Miami Adventures

In the early 2000s, my cousin moved to Miami Beach from Minnesota, which thrusted me into a Jimmy Buffet song.

"Everybody's got a cousin in Miami
Everybody understands the impromptu
Dancing in the heat to the beat
That turns your clothing clammy
Everybody needs to have a dream come true."

The first time I visited her was in 2001 with another cousin of mine. I was in my early 20s, still in college, and ready for anything.

Miami opened a whole new world for me.

Miami Beach was a warm, colorful place with palm trees. An thriving international city with a 6 a.m. bar close. A place where eccentricities were expected. I was hooked.

I saw and swam in the ocean for the first time.

I remember asking her what kind of heat her efficiency apartment used. I was shocked when she replied "None." What do you do when it gets cold? "Jill," my cousin said, "We are in the subtropics. It doesn't get cold enough for heat here."


I had no idea there were places in the world that didn't have winter.

So, when Martin and I drove to Key West from Pine Island, Florida, we decided to break up the six hour drive and spend one night in Miami Beach, for old time's sake.

I must say it was a little strange visiting Miami Beach while on this trip. All of the cities we've visited up until now have been new to us. In Miami, I already knew where I was going and what I wanted to do. While it was nice to have some knowledge of the city, I also missed the thrill of seeing everything for the first time.

We stayed at a swanky hostel called The Freehand. Since it was cheaper to get a private room than rent two bunks, we did that. I was surprised at the clean and beautifully decorated room. This place was cheap, but it was fancier than any of the motels we've stayed at the past two months. The hostel sported free and fast WiFi, free breakfast, and had all sorts of onsite amenities like a pool, bar, and restaurant. None of which we used. We were only in Miami for 18 hours.

Miami Beach is extremely walkable. So, that's what we did.

We walked along the boardwalk and through the park that neighbors the beach. Everyone was out and about. Beach goers were packing up from their sun-filled day. Merchants tried to sell us coconuts. Recreating was going on all over: biking, running, walking, strolling, playing volleyball. I discovered two adult playgrounds - areas that have outdoor workout equipments. My workout the next morning was going to be so much fun!

We walked to my cousin's former apartment. We walked along Ocean Drive and saw all the clubs filled with people ready to party until the wee hours of the morning. Even on a Monday. We walked to Pizza Rustica.

Pizza Rustica has a special place in my heart. My cousins and I loved going here. I loved their wide variety of pizzas, how quickly I get my pizza, the price of the pizza, and the hours - open until 6 a.m.!

It only has a few bar stools for seating inside but it has several tables for you to dine al fresco.

Of course, Martin and I had to go there. And then I taunted my cousins with a photo while missing them dearly.

Martin and I stopped at Havana 1957 for a nightcap. He ordered a mojito, which he thought was very good. I had the best daiquiri ever. Both Martin and I would love to visit Cuba, but that becomes quite tricky as Americans. Miami Beach probably has more Cubans living there than Cuba does, so it is pretty much the next best thing.

In the morning, I went on a nice sunrise run along the path next to the beach. It's easy to be motivated to work out in Miami with the sunrise coming up over the ocean and beautiful people everywhere also working out. I stopped at one of the adult playgrounds and did some push ups and upside down plank rows before running back to the hostel.

In Pine Island, I'm the only person running along the path. It was refreshing to have so many other people running near me.

I loved the international feel of Miami with anything but English being spoken. It made me want to head to Guatemala sooner rather than later.

While our trip to Miami Beach was short, I had a blast remembering all the times I visited my cousin during the few years she lived there.

I hadn't been back for over 10 years, yet Miami Beach welcomed me with open arms.

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