Matt’s parents had come into town the night before, and we went over suitcase packing with them yet again, since this was to be their first flight in something like 15 years. The main concern was making sure that my mother-in-law didn’t try to take her huge toiletry bag through security with her, so we had to review the 3-1-1 rules multiple times.
We got up bright and early at 6am to get our ride to the airport in style; we had an Escalade from Uber, and an awesome driver named Patrick. There was a long security line which we opted to wait in so that we could escort the in-laws through security, rather than taking advantage of our PreCheck access. That was a little painful, but the trip through was entirely uneventful. We had some time to kill before the flight, so we got coffee, pastries, and a breakfast cocktail at Surdyk’s before heading to the gate.
The flight boarded early, so we were able to get on right away when we arrived there. Matt and I had a two-seat row to ourselves, and the flight was uneventful. We ate sandwiches from Surdyk’s and enjoyed the view of the coast. As we approached Fort Lauderdale, we flew right over a rainbow!
We circled over the Everglades before heading into the airport from the west. I really love this view, with the houses pushing right up against the alligator zone.
We landed around 1:15, then went to get our bags and board the rental shuttle. I was renting with Hertz for the first time, because I’d gotten a deal through American Express for 5,000 Hertz points for $250. We only needed 2,500 for the week-long rental, so that means I have another free week still waiting for me. That was a hell of a bargain!
I found my name on the board at the rental place, and we rolled our bags out to the car. It was a gigantic Buick Verano, so we were rockin’ it just like old people. I hate driving cars that large, but it was definitely comfortable for the four of us.
We left the airport and drove straight to Miami Beach to get lunch. Huahua’s Tacos did not disappoint, and we were able to sit out in the sun. It was a nice change, having left Minneapolis in the early fall. I especially enjoyed the world’s greatest guaco, which had both guacamole AND a slice of breaded, deep-fried avocado. So delicious.
There we had our first of many toasts to Southern Florida, too:
After lunch, we drove over nearer South Beach and circled for a while looking for parking. We finally found a ramp that didn’t cost a million dollars, and that was only a few blocks from the beach. Harlan and Judy have never been to Miami, so we wanted them to see the monstrous beach where we both misplaced our underpants on our honeymoon. (We left that part out of the story.)
We ordered drinks from the awesome bartender, who gave us each a poker chip, good for our next drink free. Daytime 2-for-1s? Sold. (They’re not weak, either.) We sat there enjoying the divey ambiance, and Matt got into a conversation with one of the old guys holding up the bar, based on their mutual love for Hunter S Thompson. The guy instantly became his BFF, and came over to tell him stories about his old days in journalism. It was hilarious.
After we finished our second round, it was time to head out lest we just decide to move in there. Matt bought a t-shirt, and they gave him a bunch of stickers as well. We retrieved the car and headed up the A1A in the direction of Fort Lauderdale. We could’ve taken the highway, but there’s a lot to see on that route. There’s something about that oceanside ridiculousness that I love a lot.
Once we got tired of the stop-and-go traffic, we headed back toward the interstate. At that point my father-in-law was napping in the back, so we figured it was a good time to go check into the hotel (it was around 5pm). We took 595 over to Plantation, a suburb west of downtown Fort Lauderdale, and managed to locate the Sheraton Suites. From what we could tell, the entire town of Plantation is one gigantic strip mall after another, and the hotel was no exception: it seemed to be located right in the middle of an abandoned mall. It was really nice, just a little strange.
The in-laws wanted to get comfortable, have a brandy (they brought their own bottle from Minnesota, fearing that E&J – the only brandy Judy will drink – would be in short supply in Florida), and take showers. Judy swore it would take her an hour to wash and do her hair, which seemed unlikely. Matt and I were ill-prepared for room-based relaxation, since we had brought nothing to drink from home. We dropped them off, looked up the location of the nearest liquor store (shocker: it was in a strip mall a mile away), and headed over there to get some room beers.
The place we found had an incredible beer selection, so we built a couple of our own 6-packs (a combination of local stuff and other things we hadn’t seen before, plus Dragon Stout, which we thought was only available in Jamaica!) and headed back to the hotel. We opened the suitcase but didn’t bother unpacking, since we were only spending the night. The room was fantastic, too: there was a big living/work area with a sideboard, a huge bathroom and closets, and a separate bedroom with a second TV. How many hotel rooms have a hallway? (The place isn’t convenient if you’re planning to spend a lot of time in the FLL area, but it’s great if you want to be near the interstate that will take you to the Keys with the least painful traffic congestion.)
We hung out for a while, then went to check in on Harlan and Judy in the room next door. Judy had changed to her going-out outfit, and they were enjoying a brandy. We talked about dinner options, and researched a couple spots where Matt had found vegetarian options on our phones. We finally decided on Seasons 52, and I called to make reservations for 8:30. Then we gathered our things and headed that way.
The restaurant was about 12 miles away near the beach, but it took a while to get there because the only direct route was on local streets. We finally managed to locate the mall where it was located (surprise!) on Highway 1, and parked in the nearest lot. We walked through the mall looking for it, and finally had to ask for directions. The entrance ended up being down a level and outside, near the other typical mall restaurants. We checked in with the host stand and stood around listening to the piano guy playing in the bar. The place was gigantic, and it was surprisingly packed, too.
We were seated, and attended to by a very unpleasant server. He was incredibly slow, and also impatient with my in-laws. While the food was seriously excellent (I had a vegetarian platter with a grain salad, cedar-roasted tofu, chutney, roasted vegetables, and a delicious taco), the service was unbelievably bad. I guess that’s what you get for going to a big chain restaurant in a mall in Florida.
We fixed it afterwards, though, because then it was time to go to Mai Kai, one of the greatest tiki bars on earth. We were worried that it would be really busy, and that was backed up by the huge crowd standing out front as we arrived. It turned out that it was the crowd for their nightly luau show all waiting for the valets, and the place was actually nearly empty. (We even got to park our own car!) We got a table and ordered a round of drinks. Matt’s Jet Pilot was amazing, and incredibly strong.
Harlan went to the bathroom and reappeared a long time later. He told us his zipper got stuck in the down position and he couldn’t fix it, so he finally asked the bathroom attendant if he could help. The attendant told him to hold the bottom of the zipper and tug; that worked, so he tipped the guy a dollar for the advice. (At this point in the story, we were all falling off our chairs laughing.) He also got lost leaving the bathroom, and told us he wandered all over the restaurant (it’s made up of several gigantic rooms, all decorated differently), and finally ended up crossing a bridge and ending up in a rainforest. We had no idea where that was, because we’d only ever seen the bar.
Unfortunately we couldn’t stay very late (his parents looked like they were going to doze off), but we were happy to get in a visit. While Judy and I were waiting for them to finish up, one of the hosts asked us if we’d seen the shrunken head yet. I had no idea what that was about, but since we’d already decided we had to make a return visit on the other end of the trip, I put it on my to-do list.
We headed back to the hotel, and the journey seemed a LOT longer on the way back. We finally got to the hotel, and headed to our rooms for the night. Matt and I enjoyed a delicious Abita Pecan nightcap before going to sleep. Hooray, vacation!