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Published: March 4th 2012
The Art Deco District in South Beach - definately worth doing a bus tour/walking tour of this area if you are interested in Architecture and have the time
After flying into Miami International Airport, we hired a car from Alamo and drove across Miami to our hotel in Miami Beach. The GPS system we managed to hire was invaluable, and the skyline by night of Miami was beautiful.
The resort we were staying in was the Miami Beach Resort, North of South Beach (http://www.miamibeachresortandspa.com/
). I wasn't too impressed by the resort - after looking on the website before we left, I had high expectations and they weren't met. When you first walk in, the hotel looks impressive, but underneath the initial grandeur, the hotel was tired, old fashioned and in desperate need of updating.
The pool area was nothing to shout home about, although being a 'beach hotel' I presume this is not important to a lot of people - and in the afternoon the tall hotels along the road blocked out the sun completely so there wasn't even a place to sun bathe. The gate at the back of the hotel gave direct access to a beach and we decided to rise early on the first morning to watch the sunrise - and what a good decision, absolutely beautiful and not to be missed.
South Point Beach
A little quieter than South Beach but definately worth a visit
hotel is also a 'spa' but it takes a lot of imagination to call it that. The 'spa' comprised of a small building next to the pool with a sauna, steam room and gym, free for use by patrons of the hotel. There was a man with a portable massage table sat by the side of the pool most days, offering a back massage!
The breakfast provided by the hotel was an extra charge so we chose not to have the 'full' breakfast, instead we made use of the 'cheaper' option, a small cafe on the lower floor offered self -service bagels.
I also regretted checking into a hotel which was not in the centre of South Beach - if I ever return to Miami, I will definately stay in South Beach rather than on the outskirts.
One of the things I struggled to get my head round was the US concept of 'cities'. They are unlike our cities - so in the vicinity, there was Miami City and Miami Beach City - two seperate areas.
On our first day in Miami Beach, we decided to take a sight seeing tour. There are an unbelievable number
of tour operators offering different types of tours, but they all visit the majority of the same places. We made the mistake of attempting to walk to South Beach and soon gave up and hopped on a 'metro bus', which run every few minutes all over Miami and are relatively cheap (well cheaper than a taxi anyhow!).
I would have preferred to catch a hop-on hop-off bus tour but I was with my parents who preferred to travel on an air conditioned coach, so we decided to go on a tour run by 'Paradise Tours' for $49 each. A lot of tour operators offered an option to combine a city tour with a boat tour of Biscayne Bay - which we did.
On the tour, we visited Miami Beach, South Beach and South Beach Art Deco District, Downtown Miami (had a 10 minute stop to look round and take pictures), Coconut Grove (a residential area), Coral Gables (5 minute stop at the exclusive Gables Hotel to look round and 5 minute stop at the Venetian Pool), Little Havana (15 minute stop to buy food, have a walk round and look in the cigar factory, a place where we
A lovely little shopping centre
found the worlds smallest cigar and an old man sat rolling hand made cigars). Little Havana is the cuban centre of Miami, a fact which is quite significant as a large proportion of the residents of Miami are either spanish or cuban. We then drove to Bayside, where we caught a boat to have a tour of the Biscayne Bay, and the infamous 'millionaires row', a long row of houses providing accomodation for the likes of P Diddy, Gloria Estefan and Will Smith. Back at Bayside, we were given the opportunity to have shopping time; looking round it was pretty similar to an English Mall, just with the addition of several market stalls and a picturesque habour.
The bus was supposed to drop us back to our hotel, but due to some confusion we were taken back to the tour operator, and so after some negotiation the operator ordered and paid for our taxi back to our hotel.
The tour bus was comfortable and the tour was well presented, although I personally would have preferred an open air tour bus which would have provided a panoramic view rather than a view through a window on one side of
a bus. Also, hop-on hop-off would have allowed us more time to explore each of the locations visited on the tour, rather than a whistle-stop tour like the one we did.
Tours were also on offer to the Everglades however we planned to do this later in the trip so politely declined.
In the evening we went out for a meal, to a lovely little Italian Restaurant between our hotel and South Beach, known as Cafe Avanti (http://www.cafeavanti.com/
). The food was beautiful, and although a little pricey, nothing compared to the meal I had at this restaurant for the rest of the trip!
For the second day, we decided to explore South Beach and South Point (the furthet point South) from which you can find beautiful picturesque views and photo opportunities. South Beach is lovely, vibrant and full of interesting people. I took a walk down Washington Avenue to find the Love Hate Tattoo Studio - the home of the infamous 'Miami Ink' TV show and to do a little shopping. Washington Avenue is packed with stores of all times, including restaurants, as is Collins Avenue (if you want shopping, find Collins Avenue Shopping District).
Beach itself is also lovely, white sand and blue water - I took a walk along the beach, and it wasn't as busy as I thought it was going to be given the beatiful weather.
In the evening, we returned to South Beach and decided to try 'Peruvian' Cuisine, in a little place called Norkies in Washington Avenue. The food was good, similar to chinese, and the service was excellent. It was cheap too! There was a little street off Washington Avenue that we were tempted to eat in but decided against it to sample some Peruvian Food. It is a little area which seems to be a microcosm within South Beach, full of spanish restaurants and grills!
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