Miami Beach walking tour through the Art Deco District

For many years now, I have been meaning to make a video about Miami Beach. The problem is that since Miami Beach is practically in my backyard, it is one of those places that I don’t think of visiting all that much anymore. Anyways, taking advantage of some great December weather and the fact I had a couple of days off, I decided to pay a visit to my old playground: South Beach.

We begin our South Beach walking tour at its southernmost point: South Pointe Park. From here we enjoy great views of Fisher Island, Downtown Miami and the Port of Miami to the west. To the north we can see commanding views of South Beach in all its glory, especially from its newly reopened fishing pier.

From here we walk north, first on the Beach Walk trail and then on Ocean Drive towards the most iconic area, the strip with all the historic Art Deco hotels, bars and restaurants. The main drag is about a mile long, from 5th to 15th street, and it is, as I say in the video a one mile long tourist trap, although it is nice to see. From here we go into a different area, a couple of blocks to the west, called Española Way. This is a narrow pedestrian street with a bunch of restaurants. To be honest I am a little disappointed that it is perhaps a little run down and under construction, and that our favorite restaurant of yesteryears is closed at the moment.

The main crossroad is Washington Avenue, and the main landmark at the corner of Española is the Cameo Theater. The Cameo is another iconic art deco structure, which was converted into a night club many years ago.

A couple of blocks north, between 16th and 17th streets we encounter the Lincoln Road Mall. This is one of the first pedestrian streets in the United States, dating back to the 1950s. Here we also have a plethora of restaurants, shops, boutiques, art galleries and even an historic church.

After walking around Lincoln Road for a couple of blocks we decide to get away from the hustle and bustle of the touristy area and continue about a quarter mile further north to visit the Holocaust Memorial.

From here we slowly return back south, to where our four-dollars-per-hour parallel parking spot is located, but before we go back to the mainland, we decide to hang out at South Pointe Park to see the cruise ships leave port.

What follows is a map of our trajectory north along the streets of south beach.

See you on the road!

The Gear I Use, December 2016 Edition

It has been in fact too long since I did a video showing my cameras and other gear that I use to produce my travel videos. Well, the wait is over my friends because here it is.

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In this long overdue video I begin with my two newest acquisitions, my two main cameras which are the Sony FDR-AX33 and my new phone the LG V20.

The Sony FDR-AX33 shoots video at 4K ultra HD, and it has excellent sharpness. Other key features include superb stabilization, viewfinder, microphone input and manual controls, although I must say the manual controls are a little cumbersome to use. Among the negatives, the image can be a little overexposed and undersaturated at times and the autofocus is painfully slow, especially when zooming in.

The LG V20 is the latest flagship phablet from LG. I has one of the best cameras on the market, with amazingly easy to use manual controls. The camera shines especially in video mode.

My third camera is a GoPro Hero 3 White edition, which I’m sorry to say is starting to show its age. The video quality doesn’t hold a candle next to the Sony camcorder or even the LG V20. The only reason I still have it is because it still works, it is practically indestructible and I have been reluctant in spending $300-$400 on another flagship action cam. I am undecided between the GoPro Hero 5 or the new Sony 4K action cam.

Since my last video showing my gear, I have gone back the the Audio Technica ATR 3350 condenser lavelier microphone. The audio quality is great, as long as I remember to turn it on to record, and then off so I don’t deplete the battery.

I also still use my handy Zomm H1 portable digital recorder, although since I acquired the Sony camcorder with the microphone input, I don’t need it as much anymore.

Other gear I show in the video includes my tripods, selfie sticks, and my aging drone, the original DJI Phantom.

Weekend in Delray Beach, Florida

In this week’s video we travel a few miles north to Delray Beach, which is located approximately halfway between Ft. lauderdale and Palm Beach. It was our original intention to try Harvest Hosts, but decided to make a last minute change of plans.

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Harvest Hosts is a subscription service that lists farms, wineries, and points of interest that allow you to boondock overnight on their property at no cost. It is customary and encouraged that you buy something from your host as a token of your appreciation for letting you spend the night. That was our plan this weekend. We figured we would spend the night at Bedner’s Farm in Delray, get some fresh produce from them, and explore the area. But when we learned that they lock the gate at night and there’s no in an out, we decided that, at least on this particular occasion, Harvest Hosts wasn’t the best option, as we wanted to explore the area’s nightlife. We made a last minute decision and decided to pay for an RV park. I had already been researching places to stay in the area and opted for Del Raton RV Park, impeccably located near the border between Delray and Boca Raton, hence the name. The RV park doesn’t have many amenities, but is it just a couple of minutes away from the beach and downtown Delray, so we didn’t mind paying the $43 per night all that much.

Delray Beach is a fun town at night and full of outdoor activities during the day. We really wanted to visit the Wakodahatchee Wetlands but it was closed during our stay here. Instead we visited the Morikami Gardens and Museum, arguably the most famous attraction in the area. I also enjoyed the frigid and turbulent waters of the atlantic ocean on a windy November afternoon.

At night, we walked around Atlantic Boulevard, in downtown, and had a byte at one of its many culinary offerings, which according to our cranky Uber driver were all tourist traps. Perhaps they were, but we didn’t mind.

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Coming in early December I will start selling a double CD  (US only for now) with all the tracks I have ever composed for my traveling videos. You can preorder now or use the drop down menu for more options. For CD orders outside the USA please contact me as I may have to charge for shipping.
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Miami: Little Havana

On January 1st 1959, a young lawyer named Fidel Castro overthrew the dictator who had been ruling the island of Cuba. Shortly after, he became a fresh new dictator himself. His alliance with the Soviet Union, confiscation of private property, and suppression of personal rights provoked a massive exodus of Cubans. Most of them fled from the capital city: Havana, to the closest city to the north: Miami. By the mid 1960’s the area was already known as Little Havana and the rest is history. For almost six decades the flow of Cubans has continued, sometimes as a trickle, sometimes as massive migrations such as the Mariel boatlift in 1980, and the rafter crisis of 1994. Over a million Cubans live in Miami now. The city is also home to a mixture of people from every single Latin American country.

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In today’s video we are visiting historic Little Havana, the area the Cuban migrants made their home in the 1960’s. It is perhaps, at its core, a little too commercialized, a little too touristy, but the experience is still somewhat authentic.

Nowadays, Little Havana is a huge area. Most of Southwest Miami, culturally speaking, can be considered  Little Havana, and there’s also Hialeah, our neighboring city to the Northwest, also mostly hispanic. Today, however, we are going to concentrate on two blocks of SW 8th Street that have been preserved as historic Little Havana. It was originally the Latin Quarter project in the 1990’s, in which they remade the sidewalks and made the Latin Walk of Fame. Then a bunch of nightclubs opened, the tour companies took notice and started stopping right here, by these two blocks between 13th and 15th avenues. On the last Friday of every month they celebrate Viernes Culturales, a small fair celebrating hispanic culture.

Some of the main landmarks in the area include the Bay of Pigs Memorial, the Historic Tower Theater, and the Domino Park. For authentic Cuban food I would probably recommend El Exquisito, El Pub, or El Cristo. I haven’t really eaten in any of the other places, but when they have a guy singing the Guantanamera by the door, that pretty much telegraphs it is catered towards tourists, and you are probably going to get an overpriced experience. If you want Cuban food with a twist, perhaps Ball & Chain is the place for you. For desert I recommend the Azucar Ice-cream Company, which is located right next door to the Ball & Chain.

It shouldn’t take you more than two or three hours to explore this little touristy slice of Little Havana. A lot of Miami is culturally the same, and the Cuban coffee will taste as good in any other corner cafeteria in the area. Basic conversational Spanish is not necessary but it will help you communicate in some of the less touristy areas.

I also encourage you to explore the other culinary option Miami has to offer, since we have people here from all over Latin America. We probably have the best parrilladas outside Argentina, the best churrascarias outside of Brazil, and the best pupusas outside of El Salvador, so feel free to explore and go outside your comfort zone.

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Coming in early December I will start selling a double CD  (US only for now) with all the tracks I have ever composed for my traveling videos. You can preorder now or use the drop down menu for more options. For CD orders outside the USA please contact me as I may have to charge for shipping.
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Matlacha Island: Charming Old Florida Fishing Village

Matlacha Island is tiny village located at the Matlacha Pass Aquatic Preserve, sandwiched between Cape Coral in the mainland, and Pine Island, which happens to be Florida’s Largest Island. It preserves that Old Florida small town charm, with great seafood restaurants, quaint shops and galleries. Most of the buildings are colorful and all the people we encountered we pleasant, helpful, and looked happy and stress free.

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On this particular trip we stayed at the Sugar Sand Beach RV Resort, the only one on the island. It is a very small resort with only 10 RV sites. It doesn’t have the plethora of amenities many RV resorts have, but the location, the view, the fishing dock and free kayaks among other pleasant surprises more that make up for that. Also it has the fastest unrestricted Wi-Fi of any RV park we’ve seen anywhere.

This place is an easy getaway to Pine Island and Cape Coral. We decided to leave Pine Island for another trip. In Cape Coral we visited the Wicked Dolphin rum distillery and the Brewtober Festival. They were both a lot of fun, especially for rum and craft beer lovers like us.

Other than that, we spent the whole weekend relaxing, kayaking, biking, and eating fabulous seafood at this location which is remote enough no to be too overrun with tourist crowds. The only crowded area was the bridge. Crowded with local people fishing. No wonder it is colloquially called “the fishingest bridge in the world”. Fishing seems to be the main local pastime. Another great thing that adds to the uniqueness and small town feel of Matlacha is the absence of any chain stores of fast food franchises. All the business seemed to be locally owned mom and pop shops.

We definitely fell in love with this town and hope we can return soon. The RV park however is booked solid for the high season so we’ll have to wait until the fall, and hopefully get site #1, like we did this time.

We stayed at Sugar Sand RV Resort 
We ate at:
Olde Fish House Marina
Perfect Cup (no website)
Bert’s Bar & Grill 
Blue Dog Bar & Grill 
We visited:
Wicked Dolphin Rum Distillery 

Miami Everglades RV Resort and the Monkey Jungle

It is neither in Miami proper, nor the Everglades National Park but it is called Miami Everglades RV Resort, probably because it is equidistant to both places. It is actually the closest resort type RV park to the City of Miami. We spend the weekend camping there. We also go to the nearby Monkey Jungle, and historic attraction, part of the Redlands Trail.

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The Monkey Jungle is a historic theme park in south Florida dating back to the 1930s. The concept is that humans are caged while the monkeys run free, and that’s true to a certain extent. The visitor walks through these caged passageways, while the monkeys are all around you, running free, playing and occasionally fighting each other. There are several small metal trays hanging from the ceiling where you can put some “monkey food” and they pull on a chain to raise the tray and eat the food. Some species are behind bars and you can feed them through a pipe. The one exception is the gorilla, which is technically not a monkey. The gorilla is considered an ape because it lacks a tail. Formerly belonging to a circus, it seems to be the only trained animal in the whole park. They put on a show where they make him do certain acts for the enjoyment of the visitors. There’s also an “Amazonian Jungle Experience”, in which for an extra charge you get to interact directly with the spider monkeys. There is also a swimming monkey presentation. Even though the park’s glory days are far behind it, especially after it was partially destroyed during hurricane Andrew in 1992, it is still a pretty unique experience and I would recommend it.

Back at the RV resort, it has all the amenities of a good RV park. We visited in the low season so it was nearly deserted. We spend the rest of the time relaxing, swimming in the pool, grilling, and biking around the park’s trail.

As always, thank you for watching and see you on the road!

Weekend in Marathon, The Florida Keys

Marathon is a relatively large city located in the middle Florida Keys, just before the Seven Mile Bridge. It is composed of several islands, none of which is called Marathon, oddly enough. The name probably comes from an expression used by railroad workers during the construction of the Overseas Railway, conveying that the fast pace work felt like running a marathon. That’s what they named the train station, and the rest is history.

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We spent a weekend there recently, at Knights Key Campground, at the island just before the Seven Mile Bridge. It is a beautiful tropical paradise. $68 per night in the off-season will buy you a harbor site with your own dock. We wanted to use the inflatable boat so that’s what we got, only to find out it was only convenient to launch it during high tide, which is what we did. One of the best beaches in the Keys, which is not saying much, is nearby. It is called Sombrero Beach, named after its namesake reef, former key, and lighthouse nearby. We spent the weekend enjoying the outdoors, eating the local seafood, and relaxing at the many tiki bars in the area.

It was my intention to bike the old Seven Mile Bridge, but the National Park Service has decided to close it down, in a renovation project that could last years. At least we got to walk on it a few years ago, and to be fair, it was in pretty bad shape. It had already been closed to vehicular traffic, and in recent years it had become a popular spot for biking and jogging.

We are planning to go back in the winter, if we can find a vacancy, in order to enjoy the high season, when the tiki bar by the beach is open and the park is full of snowbirds. It will be interesting to see the seasonal differences.

As always, thank you for watching the videos and see you on the road.

 

Jensen Beach, Florida’s Treasure Coast

We spend a weekend away from the hustle and bustle of Miami in this laid back Old Florida town: Jensen Beach in Martin County. See you on the road, riding with my RVjensen-beach-thumb-play
Jensen Beach is located in Martin County, Florida, in an area north of Palm Beach and south of Cape Canaveral forgotten by time. Here, life a lot more laid back and high rise condos are few and far between.
In this week’s video we visit a small town in the Treasure Coast of Florida. The name of the coast originated from the loss of the Spanish Treasure Fleet in a 1715 hurricane in these shores. It is a great place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the big city, being just over two hours away. This is also the Indian River Lagoon area. The lagoon is the large body of water between the barrier islands and the mainland.
We are staying at the Pitchford RV and Mobile Home Park, which is so old school that they don’t even take credit cards. We know it is going to be a great time, exactly what we need. Beside the beach, we also sample the local cuisine, visit a historic site called the House of Refuge, the fishing village of Salerno, and neighboring Stuart.

Destin, Florida: A Vacation from our Vacation

We are reaching the home stretch, the end of our epic road trip. In this last installment, the idea is to take a vacation from our vacation and do something totally different. We are just going to relax in the white sand and warm waters of the Emerald Coast in Destin, Florida. This is located in the Florida panhandle, on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico. Click image below for video

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We are splurging in one of the most expensive and coveted RV Parks in the United States, Camp Gulf, in Destin, Florida. Our two nights here will be a grand total of $445 for a beachfront site. Is it worth it? You can be the judge of that but I thoroughly enjoyed waking up a stone throw away from the water. Our time here is spent as follows: beach, beer, seafood, repeat.

Well there’s a little more than that, and we did certain things line eating a freshly made Krispy Kreme, which didn’t make it to the video. Why it didn’t? Well I had my hands full of Krispy Kreme glaze goodness and didn’t want to touch my phone.

As we begin our return trip to South Florida, we cruise along, hugging the coast all the way to Panama City. I the video you get treated to a mesmerizing time lapse as we pass by all the Gulf Coast communities. Eventually we get on the interstate and after a long, long drive we make it to the 305, the local pseudonym for Miami.

Winnebago Micro Minnie 1706FB After Two Years

It is once again that time of the year in which we celebrate our second RVing anniversary, and Minitini the Trailer’s second birthday, belated this time. We signed on the dotted line on August 30th, 2014 and barely a week later in September 5th 2014 we took delivery. Owning this small travel trailer has literally changed our lives. We have discovered so many new places around South Florida and the rest of the State, and the rest of the USA. It has also brought us a step closer to the nomadic lifestyle we want to have in the not so distant future.

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I order to accommodate our needs I have made several upgrades over the past two years. I am going to enumerate the most important ones.

 Although we don’t really watch TV all that much, it is good to have ir just in case. We have found decent TV reception virtually everywhere, except for, oddly enough, Marathon, Florida.

  • Oxygenic shower and dispenser

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00F5MU5YY/ref=oh_aui_search_detailpage?ie=UTF8&psc=1

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000FGCW0K/ref=oh_aui_search_detailpage?ie=UTF8&psc=1

OK, these are two in one but they serve the same purpose: having a nicer shower. If only the water heater would cooperate. The Oxygenic shower provides great water pressure, and the dispenser makes our shower gel, conditioner, and shampoo readily available

  • Power inverters

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004MDXS0U/ref=oh_aui_search_detailpage?ie=UTF8&psc=1

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00ATXEPQI/ref=oh_aui_search_detailpage?ie=UTF8&psc=1

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00ATXERNO/ref=oh_aui_search_detailpage?ie=UTF8&psc=1

I know I should have spent the money and bought a good pure sine wave inverter and hardwire it to the electrical system. Instead I have bought a couple of smaller inverters and wired them across the camper and they are great to charge our phone, computer, and camera batteries when off the grid

  • Fantastic Vent

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00HQZASRW/ref=oh_aui_search_detailpage?ie=UTF8&psc=1

This one has been a life changer. Before having this the RV was way too hot even for a pit stop along the road. We have used it while boondocking and it keeps the camper fresh and cool at night.

  • Solar Panels

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00BFCNFRM/ref=oh_aui_search_detailpage?ie=UTF8&psc=1

It is great to have peace of mind knowing your battery will remain charged using the power of the sun. It has proven indispensable for boondocking more than one night.

  • Knife rack

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000EDUUFS/ref=oh_aui_search_detailpage?ie=UTF8&psc=1

This one isn’t earth shattering, but it frees up space in the drawers for other stuff

There are many other little things we have done to make our lives easier, such as a mirror on the bathroom door, and a small rack and hooks to hang clothes.

We have many upgrades planned for the future, and this year I intend to make a few of them.

  • Hardwired 3000W pure sine wave inverter
  • 5 gallon or more water heater to replace the on demand one we have now
  • Battery upgrade when our current one dies
  • Dinette replacement for an office style desk

Do you have any upgrade suggestions? We look forward to your comments.

Free in my RV