Out in the Miami Sunshine!

“The sun is out! Oh, this is what I was hoping for today,” came the delighted comment from the next room. We’d had two days of rain so we were more than happy to finally see the sun!

My friend, and fellow author/blogger, Doreen Pendgracs and I were sharing a beautiful two-bedroom suite at the Metropole one of the South Beach Group of hotels in Miami. It was lovely, but we couldn’t wait to get out into the sunshine. After a quick breakfast we were off to the beach—just a few minutes away.  It was great to see so many folks  also out enjoying the Miami sunshine, even if many were covering up under these bright umbrellas.

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The winds were high, and the waves were higher, so there were posted flags indicating that going into the water wouldn’t be safe. Flags or no, we had to at least wade into the ocean a little. Our feet got wet when the waves rolled in–but that was just fine!  For these two Canadian women escaping the cold and snow in November, this was bliss!

 

IMG_00000643Doreen was definitely giving the “thumbs up” to the warm, sunny day.

CP at the beach I had to hang on to my hat! (photo courtesy of Doreen Pendgracs)

After a leisurely stroll on the beach, we headed up the street to soak in more South Beach colour–and more sun. Ocean Drive is awash with these primary colours showing off the condos, boutiques and restaurants.

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Then it was back to the hotel for a quick change of clothes and off to Bayside where we were looking forward to a patio lunch and boat cruise. Since we’d made our way there twice for the bus tours, we felt quite confident in our commuting and found the right bus to get us to the “other side.” Within the hour, we were strolling by the marina at Bayfront Park.

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We checked out a few of the restaurants and decided to have lunch at the Tradewinds Waterfront Bar & Grill where we enjoyed Mojitos  and kept the souvenir glass. I was pleased they could do a nice non-alcoholic version of this popular drink. I think I got extra ice and limes as the lid wouldn’t even fit. Oh—lunch was good too. Seafood—of course! (No photo—it wasn’t that special.) We didn’t know until the drinks arrived that the Tradewinds is partnered with the Island Queen Cruise line. Smart marketing!

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The cruise was next on our agenda, and thanks to Jennifer at the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau, we had free passes. We had a bit of time before we sailed so we perused the shops and watched some lively salsa dancing in the square. They were moving too fast and there was too big of a crowd watching the show for me to get good photos, so I just enjoyed all of the dancing–the pros and the amateurs from the crowd who’d joined in.

The cruise line operates boats of several sizes, and we were on one of the smaller ones, which meant we both got window seats, and the boat had a more intimate feel to it. Our captain was a delightful tour guide.

In my last post, Round and around on the Big Bus Tours I shared this photo of this “quarter-billion dollar” yacht. Owner Dennis Washington doesn’t like to talk about how much he paid for the yacht, or how much he spent renovating it. He says that what’s important is the joy it brings others in his life. Classy. I could handle some of this joy.

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We also saw how “rich folks” can enjoy seclusion on Fisher Island. Apparently Tom Cruise and Oprah Winfrey have (or had) condos here. I guess they can afford the $270,00/year rent! Our captain told us that if boats get too close to the island, the skipper could be arrested, so to avoid that, he wasn’t going too close. It made for an amusing story—and who knows?– maybe it’s true. We just enjoyed the scenery.

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All too soon, it was time to head back to port, just as the clouds were starting to roll in. Having seen the tall skyscrapers from the buses, we enjoyed seeing the Miami skyline from the water– and the start of a beautiful sunset.

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Our day out in the Miami sunshine was coming to an end, and we’d thoroughly enjoyed every minute!

 

For more stories and great pictures from our Miami trip, please read Doreen’s posts on her travel blog, Diversions with Doreen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Round and around on the Big Bus Tours

If you want to see what a city is really like and get around its different neighbourhoods, hopping on a bus is a great way to go. When you’re a tourist and don’t have a lot of time, a bus tour can give you a great snapshot of what the city has to offer. That was definitely the case with the Big Bus Tours in Miami last November.

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I’d been invited to go to Miami with my friend, author Doreen Pendgracs, to be with her when she received her Bronze Medal at the Readers’ Favorite Awards for her book Chocolatour. 

Hmm, Miami in November? It was cold and snowy here, so–Yes! Thank you, Doreen.

While we’d hoped for warmth and sunshine, we only got the warmth for the first two days. The rain and winds were quite strong, which made looking at palm trees fun, but not much fun walking around—so we hopped on the bus. Thanks to Jennifer at the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau, we’d been given some passes for the buses, which we took full advantage of  by taking three tours in two days!

We really saw the diversity in the city—everything from Millionaire’s Row to Historic Overtown. We also learned a lot about the history of the city. Some of it was a little sad, but you take the good with the not so good. Millionaire’s Row, while beautiful,  is now in what used to be large avocado groves, and Overtown was a thriving black community until the building of the I-95 forced the destruction of many homes, and the diversion of traffic away from this business district. It is slowly coming back, thanks to the unique street art and shops in this area. All of this gave us a glimpse into the history of this wonderful city. That’s where taking a guided tour is better than venturing out on your own. On a tour, you have someone sharing the stories of places we drove by, which made them all that more interesting. The guides were all informative but our first guide, Jake, seemed to be the most spontaneous in his presentations, so that made the tour fun, making up for the dull weather. We learned that Thomas Edison brought the palm tree to Miami from Cuba. They’ve certainly thrived, haven’t they?

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Another fun fact we learned from Jake—the Gantry cranes—used for loading and unloading ships in the Port of Miami —inspired the design of the Imperial Walkers in Star Wars. I couldn’t get a good shot of these, but found this one with a “Google search.”

Miami port dockside gantry cranesI see where George Lucas got his inspiration. Do you?

As I mentioned, we saw some lovely areas of the city. Coral Gables was especially beautiful–no doubt because  homeowners have to get their choice of paint colour approved to make sure it will “fit” with the local décor.

This Coral Gables church is one of the most popular choices for local couples to get married because they are one of few churches to offer interdenominational services.

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One of our tours took us through Little Havana, home to a thriving Cuban community. I would have liked to hop off to buy my souvenir Cuban cigars here, but there wasn’t time.

IMG_00000631I was able to purchase them back at Bayfront Market, the hub where all of the tours start and return.

Looking back on our Big Bus Tours map, I am reminded what a wide area of the city we were able to cover  in such a short time. There are three loops–the Beach loop, the City loop, and the Uptown loop, and we were able to do them all.

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Jennifer (at the Conventiona and Tourist bureau) also gave us passes for a boat cruise. The warm sun was shining that day, although there were still a few clouds.  I’ll tell you more in a future post. Here’s a teaser:

One of our first sights was of a yacht , the Attesa IV, owned by billionaire construction magnate Dennis Washington. This little jewel now is complete with a helicopter onboard for quick get-aways.  My photo does not do this magnificent vessel justice. You can learn more about the yacht and Washington in this YouTube video

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Looking back at my maps, guides, and other little souvenirs from this whirlwind five-day trip, there is so much to tell you about our accommodations, food, and fun.

Stay tuned!

For more great stories and photos, please visit Doreen’s travel blog, Diversions with Doreen.