Miami – The Expense-free Redux

About a year after we vacationed in Fort Lauderdale and Miami Beach, Florida, we had an opportunity to return through a last-minute vacancy in a business-organized trip.  Aaron’s company offered him the suddenly open spot, and much like the last time we were offered a free trip, we jumped on it!

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Of course our agenda was much different, given we weren’t really planning this trip, but it was still just as fun as the previous.  And the obligatory seminar was worth getting the airfare and per diem on someone else’s dime.

Lodging

With a corporation footing the bill, we were put up in a much fancier hotel – right in Miami Beach.  The Fontainebleau is a very posh resort we could never otherwise afford, and we simple low-lifes certainly didn’t belong there.  The entire place dripped opulence and swarmed with very beautiful people.  Single drinks cost as much as a meal, and $40k bottles of Dom Perignon mocked us from the menu.

The hotel fully became the realm of the 1% on Saturday night when the resident nightclub opened its doors.  Suddenly, we were surrounded by men dressed to the nines and women in dresses worthy of the Red Carpet.  We stared in wonder for a few minutes before quietly escaping to our room.  Besides, the $100 per-person cover simply wasn’t worth the awkwardness of attempting to pretend that was our scene.

On the other hand, the view and the grounds were spectacular!  We fully enjoyed the sights, and I took many pictures of all the little wonders that abounded.

Activities

At the Hotel

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This technically being a business trip – and only for a long weekend – we were limited in our time and our capacity for activities.  Aaron was obligated to attend the seminar for which this trip was intended (we couldn’t just take the trip and then play hookie in Miami… I mean, we probably could have, but that didn’t quite sit well with us), but as the spouse, I was under no similar obligation.  Therefore, while Aaron sat in a ballroom, I explored the grounds, camera in-hand (because that’s what I do).

I found a lot to photograph – from chandeliers to reflections, simple wall decorations to the view of the ocean below.  I was up early enough to catch the sunrise and to appreciate the completely empty and still pool.  I wandered the boardwalks up and down the beach, and I even found a local beach cat!

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I also took some time to appreciate the in-house spa.  Surprisingly, this was actually quite affordable (I think only because they were having a special that weekend).  For an even $100, I got an hourlong massage and unfettered access to the many water self-treatments.  Between the “mineral water jet bath,”  the “deluge shower,” and the “rain tunnel,” I felt fully cleansed and rejuvenated.  We really should hit up a spa more often than we do (read: never).

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In Miami

Once the requisite time was put in attending the conference, we were free to escape into the city proper.  This time, we didn’t have enough time to jet down to Key West or anything, but we did stumble upon a bike share (and wondered why Portland didn’t have one yet), and we rode a few miles down the beach, basking in the humid August weather.

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That evening, we partook in a local food tour.  And I think this was really the turning point past which we were converted from casual chain visitors to full-fledged food snobs.  We sampled from half a dozen five-star restaurants in South Beach, each tiny bite even better than the last.  I don’t think we could afford any of these places even now, but it certainly ratcheted up our expectations regarding food.  Between Miami and living in downtown Portland, we abandoned the chains for those with real chefs.

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Side note: I remember seeing chef shows as a kid and then being confused with Ruby Tuesdays and Applebees – everything is mainstream; do true chefs no longer exist?  And then we discovered real food..  It was a world I didn’t even realize existed, and we can never go back!

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We wrapped up the evening with a stroll down the strip, and we popped into a few hopping clubs to watch the revelry.  Unsurprisingly, we couldn’t find a seat or a table anywhere (especially if we weren’t buying anything), so we didn’t stay long, but the glimpses were entertaining.

Wined and dined

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Finally, this was a trip organized for a sales team – a group of people of which the company likes to take care.  My last evening there, we were treated to a sunset yacht cruise around the bay with bites and drinks aplenty.  The weather did not disappoint, and much like Key West, my camera (and I) was happy.

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Aaron was stuck for one more day of conference talks, but I left for home early, this being my last major activity.  It was an excellent way to wrap up a semi-vacation that required little expense on our part.  Now, that’s the way to travel!

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What was the best opportunity of which you were able to take advantage while traveling?

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