Miami Nice

By | Category: Travel destinations

Bling is still king in America’s Magic City. CD Traveller checks out Miami s high life!

There’s more to life than work. More to experience than spending a couple of hours of each day commuting on the tube, and it’s time to do something about it. What you need is to escape the economic woes and stress that swirl around us and live it large for a long week-end.

But where to make merry? Take a bow Miami – a shamelessly glitzy city where you can party hearty all day and all night long. A place where star sightings (heavy hitters like J Lo, Shakira, Matt Damon, Enrique Iglesias and Anna Kournikova, Ricky Martin, Gloria Estefan – oh and OJ Simpson – all own homes here) are as ubiquitous as fish and chips in the UK. A town which endorses excess and makes no concession to the recession.

It was films such as Scarface and TV programmes like Miami Vice – with its super sized speedboats, Ferraris and abundance of beautiful women – that catapulted this exuberant US city onto the world stage back in the 80s. Two decades down the line, Miami still looks the part and plays host to more than 12 million tourists annually who flock to the East coast’s hottest and hippest city for fun and sun (Miami is almost indecently blessed with good weather). Of course, the city has its knockers but they tend to be people who haven’t lived there, loved there and laughed there or who are easily intimidated by the ‘brash, flash, trash’ façade. Sure, the metropolis isn’t for people who see the point in The National Trust but, as Will Smith once rapped, for those who fancy a few “days of playing, Miami is the city that keeps the roof ‘blazin.”

Miami is made up of a number of neighbourhoods many of which warrant a visit – step forward wealthy Coconut Grove and Coral Gables, Little Havana and Little Haiti (Miami has a multicultural make up and half the population speak Spanish), and the Design District. However if you’re only staying in South Florida’s sunniest city for a few days (if you’re flash enough for a fortnight, lucky you; we are in a recession after all) and after a hedonistic holiday, stick to South Beach aka party central.

A sucker for showiness, ‘Sobe’ – as the area is known – is the spot to see and be seen, so ditch the flip flops and dress up. It was Andre Agassi who patented the statement ‘image is everything’ but Miamians have taken it to a whole new level. Jimmy Choos – like champagne and good china – might only get brought out for special occasions elsewhere in the world, but Miami isn’t most places.

Ready to let your hair down and live a little? Here are the classic components to a hedonistic week-end…

Out and about
The beach is the glue binding South Beach society and deservedly so; Miami boasts some of the best beaches in the country. Yet while the sun splashed shores and ocean are a powerful lure for most, there’s plenty of other action in this town to keep you entertained.
Tempting though it is to stay slumbering in the sun, be sure to explore Sobe’s art deco district. Art Deco – a term used to describe certain buildings and objects from the 1920s – is Miami’s signature style. Indeed Miami has the largest concentration of deco in the world and all of the hottest hotels feature deco details (read streamlined symmetry, friezes, glass blocks, curved edges and corners). To learn more about the movement, where to go and what to look for, pay a visit to the Art Deco Welcome Center.

Best bites
The Magic City has a thriving local gastronomic scene and there’s a warren of restaurants with gourmet ambitions all dedicated to feeding you up.
For a casual lunch, check out the institution that is the News Café where you can nosh while watching a parade of scantily clad beauties walking or roller blading by – it maybe a cliché but its fact. Alternatively fill your stomach to bursting point at Jerry’s Famous Deli. No matter what you’re craving in the comfort food genre, this much loved 24 hour Jewish food emporium will have it. The place is invariably almost always packed with locals and tourists alike trying to stave off hangovers. Meanwhile politicians and power brokers gather for lunch at Michael’s Genuine Food&Drink – hailed by The New York Times as one of the top 10 new restaurants in America. Make no mistake: cuisine such as shiitake mushroom pizza and baby beet and heirloom salad is delicious, but it’s the schmoozing that really adds spice to this landmark.
From lunch to late night…At upscale Chinese eatery, Philippe, you can sup alongside Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Seacrest on crispy seaweed and shrimp toast. The highlight however is the nightly noodle show where a mound of dough is beaten into submission and emerges as fine strands of noodles.

After dark
For post dinner drinks, seek out the Sky Bar; a red hot and happening venue patronised by perma tanned models and modelizers. Then stop off at Ian Schrager’s surreal Delano Hotel – a much loved local icon with a façade that makes Buckingham Palace look like a Travel Lodge and has enough marble to rival Rome. The hotel’s Rose Bar boasts a lively scene straight out of the society pages of Hello! and offers late night eats, a club like atmosphere and – most importantly for Miamians – a fully stocked bar. Yes it’s pricey (budget is something of an oxymoron in Sobe) and you might have to bust out your black Amex for the occasion, but hey – you only live once. Aim to end your evening at The Mansion – an achingly cool club where you can dance away any calories consumed. Expect to queue, but once inside you can revel in the company of luminaries like JT and Jessica Biel.

Top shops
Miami is a world beating, over draft shattering shopper’s town. Drop some dollars down Espanola Way – a European strip lined with beautiful boutiques (there’s no brand bland here) and quirky art galleries. Lovely Lincoln Road – an open air mall – is another lively place to stroll overflowing as it is with funky shops stocked with sexy tees and skinny jeans sporting four figure price tags, indie book stores and cafes which spill out onto the side walks. Shopping aside, the people watching at Lincoln Road is among the best. The pedestrian esplanade is packed with leggy models, real estate gurus, socialites, gold diggers and Italian playboys for whom the main uniform is an exotic pampered pooch – making it quite the South Beach scene.

Now somewhere to stay… Selecting the right hotel is never easy; luckily CD Traveller has done the legwork for you.

Best for… privacy
Whoever said Miami lacked finesse obviously hasn’t stayed at the soothing Setai. An oasis of calm on a go-go strip, The Setai has won a slew of awards and for good reason; this pampering palace pushes the boundaries to an all new level of opulence and style. A combination of old school elegance and Asian architecture (the hotel centres on an Asian courtyard with stone paths, quiet corners and waterfalls), nothing has been done by halves. Those grey, antique bricks in the lobby? Shipped over from Shanghai.

Rooms are decked out in chocolate teak, wood and Asian embellishments while amenities include three pools (each one has a different temperature and is surrounded by gardens with secluded corners), a first rate fitness centre and oriental spa. On the food front, enjoy an alfresco lunch at the beach bar and grill or haute cuisine at The Restaurant; both serve breakfast until 11am meaning you can enjoy a long lie in –
what’s the point of staying at The Setai if you don’t make the most of it?

Best for… partying
Matching The Setai’s ante is Gansevoort South – with its dramatic million dollar shark tank in the lobby. If The Setai has a love affair with all things Asian, this Collins Avenue address is all about acid colours; hot pink, sun burnt orange and gold give Gansevoort South a seductive, sexual air. All 334 rooms are impressively large, but for the full on playboy lifestyle splurge on a suite. Said suites come equipped with custom designed tables, sofas, lounge chairs and oversized mirrors – perfect for preening in.

This bustling resort sees a constant influx of gorgeous creatures (well Wilhelmia Models do rent a space on the third floor), who frequent the 18th floor for the 110ft palm tree fringed rooftop pool and bar. To fit in with the fabulous folk, sweat in style at the onsite David Barton gym where you can sign up for innovative classes such as ‘slo-gasmic’. The hotel, like the city, has the feel of the future.

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