The Miami area is much prettier than we expected, and it is big and busy. It’s also very clean — not the picture I had of it in my mind’s eye. I haven’t been in Miami as a tourist since I was a child.
The entire South Beach area is an Art Deco District with one building after another done in great art deco style. Our hotel, the Blue Moon, was nice and well-located, though a Marriott Courtyard is even nicer for half the rate. We met Michael, Belen, and Ernesto — all staff at the Blue Moon. (I give everyone we meet our Round America card and encourage them to check out the web site.)
Our day began with a walk up and down Collins Avenue (A1A) and Ocean Drive – the street next to the beach, as well as a walk along the beach. Lots of action of all types – a very busy place. We saw beautiful beach areas, beautifully designed buildings, an amazing sandcastle, and a wide variety of people.
We saw a big group of what appeared to be weekend bikers, and we spent a few minutes speaking to Jay and Rich. They gave us several suggestions for our next two days in Key West. Nice guys and great-looking motorcycles.
Miami Beach is a real melting pot. There were times when we rarely heard English being spoken. While we saw people of all races, religions, and from many different ethnic origins, everyone seemed to get along fine, and the differences were essentially invisible. It’s an up-tempo place, and you would never know our country was at war.
We looked for a place for brunch, and after walking past sidewalk café after sidewalk café with mainly empty tables, we came upon a big place that was standing-room-only. True to the herd instinct that affects most of us, we followed the crowd and grabbed a table the second we saw some folks leave. Without realizing it, we were at the News Cafe, one of the places I had hoped we could eat. The News Café has newspapers and magazines from anywhere and everywhere and a big menu. The café opened in 1992, and for the last nine years, it has been named the Best Outdoor Café. The café originally had seats for eight, but it now seats 350. True to one of the Rules of the Road that we established, I tried something new – Eggs Florentine (eggs benedict with spinach). It was good though not served hot; our waiter (Mark H according to the bill) had (sadly) the personality of a wet dishrag; and the service was very slow. Some places are spectacular successes in spite of themselves. The people watching at the News Café was extreme. At the table next to us was a 65 to 70-year-old man cuddling with a teenage girl, and she wasn’t his daughter.
After brunch, we went to the Wolfsonian Museum. It had been highly recommended by several books that I had read, and we really enjoyed it. The Wolfsonian is primarily a museum of design, and it was great fun to see everything from London subway signs to 1940’s era electric fans and appreciate them from a focus on the design. It makes you realize how strongly the sales of all products are affected by the design and packaging. Surprise, surprise, we especially enjoyed a patriotic display. The Wolfsonian also had a portrait exhibit, and the most interesting piece was a sculpture that is a 360-degree profile of Mussolini. It was displayed right next to a bust of Mussolini, and the 360-degree profile was truly amazing.
We then walked the rest of the scenic part of Ocean Drive, visited Jerry’s World Famous Deli, and then walked throughout the Lincoln Road area of sidewalk cafes, galleries, and shops. A street market was being held, so we saw all types of stuff.
We walked through the Romero Britto gallery. He is a Brazilian artist, and both Boz and I were really taken with the incredibly vibrant colors in his art. We have never owned anything like it, but we both loved his work.
In the Lincoln Road area, it was nice to see that places like Starbucks were blending into the art deco surroundings.
Our next stop was Coral Gables. This community has changed very little from the 20’s, and it was really enjoyable to drive through the residential areas and see great-looking 1920’s era Florida-style homes. The developer of the area had a very strong plan for how the area should look and be maintained, and even the water tower is themed. The Alhambra Water Tower looks like an ornate lighthouse – truly unique. We also saw the most impressive Biltmore Hotel and the University of Miami.
We didn’t meet a lot of people today, but in addition to the folks at the Blue Moon and the bikers, we met Geeta from Guyana and Pat from Antarctica at our hotel, and we met Marvin from America at dinner. We also appreciate the free admission to The Wolfsonian provided by our new friend, Oscar Alvarez; he comped us because we are members of the press.
Tonight is laundry night, so we are staying at the Candlewood Suites, a very nice and very affordable chain that we got to know in the Orlando area. Our room and the amenities here are much better than the Blue Moon at less than half the price. I’m not knocking the Blue Moon — just singing the praises of nice, much more affordable places to stay while spending over 100 days on the road.
It was a very enjoyable day. We will tend to have a better time on the days when we aren’t driving several hundred miles and can relax enjoying a stop.
The lesson we learned today is that you can find beauty in all types of people, places, and things. The Wolfsonian certainly demonstrated the beauty in the design of everything from war bond advertising to electric fans to underground (subway) signs. The entire Art Deco District was certainly very beautiful – though we don’t always think of areas and buildings as beautiful. Even Starbucks was beautiful by blending into its art deco surroundings rather than sticking out like a sore thumb. Coral Gables was filled with beauty because the area was so well designed and has been largely insulated in appearance from the development of the last 75 years. And we saw a lot of “beautiful people” today – people from a wide variety of places and backgrounds.
If any of you friends or relatives want to join us at any point, please do! Bring your own car if it is before May 15 as we will be in a two-seater until we switch to an SUV in mid-May. Once we switch to the SUV, we will have room for two to join us.
We received more emails from folks who read about our trip in their local newspaper! That’s exciting! Today we received two more invitations to come by for pie.
I may move my political commentary to a page that links from this page, since this certainly isn’t the purpose of our trip or our writing. That way, those of you who are anti-war, Democrats, or not as patriotic as we are will not have to read what we talk about and believe. I would have never thought to discuss politics as one of the topics on my daily report, but when you have as much time as we have to be side-by-side talking and listening to reports about the war on the radio, the discussion of political issues does occupy some of our time every day…. I continue to receive a number of emails each week from people encouraging a Boycott of France. I’m all for it. Many Americans lost their lives helping France in times of war, so I find it absolutely despicable that the French would campaign so hard to hurt our country. The French hate Americans, so who needs ’em? I strongly agree with those who feel the French no longer deserve any business or help of any type from Americans. We will never go to France again, and we will do everything possible to avoid buying any French products. On the flipside, we will do anything and everything we can to support our friends in the United Kingdom! Click here if you’d like to see a list of French companies and products to avoid.
One of the most important things we have done in each major tourist town is stop at an information center or hotel to pick up brochures for every attraction of interest. Excellent resources.