I like southern Florida. A lot.
I have been here for political conventions. Hurricane recovery. Military assignments. And as the embarkation point for several cruises.
Today I am in Fort Lauderdale – waiting to board a cruise ship on Monday to cross the Atlantic to Italy.
I flew out of Manzanillo To Los Angeles on Friday afternoon – and then flew overnight to Florida. I have this thing about sleeping on airplanes. I just don’t. On buses, I snooze the sleep of the innocent. On airplanes I am as wide awake as a B-52 gunner.
For this trip, I decided to arrive in Fort Lauderdale two days early. For once, I wanted to arrive on board a cruise ship fully relaxed.
On Saturday morning I arrived at my motel at 7 – fully expecting to be told I would need to wait until the check-in time of 1. But my lack of faith was rewarded. My room was ready.
It is nothing fancy. I chose this $60 motel over the $250 hotels on the beach knowing that I would merely sleep and post here. For that, it is adequate. Even with its lack of air conditioning.
And nothing more than adequate. Location is its primary advantage and disadvantage. It is close to the airport and the cruise terminal. But it is also located amidst primarily commercial property and bisected by carotid traffic lanes.
The fact that the local sheriff appears to have a reserved spot for a patrol car is only a bit unnerving.
I took a quick nap, and then my friend, Roy, (who is going on the cruise along with his wife, Nancy) stopped by. We had a serious mission to accomplish.
We were in Miami. We were hungry. And that adds up to one thing. We needed to make a trip to Versailles – our favorite Cuban restaurant in town.
And it did not disappoint.
I ordered ropa vieja – the same Cuban beef dish I enjoyed in Mexico City just before the onset of my stomach episode. But I knew the Versailles version would be better. And it was.
In celebration of dining with my good friend, I did something I have not done in a long time. I ordered dessert. A traditional rice pudding. It was fine, if a bit too sweet. But it topped off a great dinner.
We picked up Nancy at the airport and they then returned me to my motel. On the drive back, I noticed a barbecue joint just over a mile away.
Coming to Miami and not having a Cuban meal would be a shame. Coming to the south and not having barbecue would be a travesty.
So, I walked over to Li’l Red’s for supper.
The presence of that apostrophe was enough to let me know I should be getting the real deal. Plus the fact that the place does not look like much from the outside. Show me a shiny barbeque joint, and I will show you the site of the next Starbucks.
Now, I know there are southerners who believe southern Florida is no more part of the south than is Brooklyn. But they are wrong. It may be more sophisticated than Tallahassee, but it still knows how to do the basics.
I had a barbeque pork sandwich with the inevitable choice of two sides. French fries and baked beans.
As is often the case with southern cooking, the plate arrived with enough food for two people. But more than quantity, it was the quality that still sticks with me as I sit here writing. And all for just over $8.
The down side is that on the walk back to the motel, I felt as if I should be rolled up over the freeway overpass. It is not a good sign to be stuffed before a cruise begins.
Tomorrow, Nancy, Roy, and I are going to have dinner with one of his high school buddies. And I will then have supper with some of my fellow cruisers.
When we sail on Monday, I will do my best to keep in touch with you. That much I promise. I will try.