Miami - Nautilus

Nautilus a sixty hotel in Miami south beach

Cuando nos vamos de vacaciones, tratamos de evitar los hoteles excesivamente caros, dado que nuestros viajes de año nuevo suelen ser bastante largos y a la vez, podemos prescindir del lujo. Con un baño limpio y agua caliente, es suficiente. Sin embargo, decidimos hacer una excepción en la noche que teníamos de layover entre el vuelo de Puerto Rico a Miami y el vuelo de regreso a Madrid.

Para una vez que me dan vía libre conseguí encontrar la mejor opción, Nautilus, un hotel del grupo Sixty cuyos principios me cautivaron.
SIXTY Hotels es una colección de alojamientos de lujo, iconoclastas y exclusivos con sede en la ciudad de Nueva York, Los Ángeles y Miami. Elegimos fomentar la inspiración a partir de nuestros telones de fondo urbanos, y ofrecer un servicio y una experiencia exclusivos; el objetivo de SIXTY Hotels es, simplemente, inspirar y satisfacer a nuestros huéspedes. Consideramos que un hotel debe proporcionar más que solo una cama, un baño y un minibar. Un hotel es una forma de vida que representa los gustos personales de los huéspedes. 
Nuestros huéspedes son verdaderos “artistas en residencia” que se sienten como en casa y convierten su experiencia en un lienzo. En nuestros hoteles exclusivos, los huéspedes en residencia se toparán con una paleta de colores distinguida, un servicio profesional y comodidades en todos los aspectos. El resultado es un equipo de atención que garantiza que tu estancia en un SIXTY Hotel te acompañará por mucho tiempo después de salir del hotel. 
SIXTY Hotels forma parte de SIXTY Collective, una nueva compañía fundada por los hermanos Jason Pomeranc, Michael Pomeranc y Lawrence Pomeranc, comprometidos en crear una experiencia cultural integral en la industria de la hospitalidad.

Alojarte en Nautilus es como vivir en un museo de arte moderno, donde el servicio es atento y refrescante. Aterrizamos en Fort Lauderdale, donde un tiroteo había ocurrido menos de una semana atrás con lo que todo funcionaba anormalmente tarde. Al llegar al hotel, estábamos bastante cansados así que decidimos probar Cabana, el restaurante del mismo. Pese a no ir para nada vestidos para la ocasión, fue una velada memorable.
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Miami - E11EVEN

couple pre-party before Miami E11EVEN
Warming up in the apartment

Those who know Enrique and me, know we are very different people. Both personality wise and in terms of musical taste, there's close to zero overlap. He likes rock, I like hip-hop, ragga and soca. He likes ska, I like house. He likes underground, I like fancy stuff. This makes it very difficult for us to go party as "a couple" and actually have a memorable night. But even for this, Miami had a special surprise for us.

As a I have explained some time ago, I am huge Nicki Minaj fan. I learnt that she would perform for NYE in a club in Miami, so of course I was dying to go. Still, the problem was that we had already booked flights to spend NYE in San Juan, and the 340$ entrance fee was a bit too much - even for a talifan like me. To compensate for it, Enrique agreed to take me to the club on a separate night because if Nicki is performing, then it must be worth checking out right? We bought the tickets online and Enrique checked online reviews, indicating the place was actually a strip club.

I was in COMPLETE denial... Until we arrived there. Indeed it was one-of-a-kind, just not what I expected. Long story short, the reviews were right. E11even is open 24x7, as a club that doubles as strip-club. This was a bit shocking for me, the whole idea of having women walking in underwear around you is something new to me. But I tried to make the most of the investment and enjoy the show from some of the best pole performers EVER. The girls were able to climb a 5m high bar - which was not attached to anything else than the central platform, so it had some vibration to it. They performed fearless acrobatic tricks that typically ended with dance on the circular platform, while customers rain notes on them. Once the 2 girls on the main stage were done, a guy in suit would collect the notes into some metal bucket, a new pair comes and it keeps rolling. Not what I expected, but hey definitely an interesting part of the local culture - if you ever tried pole dancing as a sport, you will certainly appreciate the difficulty of the show much more.

In my defence, the website does not mention full body strip tease anywhere.
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Miami - The story behind our 640i ride

640i, Miami

Those of you who follow us on Instagram may remember our BMW 640i ride along the bridge between South Beach and Downtown.

To get things straight, we did not book such car - which is only made available by specific reservation, for the record - just happened to drop by SIXT in an extremely busy season, meaning the car we had actually booked was not available with the next best option being paying a bit extra per day (and a YUGE deposit) to get this convertible dream instead.

Things turned out to be fine, we did not damage the precious ride and got a feeling of the Miami vice in our hair. In the end, it might be worth the investment - because if you're gonna drive it once, where could be better than Miami Bay?

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Miami - Design District

Design District, Miami

Miami Design District is one of these neighbourhoods where you feel too poor to even dare to use the restroom of the shopping mall.  My cousin loves it, as she often visits these stores to create interiors for her rich and beautiful customers.

Still, we dared to take a walk and admired the architectural jewels, in conjunction with the modern street art and of course, palm trees. Very Miami. There were stores where they sell high fashion interiors, like Armani or Versace Casa, surrounded by all high fashion brands, fancy car and fancy people overall. Cool for some pictures, but completely OK to skip if you are tight on time.
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Miami - Crandon Park Beach, Key Biscayne, Miami

Crandon Park Beach, Key Biscayne, Miami

Miami has a mild weather year round but temperatures around Christmas and New year, when we visited, average 20C - high 24, low 17.

Despite being low season in Key Biscayne for temperature reasons, Crandon Park seemed to be a perfect spot to spend the day picnicking and barbecuing with your friends and family. We only had time for a short walk, but still... It made the perfect wrap up for this nature walk, just before the final stop of the day - my cousin's favourite place - the Miami Design District, which we'll see tomorrow.

We even saw a peacock!
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Miami - Bill Baggs Cape, Key Biscayne

Bill Baggs cape, Key Biscayne, Miami

Key Biscayne is an island east of Miami, where 12K people live. Why is it called Key? Isn't it an island? When the Spanish arrived to the New World, they took the word 'cayo' from the Taino Indians of Hispaniola (today's Haiti-Dominican republic) and Cuba, which used 'cayo' to refer to small islands. While in Spain, we use the word 'isla' for island and 'islet' for small island, the Spanish in the New World used 'cayo' and 'cayuelo' for a very small island. The English used 'cay' as in Hawks Cay, so it ultimately became 'key'. Hence the Caribbean is full of keys surrounding the bigger islands.

Key Biscayne offers the perfect background for a relaxing day in the nature. Beaches are public, long and sandy, parking lots huge and barbecues mushroom along with picnic tables. I always enjoy spending time in places where you can see the life of the local i.e. where the average family would spend a day. We parked and took a walk on the beach, followed by a climb to the top of Cape Florida Lighthouse, a brick structure from 1845 that offers superb views of the bay. This lighthouse  replaced the previous lighthouse which was damaged in 1836 during the Second Seminole War.

Around the lighthouse, we can still read about the history and get a feeling of the houses back then.

The Seminole Wars
Also known as the Florida Wars, were three conflicts in Florida between the Seminole — collective name given to the amalgamation of various groups of Native Americans and African Americans settled in Florida - and the United States Army. Together the Seminole Wars were the longest and most expensive Indian Wars in United States history.
  • The First Seminole War (1816-1819) began with US army excursions into West Florida and Spanish Florida against the Seminoles after the conclusion of the War of 1812. The governments of Britain and Spain both expressed outrage over the "invasion". Spain was unable to defend its territory, and the Spanish Crown agreed to cede Florida to the United States in the Adams–Onís Treaty of 1819. According to another treaty (signed in Moultrie Creek, 1823), the Seminoles were required to leave northern Florida and were confined to a large reservation in the center of the Florida peninsula. The U.S. government enforced the treaty by building a series of forts and trading posts in the territory, mainly along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts.
  • The Second Seminole War (1835-1842) was the result of the United States government attempting to force the Seminoles to leave Florida altogether. Raids and skirmishes and a handful of larger battles raged throughout the peninsula, with the outgunned and outnumbered Seminoles effectively using guerrilla warfare to frustrate the ever more numerous American forces. After several years chasing bands of Seminole warriors through the wilderness, the US Army changed tactics and began destroying Seminole farms and villages. This cruel strategy proved quite effective and changed the course of the war. Most of the Seminole population in Florida was killed in battle, ravaged by starvation and disease, or relocated to Indian Territory in modern Oklahoma. Only a few hundred Seminoles were allowed to remain in an unofficial reservation in southwest Florida.
  • The Third Seminole War (1855-1858) was again the result of Seminoles responding to US Army scouting parties encroaching on their lands, perhaps deliberately to provoke a violent response that would result in the removal of the last of the Seminoles from the area. After an army destroyed a Seminole plantation west of the Everglades in December 1855, Chief Billy Bowlegs led a raid near Fort Myers. This set off a conflict which consisted mainly of raids and reprisals with no large battles fought. American forces again strove to destroy the Seminoles' food supply, and in 1858, most of the remaining Seminoles, weary of war and facing starvation, agreed to be shipped to Oklahoma in exchange for promises of safe passage and cash payments to their chiefs. An estimated 100 Seminoles still refused to leave and retreated deep into the Everglades to live on land that was unwanted by white settlers.
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Miami - Vizcaya Mansion

Vizcaya mansion and gardens, Miami
Feeling like Jay Gatsby

Have you watched "The Great Gastby"? Visiting this, I felt the set was inspired in Vizcaya... 
You'll see why.

Vizcaya mansion and its gardens is a historic residence turned museum, highlighted by Lonely Planet as one of the top 8 sights in Miami. Located right before the bridge to Key Biscayne, we felt it would be an interesting sight to travel back in time before crossing to the island. It took a while to get in - I think we queued for about 2 hours, due to the amount of families bringing their kids here during the holiday season - but it was worth it.

The history behind the Villa goes back to the 1900s, when industrialist James Deering started the Miami tradition of starting a business, making a lot of money and building ridiculously grandiose digs.

Original from Maine, James' father had inherited the family woolen mill and was landowner in the Northeast, invested in a farm-equipment manufacturing company, renaming it the Deering Harvester Company. In 1873, he moved the family to Chicago, Illinois. New 'Deering Harvester Company' reaper machinery enabled Midwestern United States farmers to harvest with substantially increased productivity which in turn increased the profitability of Midwest agriculture significantly. The Deering Harvester Company grew in value, making the Deerings one of America's wealthiest families by the end of the 19th century.

in 1910, Deering purchased land in Coconut Grove, south of Miami and started construction of Villa Vizcaya in 1914, working with top architects of the time. The Villa was completed in 1922, employing 1000 people (10% of the population at the time) during 4 years, to fulfill his desire for a home that tasted of old money and appeared to be centuries old. His obsession led him to fill the Villa with 15th to 19th century tapestries, paintings and decorative arts. He even had a monogram created for himself and paintings of fake ancestors commissioned.

Very Gastby, right?

I did a small research to test my theory. Turns out the set of the movie is apparently inspired by another waterfront mansion in New York, but there are many using the environment for Gastby-inspired weddings as well as coming out of age pictures, which are common in Asia and America - yet a rarity in Europe - as you can see in some of the last shots. There are many pictures, because few of them can't capture the grandeur of the place.

Truly a walk back in time, hope you enjoy it as much as we did...

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Miami - Dulce Cafeteria

Dulce Café smoothies, coffee and breakfast, South Beach, Miami

Being a sucker for healthy breakfast who stays in South Beach, the options are not so many, not so cheap or not so easy to find. We struggled with breakfast at Starbucks - which is always a safe bet, yet not the freshest one - until we decided to give a shot to Dulce Café, the small Kwik-E-Mart like store in the 9th with Washington.

We noted the place is quite popular with people working in the area who would visit the store on their suits, to buy takeaway breakfast, on the way to the office.

The menu is straightforward great:
- Freshly blended smoothies of 2 kinds, green (with leafy veggies) or fruit based.
- Smooth coffee
- Humongous omelettes and tacos

*They also have pastry, but given these options... We saw no need to try it.

For breakfast, we would usually pick 2 smoothies (2x8$), 1 omelette to share (8$), 2 coffees (2x1$) roughly 27$ for a brunch so big we could skip lunch altogether. Compare with Starbucks & make your choice. There, we spent roughly 25$ for unhealthier fare - 2 coffees (8$), a panini / protein box (8$), 1 starbucks petite (3$), 1 cookie / brownie (3$), fruit box (3$). Another plus is the lack of queue in Dulce.

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Miami - Coral Gables

Coral Gables, Miami
Coral Gables city hall

Coral Gables is a lovely residential city, where my cousin lives. In fact, this place is the first we saw in Miami, as she kindly came to pick us up. This is the picture we, europeans, have out of the life in the US. Specially cool to visit in Christmas time, so we could check the huge decorations laid around some of the biggest mansions. We failed to take a dip in the Venetian Pool, as it was closed for renovations due beginning of 2017, so we can't show much. Only give you a sincere tip, based on knowing that built out of tons of rocks quarried out in 1923, this is one of the few pools listed on the National Register of Historic Places - caption that and make sure to check it out for me,  please!

We walked all the way to Coconut Grove, but I'd not advise you to do that - as it is the kind of useless walk through tough hoods we sometimes engage in, just for the sake of walking...

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Miami - Little Havana & Calle Ocho

Miami Calle Ocho

Like it or not, we all have heard a Pitbull song. Same as DJ Khaled calls for "we the best music", Pitbull calls for "Calle Ocho" - but what does that mean? As a child of Cuban immigrants who grew up in Miami, Pitbull refers to SW 8th street i.e. Calle Ocho in Spanish. This little strip of galleries, studios and shops houses one of the best concentrations of Cuban art in Miami.

We checked out Cuba Ocho which doubles as community centre, art gallery and research for all things Cuban. With an interior that resembles a cool old Havana cigar bar, makes you feel going through some kind of weird time travel back into the old days in Cuba.

Extremely worth a quick stop, we did not spend more than an hour but it was a memorable one...

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Miami - Downtown

Miami Bayside

We did not spend a very long time in Miami downtown, other than a long walk along the skyscraper filled bayside and a night in E11EVEN - maybe I'll tell you about the place where Nicki Minaj performed in NYE16 in another post.

Still it was worth a short stop, on the way from our base in South Beach to Cuba Ocho and Coral Gables - where my cousin, who shares the same taste for funny glasses & Loewe clutches lives - which we will see in the coming posts.

We parked at the Bayfront Park, which unfortunately was almost closed due to the new year celebration event preparation - where Pitbull sings every year - and walk upwards through the Bayside Marketplace, which you can skip altogether as it is 100% tourist trap. Then we continued along the road, around the walls of the American Airlines arena, home of the Miami Beats, over and out to the Museum Park, exploring the beautiful surroundings of the Pérez Art Museum, designed by Swiss architects Herzog and de Meuron, which is a mixture of tropical foliage, glass and metal, somehow an architectural analogy of Miami itself.

Given I am a sucker for skyscrapers, Miami's skyline reached the top in my list. We could not take a good picture but the memory of looking at sunset from the bridge while riding a convertible seeing all these structures  drawn in black over the pastel rainbow gradation created by the humidity.

Views are like life, greener on the distance.

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Tokyo - City Views

Roppongi Hills
Roppongi es un barrio de los que visitas más de noche que de día y quizás una consecuencia de tener buenas vistas desde tu apartamento sea que no estés dispuesto a pagar por más vistas similares, aunque evidentemente, una visita a Tokyo no esté completa sin subir a un rascacielos y echar un vistazo.

Las opciones son innumerables, elegir la mejor es otra historia muy personal...
  1. Roppongi: Tokyo City View: 250m, ¥1800 10AM-11PM (weekend 1AM), vistas del centro-
  2. Roppongi: Tokyo Tower: 150m, ¥900, 10AM-11PM, vistas del centro y bahía
  3. Shiodome: Caretta Building: 200m,  comer / cenar ahí,  vistas de la bahía (menos que CONRAD pero más asequible)
  4. Omotesando: Two Rooms: 5F, cenar o tomar algo, vistas de Omotesando y su iglesia.
  5. Shibuya: Cerulean Tower: 40F, cenar o tomar algo con vistas a Shibuya.  
  6. Shinjuku: Tokyo Metropolitan Building: gratis, vistas de Shinjuku, 9:30AM-10:30PM.
  7. Shinjuku: New York Grill: 52F, cenar o tomar algo (siempre he pensado que tiene demasiado hype por eso de salir en Lost in Translation),  
  8. Asakusa: Tokyo Skytree: 634m (la torre de TV más alta del mundo), ¥4000, sumida y afueras.
En mis visitas tras dejar la ciudad, he optado por (1) y (4) simplemente porque me gustan o me pillan más de camino y era una opción bastante cómoda. En verano subí por la noche, pero estaba lloviendo así que tampoco salio nada muy impresionante. Esta vez, durante el día, creo que tuve más suerte.

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Shinjuku hanami

Shinjuku hanami 2017
Light of hope.

Las flores del cerezo son un fenómeno de una magnitud imposible de entender en la distancia. Desde el seasonal merchandising en Starbucks, hasta las fotos de los niños a punto empezar un nuevo curso escolar, las múltiples mantas de plástico lista para acoger un enorme picnic de amigos  o el festival de la paella en Nakameguro.

Hace tiempo os explicaba acerca de las razones tras esta aparente fiebre primaveral, si llevan más de 1200 años así, dudo de que vaya a cambiar ahora. Como residente o visitante, es una interesante reflexión acerca de una sociedad moderna que revera masivamente un fenómeno natural, algo que hoy en día ha quedado relegado a los países menos desarollados, desapareciendo casi completamente en occidente.

El problema del hanami es su impredictibilidad, a veces florece en Marzo, a veces se retrasa hasta Abril. Las flores empiezan a abrirse en el Sur y van subiendo hacia el Norte, con lo que si vas a pasar 2-3 semanas, es probable que lo pilles en un sitio u otro. Sin embargo, si tienes pensado visitar Japón durante menos tiempo o no estás dispuesto a pagar el plus que conlleva la época del sakura, Noviembre es también una muy buena opción.

Tener la oportunidad de pasear entre las primeras flores fue un momento tremendamente emocional. Cuando hice estas fotos, habían pasado exactamente 3 años desde que nos marchamos de Tokyo. Exactamente 3 años desde la última vez que había visto un cerezo, exactamente 3 años desde que recorrí Shinjuku Gyoen con Enrique por última vez.

Las imágenes capturan el lado más humano de la sociedad Japonesa, donde la única que lleva kimono es modelo, un anciano pasa las horas pintando al óleo, las familias hacen vídeos de los primitos que se abrazan y las parejas expresan su amor en público, con esa timidez delicada, tan característica de Japón. No hacen justicia a todo lo que ofrece esta época, para eso os recomiendo el resto de posts en nuestra sección hanami.

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Itoya: Ultimate Japanese stationery shopping


Guess I've been a sucker for stationery, paper and ink my whole life. From kindergarden cardboard art through art-school grade calculus notes featuring highlighter and metallic ink, you could see my taste for harmonious colors and graphic art breathing through my technical education. Also worth noting is my limited memory, as Chris calls it "the cheap RAM" - where pictures stick far longer than text.

Then, I moved to Japan. The country where paper folding art, origami「折り紙」 has been practiced since the Edo Period (1603-1867). The country where my beloved gel pens were invented by Sakura Color in 1984 - the year I was born. The country where erasers are art and envelopes a core aspect of the main events in life (birth, wedding, death).

Itoya store in Ginza has a 113 year history, is the mecca of stationery. Now spreads accross 2 buildings (G.Itoya in the main street of Ginza, with more refined things which you can see in this post; K.Itoya right behind, with common items like notebooks in B4 sizing - which I love). The store has it all, from pens through agendas, greeting cards or speciality paper. Just like you cannot leave Scandinavia without browsing through a furniture store, you cannot leave Japan without browsing through Itoya.

Itoya Ginza [floor plan] open 10AM-8PM (Sundays until 7PM)
Ginza Station (Marunouchi, Hibiya, Ginza lines)

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Tokyo - Asakusa snapshots

Farol a la entrada de Senso-Ji

En 1603, el shogun Tokugawa tomó las riendas de Japón, movió la capital a Tokyo y dio comienzo a un periodo de estabilidad. En Asakusa, quedan muchas muestras de la vida en aquella época, que convierten a este barrio en una zona muy interesante por la que deambular y comprar pequeños recuerdos que sólo se venden en Japón.

La ironía reside en que Asakusa creció gracias al barrio de al lado, llamado Kuramae, donde había muchos almacenes donde se guardaba  arroz por una pequeña cantidad. Pero la avaricia de los fudasashi creció con los años y pasaron a cargar dinero, en lugar de especie, o vender el arroz a otros distribuidores con un margen. El poder adquisitivo de muchos de estos fudasashi creció considerablemente, dando origen a un apetito voraz por las artes escénicas, que florecieron en Asakusa.

Geishas, Teatro No, paseos en carro, hasta el cine... Todo era posible en Asakusa, que se mantendría como distrito del entretenimiento en Tokyo por excelencia hasta la segunda guerra mundial, cuando fue bombardeado y pese a la reconstrucción, perdió relevancia a favor de otras zonas como Shinjuku.

Si visitas la ciudad en Mayo, no te pierdas el Sanja Matsuri.

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Tokyo - City life

Meiji Jingu and Shinjuku snapshots
Mi FUJI X100 no tiene una anchura comparable a la de Enrique, pensé que quizás sería más interesante usar estos días para capturar los detalles que hacen de Tokyo un sitio muy diferente, pero pasan desapercibidos tanto para el residente como para el que visita la ciudad durante unos días. También estoy probando a escribir en español, aunque nunca sepa cómo acertar con el público. Sin más, os dejo con unos snapshots de mi segundo día en Shibuya y Shinjuku.
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Tokyo - Komiya-san's Home「小宮さんの内」in Daikanyama

cute house entrance in Daikanyama neighborhood in Tokyo
A menudo, la gente se sorprende de lo "mucho que viajo" y me pregunta acerca de la mejor ciudad. Tokyo no tiene grandes monumentos, ni está particularmente diseñada para el turista extranjero. Precisamente en eso reside su encanto, en el shock que ofrecen las pequeñas calles de atrás, lo inesperado de un bar de 7 plazas o una entrada tan sumamente cuidada como la de Komiya-san.

Tokyo is the ultimate city, there's nothing beyond.

Aunque Tokyo tiene mucho que ofrecer, desvelar su belleza real conlleva ir más allá de lo obvio. Rascacielos, rooftop bars, shopping malls, los hay en muchos otros sitios - de hecho mucho más impresionantes y asequibles, sin ir más lejos de Jakarta o Bangkok - pero espacios de menos de 10m2 que recuerdes muchos años después... Esos sólo los he visto en Japón. No dudo de que muchas otras ciudades escondan un encanto similar, pero en Asia el tema seguridad es también una importante consideración que a veces (Jakarta, Manila) nos limita mucho a la hora de patear y ver la realidad más allá.

Viajar, igual que mudarse a un país extranjero conlleva afrontar la experiencia con humildad, con la mente abierta y dispuesta a entender que otras maneras de hacer las cosas, de pensar, de vivir... Son igualmente válidas y en ocasiones superiores, a las de nuestra cultura original. Esto es para mí el RoI real de un viaje, bastante alejado de los postureos efímeros en redes sociales. Los snaps se los lleva el tiempo, pero los shocks culturales los acarreas de por vida.

No os parece?

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Tokyo - Daikanyama Log Road

Daikanyama log road
Time unveils the irony behind memories.

I've had a couple of people asking for guidance regarding what to do when visiting Tokyo this spring. As usual, I recommend them to follow the Tokyo walk for one perfect sunday, spending around Daikanyama / Naka-Meguro / Cat Street as much as they feel appropriate. Why? Simply because they show the cool side of Tokyo, which is far far away from the stereotypes.

Daikanyama Log Road was built after the Tokyu-Toyoko Line was buried underground. This a pleasant little alley where high end shopping boutiques alternate with lifestyle stores, al-fresco dining and relaxed cafés - all with a very New York / Sidney flavor that only Japanese can get right - featuring:
  1. Spring Valley Brewery [POST]: Brunch and dining with outdoor option, cafe and craft beer.
  2. Fred Segal MART [WEB]: Open cafe and lifestyle shopping
  3. Fred Segal MAN [WEB]: Multi-brand high- / mid- end fashion
  4. Fred Segal WOMAN [WEB]: Multi-brand high- / mid- end fashion
  5. Garden House Crafts [WEB]: Open air dining, cafe, craft beer.
I really liked the selection on Fred Segal WOMAN, but could only afford to bring an Anna Wintour bag for my lunch.

Daikanyama Log Road [WEB]
13 Daikanyama, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Transport: Daikanyama Station (Tokyu Toyoko line); Ebisu Station (Yamanote, Shonan-Shinjuku, Saikyo, Hibiya lines)

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Tokyo - Spring Valley Brewery

Spring Valley Brewery, Daikanyama Log Road, Tokyo

Those of you following my trips know already that no matter how much I love Asia, my tummy has a hard time dealing with strange food over a long period of time, so I stick to "veg-based" & "pure" dishes as much as I can when I am traveling. This implies that if I wake up late enough to miss the hotel breakfast (where I can pick plenty of veggies & white-egg-scramble) I'm gonna opt for some kind of Western Style Brunch. We spoke about Urth Caffé - also in Daikanyama area - in the past, but last week I discovered a new favourite - ironically besides our old home in Daikanyama.

While the main selling point of this place is beer (which I don't drink), it offers cozy spaces, both indoor and outdoor, along with a familiar menu. When in Asia, please make sure to try these "western style" places, because they will be a happy surprise. I was extremely hungry when I arrived, so I ordered 2 coffees, some bread and the omelette - didn't touch the foie though, but ate everything else.

Spring Valley Brewery, Japan, 〒150-0034 Tōkyō-to, Shibuya-ku, 渋谷区Daikanyamachō, 13−1, ログロード代官山内
Nearest train stop: Ebisu (JR Yamanote, Tokyo Metro Ginza Line) or Daikanyama (JR Tokyu-Toyoko)

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Tokyo - Previous life snapshots, day one

Shibuya snapshots
2017 started with a lot of travel. Thailand, Indonesia, Thailand (again), China and finally, my beloved Tokyo.

It's been a fortunate week, starting from the lovely weather last and this weekend, through discovering that Monday was National Holiday. Managed to meet some old friends from Japan as well as new friends from Spain, in Japan. Went through a lot of feelings, mostly opting for being alone - some might think it's weird, I tend to isolate myself upon this level of emotional stravaganza.

Tokyo, always in my heart. The top place to visit and live, the city that beats all other, somewhere I dream with coming back to, sooner or later. The place I wish you all to experience as thoroughly as I do. Still, this trip was special. I did not feel "desperate to come back" as I was 2 years ago. I was warmed by the good memories, inside and outside the office, with the many friends we made here, as well as those who dropped by to visit (including our closest family). Places matter yes, but so does the people you share the experience with.

Tokyo is great, but it is not the same without Enrique.

I am about to leave for dinner, flying out tomorrow morning. Next week will be challenging, flying again on Friday. So Iwanted to put these emotions down in writings. Both because it helps me handling them and also in order to remember them well. Here come some snapshots from last Saturday. Shibuya remains as pretty and exciting as we remember it.

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Miami - Wynwood streets

Colorful murals around Wynwood streets, Miami
LOVE is the answer

Once you are done with the walled "official" gallery, make sure to book some time and explore the area randomly - which is the best and only approach that works. A lovely middle-aged gay couple rom New York stopped us to inquire where to go for more walls, to which we answered to be checking out with no plan :) this is part of the beauty of travel, getting lost is a great way to find yourself. Well not too lost... That's panic mode, yes I trust you get the point.
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Miami - Walt Grace Vintage

Walt Grace, vintage cars and guitars, Wynwood, Miami

Artsy neighborhoods often hide pearls like Walt Grace Vintage. Store concepts that you have never seen and probably will never see again. This is why I love them so much...

Walt Grace Vintage is a unique gallery focuses exclusively on the finest investment grade automobiles and vintage guitars. Over 25 years buying, selling and collecting, they procure the finest examples of both for their collection. Lovely place where both discerning buyers and casual observers can experience the beauty and artistry, common to vintage cars and vintage guitars.

The store is located right after you exit Wynwood Walls, make sure to drop by.

This post goes to our friend Mario, huge fan of cars and guitars, as well as the one who introduced me to Enrique more than 10 years ago. Mario, we hope you can visit this place one day, we could only think of you while exploring it - but make sure to come after you reach some kind of C-Level position somewhere, to actually be able to afford something... Otherwise it will be extremely painful, so we rather encourage you to avoid it.
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Miami - Wynwood Walls

Wynwood Walls, Miami

If you've been with us long enough, you probably know I am a sucker for modern art.

Turns out the phenomena of great art arising amid rusted warehouses is a Global Phenomena, simply because artists have a tendency to be broke but love to gather with their-likes in areas where it's somewhat affordable to live and rent a working space. We have visited some of these spaces, remember:
- 798 in Beijing
- Meatpacking in New York
- Södermalm in Stockholm
- Maboneng in Johannesburg
- Kloof & Long Street in Cape Town
- Kampong Glam in Singapore
- Daikanyama & Cat Street in Tokyo - as well as other areas further out, like Koenji
- Margareten in Vienna, Malasaña in Madrid...

Wynwood is a district in Miami where street art beats Berlin. Sorry Banksy, but seriously the size and condition of these murals are something new to me. We started exploring the area with the main hub, where a collection of selected walls is showcased together with a small museum where one can see the work of the same artists in alternative media. Very cool experience to go from mural into wall painting or sculpture.

Wynwood Walls [WEB] opens 12-20, Wed-Sat - for more Miami goodness, checkout our Miami Guide!!! We went there by rental car, but Uber is also a good choice if you won't move much further.

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Miami - Bass museum of art

Bass museum of art Miami

Bass Museum of Art was unfortunately under renovation when we visited in December 2016, but guy's don't miss the big opening in Spring 2017, when it will re-open after renovation, as the largest art museum education facility in Miami-Dade. What we managed to visit is the temporary exhibition at the Miami Beach Regional Library space, in conjunction with the outdoor exhibits laid gracefully in the park by the entrance. Out of them all, the colossal colorful stack by Ugo Rondinone stole my heart.

Ugo Rondinone (born 1964) is a Swiss-born mixed-media artist living in New York. His work frequently employs the experiential qualities of the everyday, often reflecting on the boundaries between fiction and reality. The cairn in Miami is small sample of his work, with the masterpiece Seven Magic Mountains, currently on display along Interstate 15 just south of Las Vegas (May 2016, May 2018). This installation of seven neon stone cairns painted in artificially bright yellows, purples and other colors is constructed from car-size stone cut from a Nevada quarry and stacked 10m high.

A cairn is a man-made pile or stack of stones. The word cairn comes from the Scottish Gaelic: Càrn (plural cairn) which translates to "heap, pile up, accumulate" or more literally "heap of stones". Cairns historically have been used for a broad variety of purposes, from prehistoric times through present day. Dating back to prehistory, examples of cairns can be found having been used for many functions including those built as burial monuments, defense and hunting structures; ceremonial assemblies; astronomical formations and location markers (specifically for buried items such as caches of food or objects) as well as trail markers, among others. In modern times, cairns are most frequently used as trail markers throughout many parts of the world, in diverse climates and terrains. They vary in size and complexity, from loose conical rock piles to delicately balanced sculptures and elaborate feats of megalithic engineering. Occasionally, cairns are also decorated, either for increased visibility or religious reasons.

In addition to Rondinone's work, the park is full of interesting pieces - being the lady of Avocado our second favourite! 

For other cool spots, recommendations & maps - check out our Miami guide post!

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Miami - Art Deco

Art deco walk around Miami

Affectionately known as the "Art Deco" District, the Miami Beach Archirectural District embodies the design continuum of the city from its early development period in the 1910s to the construction boom following World War II.

South Beach was reborn as an ArtDeco haven after a hurricane in 1926 destroyed much of the city.  A decade of intense building later, Miami became home of the world's largest collection of Art deco architecture - 960 spectacular buildings in total.

The district was listed on the National register of Historic Places in 1979 largely through the efforts of Barbara Baer Capitman, founder of the Miami Design Preservation League. At the time, it was the youngest district on the National register as many of the buildings had not yet reached 50 years of age.

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Miami - South Beach

Colorful baywatch towers in South Beach Miami

Always a fan of long walks along the beach, but never imagined it could look so cool! There are many stories about Waikiki and Bondi, but South beach wins by far.
Which one is your favourite?

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Welcome to Miami

South beach, Miami
My schedule was rather busy since we came back from New Year holiday. I hosted one week-long event at work, Enrique left to Stockholm, I attended another week-long event in Bangkok, while preparing for MWC and another trip which popped up in February out of the blue. Still, I wanted to drop this post, as I am super excited to tell you all about our pick for 2016's long vacation!

Miami is a magic city covered in pastel hues. From the sunsets through the baywatch huts down to art-decó buildings, up to the skyscrapers and along the Wynwood walls. It is a colorful, fun, artsy, blessed with great weather and latino-caribbean influences. Given the amount of long-haul flights landing here, it is a perfect base to start a holiday in the Caribbean, if you are like me and love the balance between cities and islands - Singapore and Boracay, Bangkok and Koh Samui, Seoul and Hawaii, are some examples of this blend I consider the perfect vacation.

Anytime. Avoid April - October as it gets humid in May and then, it comes the hurricane season.

The first five nights, we stayed at a private apartment managed by Miami Beach International Hostel [WEB]. Extremely good location in South Beach - we had great breakfasts at DULCE Café and sushi stravaganza at the nearby Iron Sushi for dinner. Really ample apartment, new and clean.

The last night, we stayed at Nautilus, a SIXTY hotel [WEB], also in South Beach. The concept offered by SIXTY is really interesting, a collective of five boutique luxury hotels in New York City, Los Angeles and Miami. Artful experiences within sophisticated backdrops that seasoned travelers will find home.

We spent a total of 5 days in Miami, 4 days on the way into the Caribbean and 1 day on the way back to Europe. I think that's more than enough to get a taste of the city. Renting a car is a good idea, at least for a couple of days, as the distances are long so Uber becomes more expensive than rental. Parking is not so straightforward though and rental cars are scarce, plan in advance. You can explore South Beach by foot and take an occasional Uber to a party in the city - see larger map here.

1. South Beach
We walked all the way North through the Art-Decó architecture jungle that makes South Beach a unique show, make sure you cross through the Bass Museum of Art, which is really worth it. Once we hit the Fontainebleau, featured in Brian de Palma's classic Scarface, we walked back along South beach and ended the day with some shopping around Collins Ave (street 6-8) - check Victoria's Secret and DASH, the multi-brand store owned by the Kardashian Klan.

2. Wynwood, Downtown, Little Havana (Calle Ocho), Coral Gables, Coconut Grove (Cocowalk)
After picking up the rental car - there's a fun story behind how we ended up on a BMW 640i - we admired the colorful murals, cool stores and kistch galleries around Wynwood, the artsy heart of Miami. Drive a bit North and park close to the Bayside marketplace - plenty of parking, to explore some of the most iconic buildings in town. Time for Cuban heritage in Calle Ocho, the heart of Little Havana, where the Cuban community of Miami gravitates around. After, we dropped by Coral Gables, my cousin's hood - blend between Desperate Housewives with The Fresh Prince - and finished with some dinner at Coconut Grove, a shopping district nearby - park at Cocowalk, the heart of it.

3. Vizcaya Mansion, Key Biscayne, Design District 
Besides shooting 1000 videos while driving the convertable over the bridge, we explored Vizcaya Mansion, a villa  that could have well inspired the photography on The Great Gastby - see the post to understand why. Come early as we arrived at 11 and waited 45min to get in. Then it was Key Biscayne time, the island where you can explore bits of American history, in a place where people like you and me actually spend their weekends, between sports and barbecue. We took a detour, to check out the fancy stores around the Design District - several blocks North of Wynwood - just to spend some time before returning the car.

4. E11EVEN [WEB]
The third night, we discovered Miami Vice. As a huge Nicki Minaj fan, I knew she was performing on NYE in this club in Miami. But we already had booked flights to spend NYE in San Juan, and the 340$ entrance fee was a bit too much - even for a talifan like me. We agreed that, if Nicki is going, then it must be good right? And it was, but not as I expected - turns out E11even is open 24x7, yes it is a club, more precisely a strip-club where I have seen some of the best pole performers EVER climbing a 5m high bar, doing all kinds of acrobatic tricks and ending up with some dance while customers rain notes on them. Once these 2 girls are finished, a guy in suit collects the notes into some metal bucket, a new pair comes and it keeps rolling. Not what I expected, but hey definitely an interesting part of the local culture - if you ever tried pole dancing as a sport, you will certainly appreciate the difficulty of the show much more.

5. Venetian Pool [WEB], Lincoln Road mall
The Venetian Pool is the only pool listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It opened in 1924 as "Venetian Casino" which was created from an old coral rock quarry abandoned in 1921 on 4 acres (16,000 m2). The pool was founded by George Merrick as part of the development of Coral Gables, which was created in Mediterranean Revival style and utilized a large amount of coral for ornamental features of the community. We were truly unlucky to arrive after a 25$ Uber, just to discover it is temporarily closed during winter season (Dec-Feb) for renovation. So we walked all the way to Coconut Grove, had some lunch and head back to South Beach, for movies at Lincoln Road mall followed by dinner at our usual, Iron sushi. After all these years abroad, we can't really watch dubbed anything anymore - just feels silly. Going to the cinema is something special, particularly because since back in Spain, we are apart from each other 6-9 months per year.

6. The Everglades
After the shooting at Fort Lauderdale, it took much longer than expected to make it through the airport on the way back from Puerto Rico, so our last night became a lovely dinner at Nautilus Hotel - super cool if you can afford it, and if you cannot it's OK to book that last night there. We had the morning before heading for our afternoon flight, so we registered for a tour in the Everglades - we recommend to do some research online, as depending on how many intermediaries are involved you may pay anything between 30$ to 70$ for a bus ride, a boat ride and some alligator. Bit of tourist trap, but cool ride around the mangrove.
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Bangkok - The real Fashionista Alert is Terminal 21

bangkok fashion shopping at terminal 21, dothbkk
Oh boy. Those who know me well, have already heard me talking a million times about Seoul having the best fashion (and cosmetic) shopping in the World - been saying this since 2010 and been consistently shopping in all my trips there, amazing stuff like my coat and my mum's scarf here, this dress, this dress, all these cosmetics - korean brands, this dress, my 2 last pairs of glasses, this suit and shoes for Enrique, the tiny decoration I wear on my coat... You get the point.

But during this trip to Bangkok, I have seen the light. In 2015, my colleague took me to Terminal 21, a mall located at Asok BTS station as well as rather close from our lovely hotel Aloft - super recommended if you come, which is built around the concept of airport terminal. The first floor is Rome, the second is Tokyo, the third is London, etc. Thing is. The Tokyo floor is actually the closest I have ever seen to Seoul in the whole Asia (well where I've been to, which is a lot) - maybe there's something similar somewhere else, but I haven't found it yet - in terms of quality, design, good price.

I landed at 15. I was in the hotel by 17. I left by 18 and spent nearly 3h exploring the area and buying some goodies, no great quality pics here as I forgot my camera. But LISTEN. I paid 130€ for what you see below - 3 tops + 2 skirts of lovely design AND quality, that I can use to work in these hot countries of SE Asia. Enough said. They are all from the same brand, it is called DOTH [WEB] and made in Thailand - I found their instagram which is full of ladylike inspiration cause the web is pretty empty atm.

bangkok fashion shopping at terminal 21, dothbkk
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