Sunday, October 23, 2005

Ocean Drive

I enjoyed Miami a lot and it was a bit of an eye-opener. I spent a day and a half walking around the city. Downtown is nothing special, just some high rise, but little Havana is cool – especially as English is barely heard. I stayed in a really cool and friendly hostel in south beach (just next to ocean drive), which is full of rich Americans and tourists. The one thing that shocked me most in my short stay was the incredible divergence in wealth. There are the unbelievably rich in their protected flats and islands and one block down poverty beyond what I have seen in Western Europe - it is positively developing world with bums everywhere and pawn shops.

I spent my evenings mainly in pool halls drinking pitchers. An American had the cheak to try and teach me how to play pool (as pool obviously does not exist in Europe), to which the reply was 13 and 1 record teamed with my Swiss friend. A cool guy called Andre. All tables are challenge tables and we thought we'd get whipped but our first night we won about 10 straight until 4am when we finally only lost to a Brit who lives here. A little bit of fun as the Americans are so competitve and do not like Europeans beating them at their own game. People who know me know that I am not competitive even in the slightest – hmm.

I was a little shocked to be told about a really cool place in England called Amsterdam where you can smoke pot in the bars. According to an ozzie called hamish, someone in the deep south asked him how long it would take to drive to Australia. I must though be fair and say that the Americans were incredibly friendly to me – it did not matter whether I was taking a bus through Liberty City (incredibly poor African-American district), or in South Beach - they loved to help. The best way I can sum up the country after barely a week (I know I shouldn’t but sometimes you have to take liberties) is adolescent. A friendly, but marginally screwed up adolescent - viva at least some wealthfare state.

I also went to the everglades which was ok, saw a couple of aligators and went on one of those wind boats but not amazing and very tacky. The highlight of my trip came after I met a German who had hired a car and was heading to Key West (the most southerly point of mainland US). And so it was that a German (who had slept) drove a Brit (me of course), a Swiss, a Japanese, and an Italian left after one hours sleep at 6am (I love efficient Germans) down national highway number 1 for 4 or so hours. (A picture of the guys is attached - you will notice how impressively pasty I am.) Only the Americans could have a small set of beautiful islands and drive a road right along them, taking up half of the little land there is with road, Macdonalds and Taco Bell (very tasty). It is nuts, there is one bridge which crosses 7 miles of the Caribbean. In some strange way I liked the quirky nuts place. The other guys then went snorkelling and I dived. Awesome, saw 6ft moray eel, ray, nurse shark (harmless variety) etc., on the way back we cruised down Ocean Drive - very cheezy i know, but had to be done.

Overall it was a stop over that I am very happy I did – in fact it wetted my appetite for New York in Feb rather nicely.
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