Saturday, January 30, 2016

Miami weekend recap - places to go, see and eat

Hey guys, thank you all so much for your kind words and comments and shares and links to the post I wrote earlier this week about Bruce.  It has been amazing to hear others share memories, see efforts come up to start memorial funds, and just spend some time thinking back to my high school swimming days.  To be honest, the post was one of those that makes me feel a bit nervous to hit "Publish" on and everyone's reactions meant a lot to me.  One of the reasons I keep writing here for year after year is because those times when my words resonate with someone out there, really mean a lot to me.  And it was apparent that some of what I wrote hit home with others.  I can't wait until next time I am home to dig through some pictures of the old swim days and I've also gotta say that I kicked my own butt in the pool this week thinking back on Bruce.  I also cried into my goggles a couple times, but let's not pay attention to that.

When we last left off, I had just finished up the work portion of my trip to Miami and was with friends.  Well, I am back in Atlanta now (and have been since Monday) but wanted to share a little about what I did while I was in Miami - some of the fun stuff!  Basically the first half of the week I was there I didn't really leave the hotel complex where we were having our meetings.

However, Thursday night we went and checked out Little Havana and went to a place called Ball and Chain that was - a blast!  They had great salsa music, an awesome outdoor area, and multiple bars.  If anyone is looking for a great location in Miami to go out for some salsa and fun times, I highly recommend Ball and Chain.

Friday morning I checked out from my work obligations and went and met up with Brick and her group of friends who had traveled to Miami for the weekend and to see her run the race!  One of the girls is Brick's friend from home who I had gone to Arizona with, and some Atlanta friends.  The weather was pretty crappy on Friday - cold and rainy - but we made our first stop of the day at the race expo, which was actually really amazing.

You all know my philosophy on race expos is to take as many pictures as possible.  ESPECIALLY if it is your first marathon.  So we explored the expo quite a bit and stopped for every photo opportunity we could find.

Oh yeah, and we did some of that stuff that we are supposed to actually do at the expo like pick up your bib numbers.

I was also tempted to do a bit of shopping because the RUNNING expo was actually filled with TRIATHLON booths.  There was so much gear, backs, biking equipment, tri kits, wet suits, etc. and it is all things that I wanted to look more at and explore, but being in Miami and having friends waiting on me and having to fly back home - I just wasn't in the right mood to check it all out.

Following the expo we took another rainy ride over to a restaurant we'd heard was known for Cuban food called Versailles for lunch.  I had a way too sweet margarita and a Cuban sandwich (which I de-Cubanized by asking for no mustard and no pickles.)  The food was okay, but not great.  It got the job done.  I don't know if it is a place I would rush back to if I were visiting Miami though - although it was packed, even at an odd lunch hour on a Friday, so it seems to be really popular!

Following lunch, I went to meet up with the group that I was sharing a place to stay with and connect with them for a bit.  We got some dinner and then met back up on Ocean Drive with Brick's group for a drink or two.  Walking Ocean Drive is an activity on its own - every place has giant drinks, is ushering you into restaurants like they do in major tourist places, and there is just visual stimulation everywhere.

We checked out Mango's - which has some great live entertainment, and then also got a drink at Wet Willie's before heading back to go to sleep.

By this point in time, even though it wasn't a super late night, I was exhausted.  We got up in the morning to join what was supposed to be a big group shake out run, but turned into a run on my own.  I did a 15 minute jog with some sprints mixed in to shake out and loosen up my legs after a lot of doing nothing throughout the week.

It was my only time on the beach while in Miami, as the temperatures didn't really allow for anything more than just walking the beach in running clothes.  At least it was sunny on Saturday unlike Friday when it rained all day!

Later in the afternoon we went out to Gator Park in the afternoon and I ended up having to buy a "Gator Park outfit" as I called it, because I was so chilly.  This was another activity I highly recommend, even though we didn't really see an gators in the wild while we were there (it was cold!)

For about $45 a person, we had a van pick us up and drop us off from where we were staying and drive us about 45 minutes outside of Miami to the Everglades to Gator Park.  We were able take an air boat ride throughout the swamps, which as I mentioned, was uneventful on the gator spotting front, but was very cool and a ton of fun.

Following that, we got to see an animal show and get to hold a little baby gator as well!  This little guy's name was Larry and it was very bizarre to hold an ACTUAL DINOSAUR.  Okay, at least that's what I felt like I was doing.

Following the gator expedition, there was some pizza for dinner and some relaxing.  It was getting down to crunch time before the marathon!

I met up with Dani, we grabbed a drink off of Lincoln Road in Miami Beach and then head back to go to bed before the race! Sunday morning was the main event half marathon, and I will write a full recap of that like I usually do - but I was super happy with how I did and how my friends did. Everyone killed it!!!

We celebrated post race by going to a restaurant called the Burger and Beer joint in Miami Beach that did have amazing burgers and beer - but terrible service.  Like, for real, TERRIBLE service.  We had to complain the manager.  The service at the restaurant was almost as bad as how the Patriots played in the playoff game that I made us all watch.  It was a disappointing evening on that front despite the delicious food and the fact that we met "Doctor Dribble" a guy who dribbles basketballs while he runs marathons.  Also, this place had the most amazing onion rings in existance.

Of course, the day of a race means automatic wearing of the race shirt and of the medals - which are the best medals I've ever received at a race, so I was more than happy to show off that bad boy!

Even as the night continued - to Sugar Factory (amazing name) on Ocean Drive for frozen ice drinks, we continued to rock those medals.

My Sunday evening was long and a bit hectic because my friends were hanging out in two separate groups and I wanted to be able to see and celebrate with everyone.  I ended up Ubering all over the city of Miami but it was great because I was able to have a lot of fun and get in a lot of quality celebrations with all the first time marathons.  And celebrate my PR!

My evening ended at a really cool outdoor bar in the Art Deco part of Miami called Brick House or Brick Yard or something like that.  Our crew were the main people on the dance floor and my friend Shawn and I had a lot of fun just being silly and dancing like nobody was watching. 

I've become a bit of an old lady in my years and couldn't keep up with the youngin's in the crowd so I called it a night earlier than the rest of the group and went home after this location, getting a good night's sleep before my flight in the morning back to Atlanta.

It was a great weekend in Miami and I am glad that I got to see so many different parts of the city.  I was really surprised at how diverse it is and how much Spanish really does rule the city.  Every employee at any restaurant, store, shop, etc. that I went to spoke Spanish, as did anyone that I encountered on the streets it seemed.  Half the race I think was Latino/Latina and that part of the culture is way more prevalant in Miami than I realized.  It was neat to see and I would love to explore more of the Miami cultural side.

As for the party side... I am good.  Everything was SO expensive and just a bit not my style.  It was very fake/Vegas-y and I am not super into that scene.  I loved exploring it for the weekend and always like being by the water, but I don't know that it would necessarily be a top destination for me to travel to again in the future.  I also joked that for some reason when I travel with Brick I always end up doing ridiculous things like riding horses, hot air balloons, or now holding alligators!

Despite it not being my favorite, I totally think that Miami is an absolute must see city in the U.S. though!!  There is nowhere like it that I have seen within the United States!

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