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Lauderdale By the Sea

I have two free flight vouchers. Wanna go to Florida for Labor Day weekend?

That’s what Amber asked me. Amber and I have been friends since college, we were roommates at BGSU. We lost touch for a short time, but true friendships always find their way back to each other and we’re closer now than ever. Life is funny that way.

Florida huh? I don’t even like Florida- it’s too hot.

“Sure, let’s go!” Free flight? An opportunity to go to a town I’ve never been to? “Yep. I’m in”. I need to take last minute trips and step out of my comfort zone. That’s what my counselor says. I really want to do fun things, but I also don’t want to leave my house and that’s not healthy. So we went. Amber planned the whole trip, which was great for me, because it’s usually me doing all of the vacation planning. Our destination was Lauderdale By the Sea, a little town about 7 miles north of Ft. Lauderdale and right on the beach. It’s Amber’s happy place, she’s been there before and loves it.

There isn’t much to say about our flights through Frontier other than we had an hour delay taking off from Akron Canton airport. I only have one small criticism of the airline and it’s only because the gate clerk could have made a simple announcement at the boarding time that “we are diagnosing a possible mechanical issue and have a delay” “or “the flight crew has reported a delay, but we don’t have any other info at this time” but instead, she waited until after the actual flight time had passed, with no boarding call, to say “we don’t know anything about the delay at this point, so there is no need to continue to come up to the desk to ask”. Personally, I thought that was unprofessional. Flights were smooth and uneventful otherwise and our flight crew was the epitome of professionalism.


After arriving safely at Ft. Lauderdale airport around 2pm, we picked up our rental car and then drove through Ft. Lauderdale to Lauderdale by the Sea, down A1A (“beachfront avenue!” - Ice, Ice Baby reference, get it?). Amber snagged our car through Economy for only $10/day. I still can’t believe it. How she got that deal, I have no idea. She thought it was a mistake- but that was the price!

Lauderdale by the Sea is a very walkable town with lots of bars, restaurants, shops, and live music all within walking distance of our motel and the beach was only 1 block away. Our vacation rental was fantastic. Let’s start with that. Aqualina Apartments (Beach Aqualina Apartments on Google Maps), is a smaller beach motel that has been converted to suites. Kris, our host, was a wonderfully friendly man with a strong European accent. He originates from Poland and he and his wife own The Aqualina. Kris and his wife lived in New York and came down for a vacation, and they knew it would be their retirement plan. I admire their plan, it’s working great for them. They bought it four years ago and have remodeled and maintained a truly beautiful and comfortable boutique hotel for their guests. It is a gated community, so without a code, you could not get in. Which made us feel very safe. Our room was basically a studio apartment with two queen beds, a kitchenette, two large closets and a full bath. But it was thoughtfully decorated and supplied with anything we might need for our stay. The Aqualina included smart small touches to make our stay even more convenient, like a clothesline in the shower and sunblock and aloe vera gel next to the pool. There were k-cups and creamer already in our room, so all we had to grab were a few snacks and a toothbrush one of us forgot to pack. Such little things, but when you’re on vacation those mean a lot.

We unpacked and got settled in and headed down to Aruba Cafe for a bite to eat and a couple of Key Lime Martini’s, which are not on the menu- but if you have the right bartender, they are made to order and delicious! We were there before the dinner rush and found out we were just in time for Happy Hour so we ordered a couple of items from the appetizer menu and relaxed while looking at the ocean from inside in the air conditioning because it was in the mid 90’s, 90% humidity (that might be an exaggeration), and no breeze. I was melting. Aruba Cafe is a fun place. There are 3 bars inside, all of them full with standing room only, then bistro tables in the upper bar area (where we were) plus dining tables throughout the inside as well as lots of patio seating outside and even a half dozen tables on the beach itself. They had entertainment on Friday afternoon and it continued well into the night time hours as well. Good food.

We meandered around checking out what other places were around and decided to slide into 101 Ocean for another drink. Luckily, we got two seats at the bar just in time for “last call” of Happy Hour and got our drinks and a couple more appetizers for half off! Really good food, and great service there. No air conditioning but there were fans moving the air luckily. We enjoyed watching the never ending stream of overly surgeoned women of South Florida flirting with white haired men. That was our entertainment and it was fantastic. Amber and I have very similar senses of humor, so we entertained ourselves for over an hour just people watching.

With full bellies and a little buzz, we walked the neighborhood and then plopped our butts into a couple of brightly colored adirondack chairs in Anglin’s Square so we could listen to the chatter from the restaurant patios and listen to some of the live music streaming from open windows of the bars nearby and finish our drinks, which we could do outside, because Anglin’s square is part of the Lauderdale By the Sea’s DORA (Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area). Eventually, the exhaustion of the day caught up with us and we walked back to our hotel and tucked in for the night.


Our first morning in Lauderdale we enjoyed our coffee under the tiki hut overlooking our pool while the ocean breeze blew and we planned our day. Of course, it’s Florida, so we had a little rain burst shortly after our coffee and lounged around a little before getting ready for the day. We had no pressing plans and only one later reservation so we could take our time and do whatever we wanted. We walked over to Dollar Tree. I don’t remember what we needed, but we left with a pool noodle and grabbed Chinese takeout from Sushi Runner next door. We ate a little and then plopped into the pool for a few hours to enjoy the sun and perfect 86 degree temperature with the merciful ocean breeze that we had not experienced the day before. We met a couple that was also staying in the hotel, from Baltimore, and chatted with them for a couple of hours before Amber screamed “NO!!!” and jumped out of the pool scared to death. Turns out, a three foot long iguana decided he needed to take a little dip and hang out in the pool with us too. He jumped in right behind me (like we were friends) and then proceeded to swim over to the opposite end of the pool so as not to bother us, just to share a little common paradise. Neither I, nor anyone else in the pool felt like sharing, so we got out and let him enjoy the water on his own for a bit. Eventually he got out and sunbathed on the ledge before disappearing. Amber and I took this opportunity to get our showers and get ready for dinner at Season 52 to meet her local family for dinner.

I’m just gonna say it. I wore a dress. I don’t normally like to wear them. Especially when it’s hot out. My legs stick together and I get sweaty. It’s gross and not feminine at all. And I’m usually uncomfortable which makes me even less graceful than normal. But I wore one anyway, and I survived. So maybe I’ll try it again sometime lol. Season 52 has a very large wine menu and we arrived early after handing over the keys to our rental to the valet. Our rental was a Hyundai Accent and in true tourist fashion, Amber told the valet “Don’t scratch the paint, it’s a rental” as he rolled his eyes after just parking a Rolls Royce. We are so fun, I swear. We just walk around amusing ourselves. We grabbed a glass of wine at the bar while we waited for the rest of our party to arrive. We had wonderful food and talked for a couple of hours in between Tuna Tartar, perfectly seared Scallops and the Key Lime Dessert chaser. After dinner, we changed into more casual clothes and walked down to Commercial Blvd to catch some live music and have another drink or two.

We decided on Mulligan’s Beach House, because the singer was a little bit country with a unique voice and she was fantastic. The bartender told us to sit outside because the fans were blowing and it was cooler, so we did. That’s where we met Bob. Bob is a 71 year old retiree who lives in Lauderdale By the Sea who bartends down the street 3-4 days a week and is a regular at Mulligans. He was such a sweet man and we enjoyed chatting with him until he abruptly shouted “Holy shit! What time is it?” By now it was at least 9:30pm and dark outside to which he replied “I’m supposed to be on a date right now! I completely forgot. Oh no, Oh no, Oh no. I’m in deep shit.” We were like, Oh no Bob- you better call her! Then he goes, “Wait, what day is it? It’s ok, my date is tomorrow. Wheeew, that was a close one.” Then he bought us both drinks. Bob cashed out and headed home around 10pm, just in time for the DJ to set up and start spinning favorites from the late 90’s and early 00’s (our college years). We quickly made friends around the bar all chair dancing to the same songs and eventually we all couldn’t help but make our way to the dance floor. We danced until sweat was pouring down and our clothes were stuck to us. Eventually Amber and I made our way back home to sleep it off. Amber drank a little more than me, and I was sure she would be hungover the next day but when I woke up- I found out that her inner nurse kicked in and she tiptoed into the bathroom in the middle of the night, ate a little snacky snack, popped a couple advil and drank a bunch of water before falling back asleep. She was good to go the next morning to my surprise.


Amber told me about the Jungle Queen River Cruise that she had been on before, and thought I might think it to be lame, but I love that kind of stuff. She booked us on the noon cruise (through Groupon) and we got to not only see some enormous yachts docked near our riverboat, but also got to enjoy perfect weather on the water as we cruised through the channel and learned the history of some beautiful mansions and large homes along the water. Some of them were absolutely stunning, and some are owned by celebrities. I love houses, so that was a great time. After our cruise was over, we took a short drive over to get a late lunch.

Shooters on the Water. We have one in Cleveland, but the Ft. Lauderdale location is incredible. Beautifully decorated, a view of the channel with the water taxi dropping off guests every half hour or so, and the service and food were phenomenal. I had a caprese flatbread (simple I know) and Amber had an Apple chicken wrap thing which she said was very tasty and then I ordered the Key Lime Baked Alaska. I don’t really know what that was, but I love the key lime flavor so I wanted to try it. Ya’ll, it was a meringue shell with key lime ice cream inside on top of pie crust, with key lime sauce on the plate. Yummy in my tummy for sure and I made Amber share it with me even though she was full. I get that from my mom.

We spent a little more time in the pool on Sunday. We walked over to say goodbye to the beach a little before sunset and picked up a couple of shells for Amber’s daughter. We didn’t spend a lot of time on the beach,I prefer to swim in a pool - mostly because I’m scared to death of sharks and now jellyfish. But we found out that pools aren’t exactly safe from wildlife either, didn't we? And during our last walk on the beach, I stumbled upon a beached jellyfish just waiting to be stepped on. Luckily I saw it in time, and managed to get a photo, not stung. Snagged a couple of souvenirs from the local gift shop and headed back to our suite to pack our things and get ready for our 7am flight home.

We had a beautiful weekend of laughter, relaxation, and friendship. We drank, ate, danced, and dreamed about our own retirement plans. We had great conversations, met our new friend Bob and listened to some great music. We enjoyed great food, comfortable accommodations, and mostly perfect weather. Lauderdale By the Sea is a great place for a slower paced getaway. Can you party it up? Sure can, but it’s a great place to relax and meander too. I give it 5 stars. If you get the chance, you should go- even it’s only for a couple of nights like we did. I don’t think you’ll regret it. Oh, and get yourself some tacos at Taco Craft on the corner of A1A and Commercial. Their food and service is also top notch. We had our last Lauderdale meal there and it couldn’t have been better eating out on their patio on our last night.

As always, may you find yourself surrounded by love and comfort.

  • Lis


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