Friday morning, we got up and checked out of Azul Key West. We made a quick stop for Cuban coffee near the marina, then headed up the Keys toward Miami. It’s a drive I’ve always wanted to make.
It really didn’t take anywhere near as long as I expected, nor was the traffic that bad. As expected, Key West was the most touristy, and definitely most Caribbean. The others seemed more laid back, and much smaller towns. I liked Islamorada the best.
We decided to stop at Shell World in Key Largo. That was a good decision as far as souvenirs went! We spent a very long time there, and Bally hung out in a shark’s mouth:
Our progress slowed quite a bit as we left the southern Everglades area and approached the outskirts of Miami. We ended up stuck in non-highway traffic for what seemed like forever. I spent the time looking up places to stop on my phone while Matt drove: we were in search of a liquor store, to pick up some of the local specialties, and then dinner and drinks.
We finally arrived at a liquor store, and were the only non-Spanish-speakers there. They had a great selection, and really cheap prices, so we were very excited. From there, we made our way slowly to the freeway, and headed north to Fort Lauderdale. What we’d discovered in my very long time spent on Google was that there was an authentic old tiki bar up that way. It looked like it had the potential to rival Don the Beachcomber in California.
Oh, and it did. We instantly fell in love with Mai Kai. They had oldschool tiki drinks, female servers in bikinis and miniskirts (seriously!), and a rockabilly band was setting up behind us.
We stuck around to watch the band for a while, then hit the gift shop for a tiki mug and headed out. We drove back to Miami, then across to South Beach. It was getting on toward Miami dinnertime (i.e. 8pm), so it was insane in the area, but luckily our hotel was nearby. We had no idea where to park, though, so we called and they said we had to use the valet. At least that part was easy.
We checked into the Bentley South Beach, which was right across from the giant beachfront. Our room was spectacular, so we were sad we were staying for so short a time. We hung out on the balcony for a while smoking cigars and drinking beer, then decided to go experience the insane nightlife there. (I’d told Matt that everyone in South Beach was gorgeous, and they all went to clubs til 4am. We didn’t want to see the clubs or hang out with those people so much as gawk at them on the street.)
Once we were out walking up the beach, I was really glad I’d put a dress on. Otherwise I would have been the only woman out there in capris and a t-shirt.
We had a couple spots on our list that were recommended as good cocktail bars, so we walked up toward the first one. It was a long way, so when we got there and were turned away by the doorman (because 1) they didn’t open til later and 2) Matt was wearing shorts), we were pretty crabby about it. All we wanted was a place to hang out with halfway decent drinks, and far less of the South Beach scene. We knew that would be hard to come by.
We walked past a sushi place called Kung Fu Kitchen that had outside tables and looked pretty-low key, so we decided to go there for dinner. The service was iffy and the crowd got progressively douchier, but they had great food and pretty decent cocktails, too. Restored, we decided to press on in search of the elusive good bar.
Because Matt had done some research ahead of time, he recognized the name of one of them we passed. Because it was listed as a glorious dive, I hadn’t expected Mac’s Club Deuce to be in South Beach (I assumed Miami proper). But there it was, and it was indeed the bar we were looking for. There was most definitely not much in the way of South Beach scene there, just a lot of really drunk people and strong drinks.
The very drunk bartender (who was awesome) told us all about the joys of riding a horse on the beach in the Caribbean in great detail. Then a guy who I’d seen propping up the bar when we came in came over to talk, and seemed mostly normal for a while. Then we learned that he was gay, Jewish, and a hardcore republican, which really didn’t seem to fit well with the gay thing. He started telling Matt that according to his beliefs, people who modify their bodies are going to hell, because that’s the worst thing you can do to yourself. Matt humored his drunk ass for a long time, then left to go to the bathroom and escape him for a while. I ended up sitting next to him, and he started telling me the same thing. I was pretty amused by it… here was probably the most self-hating man in America telling me I was going to hell for having tattoos. He wasn’t even being a jerk about it, he was very matter of fact. I told him that was fine, because I happened to believe he was entirely wrong. After way too much of that conversation, though, we decided it was time to head elsewhere.
We went back over to Ocean Drive along the beachfront, wanting to stop in somewhere and sit at the bar. The first place we tried had a cover, so we went a couple doors down instead. It was there that we discovered, sometime after two in the morning, that you can get to-go cups in Miami. And this place didn’t just have to-go cups, they had to-do VATS. It was incredible.
We took our vats and walked down to the beach, where we sat in the sand for a long time. After realizing it was really dark and really late, we took off all our clothes and went for a swim. When we got back to the hotel afterwards, I was wearing my dress inside out (with the pockets sticking out from the sides), and we’d lost our underwear in the ocean.
In short, Miami is awesome.