January 29, 2008

Bienvenido a Miami

Yeah, I'm taking it back to the Fresh Prince.

What? It had been years (7 or so) since I'd last been to Florida, when I made a whirlwind tour with Nish. The last time, I loved the beaches, the old folks, the weather, and, well, to be honest, the Nasa space center. In fact, I distinctly remember food not playing an important role in that trip. Key food memories involved one meal at a time-share presentation buffet, another at Olive Garden in Orlando, and several others composed of cruise ship food, and not elite high-end cruise ship, think cruise ship pitching bahama-mamas at every corner which is run as a special vacation package to get you to buy a timeshare.

We didn't buy the timeshare, but I've grown as a person. In particular, I've become more food focused, as have my vacations.

So, last weekend, E and I met up in Miami with 3 of his high school buddies, two of their significant others, and one of their significant other's college roommates for an 8-person weekend of fun in South Beach.

It a blast. Sun. Fun. Food. Beautiful people. Relaxation (I didn't even bring my laptop!). A gorgeous and flat (if humdity-filled and slower than expected) half marathon.

Did I mention food? Well, good. 'Cause that was the main focus. Despite the low body fat, South beach is an eating frenzy waiting to happen.

Friday, after a 3-hour delay for takeoff and a 4.5 hour flight, we finally arrived, checked into our horrifically loud room at the aging Marseilles and then we headed out to enjoy a reunion with friends from afar over a midnight Italian thin-crust pizza and wine on Lincoln Road followed by another round at a Sushi joint and outdoor bar on Collins Ave. in the glorious 68F weather. OH! AND, I ALMOST FORGOT! WE SAW PINK-MAN! The fact that I called out to him by name and we hugged surprised my companions quite a bit. J commented, "I feel like I just stepped into a Fellini film."

Saturday, we relaxed, ate some Sushi for lunch, read on the beach and in hammacks, and at night, after a day of various independent activities, we treated ourselves to a huge Italian Feast where the 3 orders of the surf and turf taught us that P's default rule should probably be followed: Never order filet mignon at an Italian Restaurant. (I realized upon watching those that broke the rule struggle with their steaks that while I never technically knew the rule, I definitely have always followed the rule. Play to the strengths of the restaurant where you find yourelf... Duh!). To the restaurant's credit, they credited us 1/2 the price of the surf & turf for each unsatisfied turf customer (all 3) and we all left full and content. From there, we walked our way back through South Beach and toured several of the bars in the cooler hotels on Collins street.

Sunday, M and I got up at 5:30 AM EST (that's 2:30 PST for those of you keeping track!) to run the Miami half marathon. Holy mackerel! Humidity slows you down! Seriously. I finished this half marathon at 1 second under the first half of my marathon in December. But I had no energy left. As painfully slow as it was, in addition to the thrill of running in the dark in a gorgeous new city with a friend I never see, I'm glad I had this learning experience since the Nagano marathon is likely to be humid as well. I definitely have a better idea of what might be a reasonable time goal for Nagano and I'm glad I didn't set it on the basis of my performance in California.

E, S and R met M and I at the 6 mile marker to cheer us on. That's how I know E loves me. He was there, awake, dressed, wearing pants, even (!) at 7 AM EST (aka, 4 AM PST.)

After the run, Sunday turned into the glorious debauchery that you'd expect. A big brunch. Champagne. Gelato for lunch. An afternoon on the beach, reading on a chaise lounge while E hid under the umbrella and enjoying a couple of cocktails. And, of course, we capped the day with another amazing dinner with the group, this time at a super swank establishment serving meals with an amazing blend of flavors, Vix. After dinner, we enjoyed a drink at the Catalina bar (wacky decor, not the best drinks, but great ambiance and quiet enough that you could sit with a big group and talk. The pool area is *very cool*.)

Monday found us sleeping in (because after we changed rooms to a less noisy one, the Marseilles was no longer the bane of my existence), getting ready, enjoying a full lunch of gazpacho and italian pizzas, and then heading to the airport for the return. This time, no delays, only a missed approach at SFO due to a commuter jet off of our wing... scary!

And now? Well, now I'm back home. Relaxed. 3 books into the new year's 20-book challenge. Frustrated with work (already?). And ready for my next vacation.

Hope all is well with you and yours.

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