From Miami with Love: My continued love affair with the Magic City

Miami has long felt like a second home to me and like many other islanders I have been visiting the city regularly since early childhood. The reason for visiting is always the same: shopping or as a layover on the way to Orlando to see the famous mouse.  I understand why we islanders choose Miami out of countless other destinations in the world to visit again and again. While most people visit Miami for its beaches and sexy nightlife, we islanders choose Miami for the simple reason that it is affordable, at least it used to be, we get to shop till we drop, something that is not possible on most islands and we get access to items and restaurants that we’ve only seen advertised on American TV. Beaches and sexy nightlife are two things we are very familiar with already. It doesn’t get any sexier and the beaches don’t any sandier than in the Caribbean.

But I am here to tell you that there is more to Miami. There is just so much more than shopping and good eating and I made it my duty this trip to see more of a city I thought I knew like the back of my hand.

Without more ado here is a quick guide to Miami.

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Stay

Instead of staying in a hotel like we usually do, we opted to search for a vacation rental in or around Midtown. Wynwood was a must on my list while my husband wanted to stay close to Midtown and Brickell. We found a condo on Homeaway.com in a building that had just opened 6 months before in an area called Edgewater, walking distance form both Wynwood and Midtown.

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Icon Bay is a new condominium with all the amenities of a resort. 24 hour security: Check. Swimming Pool: Check.  Sauna/steam room: Check. Gym: Check.

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Lobby

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passageway to our elevator

Our apartment was on the 19th floor and accessible by a somewhat private elevator. Meaning that only we could access with a fob key via the state of the art digital elevator control. The two bedrooms, two bathrooms apartment was beautiful, clean and offered a spectacular view of Miami Beach in the distance.

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Digital Elevator Control

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Our view

The building also featured two beautiful sitting areas and free valet service. It really doesn’t get better than this. Besides some minor inconveniences like an air-conditioning that kept shutting off during the night and a loose towel rack in one of the bathrooms, the place was heaven.

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Sitting area

Eat

There is no shortage of good and trendy places to eat in Edgewater, Wynwood and Midtown. We found out the hard way when we realized on the day before our last day in Miami that we had 3 meals left but still at least 4 restaurants on our list that we hadn’t tried yet.

Sugarcane
We ate brunch here on a Sunday after strolling through Midtown and it was absolutely divine. The restaurant offers a long menu of tapas and small dishes and an impressive list of cocktails and wines. It features a large outdoor/indoor bar and at least two kitchens.

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The place was buzzing on Sunday afternoon and it is easy to see why. Try their Crème Brûlée with passion fruit mouse and slices of dried coconut.

Passión del Cielo
A trendy little coffee place in the same street as Sugarcane that offers coffee brews from different places in the world. Choose from Colombian, Kenyan, Mexican, Jamaican, Cuban, Ethiopian and Brazilian to name a few.

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The decor is trendy and the seats comfortable. Had I had the time it could have easily become my main spot for writing and answering emails. Blogger approved.

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Panther Coffee
Another great place to have coffee is Panther Coffee in Wynwood. This one came highly recommended from IG followers and fellow bloggers. Thanks guys, for the suggestion. We hit Panther Coffee one morning  and instantly saw the appeal. It is trendy in a starving artist kind of way and is frequented by suit wearers, artist types, musicians, hippies and students.

2013-01-01-00-00-00-529The pastries were great, the coffee amazing. Sit outside so you can enjoy the foot traffic and some nearby murals while you sip on your hot drink.

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Coyo Taco
Another fine recommendation I received on Instagram. I love tacos, who doesn’t? Although I read a little bit on it before visiting, I was still not prepared for how famous this little taco joint really is. I understand that there are two or three locations in Miami. We went to the one in Wynwood and it was instant love.

2013-01-01-00-00-00-632Let me say that in the Caribbean we just do NOT stand in line for food unless it’s at a free buffet, so imagine my surprise when we got there one evening and found a group of people bunched in front of the door. There was not an open seat to be seen. Being the good little islanders that we are and naive AF, we walked straight in and it wasn’t until we were standing close to the cashier that we realized we had just cut a huge line and were met with very angry stares. We quickly took our rightful place in the line and stroke up a conversation with the person in front of us, who told us that it was good thing that we picked that day since it is generally much busier. WTF?

img_4307I can write about the delicious shrimp tacos, the out-of-this-world guacamole, the cheesy corn on the cob and the amazing margaritas forever but I’ll let you be your own judge. Mark Coyo tacos as a MUST DO on your next Miami trip. I promise it will be worth your while.

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Enriquita’s
Snugged between Edgewater, Wynwood and Midtown is Enriqueta’s, a delightful little Cuban diner I was introduced to by my friend and travel writer @jetsetsarah. I met Sarah one early Tuesday morning (it was before 9, early in my book) for breakfast and completely hungover from too many margaritas at Coyo’s the night before. Let me just say that Enriqueta’s omelette made me feel human again.

img_4355Miami: a quick guideEnriqueta’s is not just a breakfast and lunch place, it’s an institution. One of the last original places from its era that is still standing while construction of multi million dollar condos are being erected around it. It is also quite well known amongst the local community and tourists alike. The people are friendly, the food rich and it’s typical diner feel and smells brings a smile to your face any day, any time, hungover or not.

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The Salty Donut
Why is it that I always end up standing in line when it comes to eating in Wynwood? Sarah introduced me to this little gem of a place. This is no ordinary donut shop, and after standing in line for 15 minutes I became aware of the why when I finally saw the menu.

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Standing in line for donuts

According to Sarah waiting for 15 minutes just to order your donuts is nothing. The line is usually much longer (try around the block). People flock to the Salty Donut for well, the donuts. But it’s not because these donuts are just good, they are weird. There are blends of unique tastes and flavors, salty mixed with sweet, tangy mixed with sour. Their number one seller is the Maple Bacon Donut. I am not into sweet stuff (neither am I a bacon eater) and my preferred donut is the boring old glazed donut but my husband is a sucker for donuts and bacon. So I stood in line like the good wife that I am along with the dozen or so of other crazies, some well prepared with umbrellas to offer relief from the sun. Too bad by the time it was finally my turn the bacon donuts were all sold out. Thank you person in front of me that ordered 90 donuts to go.

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See

Wynwood would be my number one recommendation of things you must see and experience when in Miami. It’s artsy, trendy, fun and amazing. It an up and coming neighborhood filled with art galleries, trendy bars and restaurants and even the occasional brewery. It is the place to be for underground parties, hidden clubs, food trucks and art walks. Check my previous blog post for a more detailed look at my Wynwood experience.

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Do

Bike around the Bill Baggs State Park on Key Biscayne and make sure to visit the lighthouse.

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My sisters picked me up one morning for biking. Delightful creatures that they are they packed a light breakfast which we ate on the way to Key Biscayne. The drive was beautiful. It is a gorgeous sight seeing the tall buildings disappear once on the bridge towards the key. All the way at the end of the island is Bill Baggs state park and at the end of that the Cape Florida Lighthouse. Built in 1825 the lighthouse was lit every night by the light keeper who lived on the property and who had to climb the then wooden stairs all the way to the top. I climbed the now iron cast stairs and I came to the stunning relaization that I need to start going to the gym.

img_4146After I picked up my tongue from the floor and slowly regulated my breathing, I got to enjoy the most stunning views of the beach below, the key, Miami in the distance and even the stilt houses nearby. Yes,  you read that correctly. Stilt houses. Believe me, I was as amazed as you are. I never ever knew these existed. Stiltsville is a group of stilt houses about a mile away from the lighthouse and built on a sand bank. From the 27 or so stilt houses built in the 1930’s about 7 are still standing after hurricanes and other disasters. Apparently Stiltsville used to be quite the party central back in the day.

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Miami: a quick guide

In the top of the Lighthouse with Stiltsville in the background

Miami Beach and South Beach
It’s a given that when you visit Miami you you also pay a brief visit to Miami Beach and South Beach. It is the place for people watching. Although I enjoy a ride through Miami Beach and SoBe, it is not exactly my cup of tea and a visit to  Lincoln Road Mall just reinforced that statement. I did however, enjoy sitting at one of the many terraces lined up along Lincoln road while sipping on my favorite rosé though. It goes to show that I can be happy in any situation as long as booze is involved.

img_4265fullsizerenderWynwood at night
We stopped at Coyo Taco’s (again) one evening for one margarita, or so we told ourselves. 5 margaritas each later I noticed a bouncer standing at the entrance to the bathrooms. Inrigued I asked him what was so special about the toilets. He laughed and told me that there is a club in the back, past the toilets. This, I had to see. I excitedly yanked my husband into the hallway (poor thing was mid sip) and after convincing the bouncer that we were both old enough (I showed him my grey hair) we entered a dark hidden club, complete with bar and dj. It’s a must do. We had quite a lot of fun, even if at that early hour we were the only two in there. There are a lot of really cool bars to drink at in Wynwood, so make sure to put this on your list, especially on Friday and Saturday nights.

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Yes, I know I said there is more to Miami than shopping but I just couldn’t resist. Besides, I am married to a mall-aholic and was dragged to Aventura mall on at least two occasions. My excuse for caving in was always the iStore. You know…..for…uhm…blogger stuff.

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Just like that my one week in Miami came to an end. I was completely unprepared for it. I still had countless restaurants to eat at, I wanted to re-visit Wynwood at least twice more, I had yet to step foot in the swimming pool or sauna and I only briefly got to enjoy our balcony with the beautiful view of Miami Beach. No, I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to the Magic City at all. But better to leave on a high than on a low, I always say. So for now it is “See you soon again Miami”. I came, I conquered, I loved and I shall return.

What’s your favorite thing to do when in Miami?

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3 thoughts on “From Miami with Love: My continued love affair with the Magic City

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