The one thing we’re glad we did in south Florida was rent a car and get the hell out of Dodge down onto the Keys for several hours. The keys – or rather, the waters on every side of them – are very beautiful and kind of piratey and, as long as I didn’t have to spend more than 40 seconds in Miami en route, I’d go back for the diving and snorkeling we didn’t have a chance to do.
Renting the car was as bizarre as the rest of the Miami experience. First, Kayak offered to rent us a full-size white van for the same price as an economy car. It would’ve been handy for a mass revenge kidnapping of the city elders, but I didn’t know where we’d start with that, so we got a compact instead. At Alamo, you snag your paperwork, head out into the car lot and pick up whatever car you want that’s parked in your category area. Hmmm. Stubby silver Ford. Mediocre white Chevy. Hold the phone: is that bright yellow, two-door sports car sitting under the “Compact” sign? Niiiiiice.
We got a NaviWhore, or, as she is more commonly known, a “navigation system with a melodious female flirty voice” who, before her battery expired, estimated three hours with no traffic from Miami out to Key West. (In my experience, if the NaviWhore doesn’t come included and pre-attached to the car, it’s going to be flaky, so just use your iPhone Google Maps app.) We got about halfway down – Marathon Key – in two and a half hours in moderate traffic and had dinner and drinks at The Island, a busy place recommended by a local. Full menu of all kinds of fresh fish, oysters and shellfish as well as those tropical drinks you’ll be looking for at non-Miami prices ($7-ish).
I was startled to see fried dolphin on the menu and my Greenpeace hackles went haywire, but it turns out that that’s not your Seaworld buddy but a dolphin fish, which is something else entirely. (Or so they would have you believe.) We got a fish wrap (incredibly good) and fresh peel-and-eat shrimp (excellent) and settled in for the sunset which was predictably lovely, despite the obese, smoking Americans chatting with the pelicans in the foreground. (What is it with Americans? I think we should go back to the finishing school system. Everyone has to spend a year in Denmark and get some class before they’re let loose on the world.)
- Don’t go to Miami.
- If you do go to Miami, get a car. There is no place worth walking and you need to be able to flee rapidly and efficiently the inevitable disappointment of most destinations.
- First choice in your car: the Keys. Don’t worry: you won’t miss anything while you’re gone because there wasn’t anything there to start with.