Cher, kayaking and alligators: My mad weekend in Fort Lauderdale

May 27, 2014

Palm trees Fort LauderdaleApologies for the blogging Radio Silence; this time last week I had just arrived back from Miami after my mad weekend in Fort Lauderdale (more on that story in a minute). On Tuesday evening I took my cankles to the Chelsea Flower Show, and then the rest of the week was just crazy busy, culminating in the amazing news that I’m a finalist for the third year running in the ‘travel’ category in the Brit Mums Brilliance in Blogging Awards *scream*.  A HUGE thank you to everyone who voted for me, even if it was only to stop me begging on twitter. This blog means so much to me and being able to blog about my travel experiences  and hopefully inspire you to go on adventures of your own makes me very happy. I don’t expect to win but I’m really delighted to have got this far, so thank you again *blows kisses*.

Westin Hollywood suiteSo, back to Fort Lauderdale. Now this isn’t the first time I’ve spent a long weekend in Florida – last year it was Tampa – and I promise you, it’s not as daft as it sounds, because the flight isn’t *that* long (just over eight hours) and when you arrive it’s only a five hour time difference, plus you get an instant sunshine fix to perk you up. And no real jet lag, either: the first night we stayed at the very luxurious Westin in Hollywood, where I had an enormous ocean-view suite and the bed was so comfortable it was like sleeping on clouds. I didn’t want to leave.

Early morning Fort LauderdaleThere’s a very obvious reason why Greater Fort Lauderdale’s hashtag is #HelloSunny; the next morning it was absolutely gorgeous, and we headed off to the Anne Kolb Nature Centre for something I hadn’t done for a very long time: kayaking.

Now as you know I’m VERY accident prone so I was a bit nervous about getting in the kayak (which you have to do in the water) and tipping it upside down. But once I’d got the hang of how to use the enormous paddle it was actually pretty straightforward. You just have to make sure you sit back in the seat, keep your toes firmly winched in the front bit, and try not to panic when you get tangled up in the low hanging mangroves, which happened quite a lot. When you hit a stretch of fairly wide river, it’s a fantastic feeling – just you and your paddle and nature: at times it was totally tranquil. There were a few hairy moments (like when we had to cross the open water, which was very choppy, and also when we went under lots of spider webs, which was a bit eerie) but somehow I managed it, and kayaking is now My New Favourite Thing: at the end, I felt as though I’d really achieved something, and while my arms ached a bit, I actually felt pretty good. Although I wouldn’t want to do it somewhere where the water was cold. I’m not *that* brave.

Hollywood Beach FloridaThen it was on to Hollywood, which as you might expect  is quite different from the one in LA – no film studios or movie stars, of course, and much more low-key. It reminded me a little of Key West, but on a smaller scale. As a resort it’s ‘up and coming’ but what I loved about it is that it’s very relaxed, there are no skyscrapers, and it’s somewhere families hang out and have picnics or play games on a Saturday afternoon. There’s music every where you go, and the beach is absolutely glorious. I’d definitely like to go back.

Liz Lemon Ben and Jerry's











(I also found time to try some Liz Lemon – as in 30 Rock – frozen yoghurt at Ben and Jerry’s. Delish. I’ll have to do a whole separate post on everything I ate and drank. There was A LOT of it.)

Cher Dressed To KillMe at the Cher gig











That evening it was one of the highlights of our trip: the chance to see CHER in concert at the BB&T Centre, as part of her Dressed To Kill Tour, which is supposed to be her Farewell Farewell tour. (Take it from me, best people watching ever. We were SO underdressed.)

And not only Cher. The support was CYNDI LAUPER. I know, right? I’ve seen Cyndi live before in fact (in London) and she was absolutely superb, mad as a box of frogs but her voice is fantastic, particularly on True Colours. And then it was time for Cher.

Cher in concertNow I’m afraid because we were in a hospitality suite I couldn’t get a clear shot of her (far too many flashlights and strobe lights and every other kind of light play havoc with the pomme) so you’ll have to take it from me: she looked amazing. I don’t care what she may or may not have had done, she is stunning. Her legs in particular are superb. What I loved about her is that she talked a lot to the audience, she was funny, and the performance out Ga Ga-ed anything by Lady Ga Ga or even Mads. She sang all her greatest hits (including my favourites, Just Like Jesse James, I Found Someone, and of course Believe), and for every number she changed costume so she looked exactly as she did when she sang it originally. It was extraordinary. Trust me, even if you weren’t a big Cher fan to begin with (we weren’t) by the end of this show, you would be completely converted (we were). Her voice was absolutely incredible, so strong. The highlight was probably when she sang ‘I Got You Babe’, complete with long dark hair and Sixties make-up, to video footage of Sonny singing his lines. It was actually surprisingly moving (I may have had something in my eye); and then for the final song, she floated over the audience, dressed as a Russian icon. It was utterly fabulous, like the lady herself – and as she kept reminding us, she’s 68. 68!

catamaran sailAlready we’d seen and experienced some of the amazing things Fort Lauderdale has to offer, and there was much more to come. The following morning we went on a catamaran cruise, past some of the stunning homes (including one owned by Johnny Depp) and yachts belonging to those lucky enough to live there (and believe me, it’s a very tempting thought).  We went swimming in the sea and listened to Bob Marley (is it me, or do catamaran cruises always play Bob Marley?) It was excellent.

157After a relaxing afternoon spent in a cocktail-fuelled haze, that evening we went to the upmarket area known as Las Olas Boulevard, which I guess is the Hampstead of Fort Lauderdale – it’s close to a sort of Millionaire’s Row of waterfront mansions and has lots of expensive restaurants, boutiques and banks. It’s basically my spiritual home.

alligator in the EvergladesAnd then the next day we went out to the Everglades for an airboat ride. I’ve wanted to do this FOREVER and it didn’t disappoint. The airboat skims along the top of the water and you feel as though you’re flying. It’s completely exhilarating. We managed to see a few alligators, too – it’s thrilling to see them in their natural habitat, and although they’re pretty shy, I managed to get a few shots of this handsome guy.

Sunset Fort LauderdaleThe afternoon was spent at the shopping mecca of Sawgrass Mills, where I opted for a pedicure ($20), and then there was time for a shower and some chillaxing before my flight back to London, exhausted but happy. It was an absolutely brilliant weekend, and whether you’re travelling with the kids or friends, I’d definitely recommend spending some time, and at least a weekend  in Fort Lauderdale on your next trip to Florida. And moving there, possibly in to Johnny Depp’s house *cough*.

*You can find out more about visiting Fort Lauderdale at Hello Sunny.

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