Saturday, December 12, 2009

South Beach, Miami

At the beginning of December, I spent a few days in South Beach with my friend Catherine. I had never been to Miami before and it was a fun trip. We flew down on a Wednesday morning and I came home Friday night.

We stayed at the Sagamore (The Art Hotel), on Collins. There were cool sculptures in the lobby, paintings and photographs hanging on the walls in the hallways and rooms, and the back stairwell was painted in a mural. There was a video garden out near the pool, featuring computer generated images. There was also beach access from the pool area.

After we checked in, we had a leisurely lunch at the Front Porch Cafe on Ocean Drive. Afterward, we walked along the beach path back to the hotel, changed into our swim suits and dove into the pool. It was heated and the temperature was just perfect. Later that evening we decided headed over to the Delano hotel and had a couple of drinks at the pool bar. They had lounging beds around the pool. It was a such a beautiful setting that paying $17 for a Mojito feel quite pleasurable. ;-)

For dinner we wandered over to the Shore Club for some Italian food from the restaurant Apo. It was delicious and we got a kick out of watching all the fashionistas come and go as we dined. As we left the hotel we passed a huge queue of folks waiting to get into a party in the garden. Later we found out that it was a private party for a gallery opening with attendees like Lance Armstrong, Shepherd Fairey, Dr. Dre and others.

We walked out to the beach and stumbled on a free concert featuring London artist Ebony Bones. They were really fun. The music was catchy and they put on a great show. Check them out on youtube.

The next day we walked down to the News Cafe for brunch, then walked along the beach path, and lounged around the hotel for a while. In the afternoon we rented beach cruisers and rode around Miami Beach for a couple of hours. The bikes were single speeds with coaster brakes. It took a little while to figure out how to stop without falling off... when you're used to freewheel backpedaling, it really takes a while before you can learn how to backpedal, brake and put a foot down all at once. I have to say, it really helped to employ cyclocross-style mounts and dismounts. It was good to have some forward momentum to get the pedals turning, and swinging a leg over, coasting and then stepping off worked a lot better than the other method of stopping.

We ended up riding out along the Venetian Causway and cruising around the little island neighborhoods. Many of the homes were decorated for Christmas - it seemed a little odd to us to have 80 degree weather and palm trees with holiday lights. I suppose it seems normal to the people who live there. It was definitely fun to see.

That night we had Cuban food for dinner. It was a really casual place and the food was simple. Unfortunately, other than fried plantains (yuck), we didn't have anything that seemed to be specifically Cuban. We had chicken and rice and beans. All very tasty, but not very different.

After dinner we took a swim in the pool. It felt so decadent to be swimming in the warm pool under the moonlight. The hotel had lovely soft robes for their guests, so even drying off seemed luxurious.

I was bummed to have to leave the next day. It was such a short trip, but definitely worth it. We brunched at the News Cafe again, then rode the bikes along the beach (in the sand) for a while before returning them. Then back to the room for packing and off to the airport.

For your enjoyment, I have made a list of the highlights, lowlights and oddities of the trip.

  • cruising South Beach on beach cruisers
  • swimming in the heated pool
  • stumbling on the Ebony Bones beach concert
  • decadent drinks at the Delano poolside
  • rubbing elbows (sort of) with celebrities
  • seeing postal carriers delivering mail by bicycle

  • $17 Mojitos
  • a cockroach in the Cuban restaurant the size of a mini Clif Bar
  • non-working jacuzzi bathtub in the hotel room
  • obnoxious restaurant hostesses on Ocean Drive
  • complete lack of respect or rights of pedestrians and cyclists - the light would change, the walk signal would come on, and 3-4 cars (especially taxis) would charge through the intersection prepared to mow down anyone in their path - 9 times out of 10 you wouldn't be able to cross the street until AFTER the walk light started flashing red

  • while we were riding our bikes, we saw a black stretch limo equipped with a rooftop ski rack (where do they ski in Florida?)
  • walking down Collins, we saw a beautiful woman wearing a teeny white bikini and strappy sandals draped in shopping bags (she was nowhere near the beach and needless-to-say she stopped traffic)
  • while dining at the News Cafe, a dog came around to the tables carrying a bucket and begging for money (he was pretty successful, too!)

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