Friday, September 12, 2003


From the time I'm in US, I had heard a lot of ppl talking abt the beauty of Florida. Florida and Montana r considered the most scenic states in the US. I guess Ppennsylvania comes pretty close too. Anywayz, Florida has lotsa tourist attractions.....Miami, KeyWest, Orlando, Daytona, Tampa, Ft. Lauderdale.....the list just goes on....

Our plan was to visit Miami and KeyWest, both places known for itz beaches and water-sports. We left Chicago at 3:30pm on Fri, Aug 29th from Midway airport (Chicago has 2 big airports....O'Hare is an intl airport, and Midway is the smaller just-domestic airport. Both r abt 20 miles from my place. Also, in abt 20miles radius from my house, there r another 7-8 airports, most of them used for smaller passenger planes, or for private jets. I dont think these many airports r there in the whole of Karnataka!). We were travelling by ATA airlines and landed in the Ft. lauderdale airport at 7:30pm. It was a 3 hr flight, but we lost 1-hr because we travelled from Central time zone to Eastern time zone!

Ft. Lauderdale is abt 25 miles away from Miami. It was not on our map of places to visit, just that travel to Ft. lauderdale airport is abt 30% cheaper than if i'd landed at Miami airport itself! I rented a Ford Escape SUV (Yeah, drove an SUV for the first time!!!) with GPS (Global Positioning System).

This GPS system provides u with directions to any address that u enter. It will identify ur current location, and will calculate the road to travel to the destination u enter in it. It provides options like Least time/Most use of Freeways/Least use of Freeways, etc. And, while u r driving, if u have to take a trun some where, it will tell u 2 miles in advance, then again 0.5 miles before the turn, and then again when u approach the turn! Thingz can hardly get more simpler! Overall, a really fundoo piece of technology!

That night we had dinner in an Indian restaurant called Royal Indian in Ft. Lauderdale. It is a good place with very beautiful environs. We were the only Indians all were Americans! They were playing the music of Indian films like Kati Patang, etc. That made the good food still better!

Later we went to our hotel in Miami and after freshning ourselves up, left for Miami Beach. (Miami Beach is the name of the district that is separate from Miami. It denotes the area that is separate from Miami, and is surrounded by sea.) The Ocean Dr and Collins Av in Miami Beach is very active thru'out thhe night. There r a lot of restaurants, pubs, discos, etc that r open till abt 4-6am in the morning! We had a tuff time finding a parking space for our car even at abt 1am in the night! We later got tired of finding a parking place and decided to go back to our hotel :-(

Aug 30:
We left for Key West at abt 11am. The road to KeyWest from Miami is via US-1, which is not a freeway. Most part of the 150mile drive is in 2-lane rd, much like the highwayz in India! However, this is one of the attractions of this rd. 70-80 miles south of Miami, mainland USA ends, and going further souths we come across innumeravle number of "keys". each Key is an island with Atlantic on the east side and Gulf of Mexico on the west. I'm not sure why these islands r called "keys", but one theory I heard is that the word 'key' is an derivative from the Spanish word "Cayo", which means....what else.....island!

We come across several 'keys' on the way to KeyWest. KeyWest is the southern-most and most famous of these keys. The drive is very beautiful, with several bridges that connect these islands. Most times u see the Atlantic on one side of the road and the Gulf of Mexico on the other side. The color of the water is green and very beautiful. Fir the first time in US, I did overtaking desi-style.....that is by crossing over to the opposite lane in a 2-lane rd! Otherwise, since u will hardly come across a 2-lane rd, u will alwayz over-take by using the other lane in ur direction!

We reached KeyWest at abt 4pm that evening.....went to the hotel and spent some time enquiring abt the variuos attractions there and planning for the next day. Sun-set in KeyWest is very famous. Mallory Square is the happening place in KeyWest, esp during sunset. We left for there at abt 6:30 in the evening, sunset been at abt 7:45 that day. A lot of activity happens in Mallory sq during this time. There was a guy doing juggling on a tall single-wheel cycle, rope-walks, another guy displaying some tricks with abt 10 cats......basically the area was full of activity even after sun-set. The sunset itelf was quite an ant-climax to me, since I did not find anything that great abt it. I have seen more scenic sunsets (I rememer Murdeswara!). However, it was overall a good time-pass with lotsa activities. That nigth we had foood in a nearby Mexican restaurant.

Aug 31:
We started early in the morning for snorkeling. I was very excited abt snorkeling when I had seen the pics of ppl snorkeling. Snorkeling is basically swimming in shallow waters that has crowded sea-life. We were taken in a speed-boat to abt 7 miles into the sea. There r identified regions that r shallow and has rich marine life and reefs. The boat will stop abt 50m from the actual shallow area and u r supposed to swim and enjoy the sea life! Unfortunately, when I got into water, I realised that swimming in deep sea is quite different from swimming in a pool. I cud hardly swim a couple of mts :-( So, i had to be statisfied seeing just fishes.....ppl who were able to swim till the reefs said they saw sea-frogs, jelly-fishes (which actually hit a lady, and she had to appply some lotion for it!). We also saw dolphins on the wild abt 100m from where our boats were stopped.

After lunch, we went for para-sailing also. It was pretty exciting and we were taken abt 300 ft above sea while sailing. Later that evening, we left back to Miami. Again the drive on US-1 was scenic and enjoyable.

Sep 1: Labor Day!
This day was spent totally in Miami. We drove quite a bit along the Miami sea-coast. It was a very beautiful drive, with resorts on both sides of the road. We spent quite a bit of time on the beach also....playing for some time, and i also had a nice sleep for abt 2 hrs in the sun lying on the beach. That was very relaxing!

That night we had dinner in a Thai restaurant, where we were seating was Indian-style, on the ground! Next day early morning 6:50am was our flight, again from Ft. Lauderdale back to Chicago at 9am after a 3-hr flight....this time gaining 1 hr, since we travelled from east to west......and back to a more real world!

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