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Interests: God, Church, Family, Friends, Sunsets, Traveling, Laughing, Dancing, Planning events, Fishing, Running through Sprinklers, Riding with the windows down, Rocky Road Ice Cream, LSU football, Dallas Cowboys football
Expertise: Journalism, planning events, cajun cooking
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Baby's just a little bit tired of the city,
Billboards and buildings got her down,
Seem like you need a little hill country,
A Little back roads driving, little bit of the old top down,
Yeah, everybody gotta get away sometime,
Forget about yourself for a while....
There is an unspoken promise among this group of angelic girlfriends...we always go all out in celebrating birthdays that end in 0 or 5. For Jenny’s 35th, she chose to do an overnight trip to San Marcos, and of course she went all out on the plans. She missed her calling as an event planner for sure.
Upon arrival to Jenny’s house at 10 a.m. (SHARP) on Saturday morning, we were given travel packets chocked full of maps, an agenda, car riding assignments (yes, that’s right) and a wonderful party favor bag. Then, the caravan of vehicles carrying a dozen charming, beautiful, amazing women took off. Games, music, and deep, moving conversation filled the cars as only girls can. Soon, beautiful green fields and fragrant wildflowers were the only thing in view, The tension from the city, our jobs, and day-to-day faded into the rear-view mirror along with the buildings and billboards, now no where in sight.
First stop, lunch at Oakridge Smokehouse in Schulenburg, Texas. Schulenburg was settled by Germans, so the sausage and kolaches in this town just can’t be beat. The barn shaped restaurant with its charming crooked windows serves beef, sausage, chicken, ham, ribs, turkey, sandwiches, salads, soups. It is just pure yum. The restaurant also has a deli, bakery and gift shop for extra shopping. I recommend the mashed potatoes and the sausage. Texas has the best sausage.
Second stop, the San Marcos Outlet Malls. Voted the “Third-Best Place to Shop in the World” by ABC’s The View, Prime Outlets – San Marcos is the largest outlet shopping destination in Texas and the third-largest in the world. Pretty good stop for a dozen girls. We only had one hour here, but alas, there is just nothing and I do mean nothing that a dozen girls can’t accomplish in one hour. A plethora of bags filled the cars as we departed for the hotel to drop the bags and rush off to the winery.
Oh sweet winery. We opted to visit Three Dudes and a Dog winery on friend recs and because it was so close to our hotel.
The winery is in the middle of a wide, open field. It has a beautiful relaxing courtyard with porch swings to sit and listen to the birds chirp and savor the quiet, peaceful atmosphere and tasty wine. It also has a pathway which leads to a deck on the river. Oh what blissful serenity! For $3 each, our host let us swirl, twirl, sniff and taste each of the five luscious wines the guys make from Texas grapes. My favorite was the merlot, the cherry and plum aromas were delicious. The second favorite among the girls was the chenin blanc, clean and crisp, light and joyful. Yum. I said it again.
After the tasting, we purchased a bottle, then another of the chenin blanc and enjoyed sitting in the courtyard in the late afternoon. For the first time on that trip, for just a moment, we were there in the moment, not worried about what was next or what was last, just savoring that moment and enjoying each person there. Real moments are certainly what make life matter.
Before saying goodbye to the three dudes and the dog, we strolled down to the river to check out the deck nestled among the trees. Green, green, green, just beautiful, serene and peaceful. It was like stepping into rewind or pause. Click. Another good moment to last forever.
Dinner that night was at River Pub & Grill The restaurant is right on the San Marcos River, at the end of one of the 45-minute float trips. As we sat there on the deck, we got to watch children swinging by rope into the river, kids jumping off rocks, adults relaxed in their tubes, so much laughter. It was a great atmosphere. The food was good too. It seemed like the fried catfish was loved by all. The fried pickles appetizer was yum. There is that word again. This trip was yum. Our waitress could have smiled though.
By 1030 pm, after a full day, we were exhausted but some of us could not turn in just yet. After crashing a wedding, just kidding, we did not do that, not exactly. After dinner, we sat out by the pool for a late swim and more, yes more girl talk. Rachel and I stayed up and talked until nearly 2 a.m.
Sunday morning and many had to go home early, but some of us just had to budge from the plans a little bit. We were not ready to go home yet. I’ve heard it said that adventure results from poor planning. It was time to be poor planners! Maradee, Melissa, Rachel and I were among the poor planners ready for some adventure! We dropped Maradee and Melissa off at the outlet for more shopping, and Rachel and I headed a few minutes up the road to the Lions Club tube rental for some good old fashioned tubing down the San Marcos River.
It is crazy that I have lived in Texas for 19 years and never tubed before now. Tubing the river is to Texas like canopy rides are to Costa Rica or gator hunting is to Louisiana. Many people will opt to do the 4-hour ride along the Guadalupe in New Braunsfels or the more family-friendly, shadier ride along the Comal. We had little time and those rivers were closed due to flooding in the area recently, so we opted for the San Marcos right near us. We rented the closed tubes for $9 each and jumped in butt first. We floated, chatted, swam and let the dragonflies ride on our toes. It was beautiful, it was fun, and it was enlightening. In true adventure, one comes to know themselves. I learn so much about me when I get a break like that.
At the end of the 45 minute float (which took us 1.5 hours probably because we were too busy soaking in all the peace and joy), is the little waterfalls. Some adventurous kids were tubing down the waterfalls, laughing out loud, as their mom’s screamed at them to stop. The sound reminded me of sleeping near the Savegre River in Costa Rica. So peaceful. We were not done yet and swam, even though the water was bone chilling. It was exhilirating to swim in that cold river, listening to the laughter and the sound of the falls off the dam.
After a quick change in the car, we picked up Maradee and Melissa from the outlet. Even after two plus hours in the sweltering Texas heat, none of us were ready to go home yet. So we detoured through Gruene. We had lunch at the Gruene River Grill. We sat outside on the deck overlooking the Guadalupe and laughed until our bellies hurt. It was fabulous. Rachel and I split the jumbo chicken fajita salad. Served with corn, black beans, pico de gallo, tortilla strips, cheeses and chipotle Ranch dressing, it was wonderful. Melissa had a chicken sandwich served on sourdough bread with spicy fries. Maradee had the Greek salad. We split the spinach artichoke dip for an appetizer and the key lime pie for dessert. Everything was wonderful.
Before leaving, we strolled around historic Gruene looking at the old general stores, antique shops, art galleries and bed and breakfasts. Then, we walked in Gruene Hall, Texas’ oldest dance hall. Although our visit to the dance hall was quite brief, it was long enough for Melissa to dance up a storm to Country band Bret Graham.
Alas, it was time to go home. The three-hour drive took four and a half hours as we passed two wrecks on the way home. It was okay though. More time for girly chatter, and deep conversation.
Everyone needs a girl’s weekend once in a while. Although my husband is hoping I got it out of my system for a while, I am already planning my next one!
My cousins and I sat in the middle of Uncle Danny’s living room, sifting through the cardboard boxes, as if they were buried treasure. Each new find was a precious discovery. We laughed. We cried. We sat in peaceful silence. We all talked at once. We shared memories.
It was one of those moments that could have lasted forever and I’d be okay with it. I wanted it to last forever. The ticking clock made me anxious. I did not want to go back to the fast-paced instant world.
Looking at all the photos, letters, cards and prayer journals my Granny left behind—all in her beautiful handwriting—made me want to re-think my priorities. My granny left this world very poor and very sick, but the photos, letters and journals that she left are priceless. Jewels. Better than any inheritance. The memories are everlasting.
I realized how much I am like my Granny. Looks, personality, laugh, all of it. My brother says I’ll be 70 years old digging in my flowerbed singing old southern hymns off key at the top of my lungs just like her. He is right. That is already me.
Looking at her photos, I could see all five children and all the grandchildren and great grandchildren in her face. Amazing.
I’ve heard it said that a legacy is when someone leaves a lasting impression on your life. Granny certainly did that. There are so many things that I do, that make me think “granny taught me this.” Ironing, cooking, cleaning, tying my shoe, building a fire, balancing my checkbook, driving, telling a story, praying.
And so often that I hear her shrill voice in my heart, and one of the many many things she said over and over again. Some of my favorite Grannyisms...
“If it is to be, it is up to me.” “Every joke is a half truth...”
“When you can’t sleep, God has something to tell you, so get out of bed and listen.”
“We should work like we are going to be here forever, but we should live like we are going HOME tomorrow!”
“Don’t you know, Haven’t you heard. We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”
“Heather, you are an exotic bird and you won’t cage well. Fly child fly!”
“Problems shared are split in two.” “Practice makes perfect.” “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”
“Oh foot! I tried to do it by myself without God and messed everything up.”
Some of her favorite Biblical quotes we all heard often...Love in deed and in truth, Hope deferred makes the heart sick. Jesus is the Vine and we are the branches...II Chronicles 7:14 too.
So much scripture, so much wisdom came out of her mouth. I am so quickly taken back to several kids in a Linncoln, no seatbelts, singing This is the Day that the Lord Hath Made...hands off the steering wheel to clap, and a bottle of Aqua Net too.
After finding so much peace in looking at my granny's journals and letters, I just had to make sure mine were still around also. I went up in the attic recently to search for my own letters.Thank God, I have not tossed all my letters. I have loads of them from the days before instant communication on email and facebook. High School and College mostly. Great friends and family too. Many are tucked neatly in an antique purse that looks like a treasure chest. To touch them, smell them, see the handwriting of a letter, go there, absolute bliss. Each letter took me back to a special place. And yet each letter seemed so timeless. I am here but reading the letter let me be there, for just a moment. Oh what moments!
I’ve heard it said....Sir, more than kisses, letters mingle souls; for, thus friends absent speak. ~John Donne
I cherish all the people and all the memories God has blessed me with. I love the letters that have been shared thus far. I think I will write more of them from now on! They are too special. I remember right before we got married, David asked me if I wanted a marriage gift, a jewel etc. I asked him to write me a handwritten letter. I love that letter. It is in a beautiful box on my dresser and I often pull it out and re-read of those promises and that young love. It brings me such joy and encouragement.
So far, 2010 has been a season of loss and change and I am learning loads from it.
Many things are on my mind during this season. Mainly that the purpose of life is much more simple and yet much more difficult than any one of us realizes, to love others. God has given us people to love while we are here. We won't be here long. Time flies. It really does. We should make each day of loving count. I just want to reach out to everyone God has put in my life at one time or another, and hold them tight and tell them how much I love them.
As the fam and I begin to discuss a reunion at the Buffalo, I can't help but remember my first trip there in 2006. Awesomeness. As the 6th graders say. The below was written by me on June 2, 2006.
JASPER, ARKANSAS--Surrounded by wooded mountains so dense hardly any light hits the ground, I bend down and collect some of the clean water from the rushing river and splash it across my face. I bring it to my lips and take a hardy, satisfying swig. I splash the cool water across my face and over my neck. I feel the coolness trickle down my back. It is one of those rare times I have sipped from the source and I have no fear of sickness. This is pure Ozark. With the sticky summertime heat pressing down on me, the cool mountain water is just what I need to continue this journey.
I am with my family: dad, his wife Tawana, brother PJ, step-brother Brandon and their friend David, on a trip down the Buffalo National River in North Arkansas. Its more than just a trip to my dad. He first embarked on the mighty Buffalo some 25 years ago. He was a young 20-something, recently divorced, single dad, and looking for some peace. He found it on the Buffalo.
Dad has continued to make that peace trek many times. He brought his lovely wife T there for their honeymoon in 1998. Later, he brought my brothers when Brandon graduated high school. And the boys and the parents have made it a tradition as much as possible. Buffalo 06 was the first time I was able to partake in the adventure.
I so very much need this time after the turmoil Ive been in of late. Surgery, illness, depression, anxiety, heartbreak. Oh dear! It is definitely time for some natural outdoor therapy with my family.
For the trip, I experience clean water, high bluffs, wooded hillsides, and a myriad of seasonal wildflowers to slow the pace of my frenzied mind. Stars at night so close you can touch them, and food from the farm stand so fresh you forget why you even shop at a supermarket.
I wake up at 4 a.m. Saturday to drive to Dallas and catch my flight to Harrison, Arkansas. In hindsight, I could have certainly planned the travel better! I make it on my 8:30 am flight. It is a 19 seat puddle jumper with no bathrooms. We make a stop in Hot Springs but are not allowed to get out. I arrive in Harrison three hours later and enjoy the crisp mountain air while waiting for my brothers to pick me up. Moments later, I see the red truck speeding in to the parking lot, honking. My brothers are here! The truck is full of guitars, mountain bike, small bags and several cases of beer. We enjoy a 1 hour ride along the mountains, windows down, cares completely tossed out the window. We stop at a small burger joint for lunch and homemade apple pie with Schwans ice cream. The waitress says: Aint no one ever complained about my homemade apple pie. I know ya want some, dont ya.
We get groceries from the tiny grocery store, then hit the fruit stand and load up on fresh fruits and vegetables. We continue driving on to our destination at Lookout Mountain Log Cabins. Brandon asks me what a Euphemism is and I realize I dont know the answer to any question at this point. My mind is turned off. Still we wonder throughout the trip what that is.
We see a long dirt road with a beautiful meadow full of wildflowers to the side, a small house with a barn and beautiful view of purple wildflowers. It is charming and magical. I cant think of a single good country song that does not fit into this setting.
Dad, T and David arrive and the drinks are chilled. After several hours of hiking, biking, woofle ball playing, the boys drink and drink and drink. I sit on the picnic table, enjoying the cool mountain air, the family, the awayness. I feel like Im home rather than visiting somewhere. Tawana is so sweet to my dad and everyone and takes care of each person, telling encouraging stories, lifting people up, making sure everyone has a drink or food if they want it. PJ and Brandon and David all try to wear each other out on the baseball field while my dad explains the value of Toyota trucks, saving money and why smart people drink natural light instead of name brand beer. The boys sit down and all seem to out-talk one another. It gets quiet, and then everyone at once starts talking. Boys will be boys.
The stars come out and they silence us all. They get closer and closer. My dad laughs, The problem is I like NASCAR so much. I just want them to do something after a while, like crash or something. They are so still.
Brandon, with his love for fire, builds a fire to warm us as the night air grows chilly.
Our meals for the next few days will consist of Ranch Style beans, steak and salad. We enjoy our first dinner and listen to Dad tell stories of former trips. I sit and wonder if I could make a go of life in the country, living off the land, and teaching the children the joy of loving and serving God when PJ and David grab the guitar and start hollering out obscenities in a most peculiar rhythm. We laugh. Instead of getting irritated, I go to bed.
Despite a long night of talking, howling at the moon, and reuniting, everyone is ready to canoe the next morning after dads home-cooked breakfast of eggs, sausage, sweet rolls and fresh fruit. We load up the pick-ups, grab some snacks, and then head to the canoe concession. There has not been a lot of rain so we are limited to spots Pruitt to Hasty, an 8 mile trek. This area has relatively calm pools, periodic riffles and shoals and occasional fast water.
The river is crowded with Memorial Day weekend and lots of crazys, especially two nuts from Iowa that shot-gunned a beer with David. The trip is beautiful just the same. We talk to the people we pass, occasionally asking for the definition of a Euphemism. We look down and see hundreds of speckled trout. I so wish I had a pole and a license! We look up and see beautiful cliffs and mountain streams. My brothers want to stop at every cliff to cannonball into the river. The whole family pulls off to the side and swims for a while in the middle of the river. The water is cool and soothing.
I feel the calming effect of living life a bit more slowly, a bit more intentionallysomething Costa Ricans refer to as PURA VIDA, which literally means pure life.
Im exhausted from paddling, my first real exercise post surgery one month ago. I end up falling asleep at 9 before the guys even start their party. Fortunately I got in some tasty homemade guacamole and 9-layer dip before catching some Zs.
The next morning, everyone is dragging and we are not sure were going to make it to the river again. We sip coffee outside and stretch our sore muscles awaiting someone to get us in high gear. Dad makes pancakes for everyone and moments later, the truck is loaded despite 6 exhausted country folk.
We take the same route, but the river is much less crowded. We feel like we have it to ourselves. PJ makes the most of the day, smiling like a 6 year old at a toy store, pulling off to the bank to look at everything. Look, a butterfly. Look, a lizard. Look, a caterpillar. Look, a rock. A rock. Another rock. Hey, look there is a mosquito. There is a fish. Another fish. Another fish. Lets jump there. And there.
At one stop, I laugh as PJ and David try to pick the canoes up over their head then worry as Davids cheery face turns to pure pain and stretched neck muscles. Moments later, we are pulled over again and PJ and Brandon are anxious to jump off a very tall cliff. There are not many activities that bring such childhood exuberance as jumping into a river. I laugh as I watch something coming alive in those boys. Both of them are grinning as they gaze out at the water and jump in despite the painful slam into the water from way too many feet up in the air. They stop at as many cliffs as they can. I sit on the bank and gaze at the river. I talk to God and thank him for bringing me here. I thank him for the peace like a river he gives us. The river is so loud. I feel like I am sitting face to face with Him.
I laugh as I finally realize what ‘peace like a river’ means. It is not peace like a pond. Peace like a river. Yes. And I look at the mighty Buffalo and Im intensely grateful. God gives us a peace that can be retained while life twists and turns and rolls over boulders-when we get white water rapids and waterfalls and when everything just flows smoothly. To have peace like a river is to have security and tranquility of heart and mind while meeting many bumps and unexpected turns on lifes journey through change.
I am reminded of my Beth Moore: Breaking Free Bible Study. It all makes sense now. Beth says Peace is submission to the trustworthy Authority, but not resignation. All rivers have an upland source and are dependent on another body of water. Likewise, peace like a river comes from the upland Source, Jesus Christ. We are continuously moving over rocks and sometimes cliffs, through narrow places and wide valleys to a heavenly destination. Until then, abiding in Christ is the key to staying connected to our upland Source. Peace has already been given to us if we’ve received Christ. We just don't always know how to activate it! Jesus is the Prince of Peace, and he promises Peace to all his children. When we allow Him to govern our lives, peace ultimately results.
I thank God for this reminder and laugh at the struggles I've put myself in over the years. Sometimes when we finally give up trying to find all the whys in our lives and decide to trust a sovereign God, peace washes over us like a summer rain.
Suddenly, the sky grows darker and the very doors of heaven pour rain down on us. I laugh out loud as the rain pours on my face just as Im thinking about God's rain. The rains come while we paddle, rains that seem to float, rather than fall. The family is screaming out yahoos and hell yeahs. The river begins to rise and move faster. The rains grow in intensity, pounding down on us. We paddle carefully, making strong glides to avoid crashing into rocks. The rain pours down on us. We dont pull out ponchos. We dont have them. The rain feels refreshing and cleansing as it were washing away the stress we brought with us from home. I hear the boys singing songs from the 80s, songs from country radio, rock radio, and nursery school even.
After four miles and the temperature creeping way low, we reach the near-end point and are greeted by a rope swing. High up in a tree is a bicycle handle tied to a rope. The boys are anxious to do it. The rain and air is so cold, I get in the river (which ironically was once cold but now feels like a warm bath) and I try to tough it out. I know I'm weaker than normal. I'm taking so much medicine right now and my immune system is way weak following surgery. I'm cold and I'm ready for a blanket and some dry clothes. Nevertheless, to see my family laugh and smile and holler and enjoy this healing rain so much, has me motivated to hang in there.
I watch as dad, PJ, Brandon and David all swing like Tarzan into the mighty Buffalo, rain pouring down on them making their grip slippery. They laugh out loud as the rain soaks them.
After what seems like many hours and many miles, we get in the van and head back to the canoe concession and then back home. I take a hot shower and enjoy it like its the first time Ive ever felt hot water. I eat my steak, beans and salad like its the first meal Ive ever had, or last. And I sleep in utter peace.
The next morning is filled with hugs and thank-yous. I'm so thankful to be a part of this mighty Buffalo experience my dad has been talking about most of my life. This trip wont be my last, I think to myself. And its more than a trip, it is an experience. Then I travel home.
And as I drive across Gulf Freeway 45, I see the smog overhead, the tall buildings, and a lottery billboard and I sigh. And I ask myself the same thing I ask myself after every trip, why on earth do I live in Houston, Texas?
After six nights in London and five years working for Reed Business Information-UK, I just may have learned English, how to properly hold a knife and fork, how to dress for rainy days, how to take a lovely cup of tea, and how much I love large cokes full of ice and precious, out-of-this world, amazing Texas.
I arrived Sunday afternoon to Heathrow, jumped on the Heathrow Express and hiked over to the Royal Lancaster hotel just across from Hyde Park. The hotel is beautiful and slightly famous as the 1969 movie “The Italian Job” was filmed here, and Notting Hill is just around the corner. The views are beautiful, the rooms are comfortable and the rate (perhaps an event rate) was reasonable. Its location is just on top of an Underground Station (Lancaster Gate) and it is a 5-minute walk from Paddington Rail station, so it was really easy to get around as well.
Unfortunately, I arrived with a terrible cold and it was quite cold and rainy here too. Getting around was not at the top of my list. As soon as I put my suitcase down, a fire alarm went off. So I put my coat back on and ran down 13 flights of stairs outside. A crowd was gathering in the street, and fortunately I found a friend who also had arrived early for the 15th Annual World Base Oil and Lubricants Conference. We went out for coffee and had a nice chat while the hotel battled a small issue on the 18th floor.
Freezing, cold, coughing and exhausted from the 9.5 hour delay (which incidentally had been delayed to start by 5 hours), I opted for a good nights sleep and simply looking at London from my hotel window.
On Monday and Tuesday, I went to Base Oils training Parts I and II. I learned all about such fabulous things as solvent processing, hydroprocessing, dewaxing, deashphalting, catalytic converters, viscosities, groups, pour point, viscosity index, gas-to-liquids, and loads more. I stayed near the hotel with its constant offerings of hot tea (iced tea does not exist here yet at least not as far as I can tell) for most of the day, but did manage to walk to a couple of cute little restaurants nearby for dinner with colleagues.
On Wednesday, I battled the Underground tube station and won. I took two stops from my hotel to the Victoria rail station and then got a fast train to South London, good old Sutton-headquarters or mothership of my job. Loads of meetings later, then dinner with all my base oil colleagues-Singapore, London and the US at one table. That many cultures and fantastic Mediterranean food = one fabulous evening.
Then Thursday and Friday, our big conference. There were over 400 delegates, the largest ever. And more than 50 countries represented. I spent a good deal of my time networking, but even more time listening to some 15 technical presentations and then writing articles about all I learned.
Friday afternoon and exhausted, my colleagues and I decided to make the most of a sunny evening and headed to Oxford Street for some shopping, dinner in Soho, then a nice walk back to the hotel.
Six whole days in London and that is about all I saw. I don’t remember really liking any meal I had but my stomach looks like I swallowed a volleyball. People say how much fun all the business travel must be, but it’s really just exhausting. I like the frequent travel points for sure though and I am thankful for the opportunity to see other parts of the world, even if it is just from a fast train or out my hotel window.
Perhaps the folks that live there may think the songs about Miami are blatant exaggerations but for the visitor to South Beach, the songs don’t lie.
$100,000 cars…Water so clear. All night on the beach to the break of dawn. Dancing in the club. Ladies half dressed. Ferraris. Flashy clothes and jewels Wine on the menu for over $8,000/bottle. Yep, that is pretty much what I saw during my visit for the ILMA base oils conference at Loews Hotel South Beach.
The boys all dress the same mainly-jeans or shorts with a long sleeve button down shirt, sleeves rolled up, and buttons down to the pecs all David Hasselhoff style. Aviator sunglasses. And the women have on tiny, skin-tight shirts they call dresses with spiky heels and flashy earrings.
I arrived a day ahead of my work conference so I could see the sights before getting to business. I brought my friend Rachel along for the weekend. Here is what I wish I knew before
First, there is a HUGE difference between Miami and Miami Beach. Book your hotel in Miami Beach. If you get a hotel in South Beach, you don’t need a car at all. If you are in North Beach, you can take a cab or the bus to South Beach for restaurants and shopping plus you may get a better night sleep since it is so quiet on that end.
Second, everything is very expensive but there are a few value-priced places to eat. I loved Spris pizza at Lincoln Road Mall for lunch, and Cardoza on Ocean Drive for breakfast.
Third, don’t fall for the soliciting on Ocean Drive…the 20% deals, free drinks, or the 2 for 1 drink specials. They will try to reel you with a free glass of wine…but only if you buy two meals that are over $100 each. Or they will offer you a free drink with purchase but what they mean is you must buy two $25 drinks which are the size of a giant aquarium. If you drink both, you will surely need to be carried home.
Fourth, if you want to leave the United States, just visit Miami. It is another country all on its own. It is good to know Spanish, as well as Portuguese, French, Italian, German, Mandarin and Wooey balooey.
Fifth, gratuity is included in most places. Read the fine print before you order, and before you cash out.
Hotels. These places looked cute and were close to the conference hotel and (gasp) reasonably priced but not available by the time I got around to booking. San Juan Hotel, Haddon Hall, The Penguin Hotel, The Richmond, The Century even the hostels: Clay Hotel and South Beach Hostel. I think they might be fine but I would read the reviews on Trip Advisor before booking. Since all were close to the clubs, I would guess they are all pretty noisy.
After a horrendous one-hour cab drive with a man who spoke neither English nor Spanish, and a terrible 15 minutes at the Miami River Inn, we finally ended up at the Holiday Inn North Beach just after lunch time. It is right on the beach, and not close to the shops and restaurants but only a $5 cab ride away.
We enjoyed the beach and pool, then put on dresses and headed to Lincoln Road Mall to people watch, shop and eat at an outdoor café.
On Sunday, we checked into the conference hotel-the beautiful Loews Miami Beach then headed out on a party boat to fish all afternoon. Rachel caught a King. Other things caught were mutton snapper, yellow tail, shark and barracuda. We took the fish to the marina and they cooked it for us for $5. The place was incredible. So family-oriented and casual. I liked this part of Miami the best. It was very normal. Everyone was out walking, or on some kind of wheel-skateboard, bike, stroller, roller blades. And everyone had a dog. The marina restaurant seemed to the only one around and full of locals. There was a band and a swimming pool. I could have stayed there all night but we finally got tired and headed to bed early.
Fishing and the beach were great ways to spend the weekend, but there are other ideas too.
For Monday and Tuesday, I was working nonstop with meeting after meeting at the beautiful Loews hotel. But it did eventually turn 5 pm and the beach was quite close! The ladies and gentlemen in the base oil industry are a lot of fun and kept telling me about other fine places. Over and over people said that Danny Devito’s restaurant was exceptional and worth every penny. Pretty expensive though and I was not sure I could expense something like that! Joe Stone Crabs, Prime One 12, Larios and News Café were also voted fantastic.
The stuffy business suits do eventually come off at these conferences and some of the oil execs were seen at a few clubs near the hotel like The Clevelander and Mangos on Ocean Drive, Set on Lincoln Road and Shore Club on Collins Ave. Everyone seemed to really like Mangos—for the outrageous people watching I think.
For me, I was happy to sit at an outdoor café with a $6 coke and gasp at the people going by. People-watching is by far the best entertainment, outside of fishing and beaching, in South Beach.