Anaheim

It seemed like I just got home and we were into the holidays, Christmas and New Years and then it was the middle of January and time for our annual company meeting. I’m breaking my rule about talking about work but this is a very big deal in my work world.

IMG_20160115_130720Called Redferno it is the one time of year that everyone who can get away joins together in one big gathering. There’s a lot of Rah Rah Rah but there ‘s also a lot of really good information about the company’s goals for the coming year and of course, the kudos and awards to the top performers across the country. I love seeing my friends’ names up in lights! I almost got on the board this year too. Maybe next year.

The past  2 years Redferno was in San Diego. This year it was in Anaheim, Ca. If there is one thing I don’t like about it , its that you travel all that way and every minute is booked with training and company events. You don’t get to see the area so it doesn’t matter where they hold it.

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But this year was different. Redferno was in Anaheim Ca. the true first home of Mickey Mouse and even though our days and nights were crammed full of work for the week, our last night we were given park hopper tickets and a shuttle bus took us to the Disneyland Parks. A very nice perk. Thank you Redfin!

 

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Farewell South Beach

Well it was my last day in South Beach.  I finally got to spend a little time with my favorite cousin.  Kathy and I had lots of fun growing up but we haven’t seen too much of each other as adults.

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Kathy picked me up in front of my resort and we went in search of someplace to have lunch off the strip finally settling on a little deli style place where we could eat at a table in front.

My afternoon was spent packing up and roaming the strip. I ran into some of the homeless folks that I’d gotten used to meeting on my walks. I was touched and surprised when one grabbed me and hugged me and wished me well.

For my last evening I decided to treat myself to a salad and shrimp cocktail right on Ocean Drive.Shrimp-Cocktail-2-800

The shrimp looked like mini lobster tails and were delicious. I rounded out my healthful meal with one glass of chardonnay. I got sticker shock when I got the bill. After I added the tip it came to $108.00! Wow! I could eat a lot of steak in Boston for that. But it was worth it.

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The next morning my cab ($40.00 including tip) picked me up on time and delivered me to the airport with time to spare.

All too soon I was winging back to the cold northeast but at least my furry roommates would be glad to see me.

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Bayside Miami

At the Bayside we were herded off the bus and led through the complex of shops, stalls and retail outlets to the marina. Before we boarded our boat for the Boat Tour we had to have our lunch.

The Tradewinds was expecting us with special menus geared to quick preparation and service. The Tradewinds is outdoor dining on a covered deck. You are protected from a passing rain shower but not from marauding sea gulls , as I was about to find out.

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I was sitting with a mother and daughter who was visiting America for the first time. We had a bit of a language barrier but there were still lots of smiles. I am not a big taco fan so I ordered the fried shrimp which came with tons of french fries. I’d just settled my plate and had a shrimp in my hand when I was dived bombed from behind. Something hit the back of my head and tumbled over my shoulder. It was a  big old seagull! (Mine, mine, mine).

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It landed right on my french fries, grabbed a beak-full and took off. Everyone at the table froze in shock and then we started to laugh.  We spent the rest of the lunch on high alert protecting our meals.The restaurant wouldn’t replace my french fries but that was ok. I only wanted the shrimp anyway.

As everyone was gathering after lunch to get ready to trek over to the boat I went in search of the parrot man we’d passed on the way in. I love these beautiful birds but could never have one as a pet myself. They would outlive me for sure but I can enjoy them when I run across these folks who share their pets (for a price).

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Time to board our boat for the views of the Islands of Biscayne Bay and the homes of Miami’s rich and famous.

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Once again we passed the “Fast & Furious” bridge. The drawbridge was open this time.

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As we slowly cruised by these beautiful homes our tour guide played the music associated with the stars, maybe a theme song from a movie or if the celeb was a musician one of their hits. He shared a snippet about each property. Everything from the price tag to the history of the ownership. It was relaxing and enjoyable although not being a big celebrity follower, I couldn’t tell you much about who owned what.

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As we headed back to the marina everyone crowed the bow for pictures of the Miami skyline.

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Meanwhile back at the Bayside some free entertainment was getting warmed up. It was time to salsa and I don’t mean on chips. I spent the rest of my afternoon there while my tour companions scattered to shop or drink.

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Eventually it was time to catch the bus back to South Beach. It was a very nice day!

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Coral Gables

As we left Little Havana we passed a sculpture that seemed to reach for the sky. Our tour guide said it was the Challenger sculpture.

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The Challenger Memorial, sculpture by Isamu Noguchi, is located on Southwest corner of Bayfront Park in downtown Miami, Florida. The memorial is white, composed of metal piping, and rises 100 feet, designed with a twisted shaped to symbolize the contrail of the Challenger as it rose on its fateful, final flight.

As we enter the neighborhood known as Coral Gables we were back to ducking tree branches and palm fronds that over hang the streets.

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Coral Gables is unique in a couple of ways. Dubbed “The City Beautiful,” Coral Gables is known for its tree-lined boulevards, ivy-covered mansions and historical landmarks such as the world-famous Biltmore Hotel and the Venetian Pool, both built in the 1920s. According to our tour guide there are no homes valued at under $1,000,000 in Coral Gables.

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Coral Gables was one of the first “planned communities” and prefigured the development of the gated community.

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Most of the homes are made of Coral, the walkways and walls, foundations and decorative features , all coral.

Leaving Coral Gables behind we headed back to the Bayside, a shopping and entertainment complex where we would have lunch and then catch the boat ride through the harbor islands.

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People Movers and Cigars

As our tour continued we worked our way along Biscayne Blvd and through downtown Miami. I hate to say it but to me it looked like any large city. One thing that caught my eye was the People Mover.  It’s like a little elevated trolley car. It made me think of our “green line” trains in Boston but it’s just one car, not a train.

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The People Mover, officially known as the “Metromover” is a  4.4-mile electrically-powered, fully automated people mover system that connects with the Metrorail at Government Center and Brickell stations and with Metrobus at various locations throughout downtown and the best part…its free. Yup,  everyone rides FREE.

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Now that’s something I’d like to take a ride on.

From there we worked our way into Little Havana. Little Havana is an interesting place and one I don’t quite know how I feel about. One of the first things our tour guide stressed is that everyone speaks Spanish there even in the schools. The Cuban traditions are closely guarded and maintained.

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Not to get into a political discussion but I found myself torn because I think anyone who immigrates to another country has an obligation to assimilate into the new country’s culture and language. I guess Little Havana is an exception because the founders were not immigrants. They were/are refugees  with the hopes of someday returning to their own country. In any case it makes for an interesting excursion into strange land within our own USA.

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We stopped at a cigar factory where we were given a opportunity to tour the factory and, of course, purchase cigars in the gift shop. I opted to remain in my seat at the top of the bus. Pretty soon a man came around peddling peanuts. About all I understood was  that his sleeves of peanuts were a dollar and very, very good.  I figured a snack wouldn’t hurt so I bought one of his very, very good peanuts, and they were.

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We passed the legendary 1930’s night club known as the Ball and Chain. Formerly a gambling den, mobster-owned club and jazz venue hosting luminaries like Billie Holiday from the 1930s–1950s, this storied nightspot reemerges in Little Havana once again, embracing its colorful past with a 1930s-inspired design countered by modern-day live-music acts.

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My other observation of Little Havana are the architectural features that reflect the Cuban influence or so I assume. ( Never having been to Cuba) . There are beautiful wall paintings and murals and wrought iron window decorations.

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Once we had a head count the bus rumbled on to Coral Gables.

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A Double Decker City Tour

After a relaxing and sunny day  on Wednesday I was ready for a new adventure. So on Thursday I was headed out for the City Tour on the Double Decker buses. It would take most of the day and include lunch and a boat ride through the islands to look at the million dollar homes of the stars. Miami really loves their movie stars.

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The bus picked up right in front of the resort and I headed to the open top.

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As we wove our way along Ocean Drive and Collins Ave the driver pointed out all the Art deco buildings, a restaurant where Will Smith was spotted having breakfast, (of course he wasn’t there when we drove by) and the famous Versace Mansion where the clothing designed was shot and killed in 1997.

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As we passed one hotel and restaurant after another it seemed they were all owned by famous actors and actresses. Miami Vice was mentioned many times. It seems scenes from the show were shot all up and down Ocean Drive.

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Turns out this was the prequel to the actual tour. We reached the ticket office on Washington Ave and all filed off the bus to trade in our vouchers for the real tickets. Then it was back on  the bus for the real tour.

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As our tour began we headed off the Island (Miami Beach is an Island in case you didn’t know) via the MacArthur Causeway. Along the way we learned of the hazards of riding on the top deck of the bus. We did a lot of ducking. We ducked for overhanging palm fronds, electric wires, signal lights  and even a bridge. That one was the one that took your breath away!

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Even so this was a super way to get pictures. No window glass and an elevated view!

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As we traveled along the MacArthur Causeway  we had  the Port of Miami on our left where cruise ships from every line start and end their voyages. There was only one ship in port as we passed by. To our right was the Venetian Causeway.

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The tour guide says this is the bridge from the Fast and Furious movie. I’ve never seen the movie so I’ll just have to take their word for it. But there was the famous Miami Skyline to enjoy from multiple angles.

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A Mix of Sun and Laundry

On the ride back from Holiday Park the sky opened up again. The rain that had been holding off came down in buckets. By the time we pulled up in front of the resort it was raining so hard that I was once again soaked to the skin before I could cross the street. This was starting to get habit forming!

Once again I arrived dripping wet at the Purple Penguin. It was raining so hard that they had closed the patio and meals were being served in the combination lobby restaurant. I didn’t care. The staff was starting to recognize me, at least when I was wet. I’m not sure they would if I was dry and put together.

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My afternoon was quiet just hanging out in my room with a book.

But finally Wednesday dawned sunny and warm! By 9 am it was already in the 80’s.

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This is what I’ve been waiting for. I’m hoping some lazy sun on the beach will toast out my cold.

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One other housekeeping item that I took care of mid day was my laundry. Now you may wonder what was news worthy about doing laundry but I assure you it was the most interesting laundry experience I’ve ever had.

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The public laundromat was several blocks away from the resort so I took a cab over. The facility was the usual except it looked like it had just suffered a roof leak as water stains were evident on the ceilings and walls. As you can imagine it was all local folks and Spanish was the dominant language.  I located a machine, tossed in my things and located a chair to wait out the wash cycle.

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As I was sitting there minding my own business a tall, attractive woman came in. She found a machine, added her bundle of clothing but then she started stripping. Off came her shirt, then her pants, she was down to her undies and clearly debating if she could take those off. As she stood there fingering the waistband of her panties one of the attendants came over and sprayed her with Lysol! Instead of being offended, the woman just ignored it. I don’t know what was being said because it was all in Spanish.

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Apparently whatever was said convinced the woman not to strip further and she took a seat a couple of chairs away from me. Soon after another attendant brought over some shorts and a T shirt. Apparently from the lost and found/abandoned clothing bin. She handed them over and the woman put them on.

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If she was embarrassed she didn’t give any sign of it. It was like it was the most natural thing in the world to sit there in her underwear! I suppose it was no worse than a bikini on the beach but I admit, I was surprised.

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I am guessing that she was one of the homeless people that seem to be everywhere. It’s quite the contrast with the high class “beautiful people” parading up and down Ocean Drive and the homeless sitting on benches and napping in the park.

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