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First Impressions of Miami

Party in the city when the heat is on or lying on the beach until the break of dawn..” I must have sung the Will Smith ‘Welcome to Miami’ song for the whole flight over (luckily this was just in my head). Big Willy, the Kardashians and the Lighthouse Family had all, in part, shaped my expectations of the city. I was expecting a brash, neon, pulsing place where the inhabitants had fake breasts and not much covering them. What I found was impressive architecture, transfixing street art, one very long, perfect white beach and a melting pot of seductive Latin culture – with just a dash of that flashiness I secretly hoped to see. With many airlines offering cheap flights on this route, will you be tempted to book a weekend in Miami and discover all this for yourself?

 Art Deco Architecture

I mentioned previously how mesmerising I found the history and beauty of the Art Deco District. Walking around the candy-coloured, ship-like buildings I found that many had been restored to better than they had been in their heyday. Originally small hotels for blue collar workers; the Art Deco hotels have housed prohibited bars, retirees and the US army throughout their years. Today they host the glamorous visitors to Miami, who lounge in the lobbies and daydream they are living in another era (or at least that’s what I did!)

 

The Breakwater has been the backdrop for advertising campaigns, not hard to see why

 

Art Deco buildings in Miami Beach have ship like qualities and often follow the rule of 3 in their design

In prohibition times arrows on the floor pointed the way to the bar

 

Wynwood

Wynwood left me speechless. It was not what I was expecting to find in Miami at all – but I sure was glad I did. Wynwood is a rundown area of warehouses in Downtown Miami which have been completely transformed by the addition of some of the most amazing street art I have ever seen. The Wynwood Walls are like a graffiti hall of fame, anyone who is anyone in the world of street art has added their lick of spray paint to these bricks. On the second Saturday of each month the area becomes an open air gallery/nightclub hybrid and entrance is completely free of charge. The walls are flood lit, djs and live bands perform sets on the street, galleries open their doors and serve cocktails, food vans offering everything from burgers to cupcakes line the street and the relaxed Miami residents wander around, chatting with friends, soaking it all in.

Wynwood Walls

Wynwood Walls

It’s neon and a bit risque – a great piece of art

Young hulk made me chuckle

More modern art found within the galleries

The recently opened Wynwood Kitchen and Bar blends seamlessly amongst its arty surroundings. Offering Latin inspired small plates to its animated patrons the restaurant is a visual and palatable feast. Overlooking our meal was a giant portrait by Shepard Fairey – his work includes the well known Obama ‘Hope’ poster – along with pieces by acclaimed street artists. You must try the bar’s mouth-watering cocktails; my recommendation is the Christian Awe – Prosecco, Chambord, raspberries = yum!

Shepard Fiarey’s work decorates the Wynwood Kitchen and Bar

Cuban Culture

Miami’s proximity and history with the island of Cuba means the city is infused with Cuban culture. We took a tour of Little Havana with Dragonfly Expeditions who show you the area through the eyes of its residents. Making a brief stop at the Palace of Juices, where I salivated over a Guava juice, we happened to enter Little Havana on a celebration day. Families crowded the streets; conversing in Spanish, sharing thimble sized portions of intoxicating Cuban coffee, and applauding local dignitaries who paraded amongst musicians and a giant Kermit the Frog.

Little Havana

Thimble sized shots of Cuban Coffee

Kermit parades in Little Havana

Dragonfly use guides of Cuban heritage to explain the Cuban relationship with Miami and bring the past alive with touching accounts of their personal experiences. Our guide introduced us to carby Cuban dishes (sumptuous plates of beans, rice, croquettas and pork) at renowned Cuban Cafe, Versailles, whilst recounting her families flight from the island and her inherent desire to see the land she feels is a part of her. Listening to her story and watching the cigar smoking gents playing dominoes in the park it felt as if we were far from the USA as opposed to standing in it.

South Beach

Miami has got it all – food, art, culture and one staggeringly beautiful white sand beach. South Beach in the sunshine is absolute bliss. The vibrant beach huts dotting the shore are picture perfect. If you get bored of bathing the Avenues of Collins and Lincoln provide retail therapy and funky venues like Sushi Samba  (a sizzling blend of Japanese, Brazilian and Peruvian cuisine and design) provide a new twist on lunch treats.

South Beach in the sun – bliss

Ocean Drive was made for parading – whether for Art Deco Weekend or on any day of the week. For a visitor it’s the perfect place to people and pooch watch. Cyclists, skaters, dog owners and their pets will all delight you with their attire. Of an evening you can get involved with the revelry at raucous places such as the Clevelander or take it in from above, sipping a cocktail on a rooftop terrace like at the boutiquey Betsy Hotel.

It was in South Beach that I finally got to see a bit of the Miami bling I had expected to find – three scantily clad ladies, with poker straight hair and over made up faces, approached me wearing vests with the words “I’m in Miami B*tch” stretched across their chests. ‘Yes, we are’, I thought,’ and I love it here’.

Special thanks to KLM and the Miami Visitors and Conventions Bureau for inviting me to discover such an awesome place. It was this trip that inspired my blog’s new look!

About Author

Travel blogger and freelancer writer who loves boutique hotels and brunching. I've been blogging for 10 years, visited 60+ countries and called London, Sydney, Melbourne and (oh so briefly) New York home at various points during the last decade. Now travelling with a baby and trying to make it as stylish and stress-free as can be!

20 Comments

  • Erin
    January 29, 2012 at 7:46 pm

    I adore Miami – it’s one of the few cities I could see myself living in if/when I return to the US (the others: SF and NYC). For now, I’ll stick with Madrid, though ;).

    Loving the new blog look!

    Reply
    • Jayne
      January 29, 2012 at 8:29 pm

      Totally agree with you Erin, I was almost surprised by how much I loved the place. I would live in any of the four you listed in a heart beat. Hope Madrid is treating you well 🙂

      Reply
  • D.J. - The World of Deej
    January 30, 2012 at 2:34 am

    There really is no place like Miami. My mom grew up there, and there is a lot of family history which makes it even more special. Sadly, I live only a few hours away and rarely get to visit. Maybe I’ll change that in 2012…

    Reply
    • Jayne
      January 31, 2012 at 2:57 pm

      Change it! And let me know what you get up to 🙂

      Reply
  • tom
    January 31, 2012 at 2:32 pm

    Love this post and I love Miami. Its so unexpected and there is so much more than you imagine. If I could live there full time I’d be pretty happy!

    I might even have to look at going back…again 🙂

    PS – love the Miami inspired redesign too

    Reply
    • Jayne
      January 31, 2012 at 2:57 pm

      Thanks Tom. If you move there I think I would be eternally jealous 🙂

      Reply
  • Josie @ happycorredora.com
    January 31, 2012 at 9:04 pm

    It looks lovely. I never really knew much about Miami other than a flashy beach and a cuban influence. It actually looks really cool! I would like to visit some day.

    Reply
    • Jayne
      February 2, 2012 at 12:22 pm

      Thanks Josie. I felt the same as you, expected flashiness but found culture and impressive art! I hope you get to visit some day 🙂

      Reply
  • wftristan
    February 1, 2012 at 2:48 pm

    Something tells me those Thimble sized shots of coffee have a serious kick in them !

    Wynwood walls looks amazing – like a (very) upmarket version of Londons Leake street Tunnels.

    Tristan

    Reply
    • Jayne
      February 2, 2012 at 12:22 pm

      I think I am still buzzing from those Cuban coffee shots!!

      Reply
  • James - Ouroyster.com
    February 2, 2012 at 11:35 am

    I had no idea Miami had such great street aret. I always viewed it as being a fairly sterile place but I guess not!

    Reply
    • Jayne
      February 2, 2012 at 12:23 pm

      Same! Surprising isn’t it! Hope you get a chance to go see for yourself!

      Reply
  • Will - My Spanish Adventure
    February 3, 2012 at 9:59 am

    I actually had the priveledge of living here way back in 2007 as a plucky 20-year-old on a study abroad year. Wynwood was amazing – we always went out down there on the first Wednesday of every month. The galleries would all open up and have free booze. Only way for a under-age drinker to get his rocks off!

    Great photos reminds me of good times past.

    Reply
    • Jayne
      February 3, 2012 at 11:24 am

      You lived in Miami? JEALOUS!!!

      Reply
  • Andy
    February 3, 2012 at 1:36 pm

    Miami is still on the dream list for my part, but I hope to get there in the next year or two. My impressions of Miami come mostly from ‘Dexter’ these days 🙂

    Reply
    • Jayne
      February 8, 2012 at 10:05 am

      haha I think with me going by Will Smith and you with Dexter we both have a lot to learn about Miami 🙂 Hope you get to make it there this year!

      Reply
  • Dan
    February 19, 2012 at 6:20 am

    Hey Jayne,
    Great site! Keep it up,

    Let us know if you ever feel like doing guest post. We’re always looking for new writers.
    http://www.thisboundlessworld.com

    Thanks!
    D

    Reply
  • […] one reminds me of the art on the Wynwood Walls in […]

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  • […] can tie in some culture and adrenalin filled activities at the same time – even better! I think Miami is a great example of […]

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  • […] kicked off the year with a trip to Miami to check out Art Deco Weekend and discovered there is more to Miami than beaches and […]

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