Friday, May 6, 2011

Florida: Sun, sand and drives...

Our trip to Florida was more of a cross country driving trip than a touristy one. Miles and miles, you drive on.. passing by towns and cities and what not.. Landscapes which keep changing from dry lands to thickly forested areas.. and the roads cutting through them.. Guess now I know what American road trips would be like! Long and expanded travels, from one scenery to another...

This road trip started in Orlando, in Florida upto the Keys through Miami and then back through Florida, Georgia and North Carolina to Durham. So essentially we did cover half the east coast (I guess!). 

Anyways our first stop was Orlando. There wasn't much to see in the city though, the downtown was as boring as it can get. We did walk around through their cafes and the famous Eola lake park. We also took the free hop-on hop-off bus shuttles running around the downtown area. The town just seemed so dead! I guess Orlando is just famous for the numerous theme parks it offers, some five or more Disneyland parks, Universal studios, Waterworld and so on. There isn't much else to do there other than these! Of these, we visited the Magic Kingdom of Disneyland and what an out of this world experience that was! I guess a repeat trip of Orlando is for sure, to see the other parks it has to offer.

After a day in Orlando, we drove on across Florida to the beach and party town of Miami. The best part of Miami I guess was the drive till there! South Florida is quite densely populated especially the areas next to the sea, and quite a rich population too. Looks like all the loaded people like to have a winter home in this area; away from the work world, in this world of sea, sun and relaxation!

Instead of driving on the interstates, we took the smaller roads and those were all along the sea. We did get down at some beaches too on the way, all sunny and isolated, with the whole beach to yourself. Ah, what a life.. Especially when you have just landed from a cold and snowy New York! This whole route is dotted with beach houses and mansions, all reflecting the wealth of the people who stay here. You can feel it in the air...  

The drive was quite enchanting, and then you reach the Palm Beach area which gets even more rich. The drive from then on is laced with huge palaces, of the rich and the famous. They were so huge, so well decorated, at night you can even see the lights and how well done they all are. Was good to drive through it all:)!!

Miami was a let down though (or guess we did not do it enough justice!). We stopped in Miami just for a couple of hours, and walked on South Beach which is the party area of the town. It surely is, but it felt too loud for our tastes. So after a round of the area, we just left the city. On the whole though, Miami feels like a commercial touristy place, rather than a nice vacation place. Do not like!

Anyways the next two days were spent in the Keys which is the southmost tip of Florida. The keys are a group of some 100 or so islands, all pretty small but connected with bridges. This whole area is geared towards a nice lazy vacation! A few beaches, lots of eating places, diving, snorkeling, swimming with the dolphins and the sea lions and such water based activities. There are umpteen types of water sports around, and the best of course would be to rent a boat and go around island hopping! And of course driving on and on over and onto island after island is something else the islands offer.

We did not do most of it though:), we were more looking to just having a nice relaxed vacation! Lazy beach time! Though the beaches were the toughest to find! Anyways, the first day we drove along the islands, and spent some time on Anne's beach (which wasn't much of a beach though!). The water was shallow though, which was nice.. And of course the emerald colour which so entices the water lover! We also stopped at a couple of haunts on the way, including at the the world's best Tiki bar. They had live music playing in the evening, which was just perfect.. Sitting next to the beach, watching the sunset and live music playing with people dancing to it. Isn't that the perfect end to a vacation day?

The next day we did some more stuff though, all inspired from the Frommers Guide! First we went snorkelling which was good. There is a lot of aquatic life to see, and we even saw a turtle swimming there! The area was better for diving though, as at some places it was too deep to see much during snorkelling. 

We went to a cafe where you can see and feed the tarpons for a dollar! Was interesting, and this is how they look! Mind you though, feeding them can get a bit scary!

The next stop for the day was the Sombrero beach, which was just perfect for relaxing! We saw the sunset there, next to the palm trees. Even saw a person catch a baby shark! and skin it!! 

In the evening afterwards we finished at the Lorelai cafe (again from Frommers), and it was so pretty (and cheap!)!!! Good food, great location next to the sea, pleasant lighting, sounds of the waves coming in and awesome music to complement it all! Was another relaxing evening spent next to the sea. Sad though that places close down so early in the Keys, they all close down at 10pm itself!!

During the two days, we drove a lot also around the Keys, which was pretty.. Driving through narrow connected islands. Sometimes you can see the sea on both sides, and sometimes you are just on a bridge connecting two islands! Both sides there are islands splattered here or there.. Might even be better to take a boat and go to all the islands. Also we could not go to Key West, so that's for next time I guess:).

Anyways the last day was just the drive back across Florida, Georgia and North Carolina. We took the interstates for faster commute. Stopped at the standard eating haunts, IHOP, Waffle Place, Subways, Taco Bells and all. The landscape wasn't as interesting with the interstates as it had been with the smaller routes, so was just a usual drive across the country, from one landscape to another.. Anyways guess we had seen and done enough, and all we wanted to do was go home and rest.. !

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