Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Little Havana

By Claire

Today was full of nice surprises.  The sunrise was the first; I leaned out on the railing to take it in and enjoy the soft, warm air--it was already in the 70s.  I love it and I'm loving Florida.  This, I didn't expect.

We had quite a few things to accomplish today:  drive to Miami, lunch in Little Havana, shop at Costco, relax at our hotel.  I'm frankly amazed at how well we do with the driving.  In fact, we drove to the exact spot we wanted to be in Little Havana on Calle Ocho (8th St.), El Pub.  I had looked up places to eat on Yelp for authentic Cuban food and this one got great reviews.    We found a place to park right in front.  While I took some photos, Chuck went in search of the parking pay booth.  He kept trying to use his credit card when a guy came up to him speaking in rapid Spanish with lots of hand gestures, tried to tell him that it takes cash only.  I think the expression on Chuck's face alerted the guy to the fact that he didn't understand a word he was saying.  Fortunately, he kindly switched to English.  We cautiously walked into the restaurant.

And authentic it was.  The waitress barely spoke English.  In fact, everyone was speaking Spanish and we felt as if we were in a foreign country again!  We ordered café con leche and what a delight it was.  We were each served a cup of steamed milk with a small cup of espresso for us to add.  Delicioso!  And I thought the cappuccinos in Italy were so great.  Our motivation for coming to Miami was really all about one of our favorite shows, "Dexter."  We even listened to the soundtrack as we approached the city (thanks Pat!).  And then, of course, there is "Miami Vice."  I just really wanted to see Miami, and Little Havana is right in the middle of it all.  We had to try a pork sandwich--it's Dexter's favorite!

I'm not going to say it was great; but it wasn't bad.  It was sliced pork (not pulled pork with barbque sauce) with mustard and pickle.  The bread was buttered and grilled.  It was pretty enormous so guess what we're having for dinner?

The restaurant had lots of murals and Cuban memorabilia, a number of old Cuban guys sitting around, with a few tourists sprinkled here and there.  I'm sure we blended right in...

The outside area was where the cigar smokers sit.  We chose to sit inside instead.

We strolled through the neighborhood noticing the color and the music.  Cuban music was flowing out of a couple of shops and one guy was playing on the sidewalk.

We spotted this ice cream store and headed in. It was 90º and the humidity was cookin'!

We wondered what the Mantecado flavor was; the guy at the counter told us it was vanilla ice cream with nutmeg and cinnamon.  How could we pass it up?  I ordered the tiniest one I could and when he started to put a second scoop on I told him to add it to Chuck's, which he did.  Wow!  What a great flavor.  I'm going to try to make it at home.

Nicely refreshed, we strolled some more.  I loved this Domino Club.

Each table had domino games going and you can see they also had lots of spectators.

Next up was Costco.  We have a 3 day vacation on the beach coming up, so we stocked up on fruit and sandwich things.  The driving was a little hairy; but I kept telling myself it was no worse than San Francisco.  There are lots of cloverleafs and toll booths.  We saw signs that told us we could not exit unless we had a Sun Pass--no cash accepted.  It was all quite confusing. What are out-of-towners supposed to do?  The other problem that came up a few times was when the toll booths that did take cash were always way over on the right and Vicky was telling us to get to the left to merge onto another freeway.  Our favorite was the sign that said "Pay Toll by License Plate."  There was no choice in this, and I guess we'll be getting a bill for $.75 (50 cent toll plus 25 cent administrative fee). 

In spite of the twists and turns, we drove like pros and found all three destinations without a hitch (well almost--I didn't mention taking off a little too soon and driving a few more miles to correct ourselves.  Thank goodness for those cloverleafs--Vicky is quite good at correcting our mistakes).  Our Marriot Courtyard is really nice--and brand new.  Our room is huge, and the pool and hot tub were welcome.  We have one more day here, and I'm looking forward to more of Miami.

Dexter Morgan:  Tonight's the night. And it's going to happen, again and again. It has to happen. Nice night. Miami is a great town. I love the Cuban food. Pork sandwiches. My favorite. But I'm hungry for something different now.  

Lt. Maria Laguerta:  So then he must have already had the head with him in the front seat. Huh, that's weird. Why would he keep it there?

Dexter Morgan:  I don't know. So he could use a carpool lane?