You can know anything. It's all there. You just have to find it.

-Neil Gaiman


Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Innocent Voyage - Part 2: South Beach

So we arrive at our hotel after a 40 minute drive from the airport to South Beach. South Beach is really the southern tip of Miami Beach, which is an island. Downtown Miami is on the other side of Biscayne Bay and there are a series of bridges that connect the two pieces of land.

It only took about 15 minutes to get to South Beach, but the mile long drive down Collins Avenue took the other 25 minutes. Seriously, it is one long slow moving parade of cars and people, everyone trying to be seen. Since it was a Saturday afternoon it was probably more crowded than normal; I'm assuming 80% of the people were tourists.

Collins Avenue is a main drag, along with Ocean Drive. This is where the majority of the old art deco hotels are. It's amazing how they fixed it all up; back in the 70s South Beach was a total dump, a blighted ghetto of abandoned buildings. So I've been told (more on the history of Miami later). There are still a few places that are being gutted and remodeled but the over all feel of South Beach now seems like a mix between Las Vegas, Disney land, and Hugh Hefner's playboy mansion.

Yeah, it really is like that.

People stroll around shirtless or in bikinis and are drinking alcohol on the street. A lot of tight clothes, high heels, hot pink and blue, perfectly made up models with oversized sunglasses and jewelry carrying around tiny doggies with similarly jeweled collars. The one thing I did notice and like about Miami is how people LOVE their dogs. Dogs everywhere! Bulldogs, Pugs, Italian greyhounds, Pomeranians, tiny Poodles, and tons of little Chihuahuas. We walked along Lincoln Road one afternoon (pedestrian shopping mall) and I even saw several people take their dogs inside the stores. Even the Apple store. And some hotels have Sunday brunch where you can bring your dog and they get a special "doggie brunch". I loved it.

We were staying at the Chesterfield Hotel on Collins Avenue, right in the heart of the Art Deco district. I was a little nervous because I read both good and bad reviews of the hotel.

We arrived and the receptionist was nice; not rude like some people had said. The lobby was cool. A mixture of Ernest Hemingway's Africa and Donatella Versace, if you can picture that. There is a bar in the corner because this hotel uses the lobby as a club in the evenings.

Since our room isn't ready we leave our bags and head in the direction of the beach, which is only one block east on Ocean Drive. We walk down Ocean Drive, the entire strip is made up of hotels, stores and restaurants that spill out onto the sidewalk, and as you walk past the hostess tries to get you to take a table. We stop at the Fox Cafe and order mojitos. Everything is half price in the afternoon, which is good because the drink is normally $28. The reason it is that price is because it is about 36 oz. of booze in a giant margarita glass. At $14 it is a total bargain because by the time I finish it I'm practically cross-eyed. Even Matt exclaims, "Oh my God, I'm so drunk!"

Now is time for the street theater. We are sitting next to the curb so we can get an eyeful of the parade of cars going down Ocean Drive. Miami is a car lover's paradise. I have seen Lamborghini's and Ferrari's before, but never people actually DRIVING them. I saw a Bentley and even a Maserati (my favorite). There were also tons of Mustangs and Corvettes of every make, model, and color.

There is also the sidewalk theater. On our way back to the hotel we see a very drunk gay man is dancing down the street wearing a Dallas Cowboy's cheerleading outfit that appears to be three sizes too small. It's not attractive. He does some cheer routines and collects a few tips.

I briefly wonder how drunk I would have to be to attempt that stunt and then quickly decide there isn't enough booze in the world for that to happen.

We check into our room, and then end up giving us a suite. It's huge and has two beds and a giant bathroom. The room is painted a garish color of palm tree green on half the walls and grape purple on the other half. All the bed linens and pillows are white and there is a big chandelier hanging over the bed. I can't decide if it looks cool or is totally hideous. It's clean though, so that's what counts.

We change and get ready to walk around and find dinner. I read about a great Cuban place called Puerto Sagua that is supposedly right down the street. It is. We find it and it is packed. With locals. Another good sign. I have the Cuban pork sandwich and Matt has the Ropa Vieja. It is cheap and it is good. I recommend this restaurant if you are ever in South Beach.

Now it's time for the night life, but I'm exhausted. The bar lobby is already swinging with people eager to party. We have a few free drinks at the bar because the hotel does a free happy hour from 7-8 pm.

Then Matt asks if we are going clubbing and laughs. We are both exhausted and have to get up early tomorrow to get to Port Everglades and board our ship.

I fall asleep as soon as I lay down on the bed.

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