2012 is the first time we visit the US. After the exhaustive entry procedure, we are glad to take our rental car just before the agency closes and check-in at the Mondrian South Beach, Miami. As we are near Ocean Drive, the first day will take us to the Art Deco district. We admire the beautiful houses, old cars and the hustle and bustle in the cafes and bars. After that, we'll go to Biscayne Bay. We watch the finals of the Soccer World Cup in one of the sports bars and celebrate the 4-0 win of Spain with the other fans.
The next day we get an overview of Miami by taking a hop-on and -off bus with stops at Coconut Grove, Coral Gables and Little Havana. Afterwards, we get on a boat and view the city from the waterside. The explanations of the tour guide are disappointing. We would like to hear more about the history of Miami, but instead, it's all about who owns the villa and how much it costs. We finish the day at the Hardrock Café - this is just what we also do, wherever we find one.
We leave the big city behind us. After a stopover at a Fruit & Spicy Farm, where the mosquitoes sting us, we drive along Highway No. 1 to Key West. The ride across the bridges - left and right just water - is not quite as spectacular as we had expected.
But Key West is exactly what we like: old houses, lots of bars and cafes, relaxed people - a bit like the last hippies were hanging here. And the sunset at the pier is really amazing. We happened to be here on Independence Day and every house is decorated with the American flag, people have a barbecue and, of course, a firework is lit. So much fun.
As always, the water attracts us and we explore the surroundings with a jet ski and glass bottom boat. The upstream reef is not really worth a trip.
Our next stop is Fort Lauderdale. We have been travelling 6 days and although we were always close to the sea, here is the first time we go swimming. The next day, we behave like typical tourists and book a ride with Duck-Tours, which is surprisingly informative and witty. In the Museum of Arts, we view a "Shark exhibition" and we find an Irish pub, where meals are very well and cheap. Overall, the city reminds us of Miami and so we continue after 2 days to Merrit Island. On the Internet, we find a Cuban restaurant in Cocoa Beach, which we try out right away. After dinner we go to the beach, watching the surfers at sunset and making plans for the next day.
Cape Canaveral impresses us deeply. Exceptionally you have the feeling that everything is very authentic and you are not just part of a great show. Almost the whole day we spend here. Just outside of Orlando, we are lucky to stay with a friend directly at a lake. From here we depart for day trips to the beautiful, hilly countryside, to Mt. Dora, Eustis and Orlando.
Before continuing on to the west coast, we make a day tour to Daytona and St. Augustine, the oldest city in America. The old town is beautifully restored, but also here everything seems to be just backdrop. Nothing seems real, everything is only great entertainment.
We cross Florida and find a nice hotel in Clearwater. Here, on the Gulf of Mexico, you can still see what damage the hurricane has inflicted, which has raged 1 month before. Many trees have been folded, boats have been flushed into the gardens. When we talk with locals, they tell us quite relaxed that this is usual for them. All larger houses have their own power supply because they are used to the fact that the state supply fails during storms. The fire brigade has a lot to do and has great prestige here.
St. Petersburg turns out to be an elegant town with many galleries and the largest Dali museum in the world. Along the waterway, there are many nice restaurants and at the pier, a large foam party is celebrated.
Friends have given us the advice to go to Naples. What we had imagined as a small place turns out to be a bigger town with the usual 5th Avenue as a shopping street. But it has also a long beach area and a pier, from which is fished.
Ft. Myers is nearby and there is the Edison Ford Museum, so we make a day trip there. The park and the museum are impressive and we learn that Edison also was an enthusiastic botanist.
The island of Sanibel is also in distance for a day trip. A small lighthouse and a snow-white beach await us. We get to know a couple from Cuba, who wants us to put Cuba on our travelling list (which we will implement in 2014).
A trip by an airboat through the Everglades can’t be missed. We not only discover aligators, but also many birds, a raccoon and even one of the manatees dormant in the murky waters.
At Bonita Beach, we go on a jet ski trip again and here we are lucky, and even the manatees come very close and have touched.
Along Route 41, we drive back to Miami with a stopover at the Indian Village. In Miami, we return our convertible and spend one more night before flying on to Nassau. But this is another story (see the Bahamas).
Florida was interesting but is not worth a second trip for us. Neither the landscape nor culturally we have experienced an absolute highlight.
Here is our top ten list:
- Mondrian South Beach, Miami:www.morganshotelgroup.com/mondrian/mondrian-south-beach
- Fruit & Spice Park, Homestead: redlandfruitandspice.com/
- Sunset Pier, Key West
- Roberto's little Havanna, Cocoa Beach: www.yelp.at/biz/robertos-little-havana-cocoa-beach?osq=Cuban+Food
- Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral: www.kennedyspacecenter.com
- Eustis: www.eustis.org
- Edison-Ford-Museum, Ft. Myers: www.edisonfordwinterestates.org
- Jetski-Tour in Bonita Beach: bonitajetski.com
- Tin-City, Naples: www.tin-city.com
- Hard Rock Casino, Tampa: www.seminolehardrocktampa.com