Seafood and river cruise

We had no actual plans for Saturday, so we headed out on a mission to find a few things friends had asked us to bring back to Finland. On the same adventure we also did some more shopping for ourselves at Pembroke Lakes Mall and the Shops at Pembroke Gardens. While there we enjoyed a spot of lunch at RA Sushi Bar Restaurant. After lunch and a partly futile search for requested souvenirs we decided to drive back to downtown Fort Lauderdale and check out the Riverwalk. I am sure the Riverwalk would have been a nice experience haven’t it been for all the construction going on. We started at Esplanade Park and checked out the old buildings of History Fort Lauderdale but trying to venture further down the river we had to go around one construction site and once we got back to the river it wasn’t long before we encountered another construction site and decided to turn around and head back to our car.

Opposite bank at the start of Riverwalk
Buildings of History Fort Lauderdale
Buildings of History Fort Lauderdale
Buildings of History Fort Lauderdale
Buildings of History Fort Lauderdale

Saturday evening, we had a dinner reservation at Boatyard. When we arrived at the restaurant and checked in with the hostess, I was a bit taken aback by how loud the restaurant seemed. However, we were seated outside on the patio, which was much quieter so we could actually carry on a conversation while dining. Once again, we kicked off the night with drinks; I tested something called Minty Melon (Absolut grapefruit vodka, jalapeño, watermelon, mint) and hubby stuck to his trusted Dry Martini. For starters we ordered the jumbo lump crab cake with oaxacan mole, avocado crema and sweet corn, and the tuna tacos with yellowfin tuna, mango, hot and sour sauce and crispy wonton. Both were excellent. For mains we chose the grilled bronzino & gulf shrimp with fingerling potatoes and roasted tomato-fennel sauce, and the grouper piccata with wilted spinach, cured tomato, caper berries and lemon chardonnay butter both accompanied with a glass of pinot grigio. The mains were delicious even though the bronzino dish was far too big and I had to leave almost all potatoes uneaten and hubby had to eat a few of the shrimp. The service at Boatyard was friendly and professional, the food was tasty, and the setting was nice, so I would recommend the restaurant for any seafood lover.

My Minty Melon
Crab cake
Tuna tacos
Grilled bronzino & gulf shrimp
Grouper piccata
Boatyard restaurant

On Sunday, we kicked-off the morning with another breakfast at the Courtyard Café after which we returned to Sawgrass Mills as we realized we had forgotten to look for a few clothing items. Our supplement shopping was successful and once back in Fort Lauderdale we had planned to visit Bonnet House. However, when we arrived, we found out that the guided tours were already fully booked until 3:30 pm, which did not fit our schedule as we had a linner (lunch + dinner) reservation already at 4:30 pm. The option would have been to tour the grounds without a guide, but we felt the USD 10.00 price per person to enter the grounds without any access to the house seemed a bit steep, so we skipped the entire experience and headed back to the house. Our linner reservation was at El Camino, one of the two Mexican places we tried unsuccessfully to visit on Friday. The reason for such an early dinner was that we had booked a Holiday Lights Cruise with Riverfront Cruise that started at 7 pm. We started with a couple of margaritas while studying the menu. As we saw food being served at other tables and realized the portions were big, we decided to skip any starters. We ended up ordering a smoked brisket burrito and chihuahua cheese enchiladas. When the food was served, we ordered a second round of margaritas. The food and margaritas were excellent, and the service was super friendly, the only small complaint would be the noise level but that is something you would expect at this type of laid-back place.

Chihuahua cheese enchiladas
Smoked brisket burrito

After dinner we walked to the new river and stopped for a drink on the way at the Royal pig pub. Once we arrived at the riverfront and it was time to board the boat, we were told we should have exchanged our online reservation printout for some kind of chip at the Riverfront Cruise “office”. There were no instructions to do this anywhere (not on the website, the reservation printout nor outside the entrance to the boat), so we were a bit surprised at such a procedure. The man checking the chips was kind enough to let us board the ship and take care of our “registration” for us. We never really understood the purpose of having to get a chip but maybe it was to make the boarding procedure easier for the crew. The cruise itself lasted two hours, there was a cash bar onboard and plenty of upper deck seating. We cruised around on the New River ogling at the houses on the millionaires’ row and their Christmas lights. The cruise was fun, but it would have been interesting to learn something about the area we were cruising in and the houses we saw but I understand the regular 90-minute cruise includes commentary.

Cute hotel spotted on Las Olas
Some houses were really lit up
Lights around palm trees were popular
Some even came with colors
There were some superb mansions

One more Florida post to come.

Seeking sunshine in Florida

Last year, Christmas awarded us three mid-week days off, so by taking a couple of vacation days we managed to get a long enough vacation to seek sunshine a little further afield. Our choice was Florida and more specifically Fort Lauderdale. We had booked a flight for the 24th as this was clearly cheaper than e.g. the 23rd. As we had a super-early morning flight to Munich and further to Miami, we decide to splurge on a hotel night near the airport on the 23rd. We booked a room at Scandic Helsinki Airport. We checked in at the hotel in the early evening and had dinner at the hotel restaurant. The food was good and once our stomachs were full, we did a test walk to the check-in area to see how much time we would need in the morning (the walk took around ten minutes). The following morning, we had an early breakfast at the hotel (they start serving breakfast at 3:30 am, which is really convenient for early flights) and then proceeded to the airport. We will definitely stay at this or some other airport hotel again next time we have a super-early long-haul flight.

Restaurant and bar at Scandic Helsinki Airport
The hotel had some fun decoration ideas
Part of the hotel used to be a police station and the old holding cells had been turned into meeting rooms with various themes.

We arrived in Miami around 5 pm, collected our luggage and picked up our rental car. Before heading to our house in Wilton Manors that we rented through Airbnb we stopped by a grocery store to get some food and other essentials for our stay. We eventually arrived at the house after 8 pm due to some difficulties with finding an open ramp to the interstate (the navigator kept telling us to head to the same closed ramp several times), as well as in finding the house as the navigator refused to recognize the address. Once at the house, we got settled in, unpacked, familiarized ourselves with the house rules, took a shower and had a bit of a bite before hitting the sheets.

Our little house for the week
Master bedroom
Second bedroom that we used for storage
Living area
Dining area

We had decided to spend the following day lounging at the house as it was Christmas Day and we assumed most places would be closed. We started the day with a hearty breakfast and then took a walk around the neighborhood to see where we had landed. It was a residential neighborhood that seemed calm and quiet. Back at the house, we jumped in the car and drove to downtown Fort Lauderdale to have a look around. We drove around for maybe an hour and then headed back to the house for some R&R. We spent the day reading, watching TV, making plans for the week, cooking dinner and enjoying the sunshine in the backyard. We had purchased tickets online for an airboat tour in the Everglades and that’s were we headed the next day, but more on that in my next blogpost.

Found this oasis just around the corner from the house.
Chilling in the backyard

Catastrophic dinner & superb bed

I had booked a room and dinner package at Hotel GLO Sello for last week’s Friday. The hotel has recently been renovated from floor to ceiling, so it was interesting to see the renewed hotel. The room I had chosen was a GLO Tempur room that is equipped with a Tempur bed as we were interested in testing this state-of-the-art bed. We also tested the Chromecast-streaming system available in the room, which turned out to work well for streaming Netflix from my iPad. I also found the divan in the room super-comfy to lounge on. Before it was time to test the bed, we had a dinner to look forward to.

A place to lounge

If the room was a hit, the dinner was anything but. We had a table reservation at the hotel restaurant GLO Grill Kitchen at 8 pm and as we arrived, we noticed two larger groups already seated in the restaurant. Despite this, the restaurant was by no means full. The dinner package included was a three-course menu with two glasses of wine. The menu sounded delicious: starter of Fennel soup and olive chip, main of either Grilled whitefish, shrimp risotto and orange butter sauce or Grilled lamb, herb risotto and port wine sauce and dessert Gingerbread trifle. We both opted for the fish for the main course. We also decided to start off the dinner with an aperitif. The menu came with two glasses of wine, which you could select from the wine menu and for the starter we chose the recommended Chardonnay. While the waiter served us, he said that the food may take a while because there was a rush in the kitchen. This was no problem for us as we were in no hurry and were happy to enjoy the aperitifs without being rushed. But then things started to go pear-shaped.

We were finally served the starter about an hour into our reservation. The server apologized for the wait and said the food should be coming out faster as the biggest rush in the kitchen was letting up. However, this was not the case. Once we had finished our soups, we waited for another hour at which time hubby went to ask the servers when we might expect to be served our mains. The response was that they are just being prepared. This was, however, clearly not the case. It took almost another half an hour before the main course was served. While waiting for the main course a server came to ask which wine we would like with the fish. Then she said that she would recommend white wine, which almost made us burst out in laughter as that is not a wine recommendation in my opinion (we did laugh once she left the table). I noticed she had the wine list in her hand so I said that if I could have a look at the list I could choose, her response was that you have the same list right there on the table. Eventually she managed to recommend a Riesling. When she came back with the bottle, I had to stop her from pouring it in the wine glasses on the table that had already been used to drink another wine. Eventually the mains arrived, and the server said he would ask the kitchen to prepare the desserts right away, he also asked if we would like coffee with the desserts which the restaurant would pay for since we had to wait. As it was 10.45 at night, coffee did not sound like a good idea so I suggested the aperitifs could be comped instead. Once we had finished the mains, we said we would take the dessert up to the room as the restaurant was closing.

Due to the waiting I almost forgot to take a picture of the main so here I had already tucked into the fish

Up in the room we polished off the desserts and settled in for the night. The bed was amazing, I slept so well. All in all, I can say that the hotel was nice and awarded a perfect night’s sleep but the service in the restaurant was something I’ve never experienced before. Luckily, the food itself was quite good, otherwise the disappointment would have been huge. I do understand that the restaurant was busy but regardless, a three-course dinner should not take three hours (I’ve eaten six course menus in three hours). Also, the restaurant has been aware of the number of guests before hand as the large parties must have had table reservations as did we. So, I would recommend the hotel and might even return myself at some point, but the restaurant lost any chance of us ever coming back.

The magical Tempur bed