The Start of the Big US Road Trip - Florida

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March 11th 2014
Published: March 11th 2014
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Miami – 2nd time around

We arrive Miami at 6.30 pm after a 1.5hr smooth flight from Grand Cayman with American Airlines. This time immigration is much quicker, but getting through customs is a pain as some old witch dealing with our queue is taking forever, while all the other queues are moving real fast. After that bit of ‘high stress activity’ we get the MIA Mover to Central Station (free) to get off to catch the Metro Bus (No:150) which runs frequently and costs only $2.60 per person into town even if you switch to another bus.

So we check in at the Lombardy Inn 63rd & Collins Ave earlier than expected and meet Norma again. We get a great room this time and set out to find some food and drink. After much soul searching & having had a good lunch we settle for some Budweiser and a Domino’s pizza – as the start of the long road trip, it’s good to try and keep within budget for a change. The Caymans definitely smashed the budget a few times over.

We decide to go to the big Mall in town – the Aventura Mall. The 120 bus goes there, however, we hadn’t expected it to be half way to Fort Lauderdale! It’s ok as Malls go and we get a few things done and try The Five Guys Burger and Fries for the first time. M thinks they are great – C is not so convinced. They are however, so much cheaper here than in London & you don’t have to queue either! The Cheesecake Factory Original is a bit of a let-down though. As it’s Sunday with many families out at Haulover Bay enjoying the park and beach (it looks really good), the drive back takes us twice as long due to the traffic - 1 hour to 56th Street, where we get off for the Boat Show which is held in 4 different locations but we stick with the bit near us.

We have decided against buying tickets to the Show as there as so many boats moored in Indian Creek that you can see for free – and even arrange viewings of if you look the part – so we just walk around. There are some modest boats on show but most are huge – real $$$$$ - one even has a helicopter parked on top of it! So after a while in fantasyland, we head back to the Motel. Tomorrow we set off on the first leg of our road trip so we need an early night.

The Everglades

We have allowed 45 minutes to get from the hotel to downtown which we think should be plenty of time taking the 120 limited stop bus all the way. Mmmm! It actually takes us an hour and a half. At the bus driver's suggestion (as it will be quicker), we hop off the bus at Omni and get to try the Omni loop - the over ground rail system that runs around downtown and is free. It gives great views of the downtown. We jump off at Bayfront and find the car rental office, resist the offer of ‘a bargain upgrade’ to a BMW X3 or X5, agree to pay for unlimited toll fees at circa $7 per day (they have introduced a no cash/credit card toll system in Florida and instead take a photo of the plate and then bill you. If you don't pay you get fined. Alternatively you get a pass that covers all tolls & though we aren't convinced its good value it means we don't have to think about how to pay or avoid the fast toll roads. And after a long wait (and a panic call to the hotel as we'll be late checking out) we get our Nissan Sentra. Apparently it's a compact car but as a 4 door saloon we don't see anything compact about it! It’s an automatic and a nice comfortable driving machine – it will do just fine.

M takes the first driving duty and after a couple of panics about which lane/direction etc we should be heading for we head back to the hotel via South Beach which takes ages. We hit Stop Lights on every junction! Eventually we make it back, check out, again leaving our big bags with them as we'll be back in 10 days, and then it's off to the supermarket (Publix) for supplies. Our next 3 nights are in a hostel in Florida City so we plan to cook in as the website shows they have decent facilities, and bulk buying beer is much better vfm. After shopping we have a great Cuban coffee (M’s new favourite) at the Publix cafe and an awesome ice cream - 1 scoop roasted hazelnut and 1 scoop Valhrona chocolate - all cheap as chips. C is in heaven.

We hit the road for the drive to Florida City (FC), estimated time 30 minutes, actual time 2 hours!!! Despite C's map reading (which is good says M) the road signs defy us and we miss the junction we need for the fast road to the Florida Turnpike and end up crawling through downtown traffic. We do find another way through but the damage has been done. Once on the Turnpike it's a fast and easy drive until we get to FC and miss the turn for the hostel completely. At "Robert is Here" - a local farm shop cum petting farm (which looks quite fun) we get redirected and soon find ourselves at one of the best equipped hostels in all our time of travelling; The Everglades International Hostel.

We have a private room for $75 per night which is really nice. The communal areas are great both inside and out - the garden has tree houses, waterfall, a huge communal eating area, gazebo, campfire, hammocks and a chill out zone. And the kitchen has more cooking equipment than you'd find in a pro kitchen, plus they provide all the spices and oils you need. Happiness, especially as we have bought food to cook for these few days.

We have a look at the tour options from the hostel and are not sure they will quite suit us; kayaking for 3 hours would be agony for M and wading through snake and alligator infested waters is not C's idea of fun!! Thankfully, we are only 5 miles from the entry to Everglades NP and we can drive there and see the area from the comfort of boardwalks.

We take a walk into "town". This is a city apparently. To us it seems more like a stretched out village. There are a few Mexican general stores and eateries (although most of the local folk we see are African Americans), a small arcade of shops (a mall it isn't) and quite a few churches. We get the feeling that this is quite a poor area. Shops accept food stamps (though we find out later that 47 million people in the US get food stamps which is 15% of the population - wow!!), there are lots of social services available and the place looks a little neglected

In the morning we decide not to go for the free (make & cook your own) pancakes so have cereal, but spot a cunning plan for tomorrow; everyone makes too much mix, so we'll just grab the leftovers and have a lazy breakfast! However, we never do make it work for us as the pancakes look too much for an early start to a day!

We head off into the Everglades NP and first stop is the Ernest Coe Visitor Centre (named after the guy who helped establish the Park). The entry fee of $10 for a car and lasts for 7 days so it's great value. We get a useful briefing from one of the Rangers and first stop is Anhinga loop walk - about a 1/2 mile boardwalk over lakes and swamp but which takes us about 2 hours as there is so much to see and is the only recommended walk.

When we arrive we notice folks covering their cars with tarpaulins - we assume for the heat. Not so. Apparently the vultures practice their skills at extracting soft meat from carcasses on the vehicles rubber trims as they make a good substitute. As there are no tarps left, the Ranger suggests we park away from the trees and hope! Fortunately, just as we finish re-parking a family leave and offer us their tarp.

The Ranger Guided walk is very interesting but also very slow, soon we find ourselves wandering off ahead of the group. There is so much to see - alligators basking in the water, turtles, ghar (local fish), bass, Gambusia (now C's favourite fish as it eats mosquito larvae), herons, cranes, anhinga, vultures, a very colourful bird that we have no idea what it's called, and loads more. Only things we don't see are snakes even though there are supposed to be thousands of them here - including many Burmese pythons - originally house pets that were left here when folks couldn't cope with them when grown & they have multiplied. They even have a python killing season with cash rewards for the numbers killed to get the population down.

Polarised sunglasses are a real benefit here as you see so much more in the water. Thankfully there are a few clouds and a bit of breeze so walking around is very pleasant despite the 27C.

There are lots more walks to do in the area but we decide to drive the 38 miles to Flamingo at the south edge of the park to do a boat ride into the backwaters. We arrive minutes before the next trip starts so dash over, pay our $32.50 each and jump on board. Our recommendation to other travellers - don't bother! It's a nice pootle along the rivers and into the lakes for an hour and forty five minutes but other than an interesting commentary with a lot of info about the trees in the area, and a few bird sightings there isn't really much to write home about. And the only crocodiles we saw were in the marina area where the boat was moored, the ospreys were nesting by the marina and the manatees had gone into hiding! (Interesting facts; this is the only area in the world where alligators and crocodiles co-exist because of the mix of sea and fresh water due to its location. There are also deadly trees that will blister your skin and eventually kill you if you touch the leaves - a poison the Indians used on their arrows. And there are 4 venomous snakes that can kill you. C knew she was right not to go walkabout in the 'Glades!)

Despite all the signs about manatees in the area we don't see any, so we head back to FC. We notice lots of road side signs to watch for Panthers, which are an endangered species in the Everglades. We don't see any of them either! On route we detour to a place where you can take airboat trips here which we had thought of doing but it seems very noisy and we're not convinced we'll see much more. We stop at Gator Grill to check out their menu. They do a few dishes with Alligator meat and some with frogs legs. We decide to go there for lunch the next day.

We drive into Homestead, the other town nearby to stay. It's much bigger than FC with lots of eateries and motels and has a historic centre with a few museums, and a trolley bus to take you around. But it's still only one main street with quite limited options. As it's getting late we don't stop but it may be worth a visit.

Back at the hostel we cook in again and decide to stay local tomorrow so we can catch up on some admin and bookings for the travels ahead. And pretty much that's what we do. We go for Gator sandwich (like a burger) and Gator bits with fries. It's nice - a sort of mildly fishy, chickeny meat!!! And then for dessert we head to "Robert is Here" for one of their Awesome milkshakes; we go for papaya and banana - made with ice cream and a huge portion you really only need 1 between 2 of you. They do all sorts of flavours with local fruit we've never heard of but you can find them all on sale in the farm shop, together with great taste descriptions; C was taken by the Black Sapote which is supposed to taste like chocolate pudding!!

After jigging and re-jigging our travel plans for the umpteenth time, we take an evening break and head to Publix a few miles up the road (on highway 1) for a few provisions. And more or less, everything we said before about the size of FC and Homestead can be ignored!! This is where the town is; miles of malls and loads of motels & restaurants, and Walgreens every 100 yards. It's a different world from the area around the hostel. We're really surprised the hostel doesn't have any info on the options to eat here - maybe they're trying to support their local guys, but it does seem a bit of an omission.

We also fill up the tank for tomorrow's journey. The Americans complain about how expensive fuel is, and we know it's all relative, but really........ at £2-20 per gallon (45p/litre) we have little sympathy!! Amazing.!

And so having enjoyed our days in the Everglades and feeling like we've achieved a few things in our travel planning, next stop is Sarasota on the west Florida Coast.


We're up early for the 4 hour drive to Sarasota, but it seems not early enough. It's Interstate all the way but just outside Miami we get stuck in the morning rush hour - hey ho. We try the radio for distraction but although there are thousands of stations most of them play rubbish. Eventually we get through and it's foot on the gas to make up time. As soon as we leave the Florida Turnpike to head west, the road opens up and it's a pleasant drive through the Everglades. Lots of bird life, a few folk out on boats, and vast expanses of mini cypress trees.

We swap driving duties after a couple of hours and head off the Interstate at an exit marked with lots of eateries and hotels etc. and find that unlike the UK, these aren't signs for service areas. The food places are scattered along the road or in the nearest town, so we end up pulling over on a side road swapping and then rejoin Interstate Highway. There are rest stops that we see - literally somewhere to go and rest and have a pee but quite far apart, and some exits take you to malls, but if you don't know the area you aren't sure whether you will hit a mall or end up travelling extra miles into town.

Just south of Sarasota we come off the Interstate Road and join the stop start local traffic into town. It's an attractive town, with a long harbour front and lots of free parking areas so we head into the well signposted Visitor Centre for some info. It's one of the best we've come across; loads of info, very helpful folk and a small museum with the history of the area. It's a relatively new town, only established in the late 1800's by a Scottish settlers community.

We are staying at Knights Inn, a motel about 2 miles north of downtown with a small pool, run as a franchise by an Indian family from Surat/Gujarat. It's not bad at all. The room is large and well equipped with fridge and microwave, breakfast is included - cereal, fruit, breads and bagels, coffee and juice. And it's a good price. We realise that the US can be much cheaper to travel if you have a car as you can stay in the out of town motels.

Sarasota is famed for its arts - opera, museums, theatres, street sculptures, galleries etc. We take a walk around the harbour area. There's a lovely park, a seasonal open air museum, and loads of boats. The town has sculptures displayed all over. The big one is a giant size statue of a sailor kissing a girl - pretty amusing and right by the harbour and start of Main Street. Well worth a photo opp! (But we didn't get one!!! The weather was against us.) There are lots of folks taking a stroll - many of them older. We'd been warned that this was "stroller central" and clearly many retirees live here and it’s understandable.

We head to Nancy's Bar BQ for lunch which has its own smoke house. The "Burnt Ends" (brisket) sandwich (we've see these on Triple D's and they looked awesome) is okay but the Beef o Rama is amazing; melt in the mouth brisket with friend onions on a bun with horseradish sauce. The portions are huge too so we don't need anything else to eat that day. Another diner we try, Hob Nobs on the edge of town is pretty basic by comparison though it's been going since 1957, so a bit of an institution.

In the evening we go to Main Street downtown for a walk. It's a nice area with lots of different shops, including an awesome looking ice cream shop called Edy's which we plan to visit when hungrier - the ice creams are huge and the waffle cones look yummy! (We don't make it unfortunately for various reasons). There are loads of restaurants and they're all packed. The in season meal is stone crab - a bit pricey but supposed to be really good.

St Petersburgh

LP says the area of St Petersburg further up the coast is nice, so we head up for a day at the beach at Clearwater, a bit of culture in St P and a bit more beach at nearby St Pete's. Except the weathers crap! So we ditch the beach and just spend some time wandering around St P. We take the city bus tour ($0.50 cents!) – you have just gotta love a tour that celebrates the first high rise built in a place in 1975! There's also a pier with a very strange but colourful cuboid structure straight out of the 70's at the end. It's closed for demolition - not surprised - but we walk around it to see if there are any dolphins or manatees in the area. No such luck but we do get some more pics of pelicans.

St P is actually quite nice. There are some interesting old buildings including one of the first open air Post Offices in the US which has some nice decorative tiling. And some nice parks - one a memorial to those killed in wars which is good. There's a Dali museum though we don't go in. It's also a bit quirky in places; when was the last time you saw a tree in a knitted jumper?

Fancying a coffee and snack we explore the places by the harbour and discount them all as too expensive/fancy. Instead we find the Central Coffee Shop - a small diner that has hundreds of photos and memorabilia of Marilyn Monroe. It's a long running family place and a nice find. The US are playing Canada in the ice hockey semi-finals in Sochi - the Winter Olympics - it's live on TV. The US lost 1-0.

The road to St P from Sarasota is mainly along Interstates but from just before Tampa the road goes west across a huge suspension bridge, humped to allow boats underneath. It's very impressive, shades of the suspension bridge to Wales near Bristol but much bigger. As we return, just as we hit the bridge, C sees a dolphin in the water; happiness.

Siesta Key

Next day we venture to Siesta Key, voted America’s best beach in 2011. It's just a few miles south of Sarasota and as soon as you hit the island you get a sense of the wealth of the place. Lots of Condo's, some huge water fronted properties, and a really nice village area with different shops and lots of eateries. Not a Starbucks in sight.

Unfortunately as we drive the sea mist rolls in. Even so, we find somewhere to park (free) and go to the beach. It's all slightly surreal with people sunbathing in the mist! But we can see why it gets such good reports; the sand is definitely the best we've come across other than the Maldives - pure talcum powder soft and white. The sea is aquamarine and looks really clean. It's bloody cold though! We thought the water on the Gulf of Mexico was supposed to be warm. Lots of folk are here as it's a Saturday, including quite a few Amish families - there's a small community of them here.

After our beach stroll we head into the village to check out the lunch options. We head to Old Salty Dog, and order a shrimp Po' Boy; mistake! Fried breaded shrimp pieces - not even whole shrimps. A Nil from us on Trip Advisor. Hey ho! Still, it's not enough to put us off coming back to Siesta Key. We can see ourselves visiting here over winter in future.

As we need to spend some time doing more bookings for our road trip - especially the bit with Pete (C's stepdad who is joining us for 6 weeks in April) we go back to the room with the intention of going to the cinema after a couple of hours - 12 Years A Slave is still showing here - and then to Edy's for an ice cream supper. Just as we get ready to leave, C tries to open the safe and no go! After several more tries the manager arrives with his magic gizmo to override the lock out. It doesn't work either. A quick call to the safe company support service who suggest hitting it with a hammer (we kid you not!) but still no go. It's the weekend so no call out staff will attend and the only option then is to drill out the lock, but as it's getting late this isn't an option without hacking off the rest of the guests. So bang goes our plan for an early departure next day to Orlando. We have to stay until the safe is busted as it has all our important stuff in there – money, passports etc.

In need of some comfort we get crab cake take out from Barnacle Bills next door - pretty good; all washed down with oodles of Budweiser our drink for the trip as it's pretty cheap from Publix - about $1 a bottle.

Next morning, the safe is still locked and the manager arrives with a drill. Still no joy! There is a distinct possibility we will have to stay another night as the safe breakers aren't back at work till Monday. We decide to use this unanticipated dead time to do more bookings. The silver lining - we get the last two places at Grand Canyon North Rim RV campsite. Phew!

At about 3 pm M decides to have a play with the screwdriver in the drilled out lock and hey presto, it opens. We can leave. Shame really, as we had been planning to go back to Nancy's BarBQ and Edy's. Anyhow, with many thanks to the manager and his son who were incredibly helpful throughout, we head off for the two hour drive to Orlando.


The journey there is straight forward on Interstates all the way. We find our hotel on International Drive (ID) - Monumental Hotel - about 5 miles south of the busy bit of ID but pretty close to all the Disney resorts we have come here for. It's a 4 star hotel in all aspects except occupancy (and price!) Large lobby's, big outdoor pool, good rooms - and no-one here but us chickens (almost). Even the restaurant doesn't open as there aren't enough guests to justify it. Anyhow, it suits us fine.

As we made good time we decide to make a dash to a cinema complex at the top end of ID; bad mistake! There are road works on the road into the complex blocking the road and in the dark we can't see where to head so end up on an Interstate out of town. We try to double back but what do you know - it's a one way junction! Thankfully we have the IPad with us and the google map is working (no idea how as we don't have a SIM card in it) so we eventually make our way back to the hotel - 1 hour later!!!!! Just down the road is an outlet mall, and fearing further "adventures" we head there for dinner at the Outback; well why not head to an Ozzie place in the US. The meal isn't bad - steak and ribs washed down with some wine as its happy hour. Trauma dissipates!

The next three days are spent doing the Parks; Epcot, Magic Kingdom and Universal Studios. We were last here 16 years ago with M's daughters Sarah & Louise and are really looking forward to finding our inner ‘child’ again. MK is definitely the highlight. Epcot seemed in need of uplift, as did Universal.

First problem with Epcot - no cheesecake!! Seriously. We have dreamed of the cheesecake we got here 16 years ago and no-one but no-one has any on sale! We also notice that quite a few of the stalls and eateries aren't open. We know it's not peak season but....... They do have a great new ride though - Mission Space (a simulation of a space trip to Mars). C goes on the "green" ride, which is quite tame and persuades M to try it but this time they go "orange"; Wow! G force, twists and swerves, crash landings. Great stuff. M is not impressed as it's not his bag as he tends to get motion sickness sometimes! We also try the Test Track which is essentially a car race with lots of hard braking and turns. Ok but by now M is feeling a bit frazzled. And just to finish him off, we do Soarin' - a simulated hang glide over California. It's actually pretty good with sounds and smells for the scenery; the only thing that would have made it more realistic would have been water on your toes as you went low over the rivers and sea. A highlight though was the Finding Nemo ride - just nice fun – and the aquarium afterwards with 2 rescued Manatees, sharks, sting rays etc.

However, the walk around the countries section looked drab and many shops were not open and the smokehouse at the US section was closed as well. We have a quick snack lunch – burger good, hot dog – not as good as last time. You have some very friendly squirrels & birds that join you for crumbs.

At MK, all the Disney characters come out in a musical parade just after we arrive and that pretty much sets the scene for the day. The weather is good, we get to buy all the pressies for Olive that we wanted (and enjoy the Winnie the Pooh ride!), rediscover Thunder Mountain (twice for C), and go to Mickeys Philhar Magic (4D) twice. Unfortunately Splash Mountain was being renovated. The only downside - C is really looking forward to Space Mountain which was awesome last time. Unfortunately they've done an upgrade that has downgraded the whole thing. As a roller coaster in the dark it's fine but they seem to have lost the bit about feeling like you're in space; what happened to the stars and planets.

We also get to try Edy's ice cream at last - yummy chocolate & vanilla. We spend time wandering around enjoying the atmosphere, take the free steam train around the park & then take the Mississippi Boat ride back to the parking lot. We're knackered; it's tiring walking around having fun. Olive our granddaughter will love it here! It definitely brings out the ‘kid’ in you.

FYI - they have a Fast Pass system now in operation in the Disney Parks. This allows you to choose 3 rides/shows you would like to walk straight onto - no waiting - and it's free. Our advice is to book these as early as possible as the slots for the popular rides go quickly. At Epcot you have to choose one from one list and two from another, at MK you can choose any three. But if you go early or late afternoon wait times aren't too bad. Also go as single riders (to fill spaces on rides) - saves queuing time.

The final day is spent at Universal Studios. It's quiet! Despite the queues of cars to get in, we hardly wait at all for any of the rides - glad we didn't pay extra for the Express arrangements here as they cost an extra $20 each. We don't go to the new Universal Islands of Adventure (where we suspect all the others have gone) - despite Harry Potter themed rides and Hogwarts etc. It's fair to say that this isn't our best day out. Many of the rides are tame - the best we try is Transformers which has great 3D effects and graphics. Terminator 2 is enjoyable (though C wasn’t impressed), Shrek 4D is ok, and even ET seems to have lost some of its attraction. C gets half tempted by the roller coaster which has some frightening looking sections but fortunately it starts to rain before she has to commit (or chickens out! M thinks). They still have the Blues Brothers band playing sets throughout the day which is good fun.

For lunch we head to Bubba Gumps - the fish is good but the experience isn't as good as other BG venues we've been to. The shrimps smaller and not as tasty. Then as it's chucking it down we decide to go to cinema there to see 12 Years a Slave at last. It's a must see for appreciation of the barbarism of slavery, but too long. M's description - a great story told badly largely due to the editing. Post Script – not sure how it won the Oscar – politics we suspect.

To finish our trip in Orlando, we head to Denny's - we first came across them 16 years ago on our first trip here and even though it's really more of a breakfast place, we decide to go back for old times’ sake. And it doesn't let us down! Great steak, biscuits and gravy (a southern States staple), and great prices.

Miami - again

We leave Orlando at 7-15 am for the 4 hour drive (quite boring) back to Miami, straight to the Lombardy Inn which feels very familiar by now.

Driving here is pretty easy with automatic cars and big roads. Like in the UK the drivers here are generally good about keep to the speed limit as the cops are out with speed guns a lot, however, many are also lazy drivers who drive slowly and never indicate. There is occasional road rage. However, when all is said and done the US is a car country - little distances on a map can be miles.

Making use of the last few hours with a car we go to the Greyhound station (which is way out of town) to get all (but one! It won't print for some reason) of our tickets for bus rides in the US then head to the Wynwood Arts district - amazing. Street art everywhere and loads of modern art galleries and funky cafes and restaurants in converted old warehouses. We heard about it from some US travellers in the Everglades Hostel otherwise we might not have come here. We return by bus a couple of days later as the sun is shining and as we had to rush a little first time around. It's definitely a place the Miami authorities should promote more.

The Miami Transit Bus System is pretty good. Buses are quite frequent on certain routes though infrequent but regular on others. They also have very helpful drivers who will advise the best route for where you want to go and let you know when you've got to your stop. The buses are fitted with racks to carry two bikes at front - great idea. Miami is pretty cycle friendly which helps & they have their version of the 'Boris' bike too.

We take another day doing bookings as we don't expect to get much time once we start our next leg - and many places are getting booked up already. It's a bit of a shame as the weather is nice, though we do go for a late afternoon walk and check out the beach near the hotel and it's lovely. After some shopping for dinner and our picnic for the train journey to Savannah we head for 'home'.

We have noticed and been slightly surprised by the number of Jewish people we have seen in the area around 63rd Street. They seem to be from the Orthodox Jewish Community and there are many synagogues and cultural centres apart from the Mount Sinai Hospital (big and modern) not far away.

On our last day we make our way to the Art Deco district in SoBe (what the locals call South Beach) for our last look as we like the area. Also it's the weekend so it would be full of locals in various guises having a good time. Nothing like people watching to pass the time. As it's sunny and warm it's packed. After a good walk we head to Starbucks where C ends up with a free mocha Frappuccino not sure why! However she's over the moon.

After a quick salad lunch at the hotel it's off to the beach near the hotel for the rest of the afternoon. It's much busier than yesterday with a cool wind off sea and more waves as the tide comes in so don't go for a swim even though the water temp is fine. It's nice though to finish our stay with some rays.

As it's our last night in Miami we treat ourselves to a cheap bottle of French Pinot on offer and have this with salted peanuts while packing our bags. Then it's Normans for dinner - 2 lovely 8 oz steaks with 2 sides for $20 bucks not bad but the service was crap so no one got a tip.

So it's good bye to Miami and Florida though we will be back during the winter months at home. Florida is definitely a place to visit and we enjoyed Miami a lot. Next day we're up at 5.30am to catch the bus to the Amtrak station 10 miles away; $2.25 on the L bus all the way from the Hotel. The station is surprisingly small, very efficient and the cleanest rail station we have seen on all our travels anywhere. They check in our big bags in and we're off on time for the 11 hr journey to Savannah Georgia - our first ever Amtrak journey and a life's ambition fulfilled for M. See you in the next instalment........... 'The Southern States'.

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