Few things compare to the excitement of landing in a truly (for the traveler) unknown place without making any preparations. Would I find an hotel before sunset? Is the place dangerous? Is the local food acceptable? Will the locals speak a known language? Are there any dangerous or wild animals preying on intrepid travelers? Are the showers safe (in Singapore the ion-exchange water desalination process leaves the water slightly acidic; it prickles on the skin)? Many questions and new sights: the stuff life is made of for the eternal pilgrim.
Travel Hub’s Exploration Patterns
This was my second visit to Miami, the first was just a couple of hours long in my way between the Fort Lauderdale and Miami international airports. As such, it followed a recurring pattern of travel hubs: increasingly longer stays and inevitable returns. Over the years I have learned not to invest time studying travel hubs before visiting them. More often than not they are Marco Polo's friendly and time fixes any knowledge gaps.
Reaching downtown is my first priority after landing; only there all the required services are handy. Moreover, usually the main attractions in town are nearby the center.
Transport is different from place to place. In addition, it demands quick transactions and fast decisions in a changing environment. Miami proved friendly enough, except for a few glitches in the transfer tickets; sometimes they were easy to get while others even the staff was uncooperative. See the specific entry in this journal for further details.
Finding an Hotel
Usually, this is the trickiest part. Hotels at the very heart of downtown seldom advertise themselves, thus researching the topic before arrival is almost useless. Moreover, the luggage is always a ballast in the way there and asking locals for directions is useless: few people know hotels in their hometown. Yet once in the city center a convenient option would invariably appear.
After the few first contacts, the fact became clear. English-speakers were in Miami an ethnic minority; most people used Spanish as their first language.
However, spelling errors in the Spanish signs and menus were conspicuous. "Amor" (love) a waitress kept calling me in an unacceptable (and annoying) fashion; such an event wouldn’t have happened in any of the Spanish speaking countries I had visited. I was witnessing an ongoing cultural fusion process, two main cultures speaking different languages but sharing the same cappuccinos.
The errors issue was elucidated after a few cortados (a macchiato coffee in Spanish and Portuguese) the reason for the errors became clear, the local Cuban styled Spanish was sprinkled with Brazilian Portuguese.
After a day that began at 3am and included a flight over the Amazon River and a fast transition from a freezing winter to a pleasant summer, I decided to sleep late before seriously exploring downtown. I closed tightly any potential morning-light source, turned on the air conditioner and went to sleep.
Next morning I made a point of ignoring my watch, stayed in bed until it felt really late, took my time in the shower and only on the street took a quick glance at the watch. It was just after 7am, meaning I had almost eight hours for exploring Miami; it would be a busy day.