It was hard saying goodbye to Mexico and the thought of heading back to the States wasn’t ideal, but I hadn’t ever been to Miami and have always been intrigued by the laid-back party glitz and glamour image its name portrays. The flight was quick and uneventful and before too long we were in a cab headed to South Beach. I immediately liked the energy of this city with the sun shining brightly its opulence was immediately evident, with huge cruisers moored outside waterfront mansions. Sure it was a vastly different from Mexico but I am not adverse to the Miami Vice lifestyle either.
Upon arriving in South Beach the first thing I noticed were the wonderful art-deco buildings as we drove up Collins Street. Our hotel was no exception. The Tropics hotel had obviously not been renovated for a while but that didn’t take away from its charm and for one night it was all we needed. We arrived in the afternoon and as always we were hungry so hit the streets to check out the area and grab a bite. The shops were tacky and aimed at serious tourists but they were fun to check out all the same, Simo even bought a pair of shoes and got a haircut.
We ventured out later in the evening and walked around for quite some time before settling in for dinner on Lincoln Ave. at an Italian restaurant called ‘De Luca’. The food was very tasty and authentic but after our week of fresh plain food the carbs and creamy sauces took it’s toll and had us both feeling a bit drowsy and full. We decided to walk it off and strolled down to Ocean Grove famous for Giovanni Versace’s home where he was killed, art-deco buildings, neon lights and nightclubs. Despite being a Monday night the place was buzzing, having stuffed ourselves with dinner we opted against drinking and after taking a few pictures called it a night.
The next morning my Mum’s cousin John picked us up to give us a tour of Miami and drove us back to his place in Fort Lauderdale where we would stay for one night before our flight to Colombia the following day. I hadn’t seen John since I was 11 years old so we got reacquainted over breakfast in Ocean Grove, at ‘The News café’, which is apparently where Versace had breakfast right before he met his fateful end. The food was standard American fare and my fruit salad and granola was naturally huge, though still delicious and once we were full we headed off on John’s tour of Miami.
John has lived in Miami for 20-odd years so it was great to be driven around and shown areas we would never have normally seen on any tour or by our own means. One place that particularly stood out was the wonderful Biltmore Hotel, which was built in the 20’s in front of a golf course. It’s very opulent with a great big pool and I found it slightly reminiscent of the hotel in Colorado in ‘The Shining’. After such a huge breakfast we weren’t that hungry come lunchtime but John had suggested we try his favourite Cuban restaurant ‘Versailles’, so we gladly obliged. The place was packed and is an obvious favourite with the Cuban locals. We let John order and sat back to enjoy the rich flavours that are no doubt representative of the culture that created them. After lunch and barely able to walk we made our way up the coast to Fort Lauderdale where we picked up John’s daughter Sofia from school on our way home. John’s kids Sofia and Oliver are lovely, highly intelligent and engaging – both very bright, talented kids and a testament to their Dad’s great parenting skills.
After settling in at John’s place (he very kindly offered us his room) we headed out with Sofia and Oliver to the mall to pick up a couple of things we needed for South America. The mall was very big as expected, and we walked around for a while until we found what we needed – a fisheye camera lens for Simo and some cargo pants for me, though despite the many shops finding a pair of women’s cargos was harder than we’d anticipated. I eventually ended up with a men’s pair and it turns out that Simo and I are the same size!
All that shopping and walking around made us hungry believe it or not, so we made our way to ‘The Knife’ – an Argentinian restaurant and another Hamlin family favourite. This place was buffet only with a huge choice of meat and salads. Once again we stuffed ourselves and had great conversation. It was an early night after that as we had a reasonably early flight the next day. John kindly drove us to the airport in the morning, and though it was a short visit it was so nice to catch up with him and meet his kids. We would like to say a massive thanks to John for his hospitality and generosity; we had a great time and very much look forward to seeing you in Sydney sometime soon.