When planning a holiday in February/March, two things spring to mind as someone who lives in Europe: Ski break, or winter sun. I’ve broken too many bones and had too many injuries to truly opt for the first option, so after my Dad and brother booked to go skiing in France, my Mum and I decided to go to Florida for some Caribbean sun. Sandwiched either side of our Caribbean cruise was a little time to see a bit more of Florida that I haven’t yet made it to, so, before we spent a couple of days in Fort Lauderdale, and on the way back to the airport, we took an all important pit stop at a Miami mall.
Flight availability and frequency makes Miami the better airport to fly into that Fort Lauderdale, even though our Royal Caribbean ship would be docking in Fort Lauderdale’s port. We flew out a couple of days early, and booked into our first ever Air B’n’B. I have heard quite a lot about all of the positives and the negatives about using Air B’n’B itself, and I’m not going to lie to you, I wasn’t sure how it would work. As a family, we have almost always opted for staying in something self-catered, a villa or apartment or something of that ilk, so Air B’n’B was a good half way house. It worked really well, we had a small, self-contained bungalow just outside the main area of Fort Lauderdale, with everything we needed to cook, park the car, and have a bit of time no over indulging but enjoying the sun before we embarked on the cruise itself.
We pretty much crashed on our first night and we straight to bed once we arrived into Florida, but the next day, we made plans to see more of the city itself. First things first, a trip to Walmart; I don’t think I could do a trip to Florida without a trip to Walmart anymore, everything is so cheap. It’s an experience in itself. Once we bought food, coffee, and white cranberry juice, we headed out towards the beach. On the way we stopped for lunch, and I introduced my Mum to the institution, the brilliance that is Einstein Bros. Bagels. I love a good bagel, and there is nothing quite like a warm ‘everything’ bagel covered with cream cheese from their shops! I had to introduce Emma when we went too Washington/NYC too!
Once fed and watered, we finally made it to the beach. I have to say, the beaches are stunning. We weren’t there in any school holidays, so it wasn’t busy, and easy enough to get a parking spot on the beach, and just wander through across the sand. We sat and chilled for a little while, and just enjoyed out first proper taste of relaxation. The beaches were proper white sand beaches and the sea was a proper blue/green, and the temperature and sun were perfect without being over bearing.
Fort Lauderdale also has a really pretty harbour area, so we also decided to stop off there and have a look. The harbour has some very impressive personal yachts, and some even more impressive waterside houses that were just huge and incredible. The canals and waterways that Fort Lauderdale is built on make an intricate and relatively private network that afford great locations and privacy for the rich and the famous, and even though we didn’t get a chance to explore them, I can see why it is popular. We spent a bit of time just walking along the front, and taking photos of THE BAG*.
Our last day in Fort Lauderdale was pretty much spent getting to the port, rueing the loss of THE BAG and getting ourselves sorted for boarding the ship. We’d heard horror stories surrounding cruising from Fort Lauderdale, and it wasn’t the best in terms of facilities and organisation, but we overcame the sadness that losing the bag came with and enjoyed spending time on the boat instead. Leaving the port, (and then re-entering, and leaving again after the medical emergency) afforded us some pretty amazing views of the bigger properties that actually lined the ocean rather than the canals. Fort Lauderdale is so much quieter and calmer than Miami, there are less bars and clubs, less rowdy people, and all around seemed a slightly nicer area (if a little like a retirement village). I don’t think I could sound much more middle aged if I tried.
On the way back, we pretty much bypassed Fort Lauderdale all together once we had collected our car. The port was nothing short of shambolic on the way back, we were desperately trying to get off the ship early to make the most of our last day before our evening flight, and the staff didn’t make getting off smooth, nor the quickest.
My Mum and I have both been to Miami before, so we didn’t factor in too much time for Miami itself. I don’t really drink alcohol, and the 10 days prior had been spent relaxing on the beach and by the pool so I wasn’t too fussed to spend time at Miami beach itself. Instead, we decided to go to The Dolphin Mall by the airport in the hopes of picking up some last minute deals on the way home. The bargains were pretty good, as they always are in American Malls, and I finally made the decision that I was going to hold off on treating myself to a Pandora bracelet.
Don’t get me wrong guys, I would go back. The area is lovely, there is guaranteed weather, and it’s easy to get to, but I just don’t think Miami and Fort Lauderdale will ever be anything other than nice, or pleasant for me. They aren’t quite my cup of tea.
*Now, I know that I have never discussed THE BAG before, so, quick intro. My cousins, Aunt, and Uncle, were trying to get photographs of a canvas reusable bag from their local garden centre in as many different locations as possible. We were taking it to different places, such as the harbour, and the beach to snap pictures before embarking on our cruise. Sadly, an incident prevented the bag from seeing anywhere other than Fort Lauderdale (on this trip at least), but it was fun while it lasted.