We slept late, exhausted from the hot evening at Wynwood Walls. By the time we got our act together it was time to checkout and eat lunch. It was Sunday, that day of the week when breakfast and lunch become brunch, but we had our hearts set on the chicken wings at the Eden Roc. A year and a half ago we used Marriott rewards points to stay there, pretending we were glitterati always traveling in style, enjoying happy hour by the pool every day. Six dollar order of wings, six dollar mojitos and margaritas, and three dollar beers.
We cruised down Collins Avenue in my beat up old Azera with the dent on the left bumper, oblivious to the fact we looked out of place tailgating the Maseratis and Bentleys. Greeting us at the entrance to the hotel, the overwrought valet informed us it would be seventeen dollars to leave the car for the day, gave my Hyundai a once over, and mentioned the public parking lot next door. Excellent.
Oh, but that’s right, we are in South Florida, the land of beaches with limited public access. At noon the lot was full. It was small, parking for about fifty cars, not nearly enough to accommodate the city’s enormous population.
“This isn’t going to work, who’s leaving the beach at noon on Sunday?” I asked Rich, resting my arm out the window and striking a pose as we pulled out of the lot, pretending I was Shirley MacLaine hanging around with Dean Martin and the rest of the Rat Pack. Rich got confused and almost drove down the wrong side of the street. “No,” I shouted and he quickly adjusted.
We drove around for what seemed like an hour, but in reality was more like twenty minutes. Across the bridge on the west side of the Intracoastal, we found a metered space and purchased three hours worth of time for $4.25.
Setting off on a mile and a half walk back to the hotel on another hot, humid day we opted for the boardwalk route where a whisper of a warm breeze barely broke our sweat. We didn’t mind, we’d be swimming soon. We were crashing the Eden Roc pool and having lunch at the outdoor bar. I remembered just where the bathrooms were. I’d slip into my swimsuit there.
Rich and I have a long history of crashing hotel pools. It started at the Hotel del Coronado, just outside of San Diego. This was many years ago, before we were married. For six weeks we traveled cross-country, camping and sleeping in cheap motels when we visited the cities along our route.
Crossing the Coronado Bay Bridge outside of San Diego, we quickly spied the iconic red turrets off in the distance. We parked at a public beach, walked along the shoreline, and entered the pool unnoticed. We weren’t intentionally planning to crash the pool, we just wanted to check out the historic lobby and the grounds but we did have our bathing suits on. Our original plan was to swim in the ocean. A waiter carrying a small round drink tray passed by and asked “Cold drink?” We ordered Heinekins, settled into chaise lounges, and proceeded to spend the rest of the afternoon swimming in the pool, drinking beers, and having lunch.
This began a trend over the years. In Orlando the whole family did it. Rich and an old friend from high school went golfing that day. I brought my daughters to the Disney shopping center to buy Minnie Mouse paraphernalia. We planned to have lunch at The Beach Club, a lovely Nantucket-style hotel with a little man-made beach called Stormalong Bay. We had dinner inside the hotel the night before.
The girls wanted to go swimming and conveniently they were already in their bathing suits after running through those Disney fountains that spurt out of the sidewalk at the Marketplace. I can still remember our first trip to Disney and my younger daughter’s surprised face each time she was splashed with a stream of water. She’d cover her mouth, close her eyes, and giggle.
I was trying to figure out how we were going to do this. The pool security is tight at Disney. You have to show a room key but our timing was perfect. Rich and Peter were back from golfing and strolling along Stormalong Beach when they entered the hotel grounds on the other side of the pool. An accidental bait and switch began to unfold. Rich waved to us. “Girls over here.” I watched as a pool attendant approached the gate and heard Rich say, “That’s my wife and daughters. We just got back from golfing one of the Disney courses and I don’t have the room key.”
The attendant let them in, then hustled over to our gate on the other side, picking up some towels along the way. He let us in, handed us towels, and found us seats. The girls were amazed by the white sand that gently sloped into the shallow end of the pool. The adults ordered cocktails and sandwiches and settled in for the afternoon.
Today’s pool crash was easy. We walked along the boardwalk that passes the beachfront hotels. The gate to the Eden Roc pool was wide open. We had been here before, we knew where we were going. I ducked into the nearby ladies room, slipped into my swimsuit, and joined Rich in the pool. We didn’t have towels, it’s a dead giveaway if you have a rogue towel. A room key was required to get a towel but the day was so hot we didn’t really need one. We air dried in minutes.
The jerk chicken wings with a drizzle of honey were as delicious as we remembered them and so were the mojitos. We had the same waitress we had a year and a half ago when we were legitimate guests at the hotel. She remembered us, or so she said, and brought us a complimentary slice of key lime pie.
After another dip in the pool, we slowly schlepped the mile or more back to our car in the oppressive Miami heat of a June day. It sort of negated the cooling, calming effects of the dip in the pool, but overall we were happy with our weekend in Miami. We had run into an old friend — the waitress at the pool bar, and encountered some sweet kindnesses, chocolates in a bodega the night before and Key Lime Pie, and we saw some great art and inspiration in this hot, steamy, edgy, and vibrant city.
On the way back to the car, we passed another iconic hotel, The Fountainbleau. A rock and roll bus was parked out front. Ice Cube was playing in town that night. I imagine he had one of the penthouses towering above the beach.
I laughed when I saw his bus. “Every Thangs Corrupt.” Yes indeed, the signs of income inequality are everywhere in Florida. If you’re not booked at one of the waterfront hotels, it may be hard to get to the beach here in the Sunshine State, but if you know how to crash a pool, act like you belong, and spend a little money to cover your time there, you’re all set. You can spend a day pretending you’re a member of the one percent club.