High life – a luxurious way of living in which rich and successful people enjoy themselves by spending a lot of free time and money on travel, fashionable places and ostentatious accessories.
Take away the ‘rich and successful’ part in that definition and substitute it with two AUBG students having
$200 spare each. Now you’ll get the general idea of what it’s like to venture into the first two days of your summer vacation in Miami, Florida, come the end of your work and travel program.
Termed “the Magic City” by both local people and incomers, Miami can surely strike you with a lot. A lot of Latinos, a lot of yachts, a lot of heat and a lot of palms. Palms here, palms there, palms everywhere. A relative of mine, who is also a local, described them as “Miami’s Christmas trees for tourists, because you can’t stop making pictures of them once you visit the city.” Quite frankly, she was absolutely right. As I was recently browsing through all the photos of my two-day stay in the city, I realized that half of my 700-or-so pictures had palm trees in them. There was no way escaping them, but who would look for a better visual memorabilia than the symbolic Florida tree.
The city’s other nickname, “The capital of Latin America” also fits the setting well. The second biggest city of the “Sunshine State” offers a cultural fiesta rich in Cuban heritage, Haitian and Puerto Rican districts and gorgeous Latin chiquitas that put the finishing touch to the tropical charisma of Miami.
A must visit in that regard is Little Habana, better known in its Spanish equivalent – La Pequena Habana. Undoubtedly, the most popular neighborhood in south Miami, this place’s history traces back to the times Cuban immigrants clustered the south regions of Florida in search for asylum from the Cuban Revolution of 1953-1959. Today the neighborhood unfolds a wide array of picturesque historic and cultural amusements, a kind of open-air museum spread on approximately five adjacent streets, a mile-long each.
Your tour in La Pequena Habana must surely begin at Calle Ocho, or Eight Street, the road to give the name of the famous Calle Ocho Festival. The street is essentially a cultural showcase of the innate habitualities and customs of the native Cubans, a legacy that they continue to pass on from generation to generation. Cruising by the little cafeterias and fruterias and their engulfing Caribbean aromas, you’ll be astounded by the artfulness of your surroundings. Surreal street murals, Miami’s walk of fame and Domino Park – they’re all bound to make your jaw drop and eyes pop.
Of all the amusements, though, Domino Park is by far the biggest must-see in La Pequena Habana. Regardless of whether it is morning or evening, old Cuban ladies and gents are always playing dominos there. The park is relatively small, maybe the size of a small retail shop. Nonetheless, five wooden tents shelter ten domino tables where the games get even more heated up than the weather of the city. People seldom bet money on those games, but they’ll surely show you their native anger and shoo you away if you stick around their table for too long.
The other go-to places to visit are the Cuban Cigar loungers and Azucar’s ice cream company. For a better aftertaste, start with the ice cream first. Suzi, the owner, adds a new flavor of ice cream on the chalkboard every day. The chocolate there, in specific, is quite yummy, but be advised that indulging in it will leave you a bit too full a bit too early in the day.
As for the cigar lounges, the owners have made a thorough selection of their finest-tasting Cuban cigars to match the preference of every Cuban and tourist who comes in. All cigars are hand-rolled the old-fashioned way and just the smell of one can strip you down of all your worries for the day. Granted you’re a nonsmoker going for his first puff, try the mild taste of the Churchill and the Miami Reserve 60, which both offer a blend of earthly –woody flavor to savour your taste.
Plan to say goodbye to a $100 or more dollars and most of your first day’s travel here at La Pequena Habana.
Once out of the Cuban district, your next stop ought to be at La Camaronera, Miami’s best seafood place. The 4.5-rated diner offers the most succulent shrimp you’ll ever find in the city, a true gastronomic masterpiece. The crispy crust of each shrimp, medium-fried with its heavenly lightness can have you melt down in delight. Traditions here are strong. The diner is among the oldest in Miami, founded by eleven brothers, so it’s more than a courtesy call for you to make your tip a bit bigger.
By the end of the day, sun midway down, it’s about time to head for one of the world’s most famous shorelines – South Beach, Miami. With every step you make here, you’ll see something remarkable. For all the old-school gamers, Miami will unmistakably remind you of the Grand Theft Auto: Vice City adventure video game. That is because the architectural blueprint of the city, and South Бeach in particular, have been remodeled, animated and incorporated into the layout of the game.
As to the beach itself, the shoreline is one of the few for its scale to be almost entirely man-made. The beach is frequently replenished to cover for the diminishing layer of sand, due to the yearly Atlantic hurricane season. Despite that shortcoming, the beach is rightfully seen as one the finest. Beach fitness parks, dozens of palm alleys, muscle cars, yacht cruises, opulent night clubs – South Beach has it all. At one point you just stop wondering why they call it the “Magic city.”
While it takes no effort to enjoy the life in Miami, it takes a fortune to see the most of it. But whether it’s the culture, the cuisine, the natural beauty or the late beachside walks, it’s certainly worth your dollars.