Travel in our Own Backyard

Every year since my husband and I married four years ago, we have taken a trip abroad. With four children between us, we plan that “us” time as much as our children plan and dream about Christmas morning.

It was my birthday once again…42. I had spent one of those in Italy and the big 4-0 beneath the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Costa Rica was another of these ventures, although not exactly on our birthdays that fall only a few weeks apart when we were 41, so I was interested to see what my husband had come up with this year, although a massage at home would have been sufficient (but don’t tell HIM that).

This year, gas prices, airline costs to areas outside of the U.S. and a three year old that we didn’t want to leave for long had us focus on a quick trip to “somewhere different”. My husband found a quick flight to Miami on Southwest (and why have I flown ANY other airline?) that didn’t cost an arm and a leg. We had no delays and carried-on our luggage, sat where we wanted to, making it an easy trip all the way around.

We stayed at a posh art deco boutique hotel on South Beach. Anyone who wants to feel like the jet set should practice here. Even the taxi drivers have a suave’ skip in their walk. There is glitz and glamour from sun up to sun down. There is also plenty to do for the family which we chalked up in our memories for when we plan our family vacation.

We were amazed that we were in America, as all around us families were shouting for joy on the white sandy beaches in French, in Spanish. With the American dollar sinking lower than that in Europe, it appears that European’s vacations have taken an “inexpensive turn” to the west.

Walking down South Beach, the front drives of hotels sport Mazzaratti, Ferraris and Bentley. I added up enough big ticket automobiles to feed a third world country. The art deco district is being revitalized block by block. There is no hint of recession with this group.

We made the pool circuit, from the Ritz Carleton (where we spotted Carlton- not of hotel but of Fresh Prince fame), to our hotel’s hidden roof-top pool where a few wore less cloth than I had lining my handbag. The art deco hotel scene was of pure elegance, with a place to duck into for every mood or whim. You could entertain in a posh restaurant, lounge in a flowing white transparent lobby at the Delano that appears to move as the winds enter with the beautiful people that are here to simply look “marvelous”. Private pool cabanas and grassy knolls filled with pillows and lounges are there for an afternoon siesta. There is even a hot tub and hidden pool just off the beach path and beyond a gallery bar lined with sofas that divides the two spaces if you don’t want to be lined on the beach with hundreds of other sunbathers. (Makes me appreciate the fact that in Gulf Shores I can walk the beach in front of my house without passing more than one or two people in an afternoon).

Our favorite area was Little Havana which reminded us of the tucked away streets of Italy, where we first fell in love. Vendors lined the streets along with high ticket boutiques that made shopping lots of fun. We ended up buying two Indian outfits, mine a clever scarf/shirt I could tie up ten ways, but being in Miami, I decided to “step out a bit” and wore it as a dress to dinner. So how appropriate that we dined in an Indian restaurant. (I’ve always wanted to dress like those waitresses!)

On my birthday we found a neighborhood restaurant and requested a table in the courtyard. Bamboo formed the walls of this incredible hideaway and the food was so incredible I wish I could have met the artist/chef as well as the surfer who found the largest lobster I have ever seen in my entire life. Each entrée had a theme, and my cake came out with sparklers, just as I would have expected.

We were not able to stay up late enough, and believe me we tried, to try out the club scene. As we were going to bed, everyone was slipping out into the night to release alter egos. Being forty, I don’t feel we missed much. We had our own parties to attend to at our front table with a glass of wine and a little romance overlooking the street and café below.

We had planned to rent a Harley and make a trip over to Key West but the island vibe here had us content, and we decided to plan that one for another time.

This trip has opened our eyes to the riches that lie between the waters that surround this incredible country that we live in. We don’t have to have the passport our exes refuse to comply to for our children, we can introduce them to the world right here in our own backyard.

The weekend I returned I hit Lowe’s and transformed the back yard into a paradise (although I haven’t found the bamboo to enclose the pool yet…) but we added curtains beneath the deck, and got a great umbrella and dined on the back deck, overlooking the pool as the lights change from red, to pink to green to blue…
who says you have to go ANYWHERE to enjoy life?