Vice City

Trip Start Dec 15, 2006
Trip End Feb 07, 2007

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Flag of United States  , Florida
Saturday, January 13, 2007

We only had a week in Miami and following our final week of madness in New York we were keen to just lay low and relax.

At first chance we were down at the beach, but alas it was windy and cold first day but we gave it a go. The sand isn't anywhere near as nice as the find grained stuff on our beaches but it does have the advantage, due to it being coarser, it doesn't fly up in your face in the wind and doesn't get into your shoes and bag. The water wasn't too bad considering it's the middle of winter.

There is plenty of wealth in Miami - that is clear to see. More often that not at the lights when you're stopped, if you averaged the value of the cars waiting it'd be startling. Porsche, Mercedes, Ferrari, Bugatti, Lamborghini, big pimped out SUVs and BMW are present in mind boggling quantities. The city is currently undergoing a huge development push - with most downtown blocks hosting a significant building development - mostly high rise apartments. This has lead people to predict a severe oversupply of accommodation in the near future. Even if they do manage to fill the places the transport infrastructure will struggle badly, as it does with current demands. The roads are a nightmare most hours of the day and it doesn't look like there's much physical room for improvement. Best of luck to them with that one.

On the weekend when we went back to South Beach for a swim we came across the art deco festival happening along Ocean Drive. A typical craft sort of market but full of interesting street performers and good food. They sure do put on, and turn out for these things well. It was a long weekend due to MLK day on Monday so there were many people taking advantage of the nice warm weather and checking it out.

Sort of like the European beaches - the idea of a beach chair and umbrella permanently there you go and pay to use is common. But unlike beaches in Nice and San Sebastian there were guard towers every 40 meters housing over anxious lifeguards who blow on their whistle if you stray anywhere neck deep water. Honestly. Another dissimilarity with Europe is that, and much to our disappointment,  the locals tend to stay somewhat covered while sunbathing. Although they share a language, it appears the Spanish and the Cubans will differ on beach attire etiquette.

We stayed with Karen, Rus' cousin, in the suburb of Coconut Grove, not too far from everything. Just up the street was the infamous Grand Ave - notorious for its black inhabitants who are not the kind you want to bump into in a dark alley, or even a main street during the middle of the day. It looked the part too - every building almost looked derelict but for some reason still managed to operate a business or housing. The closest we got to it witness it from was from behind the glass window of a passing car, thankfully.

Coconut Grove housed a nice little set of shops and bars which seem to be frequented by students from the nearby University of Miami. However it was nowhere near the level of ritz that could be found in and around South Beach. We ate a few times at a cool local place on the Bay of Biscay which was very pleasant. Like anywhere, it can be overwhelming to see all the glitz and wealth being thrown around but it takes a local to prove that a city like that can still be very livable and relaxing if you know the right places.

Throughout the week we had dinners with friends of Karen, all of whom were characters with great stories to tell. We went on a sail boat cruise around the Bay of Biscay and saw dolphins jumping around in the water on Sunset. We had breakfast Cay Biscay with the owner of a local newspaper who had some interesting to things to say about the level of integrity of the local government and law enforcement. We also had dinner and a great experience at the truly Cuban restaurant, Versailles, located in the Little Havana area, or the area where most of the immigrants to the US from Cuba have settled. Following dinner I had a Cuban coffee, or an espresso loaded to saturation point with sugar, and a big cigar.

The last couple of days we spent lazing around and checking out the beach again. Yes, we essentially did nothing that entire week. It was so nice to be back in some heat again. The climate felt like our early summer or autumn - slightly chilly when it was overcast or windy but apart from that pretty muggy and when the sun shone it was definitely a beach going time. Which is what we did.
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