Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Madeira Beach - a Deja vu

America - the land of contradictions. So many layers I feel it sometimes is impossible to say what is America, and what is an American?

And so it was time for us to leave New York and all our friends behind. A feeling of mixed emotions, sadness and excitement. The knowledge that we had barely scratched the surface and yet that urge to go explore something completely new. A passion we have shared together since that very first trip to the states, to seek and find the real America. So we said our goodbyes to Mikael with that strange feeling, that even if we are seing each other back in Sweden, we will never be able to re-create what we shared anywhere but here.

A rooftop brunch in Brooklyn seemed a fitting end to the N.Y-adventure. A couple of blueberry sangrias and a perfectly executed Eggs Benedicte later, we soon enough were flying into a setting sun against the Manhattan skyline. We arrived in Tampa, Florida, close to midnight and we had just about time to pick up our rental and take off. We picked the closest motel, a La Quinta Inn since we were knackered and just wanted to get some sleep. Before bed we ventured cross the street to a night open IHOP. An old time favorite that I should stay clear off since I'm trying to quit carbs, but hey it's vacation.
So as the subtitle hints you about, we were in for a deja vu. Two of them as a matter of fact. Last year we met this great couple in Key West on a sunset cruise, Rob & Maureen. We spent one night chatting away in a bar and immediately hit it off like we'd known each others for year. They live in Tampa so we made plans to meet up with them before we had to go north. When looking at places to meet up we suddenly realized we were right by the coast and the same beach we stayed on last year, Madeira Beach. We gave Rob and Maureen a call and they were game for meeting up for dinner by the beach. Last summer we found a great little motel sitting right at the beach front so we crossed our fingers and drove out there. Much to our luck we found that the Surfs Inn Motel was vacant.

The Surfs Inn is a fantastic spot. The beach is beautiful and right outside your door. You wake up and you get right into the ocean. The inn itself is a rather rundown place and the staff have their ups and downs as far as service goes. That's not why you stay there though. Its strength is the people who stay there. People that have walked the walk of life and always have a story they are willing to share. At night by the pool they gather, they drink and they talk. Since it's on the west coast you can watch the sun set into the ocean and then talk the night away before the sunrise chases away the last diehards, for a few hours of rest. Last year we met awesome friends there and I was hoping by some chance they might also be there still. Never gone. Before dinner we walked down to John's pass, a gathering of surf shops, bars and other beach related shops. Crossing one of the bridges we caught a glimpse of our first ever free living dolphins. Super cool! While shopping around for useless knick knacks we got the call that Rob and Maureen was on the way so we hurdled back home.

We met up with them at the hotel and right away we were catching up. We shared some drinks by the pool before getting dinner at nearby Screwi Louie's. A typical beach shack with an outdoor patio and cocktails served in plastic mugs. Right up my alley. It was a great dinner with great conversations. Such a fantastic way for us to learn about the american culture from the people living in it. The night continued pool side as is custom at the Surfs Inn until they eventually had to make the drive back. A warm welcome to the south with good food, good stories and great friends. Hope to see y'all soon,


Thursday, July 5, 2012

New York - part 5

Last day in New York means time to go out with a bang! It also means I'm gonna try to summarize the Brooklyn experience compared to Manhattan. I drive my wife crazy sometimes with my comparisons. Guess that's just how I'm wired. I enjoy comparing Brooklyn with Manhattan in the same way I enjoy comparing the guitar styles of Jimi Hendrix and Angus Young. Also maybe you who read this will find it useful if you decide to go here. So here goes and please forgive if I'm repeating myself. Brooklyn is in many ways a contrast to Manhattan. It's quieter which some people might enjoy, myself I love the noise. It's not as available since it's mainly residential. This however is not only a bad thing. It invites you to explore in a different way to find your favorite places. It's less pretentious and now this I find very refreshing at times, since I am not very impressed with people showing of f lifestyle and money. It has a slower pace than Manhattan and in many ways feels more genuine. Manhattan on the other hand is... well it's Manhattan! Nothing in the world can compare to it. The feeling when you find some secret roof top party makes you feel like you're in on a secret. The best thing is you dont have to pick one. If you want a cheaper stay and a good nights sleep pick Brooklyn and do take time to explore it while you are there. If you want action at your door step, pay the extra dollar and pick Manhattan. Having stated that i want to add to the protocol before moving on, that we got the best of two worlds this time. We had a blast! Now on with the story...

Last day and finally some sightseing as promised. Our first stop was something I had high expectations on. The high line park is an old above-street-level railway thoughtfully re-designed as a public park. It's architects have taken advantage of the "natural" elements of the structure and created awesome breathing holes for the stressed out citizens. Along the length of the park, art created by artists as well as people just living there, contribute to the over all feel. How rare is it not that something this wondeful is created for people to enjoy for free in a place where land probably has the highest market price in the world.
We walked the full length of the high line and got off in the north end. From there we had one more tourist thing to do, Grand Central. New Yorks central station is an epic piece of architecture. It's design is grand yet simple and clean. Featured in so many movies it is a must see. We also got to see the new apple store in there. Pretty neat allthough I think it's a little out of place.

As our day was coming to an end we got ready for our last night out. We had made plans to meet up with Ian. Our friends back home in Sweden who know Ian had told us a night out with him is a experience in it's own. Mikael and Ian already knew each other so we decided to all meet up at Union Pool, again. Ian was such a character. He is one of those guys who enter a room and just becomes the center of attention. I mean this only in a good way. And as Mikael told me later, he makes you feel like an old friend in ten minutes. Ian being one of the few born and raised New Yorkers took us on a roller coaster ride through Williamsburg. He'd constantly point out a place or a house and tell some story about it, and all the sudden the area felt so muchmore home like. It's like his anecdotes added a certain warmth to otherwise anonymous neighbourhoods.

I cant recall in what order certain events took place but here are some of the things we managed in a night. We bowled. We played pool. We had dinner in a restaurant featured in sex in the city. We visited rooftop bars, regular bars and somewhere along the line I finally got my bagel. I think it's one more of those nights better kept as a memory then described in text. I can share with you a careful selection of pictures though.