We were entering a new phase of travel that was going to last around one month called Travelling at Home. Travelling at Home has a few characteristics. First of all, as the name may suggest, it’s travelling but staying at home, someone else’s home. It’s different from couchsurfing in that the person’s home you stay in is family, so you get the added benefit of catching up with family that you haven’t seen for ages. It has a small requirement of having family who live in places you actually want to visit – here we were in Florida, from here (after a short Caribbean cruise), we were going to the Dominican Republic, and from there a long layover in Honduras for Christmas and New Year. And another not to be underestimated feature of Travelling at Home is that it suits all budgets! An added twist to our version of Travelling at Home was that my mother, who has always had a weak spot for sunny destinations with superb shopping, was going to join us for a week while we were there – a little piece of home at a home away from home.
When we left Ireland in March, we had only three fixed dates on our itinerary – the World Cup in South Africa, Christmas in Honduras, and just before that, Ninfa’s role as bridesmaid in a wedding of one of her best high-school friends, Marissa. Marissa was getting married in Miami, so that was another reason to feel happy about our fixed date. We would be in Miami for three nights – the first night for the rehearsal dinner, the second for the wedding, and the third for recovery. It was a great opportunity for Ninfa to meet up with Marissa and some old friends who are scattered around the US and Honduras and don’t get together often. It was a good chance for me to put some faces to names I’d heard many a tale about, like Marissa, Ana, Monica and Karina. I was a little worried about the impression I’d make on Ninfa’s friends as although my mother had brought me a suit, I had hidden my shoes too well in Ireland, and I had to wear my trainers with my suit. I got out of jail though when the bride’s brother was also wearing trainers, so instead it kind of looked bad for everyone else wearing shoes. We all had a great time at the wedding which was a lovely, small, outdoor, evening ceremony. It didn’t take long for the party to get going afterwards, as almost simultaneously to the music starting, all the Honduran girls were on the floor! The party wrapped up early around midnight, which is generally the time people get warmed up at an Irish wedding, so we headed back to our hotel for more drinks only to find the bar was already closed!
The upside of the early night was that it gave us a chance to savour some of the Miami highlife. We drove out to South Beach the next morning, and took a walk along its beautiful, pastel-painted, stylish Art-Deco avenues before stopping for lunch in one of streetside cafes, ideal for seeing and being seen. Lunches are surprisingly good value, and the entertainment is great with the young and beautiful, the real deals and the wannabes, and the flash cars cruising along Ocean Drive. We took a walk past the beach volleyball courts out to the beach itself which is a long, wide sandy, strand stretching out along the Atlantic Ocean. Afterward, we took a drive along Calle Ocho which is basically Cuba Central with its cigar stores, and travel agents all offering flights to Havana, before spending the evening taking in some of the atmosphere of the Miami Art Fair in laid back Coconut Grove.
Our time in Miami was up, and it was time to relax in the splendid surroundings of Palm Beach County. It was the first time that any of Ninfa’s family had met any of my family, so it was great to spend time both with my mother and Ninfa’s aunt Victoria (aka Nene) as well as her husband Riad, and son Joe, although I think his real name is Zuzu (:-)). As will happen in the country of consumerism and among such female-dominated we spent quite a bit of our time shopping in the myriad malls around Florida, contributing to the Christmas atmosphere along the way. We also spent a day touring the waterfront of Palm Beach and taking a look at the multi-millionaire mansions of the rich and retired, and not wasting the opportunity to enjoy a Champagne cocktail at the luxurious and opulent setting of the famous Breakers Hotel. The streets of Palm Beach are perfectly cleaned with long palm-lined avenues leading down to the beach. It’s easy to imagine the Kennedys in their heyday exchanging pleasantries along the exclusive Worth Avenue, or to take an even greater step back in time on Clematis St with some of the original buildings that first graced West Palm Beach.
Overall, it was a great place to relax, and I really enjoyed getting to spend some time with my mother before Christmas catching up (and being spoiled), and also to enjoy the company of Victoria’s family, chatting long into the evenings, and sometimes not only past Riad’s bedtime but our bedtime too! So a little less adventure than we’re used to, but some TLC goes a long way when you’ve been away for a long time. So a big thanks to my mother for making the long trip over to see us before Christmas, and to the Batruny family for being such hospitable and welcoming hosts. Next stop is another departure from our usual travel plans – a four-day Caribbean Cruise. Read about it on our next post!