Hi guys, I’m back! After a month of being involved with some other projects, work and just getting through these times, I thought I’d carry on with my US travel series! It feels like ages since I looked back at photos and wrote about those travelling days, so I’ve really enjoyed having a bit of escapism. Catch up on the rest of my USA posts here! All the way through my time working at Disney World in Florida, there was a mini break that everyone wanted to take on their days off. That was of course Miami, the iconic beach resort on the south east of Florida state. With a packed schedule of shifts, it was hard to arrange enough time to see it to its fullest during the program, but once it was finished (literally the morning after the last late shift!), it was the perfect opportunity to plan 3 days in the magic city!
The greyhound bus took us from Orlando central station to the heart of Miami in just over 4 hours. It was a simple enough journey with few stops and there are plenty of services throughout the day. We then boarded a local bus to our hotel located on South Beach in the heart of the art deco area with the sea just a 5/10 minute walk away. My first impressions were aligned with the stereotypical image of Miami, lots of young, trendy people strolling down the streets, some heading for the beach, some heading to do business in the city. You definitely feel that Miami vibe! After dropping off the bags at Hotel Chelsea, we ran to the beach at the first chance we got and threw ourselves into the water. It was nearly dusk, so we didn’t get long but it was very refreshing after being cooped up on buses most of the day. We then wandered down the beachfront to soak everything up and get our bearings. On one side the atmosphere is slightly corrupted with the hoards of restaurants luring you in for overpriced food, but on the opposite sidewalk, there was nothing but the sound of the sea, palm trees overhead and the blazing sun burning my skin off! We avoided the busy seafront for food and returned to the backstreets for a more traditional offering. That is when we discovered one amazing Italian restaurant, so good I’d go as far as saying some of the best Italian food I’ve ever had. Very simple interior, nothing too fancy but it was incredibly efficient and so authentic that it wouldn’t have looked out of place in Italy itself. I tasted both the pasta and pizza and they were fantastic, Caffe Di Mauro if you want to check it out!
The following day we headed to Downtown Miami for a look at another side to the city. Buses regularly make there way over the two huge bridges that connect the town to the beach and you ride past some very luxurious looking island villas in the middle. Being dropped off at Bayside Marketplace, it was a great starting place to follow the waterside around and checked out the Octogan-shaped Hard Rock Cafe & shop while we were there. (When there is a Hard Rock Cafe in the area, I always try to go and grab a pin to add to my collection!) This area has a really cool vibe, there was even a monorail making its way around the bottom of the skyscrapers. There were picture-perfect views back over the water to the beach side and the skyscrapers towered over us behind. For lunch we stopped by at a locals favourite in the heart of the financial district, Clove Mediterranean Kitchen. Quick nutritious salad style bowls filled with whatever you fancied from a huge selection.
After wandering some of the backstreets, which were quite a contrast to the stylish promenade, we visited the Freedom Tower, one of the most iconic buildings in the city. It has had many uses throughout the years, starting out as the home of the Miami Newspaper and later becoming the hub for many Cuban’s escaping the cold war. The current use as a cultural & arts centre means it contains many exhibitions on the history of Miami and the future projects shaping the city. The building itself is stunning, there are lots of Spanish influences inside and out with delicately sculpted Floridian pine ceilings, handmade ceramic tiles and amazing murals are scattered throughout the halls. I actually found the exhibits quite plain, they weren’t particularly engaging and could have been better but the beautiful surroundings made up for this.
Further north we came across the Maurice A. Ferre Park, an oceanside park incorporating the Perez Art Museum and Phillip & Patricia Frost Museum of Science. We were running out of time now, so decided to just explore the outside exhibits before catching the bus back to the beachside. The peaceful location by the water really did confirm that were in Miami though, even the whole of downtown had a relaxed vibe that no other city would ever be able to create. No-one was in a rush, everything had it’s place and the people seemed to love the fact that they called the city their home. That evening we decided to visit a Thai restaurant we had seen the night before. It certainly didn’t disappoint, it was just the refreshing change of taste we needed after eating heavy carbs most of the past week!
Our last day was spent on the south beach, we had a quick visit on the first day, but this time we dedicated the day to it before the journey back to Orlando. So the famous Miami beach, how was it, well the sand is the whitest I have ever seen which is blinding at times when the sun’s rays are fully beaming. In fact, the sand itself is not natural in any way, rising sea levels mean that the city spends millions of dollars pumping up sand from the seafloor and if this wasn’t done, the beach would not be there, simple. The views looking across and back towards the promenade are quite impressive with the multitude of urban buildings and palm trees towering above you. Though on our visit the wind was really in full swing, which kind of took the peacefulness out of a relaxing beach trip. I think this is quite common though as others have said that Miami does get its fair share of wind because of its positioning on the Atlantic ocean. So overall, the beach wasn’t my favourite, I would suggest visiting some of the lesser know beaches further up the Floridian gulf.
The three days in Miami were certainly an experience I won’t forget, I’d never really been interested in visiting myself but seen as I was so close it was hard to say no! I wouldn’t return in a hurry, even though there is lots more to see, it is very commercial and it’s reputation keeps it as the hub for many things but it didn’t live up to it for me. I would be more interested in seeing the smaller coastal towns in Florida for a more authentic experience where the true identity shines through rather than a need to fulfil a reputation, which I think Miami try’s to do. Nonetheless, nothing can recreate that Miami atmosphere and it is a great starting destination to explore more of Florida. It’s crazy to think the nature-filled Everglades are less than an hours drive away, with alligators and rare bird species in abundance. Then the canals of the western cities such as Cape Coral are not far too. There is so much more to see, it’s got me dreaming!