Hello and TGIF! How has your week been? Tom and I are back in France so let’s catch up a bit…
Ahhh Florida… it keeps getting harder and harder to leave, especially when the weather is so nice. I hadn’t been to Florida in the off-season in years and I forgot how comfortable a Florida winter could be. Temps were around 80 and the winter sun felt so good. Even the cooler morning breeze. Maybe I’m not such a hater of warm weather after all.
I thought it would feel weird experiencing the holiday season in shorts with the sun shining because I grew up in New Jersey with frigid winter temperatures, but it didn’t feel strange at all. My holiday norms have changed over the past 6 years I’ve been in France, so jetting off to Florida for a warm Thanksgiving was just the new normal.
We played mini golf in t-shirts listening to Christmas music while drinking wine and nothing felt off. You don’t need the cold winter weather you grew up with to enjoy holiday time with family and friends.
What we were up to in Florida
We didn’t have any grand plans while visiting family. The plan was just to enjoy ourselves — and we did. My parents moved at the very end of the summer to a town not far from where they were before, so it was our first time seeing their new house. The highlight for us was the pool! Nothing like splashing around under the sun in November.
We covered a lot of ground exploring new-to-us areas and going back to places we’d been. Below is the waterfront area in Downtown Stuart at sunset.
We took advantage of the Palm Beach Outlet deals as well as the sales at the regular mall and online. I even found some Nike sneakers on clearance that came out to be only $19! Tom got some shirts and pants for work and we both got some cozy winter sweaters perfect for the chilly temps ahead.
We also enjoyed the great outdoors and were reminded at every turn that Florida is home to all kinds of interesting species. We saw snakes while out walking my cousin’s dogs, as well as a few alligators, interesting birds, turtles, and frogs.
Thanksgiving dinner was a highlight, of course. Well, for me, maybe dessert was the star. Like this pumpkin cake. I love pumpkin pie too and a slice of each finished the delicious meal perfectly. We had a small Thanksgiving with just my parents, brother and sister-in-law and her family, and my cousin. But it felt complete in every way.
Another highlight for me was going to cycling classes at Cyclebar. It’s a cycling studio that offers some of the most challenging — yet fun — classes around complete with free clip-in shoe rentals, water, and a beautiful space in which to ride. My first time at a class was last Thanksgiving in Pennsylvania so I was looking forward to going back this year in Florida. I hadn’t worked that hard since my last Cyclebar class (which is saying a lot because I regularly push myself hard)! The workout is no joke, so if you enjoy cycling and want to be pushed to your limits, check them out!
We enjoyed some aqua aerobics under the sun as well as some good old-fashioned swimming. It was so refreshing to be able to let loose in an outdoor pool in the winter. I hadn’t done that in a while.
Some USA observations
The longer I live abroad, the more I notice on return trips back to the USA. Not sue any of the things I mentioned have changed drastically since last year when I visited, but they just stand out to me more since I’m used to how things are done in France.
Here are a few random things I noticed:
- South Florida has the highest concentration of new luxury cars out of anywhere I’ve ever visited. From Bentleys to Rolls-Royces and McLarens and Corvettes, a trip to Florida will leave any car enthusiast’s head spinning with delight. My fave? Well, the “cheap” Lexus RX hybrid is my favorite at the moment. 🙂 I think we saw about 10/day.
- I love (and miss) the variety of pretty much everything in stores, especially grocery stores. When running to Publix to grab some last-minute tortilla chips for Thanksgiving, I was dazzled by all the options. Organic, quinoa, chia seed this and that. Lime, sea salt, chili, whatever. I love having options and there was no shortage of them!
- Sales around this time of year are on point. We got so many great deals!
- There are so many overweight people. And how could their not be? Food is everywhere all the time. It’s hard to be mindful of our food choices when we’re constantly able to grab whatever we want on the go. While multitasking. At any time of the day.
- Waiters realllllly work hard for tips. At any given meal out, I think we were checked on by the staff no fewer than 3 times. It was almost jarring at times since that is not at all the case in France (they don’t work for tips here!).
- Wine prices are insane! OK, maybe not insane, but wine by the glass gets expensive when you’re out real fast. Forget about a pichet of the house rose for 5 euros. Wines are easily $10/glass and up at places we visited. I can get a whole bottle for that price here. I love the food/wine culture in France. Can’t say that enough.
- Casual and chatty nature of people. This is a good thing. People are happy to chat you up and take their time. The general friendliness makes me happy. Here’s an example of a casual exchange. A sales person at Lids caught Tom by surprise when he was picking up a gift for our niece. He walks into the store (after waiting in the parking lot — at least he saw a nice sunset, pic below — for 30 minutes because the mall was evacuated due to a gun sale gone wrong, but that’s another story) and hears the cashier say, “What’s up, boss?” Tom figured he was talking to the other guy next to him, maybe his boss? Nope, the guy repeats himself and looks in Tom’s direction. Hahha. Probably not the type of greeting you’d ever hear in France in that situation…
Getting down to MIA and back to France
We took the Tri-Rail from West Palm Beach down to Miami International Airport. The train covers Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dad counties and was a super-easy, economical option. At only $6.90/person for one way with about about 2 hours of travel time, it can’t be beat. If you’re looking for a luxury experience, the Tri-Rail isn’t it, though. Seats are a little tattered and the train can get busy with commuters at rush hour, but for a reliable way to get to MIA (or anywhere on the way), I highly recommend it. They even offer free Wi-Fi! We’ll be taking the Tri-Rail next time for sure.
Our return trip from South Florida to France was about as easy as they come. Empty airports, half-full night flights with no delays or lost baggage. I slept the entire flight and I never have jet lag in the west to east direction. Even Mother Nature welcomed us home with the gift of snow (seriously, I love winter). As I type this, I’m looking out the window at our neighbors’ roofs covered with a dusting of snow. Beautiful and sure beats rain!
Oui In France Shop news
In case you missed it, I launched a new design for those of you out their who left your heart in France! Be sure to SHOP EARLY to avoid shipping delays.
Shop the tank below here.
The new design is available on all of my products, so grab a t-shirt, tank, mug, wall art, or tote for that Francophile on your list!
To guarantee holiday delivery, flat rate shipping will no longer get your order to you in time. If you’re in the USA, please select USPS First Class Mail for your shipping option by Dec. 8 and if you’re in Europe/NZ/AUS/CAN, be sure to select Int’l Priority with Tracking (deadline today, otherwise FedEx Int’l Economy by Dec. 4).
Thank you for your support!