Thursday, February 12, 2009


33 days ago


As we approached the island on the fine morning of December 26, we heard loud music, I was to find out later that it came from drum cowbells, horns, whistles, scrapers and brass. Through the narrow spaces between streets we could distinguish some kind of parade sporting a profusion of colourful feathers. I rushed out holding tight my dear Nikon D40 and I joined the cheerful crowds.

The celebration proved to be a Junkanoo, a kind of local carnival, taking place on December 26 and January 1st only. Apparently I saw the Saxon Superstars with the "Exploring the Orient" theme, led by Percy ‘Vola’ Francis - a painter, designer, window decorator, sign writing, song writer and singer. I wonder how comes we saw it around noon, when it was supposed to take place from 2am to 8am. Did they do it only for the three cruiseships in port, to attract and distract, as most shops were closed? It could be, I saw an antique Saturday flea market in Montevideo opening on Tuesday because of the cruise ship docking that day.

It really made my day, especially because it was so unexpected. I took pictures, I followed the parade, walking on and off the street, climbing on benches, feeling the vibe and energy of lively colours and music. On the way I inquired about a nice quiet beach and for $1.25 the local bus took me to Goodman's Bay, frequented by Bahamians, tranquil and pretty. The wind brought over clouds quite often, so I did not really get to enjoy my swims and the sand. I talked to a lady and her ex-brother in law about cruising, the US, Caribbean, Bahamas for a while, they were living in Philadelphia and NY for now, but were originally from Nassau. They offered me a lift back to the ship and on the way we kept talking about Caribbean food, corruption and history.

So it was a nice encounter all over.


Disembarkation went very smoothly, to my great surprise, as I was used to long waiting lines and times. Also, immigration was made outside the ship, in the terminal building. It was so quick that I had to wait outside for my friend to show up. We split at the same place where we met, I was actually quite sad as I was watching the bench where she was sitting a week before, waiting for me.

The Floyd's hostel seemed decent and Katie and her daughter Nicole were nice. I was a bit contrariated though that my CC was charged in advance (by the time of booking) and I didn't have to sign any bill. I decided to trust my feet and walk to the Art Museum. As in many other US cities (Tampa for instance), the streets were completely empty, no one was walking.

I made my way to the nice waterside promenade the Riverwalk, I watched the fancy boats and the mobile bridge opening and closing above them. The Art Museum proved to be a great idea, I went there looking for a Cuban painter exhibition: Carlos Luna.
combined with Picasso's ceramics. This artist was Adrian's professor in Cuba for a short while, he then immigrated to Mexico and in 2003 to Miami. His works bear then both the mark of the Cuban and Mexican way of life, filled with symbols and even materials (like amate paper and Talavera ceramics). Some were huge and were making a strong impression through their bold colours and shapes too. They convey the sensation of being very lively, filled with passion of all kinds (some were showing Fidel being beheaded).

Another exhibition was following the history of the art in the USA, under the title "Becoming of Age" and showing efforts of national artists to find their individual voice, without copying what was happening in Europe in the field of arts.

My next goal was Las Olas boulevard, which I joined at the end of the Riverwalk promenade. It's a very busy avenue, packed with shops, restaurants and bars, but quite enjoyable and extremely lively and crowded, compared to the empty back streets. I had a nice huge salad with sesame pan seared tuna and mango and I jumped on the old wagon that for $1 takes people to the beach. The sea was a little choppy and not so clear, so I decided to stay put, read my book and enjoy the flavourful air. I knew that shortly after 5 Carnival Splendor should show up, leaving on another cruise.

My apparent loneliness attracted the attention of a younger guy who tried to convince me to get acquainted, which I kindly refused. As I advised him to go check the Art Museum on my way back, he followed me on the beach, trying to start a conversation. I guessed he spoke Spanish and he proved to be Uruguayan. After my happy three months in "el paisito" I couldn't help feeling an instant simpathy, so we ended up deciding to go for a drink or maybe dinner later on. Meanwhile I took a walk on the beach, taking pictures and watching around. I saw a deep blue type of jelly fish, several of them were thrown on the beach by the waves. I found out much later that it was the infamous "Portuguese Man of War", that I was longing to see for a long time. I also think it was a smaller one of them that stung me in Barbados, out of Crane beach, on September 3rd 2003, as I was turning 29.

I ended up having dinner with Aaron, who proved to be a very smart, well mannered and kind person, a bit lonely though. He took me afterwards to the hostel, but we stopped on the way for a bottle of wine and my next morning breakfast. We enjoyed our drink next to some crazy yacht crew members, from the US, Australia, UK and Canada, one from each country. The Australian was so drunk that he was rolling on the ground laughing like crazy every five minutes. I went to bed around 11pm, my roomie was some weird black woman who was working for Macy's and tried to convince me she's some big business planner who just moved back from the North and is thinking about getting together some grand schemes. A-ha!
The poor thing was sleeping with all her suitcases around her, some bags were placed on the bed. I was afraid she might get crazy and try to kill me in my sleep.

I succeeded to wake up in time around 7am and jumped in the shower, by the time I was under I noticed the bathtub needed some serious cleaning. Then, to my horror, a tiny lizzard sprang from the drainage hole, desperately flapping its delicate feet, trying not to get drowned. I jumped out of the shower as fast as I could, washed my feet in the sink and rushed to get dressed and eat something (although I had to fight not to get sick). After I calmed down I ran back to take a picture of the poor creature, that had soap stains all over, I was actually afraid it might damage its delicate skin.

The bus came in time and I reached the airport without any farther surprises.

I found Fort Lauderdale, with its many canals and boats and a seizable downtown much more enjoyable than Miami. My friend Mariana, who lives right next to Fl, in Coral Springs, told me the first time she was in Florida she felt like crossing a long, neverending village, because every town joins another. It's nice for a visit, especially when you come from the snow and chilly winds.

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