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Mission: Miami

At some point when we had just started dating, I told John I wanted to visit every baseball stadium in my lifetime. John decided this was not an acceptable lifetime goal and we had to accomplish this in the next few years.

We did many of the Western and Midwestern teams on our road trip move to Charleston, and since living in the South, we’ve done a smattering in the surrounding states, but nothing really outside of driving distance.

John decided he was taking the weekend off and that we would fly down to Miami to see a game, and also get to know the city we’ve only experienced through binge-watching Dexter (and my one time at Canyon Ranch in Miami Beach) while we still live in this part of the country.

(PS-If you haven’t watched Dexter yet, get off your computer, log onto Netflix and start, immediately. Unless Netflix is on your computer.  Then get off my blog.)

The fans!

The fans!

We headed down early, early Saturday morning on a quick hour and 20 minute flight to Ft. Lauderdale. It’s been surprisingly crisp in Charleston and the instant Miami heat and humidity was a welcome change as we stepped out of the airport and into a mile long line to the car rental center. An hour later we were in the car, en route to the first restaurant of the weekend.

One specific reason I was excited about Miami is the sheer amount of organic restaurants. We don’t often end up eating healthier on vacation than at home–we do like to indulge every once in a while–but both John and I had a list of places to try that ranged from hip juice bar to a 100% organic dinner menu.

The first place on the list was the Fresh Squeeze in Dania Beach, only a few minutes from the airport, which was my was the obvious choice for lunch when John asked me to decide. I had neglected to eat breakfast or pack a snack for the flight, and I was so hungry I was actually dizzy. And extremely irritable.

Fresh Squeeze is tucked back into a strip mall by an Italian pizza place and a grocery store. What lacked on the cookie-cutter outside was made up for in the graffit art inspired interior. The walls and patrons alike had a heavy, casual beach vibe (more Jersey Shore than Hamptons) but the menu was extensive and packed with every breakfast item I had been dreaming of since 5 am.

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I warned John I was ordering multiple meals, and got the South Beach egg white breakfast wrap, avocado toast and beet juice. John held back and just got a wrap and a juice.

The food, although not organic, was mostly delicious. Both of our wraps were grilled on the outside, which creates a crispy shell, making the meal seem more panini than burrito. I wasn’t too thrilled with the avocado toast, it was more of an avocado sandwich on barely toasted bread as thick as a bun. We ate it anyway. They also packed our food to go. I guess we should take a hint.

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Our hotel check-in wasn’t until 3pm, so we, in predictable Sweet travel fashion, went to Whole Foods to stock up on baby essentials and the large version of my favorite water (yes, you can have a favorite water). While a Whole Foods is a Whole Foods, for the most part, it’s worth mentioning that the Miami WF had more samples than Costco mid-Saturday. It was one of the nicer one’s we’ve been to, and the hot meal bar looked so appealing I almost conquered a second breakfast.

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One thing I couldn’t grasp about Miami was how it’s laid out. John booked us at the Westin Colannade Hotel in Coral Gables, what seemed like a ritzy, restaurant heavy area of the city. But, as we waited and walked the streets impatiently until 3, we noticed that everything seemed slightly off, the sidewalks were dirty, the shops, while nice, seemed a little run down. It had a very Los Angeles vibe, so much so that I kept thinking we were back on the West Coast. (Best coast).

The Colannade, however, was a beautiful hotel, with a large outdoor pool, a huge marble hall and a spacious ballroom lined in breezy linen decorations for a wedding. Even though it was visibly under construction, the staff did a excellent job separating the work from the guests.

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John booked a townhouse style room on the last floor, and at about 3:03 pm when we walked in, I couldn’t decide if it was the coolest room I’ve stayed at or the worst possible choice with a baby. I went with the second and forced John to create a barrier around the spiral staircase that immediately gave me contact vertigo.

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For dinner, we chose Organic Bites in the Hatian district, about 20 minutes from the hotel and stadium. Open only since last year, this was one of the best restaurants I’ve eaten at, maybe ever, and deserves its own, separate review (coming soon). Here’s a taste: Codfish cakes with black-eyes pea salad. A little flavor of the city.

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By the time we got to the Marlin’s stadium, I was ready for bed. It’s another indoor venue, like Tampa, but seemed twice at big. Our seats were directly behind home plate, about 30,000 feet up, and we spent the hour before the game entertaining the baby with walks around our section and out to the vendors, clapping in the stands and making friends with the grandmas behind us. (Check out my Instagram for some live action!).

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I’m about to lose all credibility here, but, true confession, we stayed one and a half innings. I would blame the baby but John and I were equally as fussy from a long day. By the time we got back to the hotel and  got the baby to sleep, it was about 9:30 pm, perfect vacation bedtime. (John offered to babysit while I hit the clubs in South Beach, but I forgot my party clothes).

John booked a later flight Sunday, so we had time to explore Miami in the morning. On the drive to our hotel the day before, I told John I’d been wanting to check out the Keys since doing a work project for a site in Key West. Google maps informed us that Key West was THREE hours from Miami, but Key Largo was only an hour, so we planned our day around a quick drive down to see it.

We woke up around 6:30 am, and, since I declined the club offer the night before, John watched the baby while I ran a few miles on the treadmill. We packed up our stuff, loaded the rental car and found our next organic spot, Choices Café for breakfast. With multiple locations in Miami, I was expecting more a chain feel, instead the interior was a cozy, cute, intimate café. It was pretty empty, so the chef came out and told us about the menu, which we learned was also all vegan. John eyed it suspiciously, but I was excited to try a vegan scramble.

The food was incredible. My scramble was made of tofu, on a bed of lettuce, with pesto toast. John and baby shared a large banana pancake and John had the scramble with a side of fakon (fake bacon). We took two juices, a cookie dough ball and a vegan donut to-go and started the trip to Key Largo.

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I was expecting a more scenic drive, but it was mostly interstate and large walls blocking our view. It took a little over an hour to get down to the water, across a bridge and into the tourist town. When we arrive, we had absolutely no idea what to do. We weren’t hungry, we didn’t want souvenirs, we couldn’t go kayaking with a baby, so we drove through the town wondering if we should just make a U-turn out. Right before giving up, I saw a line of cars entering into a park, and thought maybe it would be a good place to take the baby.

John Pennenkamp Coral Reef State Park was an interesting find, something tourists seem to seek out on their vacations or for day-trips. The park boasts a small aquarium, beaches, kayak rentals and underwater adventures like scuba diving. I couldn’t decide if it felt more like a summer camp or an RV park. We drove through the mangroves, looking closely for alligators in the woods, and parked past all of the families to check out the beach.

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The beaches really are beautiful that far south, but I think I was just imagining the Keys to be one large resort, something you see in pictures of Acapulco. We wandered around for a few minutes while the baby laughed into the strong wind and headed to the aquarium. It was small, a few tanks of fish, with a definite state park atmosphere, but it was filled with little kids and families. We grabbed a postcard for our collection at the gift shop (and the baby grabbed a toy dolphin, which I had to walk back in a return, head down) and headed back to the airport.

Finally too big for the overhead compartment.

Finally too big for the overhead compartment.

Miami was a lot different than I thought it would be. It really reminded me of Los Angeles, everything from the Spanish-influenced architecture to the sprawling layout of the city to the vast amount of culture. There was a lot to see, and we barely skimmed the surface, especially by sticking to our comfort zone of Whole Foods and healthy eating.

 

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