It’s really tedious when people keep talking about the weather. Unfortunately, it seems like we’re at that time of year when that’s all everyone does. And I’ve found that being far away from my friends is causing many a ‘four Yorkshiremen’-style battle of one-upmanship between my feet of snow and their feet of rain. My winter storms and their wind storms. My snowshoes and their waders. You get the idea. And then there’s the same battle between people who live in different states about exactly who is more miserable about our respective feet of snow. Well, guess what? We are all miserable in our own unique and beautiful ways and everyone should just shut up about the weather.
In an effort to escape the thing that must not be named, I went to Miami over the weekend with a couple of friends. One couldn’t make it because she got an actual, real-life job and for that, Tallulah, we salute you. The second we got off the plane we started smiling because we could feel the warmth even in the gap between the door and the weird extending tunnel thing. We were immediately too hot wearing jumpers and jeans, and we loved every second of it.
In a way, it kind of felt like we’d literally escaped something. The cab driver who drove us from the airport to our hotel must have been thoroughly sick of the three girls the back of his car who kept occasionally sighing for no real reason and then all bursting into giggles, but we kept thinking about where we’d just come from and where we were now and feeling no sympathy for the people we’d left in New York because we are terrible people. Slightly tanned, terrible people. When we arrived at the hotel we immediately changed into shorts and tshirts and had a 15-minute discussion about how we were now wearing shorts and tshirts. In February. But seriously. In February. It went on for a while.
The hotel we stayed in has a reputation for having one of the best bars in the area, which was convenient for me because as well as being a terrible person, I am also lazy. But we could all just about manage to drag ourselves downstairs. The curse of the hostel (I’m saying ‘hotel’ out of a Hyacinth Bucket-esque need to get across the niceness and quality of the place, but it was technically a hostel) struck almost immediately when got to the pool. Because the bar was by the pool. Outside. Because it was warm. Have I pressed this point enough yet? Anyway, the curse of the hostel as I see it is the strange people who go there alone, and the subsequent requirement for you to be able to make small talk.
When you read stuff on the internet about travelling alone, there are all these articles that say ‘And when you get to wherever you’re staying, you’ll make friends with other travellers and you can all do things together’. Nope. I have travelled alone and I’ve made very good friends with my current book and left other people to it. That is how you travel alone. Not one of the three of us were good at small talk. Sometimes I genuinely don’t know how I have friends because I sure as hell can’t remember how I made them.
So, three seconds after three of us were seated on some loungers with room for at least six, we were joined by Weird Canadian Guy. Weird Canadian Guy was escaping the weather in Montreal and immediately began to tell us all about himself, his life and all of the hundreds of amazing things he’d done since he’d been in Miami (he arrived all of one day before us) and the (mercifully innocent) things we should do with him. He worked ‘in technology’ but would be no more specific and asked us what we did. What happened next was the most seamless display of improvisation I’ve ever seen. Suddenly, Weird Canadian Guy was talking to an “architect”, a “teacher”, and someone who “work in theatre”. After a brief discussion of how the architect starts work at 6am ‘because that’s just when building-drawing inspiration hits’, Weird Canadian Guy got up to get another drink.
By ‘Get another drink’ I do, of course, mean ‘refill the glass he stole from the bar with the rum and 7-Up he was hiding in his room in an effort to get (French accent) “‘ammered” (/French accent)’. It seems a career in the world of non-specific technology doesn’t pay too well because he found this a cheaper option than a $3 beer from the bar.
Once he’d disappeared the architect went to ask if we could sit somewhere with less space for interlopers and while she was gone we were joined by one and a half South African guys. I say ‘half’ because one was very drunk and really only able to slur the odd addition to the conversation. In their defence they were actually quite interesting, since they were Marine Engineers, our age, and had seen pretty much all of the world at this point. I was almost convinced that I’d finally found my ideal career until I found out that the drunk one worked as a chef. For other people. I can barely chef for myself.
Weird Canadian Guy came back while the one and a half South Africans were still with us and stood around for a while as if waiting for the one and a half South Africans to relinquish the seat he clearly thought they’d stolen. Eventually he walked away, only to be immediately replaced by an intimidatingly good-looking blonde security guard in Batman T-shirt asking if that was ‘the creep’ and telling us to see him if he came back again because he’d ‘regulate’ him. Then he left, with an honest-to-god wink. His teeth might have sparkled. I think I heard a ‘ping!’.
One and a half South Africans left shortly afterwards. I don’t think any of us knew what ‘regulate’ might mean, but I don’t think they wanted it to happen to them either if we had batman on our side.
On Saturday we went to the Everglades and fought alligators. Or at least, saw alligators. I held one for a photo after the obligatory Everglades boat ride because it seemed rude not to, and also I like being in bad-ass photos with animals, and I may have accidentally elbowed it in the face as I was handing it back to its keeper because I was getting nervous under said keeper’s supervisory glare, so I’m going to claim that I did have a tiny fight with one.
We were the last to get on our airboat tour of the everglades so, much to the chagrin of everyone else who been frying in the sun for a good ten minutes, ended up getting the best seats. Sure, you may get ripped to pieces flying through some pleasant stuff called Sawgrass which our boat driver nicely told us could ‘cut you to the bone’, and I got kind of sprayed with muddy water, but I was also within stealing distance of some very cute, teeny baby alligators. To be clear, I didn’t. But I could have.
I couldn’t quite get my head around the whole place. It looks like you’re in a system of rivers, and for the first 35 minutes of our 40 minute ride, I thought we’d crashed every time we went over patches of grass. It always turned out that they were growing out of more water. Halfway through, Wade (the most ironically named boat driver ever, given what he was about to reveal) told us that if we wanted to we could walk back through the water to where we’d come from. I’d been imagining what was under the boat as some deep, murky underworld, but it turns out the whole place is one giant puddle. A beautiful one, though.
That evening we braved Ocean Drive, which is over the road from the beach and literally one of the most hellish places I’ve been to. My nightmares are any kind of club, and also people who are confident/fake tanned enough to have more skin on show than clothing. And this was full of both. It made for excellent people-watching, but had I have thought I was in any way involved I would have run for the hills. We wandered the entire length of the strip looking for food, and being called to by people standing outside each restaurant trying to get us to enjoy their quality food. There was a lot of steak. Little did they understand that we were looking for the cheapest. The whole of Ocean Drive was full of adults drinking giant frozen cocktails and their children, looking both horrified and bored out of their minds.
We went to one bar after we ate, for very grown-up slush puppies in obnoxious colours that were very tasty. And, in fact, got tastier the more you drank them. Possibly something to do with whatever was in them that I did not think to investigate. As we sat and tried to drink them slowly we watched two elderly couples get steadily sloshed as they drank a giant frozen margarita each and ate nothing. We felt both smugness and admiration and have all decided to have a reunion like that when this whole thing is over.
To finish the night we went back to the hotel bar where Batman gave us a nice table that would only fit three people, and also another wink.
On Sunday we woke up with heavy hearts since we knew we had to go back later. We ate the hotel’s free breakfast of coconut pastries and fruit in the sunshine by the pool, trying to memorise the feeling of vitamin D and spent the what time we had left on the beach.
Turquoise water exists. Did we know that? Like, I’ve seen it blue. I’ve seen it grey. I’ve seen it kind of brown-y with lots of sand mixed it. I’ve even seen it ridiculous green and full of algae. But that colour that they show in travel brochures? That is a real colour. My inability to sit still on a beach took effect almost immediately so I ran around, splashed in the water, and generally did all the things that five-year-olds do at the seaside, while my much more grown up company sunbathed. My parents will be unsurprised to learn that I brought an entire carrier bag of shells back with me, because I am a truly dedicated beach thief.
And that was Miami. The cab driver who drove us from the hotel to the airport must have been thoroughly sick of the three girls the back of his car who kept occasionally sighing for no real reason and then all bursting into groans, but we kept thinking about where we’d just come from and where we were going and trying to cling to the memory of being warm because it was already fading and we need it to get through our last month.
In other news: I only have a month left! When did that happen?