Our man Dave left us in Haiti last time, an unusual trip that not many tourists usually do. Davo made the most out of that trip, hiking and riding around town, trekking around the countryside, determining why there needed to be a vast population of goats and generally learning about the Haitian way of life. It turned out to be one gem of a trip.
Davey heads back to the traditional tourist route hitting the Everglades, watching a Miami Heat game, heads to the beaches and nightlife of Miami, jumps on a bike and cycles around Montreal, listens to Jazz in Toronto and goes sightseeing around Washington. But there’s more to this post than just that!
And so without further ado..
fter my adventure in Haiti, I was headed to a polar opposite place: Miami.
I was a little unsure if it was the kind of place I would like but figured if I was going to fly through there on the way to Canada then I should check the city out… and I was glad that I did as I had a lot of fun (though, my liver and kidneys probably won’t agree).
I was staying in a “party hostel”; and I suspect it will be the last of this type of hostel I would stay in. Relaxing and chilling out was almost impossible as the entire complex was all indoors and there was no outdoor communal area to relax, even for a few minutes was not possible. The hostel was constantly promoting club nights and just about all activities, everything was devoted to this, essentially a great place if you want to go clubbing, but no good for sleeping.
In my 20’s it would have been terrific, however in my late 30’s I was having trouble keeping up.
I also booked myself into a dorm room for the first time in years, and I suspect the last time if I could avoid it. I had finally reached a level of where my own personal space was desirable, then being situated in a large smelly communal room at a discount rate.
Needless to say, I was out of the hostel every day doing some sort of activity.
The first included doing a “Gator” tour of the Florida Everglades. Whilst I have seen a lot of alligators and crocodiles (I’m Australian after all), the mode of transport is what actually appealed to me, joining a tour on a high-speed boat that floats above the water. This experience was very loud and the boat highly maneuverable. I wish I could drive one myself, on the tour I spotted a few gators and turtles on the water, all secondary to the actual boat ride in my opinion.
I was also attacked by mozzies (mosquitos) which swelled up my face for a while which, unfortunately, I was not warned about this prior. Another highlight was the local key lime pie, very tasty. There were, fortunately, a lot of wild alligators to see unlike whale watching, quite a boring activity.
Miami Heat versus the Boston Celtics
Something else I did was attend the playoff finals of the Miami Heat vs. the Boston Celtics in the NBA basketball playoffs (semi-finals). A couple of Aussies from the hostel and myself scalped tickets online for $220 US and headed down to the arena.
We first went to a Hooters restaurant where we drank jugs of beer and ate plenty of chicken wings in sauce, also observing the friendly genetically enhanced waitresses and chatting basketball with plenty of locals.
After that we headed down to the American Airlines Arena in the Waterfront area of Miami, it holds around 20,000 people and we had very good seats, about 20 rows back from the court.
The game was quite intense and ended up going to extra time; Miami managed to win in the end.
Something that did come to my attention was the crowd, a lot of people dancing around to high energy dance music (Pit Bull – argh) and messages coming in over the PA system to rev up the crowd further. I am not sure dancing around when a camera is on you is normal within the NBA (I suspect not), but after experiencing the crowd and the intense but somewhat comedic atmosphere, I ended up wanting Celtic to win the match who I was assured take their basketball a lot more seriously than the Miami crowd who were just as interested in dancing and posing, more so than the game itself.
I also managed to get myself a free David Wade shirt and was fortunate enough to watch Lebron James in action. Please note I actually don’t like basketball particularly – the experience, however, was very worthwhile.
The next highlight was driving down to The Florida Keys on a bus, the trip all up took around 15 hours and I wish in retrospect I had stayed down there for a night instead of heading back. The town is the most southerly point of the USA and is around 50 miles from Cuba. The interesting part of the drive the road trip itself, lots of long bridges over the sea water being connected by small islands, first time I’d ever been on a road like that.
The town itself was lovely, lots of shopping, outdoor bars lined up next to each other as well as double and triple story wood-paneled houses lining the streets. It also included Harry S Truman’s Whitehouse as well as the house of Ernest Hemingway.
I couldn’t be bothered paying to visit either of these so spent most of my time down at the beach. It was much nicer if somewhat smaller than Miami Beach itself, a gigantic seemingly endless beach with no waves and you have to walk out over hundred metres in the ocean before you can get your head under water.
Most people, however, go to Miami for the nightlife and this ended up the main focus of my time there.
As I mentioned earlier the hostel really pumped up club nights, this involved rounding everyone up though a free lunch in the communal area, a rep selling the night and then giving 10 dollars for the cover charge and entry to two nightclubs, the first being cheap alcohol, the second being quality.
On each occasion, the first bar was a dump, I suspect the only reason these places are still in business is the amount of business the hostel throws at them. As there was around usually 50 to 100 people out with the hostel, these bars were nevertheless pretty fun. The second nightclub usually involved a somewhat fun but unnecessary party bus, SUV, Limo or whatever (everything at Miami Beach is within walking distance) and then priority entry.
Drinks usually went for around 20 dollars plus in the second club, therefore, no drinking was done, but that was usually covered by the cheapness of the first bar. The hostel also ensured priority VIP entry which was very handy as no queuing and no denial by security at the door.
After dancing around and losing my hearing, I would then head back to the hostel and ended up chatting with others till four in the morning before crashing out for a few hours and then up again at 8 or 9 for the next relentless day of activities and beach.
I enjoyed myself a lot in Miami but honestly I think my time in the party hostel type of environment had passed the people I met there however were excellent fun and good old Facebook meant I could stay in touch.
The shopping is excellent, the beach great fun and the parties are amazing, however Miami is also a very rough and somewhat dangerous, a lot of homeless people and crime, no more clearly demonstrated than by the gunfire I heard the day after I arrived only to find out later that around the corner someone referred to as the Miami Cannibal has just been shot to death by police, it’s actually a lot worse than it sounds but I had just been to Haiti and the land of Voodoo, so what’s a cannibal on bath salts got on that?
y flight on time for once (I had been having issues with late flight schedules) so I arrived in Montreal as expected, US airlines are quite often late in my experience, most likely due to the sheer amount of airline traffic. It was good to be an a city that felt more like home, Central America was fun and Miami was crazy, Montreal was a more steady pace in comparison.
I checked into my hostel which was very quiet and I did a walk about town. I was staying in the Latin Quarter, Montreal is French-speaking and the area I was in particularly French, I wanted to stay here instead of the English side of the city as this is what I understood as where the locals tend to hang out.
My night was pretty uneventful; actually the three nights I had in Montreal were nice and quite and I was still trying to get over the 4 nights in Miami experience. Something I did notice whilst walking around at night was the amount of homeless people who were dressed up in punk jackets which I thought was pretty odd. There was a protest going on too, something to do with fee increases at university, the protest had been going for over 100 days and the protesters walked around banging on pots with spoons. The first night there was over 100 riot police parked out on my street.
There were also many attractive women about, always a plus with adding atmosphere to a place.
Cycling is the way to go
I spent the days firstly riding a bicycle about town, you can pick up a bike at any station dotted around the town, costs a few dollars for the day and you have that bike or any other bike if and when you choose to swap.
The city was crisscrossed with cycle ways, I am pretty sure this is the place the Sydney Lord Mayor got the ridiculous idea to put bicycle lanes in Sydney, but unlike Sydney Montreal does it very well.
I rode to the top of the mountain to overlook the city and the second day I went the island where they were setting up for the Gran Prix due the following weekend, but I was not able to see; I ended up dozing in the park most of the day. The night-time I spent watching the basketball playoffs in a few random bars about the city, I love sports generally and will virtually watch anything if no one to talk too, even basketball playoffs apparently.
The rest of my trip in Canada involved catching up with friends I had made from previous trips, as opposed to sightseeing).
Firstly I headed down to Toronto, checked into my hostel and caught up some friends.
The following day I headed up to Ottawa to crash at my friend’s house which involved a lot of drinking. All the friends I caught up in Canada with I had met whilst driving around Australia a few years earlier.
What happens after a hangover
The Ottawa night involved a lot of drinking with my two Canadian mates in a pool hall, the next morning I had a terrible hangover. My friend took me to the bus stop, this involved the fastest tour I had ever been on, 2 minutes tour of the Parliament building in Ottawa (the State capital) which involved jumping out of the car, taking a photo and jumping back in the car.
I was headed back to Toronto, but I accidentally headed the wrong way to Montreal and then had to turn around and head back to Toronto (a very bad hangover), 9 hours later (and a hundred bucks) I checked into my hostel.
I headed out to a Jazz bar, listened to some quality tunes and then headed back to the hostel to crash. All the days I’d spent resting had been used up by one hangover and an unfortunate bus trip.
The next day I headed to the suburb of Woodbine which was near the airport. It’s basically a town under the flight path, surrounded by power lines and a race course with a casino. The reason I headed there was I didn’t fancy the idea of missing my flight and after the bus debacle thought this was a good idea.
I could not stay in so I headed to the casino was full of tired looking people fixated with poker machines, an RSL club but a lot more depressing; I quickly went back to my hotel and waited for my flight to Washington DC.
spent a couple of days in DC, stayed in one of the worse hostels I’d been in for a while (road work out the front and only three bathrooms) and did a lot of sightseeing.
DC being the capital is loaded with history, the added bonus is that all the museums are free and that the metro system is first class, meaning travelling about is easy to do.
The first day involved catching up with a couple of Danish friends I had made in Miami and touring some of the museums in the Smithsonian, the Smithsonian is actually 8 separate museum buildings that all form separate parts of one huge museum complex.
Sightseeing around town
The second day, unfortunately, was raining so I spent most of the time hiking around with an umbrella.
I looked at the Washington monument, the President’s residence, Lincolns Memorial (according to Tim Burton, Lincoln was not only a president but a vampire killer) and the Korean, WW 2 and Vietnam was memorials.
I then headed over to the Arlington cemetery; this contained thousands of buried soldiers, known also to contain the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier as well as John F Kennedy and family.
After viewing a parade, I checked out the Capital building, the American Indian, Space Museum (really impressive, included Apollo 11) and the Botanical gardens. You could probably spend weeks in Washington and not ever get across all the museums and sites to be seen, I only had a few days so it was a hectic little tour. After another early night and it was time to leave Washington, I headed out to pick up the car I was renting so I could do the final leg of my trip, a 6-week iconic drive across the USA…..
The Travel Bug
The Travel Bug is a collaboration project that goes through Dave’s travel journals around the world. This series started a while back and finished right here in Washington. We’ll be back soon road trippin’ around the US!
He just completed another world trip and will be sharing his tall travel tales shortly.
PC likes getting the job done by day and writes, designs and codes during his spare time. He also enjoys having a drink with Dave and hearing his tall travel tales.
We hope to entertain you with these stories.