Contents

 

 

 

Norman J. Olson
 

 

 

 

A Trip to Fort Lauderdale and Points South

 

It is hard to travel on employee passes this time of year… because of spring break travel, the flights are all full… especially from Minnesota to places in Florida… but about two weeks ago, we saw a cruise deal that was just too good to pass up… so on Friday, March 23, 2012, the day before Mary’s birthday, we set out for Fort Lauderdale… the flight was pretty full, but we managed to get on the first flight we tried… I did not expect to get on that flight, so had about fifteen pages of back up plans in my suitcase pocket… but, we found ourselves in FLL shortly after noon… we had not booked a hotel because our plans were so sketchy, so, in the airport, we went to work on Mary’s new little computer, looking for a hotel…

Well, Miami was full and what little hotel space they had was three or four times what we could afford… and the only things we could find in the FLL area were out of town on the highway someplace for $150 on up… then I ran across a small ad for a hotel in Deerfield Beach, just to the north of Fort Lauderdale… I tried to find a web site for he hotel to see if they had any kind of shuttle service to FLL… while they did not have a web site, I did find a yellow pages listing for the hotel with a phone number, so I called them… I got hold of a guy who said he had lots of rooms for $98… I asked if he could pick us up at the airport… he said that he could not pick us up just then because his car was in the shop… when I explained our situation, he said that his car would probably be out of the shop on Sunday and he could give us a ride to Port Everglades to catch the ship… I said that I would see what arrangements we could make to get there and if that seemed to work I would call him back…

A very nice old guy with snow white hair and a white mustache accented by his Florida tan and a blue captain’s hat… at the information desk told us the options for getting to Deerfield beach which included a taxi for a bout $60, a door to door shuttle for $36 or the train which was four dollars each… (a rental car would have been about $80—but, since I have gotten older, I prefer not to drive in strange areas, if I can possibly avoid it—plus, that was not the cheapest option anyway) so we found the shuttle bus that went to the train station… and while the bus was stuck in traffic I again called the guy at the hotel… I said it was “me again” which he found hilarious and so we were laughing and joking and getting along famously… I told him that we were on our way to the train station… he said that he would have a room for us and that when we got to the train station we would want to take a cab because the hotel was about three miles from the train station…

The train was great, clean, fast and efficient… and we got to Deerfield Beach with no problems… I went into a hotel next to the train station and asked if they had heard about the hotel, which I named, that we were going to… she said that she did not know that hotel specifically but there were lots of quaint boutique hotels by the beach… and many of them were nice… so we called a cab… well, after a half hour, the cab had not showed up, so I went out to the main street and flagged one down… it cost $12 to get to the hotel… the hotel was small and pink stucco with beautiful tropical plantings all around… it had a small but nice and clean pool and the owner and I greeted each other like long lost buddies… the hotel was a bit run down… well, more than a bit, but the bed was comfortable and the owner and his partner were so friendly and welcoming that we were glad we found the place… the hotel was only a block from Deerfield Beach, one of those huge and beautiful beaches on that part of the Florida coast… and while the beach was busy, it was not as crowded as Miami or Fort Lauderdale and there were nice shady places for us to sit and watch the crowd… families, children, teens, spring breaking college kids, retired Floridians, and Midwestern tourists like us, enjoying the sun, the mid 80s temps and the cool breeze off the ocean… we sat in the shade and sketched and read which is what we usually do at the beach… we waded in the ocean… had lunch and later dinner at some of the nice and inexpensive restaurants in the area and had a lovely time there from Friday evening to Sunday morning… each morning, the owners partner, a very muscular and tattooed but friendly young man, made us homemade muffins which he brought to us on a tray with tea Saturday, coffee Sunday… I think just because we were on such good terms with he and the owner…

Well, on Sunday morning, the owner said that they had turned away many people looking for rooms Friday evening because they were full… it sounded to me like a sort of novel experience for this poor old hotel to actually be full… and he was sorry to tell us that his car was still not fixed… so we called a cab to go to the train station… but the cabbie offered to take us all the way to Port Everglades for $40 and, considering how few and far between the trains were and the $20 that it would cost to take a cab from the airport to the terminal… this seemed like a great deal… the cabbie turned out to be a serious and extreme political liberal and he shared his political views at length during the cab ride… we agreed with most everything he said and I think that in Florida, he was more used to his fares to the cruise terminal being Bush Republicans… but it was a love fest all the way… for us…

Since we had left time for the train, shuttle and taxi, we were in Port Everglades several hours early so, we had the cab drop us at a shopping area just outside the port… we went to a grocery store and bought some soda to bring on the ship, then found a coffee place were we could sit at shaded tables on the sidewalk and read, sketch and people watch… everybody told us that we should take a cab to the ship as the port area is very large and spread out accommodating eight or more cruise ships at one time… but I convinced Mary that we could walk it and we set out in the blazing sun… after we entered the port area, except for one guy speaking German on his cell phone who came striding past us with his backpack, we did not see any other walkers… and indeed, there was not even sidewalk for part of the way so we were walking on abandoned railroad tracks for about a quarter of a mile… the port was huge and not set up at all for walkers but we eventually found our ship… we stopped at one point to ask a security guard who was directing people into a different ship how we got to our ship and she pointed us exactly the wrong way… well, I thought she was wrong, and so got a second opinion from somebody who actually knew how to get where we wanted to go… so, as I always say, when traveling, it is really hard to get good information…

After about a three mile hike in the hot sun, we arrived at the ship a bit sweaty but none the worse for our walk and we may well be the only Americans who have ever walked to a cruise ship berth in Port Everglades from outside the port… lol

The cruise was very nice… the ship held about 2000 passengers and we spent a lot of time on the Promenade deck, under the lifeboats, enjoying the lovely ocean breeze and the splash of the little waves against the sides of the ship… I got two drawings finished as well as a number of sketches of people… and a third drawing started which I will finish when I get a chance…

The ports were Grand Turk, a small beach island… beautiful sand, warm water and palm trees… San Juan, Puerto Rico… where we walked around looking in the shops and stores and spent some time sitting in a park enjoying the ambience… and the island of Sint Maartin… where we walked around two shopping districts… the first was a long street just back from the beach which is full of jewelry stores where apparently many cruise ship passengers buy all kinds of fancy jewelry and then a few blocks further back into the town the local shopping area which was mostly advertising “urban wear” and was much poorer and more run down…

We stopped in a kind of pathetic little casino to use the restroom and then went back to the beach where we sat in the shade of one of the very nice rustic tourist bars and had a drink… I almost never drink alcohol but we decided to get a margarita and share it… so we ordered that and paid the $6… the barman said that he had some “extra” so he gave us two for the price of one… and I must say, the cold, icy drink went very well there as we sat and watched the beachgoers and other tourists in that gorgeous tropical setting… we had a nice visit with the barman who told us about his years living in the USA but he was born in the islands and had come back home…

After Sint Maartin, we had another beach day at Half Moon Cay which is a very small beach island in the Bahamas that the cruise line leases… from the shade of palm trees, we enjoyed the beautiful beach… we swam in the ocean… the water was turquoise and absolutely clear… then we walked around the island…

We saw more sea life than usual on this cruise… one day, we saw lots of dolphins… at one point, about eight at once were jumping through the ship’s bow wave… we also saw beautiful sea birds going after the multitudes of flying fish chased up by the ship… and on one occasion we saw a small group of humpback whales… we saw one dive with his/her massive flukes coming out of the water maybe a half mile out from the ship and then one jumped all the way out of the water and made a huge splash… so, that was very cool to see…

Sunday morning we were back in FLL… we knew the flights were very tight, so basically were listed for anything that had any seats at all… we wound up getting on a flight to Detroit… and though all the seats from DTW to MSP were full, we managed to make a connection through Grand Rapids, Michigan, so after four hours in the Grand Rapids airport, we got on a little 50 seat CRJ regional jet to Minneapolis… flew over Lake Michigan and then the lights of Central Wisconsin… it made kind of a long day of travel, but it all worked out and now we are back to our unusually early spring in Minnesota with trees already beginning to leaf and green grass… both a bit earlier than usual…

Art Index: Click on each image to see a full sized view!
 


 

 



 


 


 


 

 

Little Black Book: Art Gallery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
to the top

 

 

Copyright 2006-2012 Sketchbook and Poetrywriting.org  All rights reserved