In Portugal we’ve always consumed a lot of culture coming from USA. So we have various preconceptions of what to expect from the country and its people. I have to say that it was sooo much better than what I expected! I’ve had the most amazing time in the US and I want to show you how good it was and how welcome I felt!
We arrived in Miami, Florida, and it was a great beginning for our journey. Our plan was to drive from Florida to California in 17 days. It actually felt more like a year! Miami is bubbling with art and design and it’s so much more than what I expected. Our hotel was near Ocean Drive, with all the beautiful art deco buildings, so we walked along the beach and amidst the beautiful neighbourhoods in South Beach. There we stayed at Freehand Hotel and we loved its vibe, though we had to take a look at The Miami Beach EDITION, which is super cool, so we went there in the morning and we wanted to see its amazing bowling room and ice skate ring. Though they were closed at that time of the day, we met the nicest cleaning ladies to whom we spoke in Spanish and they let us check it all for ourselves!
We went to Enriqueta’s Sandwish Shop to have the best Cubano Sandwich in Miami and sashayed through the Wynwood District‘s street art scene, which is overflowing with cool graffitis and art galleries. Nearby you can find really curious shops that sell accessories, like huge necklaces full of rhinestones and clothes with vibrant prints and colours.
While coming back, as we hopped on the bus we didn’t have any quarters to put on the machine to buy the tickets, and a very nice old man, who actually looked quite poor wearing ragged clothes and holding tight to his rucksack, gave us a spare ticket and some money. He actually looked like he was living on the streets and he did it just to be nice. We felt so blessed by his goodness! ❤
After Miami we drove towards Tampa, making a pause in the “Shell Factory“, near Fort Myers, which is a shop known for being the biggest shell shop in the world (or at least in the US 😛).
We stopped in Sarasota, where we visited Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, and we had a delicious Amish potato salad that we bought in a very cute market in the curious Amish community of Pinecraft. Going forward, I would definitely suggest the Sunshine Skyway Bridge (I-275) to cross to St. Petersburg. When crossing it, it is possible to see the cutest little islands dominated by vegetation. We took some time to stroll around Ybor City, which is a historical district that once contained plenty of cigar manufactures with workers coming mostly from Cuba, Spain and Italy.
The next day we rambled around the Suwannee River, and the swamps near Salem. With our rental SUV we drove across those quiet lands, feeling the blissful peace that lies in places unexplored. The swamps and its flora, so characteristic from this area make it all so whimsical and otherworldly, with the Spanish moss floating in the warm breeze.
Our quest for alligators and knowing that they’re all around this part of the US made us cautious but also super alert, always trying to find them. This way we learnt to be attentive and on the lookout for all kinds of animals during this trip. This time we saw no alligator but a huge black snake crossed our path and it was fascinating to see it rise from the ground like it was dancing to a charmer’s pungi music. Before Alabama we still got to visit St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, which is so calm and full of birds and has beautiful views over the Apalachee Bay.
To conclude this post I have to say that I’m sooooo in love with swamps and the exotic vegetation I found. Next state: Alabama. Stay tuned. ❤