How I Spent My Florida Vacation, Part I

[Sorry this is a long post. . . feel free to chop it up into manageable segments, like a honkin' big Florida grapefruit.]

Does this look like a deadly weapon?

Can it really be a week since the HH and I took off for parts unknown in Florida? I guess time really does fly when you’re having fun. Still, it’s great to be back–I’ve missed all of you (well, I did manage one peek at the blog while staying at my cousin’s house in the latter part of the trip–thanks for all the well-wishes!). Hope you all had a great week, too :)  (“Mum, we had a great time staying with our friends at Eternal Optimist’s house, too, but time didn’t fly for us.  EO is nice, but she doesn’t dole out quite as many treats as you do.”)

And here I am, back just in time for our first pelting snowstorm (about 10 cm or 4 inches, the largest snowfall so far this year).  Nope, Toronto when it snows does not a welcoming city make.  While I reorient myself to the city and the cold, I thought I’d give you a few highlights from last week’s holiday, in two parts.  Part One:  We’ll Always Have Miami.

Toronto, Day 1: Ricki and the HH Attempt to Board the Airplane.

Location:  Toronto International Airport. 

Ricki and the HH are screened by US customs before they board the plane.  The HH, bearing no carry on luggage, saunters through the metal detector and waits on the other side for Ricki.

The Security Guard carefully unzips Ricki’s tightly packed carry-on bag and meticulously paws each and every vial, bottle, jar, bag, container, case, or pouch.  He comes upon Ricki’s toothpaste and brandishes it aloft.

Security Guard: What is this, please?

Ricki: Holistic toothpaste.  I don’t eat aspartame, which is in regular toothpaste.

Does THIS look like a deadly weapon?

Guard: Hmmm. [He turns the tube this way and that, gazing at it like a jeweler examining the facets of the Koh-i-Noor.]  Toothpaste. [He sets the tube of toothpaste aside.  He turns to Ricki’s purse and begins another piece-by-piece examination.]

Guard [holding Ricki’s keychain]:  What is this, please?

Ricki: A keychain.  [beginning to feel a little nervous, angry at self that she forgot to remove it from the purse]. It’s supposed to protect me in case I get mugged.

See? It even says, “DEFENDER” on the end, not “SECRET AGGRESSOR”!

Guard: Does it extend–? [trying to make the molded plastic bar extend.]

Ricki: No.

Guard: Just a moment, please [speaks furiously on his walkie-talkie].

The Security Manager, a young woman in her late twenties sporting a severe bun, grey fitted suit and practical flats, arrives.

Security Manager [holding the keychain]: May I see your passport, please? [Ricki hands it over.] Does this keychain extend?

Ricki: [beginning to despair]: No.

Manager: Does it contain a blade?

Ricki [panic is on its way]: No.

Manager: Please step aside, Ma’am.

Ricki [fearing she might miss her flight] Are you joking?

Manager: Well, this toothpaste exceeds the carry-on size limit.  And we’ll need to check out this keychain more closely.

Ricki [barely holding it together]: You’re going to take my things away from me?! But– [face flushes red]. But that toothpaste costs $10 a tube!

The security manager speaks furiously on her walkie-talkie.  Three uniformed police officers arrive.  The Security Manager approaches them, Ricki’s keychain in hand.

Manager [to Police Officer #1]:  What kind of weapon is this?

Police Officer #1: Well, I guess you could call it a simple club. [he smiles]

Ricki [to Police Officer #1]: Are you going to take it away from me?

PO #1: Well, you know, it could be a deadly weapon [he suppresses a giggle].

Ricki [a bit frantic now]: I’m actually more upset about my toothpaste.  It’s $10 a tube!

PO #2: Well, you know, toothpaste might be considered a deadly weapon [he smiles and winks.  Winks!]

PO #3:  I tell you what.  This isn’t, technically, a lethal weapon.  So if you give it up voluntarily, you can get through the process much quicker.

Ricki: Well, if it isn’t technically a lethal weapon, what if I decide I don’t want to give it up voluntarily?

PO #3:  We’ll take it away anyway.

In the end, the deadly toothpaste and keychain were, indeed, confiscated, though I was permitted to place them in storage until my return.  I was then treated to a full body pat-down while the HH stood off to the side smirking and singing under his breath, “Ricki is a TERR-or-ist, Ricki is a TERR-or-ist, nyah nyah.” 

To complete the Abbott and Costello air of the event, I realized the guard had retained my passport just as we approached the boarding gate; I asked an airline representative to go check for me. By the time she returned, I had found it in a fold of my purse–but she’d already arranged to have my luggage removed from the plane (since someone without a passport wouldn’t be allowed to transport her luggage, of course). 

And so began our first real vacation in ten years.  It could only improve from there.

Miami Beach, Day 3: Ricki and the HH meet her father’s new girlfriend.

After the initial shock of settling in South Beach (So much neon! So little green space! So many crowds! So much scalpel-enhanced cleavage!), the HH and I arranged to meet my dad and his new girlfriend for dinner. The Shore Club, where we stayed (courtesy of hotwire.com) was apparently one of the chic spots, renovated by a famous designer and proudly billed as a “boutique hotel.”  The entirely-white lobby, dotted as it was with blocks of sheer white curtains suspended from floor to ceiling at arbitrary locations, floor strewn with white mattress-sized pillows, pristine white couches and a variety of oil lamps, is described on the hotel’s website as “an eclectic mix evocative of global marketplaces.”  To me, however, it seemed more evocative of “latter day opium den.” 

In fact, everything about the place (except for the room itself, which featured minimalist geometric furniture (also all white) and a floor and walls covered in–get this–concrete; that’s right: stark, cold, cement-hard concrete.  No carpets, no throw rugs) seemed geared toward lethargy and dreamy relaxation.  Note the actual bed in the courtyard (it’s right there beside the hammock):

Sadly, with temperatures at their coldest in the last decade, we never took advantage of the outdoor furniture or the hotel pool.

Our dinner took place at the Canyon Ranch Grill, a fortuitous find after I conducted a Google search for “Organic Restaurant Miami.”  I couldn’t have been more thrilled with the menu options there–almost everything was organic, with loads of veggie dishes, prepared in a simple yet delectable manner.  My own dinner consisted of a grilled vegetable salad (sans cheese or pistachios–they kindly subbed cashews instead); and three of the “Simple Eats”: Steamed Vegetable Basket, Sautéed Spinach and Garlic; and Baked Sweet Potato.  Everything was superb–fresh, clean food with pure flavors, cooked to perfection.

And what about my dad’s girlfriend, you may wonder?  A tyical Miami snowbird, a cross between  Zsa Zsa Gabor and Phyllis Diller, Ms. Friend turned out to be a lovely woman (in fact, a lovely younger woman at 77 years old!), who was clearly besotted with my father.  My dad, for his part, lapped up the attention–he’s quite a catch (according to him) at 88 as he still retains all his senses, all his hair, and his ability to play gin rummy–and dance. 

Miami Beach, Day 4: Face Time for Ricki and the HH.

The following evening, the HH and I enjoyed an intimate dinner (just the two of us) at Wish, a place recommended by the concierge at our hotel.  The dinner there was superb. The menu offers a vegetarian tasting option composed of any four choices from either the side dishes on the menu or the accompaniments to any of the other entrées (for instance, grilled zucchini that would normally be served alongside chicken).  I began with the Wish salad, a tart, spicy, crunchy and juicy mix of bitter greens, gingered dressing and toasted cashews; followed by a platter with an Asian stir-fried vegetable salad of carrot, fennel and hijiki (I think) bathed in a chili-sesame vinaigrette; a warm, sweetly glistening butternut-edamame hash; a dainty fingerling potatoes in a red chimichurri sauce, rich and subtly spicy; and simple grilled yellow summer squash and zucchini.  Yum!

Left to right, top to bottom: fingerling potatoes with chimichurri; stir-fried vegetable salad; butternut and edamame hash; and simple grilled summer squashes.

 As to the ACD, I did my best to consume only “green-light” foods, but decided not to flagellate myself if I ended up eating a few non ACD-friendly items on the trip.  This dietary decision led to two surprises:  first, the enormous number of dishes I was able to find that easily complied with the diet’s restrictions (with the exception of a couple of salad dressings containing vinegar and the edamame-butternut hash, which I’m certain had a splash of maple syrup).  The second surprise, given the volume of food I consumed, was that my weight still remains exactly where it was before the trip (whoo hoo!).

I think all Whole Foods stores should have palm trees beside them, don’t you?.

I was delighted to find a wealth of options at the local Whole Foods (they’re like McDonald’s that way, aren’t they?  You can always count on them to be the same wherever you go), such as the tofu-rice salad (to the right in the display case below) which I ate along with roasted brussels sprouts for lunch our first full day in the city. 

An abundance of vegan options, from green beans to tofu salad to roasted brussels sprouts.  And at the back, there–could it be. . . SEITAN?

The HH and I even had a chance to stroll through the local Lincoln Mall, a series of streets closed to vehicular traffic, boasting a selection of upscale shops.  Here’s the HH strolling along the pathway (coy, isn’t he?):

Note the shirt AND sweater required–and we were actually a little underdressed!  Of course, it WAS the coldest winter in Miami in the last decade.

It was there I discovered a cute little café called Books and Books.  Just take a look at the vegan section on their menu:

Mmmm–so many options!  Should I have the Grilled Organic Tofu and Avocado Salad?  Perhaps the Black & White Bean Salad?  Or how about the Vegan Platter? 

Of course, I determined right then that we had to have a meal at the place. We planned our final “goodbye to Miami” brunch there and showed up bright and early (10:30 AM) on the day of our departure.  And then–Curses! The vegan menu applied only at lunchtime!  They did offer to prepare a breakfast tofu scramble in lieu of eggs, but since I’d ingested soy three times by then, I felt I’d reached my tofu limit.  We ended up back at Whole Foods, where I feasted on this:

Dolmades with 2 lentil salads (one with millet and one with quinoa).  Gotta love Whole Foods!

Having consumed our final meal in Miami, we were ready to leave the carnival atmosphere and below-60F (15 C) temperatures.  We packed up the rental car and bid my dad and the city adieu, heading out toward Highway 75 toward Sarasota, where we were scheduled to stay with my cousin Marketing Guru and his family. 

Next Time:  Fun in Sarasota.  A recipe.  And alligators!

Last Year at this Time: PS, I Love You: V-Day Dinner 2009

Two Years Ago: Pudding is a Virtue (raw carob-date pudding)

© 2010 Diet, Dessert and Dogs

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Comments

  1. Poor Ricki, that was quite a stressful start to your vacation! I’m glad you didn’t end up missing your flight, and things went way better from there.

  2. man oh man, you could be dangerous with that tooghtpaste ;) neon is pretty synonymous with miami… not something i need to go back to any time soon! glad you were able to find so many great eating options w/o alot of trouble!

  3. You are such a badass, trying to travel with those naughty items…

  4. so glad you can get away and eat well despite the ACD – we could do with some wholefoods stores down our way – and glad you got there after that start – I sympathise – I lost my pocket knife that way. Though I always feel secure knowing that my luggage is checked in – if they took it off the plane I would panic

  5. Ha! Hahaha! That made me giggle at work. We all have horror stories about the ridiculously draconian security measures in US airports. I’ve managed to find toothpaste without aspartame that actually comes in 3 oz containers, believe it or not.

    I have relatives in Florida, and your descriptions are right on.

  6. So glad you are safely back home! I’m happy that Florida was a treat and that you managed to find good food. Air travel travel used to be a fun luxury but not anymore!

  7. Security took my hummus away when I was flying back form LA. Something tells me they keep barking up the wrong trees. Happy to see you did make it to the sunshine and that bed in the courtyard is like my ultimate dream come true. Jump on it for me would ya!

  8. You had me cracking up, oh my goodness. You trouble maker, you. :) It looks like your trip was fab, but sorry to hear about hte cool temperatures! so much good food though! Last time I was in Florida (in Orlando) I think my family and I ate at Whole Foods about 4 times (no joke) because it was so incredible! It was the largest Whole Foods I’ve ever seen – I’m jealous my brother and his wife get to shop there. ;) they are like McDonald’s; you can always count on one being somewhere. glad you traveled safe, and sorry about the toothpaste.

  9. what an awful airport experience!! those tsa folks, and their toothpaste rules….,
    but it looks like you two had fun in FL! that meal at Wish looks excellent!

  10. jeez. Toothpaste! how silly! and what yummy chow.

  11. Looks like a good time so far! I’m impressed by the great food finds in Miami, everything sounds nice and fresh. And a boutique hotel, how swanky!

  12. I love your stories. lol!!! At least the airport police/security are doing their job. Although if they let you take a small tube of toothpaste on board why wouldn’t they let you take a bigger one? I don’t get it. oh well.

    The food so far looks very yummy!

  13. Even funnier the second time around! But if nothing happened you’d have nothing to blog about afterwards.

  14. ha! We had some bath tea – expensive stuff! – taken and chemically tested before getting on our plane home from Hawaii. Admittedly it did look like it could have been drugs. But it smelled way nicer :-)

  15. Canadian terrorist! :)

    I hope the return trip was much more pleasant!

  16. Oi, airport security is outrageous. I remember one particularly irritating instance when they paraded me back and forth through the metal detector at least 20 times, until I had remove my shoes, earrings, and belt, and had my pants falling down because they forced me to keep my hands up, and discovered that it was my BRA that was setting it off. Nice. Anyway, glad you made it through, and I’m glad you’re back! I missed your posts.

  17. Josiane,
    Yes, certainly stressful for someone already prone to stress! But in retrospect, it was hilarious. (And the rest of the vacation was great). :)

    Shannon,
    Yes, neon all around. . . and I’ll never brush my teeth the same way again. ;)

    Megan,
    Wow, no one’s ever called me “badass” before (well, unless it was a comment on my size, I guess). Wow, I’ll take that as a compliment. ;)

    Johanna,
    Somehow I think the loss of your pocketknife is worse! Hope it wasn’t an expensive one.

    Leah,
    What kind of toothpaste is it??

    Mom,
    I think you’re right; I really used to enjoy flying. Now the tension is a bit too much for me!

    Meghan,
    Yep, I agree–barking up the wrong tree, all right. And hummus? What the–??

    Kim,
    I must say, I’m relishing this characterization as “trouble maker” ;) I felt a little guilty comparing WF to McDonald’s, but glad you think so, too! (and I really did enjoy the food there) :)

    Elizabeth,
    Too silly, wasn’t it? I think Wish was my favorite meal of the trip, too.

    Cheryl,
    I know! But the chow made up for it ;)

    Erin,
    Well, I hadn’t thought of it as “swanky,” but hey, I love that word! Now if only the HH and I can become a little more swanky ourselves. . . hmmm!

    JoLynn,
    I felt the same way–at least they were doing their job. If they were that strict with me, then perhaps they were that way with everyone.

    Robin,
    You are so wise, as always. ;)

    Michelle,
    I think your story beats mine! Too funny. Glad you got it back, though.

    Misty,
    Yes, much more pleasant, as on the way home the Canadian customs did absolutely nothing–didn’t even look in the bags! (I’m not sure which approach I like better. . . ).

    Hannah,
    That is TOO FUNNY! I wonder what kind of metal was in that particular bra that was so different from the average bras! ;)

  18. You make everything sound so much like it’s worth doing, even getting stopped and patted down by airport security! :) We’ve got one of those eighty-something dads that dance too. It seems they are quite the catch! All in all an entertaining beginning to a Florida vacation.

  19. Well, I’m glad you weren’t flagged as a terrorist, though evil terrority toothpaste is an oh so obvious weapon :) Yay for Florida and good eats and boo for colder weather. But at least it was warmer than Canada!

  20. Welcome back! It looks like you had a lovely time. :)

  21. Your dialogue was spot-on. I can just hear your anger brewing.

    Reminds me of the time just after airports started confiscating liquids that a TSA investigator found mace in my purse. I was practically in tears. Don’t we have the right to protect ourselves?!

    I’m so impressed by all of your dining options in Miami! Glad you and HH had a nice time. Stay warm.

  22. Sounds like a great and tasty time, Ricki! I wish it had been warn for you both, but at least it looks like you didn’t have to wear jackets!

  23. Oh man! I would be so pissed about the toothpaste. At least they were able to hold it for you! I flew last month and I was scared to bring my good vegan hygiene products, so I purchased travel sizes of crappy, brand name stuff…like Colgate, Dove, etc. Stuff I would never use in real life. Glad you had some good eats when you got to Miami though.

  24. Teehee, gotta love those airport searches!

    Hmm, first real vacation in a decade … coldest winter on record in a decade … let me guess, your last real vacation was to Florida ten years ago?

    Glad you did have fun! :)

  25. I really enjoyed your trip Ricki! Did you get more toothpaste when you go there? Poor you! Although that was some keyring!

  26. I hope you write a book someday, not just a cookbook, but a book about your life and your thoughts. I really could read your blog all day, you are such an amazing writer and I loved this post! I can’t wait to read about the fun (and alligators!!?!?) in Sarasota!

  27. I once had a dangerous 6oz. carton of soy yogurt confiscated. And I forgot to empty my stainless water bottle but the TSA poured it out and returned it, much to my relief.

    So you stayed in ultra-cool South Beach! (That’s a big change from Delray.)It’s surprisingly easy to find suitable food in South Florida, now, compared to 10 years ago. We’ve walked into places off the street in South Beach and found good vegan food. Glad it all worked out – except the weather. Too bad you didn’t get to use the Venetian Pool in Coral Gables. Next time.

  28. I’ve lost many a organic/nature cosmetic while travelling, so now I pack nearly nothing as a carry-on. I’m still bitter about having to toss my natural deodorant which was $8 or something like that.

    I’m sorry my state was a little chilly for ya. We’ve been enjoying it, though :)

  29. Lisa,
    Aw, thanks so much! (*blush*). But I don’t think you would have wanted to be at that customs desk that day! Nice to hear that your dad is doing well at that age, too. Maybe they can be dance partners w/ each other! ;)

    Jes,
    Yes, warmer than Canada. And I’m not so sure about the terrorist thing. . . .

    Vegyogini,
    Thanks! Yes, lovely all around!

    Still Life,
    I was actually thinking the same thing at that moment: “Don’t take away my self-defense!”. Oh, well. At least the dining was really good. :)

    Liz,
    Thanks! Actually, we DID have to wear jackets (I’m embarrassed to say I also donned a scarf one night) in Miami. But so what–still better than here!

    Bianca,
    I did think of buying travel sized stuff, but like you, didn’t really want to use it. Next time, I’ll pack the t.p. in my checked baggage, though.

    Alisa,
    You are a riot! While it WOULD have been a very amusing coincidence if our last holiday had been in Miami, no, it was Newfoundland. ;) And the weather was great!

    Jacqueline,
    Yes, I went straight to Whole Foods and bought another tube of the exact same stuff (which, bizarrely, had the same French/English labelling even though it’s a U.S.-made product).

    Voracious Vegan,
    Aw, thank you so much! It’s so great to know that someone enjoys reading it as much as I enjoy writing it. :D Stay tuned for Part II–those alligators are mighty tricky!

    Andrea,
    Yep, we decided to go for Miami, where my dad was staying, and hotwire.com spat out The Shore Club for a pittance (well, compared to the regular price, anyway). And I like that you added “next time”–now I’ve got the bug, I think I will have to return!

    Heather,
    I know–with the cost of organic/holistic stuff, you really don’t want to lose it that way. Glad FLA is being more hospitable in terms of weather now, though! :)

  30. Wow – a terrorist on my Reader. Cool! So cute about your dad being a catch….love just makes me happy at any age, whatever the circumstance.

    (I had pepper spray on my keychain when I used to live in LA, and they took when I went to see President Clinton speak. I’d totally forgotten it was even on there, but they were nice about it)

  31. i can’t believe they searched you and took your toothpaste and your defender. jerks! i’m glad the rest of your vacation was super fun. well, besides the hotel whose designer adored concrete (that’s so weird – and so is the bed in the courtyard. what the heck?!? ah ha ha!). so awesome on your dad’s girlfriend being one wonderful lady. i think it’s super stellar that you were able to find so many vegan eats and so many ACD friendly eats, too. that rocks! i hear ya on being kinda tofued out. i get that way as well – and it’s usually when we’re out of town too because that’s what a lot of places offer for vegan foods ‘n such. but hooray for deliciousnesses at whole foods (i had dolmas last week – they’re my fav!). i totally think all whole foods stores should have palm trees. they’re so pretty and they just made me smile and relax a little. i wonder how the trees and other plant life is doing or how it will be affected with all the cold weather down there. crazy! while i’m super glad you had a great vacation, i’m also really glad you’re back. superhappface!

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