The cover picture was taken in South Beach, Miami, 2016. Steps from the hotel I stayed at on Collins Avenue. To get to the beach I crossed Ocean Drive from 8th Street, the closest to the hotel.
So here’s the story, to be more accurate, here is MY story with Florida.
I was enjoying my trip to Florida from mid-June to 4th of July (an important date and celebration in the USA history as we all know) I was mesmerized by all the beautiful sights AND feelings I get everytime I am there. I am thinking to myself now what is it about Florida that makes me feel this way? What is it about it that makes me more alive?
Because yes, the truth is I can definitely say I have that kind of deep unique and special connection with that part of America. You know THIS connection we usually experience with special people or a special someone. That is it right here! I am positive if I can feel it that strongly I can pass it on to you.
Well, first of all. I trully believe that the fact I lived there for a year is a great part of it. I recall before I moved to Florida in May, 2014 my friends, loved ones even people that I know from different activities I am involved in were telling me “Oh Emma, Florida is not the best part of the US to improve your English”, “Florida is all about sea, sun and fun, not your type I know you’re more into cultural destinations”, “Are you kidding me, are you going to work there? Really? Nooo way, you’re only going to party there, I can’t picture anything else!” blablabla. Of course Florida has its (lots of) stereotypes.
Yet, spending time over there allowed me to actually see it from a different perspective. I got to see the very first things when you get there and beyond, the genuine assets of this destination…nothing like anywhere else in the US. I don’t mean I know every part of it nor every aspect, I share about what Florida means to me and at the end of the day in my opinion Florida is like the continuation of the Caribbean territory, it’s like the Caribbean in the US. That is my general outlook on the destination!
- The enjoyable environment. No wonder! This should not come as a surprise the first reason why people visit Florida is the nice weather most of the time. With temperatures that range from 39°F the lowest in January (Thallahassee) to 92°F the highest in summer (Miami), the climate is the number one asset. So that is how the so called “Sunshine State” holds on to its reputation. Even Americans go on vacation there! Similarly to my home country, France, it is very popular to go to “la Côte d’Azur”/the “French Riviera” in the South during summertime. That being said, I keep in mind that there are indeed “subtle” differences depending on where you are in Florida. I spent most of my time in Orlando I can say November, December and February were kind of “cold” I had to wear a thick coat. Big time. In general inland and the northern part is chilly even cold at times especially towards the end and beginning of the year. The southern part, Miami for instance, is usually the hottest anyway. Besides, Florida has an ideal location. Surrounded by waters – the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic Ocean – the destination offers a wide range of beaches whether they are remote or must-see and crowded ones. I particularly love Clearwater beaches, Caladesi Island beaches, Honeymoon Island rather than South Beach. The first ones are more romantic and while they are still attractive beaches, thus there are many people, it is nothing like in South Beach area. To me, the great location also means the proximity with the Caribbean. Being originally from there and having a part of my family living there, it is something to be considered. I for instance took a trip to Haiti from Miami, round trip ticket, quick flight for about $250 which is cheap. At the time (2014) traveling to Martinique and Guadeloupe from Florida was still expensive but more recently it has developed meaning prices are more interesting and flights are more often. You might want to check on Norwegian website. I think not only for people from the Caribbean but also for Americans or people visiting Florida it is a good opportunity to visit the Caribbean islands.
- The amusement and fun. Again, no surprise here! Florida is definitely a destination for fun activities and amusement parks. What I find actually funny is the “contrasts” when it comes to leisure; there are certainly areas you want to avoid if you are with kids. I wouldn’t recommend Miami as an example when on a family trip, it is ideal for party lovers though. There are different levels of “fun” depending on your age and what you are looking for. I lived in Orlando for a year, this city is by far a must if you have kids, little ones, also if you are with friends. Orlando is home to the so-called “happiest place on Earth”, Walt Disney World, the biggest Disney resort in the world. If you are like me, maybe not a big big fan of the concept of overcrowded amusement parks, you will at least enjoy thrilling experiences and sharing those moments with your loved ones for sure and I know for a fact that at Disney, they are the best to make you feel special! It includes the 5 theme parks Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, my favorite one Hollywood Studios with the amazing evening show “Fantasmic” and the 2 water parks Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach. Besides those, Sea World to experience great experience with the marine life, Aquatica and of course Universal Resort, perfect for teens and adults. Outside Orlando, Tampa has its own attractions Busch Gardens and the Aquarium. Everything is made easy for tourists to have the best experience since you can get combined tickets for example for Sea World and Busch Gardens, transportation included. Let the childish side in you shine.
- The charming people and the (their) languages, or I could say the cultural richness there through those two, to begin with. That one is BIG. I mean of course a city such as New York is cosmopolitan. But sometimes I think it is nothing like in Florida, remember the environment and climate has this “little” touch of the Caribbean, well the people emphasize it. Anyway, I personnally feel this is the exact ingredient that spices up the destination. I met Mexicans, Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Bahamians, Jamaicans, Dominicans, Haitians, Brazilians, Colombians (the list goes on and on) at work a lot and while going out as well. Therefore, I could speak Spanish as much as English. If you happen to speak Spanish, there you go! You will always make your way in Florida! And if not, trust me, you’ll eventually learn some Spanish or another language. I can also speak Creole with my Haitian fellows what is very convenient. It is a lot of fun at the end of the day! In a nutshell, this beautiful blend of different cultures is the vibrant side of Florida! It all dates back to the history of the state.
- Along with the people comes the sweet music and the dances related to. All those kinds of music that just take you directly to the islands and countries of South America, this is the “paradise” I am talking about. Reggae, salsa, bachata, merengue, samba, reggaeton, konpa…you name it! It is blissful. It just creates this relaxing and delightful atmosphere whether it is in clubs, concerts, shows, restaurants and bars, even the street is a stage in Miami Beach. It is about time to listen to the oldie “Chan Chan” by Buena Vista Social (Compay Segundo)!
- Along with the music, the tasty and diversified food. From the famous Key Lime pie – that isn’t to be missed – to seafood, Florida has a lot to offer when it comes to eating. And of course food is as diversified as the communities mentionned before. A lot of chain restaurants actually provide “typical dishes” so we can get a taste of this “melting pot”. Yet, I prefer nice small and family-owned restaurants. I am rather picky about food, ahah! If you didn’t know yet take a look at my page About author. I personnally like Haitian food. Three places I would recommend are Chef Creole Restaurant and Leela’s Restaurant in Little Haiti, also Tap Tap Restaurant in South Beach. The latter has the advantage to be perfectly located in a very touristy area and the place is colorful, decorated with stunning haitian paintings. You get plenty of food – I couldn’t finish mine! – and prices are average. I’ll explain what a “tap-tap” is in an upcoming post about my trip to Haiti!
- The best orange juice I have ever had. Well, maybe not the best. Since the best is definitely the one we make with fresh juicy oranges. It depends on your opinion about how natural is the orange juice found at the grocery stores. What is sure though is that Florida is well-known for its oranges, it is part of its identity! I personnally go for Florida’s Natural to start a good day there and I am happy with it! Made in Florida by an agricultural cooperative of citrus growers, you find it everywhere in the state!
Bonus : I have one more for you! I don’t know about you but there is something about a hot destination like Florida that simply incites you to finally wear those neo, bright, colorful clothes that you had left perhaps for a while even forgotten in your wardrobe. It is time to enjoy them! Rock it! Also, you will probably be in the mood to make and enjoy refreshing cocktails, smoothies. Discover my favorite flavours for a sweet summertime!
And you, what do you find exciting about Florida? What are the first things, ideas that cross your mind when you think about this destination? How do you picture it, if you have not been there yet? I’d love to hear from you!