (1)

Back In The US of A

Briefly!

Just a quick update from the Orlando Airport as we wait for our flight to London and then on to Barcelona.

GOODBYE NEW WORLD

After eight months in Baja, Colombia, Panama, and Honduras, we ended up feeling like "locals".

We could navigate the roads, airports, and sidewalk-less streets. We figured out the money, the indiosyncracies of shopping and transportation, and how to work around the quirkiness of housing. Nothing felt weird anymore - it all felt very familiar. We will miss the palm trees, the beaches, the blue waters, and the warmth of the places and people. We will miss shorts, tank tops, bathing suits, and flip flops. We will not miss the ridiculous rules of the telecom systems, the power outages, or the the diarrhea!

It's been weird to be back in the US for 24 hours. I had a salad that I didn't have to worry would kill me, Scott had an awesome French Dip (his favorite sandwich), and we both had proper Manhattans and Egg McMuffins! But wow! This 24 hours cost us about as much as three weeks in Roatán! Won't miss that!

HELLO OLD WORLD

So now we're off for our European adventure.

See the itinerary of this trip, and details about each destination.

I'm envisioning these two very tan gringos landing in London/Barcelona and looking like refugees from some Caribbean island thrown back into "civilization"! We are gonna stick out for sure and probably be freezing! Hope Europe is as welcoming to us as all of our Latin American friends have been. Wish us luck!

Remember to follow us @Arrradventures on Instagram.

Posted by mrb430 12:21 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Baja California Sur - Where Winter is Like Colorado Summer


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In other words, it's beautiful. Winter has definitely arrived but in a Mexican way. The evenings are cool, it can get down into the low 60's, and the days are in the high 70's or low 80's. In the sun, it's definitely warm enough for the beach and bikinis but in the shade, especially if the North wind is blowing, you might want a light jacket. Last night, knowing we would be in an open air bar for Monday Night Football, we both were wearing long pants and a fleece jacket. I suspect we, like Mexicans, feel it's colder than it actually is...Mexicans are in sweaters and down vests! We laughed when we saw them in the stores last month but now we understand!

LIVING LA VIDA

Time is slipping by and we are in our last month in La Paz. Thanksgiving is gone and we here in Mexico, like you back home, are preparing for Christmas. Mexicans do it just like us - Christmas trees, lights, etc. We even put some lights up at our rental house.
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It is a bit hard for us to get in the spirit when we're still hanging at the beach, though. We continue to enjoy La Paz, our walks on the Malecon, the food both local and fancy, the farmers market, the coffee shops, our trips out to the beaches and surrounding points of interest, and now that we have a lovely home, just relaxing on the porch with a good book or the newspaper. We have lovely views to the water and the mountains from the deck and it's often dark enough to see stars.
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We've done day trips back to La Ventana and Todos Santos and are planning to hit the East Cape again. We have both fallen in love with the desert and never tire of watching it change with the seasons.

CELEBRATIONS

We've had a few things to celebrate and of course we celebrate with good food and good drink! Scott has been smoke-free for six months! We went to The Mesquite Grille for dinner with our friend James and had an amazing dinner. They do Chateaubriand on the grill and serve it with amazing sides. It was awesome!
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Of course we had Thanksgiving but we ate out so it was with a Mexican twist! Very good and no dishes!
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We had our anniversary this month and started the day with an amazing hike up by our favorite beach, Tecolote. The path led us up onto the ridge and out to a point.
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We did have plans for the rest of the day but Orange Crushes and sunshine led to a day at home making our own party. Our favorite kind!
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It was a wonderful day to mark our six years together.

FESTIVAL GASTRINOMÍCA EL TRIUNFO

As promised, we made it back to El Triunfo, for their annual gourmet food fest! We stayed at a place owned by a local man who has developed a compound with homes and casitas to rent and a nice pool and gardens. It was wonderful.
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Our casita.
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Even with the donkey that woke us up the next morning! We have awoken to many strange noises in our travels but a donkey braying has to be a first! Here's the culprit and some of his friends!
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Anyway, restaurants from La Paz and Cabo San Lucas come to the festival, as well as wineries, and share their food. Much of it was gourmet riffs on local food like empanadas, tamales, and tacos but the oysters were a special treat!
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And then there was the spit roasted pig and BBQ!
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We also treated ourselves to a horseback ride the following day to some of the sights of El Truinfo and up to a viewpoint over the whole town.
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So we've been having fun. I realize there has been a lot of time between posts while we've been here. It's a bit of a hiatus for us all! Don't worry, when we start up our 2019 travels the blog will be along for the ride.

Hope you all are happy and have a wonderful holiday season! Don't forget to follow us on Instagram @arrradventures. Our updates there are much more frequent.

Posted by mrb430 08:34 Archived in USA Comments (2)

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