On the road

THE GOOD LIFE

Thanks to the affluence here, people who live in Cayman are frequent travellers to the US, with many of us using Miami airport – like me, on a recent trip to Canada. Here’s some stuff you might find helpful:

Apart from the Latin food restaurant, a good place for eats in Miami airport is Au Bon Pain, a deli operation with good food at reasonable prices. Mind you, it’s way down by Concourse G, but the food and the prices are A-1, and it’s a few doors past the Border’s book store with a lot of first-rate reading material.

Don’t let the name Au Bon Pain put you off – ‘pain’ is French for bread. The sandwiches are great; give it a try.

I’m usually skeptical about shoe-shine operations (they don’t seem to produce much shine), but the couple in Miami airport near the hotel lobby do a terrific job. For US$6 your shoes glitter like you wouldn’t believe, and it lasts for weeks. The people are very friendly and will even give you a little Jesus talk if you’re so inclined.

By the way, in case you’re a coffee person, be sure to check out the cortado version at Carreta. It’s one of those small Cuban coffees made with milk – delicious stuff, and at $1.50 you can’t go wrong. As the Jamaicans would say, ‘That coffee may be small but it talawa.’

With all the security mania, you can still get a break from the human factor at play in Miami airport. On my recent trip, a security guard at one point didn’t even look at my boarding pass. He was really excited, talking to another guard about his first taste of ‘Cordon Bleu’ cooking, and he just waved me through. I could have been Osama.

Service is gradually dying out on many domestic North American flights. On my flight from Miami to Toronto, after the initial soft-drink pass (no more cookies), two of the flight attendants sat at the back of the plane, reading newspapers and doing crosswords, for most of the three-hour trip. A bell goes; one attendant in the back stands up, sees the one in front handling it, and goes back to the crossword.

On most North American flights now you have to pay for the headphones to watch the video which, by the way, often contains commercials – seems they’ve learned something from our Cayman cinema. In addition, they now sell you food (the flight crew probably get a percentage; I heard one flight attendant say to another, ‘Tell the captain to announce the food again.’).

And they’ve cut down on the pillows and blankets. I said to a flight attendant: ‘Pretty soon, you’ll just have metal seats on the plane, and we’ll have to pay extra for a cushion.’ I said it with a smile, but she didn’t smile back. She gave me one of those over-the-glasses looks.

Leaving Miami for Toronto, urging passengers to stow carry-ons, the attendant announced that the flight was ‘full’. A couple minutes later she repeated the request and this time said the flight was ‘very full’; airline personnel say ‘very full’ a lot. I was about to ask her the difference between ‘full’ and ‘very full’, but I thought better of it – I couldn’t deal with another over-the-glasses reaction.

Going away makes you appreciate how convenient our departure lounge in Grand Cayman is – everything is within 50 feet of you. I hope the new airport building is that way. Mind you, the coffee is rotten (sorry, guys, it really is) but at least you don’t have to walk 20 minutes for it.

I like Cuban shirt-jacs so I stopped to check out a nice Cubanera one in the Miami airport; really nice design. The label had two reproductions of the Cuba 3 centavos stamp, and fancy lettering – ‘Republic Cuba, Habana, Santiago.’ The real deal. Then I noticed on the label, in very small print, ‘Made in China.’ Boy, when they can co-opt Fidel, you know the game is over.

A couple years ago on a delayed departure to Montreal, the pilot came on the intercom to say: ‘Ladies and gentlemen, we apologise for the delay, but the machine we use to break your suitcases is not working, and we have to do it by hand.’ Of course, the whole plane erupted in laughter, but I suspect that pilot may have caught hell over that. I’ve never heard that kind of humour since – certainly not in Miami.

Happy travelling.

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