A long weekend in Fort Lauderdale was just what we needed to escape the cold and gloom of Feb. After school on Thursday we did some scrambling, dropped the dog at a friend’s house, and dropped JumpStart Jill at work, before driving 3 hours south to Raleigh.
On a snow day, 3 weeks ago, I planned our escape, which was mostly paid for with miles and points, earned travel hacking with credit cards. Read about planning the trip here. We took advantage of Starwood points, platinum Starwood status, Southwest miles, and the Southwest companion pass.
In Raleigh, we stayed at the Fairfield Inn and Suites, by the airport. The room was nice and spacious, with a view overlooking I-40. The windows did a good job of blocking out the sound of the traffic, but the beds were not comfortable. Luckily we were only using the hotel to position ourselves for our early 6:40 AM flight, Friday morning. We left too early to take advantage of the free breakfast. The Fairfield Inn has an airport shuttle, but I decided that it would be simpler and faster on the ride home, if I paid the $21 parking fee at the airport.
A shuttle arrived quickly in the long term parking lot, we got through security smoothly, and we found our way to the appropriate Southwest gate. Last year we behaved like amateurs on Southwest Airlines, and as a result sat separately for all our flights. This year was different, and I have learned my lesson. Thursday morning at 6:40 AM (exactly 24 hours ahead of our flight), I was prepared with a computer for Mrs JS’s boarding pass, and a cell phone for mine. I repeatedly hit refresh, and then clicked the check-in button as soon as it popped up. Our boarding assignments were B3 and B9, on the totally full plane.
Southwest doesn’t assign seats, and you pick what is left when you board. One third of the passengers boarded before us, but we grabbed 2 isle seats in the same row, and they were reasonably close to the front of the plane. The direct flight was quick and uneventful. We walked out of the airport, and jumped in a taxi. 15 minutes and $28 later we walked into the Fort Lauderdale hotel at 9:30 AM Friday morning.
I had requested an early check in time of 10 AM with my platinum Starwood status. The clerk began by thanking me for my loyalty. It always cracks me up, because I have hardly spent any money at hotels. Unfortunately, our room wasn’t ready yet. She asked if I wanted a late checkout, but we didn’t need it, and declined. She offered to store our bags, and said we could use a voucher this morning for free breakfast. She verified our phone number, and promised to call when the room was ready.
Instead of hotel breakfast, we took a stroll up the boardwalk. Back in Virginia, it was 2nd period, and time for my AP PHY class to take an electricity quiz. It felt like the perfect time to tag a student, and tweet a pic of me in the sunshine, with the ocean in the background. I am certain my students back home appreciated the picture.
I have a theory about how quickly hotels rooms become ready for check-in. My theory is that as you get farther from the hotel, the room becomes more likely to be ready. If you hang around the hotel, you won’t check in until 4. Walk 3 miles away from the hotel, and they’ll call with an available room.
It isn’t a good theory, but I choose to live by it.
We walked north up the boardwalk, and then west across the drawbridge, until we found a spot for breakfast. Myapapaya Juicery and Kitchen is next door to a Publix grocery store. I ordered breakfast tacos with spicy refried beans, and Mrs. JumpStart had a breakfast sandwich. It was a pretty good breakfast, and cost $18.
Throughout breakfast, I was hoping we would get the call from the hotel. I’d fill my backpack with drinks and snacks from Publix, walk back, and check into our room. My theory didn’t work out this time, and maybe we should have walked farther than 1.6 miles from the hotel.
We gave up, and walked back to the hotel with an empty backpack. Mrs. JumpStart was about to
use a Jedi mind trick ask for a time estimate, when I realized I had just missed a call 5 minutes earlier. Our room was ready before 11:30, and we checked into room 1002, in the south tower.
Our room was very nice, and had a luxurious feel. It had a nice tiled shower, comfortable mattress, and bedding. There were robes, a coffee maker, and a chair for lounging. It even had one of my favorite things in a hotel. I love an empty fridge. It is so annoying trying to fit my $1 drinks into a fully stocked mini-bar, beside their $7 drinks.
It didn’t have a balcony, but it did have a sliding door that opened to a railing. Our view faced the pool at the north tower and the ocean.
I do have one complaint about the hotel room, and it must be a Fort Lauderdale phenomenon. Fort Lauderdale tourists must not care about privacy, and desire bathrooms that are exposed to the hotel room.
Last year at The W, there was a glass window to the shower beside the 2 double beds. We were traveling with the whole family, and it was incredibly awkward for a teen-ager sitting on the bed 2 feet away from a shower curtain covering a window to their parent in the shower. I can almost understand the shower glass window thing, except why would it be in a room with two beds?
This year at the Westin, there is a large louvered bi-fold shutter that opens up a window to a view of the sink and toilet. Even the bathroom door was a louver style with cracks and no privacy. I went to the deserted bathroom by the conference center ball room, on a couple of occasions. I don’t understand why Fort Lauderdale architects can’t put opaque sound-proof walls around their bathrooms. With the shutter open, I still couldn’t see the ocean from the toilet. So why bother? I just don’t get it, and I can’t believe I’m writing about bathroom privacy again. Anyway…
We decided to hang out by the pool, for a couple hours. The weather was great, and it feels amazing sitting in the sunshine, in February. The chairs were nice, and they issued us a card to check out towels. We didn’t brink suntan lotion, but they had a complementary sun screen pump by the towel desk. Waitresses were running around taking drink and lunch orders from the bar, but we resisted. The picture below is the view from my pool chair, and our hotel room window is in the top middle of the tower.
The restaurants along the boardwalk are definitely of the expensive tourist-trap model. I chose an inland neighborhood restaurant, and ordered an Uber to drive us to dinner. We threw tennis shoes in the backpack, and planned on walking back to the hotel. I thought we would drive up Las Olas Blvd, but the driver veered off to a northern side street, and drove us through a section of town, that I would never walk with my wife through. He turned back south, and we were closing in on the destination, when we entered Himarshee Village. It looked really cool, and I told the driver to let us out there.
We walked through the Himarshee block, and took a wrong turn that led us into a residential neighborhood. We wandered around a while, and then returned along the riverwalk.
After about a half hour of
being lost wandering, we ended up where we started, without ever spotting the original chosen restaurant destination.
The Himarshee Public House had a crowded bar but, we managed to get a table at the corner of the side walk. It was happy
hour, and they were serving 2 for 1 drinks. We got an even number of drinks, PH potatoes, and chicken croquets. The service, drinks, and potatoes were great, and the croquets were OK. The bill was 32$ before tip.
We walked 3 miles home back across the drawbridge, with a stop for drinks and snacks for the hotel fridge. It was about 10:00. We were tired, and we fell asleep quickly.