Things We Learned On Our Trip From Miami To NOLA

Travel enriches your life. No matter why or how you travel, you will inevitably learn something. Sometimes it’s just basic common knowledge, for instance that you should not pack your jacket with the passport in one of the pockets into your checked suitcase. At other times travel may forever change your world view. On our recent trip from Miami to New Orleans we didn’t have any life changing experiences. The things that we did learn are nonetheless important to us.

1. Florida does not equal Miami

If you like your drinks served in 36 oz plastic bowls and your beaches flanked by hotels, condos and then some more hotels you should definitely stick with Miami. I’m not saying Miami isn’t nice and worthy of a visit. But one full day was more than enough for us to experience it. After all, neither of us has the body that would call to be shown off at one of its beaches nor the self-confidence to do it regardless of that.  Or perhaps we are just getting too old for this?

Florida should not be judged by Miami or Orlando for that matter. The sunshine state deserves to be explored off the main highways and tourist attractions. The beaches along the panhandle coast are by far not as built up as anything north of Miami and are worth considering. I would sure love to stay at one of those nice houses facing the beach, and just spend a day sitting on a porch reading a good book. Not to be missed are also pleasant small towns like Apalachicola where time seems to have stopped. Byways are better than highways, keep that in mind while driving in Florida (or anywhere else, I guess).

The quiet side of Florida: Ichetucknee river
The quiet side of Florida: Ichetucknee river

2. The south is too hot for open top driving

Locals may call beginning of May spring but temperatures around 30 degrees Celsius and humidity anywhere over 50 % feel like high summer for us. When we were booking our car hiring anything with hard top and short of a horse sign in the front was out of question. Our imagination was perhaps just too vivid. We could see ourselves slowly gliding past palm lined beaches with pleasant breeze cooling us down and road trip music filling our ears. In reality we were stuck in traffic on the coastal A1A just out of Miami, the view of the beach obstructed by high buildings and the only breeze were exhaust fumes from cars around us. Even though we were covered in layers of sunscreen (and sweat), our reason was telling us that there isn’t a sunscreen on earth that could prevent us from burning if we continued driving like this. So we closed the roof and drove on enjoying the cooling breeze of our AC.

But at least we drove down the Ocean Drive the only acceptable way which is what really counts when you are retelling the story back home, right? And we had some pleasant open top moments later on around Gainesville and the panhandle. The memories of us trying to squeeze our large suitcase through the small opening of the trunk and pushing the other one on the back seat will probably fade away with time.  So next time when we will be facing the decision between soft and hard top we may well make the same mistake. Perhaps this doesn’t really count like learning something then?

Spot a tourist car. BTW, that was our home base in NOLA

3. All hope is not lost on American food

To say that food is an important part of our travel would be a giant understatement. The fact that we are just finishing our meal does not stop us planning our next one so our days basically revolve around food. In terms of food America was not a destination we were looking forward to. Up until now we only knew the two extremes: cheap fast food type chain restaurants where the food hardly resembles anything that once lived in form of an animal or plant and upscale places where sky seems to be the limit when it comes to selection of organic produce and consequently price.

New Orleans however took us by surprise. Po-boys may not look much different than your average Subway sandwich. But the fact that the shrimps come out of the neighborhood, that the beef was slowly roasted and gravy actually comes from that same beef and not out of a can makes all the difference. Forget healthy eating, everything is fried, sugar coated or strongly seasoned (or all of the above). But it tastes like proper food even if you don’t have to sell your kidney to pay for it. And for a couple of days you can easily indulge in it, you’re not going to a beach anytime soon (see point number 1)

Simple but delicious - fried chicken at Willie Mae's Scotch House
Simple but delicious – fried chicken at Willie Mae’s Scotch House