Recently, I had the chance to go to Miami for a conference. Obviously I jumped at this since I had never been to Miami before, and I hardly blinked when I learned I would effectively be alone. I had always wanted to travel by myself, and two days to explore Miami excited me.
I hit up a couple of friends who knew something about Miami and told myself I would read up more before I took off. Of course that didn't happen. I arrived in Miami with the two item bucket list of seeing Wynwood and South Beach.
I assumed my hotel concierge would be able to embellish those goals. Instead, he tried to sell me $55 tickets for a six-hour trip to the Everglades - which would be cool if this wasn't my first time in Miami and I only had one day.
Me: "Let me go check with my friend, and I'll come back down."
I exited the hotel through a backdoor.
I'm pretty sure we've all seen Miami depicted in TV shows or movies. And this is when I tell you they don't exaggerate the aesthetic: Miami is gorgeous. It's like the palm trees even have Botox. You don't need an Instagram filter; in fact, you might need to turn down the saturation. The butts are bigger. The tans are darker. And everything is greener, including the money. (Imagine a Lamborghini cutting off a Camaro at every corner.)
I started my adventures at the Bayside Marketplace, which is an outdoor mall on the water. (Everything in Miami has an outdoor component. I mean, it's 85 degrees in March.) I found a sea turtle bracelet at a stall and decided I had to have it. I asked the woman if she could break a $20. This may have given away my single tourist status, or else I screamed it in some other way. Either way she was the oracle at the beginning of the horror movie warning me to stay away.
Woman: "Are you here alone? Is this your first time in Miami?"
Me: (beaming) "It is."
Woman: "That's boring! You shouldn't be alone. You're going to have a bad time. You need friends, someone to drink with, walk around with."
Me: "Oh . . . okay. I'm meeting a friend tomorrow."
Woman: "You should have come with someone."
I'll just take my bracelet and leave now.
The Phone Debacle
The one thing a friend would have been good for is another phone. My phone, through abuse, age, or both, has the most feeble battery life. I returned to the hotel twice to let it charge. Of course I could have not Snapchatted everything or texted my friends every second, but look, that woman said I needed a companion; I have one in the palm of my hands.
On my second outing, things got dire. I decided to walk to Wynwood, which is the artsy, hipster section of Miami. (I wore my new sea turtle bracelet!) Don't ask me why I walked; I wanted to reinforce my independence, get some exercise, and break my feet (because that's what happened; I probably shouldn't have worn flipflops to trek three miles).
On the way, I was reminded even more of how much Miami resembled a TV show! Indeed it felt like an episode of "CSI: Miami" - and I was going to be the dead victim. Let's just say the sidewalk population is colorful. (Meanwhile, my hotel had $50 valet parking, which is absurd.) Why did I walk again?
And then SOS: My phone dipped to 35% battery. Which would be okay if I was returning to the hotel after, but I wanted to Uber to South Beach from Wynwood. I needed that battery. I decided to drop the screen brightness to reserve energy. Wait, that's too dim. Wait, I can't see the screen. Wait, is my phone dead?OMG, I can't see anything!
Commence freak-out on the sidewalk. I'm holding the phone to the sky, squinting, hand over my brow, convinced my phone has kicked the cord. I needed to get inside to verify its death certificate. Thankfully, I spotted an auto store up ahead so I scampered in. Phewww. I had just turned the brightness down too low.
I decided my phone's brightness had to stay at top notch to avoid another panic attack. And all this for my battery to plummet to 32%.
My battery was further depleted once I reached what I thought was Wynwood, but was in fact the ghetto. (My Uber driver later confirmed this suspicion: "Yeah, I wouldn't have gone there.") I had to Yelp the nearest establishment where people might congregate who wouldn't ask me if I had a lighter or spare change.
This led to some boutiques and art exhibits. One of the exhibits, which was more like a zoo for murals, had a juice bar. So Miami, right? Except they spelled milk with a y (mylk??) and offered things like spirulina and coconut meat. But I do yoga, so I ordered something (not the mylk). It was tasty, but quite small for the price tag ($9), but Miami. ~Lena Dunham Shrug~
(Also, I went to Starbucks the following day, and I asked for coconut milk in my iced coffee. Barista: "I'm sorry, we're out of coconut milk." Only in Miami would that happen! Thankfully, I'm not lactose intolerant; I just like being pretentious. Me: "Nonfat is fine.")
When I decided to leave Wynwood, Uber was experiencing a price surge (1.7x), so yeah, no, I'll just walk to South Beach. Cue the balls of my feet stress fracturing. (They didn't actually, but the next day I struggled to walk barefoot. On carpet.)
Eventually my feet gave out I opted to support the local economy; I contacted Uber. I got dropped off at the Lincoln Road Mall, which is another outdoor boutique conglomeration. I knew I could explore here, then stroll to the beach. (My feet protested.)
Overall, South Beach was eh. Maybe it's because I'm from a beach town, but the water wasn't that clear, and it was crowded. I had pictured confectioner sugar sand and dolphins to greet me. It was not that. (Fort Lauderdale proved to be more aesthetic when I visited a couple of days later.)
Lincoln Road Mall did have a store playing "Stereo Love," which is so my jam and so Miami.
The only wildlife I actually wanted to see while in Florida happened to be an alligator. This did not happen.
However, while at the conference, I'm on the third floor of the hotel looking down on the riverfront. I see this gray blob bobbing. At first I thought it was a submersible (which makes a lot of sense), and then I realized: Ohmigawd, it's a sea cow!
When I was in preschool, I used to watch this SeaWorld video (who I don't support if you've seen Blackfish). In the video they had a segment on manatees, otherwise known as sea cows, and I have never actually seen one! And here it was!
By the time I got my camera out, the manatee was gone. Still, I snapped a photo of the river and put it on Snapchat - because is anyone going to replay that and say I didn't see a manatee? Because I did. He's just ten feet underwater in the pic.
Basically, I saw the Loch Ness monster.