“Where shall we go for Spring Break?” my husband asked me. As new transplants from Boston, and most recently Amsterdam, I kinda felt we were already living in a Spring Break destination and did we really need to go somewhere warm -er for a week? I mean full sun and temps in the 70s in Charleston feels like spring break to me. Dare I even say, a heat wave?
With only two weeks to consider a destination, my well-meaning husband, who’s earned enough air miles and hotel points to pretty much go anywhere in the US for free (yeah, that’s not a good thing), suggested Miami Beach, specifically South Beach, where his plethora of hotel points and air miles afforded the three of us a little break from the daily grind. Since I’d never been, I thought, it’s close, sounds fun and easy to get to with beach, pool, sun, great restaurants and culture… it all sounded like a great idea.
Unfortunately, perception and reality don’t always match. I knew the young hip lad with a full head of dark suave hair prepared himself before breaking the news to me at check-in that our South Beach hotel was having a private pool party (that this 50+ mom with 15 year-old daughter were clearly not invited to) the following day. He was somewhat sympathetic informing us that we were visiting during the Spring Break music festival and it was going to be nuts. My expression of one eyebrow raised and smirk must have revealed my true inner concern that we were in the wrong place at the wrong time. “I do have good news,” he exclaimed. We were welcome across the street at their sister hotel as a guest at their pool and private beach club.
Living in Amsterdam definitely prepared me for the onslaught of the in your face crazy that South Beach slapped us with. Still I was a little – OK – a lot, stunned. Since Amsterdam is on the cool (temperature wise) side even in the summer, people don’t walk around half naked (that’s reserved for Red Light District windows). I was overwhelmed by the amount of severely tattooed laden skin out and on ginormous full display, decorating places that perhaps should not be revealed in public. After the 50th bare ass tattoo and accompanying thong to marvel at passed by down Ocean Drive, combined with the wretched one-tone bass beat that permeated everywhere we went, including my hotel room that I desperately tried to drown out with earplugs and my handy white noise app, I realized South Beach is not my scene. And we still had three days left.
Lying by the “sister-hotel” pool with the ocean breeze cooling the intense sunshine, we started to relax the next day. Then in the early afternoon the Spring Break party next door began and drowned out the peace and quiet we were reveling in. I was pretty surprised to learn that people pay up to $300 to gain entrance to these parties. I thought to myself… a couple nights entrance fees buys a girl an airline ticket to Paris. The thundering thump of the bass beat was actually making me physically dizzy. We decided to make lemonade out of lemons, and escape elsewhere to enjoy a couple margaritas and tapas after shopping on Lincoln Road.
On our last full day we went on a tour with Miami Culinary Tours that introduced us to delicious authentic Cuban, Latin, Caribbean and Italian food as we meandered from restaurant to restaurant through the jammed packed insanity of Ocean Drive. The food and guide were excellent and it was the highlight of our trip. I did feel like a side-liner on the set of Miami Vice, The Birdcage or CSI Miami, while marveling at the super expensive convertibles driving by with the largest amount of historically preserved buildings in the world as a backdrop.
The strange and somewhat otherworldly Art Deco playground of the rich, famous, hook-up hopefuls, and vacationing fools such as us, is now in my rear view. That original question of where to go on Spring Break deserved a little more thought and investigation by this mom married to the weary traveler with all good intentions.