This late January my partner and I took a trip down to visit his family residing in Florida. Majority of our time was spent indoors, catching up, although we did get a chance to explore surrounding cities, and take in some sights. The collection below is a recap of that.
Note, we mostly ate in, as my aunt-in-law is a great home cook with her beef lasagna, mustard pork, and breakfast platters; to name a few of the scratch-made dishes she prepared lovingly. I was disappointed to not be able to take in more of the city through its food, but will miss her meals. Not only did I leave the table satisfied, but I think I lost a few pounds from her efforts.
Our first meal “out” was at the Toronto airport, during our layover. We had breakfast to acclimate ourselves to the new time zone. I had this “premium bacon and egg flatbread” with olive oil drizzle and coarse sea salt. The focaccia bread was tasty, it made the whole thing. A nice snack to start the day off with.
My partner was disappointed by his breakfast hot dog with scrambled egg, a wiener, and chunks of ham in a hot dog bun. It tasted exactly as it sounds.
Then off we flew, another 4 hours to Miami airport, where my partner’s aunt and uncle picked us up and drove us back to their “winter home”.
My in-laws own a little condo in Hallendale Beach, a quick drive from the Miami Airport got us there in 20 minutes. What I found most striking about their property was the court yard that centred this doughnut-shaped complex. A canal of soil and rocks was home to some tall and slender palm tress, they immediately gave you that tropical vibe. We weren’t in evergreen-pine-Canada any more.
On the same day, our first day we hopped in the car and toured the city, drive by style. I enjoyed the pastel hotels that lined the beaches. My partner was most excited about the “Porsche Design” tower.
But I was most amazed by the foliage. All the palm trees lining the roads. Ones with yellow coconut fruit, some stout and low to the ground, others with criss crossing bark.
When there was a brief pause from the rain, we were able to explore our first beach. Thankfully the stormy clouds brewing overhead didn’t dampen the warmer weather.
At Hallendale Beach we were able to dip our feet in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean for the first time ever. I also spent some time collecting colourful shells, rocks worn by the waves, porous coral and other ocean debris.
On the way back, we stopped at South Beach. For another barefoot stroll through powered sand.
For dinner we ate at one of the restaurants that lined the beach across the street. “The Carlyle Cafe” caught our eye with its strobing neon lights and boombastic music. For the full review of what we had and our experience visit the link below.
On our second day we visited Florida’s Hollywood and it’s beach. The latter was noticeable by its decorative stone walls that punctuated the sands, separating it from the boardwalk.
We then strolled the boardwalk, where we stopped at the “Taco Spot”, being drawn in by their fresh fruit cocktails. For the full review of what we had and our experience visit the link below.
Day three had my partner and I driving 3 hours to Daytona, specifically to the Speedway for the Rolex 24 hour race. This has been a long time dream for him, and a fun new experience for me. For the highlight reel of the race, how you keep busy for 24 hours, and how cold it was, check out my vlog of the event.
We got to walk along the race track and even tag it with our names on the yellow line.
And got the special passes to explore the garage and pits where the teams repaired their cars, in between the gruelling race.
And more importantly we got an up close look at many heritage cars and many more modern race cars.
And even some race celebrities, like Fernando Alonso and the Michelin Man!
Having spent all that time there, we ended up having several fast food meals on site. Like a cheese hamburger, chicken tenders with fries, a pepperoni pretzel, and pulled chicken and pork tacos.
But the most memorable part of the day was the fireworks display. It is one thing to see bursts of lights in the sky, another when it’s paired with LED lights from speeding cars.
Day four we were back in Hallendale Beach, where we visited the Gulfstream Park enterainment complex with horse track, casino, karaoke bar, shopping centre, and restaurants.
We caught a few of the horse exhibitions and a couple of the races, all the more awe inspiring given our setting.
There, we stopped for a sweet snack of macarons and chocolate from “Le Macaron”. Salted caramel and Madagascar vanilla macarons, with a golden “French kiss” caramel filled lips, a chilli chocolate “Draculips”, and the “Bleu pomme” apple ganache heart.
On day five we took a four hour road trip from Hallendale to Key West. A long drive that had us transversing bridges from island to island, and buzzing past turquoise waters.
Key West is better know as the Southernmost tip of the USA, with a marker to prove it. At only 90 miles to Cuba you get the warm weather with your visit, even in late January. This makes it a great destination for those looking to escape the winter blues. This is especially the case for West coast Canadians, like our hosts, who spend half of the year in the states to avoid the cold and snow of Quebec. So common is this, that there is a term for it and them: “snow birds”.
They take the 21 hour drive, but others choose to travel via cruise ship. There were large ones docked during our day trip. There, large crowds gathered at the dock to take in and take photos of the orange sunset.
We took some time to walk the shore and explore the neighbourhoods, taking note of the southern style houses and heritage homes and wild tropical vegetation and cacti.
I was most enamoured by the wild chicken and roosters that roamed the streets freely.
Within downtown Key West the bars were bumping and all the shops well lit. Many tourists were roaming the streets with drinks in hand. Here, we stopped for a drink at a tiki bar. I had a key lime colada, after all “key lime” originated in key west. I liked how just adding sprinkles and a twisty straw gave it that party drink vibe.
We then stopped for some tacos at a neighbourhood Mexican restaurant. For the full review of what we had and our experience visit the link below.
Then it was the long ride home. Once the sun sets you lose any view points, and are basically driving in the dark.
Day six was packing and waiting for our flights. Unfortunately due to the snow storm in Toronto the night before, our connecting flights were delayed. We got updates of flight times in our email, hour by hour we were told our wait was extended.
Before we flew to Toronto we made sure to grab a bite at the Miami airport’s food court, it isn’t the best, but a lot better than anything you could get warmed up on the plane. I had a pepperoni and cheese turn over and some garlic and butter cheese knots from the pizza by the slice place. It came with a container of marinara sauce that made a great dip.
My partner had a chicken dinner with mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables. The chicken was dry and the vegetable bland, the only thing he finished was the buttery mashed potatoes. This all happened so fast that I didn’t take a photo. Then off we were in our plane to Toronto.
We got to Toronto four hours after our expected time and spend more time there waiting for our delayed flight back to Vancouver. At YYZ we grabbed a late dinner at “Mill St. Brewery”.
I enjoyed their beer inspired cocktail: the “cobblestone walk”. Whiskey, grand mariner, chilled local Balzac’s coffee, smoky honey, and their own Cobblestone nitro stout foam. The best way to have coffee is with beer, they almost neutralized one another and what was left was a tasty glass. Although I didn’t really feel any effects of alcohol.
To eat, I had the “Breakfast poutine” made with home fries, maple bacon, scrambled eggs, mixed cheese, hollandaise, and green onions. It was good, but way too much of everything for one. The potatoes were crispy and the sauce plentiful, the eggs fluffy and the sweet bacon crumbs tasty. No real complaints, other then the flavours got boring. It would have been better a side or to share the serving that cost the same price as my partner’s entree.
The “Chuck Beef burger” was disappointing. Your standard beef patty with tomato and lettuce on a dry bun. It was as blasé as the fries. Sadly, ordering an extra dish of gravy didn’t help, as this wasn’t all that tasty either. And before we knew it, it was time for our 5 hour commute home.
There is nothing like traveling to have you missing the comforts of your own home and your own space. And I find I need some time between trips, to have me forgetting the ordeal and time it takes to get from destination to destination: waiting in airports, enduring the food, and suffering in air plane seats with no stretch. Thankfully I have a five months before my next planned trip, only one province over.
I am thankful to be able to explore all the above and that I have in-laws willing to host, take care of, clean up after, and pay for everything for us; all so that we can enjoy such wonders on our limited budget.
Until the next adventure and the next opportunity.