Continued from parts , , ,  and . (And you thought I had forgotten all about it - hehehehe.)
Using the guide maps, we charted a course to South Beach. Till we got to Miami Downtown, everything went as per plan - we weren't making fabulous time but we were at least moving. However, once we got to downtown, we got stuck in the biggest traffic jam ever. Downtowns of any big city are well-known for traffic snarls. But Miami's absolutely unruly drivers made it much worse.
We barely moved. The tangles of lines of cars seemed like a gigantic immobile snake. Some construction on the right-most lane just added to the confusion and made it worse. Driver D had a tough time keeping her cool as she tried to adjust to the traffic rules according to Miami (next post on that).
Meanwhile, the first pangs of hunger began to assail us. When we had left Everglades around 4.00p, S had enquired about food. Smarty-pants me had scoffed at her - "Already?" little noting that it was actually some 5 hours since we had had breakfast and of course, nothing else after that. We had been thinking of a sumptuous dinner at South Beach and we should be there around 6.00p at the maximum, right?
Well at 6.00p we had move about 10 feet from the place we had been at 5.30p viz. middle of downtown Miami. By now the hunger pangs had burgeoned into "I cannot think of anything but food" pangs. I started to torture myself (and others) by listing all the food items I wanted to eat at that point in time. S and D were too famished to beat me up and just asked me to shut up (did not work). There was nothing to eat in the car. Thoughts of abandoning the car right there on the road and going in search of food were beginning to form in our heads.
Finally we had inched forward to an intersection where we could turn right (we were stuck on the rightmost but one lane). We realized that Gloria Estefan's Cuban restaurant Bongos was somewhere along that road and took the turn. Yup, we soon reached the driveway to the restaurant and happily parked the car in the parking lot. The suspiciously empty parking lot lodged some doubts but we pushed them away and walked up to the huge restaurant.
The menu outside featured lots of veggie items. Yaay! Now, if only they would let in people dressed as super-casually as us (with me leading the "Yaay, I look like a homeless person" list). Our hunger guards had come down by now and we were ready to plead to be let inside if necessary!
The restaurant door was open - we pushed our way in. There were a total of some 5 people inside the restaurant - all of them behind the bar. Apparently the restaurant was actually closed due to it being christmas :-(! Oh no!
There was nothing to do but curse our bad luck and trudge back to the car. We were back into the never-moving traffic. After fifteen more minutes of crawling we hit the A1A expressway which took us to the beaches.
The travelling was okay till we got close to Ocean Dr, our destination. There we got stuck in another huge traffic jam. Another 20 minutes of crawling and we were finally reached Ocean Drive. Once we hit it, we turned right instead of left as we had originally wanted to. We just wanted to get out of the car ASAP! By some miracle we found a parking spot. We dug out all the coins we had to put inside the parking meter and then set off towards Ocean Drive.
There were lots and lots of open-air restaurants lining the left side of the road. We grinned smugly at the cars still caught in the traffic jam. At the same time we were almost fainting with hunger - it was now close to eight hours since we had last seen food. At the first restaurant where we could find more than one veggie dish, we decided to eat.
First came the bread. Ah, never has bread tasted so good in my life. We literally gobbled it down. The Bruschetta appetizer lasted lesser than the time it takes to blink. The main course then arrived. We had just begun eating forkfuls of pasta when the most fitting end to our excellent evening happened. It started to rain!
In two nimble hops I leaped away from my open-air seat to under the awning on the other side. The usher (whose spot was right behind our table) jokingly held the menu open over D and S heads and urged them to stay put. But they too were contemplating following my lead. Now what?
Of course, the open-air restaurants were very well prepared for the unpredictable Miami weather. In a matter of few minutes, they had rolled out canvas roofs over our heads and we continued our dinner in peace :-)! Outside it poured without a break - we were thankful that we had made it to the restaurant before the skies opened up!
We had an extremely leisurely dinner complete with dessert and coffee. But the rain decided to not stop ever. After seeing that it showed no signs of letting up, we decided to run back to our car in the rain - after all, sleeping in the restaurant was not a viable option!
We borrowed some plastic bags from the waiter. I stuffed my handbag into one of the covers and S stuffed her bag into another. We all took a deep breath and off we were, running in the rain.
Florida rain is much nicer to get drenched in than California rain. It was warm and fun :-). We ran, giggling, to our car. All of a sudden, I could only hear the patter of my feet and no sound of S and D. I stopped, puzzled and turned around - to see S and D stopped someway behind me. S was clutching her knees and laughing and D was grinning at me. S gasped, "Oh Archu, you so look like a homeless person running like that in your shorts clutching your belongings in a plastic bag". Hmph X-(! Thanks girls!
Anyways, we finally reached the car, not completely drenched but pretty wet nevertheless. All our plans of walking up and down Collins Ave had to be dumped unceremoniously. Instead we just decided to drive down the street. We saw a couple of designer stores. But the rain and the resulting even worse traffic was making it difficult to enjoy it too much. So we just decided to get back to the hotel.
As usual, we got lost a bit and finally made it back. For the second night in a row, we trudged back to the hotel, wet and dishevelled, looking like something even a cat wouldn't bother with.
The night was still young - so we got down to doing what girls do best. Talk :-)! We talked and we talked - what we thought of excessive PDA (eeeew - ugh, Ugh, UGH!), why most guys drool sooooooo much over Salma Hayek (no conclusion) and other such topics of international significance :-P! By the time our eyes began to actually close by themselves, it was some unearthly hour.
The dawn of the next day would bring us to the last day of vacation ...