Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Bienvenido a Miami

Thanks to Michael arranging a fabulous getaway last weekend, the view out my window changed from this on Friday morning:

To this on Saturday morning:

Oh what a difference a day makes (and a 2 ½ hour plane ride south)!

With the snow falling steadily Friday morning we were pretty sure we would be delayed and we were really really hoping our flight wouldn’t be cancelled.

With assurances from the American Airlines website that the flight would depart on time I filled out my new Chococat luggage tag

Stocked my in-flight mini bar using these great 2 ounce leak proof containers from the Container Store:

And filled up the Rum Runner flasks for their maiden voyage. (They were great, no leaks, easy to fill, and even easier to empty.)

Michael and I met up at JFK and waited for the bad news. Well while we wanted to be optimistic it was hard to believe our flight wouldn’t be delayed (as the electronic flight information boards indicated). We boarded about 40 minutes late, then had to wait for an over worked ground crew to push us off from the gate, and we had to be de-iced. We landed about 2 hours later than planned – a minor delay, we were pleased!

We stayed at the Trump Sonesta in Sunny Isles Beach, north of Miami Beach (similar in distance as O’side is from downtown San Diego). We had a view of the interior waterways and the ocean.

We decided Miami was Las Vegas meets Hawaii. It was tropical and seedy at the same time. And talk about strip malls – one side of the road was all high rise hotels/condos and the other side was strip malls. Apparently they don’t have many zoning requirements as the strip malls were quite varied in occupancy. Our favorite was the line up of a day spa, a pawn shop, H&R Block, and an adult video store all in a row – a little something for everyone.

The Sonesta is known for fabulous customer service and they did not disappoint. From our cabana boy Fernando, to our pool side servers Nicole and Luis we were spoiled the entire weekend.

The weather was in the 80’s and we spent pretty much all day Saturday and Sunday by the pool or on the beach.

The cabana boys also worked the beach - they set up your chairs, umbrellas and brought you drinks. It was just beyond perfect. The ocean temp was about 74 degrees. Off the coast of Florida, the continental shelf doesn’t drop off the way it does in the Pacific Ocean. You can be 50 feet off of the shore and only waist high in the water.

We did get a little bit of rain Saturday afternoon. We made the most of our time indoors by visiting the hotel spa. We both had massages and spent some time in the steam room. I finished off my visit with an aromatherapy shower. The spa facilities were open to hotel guests so we hit up the spa (no massage, even though we were tempted) again on Sunday.

We also spent a fair amount of time at the pool bar where we met quite possibly the world’s greatest bartender, Geno. He was exactly what you want in a resort bartender, fun, great stories, great energy, and quick with the drinks. I Googled him this week and he has tons of good press including a mention in the NY Times. If you are interested, I’ve included some links below. He obviously loves his job and if nothing else inspired me to learn his signature move before the cruise – be ready fellow travelers!

Sunday night we visited the pool bar after dinner. Even with other guests at the bar Geno changed the TV channel so I could watch the last part of the Oscars. Michael and I had our own Oscar party sitting outside being served drinks by Geno – it didn’t suck. After the show, Michael took some great night photos from our balcony Sunday night.

Well and what would a vacation be without some amazing meals? Friends in NYC suggested we visit a restaurant called Timo. It was located in a modest strip mall within walking distance of our hotel. From the outside it didn’t look like much – but the d├ęcor inside was second only to the food. Inside it had a very NYC vibe, dark with clean lines and filled to capacity. They have a wood fire oven and we were told no matter what to start with a pizza – so we did. It was a delicious thin crust wood fire pizza topped with cheese, tomato, and basil. We polished it off even before we decided on the rest of our dinner. I went with a ‘small plate’ and a side – the crab lasagnette and wild mushroom risotto. The crab lasagnette was a long thin fresh lasagna noodle folded around chunks of fresh crab meat and creamy home made ricotta cheese all covered in lobster bisque. The crab was sweet and delicate and the ricotta cheese was so smooth, it was a perfect mate to the crab. The lobster bisque was tangy, but did not overwhelm the rest of the dish. The risotto was also delicious, but as much as I wanted I couldn’t finish the serving. Michael had the grouper; it was served over a bed of polenta with a red sauce. The fish was perfectly prepared, it was pan seared and had a nice golden brown crust. It was flaky on the inside and the red sauce was amazing. We left dinner fat and happy.

We should have just gone back to Timo Sunday night, but decided to try an Italian restaurant across from our hotel. It was fine, but definitely did not stand up to our meal Saturday night.

Monday we toured South Beach. We started with a lunch at Joe’s Stone Crab take-out counter. Joe’s is well known for serving the best stone crabs in Miami. Our lunch did not disappoint. We shared a lobster roll, ½ pound of peel and eat shrimp, and 8 stone crab claws. The crab claws were the highlight of the meal, as I’m sure any one who has been there will tell you – if you go to Miami eat at Joe’s Stone Crab. South Beach was interesting, I wasn’t sure what to expect so it was a bit overwhelming to take it all in. The main drag, Ocean Dr., has the ocean on one side and the art deco hotels and restaurants on the other side. The hotels are very cool to look at, but I prefer to stay at a larger hotel with modern amenities. The restaurants all had music and sidewalk seating – it was definitely lively! A little further up Ocean Dr. you the find newer high rise hotels and lots of stores. While the hotels in South Beach would be fun, it would be hard for me not to go back to the Sonesta. The hotel was beautiful and the staff made everything perfect.

We had to leave Monday night, and neither of us were too happy about going back to life not sitting by a pool being served drinks. Tuesday morning both Michael and I were searching for travel deals to go back. Miami was muy bueno!