Sunday, June 25, 2017

6 Day Break in Florida

Been back in Trinidad for a couple of weeks now with a six months visa. Just 6 days in Florida, what were we thinking?! It was a mad, mad rush driving from one place to another. Picking up boat parts, shopping for boat stuff, sorting out banking issues and sadly no time for sightseeing; not even the beach, but.. most importantly we made time to stock up on chocolate! {priorities!}

Just for fun, I'm going to describe our Day 0 in numbers. 
- 10.06.2017 was the day we flew out from Port of Spain (POS) to Miami (MIA).
- 3½ hours was how long our flight from POS, Trinidad was delayed.
- 22:30 was when we arrived in Miami.
- 1 hour was how long it took us to pick up our rental car.
- 370 km was the distance we drove from Miami to Sarasota.
- 03:57 was when we arrived at our accommodation in Sarasota.
There you have it. A day in numbers ;)

Our rental car in Florida (from Budget)
Day 1: Still exhausted from the day the before. We decided to take it easy and had a relaxing day. We checked out the supermarkets in the area such as Whole Foods, Publix and Trader Joes {we really enjoy checking out supermarkets}. Look at the lovely selection of fruits! We indulged ourselves with nectarines, apricots and cherries!

Fruits galore @ Whole Foods
Just a photo of all the beers available and possible bottle caps!
p/s: I love taking photos of bottle caps I find on the streets (but none this time)
{Like kids in a candy store} We also bought a slab of Alaskan wild caught sockeye salmon, asparagus, corn, crackers, brie with mushroom, hard salami & liverwurst for dinner!

Salami, Brie with Mushroom, Crackers and Liverwurst
Home cooked Wild Caught Sockeye Salmon - Yum!
Day 2: We drove up to Clearwater Bay (near Tampa) which is approximately 94 km north of Sarasota in search of a fabric store that Alex found online. We were looking for a very specific material called Serge Ferrari Precontraint to make a new sail drive leg cover. 

As luck would have it, they did not have the colour we wanted in store but we found an offcut piece for just $10/yard albeit in an awful light green! Oh well, we were happy we saved $20/yard and even got some free remnants of Sunbrella material to make cushion covers! 

Somewhere in Tampa
That evening, we drove back to Sarasota for dinner with our friend Jim, whom we met in Sabah, Malaysia several years ago and met his lovely wife Tamara. It was a delightful evening and we also had a deliciously home made pasta meal in their beautiful home. Thank you both so very much for accommodating us. Our time in Sarasota was wonderful.

Day 3: We made a quick stop at West Marine, a chandlery in Sarasota before heading back to Miami but didn't find anything we really needed as we had already bought most of what we wanted online and shipped to ourselves here in Sarasota and Miami.

Our airbnb accommodation in North Miami
We got to Miami at 7pm, picked up the keys to our accommodation and went for dinner at Capri Japanese & Italian restaurant. About a week before our trip, I was hoping we could find some good deals like we did last year. Read our 'Groupon Our Travel Buddy' post.

We were very excited when we found a deal for a Japanese restaurant although it's really a Japanese & Italian restaurant. But the reviews for the sushi were good so we went ahead with the purchase anyway.  

Unfortunately, the sushi was like mush! Maybe they had a bad night, maybe we were unlucky, maybe we should've known when we were the only customers there, maybe it was their first time serving customers food with broken porcelain, who knows.. but we were definitely disappointed with the food and service.

Coral Gables - Nice Neighbourhood
Day 4 & 5: The mad rush begins, when 24 hours a day is just not enough. The days we spent trying (in vain) to sort out our banking issues. Last year Alex opened an account with Capital One bank in New York. Little did we know that there are no Capital One branches in Florida. So having transferred some funds from Australia to his Capital One account, we wanted to get some cash out for our travels in the Caribbean. You'd think it would be an easy task! But our experience proved otherwise..

We spent two days running around from bank to bank, talking to Bank Tellers, calling Customer Service & the bank's Fraud Team.  

Here's what we learnt: 

- You cannot easily transfer funds from one bank to another (within the US).
- You cannot easily transfer funds from one person to another.
- You cannot rely on what Customer Service tells you.
- You cannot withdraw cash over the counter via "cash advance" with your debit card (despite what Customer Service suggests). 
- The withdrawal limit at the ATM per day is only $610 for Capital One bank, and of course they have no ATMs in Florida, so you will be charged lots of fees to use another Bank's ATM.
- The bank can put your money transfer on hold for up to 10 days.
- If you try to transfer your money out of the bank to someone other than yourself the Fraud Team freezes your account ... in fact if you do almost anything, the Fraud Team freezes your account. Ours was frozen 3 times in just 2 days - each time necessitating a call to the bank, and a lengthy wait to speak to someone.

You can, however, get cashback at stores e.g. Home Depot (max $50), Walmart (max $100), Aldi (max $200) per transaction. And it seems this is considered a "purchase", so does not count towards your max daily withdrawal amount.

What's a cashback? "It's a service offered by stores to its customers whereby an amount is added to the total purchase price of a transaction paid by debit card and the customer receives that amount in cash along with the purchase." {but I'm sure you already know this}

What we think of 'em banks
Perhaps if we had more time in US, we could have found a better solution. But since our time was limited..

Here's what we did:

- Used cashback option at the stores.
- Bought money orders at the US Post Office (USPS) and had a friend cash it for us.

A lot of time, effort, research, merry-go-round, trial and error to get our cash but very glad we managed to sort it out in time.

In between all that, we bought a mixing elbow for our Yanmar engine, a pulley for our alternator (near Fort Lauderdale), and chocolates (from Aldi) lots of it! :)

So busy running around, we missed a couple of meals but we were able to grab a late lunch at DA Burger Shack on Day 4.

DA Bomb Burger
Groupon Deal - $7.50 for $20 value at DA Burger Shack
9753 Southwest 72nd Street, Miami, FL 33173
For $20, we ordered two DA Bomb burgers with fries and drinks! DA Bomb is topped with sauteed onions, pepper jack cheese, apple smoked bacon, lettuce, avocado, tomato, chipotle mayo, and jalapenos. The patty was nice and thick, but slightly overdone and avocados were crunchy.

Didn't have time for lunch on Day 5, but we managed to have dinner at Spris Artisan Pizza, located at South Beach. A nice place to people watch.

Lincold Rd, South Beach
Groupon Deal - $13 for $25 value
731 Lincoln Rd, Miami Beach, FL 33139
Day 6: 16th June, our last day in Miami. We met up with Mike (a long time family friend) at the US Post Office to sort out the money orders/cash and went to Sushi Express by Yakko San for lunch. I wish we had asked Mike on places to eat in Miami earlier! Would've eaten here everyday! A lovely catch up and meal to end our trip.

Thanks Mike for all your help!
Sushi Express by Yakko San, 17040-46 W Dixie Hwy, North Miami Beach

Us at the airport. Goodbye Miami!
Our flight departed Miami on time at 17:40, we arrived in Port of Spain at 22:30. Thankful we went through Immigration and Customs with no issues. Crazy as it may sound, but I was kinda glad to be back from our 6 day "break" cum visa run.


  1. It was so good to see you both in Miami! Next time, stay longer!

    1. It was really good to see you too! Next time.. hopefully we'll get to Key West! ;)



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