Last Day in Fort Lauderdale

Because we saved money on our Hampton Inn room for Thursday and Friday nights ($40 a night plus points), we spent a little extra for our last night to get a room at the Embassy Suites directly on the beach overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.

When I booked the room online, I asked for optional upgrades to a higher floor (+$12) or a deluxe suite (+$25). To our pleasant surprise, they gave us both…for free! We had an ocean-view room that was VERY nice!

Sitting in the Dining Area of Our Room. Click photo for full size.
Sitting in the Dining Area of Our Room. Click photo for full size.

Early Sunday morning, I happened to rouse around 6:15 AM. I could see a tinge of orange on the horizon. So I got Jeri up. We literally laid in bed and watched the sun slowly rise. After a bit, we got dressed and sat out on the balcony. We enjoyed listening to the gentle waves crashing against the shore.

Watching the Sun Come Up From Our Bed. Click photo for full size.
Watching the Sun Come Up From Our Bed. Click photo for full size.

Watching the Sunrise from Our Balcony. Click photo for full size.
Watching the Sunrise from Our Balcony. Click photo for full size.

After about an hour, the sun was up. We headed down for our complimentary, hot breakfast. Years ago, we would have indulged in a cooked-to-order omelet along with sausage and bacon. Although our (mostly) vegan diet limited our food selection, we still enjoyed toast and English muffins with butter, waffle with syrup, fresh fruit, raisin bran, coffee, and orange juice.
Jeri and Tim Enjoying Free Hot Breakfast. Click photo for full size.
Jeri and Tim Enjoying Free Hot Breakfast. Click photo for full size.

Breakfast at the Embassy Suites. Click photo for full size.
Breakfast at the Embassy Suites. Click photo for full size.

After breakfast, we headed back to our room and donned our swimsuits. We headed to the beach right next to the hotel. The water was SO nice…warm and clear. The water temperature (according to a posted sign) was 85 F. The sand was fine and felt soft under our feet.

Looking Out From Our Balcony. Click photo for full size.
Looking Out From Our Balcony. Click photo for full size.

Having Fun in the Atlantic. Click photo for full size.
Having Fun in the Atlantic. Click photo for full size.

Posing for a Photo at the Beach. Click photo for full size.
Posing for a Photo at the Beach. Click photo for full size.

We walked through the water and swam out a short ways into the ocean. We really enjoyed playing in the waves. We would jump and try to stay above the waves. A few waves were so large, we were completely swallowed. One time, I remember being under water for a few seconds with bubbles all around. Because the beach had some man-made rock outcroppings, I was hoping that I wouldn’t get washed into one; I didn’t. It was fun.

Jeri Hit By a Small Wave. Click photo for full size.
Jeri Hit By a Small Wave. Click photo for full size.

We’d laugh each time we’d get a face full of water. The water was very salty…saltier than water in the Pacific (at least at Huntington Beach). After spending some time in the ocean, we showered and headed back to the hotel.

Because the pool at Embassy Suites looked so inviting, we had to check it out. Again the water was warm. When I asked the pool attendant about the pool, he said that it was heated naturally by the sun. After swimming for a while, we headed up to our room to shower and pack.

Tim Enjoying the Pool at Embassy Suites. Click photo for full size.
Tim Enjoying the Pool at Embassy Suites. Click photo for full size.

Although I was originally thinking to try another vegan restaurant for lunch, Jeri suggested Sweet Tomatoes (a sister brand to Souplantation). Having a big salad sounded good to both of us. Because we were still at the hotel, I asked the front desk for Internet access. She gave me a code so I could access their wireless network.

As we sat outside in their courtyard, I used my laptop to search for a restaurant location. Using the GPS that we brought from home, we headed to the restaurant where we enjoyed a nice meal. At the restaurant, I asked an employee about Water Taxi locations. She said that, because she was a local, it was something that she had never done.

Lunch at Sweet Tomatoes. Click photo for full size.
Lunch at Sweet Tomatoes. Click photo for full size.

Because someone (Richard) at the memorial service told us where we could find the Water Taxi, we headed to that location. Eventually after asking around and making two phone calls, we found a pickup stop (adjacent to a DoubleTree Hotel).
Water Taxi Approaching. Click photo for full size.
Water Taxi Approaching. Click photo for full size.

Because we only had about three hours, we didn’t get on and off of the taxi. We stayed for the round-trip tour. We saw lots of expensive homes and yachts.
Fort Lauderdale's Intracoastal Waterway. Click photo for full size.
Fort Lauderdale’s Intracoastal Waterway. Click photo for full size.

Another Nice Yacht and Home Viewed from the Water Taxi. Click photo for full size.
Another Nice Yacht and Home Viewed from the Water Taxi. Click photo for full size.

A number of cruise ships leave out of the Port of Fort Lauderdale. We saw the largest cruise ship in the world, Allure of the Seas, pulling out.
Allure of the Seas - World's Largest Cruise Ship. Click photo for full size.
Allure of the Seas – World’s Largest Cruise Ship. Click photo for full size.

Fort Lauderdale has a lot of drawbridges. We saw one open for a sailboat whose mast was very tall.

Drawbridge Opening to Let a Tall Sailboat Pass. Click photo for full size.
Drawbridge Opening to Let a Tall Sailboat Pass. Click photo for full size.

All day, the weather had been partly cloudy…warm and, of course, humid. As the afternoon progressed, we could see dark clouds gathering in the north. Eventually we saw lightning.

Storm Clouds Gathering. Click photo for full size.
Storm Clouds Gathering. Click photo for full size.

Selfie on the Water Taxi. Click photo for full size.
Selfie on the Water Taxi. Click photo for full size.

Finally we docked back at the DoubleTree (where we started). In the picture below, you can see the DoubleTree Hotel behind us.
On the Top Deck of the Water Taxi. Click photo for full size.
On the Top Deck of the Water Taxi. Click photo for full size.

The clouds moved closer. Just as we got back to our car, a light rain began. As we drove back to the airport, the rain and lightning moved closer and closer.

We dropped off the car, got to the terminal, went through security, and got to the gate about an hour before they were to begin boarding. However we soon got word that our flight was delayed by half an hour. As we saw lightning continue to flash, we were afraid that this delay would soon be followed by a second delay.

Fortunately our flight did depart at 10:00 PM. We arrived at LAX at 12:30 AM (we gained three hours). At 1:30 PM, we caught our SuperShuttle. We made it home around 2:15 AM. We got to bed at 2:40 AM.

Selfie After Arriving at LAX. Click photo for full size.
Selfie After Arriving at LAX. Click photo for full size.

I woke at 7:10 AM and made it to work by a little after 8 AM. I was tired but I survived. I think that I actually slept a little better on the plane this time and got, maybe, four hours of “sleep.”

Friday: Fort Lauderdale and the Everglades
Saturday: Robert Pai Memorial Service
Sunday: Last Day in Fort Lauderdale

Robert Pai Memorial Service

Although Jeri and I weren’t there (because we were at the Sublime Restaurant), others went to the Silver Pond (an authentic Chinese restaurant) on Friday night. Here’s a photo.

Mavis, Chris, Vincent, Cyrilla, Femma, Gerald, and Michael. Click photo for full size.
Mavis, Chris, Vincent, Cyrilla, Femma, Gerald, and Michael. Click photo for full size.

Saturday morning (9/20/2014), we woke, showered, dressed, and had breakfast in the Hampton Inn lobby. Then we packed up our stuff and checked out.

Breakfast at the Hampton Inn. Click photo for full size.
Breakfast at the Hampton Inn. Click photo for full size.

Then we headed to the funeral home for the memorial service. Because we arrived before 10 AM, we were pretty much the first ones there besides the immediate family. Family and friends continued to arrive until the actual memorial service at 11:00 AM. We watched a slide show in the lobby and mingled with relatives.
Jeri, Tim, Vivian, and Mavis. Click photo for full size.
Jeri, Tim, Vivian, and Mavis. Click photo for full size.

Here’s a family photo.
Jeri, Tim, Tina, Noble (back), Vivian, Mavis, Jon, Shannan. Click photo for full size.
Jeri, Tim, Tina, Noble (back), Vivian, Mavis, Jon, Shannan. Click photo for full size.

The memorial service was a tribute to the remarkable life of Bob Pai. Daughter, Tina, shared some very touching memories of times with her father. He was quite the dad. Plus he loved all kids…even after his children had grown up.
Vincent, Noble, Mavis, Cyrilla. Click photo for full size.
Vincent, Noble, Mavis, Cyrilla. Click photo for full size.

Although my Uncle Bob was incredibly smart (Ph.D. in Physics, researcher and patent holder for Sylvania lighting), his friends and family spoke most highly of his great character and love for others. He and his family took memorable vacations to many places around the world.
NY Times Article about Bob Pai. Click photo for full size.
NY Times Article about Bob Pai. Click photo for full size.

Hearing about Bob’s life from his family encouraged me to live a life that my family would be proud of. I think that Jeri and I saw the importance of our annual family vacations.

After the service, I think that everyone made the short drive to the event room at Aunt Vivian’s condominium. A catered lunch awaited us. There were enough vegan options for Jeri and me. The room overlooked the Atlantic Ocean. They replayed the slideshow video on the big screen TV. Plus Vivian had set out some photo albums of their vacations…including the most recent one to Norway just the month before.

Noble, Gerald, Mavis, and Femma. Click photo for full size.
Noble, Gerald, Mavis, and Femma. Click photo for full size.

Femma Lo, Jeri, Tim, and Gerald Lo. Click photo for full size.
Femma Lo, Jeri, Tim, and Gerald Lo. Click photo for full size.

Gradually, over the next few hours, people left. Jeri and I decided to drive up to Deerfield Beach (about 30 minutes north of Fort Lauderdal) to check in at Embassy Suites. As we drove up Intracoastal Waterway, we saw some large homes and yachts.

When I booked the room, I paid a little more to get a room with an ocean view. When I checked out online, the website asked if I’d be willing to pay $12 for a room on a higher floor or $25 for a deluxe suite. I checked the boxes for both.

When we checked in, I was hoping that we’d get one of the two upgrades (they were offered on an “as-available” basis). We were pleasantly surprised to get BOTH: a deluxe room on a higher floor! The best part came when we checked out…they didn’t charge us for either upgrade!

After checking in, we changed into casual clothes and headed back to Fort Lauderdale to the same room for dinner which was planned for 5:30 PM. Aunt Vivian ordered carryout from Bob’s favorite Chinese restaurant.

For Jeri and me, she was very kind and ordered carryout from Sublime (the same restaurant that we enjoyed the night before). This time we started with an appetizer called the Pretzel Dip Medley. Then we feasted on Sublime Picatta (Gardein cutlet, mashed potato, sauteed spinach, lemon-caper sauce) and Portobello Stack (sauteed spinach, roasted tomato, mushroom marsala sauce, quinoa). She even ordered two desserts for us: Chocolate Nirvana (chocolate cake, kahlua butter creme, dark chocolate ganache) and Coconut Cake (white cake, coconut butter creme, almond tuile). We had plenty of food so we shared some with others. I think only Mavis and Vincent accepted our offer.

After eating, we headed out to the beach and took off our sandals. The weather was, of course, comfortably warm. With the sun gradually setting, we walked in the soft sand and picked up some sea shells.

Jeri and Mavis Picking Up Shells. Click photo for full size.
Jeri and Mavis Picking Up Shells. Click photo for full size.

Tim and Jeri Walking on the Beach. Click photo for full size.
Tim and Jeri Walking on the Beach. Click photo for full size.

As darkness set in, we headed back to the community room. With everything wrapping up, we along with some others headed up to Vivian’s condo. She has a nice ocean view from her balcony.
Chris, Vincent, Noble (behind), Femma, Mavis, and Cyrilla. Click photo for full size.
Chris, Vincent, Noble (behind), Femma, Mavis, and Cyrilla. Click photo for full size.

Vivian, Femma, and Cyrilla. Click photo for full size.
Vivian, Femma, and Cyrilla. Click photo for full size.
Noble with Tina behind on the Left, also Jenny Yang on the Right. Click photo for full size.
Noble with Tina behind on the Left, also Jenny Yang on the Right. Click photo for full size.

Jeri and Tim at Vivian's Condo. Click photo for full size.
Jeri and Tim at Vivian’s Condo. Click photo for full size.

After saying our “goodbyes” to family, we headed back to Embassy Suites. Once in our room, we turned on the television to continue watching a PBS show called “The Roosevelts.” We had watched some of it when we checked in about five hours prior. As each top and bottom of the hour passed (10:00 PM, 10:30 PM, 11:00 PM), we kept expecting the show to end. Eventually we turned it off so we could get some sleep.

It wasn’t until after we returned home that we discovered that we were watching a 14-hour series by Ken Burns. Although some have blogged about the liberal bias in the show, we found it interesting.

Friday: Fort Lauderdale and the Everglades
Saturday: Robert Pai Memorial Service
Sunday: Last Day in Fort Lauderdale

Fort Lauderdale and the Everglades

Because it was the least expensive option and because it saved us time, we opted to take a red-eye flight from Los Angeles (LAX) to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Two years ago, when we took a red-eye flight to Columbus, Ohio, we didn’t have the greatest experience; we had to drive straight from the airport to a hotel and sleep for a few hours before attending Quest and Kelsey Shannan’s wedding.

The shuttle picked us up around 5:30 PM. The driver made a couple more pickups and got us to the airport with plenty of time. Spirit Airlines charges for EVERYTHING even carry-on bags. We decided to check one bag. At home, we had to keep moving items from the suitcase into our personal bags to get under the 40 pound limit. When we got the bag to the check-in counter, it weighed 40.0 pounds.

Our 9:00 PM flight was delayed by about 30 minutes for a maintenance issue. We flew on Spirit Airlines which takes seat cramming to the extreme. My knees nearly touched the seat in front of us.

Our goal was to sleep on the four-plus hour flight. However in those seats, we felt like we could never get comfortable. It seemed like we were constantly waking, twisting, turning, readjusting, leaning this way, leaning that way. We felt like we barely slept. After what seemed like barely two hours, we were pleasantly surprised to find us over Florida soon to begin our final descent.

The first thing to hit us when we walked out of the airport terminal was the humidity. We laughed as our glasses fogged up…keep in mind that this was before 6 AM.

After getting our rental car (which took a while), we drove to Hampton Inn. After checking in, we ate breakfast in their lobby area. Then we crashed from about 8 AM until noon.

In planning our trip, we thought that we should visit the Everglades since they would be close by and since we had no idea if and when we’d make it back to southern Florida. The weather forecast for each day was a good chance of thunderstorms every afternoon.

Sure enough we could see dark clouds out of our hotel window in the distance. The clouds moved closer; then we saw some lightning and heard thunder. This gave way to rain. I got on the Internet and checked the current radar. We could see a break in the rain.

I called a company offering Everglades boat rides. They said that the storm had passed and that they had resumed tours. So we grabbed our map and headed out the door to Sawgrass Recreational Park.

We find the place without problem, bought our tickets for our 30-minute tour, and, after a short wait, boarded a boat. The boat had two big, loud fans on the back; so we were given ear plugs to wear. The guide took us out and soon he had located an alligator.

On the Boat. Click photo for full size.
On the Boat. Click photo for full size.

Cruising the Everglades. Click photo for full size.
Cruising the Everglades. Click photo for full size.

The alligator swam around and would get right next to the boat. We also saw two soft shell turtles.

Alligator Next to Boat. Click photo for full size.
Alligator Next to Boat. Click photo for full size.

Softshell Turtle. Click photo for full size.
Softshell Turtle. Click photo for full size.

After this, he took us to another location where we watched a second alligator. To be honest, the tour wasn’t super exciting. Our guide told us that more wildlife is active in the mornings and evenings. Oh well, Friday afternoon was the best that we could do.
Everyone Taking Pictures of the Alligator. Click photo for full size.
Everyone Taking Pictures of the Alligator. Click photo for full size.

The place also had a gift shop and exhibit area. Because of the approaching rain and sparse crowds, they closed both early. However they sent a guy out to open the exhibit area for us. The guy (Tim) was very talkative and told us about the animals. They had adult alligators, baby alligators, and other reptiles including snakes and lizards. I think that the exhibit area was more interesting than the boat tour. However we had to get the full Everglades experience by being on a boat.
Baby Gators. Click photo for full size.
Baby Gators. Click photo for full size.

Tim and Jeri Outside of Alligator Enclosure. Click photo for full size.
Tim and Jeri Outside of Alligator Enclosure. Click photo for full size.

We left the Everglades and returned to our hotel room to wash up. Cruising the swamps with reeds snapping in front of us left us a bit dirty.

We had researched vegan restaurants in the area. One that was highly rated was the Sublime Restaurant. So we reserved a table, changed into a bit nicer outfits, and headed out. Although the atmosphere was classy, the dress was casual. Jeri and I couldn’t remember the last time that just the two of us ate at nice, sit-down restaurant.

We enjoyed the evening. The food was outstanding. We could (and maybe should) have made a meal from their signature appetizer, Frito Miso. The dish was batter-dipped, deep-fat-fried cauliflower with a sweet chili sauce. YUM! Our waiter also brought us a complimentary dish of polenta pesto bread.

Frito Miso. Click photo for full size.
Frito Miso. Click photo for full size.

Polenta Basil Bread. Click photo for full size.
Polenta Basil Bread. Click photo for full size.

We had to try two of their entrees. We got their Mushroom Ravioli which was very rich and tasty. The Thai Curry dish wasn’t our favorite. I guess that the curry flavor wasn’t what we were expecting.
Mushroom Ravioli. Click photo for full size.
Mushroom Ravioli. Click photo for full size.

Thai Red Curry. Click photo for full size.
Thai Red Curry. Click photo for full size.

For dessert, we opted for Chocolate Nirvana Ala Mode. Although be this time we were beyond stuffed, we finished it. Although our hotel room had a refrigerator, we knew that we’d be checking out the next morning and would have no way or time to eat it.
Tim and Jeri at the Sublime Restaurant. Click photo for full size.
Tim and Jeri at the Sublime Restaurant. Click photo for full size.

Chocolate Nirvana A La Mode. Click photo for full size.
Chocolate Nirvana A La Mode. Click photo for full size.

Using a portable tripod, we posed for a picture outside of the restaurant. We laughed when we got one that had me with a “deer-in-the-headlights” look.
Deer in the Headlights. Click photo for full size.
Deer in the Headlights. Click photo for full size.

Friday: Fort Lauderdale and the Everglades
Saturday: Robert Pai Memorial Service
Sunday: Last Day in Fort Lauderdale