Travel Inspiration By A Pro Trip Designer

FLORIDA KEYS and MIAMI

Travel Tips

Apr
08
2009

FROM THE SOUTHERN TIP TO MIAMI’S DOWNTOWN’S GLITZ : FLORIDA’S SULTRY BOTTOM IS WORTH KISSING, AT LEAST ONCE.

April 2009

This past April I was lucky enough to be invited down to the Florida Keys and Miami for some good old fashioned reporting on the area hotels. I went down a bit apprehensive for the solo southern trek but I was confident that post a tour through the Caribbean I could surely handle Florida.  My expectations of the keys and South Beach were admittedly on the low side which, in the end, made for one of the better individual sojourns I’ve ever done. Nothing like being shocked in a good way.

My tour included six hotels:  The Casa Marina Resort and it’s sister resort and neighbor, The Reach in Key West, Little Palm Island in Islamorada (my fave!) and The Fontainebleau and The Betsy in South Beach and the Epic in downtown in Miami.

A big thank you to all those spots and the kind staff at each of them.  Here are some of my best shots with their forever, honest captions.

The view from my ocean view room at Casa Marina. I held a conference call and did some emails (Wifi) from that porch - beats an office any day

The view from my ocean view room at Casa Marina. I held a conference call and did some emails (Wifi) from that porch - beats an office any day

The grand facade of the historic (1920s) Casa Marina Resort

The grand facade of the historic (1920s) Casa Marina Resort

The chic 'water path' at the Casa Marina. Despite the kid-friendly vibe of hte hotel this path felt far more adult lit up at night

The chic 'water path' at the Casa Marina. Despite the kid-friendly vibe of hte hotel this path felt far more adult lit up at night

KEY WEST

I have so many positive things to say about this splendid part of the U S of A. Perhaps the most important one is that whatever you may have heard about Key West, good, bad or sordid – believe it. And then go see for yourself. You won’t be disappointed. I was enchanted by the entire 26-mile island, its marked diversity, salty character and surprising scenery – from Caribbean waters to high-heeled transvestites to elegant wood frame houses to all-you-can-eat-buffets – it all captivated me in a way I sincerely appreciated.

A beautiful house that looks more Palm Beach than Key West.

A beautiful house that looks more Palm Beach than Key West.

The infamous street at its invisible line (one side galleries and nice restaurants - the next a one way ticket to boozetown)

The infamous street at its invisible line (one side galleries and nice restaurants - the next a one way ticket to boozetown)

I am the first to say that I’m shocked to learn our southernmost point now has a hold on me and may have to defer to the fact that I had just returned from a three-month stint in the Caribbean. I was thrilled to see that the fauna and water color were so similar to the Caribbean yet oh so American in accessibility. (Diet coke in a can!)  After having spent the winter in the Caribbean, I was just enamored with the fact that I could leave the resort ground with relative ease on my bike and not be intimated by any of the surroundings. The newfound freedom was intoxicating.  I couldn’t help but grin like the 8-year old I resembled as I biked around the palm fringed streets with a dripping ice-cream cone. Despite the row of unappealing head shops on Duvall Street and the messiness of its inhabitants past sunset, I couldn’t help but realize the charm and relish the ability I had to bike away back towards the hotel at my own leisure.

Here she is! Too bad I was too awk to ask someone to take a picture of me. That and too lazy to wait since there was a line forming and I had to quickly snap this one before the next person posed in front

Here she is! Too bad I was too awk to ask someone to take a picture of me. That and too lazy to wait since there was a line forming and I had to quickly snap this one before the next person posed in fron

*Needless to say, I was not there during Spring Break and do NOT recommend that as an optimal time to visit.

DON’T MISS in KEY WEST:

-The around the island JetSki tour with Barefoot Billy’s at the Reach Resort. Its soooo worth it. No wonder Rap Stars love those things…they move! Plus the view of the island is way more educational from the water. Who knew there were huge submarine pits in Key West that were never used…? Now, I do and I’ve zoomed through them.

– Sunset at Mallory Park. Okay yes, its uber touristy but go on, that’s why you’re there. Buy a packet of the conch fritters and sit on the pavement with the rest of your countrymen and enjoy the fiery color show.

SOUTH BEACH, MIAMI

Welcome to Meeyamee, indeed.  Okay, as a huge, HUGE fan of the Robin William/Nathan Lane remake of the Birdcage, I had some serious expectations for South Beach.  I was all ready to walk into the cabaret show and find my beloved Albert, Armand and especially, Agador Spartacus. Sadly, that was not the case and the strip on Ocean Drive disappointed me with its constant stream of restaurants hawking their wares.  Seriously, what is appetizing about seeing a cold, congealing plate of what you might potentially order?  Fortunately my first accommodations, located right on Ocean Drive, at the recently refurbished Betsy Hotel was like a breath of fresh air.  Pictures to come.

My second spot, a bit farther down the beach on the bumpin’ Collins Avenue, was perhaps the largest 180 in accommodations I have done in one night. Unlike the boutique property above, Le Fontainebleau is all about size – the bigger (and the louder) the better.  The place is Vegas on the beach and I was a wide-eyed innocent.

The original part of the building (there's two more extensions) and the luxe pool lounges (with flat screens and mini bars). Can you hear the base?

The original part of the building (there's two more extensions) and the luxe pool lounges (with flat screens and mini bars). Can you hear the bass?

Fortunately, I was beyond well treated and enjoyed a visit to their new, gigantic spa for a signature, Tracie Martyn Facial. Um, NO FREAKING WONDER DVF looks so good at her age. And Madonna!  They both go to this woman for the facial they say is better than Botox. Kate Winslet went right before her Oscar win this year and thus her glow was apparently prefabbed. All I can say, is that alas I didn’t come out looking as glam as the ladies above (they go weekly though) but it was one of the most intense facials I have ever had. The machine she uses pinches your skin promoting elasticity and tightening and whatnot and freakishly made my cavities react, leaving a metallic taste in my mouth. Despite the braces-reminder, I was pretty amazed with the whole process and if I could, I’d go weekly too. I also checked out their latest restaurant addition; Hakkasan by Alan Yau. Its one of 3.  The award-winning Cantonese cuisine was quite tasty and the setting, fittingly designed with darker tones and sleek furnishings, similar to the fashionable, deeply tanned clientele.

You could hear the music all the way up here

You could hear the music all the way up here

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Published by Meg, Wednesday, April 8, 2009 No Comments

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About Meg

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Meg is the founder of luxury travel consulting company, Friend of a Friend Consulting. Her three books, Italian Hideaways, Caribbean Hideaways and England's Hideaways are published by Rizzoli. Passionate about travel, hotels and wine, she continues to write freelance travel pieces and is currently pursuing a Masters in Wine through the WSET.

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The opinions expressed on this blog are solely my own and do not reflect separate business relationships with the subject. Whenever posts are supported financially, they are designated as such.