Yesterday was super-fun for Chloë and me. We had gone bowling a couple days prior, and we spent the entire day together, just the two of us, on Thursday, too.
Of course, it was all for a mystery shop. I don't move unless I'm getting paid for it anymore. Ha! I kid - but not by much.
This time, we had to take a bus tour around Miami and surrounding cities, including Miami Beach, Coral Gables and Coconut Grove, and Little Havana. Thankfully, it did not rain and was not freezing, like it had been on Tuesday when we went bowling, so we were able to sit on top of the double-deckers we rode. That meant a ton of wind through our hair, especially on the expressways, and low-hanging branches hitting us in the face when we forgot to duck, when in the neighborhoods!
The bus tour was such that one could hop off and hop back on at dozens of spots, so when we hit Coral Gables, we decided to see if we could find an old college of professor of mine. I'd unsuccessfully tried to find him a time or two since we moved here, but I was bound and determined this time. Here we are on the famous Miracle Mile of Coral Gables, where shops upon shops lure passers-by to separate from their funds.
I've passed by the famous Biltmore Hotel many times in my life, but it wasn't until the narrated tour that I learned a lot of interesting facts about it - all of which forgotten now, I'm sure. My mind is like a sieve these days.
To get to the University of Miami, Chloë and I had to leave the bus, hop the trolley to the Metro, take that train down to the University station, and then walk all the way through campus to get to the Cox Science Building where I spent the vast majority of my college learning days. She was exhausted, having been up much of the night before, but she didn't complain, not even once!
I knew where Dr. Dan DiResta's office should have been located, but then I found the entire Marine Science department under renovations, and his name was not on any of the nearby plaques. Rats. But I took a chance, and knocked on a female Ph.D.'s office to ask if she knew of him. She did, and he was right upstairs, and she took us there!
Dr. D. made my entire day - no my WEEK - by turning around when I knocked on his door and called, "Hellooo!" and, after taking one look at me, exclaiming, "Melanie!!" I thought I'd have to explain who I was, since I first met him 20 years ago next month, but he knew me immediately!! And then he went on to say that I looked exactly as I had those 20 years ago when he first met me. What a nice, decent guy to say that, especially now that I'm approaching 40 and was 17 when we first met. I glowed the entire rest of the day.
Dan is a tall fella with at least a foot on me, so he was hunching down a lot to take this "selfie" on which I insisted. I wanted to take him to lunch, but it was 1:30 PM by that point, he'd already eaten, and he was on his way to a meeting with another former prof of mine. So we spent about 15 minutes catching up over the past 17 years (I graduated in '97), with promises to grab that lunch the next time I was going to be in the area.
Can you believe he remembered me so clearly, so instantly, after hundreds upon hundreds of students have filtered in through his door? He's not just a professor, after all, but a student advisor, and many years have passes since our last face-to-face encounter. Of course, I was one of his top students and became a student mentor for incoming marine science students myself, so we worked together a little bit, but like I said: YEARS. What a huge thrill.
After I hugged Dr. Dan about five times and said good-bye, Chloë and I went over to the student union, AKA the "UC," to get her some food. We passed by this giant |__| that wasn't there when I was matriculating at the school, and that made for a good photo-op. Curls decided that she wanted to go to college at UM, too, which made me gulp more than a few times. As Florida's most prestigious private university, it comes with a stiff price that I'm still struggling to pay off myself, even with my hefty scholarship! Eek. But it's a great school, where 15,000 students a year flock to enroll at all levels from around the world, so if she can get in, it would definitely be worth it to have her join my legacy there.
After a quick bite to eat, we headed back to the Metro station, where Romero Britto left yet another one of his marks. They even talked about Britto on our bus tour, which was cool, because I was able to share a few things the guide didn't mention. Namely, that we have a Britto in our living room, heh heh. Kidding, I didn't really mention that, but maaaan I want to meet that guy!
After we took the train to the trolley, and the trolley back to our bus, the next stop was in Little Havana. We stopped right next to this really cool Domino Club in a local park and watched the old-timers play dominoes. It struck me as being very authentically Miami-ish, and I enjoyed the scene playing out before us.
Hopping back on the expressway, we made our way back downtown to switch to the South Beach route. I mentioned two posts previous that I love the city, love the view, love it all... and I do! When it opens up before you, even on the highway, it takes your breath away. I admit, I am absolutely a city girl at heart. The hustle and bustle, the always something new to do... it's right up my alley.
This was approximately 2.5 seconds before a palm frond whacked me in the face. Ouch! Oh well, at least my phone didn't get knocked out of my hands!
Here's our view on the causeway over to Miami Beach. Lovely. I learned a few things on this trip, too, but mostly I just petted Chloë's sleeping head on my lap. She was sooo tired by this point.
Our tour bus guide for this leg of the trip was trés entertaining, and I laughed a whole lot. I felt like his jokes were for me, since most people didn't speak much English and I was sitting right next to him, and I know he enjoyed my appreciation! He had an accent, so I thought maybe he was from South/Central America or maybe even Italy - check out those hairy arms! - but after he polled the top of the bus for everyone's origins, I asked and discovered he's originally from right here in Miami. He found it quite surprising that we live here, too, so I had to come up with a little scenario about us "playing tourists" for the day! Really nice guy and really entertaining; I enjoyed this leg the most.
I've been to SoBe dozens of times, and I never tire of it. The Art Deco is just the style of art that I really like, partly because it's so geometric, partly because it's so functional, and partly because of all the bright pops of color everywhere. Yes, just my style.
We had free drink coupons for The Clevelander from our bus tour, so we hopped back off the bus and made our way over to that fine hotel. I don't know what I drank, but it was fruity, and cold - and strong! Chloë had water, even though I'd been promised they had non-alcoholic concoctions for the young'uns, because the server said nope!
"Take me home and I'll rock your world" - did I write that?! ;)
I wish I could claim she got those Shirley Temple ringlets from me, but those are ALL Rob. Beautiful, beautiful hair on this gorgeous little girl. I'm not biased, am I? Ever since she made her way into this world over 12 years ago, I've thought Chloë the most stunning child ever. Okay, maybe a little biased... ;)
Since we arrived at Happy Hour, we decided to have a snack. Chloë had the pretzel bites, which were long like cigars but much fatter, like a... well, never mind. But bites? I think not.
The server recommended the fried calamari to me over the coconut shrimp, so I went ahead and took he advice. Delicious! Total bill for our food and alcohol, including the tip? $13. Not too shabby!
We still had time before the next bus was due to arrive, so we decided to run down the beach and stick our feet in the water, just to say we'd been to the ocean in January. It was way more empty than the last time we'd come to this beach, in August, with my pal Kellee. Not warm at all, but warm for the Northerners who were surely all over the place, I figured it would be a little more populated, at least. Maybe they were all indulging in Happy Hour, too?
Even the lifeguard shacks on South Beach are Art Deco-y!
Chloë decided it was too chilly, after all, to stick her feet in the water, but I was not so easily discouraged. I had a skirt on, so I tiptoed right in and whoo! Cold! I watched the waves swallow up some seaweed, and then we made our way back up toward the bus pick-up area.
As we passed the Fountainblue, with it's risky-for-its-time sculpture, I made a mental note to come back soon. South Beach is about an hour's drive from home, like most places around here, but I've got so many good memories of the place.
And another free drink coupon to use, too.