Thursday, February 16, 2012
I've spent the better part of the last week in Miami Beach at a conference. Typically, when I attend a conference, I'm a stickler for attending all of the educational sessions. That leaves precious little time for exploring unless we want to come in early or stay late. Since the conference was at the Fontainebleau and the room rates there are astronomical, neither was a palatable choice. There was exploring to be done. I chose to skip a whole day of the conference and attend to exploring with my wonderful husband. I'll do some computer based CE later and won't gripe about having to do it because we had such a wonderful time down there!
Sunday morning we got to the airport at o'dark thirty for a 6:30 am flight. 6:30 came and went. Turns out the captain was ill and they were trying to find another one. Most everyone on the flight was connecting to somewhere else so they were rerouted. We stayed put and they finally found a guy to fly us down there. So much for our day of exploring on Sunday. We'd intended to visit the Barnacle Historic Site which is the oldest house on Biscayne Bay that's still in it's original location. And, the Viscaya Museum. We did manage to find the 11th Street Diner and get a very late lunch. You've probably guessed that we found the Diner from Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. Triple D scores again. We really try to avoid chains so Triple D is the best way to find great food pretty much wherever we travel. This was wonderful food. We split a fish sandwich and a huge basket of fried calamari with fantastic marinara sauce.
Then, we were off to the hotel. If you like Art Deco that's over the top, the Fontainebleau is gorgeous. It's also ridiculously expensive. One of my friends bought a mojito in the bar and it was something like $18. Needless to say, we stayed at the opening reception and drank our wine and scotch on NPC's nickel! Just a word here about that reception. They had short ribs with a truffled mushroom sauce that were so good I just wanted to take the whole tray with me.
Monday found us at the opening session. There had been a survey sent to all the reps asking about customer service at NPC. (It's typically REALLY good.) I'd filled it out and sent it in because I tend to be compliant about those types of things. Never crossed my mind that I'd win the prize they'd dangled. Why? Because I never win prizes. Well, guess what? I won. An Ipad. Yup. I have a new toy. Can't wait to learn to use it. Then, after the keynote speaker we went to breakout sessions. At the first one, I won an ipod. Should've gone out and bought a lottery ticket that day!
Once all the education was done for the day, it was time to head to Key Biscayne. We left Miami Beach via the Venetian causeway. It's obviously designed for the locals and does have a toll but it's worth the $1. Have you ever seen a toll booth like this?
Key Biscayne was stunning. Parks at either end. The oldest structure in Miami - a lighthouse. Dipped our toes in the water.
Back to the hotel and time to get gussied up and head to the awards banquet. The fellow who's the head of our producers group had had to head back home so I got to go up and accept the award for our group being #1 at NPC. That was a lot of fun!! We stayed out way too late.
Look how handsome my colleagues from the radio show look!
Tuesday morning we crawled out of bed in time to run downstairs and have breakfast. Then, it was back to the room to change and go explore. Connie had laboriously remapped our agenda so we could catch what we'd missed on Sunday. Except that both of those sites were closed on Tuesdays. Long faces here because Viscaya looked amazing. But, that's all part of trying to explore when you're at a conference. Until you get there you really don't know when you can cut out!
Once we'd explored Coconut Grove a bit we headed back to Scully's Tavern. We found Scully's a couple of years ago thanks to Triple D. That's when we did our Florida swing. On our drive from West Palm Beach to Key Largo, we stopped at Scully's for dinner. We've been talking about the escargot since then. Scully takes mushroom caps and tucks an escargot inside each. Then, he pours on garlic sauce. And, tops everything with a slice of provolone. Under the broiler it goes. And here's what you wind up with:
I know, you tried to lick the screen, didn't you? This time we ordered the smoked fish and a fish sandwich also. The fish is mahi-mahi and is off the charts good. The fish sandwich is mahi-mahi crusted with crushed potato chips. It's very good too. But, the best part of the fish sandwich was the tartar sauce. Perfection. Just the right blend of flavors. YUM!
Time to head south to the Fruit and Spice Park. I guess I knew how many foods there are that we just don't get here in the good old USA. But, to see a whole park full of mostly fruit trees containing fruit that we don't ever see. Now, that was amazing. Our guide was a wealth of information. We got to sample a couple of things and sniff some others. Bay rum leaves. Lemon bay. Citronella. Fascinating.
From there we headed to the Coral Castle. We almost didn't go in because it was a bit expensive and looked pretty commercialized. That would've been a big mistake. Here's the story. This Latvian guy named Ed was jilted by his fiance the day before their wedding. He proceeded to build this castle out of coral. Pretty much everything is made of coral. TONS of coral. Oh, and other than a little, teeny, tiny building in one corner it's all open air. There are three reading chairs made of, yup you guessed it, coral. They're aligned so in the morning you sit in one and the sun is coming over your back. Then, you move to the next during the midday and finally to another for the afternoon sun over your back. Let me tell you, these chairs are comfortable. Seriously. A chair made of stone and it's comfortable.
Then, there's a well with a rolling stone to cover the stairs down. And, a couple of gates. And, a barbecue. If you're ever in the Miami area this is a must see. I could go on for an hour about how incredible this place was.
Back to the hotel and dinner with some friends and a wholesaler and his wife. We had a lovely dinner and great time!
Wednesday was more education. The mandatory compliance meeting at 11:00 followed by the wrap-up comments from NPC's president. Then, all the home office break out sessions. We really wanted to cut out and go play some more but there was a session for OSJ managers (that's office of supervisory jurisdiction for those not in the industry) and since I'm an OSJ manager I figured I'd better get my tookus there. And, from 2-3 I was on a panel with a group of the gals from the Women's Conference. I met some of the most amazing women at that conference. Can't wait for the next one in September! Finally business was done and we had time to head to Deerfield Beach for dinner. We snagged our friend, Helene, to join us on the adventure. Off to Whale's Rib - another Triple D restaurant. And, another homerun. The lobster bisque was the closest we've had to our friend Kathy's at Aesop's here in Indy. Then, there were fried clams and a raw plate with clams and oysters in various and sundry guises. Helene had coconut shrimp that she thoroughly enjoyed. And, on the way, we stopped by a beach and enjoyed the view!