Today, I write with just five short days left in Miami. I've spent four warm weeks in my summer haven, soaking up all of the sun, salt, and sand before I head back up to Boston for a 9-week internship (cue becoming an adult!). In these four weeks that I've been home, I've been more like a tourist than usual; constantly clutching my camera like a newborn and toting it around town in order to document all of my adventures. As I procrastinate packing my bags, I am reflecting on all the classic Miami activities I've loaded into my time here and smiling as I realize how fortunate I am to have grown up in this eclectic city. And here's why:
I present to you, readers and lovers of summer, my favorite things about the 305, my home, my paradise - save a few more in depth adventure stories coming later (think: Wynwood, Viscaya Museum & Gardens, and all the good eats Miami has to offer).
The first thing many people ask when they hear I'm from Miami is if I live on the beach. For the sake of saving face with my actual beach-based friends, my answer is no, I do not live on the beach. In fact, I laugh as I recall the many years I despised the beach: the feeling of gritty sand in all the places it shouldn't be, the dry sensation of salt ingrained in my skin, and the painful knots in my hair after a dip in the ocean. You can even ask my dad about this. He'll chuckle upon remembering having to carry a stubborn toddler from the shore to the car in an effort to avoid getting even a grain of sand on her precious feet.
But, at a ripe nineteen years of age, I can say that I've actually now grown fond of the beach - probably because I've been deprived of it all year. There's something that rings true to the saying, "you don't know what you've got till it's gone." Yes, the beach can be scorching and sticky under all those coats of sunscreen (fact: I burn, not tan, and yes, I am a disgrace to my Miamian blood as I don a ghostly glow instead of a tropical tan all summer), however, being able to swim in clear, warm waters whenever the fancy strikes me, I admit, is a treat I've taken for granted.
I now realize that what I'll probably miss most when I leave Miami is the ease and ability to take a spur of the moment trip for a good swim anywhere along the coast, from SoBe to the Keys - I am a pisces after all.
If I am to be completely honest though, what really makes these aquatic adventures even better are the snacks! I'm not talking about the meals at Zak the Baker or Threefold Cafe (but stay tuned for those mouthwatering food pics in upcoming posts), rather, gourmet goodies we bring with us from Publix, a true hometown treasure.
If you've ever met a Floridian, you know they possess an intense pride for Publix - a local grocery chain that is much more than what it sounds like. To follow this train of thought: trips to Publix, "where shopping is a pleasure," are in fact one of the favored activities of any true Floridian. To give you background: everyone has a neighborhood Publix and none of them are the same. Try finding the pasta aisle in your friend's Publix - hah, it's nearly impossible. Is it inefficient to have radically different Publix layouts for each store, you ask? Nope, not at all. I'd argue that it is part of the ~charm~.
What is comforting is that your Publix is yours and yours alone (plus everyone else that lives in the nearby radius), a truly unique childhood spot and unlike any other location. It's somehow comforting to have been shopping at the same grocery store since you could walk, be able to go back to it after months away, and still manage to travel the route to the cheese section by memory, or not even having to look up when grabbing that can of soup because it's been in the same spot since your Publix opened it's doors. Whereas going to your friend's neighborhood Publix, though not as seamless of a trip as usual, is like learning a whole new language. It doesn't replace your mother tongue, but it's enjoyable to expand your repertoire.
If it's not readily apparent to you, I love Publix. I love running into old friends and their parents, hearing the latest gossip while waiting in the notoriously slow deli section line - extra time for chismes? I'll take it! Aside from the famed Publix subs (confession: I've never had one...), what I love most about Publix is that everyone knows you and has seen you grow up. It's like family, but with SO much food (the best combo - in my opinion). Oh! And one more thing: there is a supposed Publix phenomenon regarding attractive bag boys. Every homegrown Floridian girl has had a crush on a Publix bag boy at one point or another - I can guarantee it. Not only have I heard stories from Floridian friends over the years, but even last week some of my friends mentioned they had their eye on a good looking fellow who graciously helped carry their groceries to their car. Publix, where shopping is truly a pleasure.
Anyway, aside from beaches and Publix (two of the most Miami-centric topics aside from Calle Ocho), I must mention a brief appreciation for our local flora and fauna. If I had to pick the most lush spot in the city, aside from the gorgeous Fairchild Botanical Garden, it would have to be a particular stretch of Old Cutler Road right before it hits the Cocoplum Circle. This part of the street is warmly enveloped by tons of trees, forming a natural tunnel that is so comforting it's like driving through a hug. While I tried my very best to photograph this metaphor, I'm not quite sure if the photos I took, while dangling out the passenger side window, really do it justice:
Other than all the palm trees, orchids, and other vegetation, another notable part of Miami nature is the abundance of tropical critters. I have never seen more peacocks in my life than on my front lawn, or more iguanas roaming free than at a little beach in Key Largo. The peacocks are fairly harmless - mostly just napping on the rooftop of my old Volkswagen Bug. The iguanas, on the other hand, are more menacing than one would think.
In an effort to squeeze in one last staycation before I left Miami, my family, friends, and I took a weekend trip down to the Keys. This included stopping at the Southernmost point of Florida - an emotional moment for my mom as this is the closest tip of the United States to Cuba (her motherland) - as well as sweating through some family beach volleyball.
But, none of that good 'ol family camaraderie will imprint as vivid of a memory as what happened to my friend Val as we ate a beachside lunch on Sunday. All of us were lounging under a beach tiki and nomming on burgers, fish tacos, and fries when we heard Valerie shriek. Our heads whipped to her direction only to spot an iguana pounce on her lap in an effort to steal her buns (the burger kind). Val threw her burger in the air and then fell off her chair as the iguana crawled up her body. Surviving with just a scratch on her knee from falling on the nearby cement steps, Val was traumatized - and we were all cackling, once we ensured she was okay of course. Our waitress witnessed the whole incident, and brought Val a fresh burger on the house. Though there were no pictures of the actual attack, the only proof I can provide you is this shot of Val's burger splayed all over her bag and this picture of the receipt warranting her free meal:
I guess not all iguanas were as friendly and photogenic as this one I found.
Other than the iguana incident, my time in Miami has been smooth sailing. Being able to catch up with hometown friends, eat home-cooked meals or classic restaurant favorites, and soak up days of Vitamin D has been truly nutritious and refreshing. And now I think I'm ready to say goodbye to my childhood paradise and embark on my next adventures in Boston as a working girl.
Keep up with Mod & Bean as I post more in depth reviews of my time in Wynwood, Viscaya, etc. as well as the countless adulting stories I'm sure I'll accumulate in the weeks to come!