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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