Bienvenidos a Miami

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March 10th 2016
Published: March 10th 2016
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"Party in the city when the heat is on,

all night on the beach till the break of dawn,

we're going to Miami,

Bienvenidos a Miami"

We could not get this song out of our heads since we booked our flight here. We sung it out loud, to ourselves and every time we were reminded of our pending trip to Miami. No telling, we were pretty excited to be heading back to the US albeit for only 2 nights before we fly to Colombia. We looked forward to all the things in the US we missed - the food especially for Chris. It had only been 2 weeks since we were last here.

Although we arrived and were flying from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, we opted to stay in Miami; an hours drive north. An hour if you have a car that is. To keep costs down we took the shuttle from the airport to the TRI rail station. We must have just missed one as we had to wait around 45mins for the next one to Miami.

Once in Miami we had to catch a bus to our hostel in South Beach. The whole journey took around 3 hrs, suffice to say we were both tired by the time we arrived at our hostel and slightly disappointed that we chose this method of travel when we only had 2.5 days here. The silver lining was that we'd arrived at our hostel just as they were serving their daily free dinners in the evening. Couldn't have timed it better.

On the bus and TRI rail train we looked out the windows and watched daily life pass us by feeling happy to be back in the states one more time. We were surprised at how green Florida was with its forests of palm trees in some of the areas we passed. It actually reminded us of places like Malaysia or Singapore with the amount of bright green trees stretching on for miles in the aptly named sunshine state. Florida didn't actually look like any of the other cities/areas we had visited in the states either, most buildings and homes seemed to be solely ground level and had an art deco style to them. Some areas around the city didn't have that concrete jungle feel to it at all.

The most obvious thing we wanted to
do was head to the famous beach. So our first day was dedicated to some sight-seeing. With the hot sun beaming down on us we walked the few blocks from our hostel to the famous South beach. As far as beaches go; south beach was nice, it was really wide, clean and stretched on for miles. However saying that we weren't bowled over by it, I think we were spoiled by the Caribbean Sea of Isla Mujeres being able to swim in its calm warm clear waters even if the area was a lot smaller. You could swim here but at your own risk, the waves were really strong.

As with most other cities in the states, it did not take long before we noticed the presence of the homeless on the streets. We mention this a lot, I guess seeing people pushing a trolley full of bin bags with all their possessions along with them, often in a very unkempt state, many of whom are very vocal shouting ambiguous statements at by passers.. really caught us by surprise and hit a cord with us.

We casually strolled along the enormous beach with the sea to the right of us and the huge buildings of the centre to our left. People watch as people sun worshipped. It was nice to see the diversity of people here.

We didn't have much to do on our itinerary during our short stay here but didn't feel the urge to have a beach day. Not sure why. I guess being so big of beach, you felt exposed and could not find you own hidden corner. The sea was freezing too despite the extremely hot weather!

Either way, there were many people on the beach and in the sea but due to the size of the beach there was plenty of space without it looking crowded. We carried on walking down the beach often stopping to rest a little, with some people watching here and there. People chatting, having disagreements, with all their food, a whole set up of table and chairs, their family, friends or just their partners. All of different nationalities and accents, many of whom sounded local to the area. It was very interesting to see and hear. As we walked 30 minutes further up the beach, it was quite striking to see the beach backed up by the high sky rises of apartments and high rises. For some reason the high rises and beach worked well together and brought a touch of sophistication to the beach area.

From this point there was a broad walk with bikers, skaters and runners utilising the path. The only thing that ruined this leisurely walk for us was the fact that the beach side was hidden by a tall walled green area all the way along the path.

South beach has a main shopping area; Lincoln Road Mall; a row of high end shops stretching a traffic less street with alfresco dining lining the centre. The art deco style was quite prominent along this street, white washed builds, angular and circular designs and a touch of individualistic art and style to most.

Even the H&M store stood out as it was once a theatre in its heyday. There was a nice ambience to the area as we window shopped and stopped for a pizza slice and the highly addictive frozen yogurt shop 'Yogen Früz'. We've been addicted to frozen yogurt with fruits and sweets on top since first sampling some in Ubud, Bali.

We couldn't help but notice the amount of Spanish speakers that lived/worked/visited here, we probably heard more Spanish than English during our time in Miami. We tried to nosey in on a few conversations to test if our Spanish was improving. Haha. It wasn't. After all the walking we had did this day we decided to catch the 25cent city bus that took us all the way back to the doorstep of our hostel (very impressed with the pricing there!).

We fancied a cocktail or two, to celebrate an amazing trip across the states and a surprise journey back. We decided to revisit a lovely area we passed near the beach earlier this day and so strolled back to this area filled with many bars and eateries. To our surprise every bar seemed to sell overpriced cocktails that cost nearly our whole day's budget for 2. We could not justify splashing out, even if we considered sharing a drink.

I guess these prices were not too much of a surprise to us as we were not too far from the area where we had heard you can find many boutique stores including one owned by the infamous Kardashians. Instead we walked back
past the many people dining and drinking the most incredible looking cocktails and commented that we would enjoy such luxuries on another visit. Instead we drank a few beers back at our hostel. Yes certainly still backpackers we reminded ourselves.

Whilst in Miami we desperately needed to do a bit of shopping for some South American essentials, namely a rain coat for P (she left her last one way back in Nashville) and a guide book for South America. The whole second day was therefore dedicated to shopping. The shopping area on Lincoln Road Mall had many stores which sold many vintage style clothing and expensive brands but did also include some high street stores. When shopping for some new t-shirts we were surprised that many stores sold mainly winter wear such as coats and jumpers (sweaters for American readers) despite the weather average being 30 degrees all year round. It was strange that the stores followed a weather system that did not apply there. Finding a t-shirt for Chris was a challenge and half. This was crazy.

None of these stores sold rain coats either... where’s a good old 'Sports Direct' when you need one. After asking around we were told to visit a sports retail shop a few miles out on the mainland. An area that included many big well priced stores like Target, Marshalls and for sports...Sports Authority. Finally a place we could find a rain jacket. It took us 2 buses taking a total of 1.5hrs to get there. It takes 15-20 mins by car. Ahh. We hate the transport system here.

Luckily it was not in vain and we were able to find a rain jacket for P and also treated ourselves to a GoPro. Still being on a budget. I know what you may be saying... a bit late for this now but we had been inspired in Isla Mujeres so made the purchase. Better late than sorry. After a few hours trapped in these stores (we had not shopped in a while) we rushed back home (via uber taxi this time) to make it just in time for dinner at our hostel once again. The dinners weren't amazing but they were free.

Our hostel proved to be a great social place that offered nights out for guests, both nights we were there was something going on some type of
drinking bar crawl but un/fortunately the first night we were tired and the 2nd night we had a flight in the morning. Maybe in our younger years that wouldn't have been a problem.

We probably would have liked one more day in Miami to really get to know it more. For Chris it had a nice ambience and was beautiful too but for P it just did not live up to expectations. With all the hype P expected more, of maybe culture, a feeling or just meeting those friendly locals we were used to. We had read so many things about some areas outside the tourist area known for the graffiti (Wynwood walls) and Latin American feel (Little Havana). However relying on public transport was time wasting and not as straightforward as we hoped.

However new adventures were calling us. With some regret we said goodbye to The States for the last time on this trip as we anticipated the next leg of our trip....

Accommodation: Sobe Hostel
Date: 3rd November 2015

Overview: We loved the states and our adventure across it was what we wanted plus so much more. Along with visiting all the places we set out to visit, we managed to gain a deeper insight into its dynamic culture and history.. Uncovering upsetting and saddening things on one hand and some incredible and exciting things on the other.

For us, it was just a fascinating place. Everything is much bigger than we are used to; the extroverted outspoken personalities, the humongous food portions, oversized cars, tall skyscrapers and the impressively large and beautiful national parks. We never expected the scenery to be as striking and ever changing as it was. We certainly wanted more on this front.

Also the USA was not a place we expected to be overwhelmed by, in terms of how friendly everyone was. We were always being greeted by locals, who were super friendly and as we concluded just loved to talk.

We liked the fact that it was constantly full of surprises. Not a day went by without coming across some unknown festival, event, some incredibly talented street performers (singers/dancers/bands) or just an outspoken person preaching, shouting to us, the masses or just themselves.

Chris's favourite place: New York, Grand Canyon, Memphis

P's favourite places: Almost all cities.

Our favourite activity: Road trip in California, walking inside the Grand Canyon

Things we liked most: The warmth and friendliness of the many people we met. The strong accents and drawls we came across. Visiting the few national parks, the incredible musuems in DC, exploring African American history and America's independence (The Freedom Trail). The Californian coast. The cheap public transport - Uber.

…Disliked: Expensive healthy food, over reliance on a car culture. Overpriced dorm rooms in NYC, Boston, San Fransciso; $40-50 pp for a dorm was insane. On the otherhand the smelly motel rooms. ATM charges!! Misleading pricing (not including tax-which varied from place to place). The poverty.

Accommodation: Overprized for what it was worth. Hostels as well as motels were hit and miss. Some new modern lodges others than needs to be knocked down altogether. Was probably our biggest expense at around $30 for us both. Favourite hostels were in DC, San Diego, New Orleans and Las Vegas.

Transport: Do not be put off by using public transport. We found this to be a great way of getting from city to city. For us and what we saw, the Greyhound was completely safe and reliable. Night buses
can be somewhat annoying with the stops waking them us. If looking for alternatives to Greyhound there are however more modern spacious options on East Coast like Megabus. Getting on public transport around cities was just as easy in most places and inexpensive but car hire would have offered more scope for things to see in Miami. For the best deals with bus tickets we booked many a month before we arrived. Car hire also should be done in advance for the best deals.

Expenditure: for 36 days All together $6280 /£4423
This breaks down to be $175 / £122.86 per day for us both

City to city transport for us both (including car hire (twice) and 1 flight) = $618 (Included in expenditure above)

Additional photos below
Photos: 28, Displayed: 28


11th March 2016

Shocked, yes, I am shocked!
First, I'm thrilled that you liked my country and that people were friendly. However, I'm shocked at how much all of this cost you. I guess I've always driven my ancient car, camped, hosteled sometimes and self-catered always, but yikes, I'm so impressed with the fortune you two spent and that you are still smiling (then again, you're from England, which wiped out my budget). I'm also a huge fan of Isla de Mujeres, so also shocked that the Miami waters were freezing and not so inviting. Most of my South American friends have either been to Miami or have friends living there, plus lots of ex-Cubans, so yes, lots of Spanish. Regarding the homeless--it's a massive, shameful problem in the US, and as you saw, many have mental problems and should be sheltered; in England, you have people squatting, which is brilliant. We also have so many empty homes, but we don't have the squatting mentality for the healthy homeless--too bad. Regarding stores that follow a crazy weather system--that's your fault, my 4-season friends. All over the world, stores think we live in the UK or NY, so in Miami or my CA or here in Peru, when it's hot, stores offer still clothes for that next season--you were there in the fall, so winter clothes are on offer, but glad you got what you needed. Most of all, I'm just so happy that you had a lovely experience in my country. For your next visit, I'll share tips on fine, cheap hostels, avoiding ATM fees and cheaper transport. Looking forward to your return!
11th March 2016

Shocked your shocked
Wow. We're surprised you are shocked. The figure includes some clothes we purchased at the beginning and 2 buses we did not catch (we missed our LA-SF bus and also memphis to New Orleans as we opted to stay longer). We did not cook once (lazy bones I know). Plus the internal flight to my recollection cost close to $100 when including baggage so taking this out of the equation we spent around $400 for us together. I thought we got some good deals. We could have saved with car hire and by couchsurfing with advance planning for both. We also have a problem in the UK and only today I read an article about new powers and orders coming into place prohibiting certain behavious that can include homeless and begging. This only serves to hide the problem and not address the causes. I do not know much about work in the states addressing this, but as a visitor maybe because the homeless were more vocal in the states, it really stood out to us.
11th March 2016

Excellent budgeting!!
Can't believe you traveled to all those wonderful places in the U.S. and spent so little money. I'm proud of you for taking the dog (greyhound) across America as this saved you an enormous amount of money. Loved your adventure and wish we had know you would be in Florida and we would have had you over for dinner. Let us know next time! In the U.S. we used to have many psychiatric and mental health facilities but money was tight during the 80's recession and President Reagan closed all those facilities to save money. Sadly, that created a large homeless population in our country and it has continued. We do not provide enough reserves for the indigent and or mentally impaired....and you saw then on our streets. Americans can get a lot of bad press but generally we are warm and wonderful people who love to talk to everyone. We are happy you enjoyed the trip. Come back soon.
15th March 2016

Thanks, were impressed you think so. We could have saved more but equally could have spent much more too. Its interesting you think we have seen soo many places in the states. We have lots more places on our list so feel like we only touched the surface. Ha saying that; theres no way whatsoever we could have covered more ground. No way. Yes we agree, Americans are friendly talkative people and we're happy we got to see witness this first hand. If only we knew. I'm sure we'll be back and we'll take you up on that offer when we are!
12th March 2016

I love art deco
When we were in Florida we left Miami right away not thinking there was anything really to see there. Next time we'll hang around longer because I love art deco. /Ake
15th March 2016

The art deco is really impressive. With a little bit of research next time it will be nice to find some hidden gems away from tourist central as potentially feels like it has a lot to offer.

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