When people talk about holidaying in Miami, chances are, they are most likely referring to Miami Beach. In fact, Miami and Miami Beach are two separate cities! Probably a good thing cause not only are they separated physically (by the Bay of Biscayne) but also culturally, socially, emotionally and economically!
In many ways, Miami Beach is far removed from reality – not just the reality of it’s namesake – and dull – city on the mainland, but from the very reality of living a routine, week in and week out! It is the perfect getaway, the ultimate unwind destination. One could quite easily say the same about Vegas, but Miami has what Vegas doesn’t – the magic of the ocean 😉
Not only does it have the Atlantic Ocean but also the added benefit of some fine sunny weather year round. The good weather attracts scores of beautiful people – a 24 hr parade, if you will – who work on their tans by day and party it up by night! The formula is straight forward enough and the results, there for everyone to see.
Miami beach epitomises the good life, for those who can afford it. For those who can’t – like myself – just sit back, relax, sip on your Mojito and people watch to your heart’s content!
In Miami, one’s wealth is judged not by the depth of one’s wallet but the length of one’s yacht. Marinas abound in the area, 80 ft yachts are par for the course and every waterfront mansion worth its name has a boat parked out front – some larger and more expensive than the home itself!
South Beach or ‘SoBe’ is where the action’s at – party central, fashion central and above all, poser central!! There are more Lamborghini’s crawling along Ocean Drive (the main drag) then you’re likely to find on a visit to Italy. Porsche’s are about as common as a Mini is in London and the average speed of traffic along Ocean Drive’s short 14 block stretch will make Manhattan’s rush hour look good!
And then, there are the spoofs, which are amusing to say the least, but no doubt, stand out like sore thumbs to the most ardent of automobile fans!
In Miami Beach, heavenly bodies strut their stuff, under aged men drive expensive cars and the rich & famous sail fancy yachts. There is yet another poser phenomenon – of the canine variety. It is said that in Miami, every dog has its day, the tinier the better 😉
If people watching isn’t your cup of tea, or glass of wine, as the case may be – take heed – for Miami offers much more than that. Art Deco, for starters! Art Deco buildings are as synonymous with Miami Beach as are bikinis, the sun and the sand! The city boasts a very colourful and immaculately maintained Art Deco District and for anyone who’s spent a significant amount of time in South Bombay, the buildings of Miami Beach are certain to invoke a strong sense of déjà vu.
If you’ve had it with the crowds on Ocean Drive, as we did – being there bang in the middle of spring break – head over to the much more tranquil looking Espanola Way. A Spanish themed village full of shops and outdoor cafes, accessible only to pedestrians and cyclists. I use the word ‘looking’ cause we didn’t end up going there but it definitely seemed like the kind of place I would like to explore the next time I visit Miami – once I’ve worked on my 6-pack i.e. 😉
Another such pedestrian only affair is the much larger and better known Lincoln Road Mall, which, although very touristy, has still managed to retain some charm and class. Shops are plentiful here but what abounds more than anything else are cafes, bars and restaurants, with an emphasis on the outdoor – in keeping with the very spirit of Miami Beach.
If you continue walking west along Lincoln Road, a few blocks past the hustle and bustle of the mall, you reach the western end of the barrier island that makes up the city of Miami Beach. If you time it around dusk, even better! Biscayne Bay, with its innumerable boats in the foreground and the Miami skyline in the background, makes for quite the picture!
There are no shortage of options when it comes to eating in Miami but if there’s 2 things one shouldn’t miss, it would have to be sea food (obviously!) and some authentic Central/South American food. Puerto Sagua (700 Collins Ave) stays open late and serves some good Cuban fare. For me, however, it was the beans & rice, yuca and plantains that did the trick – not so the Cuban sandwich!
‘Bike and Roll‘ (of SF, NY, DC & Chicago fame) has an outlet in Miami and for 25 bucks, a bike is yours to rent for the day. With very little traffic and an easier pace of life (leaving aside Ocean Drive!), Miami Beach is biking paradise. But if you really want to get away from it all and enjoy the waterfront at the same time, head over to downtown Miami via the Venetian Causeway.
The 2 mile long causeway spans Biscayne Bay, connecting Miami Beach to the mainland and traversing six islands along the way. Each one of these islands is purely residential, with almost all the houses, sorry villas, built along the waterfront!
If your fascination for mansions and yachts wanes after a while, there are other things that could vie for your attention – Miami’s skyline for one – North America’s 3rd most impressive after the Big Apple and the Windy City. Or then the world’s largest cruise ship terminal – which happened to be hosting another superlative that weekend – ‘Liberty of the Seas‘ – the world’s largest cruise ship!
Once your on the mainland – the duller side of ‘Miami’ ie – there are a couple of things to do. Not quite as exciting as SoBe for sure, but still..
The very imaginatively named Bayside Market boasts shops, eateries, a well stocked marina, plenty of boat tours and even a century old Banyan tree, the seedlings having been brought in from India!
A tour of the bay lasts 90 mins in all but costs the same as bike rental for a full day! Still probably worth it considering not everyone has the luxury of owning his or her own yacht! 😉
The boat heads out east, to begin with, leaving behind stunning views of Fisher Island (a private island, home to the likes of Agassi and Oprah), the Miami skyline and the Port of Miami.
Then it’s on to the real star attraction of the tour – the aptly named ‘Star Island‘!! Commonly known as ‘Millionaires Row’, the island is exclusively celeb territory with the guide rattling of names such as Shaq Attack, W Smith, Gloria E, Madonna, A-Rod, P.Diddy and Sly, as the boat slows strategically to a crawl in front of each house! If the moral police amongst you thought people watching was bad, this is all out voyeurism!
Back to the mainland (and reality!), there’s some great food, not far away. Ceviche 105 (105 NE 3rd Ave) is, simply put, sea food heaven! Ok, Peruvian style seafood heaven! Go there for sure but with a very large appetite cause the starters themselves are worth filling up on!
Rain had been forecast for both days that we were there but the sun obviously loves Miami more than any forecaster would like to believe! So, only at the very end of our stay, did the rain actually come down!
As I took one last stroll along the now wet boardwalk, the deck chairs had already been stacked high, the sands were devoid of crowds and not a soul could be seen wading the waters.
It was all very surreal. Much like Miami had been over those two days – surreal!
A full set of pics can be seen here.