Well hello! Welcome to the first of my Miami photo diaries. Miami is a place that I'm finding so, so hard to put into words because there's so much going on. Some parts feel very Cuban, others very 'cool' (I can't think of a better word, I'm so sorry), other modern and almost futuristic, others like you've walked straight back in time to hang out with Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe. Basically what I'm saying is that there's no specific 'feel' to Miami per se, just a whole lot of stuff going on (as you soon will see). So, let's go.
After our flight in with Thomas Cook, we headed for the beautiful Biltmore hotel in Coral Gables, which is very, very beautiful and old worldly and has hosted everyone from Judy Garland to Al Capone. As well as its interesting history, it boasts a spa, tennis courts, a selection of lovely restaurants and one of the most finest golf courses you ever did see. Also - the breakfast is one of the best I've had, that fruit was deeelish.
The next day we headed for a little tour of the Biscayne Bay and some stand-up paddle boarding with Shake-A-Leg, an amazing non-profit organisation in Miami that offer a selection of programmes and activities each week. They have some really fantastic staff and volunteers who work closely with children and adults of all abilities with the aim of providing a safe and welcoming environment to experience and take part in water-based activities. They have everything from stand-up paddle boards to sailboats to kayaks, as well as classrooms and a rooftop observation deck, and were just really lovely and inspirational people to meet and hear about what they do.
Later on that night we headed to Kimodo in Downtown Miami for what has to be one of the tastiest meals I've had. It's a Southeast Asian inspired menu and oh my god, words can't describe how good it was. Plus they were amazing with gluten free, letting me know what I could and couldn't eat (tears trickling down my face at the things I couldn't eat) and what dishes they could adapt for me. Welllll worth a wee visit!
The next day we headed to the Perez Art Museum, which is actually one of my favourite museums I've been to. It's just as beautiful inside as it is out, with a huge big glass wall that lets you take in the view and look out onto the many, many (many) palm trees as you browse the galleries. The pieces were all so interesting - and different to anything I'd seen before - and as it's such a light, airy space that's really beautiful to walk around at your own pace. Plus, it's where David Beckham held one of his press conferences, so you can go and kiss the actual ground where he stood. Don't worry, it's a safe zone. No one's judging.
We also headed to the Miami Design District, which is an absolute must-do for you shopaholics out there (Mam, I'm looking at you). It's filled with every designer shop you could think of, and the architecture is just beautiful - even if you're not into shopping it's worth a little wander through. There are some beautiful sculptures, from the likes of Mark Quinn and Zaha Hadid, plus the buildings are works of art themselves. That little globe in the third photo below is actually the entrance to the car park. Snazzy, huh?
Another highlight was The Day Of Two Tours, where we did both the Art Deco Walking Tour and the Miami Culinary Tour around the iconic South Beach. This is also where I also came across what could be two of the cutest dogs in the world and faced the dilemma of whether or not to sneak them home in my case.
Now, I'd personally recommend doing one out of the two tours as they do cover some of the same ground. One is a little more food-focused (ceviche, empanadas, churros, you name it - I was in my element), the other delves a bit deeper into the history of Miami and its beautiful Art Deco buildings. You'll see things like the famous Tides hotel, where Marilyn and Joe DiMaggio used to stay and Frank Sinatra would have a tipple, Versace's mansion, the Breakwater hotel (famous for its Calvin Klein underwear shoot) and much, much more. Whether you do it by tour or by yourself, it's an area that you absolutely need to visit!
Another little excursion we did (we fitted in a lot for five days, huh) was tour of the Biscayne Bay with Ocean Force adventures. It's a great way to see Miami and its downtown skyline from a different angle, and you also get a little sneaky at the fronts of the celebrity mansions which belong the likes of Gloria Estefan and Rosie O'Donnell. Verrry exciting for the nosypokes among us (again, you're in a safe place, no judgement). On the two-hour tour you'll find out more about the history of Miami whilst flying along on a Zodiac RIB (used by the FBI FYI... Hold on tight to your sunglasses, that's all I'll say).
Well, this post has become very long, very quickly, so I'll save the rest of it for another post later on this week. That's right, Miami: Part II.
See my other Miami posts:
I was a guest of both the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau, which has lots of useful information on places to stay and things to do in Miami (miamiandbeaches.com) and of Thomas Cook Airlines, flying direct from Manchester Airport. Flights from Manchester to Miami start from £379.98 in economy and £619.98 in premium economy. Prices are subject to availability and valid for travel between May and June 2016. For further details and to book, visit thomascookairlines.com
Rates at The Biltmore start from £148 per night in low season. For more information visit www.biltmorehotel.com.