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