Have had a great time getting to know the Miami region over the past few weeks which was even better given I had the chance to catch up with friends from the US, UK, Austria and Australia who all happened to be visiting at various points.
The Art Deco buildings – exterior and interior are looking really great. Originally they were large private homes of the wealthy and then they were used by the underworld for many decades so are all designed to have a through hall (front to back) for quick escapes when needed and many have a tiny bar (used as a front for more nefarious businesses) and often the hotel was always “full” if anyone asked – another front! Nowadays they are real small and unique hotels on the beach with loads of character. Miami Vice seems a long time ago.
No trip to this area is complete without an airboat tour to the Everglades. Gorgeous scenery as you either drift by slowly or travel at very windy speed. Further excitement added by spotting one or two of the 1.5 million alligators who live in Florida (not sure who counted them?).
Finished the day with a drenching from a typical Miami storm in Little Havana and watching some cigar rolling with my mate Liza.
I went back to this cool area about 15 minutes from Downtown Miami for a walking tour of the curated art within Wynwood Walls as well as the street art in the surrounding streets.
Much of it is replaced every year as part of the Art Basel events every December so I think you could go back every year and have a totally different experience. I do love to see places regenerated and attracting new visitors – this was a no go area not so long ago.
If you find yourself there I also thoroughly recommend lunch at Kyu. This restaurant is a spin off from two of the original Zuma chefs (if you know Hong Kong or London you may have been). Excellent bites and the best Vietnamese porkbelly bao bun I’ve ever eaten even in Vietnam!
Below is a mix of Wynwood streets and also a couple of pieces from the Margulies Collection Gallery.
And these Ducati bike were at a special exhibition at the nearby Design District. Even I think they are cool and I know nothing much about this stuff.
There are a lot of galleries (mostly contemporary) in Miami most of which I have tried to see. Some are far better than others – Rubell I loved; Bass not so much. Still they are in nice buildings with air con and often close to the beach and/or cool bars so what’s not to like really.
The Rubell started off as a private collection of a young couple who bought things they liked. Now their collection has become so popular that part of it tours other cities in the US and they are having to move to larger premises – some of the items they originally bought were less than $500. Here are some samples
The chairs were as squishy as they look and very comfortable. The lady on the pink carpet has a perennial twitch of her right hand – the mix between human and robot; the lady in the plastic bag reflects a lawyer on the garbage heap now replaced with an automated and cheaper alternative.
The female artist on the left uses well known motifs from traditional artists and does her own thing with them; the male who is completely three dimensional is dipped in some sort of laminate and while totally modern strikes a classic Grecian statuary post and the reclining lady is actually a model who is part male part female.
The lady on the left is a made via 3D printer; the Chinese artist top right just stopped people in the street and asked them to give him everything they had on them and he turned it into art; and the daughter of the Rubell couple made the fully functional nutcracker from the mannequin – you are allowed to crack the walnuts!
Finally, from my less liked Bass here are three pieces. The drawing of Josephine Baker comes from the French restaurant next door and is easily my favorite of the four.
And there is always time for some relaxation by the ocean – this time it was Shuckers for a lovely casual lunch.
Although I am staying downtown it is also nice to head to the beach occasionally and of course South Beach is the place to go. It is a bit of a shock to be lying by the beach drinking cocktails when only a few blocks away is an excellent Jewish Museum of Miami and more confrontationally the Holocaust Memorial which is very moving.
So here is the beach – as gorgeous as expected and even the advertising just floats past you on a portable movie screen so you don’t have to make much effort to read it!
It was the excellent guide at the Jewish Museum of Miami who suggested I hike over to the memorial. It is an excellent small museum in the former synagogue. Meyer Lanksy the infamous Jewish gangster lived in Miami Beach and gave generously to the local synagogue and was the only Jew who was refused the right to be buried in Israel; Many signs on restaurant and to enter clubs said “gentiles only” not that long ago; the first senator of Florida was a Sephardic Jew who arrived by way of Cuba; the famous Joe’s Stone crab shack on the Beach is 4th generation Weiss family owned and while the stone crab is expensive they still sell cheap burgers and chicken as the original owner said “I don’t care how fancy shmancy we become we always need to also provide food that the ordinary worker can afford” and they still do.
And here is the first thing you see when you approach the memorial which is close to the Botanical Gardens on 17th Street. Apparently when there was debate about where this should be put up – bearing in mind that in the 60s and 70s 75% of the Miami Beach area south of 5th was Jewish – the local church did not want this “in its shadow”. When the debate came up one Holocaust survivor said that she and her husband had been a concert pianist and both had one arm taken off in the camps so they could never play piano again – she argued for this memorial so “she could get her arm back”. Gives you goosebumps. So does the fact that the address of this memorial is 1933-1945 Meridian Street – pretty much covers the years from Kristellnacht to the end of the war. It was “beshert ” – a Yiddish word meaning “meant to be”.
Aside from the sheer scale of this memorial it is shocking yet peaceful at the same time. Worth a walk around for some quiet contemplation about the sheer scale of what happened back then – less than one hundred years ago. When you walk into the square naturally illuminated entrance you see all the names of the camps as you hear childrens’ voices quietly singing – very moving.
In an 8 block location that used to house “Little Haiti” you can now find the Miami Design District. Almost complete it is a shopping experience a little akin to Rodeo Drive with many flagship designer stores in impressive surroundings.
First thing to enjoy are the windows – I was especially excited to see Louis Vuitton and Yanoi Kusama artwork in the same location. As for the orange corridor running along The Fendi store – well that took me right back to the Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto last year.
As you wander around the Design District there is plenty of street art to look at too as well as the latest in cool -and easily accessible – hammocks,
Of course in such a swanky area even the car parkades need to be special and different – and as you can see they are that.
Also enjoyed a visit with a my NYC friend Lisa who now lives in Fort Lauderdale so she, Beth and I had a great catch up.
I for one didn’t really appreciate that Miami had a river – well it does! And we ate there last night – first a few drinks at a delightful bar and restaurant call Kiki’s and then my first taste this trip of stone crabs – there will be more to come for sure. Here is Kiki which is also a good spot for sunsets and yacht watching
Then next day another shopping center – my favorite so far I think as it has a mix of high end and affordable places to shop and once again is open air – it is The Shops at Merrick Park.
Finally on to Vizcaya – an old mansion and beautiful gardens build by John Deering of International Harvester fame. He obviously had a lot of money but also good taste so walking around this place is like being in Italy most of the time as you can see – yet is is in Coconut Grove Miami. Worth a visit and we may go back for their evening event held once a month where the gardens are lit up for guided walks.
Spending some time in Miami with my friend Beth. I ventured downtown to explore the area on foot (not many people walk anywhere in this part of the world). I used the free People Mover to get me where I wanted to go which was to walk around and check out buildings and outdoor sculptures. I saw quite a few but some areas are a bit dodgy – would not do this at night!
Also visited the Perez Museum of Art. He is a wealthy Cuban who has built this place close to the waterfront. It is small but quite interesting and has a great restaurant and shop.
At the other end of the spectrum I caught up with an old friend Klaudia in the shops in Bal Harbour. This is a very ritzy indoor and outdoor shopping Centre with only top end stores – so for window shopping mostly but we had a nice lunch there.
And close by to Brickell where I am staying there is one of the last designs for a building by Zaha Hadid – I think it is going to be spectacular when finished – and no doubt expensive too