I’m always on the road these days, which is part thrilling and part exhausting. Most recently, I was on the east coast in Miami, a city that I am almost certain was intended to be designed as an adult’s playground. I never had a burning desire to visit Florida as an adult because my family used to spend Christmas in a seaside suburb where my Aunt lived. I was often terribly bored by these visits because as an 8-year old, I wanted to be doing, seeing and feeling everything. My college roommate once said to me, “Michelle, please never move to the suburbs – that is where your soul will die!”
For many years, I refused to visit Florida willingly until I. had a conference in Miami and asked if I wanted to tag along for the weekend. I said, “Yes,” and complained a great deal about having to go to Florida (“We’re going where all the retirees are! Why can’t we go somewhere more adventurous, babe?”) for weeks, but when my flight overlooked the aquamarine ocean, I immediately fell in love! Warm breeze, sun-drenched skin and all of that blue ocean without a cloud in sight – it was my type of paradise. Some people love the cold bite and majestic peaks of mountains, others love getting lost in the lush canopies of forests and I – I just love the vastness of water. It’s the closest thing I know to infinity aside from the endless stretch of sky. Growing up in Vancouver, I would spend so many summers by the seaside and lakes. Water became synonymous with the feeling of carefree joy, laughter, ice cream cones, sandy flip flops and all the goodness that is summer. Wet hair, tanned complexions and that indelible sensation of perpetual freedom when you just simply float with your face turned towards the warmth of the sun. Needless to say, the first thing I asked I. while driving up to the hotel was, “When can we move here?”
For most of our stay, we were in South Beach. It happened to be Spring Break, so I saw many things that I now cannot unsee. Spirits were high, cocktails were pouring, music was playing and I was cocooning myself away from it all, tucked in a cabana with my most recent read. I’ve had this odd affinity for WWII books since I was a little girl. I was always so fascinated by the stories about the human capacity to survive and resist. Every time that I pick up a book for the plane at the legendary Strand Books in New York, you can bet that it’ll be a WWII historical novel.
When I visit cities, I’m curious about the people, the art and the desserts. We dropped by Wynwood to see the sprawling art murals and it reminded me a bit of the early days of Brooklyn before things quickly became gentrified. There was art at your fingertips and under your feet.
I also really enjoyed the Miami Design District. We dropped by Harry Winston to ogle at the resplendent diamonds, which looked exceptionally brilliant. I don’t know what they’re doing in there, but I am convinced that they have extra special lights to create even more sparkle.
The architecture in Miami is something else! The interiors of the hotels we visited were avant-garde in a way that I haven’t seen in many American cities. On that note, Miami’s diversity and strong Latin influence set a relaxed tone for the city that hits you the moment you step off the jetway.
One of the most striking moments was the car ride back to the airport as we prepared to fly back to New York. Driving further and further away from the glitz of South Beach, we saw parts of Miami that aren’t advertised. I remember seeing a small school that looked like it was cut out of a National Geographic article about the status of education in developing countries. This moment reminded me about why we have so much work to do to equalize educational opportunity and access here in America. If, as a young child, your ability is being hindered by the physical environments that are meant to grow and nourish you, how can you catch up – even if you have the ability? Annette Lareau’s book, “Unequal Childhoods,” about the American school system and different family structures across classes was an eye-opening for me that I recommend to those looking for a thought-provoking read. If you’re so compelled, one of my friends, S., works at a great non-profit, Donors Choose, a platform that links you up with the opportunity to bring dreams alive in American classrooms.
Here are some of my favorite spots from the trip:
Faena – Vibrant and passionate reds rule this hotel. There’s something luxurious about how open Faena is about its unabashed appreciation for beauty.
Delano – Very relaxed pool environment and a hotel walkway that feels like makes you feel like you’re walking through a surreal dream.
Miami Beach Edition – I love plants, and the bar/restaurant that encircles the pool here is overflowing with the most striking arrangement of hanging green planters. I prefer plants as adornments instead of objects. Their pool is also divine!
Pao – The best meal I’ve had in 2018. I love Asian food and I’m a difficult critic when it comes to “modern” Asian. We were starving by the time we arrived at the restaurant and were sun-dazed, so we opted for the tasting menu and were pleasantly surprised! I’m not usually keen on tasting menus since I like to know what I’m having, but Pao does tasting menus the way tasting menus are meant to be done: a burst of flavors melting in your mouth that leaves you with a full stomach. The decor here is all gold everything and plush booths. By the time the last two courses were served, I was genuinely sad that I didn’t have room to eat more of the wagyu beef and the snapper.
Versailles – A recommendation from a colleague led us to a chance meeting with some other New York friends. Versailles is known for its Cuban food and its great pastries. I am a huge fan of fresh fruit smoothies and juices, but I am not willing to pay the exorbitant San Francisco prices for them. Outside of South Beach, Miami tends to be very affordable for food options (compared to San Francisco), and I enjoyed a gigantic glass of papaya juice here. We had croquettes, a seafood platter, chicken, yucca fries and left feeling like stuffed turkeys. Again, I was so full that I only managed to have one spoonful of flan. This was a big deal considering that I LOVE flan! There’s a line here, so expect a wait!
Ella – If your significant other is tired from the over-stimulation that occasionally happens as a side effect of shopping, stop by here to recharge. I enjoyed their Greek yoghurt bowl and we also picked up a few small snacks here.
Le Chick Rotisserie – Brand new restaurant in Wynwood that serves up delicious rotisserie chickens. We came here because the line at the popular Asian-fusion restaurant, Kyu, was an hour… and we were hungry.
Matador Room – A visually stunning environment that I want in my future home! I enjoyed their fish tacos and green tea.