Thursday, February 23, 2012

Babymoon Flashback, Part 2

After getting all the all clear for our "surprise" trip to Miami Beach, we thought we were in the clear for a totally relaxing vacation. The flight down was largely uneventful (even got to Atlanta ahead of schedule). Our flight left at 5:30, first afternoon departure for either of us. There was practically no line at the airport, and everything in general just felt much more relaxed.

However, once we got to the car rental lot, I could see the downside of late afternoon travel. It was a little after midnight when we arrived, and Budget's computers were all down, so they had to do all the paperwork manually. While standing in line for 45 minutes would have been frustrating any time, it was much more so given that it was so late and I knew we still had a half-hour drive to our hotel. (The people in front of us had missed their connection to Chile, though, and their luggage hadn't, so it could've been worse...) Eventually, they gave us our car - a Corolla, which I'm pretty sure was an upgrade. An upgrade that had me paranoid about sudden, uncontrolled acceleration, but since that didn't happen, it was better than an Accent.

The first thing that struck me about driving through Miami was how much it looks like Vice City. I know the game was modeled after Miami, but I thought it was an exaggeration. The colors really are that pastel on many of the signs. The second thing that struck me was how sketchy Miami is at 1 AM. I spent a few evenings in various parts of Las Vegas on a business trip once, but even that was less sleazy than the areas we were driving through on the way to the beach. Oddly, the same roads looked fairly normal during the day, which means that the XXX places are intermingled with all the fast food joints, convenience stores, and cash for gold places (also a higher concentration of the latter than I've ever seen before).

The part of Miami that we drove through the first night had few skyscrapers, and I'd speculated that perhaps they built the city flatter than most its size due to hurricanes. My, was I mistaken. The entire coastline in the part of Miami Beach where we were staying is speckled with tremendously large hotels designated by tiny little signs. We missed ours on the first pass, and circled back around. We found out later it was 12 stories high, and was dwarfed by several of its neighbors.


We walked inside, and were promptly greeted by a strong alcohol stench. It reminded me of my college apartment that bordered a frat house. We went to the desk and tried to check in.

The operative word in that sentence was "tried", because the fellow working there informed us that, due to "an incident", they didn't actually have a room for us, even though we had a reservation we'd paid for. But don't worry, he assured us. They'd made arrangements with another hotel about a mile down the road for us to stay the night there, and to make up for the inconvenience, they'd give us free breakfast the next day, and we'd get free parking for the during of our stay. (The parking would have been $12 a day normally, something that wasn't advertised and I found to be outrageous...I understand it makes their rates look lower, but I can't imagine it does wonders for repeat business. Then again, not having rooms available can't help that either...)

So we went down the street to the other hotel, armed with a letter from the first place. I drove past that one as well, and when I did get to the entrance, I pulled up to their garage. It was under the hotel, with a ramp to the side that led up to the actual building. A sign said to wait for valet, so I rang the buzzer nearby. Nothing happened. We sat for a minute or so before deciding to go up the ramp.

"You know," Liana said, "I think I know now why neither of our parents ever took us to Miami."
"Because it sucks?"
"Yeah, exactly."

Turns out the valet was at the top of the ramp (guess the call box was for show?) and he took care of us. We gave the letter from hotel #1 to the clerk at hotel #2, who then pulled out a small storage tote that was labeled "Vouchers" from under the desk. There was about a quarter-inch of paper inside, and I could see hotel #1's letterhead on the first few papers. Even in my exhausted state, I was still able to find it amusing/incredible that this happens frequently enough that hotel #2 has a LABELED STORAGE TOTE for such things.

After all this, the room ended up being very nice - though, by this point it was after 2 AM, so anything with a flat and somewhat soft surface would've been 5 stars in my book.

Next: The Communion Police, and how even sitting on the beach can be expensive in Miami.

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