IT’S 11.30 am on a Monday morning and as I stroll past the infamous Mango’s cafe on Miami’s Ocean Drive the music draws me in. Inside, there’s a mid-morning Bacchanalian bender breaking out and within minutes I’m mambo-ing with my newest of friends, Alex and Vanessa from New York, Yvonne from Columbia, and Rico from Brazil. Three hours later I emerge blinking and exhausted into the sunlight. It’s a classic Miami moment.
Things like that happen all the time is this most vibrant of cities, often referred to as the gateway to the Americas. Miami has a laid-back, Latin feel and the South American influence is ever-present. Leaving my hotel in the morning, I experience a moment of pessimism about the weather. ‘Non, non, muchas hot-as!’ laughs a local lady and reassuringly gestures that I should leave my umbrella behind.
Sans raincoat, it’s on to local favourite and well-kept secret El Palacio de los Jugos – a food and drink outlet that’s a paeon to the delicious results of Miami’s tropical climate. I sip on a delectable papaya colada and browse the surrounding grocery stalls; the avocados are the size of footballs and the home-grown Florida oranges are as sweet as nectar...
Just a short distance away in Little Havana is the famous Cuba Tobacco Cigar Company. In the doorway the owner sways contently in his rocking chair, squinting wisely at the world through a fug of sweet-smelling smoke. I pick up some authentically made Cuban cigars, rolled and cut by the owner’s son.
One of the coolest places to stay in the city is the Morgan Mondrian, designed by Danish wonder-kid, Marcel Wanders. Sail-like cabanas reference the magnificent view of Miami sea-port just across the bay. The bar is open until late and invites a hip, young crowd. Their speciality, pineapple and chilli caprihina, is an ideal way to get the party started.
Miami’s easy multiculturalism has engendered an innovative and lively arts scene. Eight hours from the UK and regular KLM/Air France flights, make it an accessible short break for culturally-literate party-goers.
The Miami arts calendar is full and versatile. Art Basel, held in December, is internationally recognised as one of the most significant contemporary arts festivals in the world. In March, the Miami winter music conference kicks off; superstar producers and performers descend on the city to share ideas and sounds....
Architecture is intrinsically linked to the city’s unique character, and the Miami Design Preservation League has been instrumental in protecting and preserving the city’s elegant landscape. Sign-up for a half-day Dragonfly architectural tour, incorporating most of the significant districts and styles. First stop is the historic Pan Am airline building (the world’s earliest international air terminal), then it’s on to the imposing Biltmore hotel to take afternoon tea beside the magnificent ribbon-shaped pool.
Frank Gehry’s New World Centre hosts a wide variety of musical events. On balmy summer nights the live concerts are relayed to the crowds outside via an ear-bending, 240-speaker, outdoor sound-system, that Time magazine hailed as the best in the world...
Just a short drive away, is Coconut Grove, an artistic village settlement on the edge of the city. Flanked by palm trees and pottery galleries, this charming and creative neighbourhood is a world away from the bustle of South Beach. The centrally located Sonesta hotel is a great place to stay. Their mantra is ‘food is art’ and every dish is a miniature masterpiece. The corridors are adorned with gallery standard pieces and the rooftop terrace affords spectacular views of the harbour below.
Good food is a big part of life in Miami. For stylish fusion Cuban try D. Rodriguez at Ocean Drive or, for more hearty fare, call into the Meat Market on Lincoln Road, which offers an awe-inspiring 32 ounce steak and a cool, high-fashion vibe.
The sumptuous and elegant Delano hotel is the perfect place to enjoy post-dinner cocktails –pink champagne served in sparkling crystal glasses.
All day is party o’clock in Miami, and there are numerous clubs in which to lose several crazy hours. As the streets fill with early morning commuters, the hard-core crowd heads over to Nikki Beach Club, it’s open until 8am, so kick back, relax and welcome in mañana beneath a breathtaking Miami sunrise.....
Mango’s Tropical Cafe
El Palacio de los Jugos
Cuban Tobacco Cigar Company
Morgan Mondrian South Beach
New World Centre
Sonesta Hotel Coconut Grove
D. Rodriguez Cuban Fusion Restaurant
Delano Hotel Miami
Nikki Beach Miami
For information on Miami arts/cultural events.
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