Aunt Carole was amazing and drove down to West Palm Beach Airport with me to pick up Adam at midnight (it was nice to have an hour in the car to catch up with Aunt Carole, anyways). Thankfully his flight got in without an issue, but we hit pouring rain on our drive to the airport. We got back around 1:00am and promptly fell asleep!
After a nice breakfast, we left Port St. Lucie for a quick drive to Miami to see another friend of mine from college, James. We decided to stop in South Beach on our way into town to cross that off the list, and we had a late lunch - Adam got a cubano and mojito, crossing off cubano on his list of things he had to do in Miami.
|Cubano in Miami. Good but I've had better in New York
|Mojito in Miami
Quick note about Miami: After spending almost 4 months and 15,000 miles driving around the USA, I can confidently say the worst drivers and pedestrians in the USA, WITHOUT A DOUBT, are in Miami. Examples include a man with a red light just deciding to make a left turn and a pedestrian just walking RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME WHEN I HAD A GREEN LIGHT, and not caring at all that he was in the wrong. And stuff like this happened the entire time we were there. (Editor's note: we sat outside for lunch one day near a four way stop intersection. Watching Miamians trying to negotiate this space would have been funny if it weren't scary)
We got to James' house around 5:45pm (traffic was NOT good), and Adam had another phone interview at 6:00pm, so James and I were able to catch up while Adam was on his call. Continuing with our streak of staying with people with pets, James has a cat named Kitty since she was a stray and he didn't plan on keeping her - so he refused to give her a name. Two and a half years later, she's still Kitty :). Kitty was a bit shy, but definitely one of the nicer and more curious cats we've encountered over the past few months. Anyways, James recommended this great tapas place for dinner, Sugarcane, and the three of us had a great evening - the brussels sprouts there were some of the best I've ever had (and we eat a lot of brussels sprouts!).
Since we only had one full day in Miami, we needed to make it count! We left James' place around 9:30am or so and went first to Calle Ocho -- the heart of the Cuban district. We were going to find a coffee shop and have some Cuban coffee (more on this later), but we ended up just driving down the street and right into Brickell, where there's a new, outdoor mall that is gorgeous. GORGEOUS. Also in there was a high-end, Mexico-based movie theater called CMX - it's similar to an Alamo Drafthouse, but nicer. We spent an hour or so wandering around, checking it out, before we decided we were really hungry and went to a pizza place near where we had parked - it had looked great when we walked by it earlier and had awesome reviews.
|View from Brickell Center
Mister O1 was AMAZING. They have star pizzas, which is a description of what the pizza looks like after they cut the crust, put ricotta and a slice of salami in, and fold it. IT WAS SO GOOD! We actually split a pizza and a Greek salad, and looking around, we were the only ones to do that - almost everyone else, in appearance obsessed Miami, got one pizza per person. If you're ever in Miami, I would suggest going there. Really really excellent.
|Star Luca pizza, with spicy salami, san marzano tomato sauce, mozarella cheese, and ricotta cheese.
Also pictured and delicious, but not nearly as important: Greek Salad
After lunch, we headed to Wynwood, a neighborhood which is supposed to be the "Brooklyn of Miami." Our first stop was Fireman Derek's World Famous Pies for what is supposed to be the best key lime pie in Miami - and it probably was. Steve's Key Lime in Red Hook, Brooklyn is still my favorite, but this was a close second.
|Key lime pie. They also had tons of other pies and cakes, including a cookie dough pie.
After pie, we decided to walk around the neighborhood for a bit, stumbling across this Art by God Museum Store. Adam LOVED this place. It had taxidermied animals, dinosaur bones, rocks, etc. He was like a kid in a candy store. When I finally dragged him out of there, we drove a bit further into Wynwood and checked out the Wynwood Walls. They were getting ready for Art Basel, an international art fair held annually in Miami.
|Adam had a lot of fun here!
The Wynwood Walls were so cool. They're huge, colorful street graffiti, and it's awesome. We got to see artists working on their craft - people are so talented. I got so sleepy after the pie; I sat down in a chair while Adam wandered around and fell asleep. At this point, I just wanted coffee, so we settled into Panther, a local coffee shop, relaxed a little, and then headed back out to wander around and explore the Walls. It's hard to emphasize how cool and exciting the art was here; Adam may have stayed all day but we had more things to do.
Before ending our day in the city though, we saw the Miami Mojito Company right across the street from our parking spot. It was a unique space fitting for the neighborhood: practically jungle-like in the front with plants, a giant gorilla statue, a tiki-like mojito bar on street level and a burger bar on the roof. We stopped in there so Adam could get a mojito before we went back to James' house (I was driving) where he got the pineapple mojito, and confirmed it was really good.
|I was sleepy...
|Wynwood Walls. They were still building this jungle cat / helicopter and car bumper installation when we left.
|Miami Mojito Company
When we got in on Wednesday, James said his mom was having people over Thursday night and wanted to know if we wanted to stop by. He said this hesitantly, saying we didn't need to stay long, I guess forgetting the fact that he has the BEST parents and OF COURSE I wanted to see them (ended up just being his mom, his dad was still in the Carolinas visiting James' brother since it was right after Thanksgiving). So on Thursday night, we headed to James' parents' house and had a great time catching up with Susan and meeting her friends, who were just as fabulous as her - I'm so glad Adam was able to meet her!
|Adam, me, and James
|Me with Susan and her friends.
We had another long day of driving ahead of us on Friday - this time we were headed to Tallahassee to see the Clapps! Before we headed out of town, we stopped at Mojito Grill (another recommendation of James' that ended up being spot on) for a breakfast sandwich and a Cuban coffee on our way. Cuban coffee was not my cup of tea (ha!) - it was incredibly sweet. The little cup was just a few swallows, and we didn't even finish it before deciding to stop at Starbucks on our way out of town. The breakfast sandwich and the croquetta, however, were great, and we drove to Tallahassee with full bellies.
|Breakfast before our drive to Tallahassee
We planned on taking our time getting to Tallahassee so that we didn't get there too early in the day while Sus and Chris were both still working, and yet we still got there by 5:00pm. It was so good to see them - and more importantly, to meet Boomer, their awesome golden retriever! We got to hang out for a couple of hours, catching up, before heading out to dinner at Kool Beanz Cafe, which was very tasty. I should mention that before we went to dinner, Adam got his phone call with a job offer from the company in San Diego that he had been interviewing with - which was exciting, but also made us a bit preoccupied for the next few days.
After dinner, we went to the Maclay Gardens for their Camellia Christmas celebration. It was beautiful and festive, with caroling and decorations. Sadly, no pictures from that day, but we did head back to the Gardens on Sunday for a full moon kayak evening.
Saturday was pretty low key, hanging out, getting some lunch, and getting ready for the ACC Championship game that night - Clemson vs. Miami, in Charlotte. Chris made some awesome tacos for dinner, and we watched Clemson demolish the Hurricanes and earn their place in the College Football Playoff for the third straight year (we don't need to discuss the subsequent game that was played on New Years Day)!
|Sus & Boom watching the Tigers play!
|Snuggle time with Boomer!
After watching the Playoff announcement on Sunday, we went for a tour of their property - this is particularly cool because they live on a cove, but they haven't gotten much rain since August and everything is dried up, which meant that the five of us (Chris, Sus, me, Adam, and Boomer) got to walk through all the areas where they could normally kayak. Chris found a turtle shell, which Adam thought was so neat and took, hoping to plant something in it when we finally settled somewhere in January.
|This is usually filled with water.
|Beautiful day in Tallahassee!
Sus found this cool full moon kayak tour for Sunday night, and I agreed to go. I say agreed to go because while Adam and I don't normally fight, we have fought every time we try and kayak or canoe together. This turned out to be a bit better because, 1, we all had individual kayaks (Chris and Sus were gracious enough to let us use theirs since they were easier to maneuver). We decided to buddy up as Mel & Sus and Adam & Chris, and this was probably what made the trip easier. Regardless, it ended up being a lot of fun and really pretty, although it took the moon much longer to rise than the guides were planning on.
|Me getting ready to head out!
After a great weekend in Tally, we headed up to Nashville for the last "new" place to check out on our trip. But before we got there, we had two stops to make:
Waffle House! Adam had never been to one and really wanted to try one, so we stopped at one in Tallahassee on our way out of town. This was the cleanest, most spotless, best service Waffle House I've ever been to. SPOTLESS. I feel like Adam may not have gotten the full Waffle House experience, but it was pretty damn good. Adam got the pecan waffle, and I got a hashbrown bowl. Seriously, best Waffle House meal I've ever had.
|Waffle House time!
Saw's Soul Kitchen, AGAIN. It was a bit out of the way, but it was so damn good the first time that we added an extra 15 minutes or so onto our trip to have those wings again. And it was worth every minute.
|Lunch in Birmingham.
|If you're ever near Birmingham, AL, head here.