i’m in miami b*tch…

This year we decided to travel to Miami for our long Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Our flight on Wednesday was on time despite the rainy cold weather threatening the skies of New York. The weather forecast was telling us that rainy ice and snow was on the way and we were anxious to leave our winter coats behind and enjoy the nice sunny weather in Florida! :)

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The cold front followed us to Miami for a few days but I definitely enjoyed 60 degree weather over 20 degrees and snow! We spent four days exploring Miami’s sandy beaches, eating seafood at several restaurants, and window shopping at all the local stores.

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The beaches in Miami are absolutely breathtaking! It is my first time in Miami and I fell in LOVE with the area! I also noticed the beaches were very very clean especially around the resorts and hotels. I saw several city workers emptying the trash cans and sweeping the paths through 0ut the day. My time on the beach would not be complete if I didn’t do my part. I walked the beach early each morning picking trash and enjoying the sunshine.

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I found a few mylar balloons stuck in the bushes near the beach and a few beer cans by the paths but otherwise my bag was still half empty after an hour on the beach. It was really nice to see the beach so clean.

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One small defender of the sandy beach of Miami! I found this little plastic toy and a few blue creatures on my second day of beach cleaning while on vacation in Miami Beach! And I found out later these are NOT jellyfish, they are  Portuguese Man O’ War (which are actually siphonophores). Apparently their stings cause excruciating pain and can grow up to 165 feet in length!

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Any time that I am able to sit and relax on the beach I am HAPPY! It was a great vacation! :) We are already planning our next trip to Florida.

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We rented a car one day and drove down to the Florida Keys. We only had time to stop in Key Largo for a quick half day of exploration. On the way we drove through the southern part of the Everglades. Unfortunately, we did not have enough time to take a hike or fan boat through the Everglades but that is on our list for our next trip.

Key Largo is the northern most part of the Florida Keys and is 33 miles long and still connected to the mainland and is called the “Diving Capital of the World” because the living coral reef a few miles offshore attracts thousands of scuba divers, and fisherman, and explorers. The weather was windy and the sea was rough so our snorkeling plans were canceled for the day. This tropical area is quite different than what I pictured though. We found out that because it is on the coral reef there is no sand and all beaches here are man made. The shoreline is generally rocky with limestone and fossilized coral and caprock.

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We drove into the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. Here you can rent a kayak, canoe, or go snorkeling or take a tour in a glass bottom boat to check out the beautiful coral reef. The park covers approximately 178 nautical square miles of coral reefs, seagrass beds and mangrove swamps. The park extends 3 miles into the Atlantic Ocean and is approximately 25 miles in length. These areas were established to protect and preserve the living coral reef here in the United States.

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The visitors center has a 30,000 gallon saltwater aquarium to view living coral and exotic fish. We learned a lot about the coral reef and the Florida Keys. I’ve traveled quite a bit in my  lifetime so far; swimming in the Mediterranean Sea in France, kayaking the bays of the Atlantic Ocean, exploring the beaches of the Pacific Ocean in Northern California, and fishing on the Mississippi River, but nothing compares to the feeling of being on the coral reef in a tropical area that holds so much diverse living organisms and beauty.

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We took the short hike through the Mangrove Trail in John Pennekamp State Park. In all my hiking adventures I’ve never seen mangrove trees and it was exciting to explore. The trail was secluded and we were left alone with the sound of birds and frogs in the dense mangrove forest.

Thanks to the net, I learned that a mangrove tree thrives in salty environments because they are able to obtain freshwater from saltwater. Some secrete excess salt through their leaves, others block absorption of salt at their roots. In Florida, there are over 469,000 acres of mangrove forests and are very important to the ecosystem of the southern coast. Unfortunately, these areas are not all protected and urban delevelopment is the main reason for the decline of this ecosystem. The mangrove trees provide shelter for fish and shellfish, and food for some marine life. They also provide food for a multitude of marine species such as snook, snapper, tarpon, jack, sheepshead, red drum, oyster, and shrimp. Florida’s important recreational and commercial fisheries will drastically decline without healthy mangrove forests.

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In Key Largo, we stopped for dinner at Jimmy Johnson’s Big Chill Restaurant. We relaxed on the waterfront deck sipping margaritas and eating fresh Key Largo Mahi Mahi steak and Old Bay peel n eat steamed shrimp and homemade conch chowder. After the sun set behind the clouds, we walked over to the tiki bar for one more drink  with the locals to celebrate our day of adventure in the Florida Keys.

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We had a few hours to drive through downtown Miami and see the cruise ship terminals at PortMiami. This area is known as the cruise capital of the world and the cruise ships are a sight to see if you are ever in the area. Miami’s unique geographic position makes the Port easily accessible to Caribbean and Latin American markets, as well as those of Asia and Europe by way of the Panama Canal.

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The marina here is filled with fishing boats, shopping, and bars. It was a great place on the water to enjoy lunch and watch the ships come in.

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On our last night in Miami, we took a taxi to South Beach and walked Ocean Avenue and found CJ’s Crab Shack for dinner. It was rated the best place for crab! My boyfriend ordered a bucket of steamed blue crab and I ordered the stone crab legs and garlic shrimp. It was delicious!!

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Miami was a great vacation! The last few months have been stressful and we needed some time to relax and unwind and spend some quality time together. Miami offered us both our favorite things to do and see and our memories will last forever.

Exploring new places expands our perception of  life and gives us a better understanding of our inner self and the world around us.

Adventure and love both make me HAPPY! :)

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