Written by Joy S on 22 Jun, 2011
This part of Miami is famous for its wide boulevards lined with magnificient Mediterranean style mansions, coral rock pool, graceful fountains, tropical gardens, quaint shops and charming restaurants.It is a very wealthy and luxurious area with a strong emphasis on conformity. The houses are…Read More
This part of Miami is famous for its wide boulevards lined with magnificient Mediterranean style mansions, coral rock pool, graceful fountains, tropical gardens, quaint shops and charming restaurants.It is a very wealthy and luxurious area with a strong emphasis on conformity. The houses are large and beautiful and come with a lot of rules attached. Your grass has to be a certain length; your garage door is only allowed to be open half an hour at a time; for sale signs outside the property are to be no larger than a postcard; trees either side of the road must be the same type - the list goes on. Breaking the rules means a fine is imposed. The Venetian Pool has cascading waterfalls and coral coves. It is 22,000 square feet and has 600,000 gallons of water which is fed by a spring. The water is drained and replaced weekly. There are waterfalls, coral caves and a small, sandy beach. It is included in the National Register of Historic Places. It was transformed in the 1920's from a limestone quarry into the beautiful pool it is today. Some claim it is the world's most beautiful pool. It is open year round. Esther Williams and Johnny Weissmuller once swam in the Venetian Pool.The Biltmore Hotel is also very beautiful and an interesting building. It is very luxurious and the spectacular lobby will take your breath away. It was restored in 1926 and was modelled after the Giraldo Tower in Seville. It was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1996. The hotel was transformed into a hospital during World War II. It was used as the setting for the movie Bad Boys, plus television programmes such as Miami Vice and CSI Miami. In its heyday it played host to European (and Hollywood) royalty. FD Roosevelt had a temporary White House office set up at the hotel for when he holidayed on his fishing trips to Miami. The pool is very luxurious. It is supposedly the largest hotel pool in the USA. Johnny Weissmuller was a swimming instructor there in the past.Miracle Mile - the shopping area, is as you would expect, full of designer shops and high quality restaurants. The street is half a mile each side, apparently people say has its name, because it would be a miracle if a lady could go to the shops here and not buy anything. Close
Written by Joy S on 21 Jun, 2011
* Hurricane season is June to November. Ideal weather conditions exist between December and May with average temperatures ranging from 16 to 30 degrees centigrade and not much rainfall. Summer tends to be hot and humid with afternoon thunderstorms. August is the…Read More
* Hurricane season is June to November. Ideal weather conditions exist between December and May with average temperatures ranging from 16 to 30 degrees centigrade and not much rainfall. Summer tends to be hot and humid with afternoon thunderstorms. August is the rainiest and hottest time and you have most chance of a hurricane. It is rare for hurricanes to hit Miami, but not unheard of. During the summer, temperatures can top 90 degrees fahrenheit and there are lots of mosquitoes.* Pack swimwear and light cover up to take you from the beach to the cafes. Wear high factor sunscreen even if it is cloudy and have a hat and comfortable sandals or flip-flops (the only thing I wore). Above all, dress for comfort because it is hot and sticky. Tourist attire is flip flop casual. * The food is traditional Cuban meets spicy Caribbean with lots of seafood. Try pork with dense crackling, bistec palomillo (thin cut steak with minced onions) accompanied with beans and rice, Cuban sandwiches served warm with ham, cheese and port. The mojito is the city's signature drink, but tropical fruit shakes are also delicious.* The shopping experience is eclectic - designer boutiques, mainstream chains, mega malls and touristy souvenir shops, Miami has all this and more.* Airboat rides through the outskirts of the Everglades are particularly wonderful as teh area is unfettered by jet skis, cruise ships and neon bikinis. It is Florida's Outback and only an hour's drive from Miami. Airboats navigate through the most stubborn of sawgrass, providing you with an upclose and personal and fun view of the inhabitants - alligators, manatees and racoons amongst others.* Ride the Metromover - designed to relieve traffic congestion, the billion dollar transportation network is hardly used by commuters. For little more than a dollar, you can tour many neighbourhoods and see much of the wonderful city skyline.* Miami International Airport is the second in the USA for international passenger traffic and 10th in the world. It is however very user friendly and not as much of a hassle to get through as you might think. It is 6 miles west of Miami centre and 10 miles from the beaches. Most cabs are metered, some have flat rates to popular destinations - budget around $32 to South Beach plus tip - 15% and add more according to how many bags the driver handles. Traffic dependent, the journey to South Beach should take about 20 minutes. The airport is one of the largest airports in the world and is often congested - we arrived and left on a Saturday and had no problems whatsoever. You do though need to allow yourself extra time when leaving - especially if you are flying internationally. Also if you have a hire car to drop off, it is a bit of a trek (involving a bus) to get to your terminal, so allow time for this.* Miami is laid out an a grid with 4 quadrants - north east, north west, south east and south west. Avenues and Courts run north south; streets, terraces and ways run east west and roads run diagonally. It is best to buy a detailed map, stick to the major roads and make sure you are in a safe place if you need directions. We had a sat nav and had no problems driving and finding our way around.* The city resembles Los Angeles in its urban sprawl and traffic. Except for South Beach, it is not a walker's city. It is spread out and attractions are too far apart to make walking between them feasible. South Beach is entirely walkable and best enjoyed by foot - although it was so hot during our visit, that we did need to use cabs to get to some places.* Hire cars are cheap but book well in advance during peak times. Avoid driving in rush hour between 7 and 9am and 5 and 7pm. Public transport is not really that good, so if you want to explore, you will need a car. Except for South Beach, it is difficult to hail a cab on the street. You need to either call a cabl company or have a hotel doorman hail one for you. The hop on / hop off bus tour is a good way to explore the neighbourhoods, see the main sights and get your bearings.* We stayed in South Beach for 4 nights, but chose to stay at the Marriot by the airport when we arrived. Hotels in South Beach put their prices up dramatically over the weekend and then rates drop again during the week. If, like us, you are jetlagged and just want to sleep when you arrive, it is not worth paying the inflated prices. We found the airport hotel fine for the first night, then headed to South Beach ready to start enjoying our holiday. Close
Sunny Florida skies, buzzing nightlife, the rhythm of Cuban culture and celebrity drenched South Beach - this is Miami.Miami has a hedonistic reputation. There are lots of nightclubs, blaring Latino beats and steamy weather with plenty of neon swimsuits. Look beyond all this…Read More
Sunny Florida skies, buzzing nightlife, the rhythm of Cuban culture and celebrity drenched South Beach - this is Miami.Miami has a hedonistic reputation. There are lots of nightclubs, blaring Latino beats and steamy weather with plenty of neon swimsuits. Look beyond all this though, and there is a cultural side - South Beach has some of the best Art Deco architecture in the world and there is a great local arts scene.Miami is a young city. It is hard to believe that little more than 100 years ago, it was a citrus farming town surrounded by mosquito infested swampland. Today it is thriving and multi-cultural and is said to be the most Latin city in the world, north of Mexico. More than half of the 2 million population is foreign born and 70% plus speak a language other than English at home. Latin/Caribbean immigrants and exiles make up the largest part of the population. Locals speak Spanglish (a mixture of English and Spanish). The diverse population creates a city that feels vibrant and alive.It seemed to us like there was constantly a new flavour to explore and a new accent to puzzle over in this city.Miami has the cheerful energy and hungry Third World edge of the Caribbean and Latin America. The downside to this though, is that economic inequality is rampant and the gulf between the haves and have nots seems particularly vast.Due to being sandwiched in by the Atlantic Ocean to the east and the Everglades to the west, the Miami metropolitan area is 110 miles north to south, but never more than 20 miles east to west.True Miami is its people and its neighbourhoods. Our highlights were:- Coral Gables - built almost entirely out of coral limestone features. It has the most wonderful Spanish style colonial homes, streets lined with lush vegetation and very sophisticated shopping areas. The Venetian Pool - an exotic swimming hole with stone bridges and waterfalls and the Biltmore Hotel are particular highlights.- Key Biscayne - full of tourist attractions, marinas and beaches. You can rent boats here of visit the famous Miami Seaquarium.- Coconut Grove - an old neighbourhood with lively shopping and a laid back vibe. It is a haven for artists and intellectuals.- Little Havana - here you can enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of Cuba. Salsa music plays, Spanish is widely spoken and it has a unique atmosphere.- Downtown Miami - historical and modern blended together with lots of impressive skyscrapers.- Miami Beach and South Beach - where we based ourselves, perfect place to stay, it is vibrant, full of celebrities, hip nightclubs, trendy shops, see and be seen restaurants and above all the beautiful tropical coloured buildings.Miami is hot, hot, hot with scantily dressed beachgoers and nightclubs, but it is also great for families. You can show your children a bit of Cuba and Miami's Latin flair - our son loved it here. You can also visit and explore a subtropical forest on the city's doorstep - the Everglades.Miami is lively with a vibe that screams fun. There is something for all ages. It is many destinations in one - an unparalleled multicultural experience, a fabulous Art Deco district, miles of beach, lively restaurants, a great party atmosphere and a wonderful climate. You can't fail to have a good time here - we absolutely loved it! Close
Written by RoBoNC on 24 Sep, 2009
Miami is the 2nd largest city in Florida after Jacksonville with over 400,000 residents. When it is combined with other cities such as Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, the metro population is 5.4 million people, making it the 7th largest metro area in…Read More
Miami is the 2nd largest city in Florida after Jacksonville with over 400,000 residents. When it is combined with other cities such as Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, the metro population is 5.4 million people, making it the 7th largest metro area in the US. Miami is a growing city due to its increasing ethnic population, for being a gateway to the Florida Keys, and a major port destination for cruise ships going to and from the Caribbean. Miami International Airport is the largest airport in the area. It is a hub for American Airlines and it services most of its destinations to Central and South America. There are also two other international airports in Fort Lauderdale and in West Palm Beach. Both of these cities are near Miami and they make a great alternative to the large and busy Miami International Airport. Miami has the largest foreign born population of any city in the world and only Toronto comes close with 50%. The majority of Miami’s foreign population is Hispanic with the majority being Cubans. 8th Street in Miami is the center of the largest Cuban neighborhood in the city. Named for the capital of Cuba, Little Havana is filled with shops, restaurants, and specialty stores. If you are looking for authentic Cuban food, this is one neighborhood you need to visit. But don’t forget about Miami’s other great cuisines from places such as Colombia, Uruguay, and Brazil. For the sport enthusiasts, Miami is home to the Miami Dolphins, Miami Heat, Florida Marlins, and the Florida Panthers. Landshark Stadium, previously known as Dolphin Stadium, is home to the Dolphins, Marlins, and even the University of Miami Hurricanes. The stadium also hosts the annual NCAA Orange Bowl after the stadium where it has been held since 1938 was demolished. The Florida Marlins will be leaving Landshark Stadium in 2012 to play in their new stadium which is being built on the site of the demolished Orange Bowl Stadium. NASCAR fans can watch races at Homestead Raceway in nearby Homestead. Miami is known for having great beaches but it also known for its close proximity to the Everglades National Park. Most people forget that Miami is close to another national park, Biscayne National Park. It preserves the Biscayne Bay and 95% of the park is water. There is a visitor’s center and the only fee is if you want to take a boat tour through the bay. The Miami skyline is clearly visible from Biscayne. From great cuisine, National Parks, and sandy beaches, Miami has something for everyone. Close
Written by SeenThat on 04 Jun, 2008
Few things compare to the excitement of landing in a truly (for the traveler) unknown place without making any preparations. Would I find an hotel before sunset? Is the place dangerous? Is the local food acceptable? Will the locals speak a known language? Are there…Read More
Few things compare to the excitement of landing in a truly (for the traveler) unknown place without making any preparations. Would I find an hotel before sunset? Is the place dangerous? Is the local food acceptable? Will the locals speak a known language? Are there any dangerous or wild animals preying on intrepid travelers? Are the showers safe (in Singapore the ion-exchange water desalination process leaves the water slightly acidic; it prickles on the skin)? Many questions and new sights: the stuff life is made of for the eternal pilgrim.Travel Hub’s Exploration PatternsThis was my second visit to Miami, the first was just a couple of hours long in my way between the Fort Lauderdale and Miami international airports. As such, it followed a recurring pattern of travel hubs: increasingly longer stays and inevitable returns. Over the years I have learned not to invest time studying travel hubs before visiting them. More often than not they are Marco Polo's friendly and time fixes any knowledge gaps.Reaching DowntownReaching downtown is my first priority after landing; only there all the required services are handy. Moreover, usually the main attractions in town are nearby the center.Transport is different from place to place. In addition, it demands quick transactions and fast decisions in a changing environment. Miami proved friendly enough, except for a few glitches in the transfer tickets; sometimes they were easy to get while others even the staff was uncooperative. See the specific entry in this journal for further details.Finding an HotelUsually, this is the trickiest part. Hotels at the very heart of downtown seldom advertise themselves, thus researching the topic before arrival is almost useless. Moreover, the luggage is always a ballast in the way there and asking locals for directions is useless: few people know hotels in their hometown. Yet once in the city center a convenient option would invariably appear.LanguageAfter the few first contacts, the fact became clear. English-speakers were in Miami an ethnic minority; most people used Spanish as their first language.However, spelling errors in the Spanish signs and menus were conspicuous. "Amor" (love) a waitress kept calling me in an unacceptable (and annoying) fashion; such an event wouldn’t have happened in any of the Spanish speaking countries I had visited. I was witnessing an ongoing cultural fusion process, two main cultures speaking different languages but sharing the same cappuccinos.The errors issue was elucidated after a few cortados (a macchiato coffee in Spanish and Portuguese) the reason for the errors became clear, the local Cuban styled Spanish was sprinkled with Brazilian Portuguese.First StepsAfter a day that began at 3am and included a flight over the Amazon River and a fast transition from a freezing winter to a pleasant summer, I decided to sleep late before seriously exploring downtown. I closed tightly any potential morning-light source, turned on the air conditioner and went to sleep.Next morning I made a point of ignoring my watch, stayed in bed until it felt really late, took my time in the shower and only on the street took a quick glance at the watch. It was just after 7am, meaning I had almost eight hours for exploring Miami; it would be a busy day. Close
Written by jenandfrank on 04 May, 2005
Delano Hotel South Beach – 1685 Collins Ave, South Beach, Miami. 800-555-5001, www.ianschragerhotels.com
Once known as the place to stay in South Beach it has recently lost that status. With the new construction of the Ritz Carlton and the renovation of the Shore Club…Read More
Delano Hotel South Beach – 1685 Collins Ave, South Beach, Miami. 800-555-5001, www.ianschragerhotels.com
Once known as the place to stay in South Beach it has recently lost that status. With the new construction of the Ritz Carlton and the renovation of the Shore Club (right next door), the Delano is fighting for the clientele it used to ignore. Named after President Franklin D. Roosevelt, whose family maintained a residence here for many years, there are 184 rooms, 24 suites, spa, gym, two restaurants, a lounge, and lobby bar, and it’s located right on the infamous Collins Ave. (with no parking in sight). Overall, it's a pretty hotel with efficient yet indifferent service (dressed in all white, of course) where an 18% gratuity is automatically added to every bill (that’s incentive for them to work hard). The hotel is very art-deco—some would call its clientele shi-shi, as it’s definitely a place where "stars" stay when they visit SoBe.
The front of the hotel is simple, with a half-circle driveway covered by very tall, very green bushes. In fact, you can only see the higher levels of the hotel because of the greenery blocking the front. The lobby is medium-sized, with air-conditioning pumping, huge white curtains hanging from the ceilings, mirrors, candles, and funky faux-fur couches everywhere. The Rose Bar is located within the lobby and where you’ll find $10 martinis (in the dark). The lobby is always packed—especially at night—with the "I am beautiful" types. The concierge desk is open 24 hours, which is nice, especially when you are in a town that parties until the wee hours of the night. Lots of security, especially during holiday weekends or when a convention/awards show is in town.
The rooms are 99% done in white (very sterile-looking), with lots of large white curtains, window seats, all-white bedding, etc. Minimalist design is the theme at this hotel, and it’s quite obvious just by glancing at the guest rooms. The only color you’ll find is a single green apple, which is compliments of the house… whoopee! The bathrooms are also sparse (and the size of a closet), with minimal areas for "stuff", like your insignificant toiletries. Walls are super-thin, so just pray you aren’t next to (or below) the room with people who are up entertaining themselves all night long or, worse yet, misbehaving rich children. The noise factor and thin walls are a major downfall of this hotel. The rooms are equipped with both American and European voltages (thanks to its French architect), and a candy bar from the minibar will cost you almost $4. Data ports, voicemail, speaker phone, and conference-call options are all telecom options that are available in your room, as well as a hair dryer, iron, cable TV, and a coffee maker (upon request). The lower-level city-view rooms tend to get noisy, which is something to consider. But if you are on a budget (which is an oxymoron at this place), those are the only "affordable" rooms. Housekeeping was very good, and the room was always kept spotless. Overall, it’s not a warm/comfortable room. It’s all about the ambience here.
The Aqua Spa is pretty but not as nice as you would expect, considering the clientele it hosts. Located on the rooftop and referred to as a bathhouse and solarium, "bringing luxury spa treatment to a new level." I simply disagree. I had a raw-honey-and-warm-milk treatment that was supposed to include a massage. I basically paid for a woman to wipe clumps of honey on my legs, arms, and back and then wipe it off with a washcloth soaked in milk—while I froze (because this hotel can not regulate its air-conditioning properly). It definitely sounds more exciting than it was, as I left extremely disappointed and very annoyed at wasting so much money.
The back yard looks overgrown, but I think they went with that feel on purpose–privacy. It has an outdoor restaurant with lots of bench/u-shaped booth seating and a large chessboard (like something you’d see at FAO Schwartz or Alice in Wonderland). The heated pool is a decent size, but you definitely need to get out early to ensure a chair. The beach behind the hotel is a public one, so most of the hotel guests stay within the hotel grounds and hang by the pool. Regardless, the beach is clean and large, if that is more your scene – definitely worth a look.
We did not rent a poolside cabaña but heard they went for $350/day. That’s cheap, sorry we missed it (are they kidding?). Poolside service was impossible; forget it if there was a celebrity in-house. Room rates and food charges can get crazy, and oftentimes, the staff has been known to clear out an area (like the entire pool when we were there) if a celebrity is at the hotel and wants to be alone.
The (David Barton) gym is really nice, with lots of state-of-the-art equipment and Internet access, but costs $15/day/person. Sort of ridiculous after spending so much on the room, but people do it (to work out with celebrities, I guess).
Valet parking is $25/night; public parking is limited and almost the same price for overnight stays. That said, this is not necessarily a city where you need to a rent a car unless you plan to explore South Florida. Note: after 8pm, men are required to wear pants. Recommended if you do not mind a see-and-be-seen atmosphere and more ancillary charges than you can count.
Written by deeMunk on 03 Apr, 2005
Key West is about 160 miles from Miami along US Route 1 and is the southernmost tip of the U.S. With traffic and an average speed limit of about 40 miles/hour, though, the drive to Key West from Miami takes around 4 hours or more.…Read More
Key West is about 160 miles from Miami along US Route 1 and is the southernmost tip of the U.S. With traffic and an average speed limit of about 40 miles/hour, though, the drive to Key West from Miami takes around 4 hours or more. The scenery along Rt. 1, though, makes the drive well worth it.
Key West is the biggest of the multiple islands chain that are collectively known as the Florida Keys. The northernmost Key (the closest to Miami) and the second largest is known as Key Largo. Key Largo and the rest of the keys are well-known for sport fishing and for diving in North America’s only living coral barrier reef on the East Coast. As you drive through, you’ll come across people setting up their fishing gear all along Rt. 1. The Keys also house various wildlife reserves with abundant alligators and iguanas. Driving through the Keys is truly a rewarding experience. My favorite moment during the drive was when the sun went down across the ocean—the view was just breathtaking!
When we reached Key West, I was surprised and glad at the same time to find it much quieter than I had imagined. I found out later that once spring break season is over, Key West pretty much becomes a low-key family resort area just like Miami. Also to my surprise, most of the bars I went to were dominated by country music. I found only one place around Duval St. that played trance music and felt nostalgic for the Miami Ultra Music festival of the day earlier.
There are lots of activities you can get involved in Key West, and since the island is very small, it's easy to get around, as well. Some of the highlights include jet skiing, kayaking, snorkeling, daily cruises, sightseeing, etc. For me, snorkeling will have to be the highlight of Key West, since there are few other places where you can do it. During this trip, however, I didn’t get to go snorkeling due to my time limit. If you want to fully relax, make sure you come here for a few days. Also, Key West is the perfect starting point for a lot of cruises to the Caribbean Islands.
Considering the breathtaking scenery, the warmth of the Florida sun, and the peace of Key West, I can see why Hemingway decided to make his home here. Close
Written by Whiterabbit79 on 09 Jun, 2006
While staying at the Doral Spa & Resort, I took part of the Doral Your Way Package. If you would like to check out what services are included, just check out the Doral's main website. As for the services I took part of, all of…Read More
While staying at the Doral Spa & Resort, I took part of the Doral Your Way Package. If you would like to check out what services are included, just check out the Doral's main website. As for the services I took part of, all of them were awesome.
Here is some brief information on the services I took part in:
#1) Rose Milk Bath: This is basically your personal Jacuzzi bath. The water is like bath water and the attendant adds oils to the water to soothe the skin. It was 25 minutes of relaxation.
#2) Total Body Fango: This is a different experience, for me that is. It starts off with the attendant putting a cleansing mud all over your body. After that is complete, you are wrapped into a cocoon of blankets. Afterwards, you take a shower to get the mud off and a lovely lotion is put all over you. It's different but very relaxing.
#3) Spa Reflexology: I loved this. Being a person who is on their feet daily, it was a deep and stress relieving foot massage.
#4) European Facial: This facial is pretty much the standard facial. The attendant starts off with cleansing the face. However, depending on the issues going on with your skin, the treatment will be different. Either way it was very nice.
#5) Manicure/Pedicure: These services are done at the Salon portion of the Spa. Again, these services are the standard. The pedicure starts off with the water bath. The attendant then gives a full exfoliation of the feet and puts a very nice lotion on them. After all that, she puts the selected polish on. The manicure is almost exactly like the pedicure, minus the water bath.
#6) Scalp Treatment: This service is done in the Salon portion of the Spa. If you have oily or dry hair/scalp this is for you. They start off by putting a special oil on your scalp and massaging it in. This is very relaxing. After that is done, your hair is washed and (in my case) an oatmeal substance is placed in my hair. After about 15 minutes my hair was washed again and I was off. My hair is still very soft even 3 days later.
I also took part in the use of their weight room and their morning work outs. The stretching classes were awesome.
Written by Desiree Koh on 11 Mar, 2001
Some travelers who have seen the world and have begun to tire of the spring in Paris/summer in Maine/fall in Hong Kong/winter in Zurich scene, lament on their failures at achieving the Impossible Dream -- exploring so much of the world, that you feel like…Read More
Some travelers who have seen the world and have begun to tire of the spring in Paris/summer in Maine/fall in Hong Kong/winter in Zurich scene, lament on their failures at achieving the Impossible Dream -- exploring so much of the world, that you feel like you could walk off the edge of it, as if it were a precipice.
Unfortunately, travel plays a sly game with our greed to see it all, because in reality, the end of one's journey signifies the start of another -- hence, the spherical nature of our globe.
But what if you left Propriety at the gate? What if, at O'Hare one wintry and snowed-in morning, you boarded the 6am flight to Miami, Florida? What if you had slipped into your luggage some Imagination, Free Spirits and Sharp Humor, and left a trail of worries and cares along the runway as you took off?
Art Deco in Miami is more than just an architecture; it's a lifestyle. It attempts to live as colorful a life as the city's denizens -- or is it vice versa? Art Deco, to us, was the vibrance of human traffic and surroundings that we could feel as we cabbed the 195 towards Miami Beach. It penetrated, and we absorbed.
It's interesting how the transition to a completely new scenery and lifestyle always leaves you feeling unshackled and ready to run with the wind -- physically, mentally, and emotionally. After we checked in, we drifted towards the sand (white as snow -- except that it wasn't, thankfully) and the sea (piercing blue), onto a wooden boardwalk that led us 2 miles to South Beach. And at this point, I will step aside and savor the ocean view for a lingering moment. When the colors of the intensely deep sky blue and unforgivingly white sand collide at the end of the horizon, the beauty and magnificence of this vision is so acute, so breathtaking, that this must be what they really mean when they say that dreams do come true.
In Miami, you are a tourist, no matter what sort of off beaten path travels you may have under your belt. It's really about South Beach and its flunkies -- Lincoln Road, Lummus Beach, Ocean Drive, Washington Road. Forget what the travel guides say -- if you want a town with the vibrance and spirit of South Beach, and attractions to seduce your tourist buck like Coral Castle, Coconut Grove and Villa Vizcaya, go to Los Angeles. On South Beach, explore every store inside-out and outside-in, examine every gourmet seafood platter baiting you at each al fresco beachfront restaurant, and feel free to scandalously re-create the history of each human being who crosses your line of vision -- tourist or local. And in this land of kitsch, please feel free to take a picture on the steps where Gianni Versace was slain, browse through some tacky souvenir racks, and of course, ponder your existence over that neon-colored cocktail. And because kitsch never suffers from overabundance, Star Island will fulfill your need for the grandiose and grandeur. Indulge in the sights of mansions a la Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous (wait, this IS the lifestyles of the rich and famous) -- but just don't slow down or stop too long to gape at casas de Gloria Estefan, Madonna and Ricky Martin, because the tour bus behind you is impatient to move on.
For the tourist, shopping used to be a bigger adventure back in the days when you took something away from a place you visited because you couldn't find it anywhere else, much less your hometown. These days, the enmeshment of cultures and the capability to play culture shuffleboard has taken the excitement out of souvenir shopping. Consider Lincoln Road -- the country's first pedestrian mall, and not really a road at all. There are stores here selling Balinese artifacts, quaint farmhouse antiquities, French kitchenware -- wait, we are still in Miami, right? The only truly Miami goods are designer wear -- but then again, that's not the same as buying a slice of home-made key lime pie in Key West. While a pleasant walk, Lincoln Road probably cemented my opinion of Miami as a city that doesn't really have a true heartbeat; or perhaps, it lost it somewhere along the Miami Vice way.
A short detour: Driving to the Everglades was the best part of our day trip down alligator way. Regrettably, we never got to explore the Little Havana where you could actually hear and feel pulsating bossa nova, but stopping in a Navarro's (Hispanic-influenced chain of drugstores) on the Tamiami Trail (US 41), one of the best experiences on this trip was encountering a checkout girl who couldn't speak or understand English. She only knew Spanish. At that moment, I truly felt that I was in the real Miami, first stop for many on the road to the American dream -- or any dream at all.
Like tourists on a retro postcard, we boarded an airboat at Gator Park to get up close and personal with some gators. The entire ride lasted all of 15 minutes -- we saw a few baby gators and some wildlife, but the tour was nothing compared to another gator tour I had taken in the Louisiana swamps. Our guide attributed the poor showing to the chillier-than-usual weather -- but a quick check with friends after the trip proved that Gator Park was the bona fide tourist trap. There are indeed other tours that last at least 45 minutes, with the option of hopping off the airboat and stomping around in the knee-high waters of the Glades. The obligatory 15-minute wildlife show followed after, gator wrestling and the like. We had a snack of gator meat before continuing our road trip down to the Keys.
Written by Desiree Koh on 13 Mar, 2001
THE UPPER KEYS
In Miami, we were walking a fine line between reality and tourist fantasy; in the Keys, that's where we really teetered on the edge of the world, and here's why: The Seven-Mile Bridge. The Keys are a string of islands, like scattered pearls,…Read More
THE UPPER KEYS
In Miami, we were walking a fine line between reality and tourist fantasy; in the Keys, that's where we really teetered on the edge of the world, and here's why: The Seven-Mile Bridge. The Keys are a string of islands, like scattered pearls, off the Florida mainland, curving west towards Cuba; and each Key is connected to the other via bridges. The Seven-Mile Bridge is the longest of them all, connecting Boot Key to Pigeon Key. Originally a railroad, the modern bridge was built right next to the old one, and if you're a careful observer, you'll see that the railings on the new bridge are actually rails from the old railroad. The old railroad is now a walkway, but close to a mile across the water from Boot Key, it ends abruptly -- the classic truism of the old making way for the new. As you drive across Seven-Mile, you see nothing but the Atlantic on one side, the Gulf of Mexico on the other. Look out the windows on either side, and it feels like it's just you, the clouds, the air, the waters below. You're soaring, it's like a magic carpet ride, and beware, for this is exactly when you're whisked into that other world I have been alluding to.
We stayed in Key Largo, Islamorada and Marathon in the Keys, and while each of these towns may seem just like the other -- motels, dive shops, dining shacks, seafood, margaritavilles -- each seems to have a distinctive attraction of its own. Key Largo is the John Pennekamp State Park, lauded as a diver's paradise, but really an overcrowded and touristy dive if you're one of the serious ones. The main attraction is a Christ statue, the remains of some downed ship, but the mystical allure of that wreck is offset by two deliberately sunken ships for your viewing pleasure. Islamorada is hailed as the hub of accommodations in the Keys, with grande dame Holiday Isle as its patron saint. Cabanas and tiki bars galore -- and $300 rooms during Christmas week. To truly experience the Keys, we lived the lifestyle. We did nothing substantial, we did nothing exciting, but we walked the walk and lounged our days there away. A not-so-popular, but still enjoyable activity, is a stroll and canoe through the mangrove swamps of Pennekamp, named for an environmentally active journalist. Or consider browsing the small stores along the Overseas Highway (US 1) or spending a day at the very luxurious Hawk's Cay Resort on Duck Key (secret: if you breeze in through the lobby and on to the beach side, no one would doubt that you were anyone else but a guest).
NEW YEAR'S EVE
We were back in Miami in time for New Year's Eve, and spent it on South Beach, naturally. When the clock struck midnight, the nightclubs exploded and we were drenched with champagne popped randomly in the crowd. The chilled and spilled bubbly awakened us back to reality, and warned us that we were on our way back to the Urban Way, via Miami.