From beginning to end, Miami is one impressive place.
After 9 hours of willing yourself to sleep because you know it’ll barely be cocktail hour when you land despite your body being beyond ready for pyjamas, the view that creeps up on you is nothing short of refreshing – you will be sure to open your eyes for this!
(Excuse the Virgin branding, it was pretty much impossible to get that shoreline shot without that pesky tail in the corner!)
Don’t you just want to dive right in…and that you shall, from one of Miami’s most stylish and luxurious locations, the Fontainebleau.
The fabulous Fontainebleau
Don’t get me wrong – I love the intimacy, character and exclusivity of a boutique hotel or B&B – but Miami simply wouldn’t be Miami without staying somewhere that so conveniently captures the essence of this city.
Let me sum it up for you: scantily clad yet fully made up women lining the poolside, barely missing a beat as they saunter up to the bar in clacking 9 inch stilettos to flutter their eyelashes at their equally souped up male counterparts.
Being the size of a (very glamorous) small town – with probably more restaurants, and people – the Fontainebleau is not like your average hotel. In many ordinary establishments, frequenting the hotel bar is something you do to pass the time, but in Miami, the Fontainebleau is a destination, a glittering star on the nightlife circuit.
Even while trying to relax at the beach you can’t escape it – planes fly past especially to advertise the city’s nights out, the biggest of these being at the Fontainebleau’s resident club, Liv, which hosted both Calvin Harris and Lil Wayne when I was there:
Mind the dress code of course – stillettos are obligatory, and I believe there is a requirement for a maximum amount of flesh shown to get into Liv. Your best bet is to go for the flesh trifecta of breast-tum-leg. The most memorable classic number that I witnessed was the white satin strapless bra top, adorned with crystals and feathers, and paired with a black mini skirt. Another close contender was the hot pant-jumpsuit-plunging neckline combo.
In my maxi dress, flat sandals and minimal make up I was clearly never going to cut it at Liv. Instead I headed to the 21st floor for a house party of sorts. Calvin Harris or not, you can’t get this view at Liv:
For all the glitz, glamour, sun and sand, one of the favourite parts of my Miami day was crashing in this marshmallow soft bed (although the maids and I were having a silent back and forth over the superfluous pillows which I tore off every night, only to find them promptly back in place):
Time to eat…
Those Miami girls might not do carbs, but to me there is no other option after a hard night out. Not to mention that America is of course the home of pancakes and it would be a sin not to partake in the consumption of this cultural icon, the epitome of comfort food. The pancake stack at Vida, one of the Fontainebleau’s restaurants, is purely epic:
It is everything you want in a pancake. These velvety babies melt in your mouth and make it perfectly ok to eat your weekly recommended amount of butter, sugar and flour all in one sitting before 11am. I’ve had good pancakes before that resembled fluffy blankets. Well at Vida, their pancakes go a step further, reminding me of the mattress tower from the Princess and the Pea:
Needless to say, I could only get this far:
A slice of Miami life
Ok, so it’s time to escape the microcosm that is the Fontainebleau and check out more of Miami.
Those famous white sands and crystal blue waters are a sight to behold. I took a cab from the Fontainebleau down to Ocean Drive and was amazed at the sheer size of the seafront. That white sand is just dazzling:
Miami’s art deco history isn’t hard to find. Take a leisurely stroll down Ocean Drive and be prepared to stop at the many architectural/artistic gems, like these (the last one is the in-store mural at Banana Republic on nearby Collins Avenue!):
Miami is full of bars and clubs, and bustling Ocean Drive is the first port of call for many visitors to the city.
It’s hard to beat a visit to Ocean Drive. The Sunday afternoon session I witnessed, complete with transvestite hostesses at the Palace bar singing happy birthday to bemused patrons, was a scene that has been firmly etched into my brain!
However, I was lucky enough to get a properly local recommendation – Bar Drogerie, in the Albion Hotel on James Avenue, which opened earlier this year, and is co-owned by a mate of one of the group I was with. Bar Drogerie is a refreshing, relaxing and creative alternative to the traffic-filled Ocean Drive.
As you can probably guess by the name, the whole bar has an apothecary theme, from puzzling chemical formulas glamorously played out on the walls to first aid kits on the tables and a remedy-themed cocktail menu – take your pick of ailment cures, from revitalising potions to supposed aphrodisiacs. Call it crazy, but my watermelon and vodka infusion was strangely addictive and that pounding headache that had ailed me was somehow taking more of a back seat with each sip…! The firy absinthe ritual below is an entertaining spectacle that will have you ordering around at your table before the flames even light up. The bartenders in white lab coats were also a nice touch, as if the cast from The Big Bang Theory had found a creative way to have a night off.
The arty, edgy side of Miami I didn’t get to see – Wynwood
I love seeking out alternative neighbourhoods in a new city, to get that true feeling of a day in the life of a local. It’s why I love living in Hackney in East London – as trendy as it’s become with its independent cafes, street markets and vintage stores, there’s still nowhere in London quite like it with such a fusion of so many cultures (Afro-Caribbean, Turkish, Vietnamese and many more!).
I got word that Wynwood is kind of the Hackney of Miami, with street art on every corner, over 70 art galleries, cafes and boutiques galore, Miami’s first craft brewer and a drive in movie theatre to boot!
What I read about the Wynwood art, cafe and social scene really captured my imagination as I love walking around Hackney on a weekend being surprised by the latest street art installments that have cropped up seemingly overnight, so Wynwood sounds right up my alley.
If I get to visit Miami again, a Saturday wandering around Wynwood will definitely be the plan, with a walking street art tour top of the agenda – not to mention the famous Wynwood Walls. In fact, the more I read about it, the more I’m gutted not to have experienced it!
So Miami, you’ve left me wanting more. Here’s to my next trip to Miami – and that long awaited trip to Wynwood!
I flew to Miami with Virgin Atlantic and stayed at the Fontainebleau Hotel.