story and photos by Bruce Bishop
Perhaps Florida is in your plans this coming winter? It is for many Canadians. Or, like it or not,
you may be leaving from Miami on a cruise. I’ve only had a quick, drive-around look at this
renowned vacation spot while on a long flight transfer, but my friend and colleague Bruce Bishop has
recently visited, loved it, and is anxious to share a few tips. Here they are – Ed.
The Art Deco District/South Beach area of Miami Beach today does not bear much resemblance to the garish 1980s Miami Vice TV show. Even the more recent TV hit, CSI Miami seems far removed from this enclave that is like nowhere else. Yes, this is where fashion designer Gianni Versace met his murderer, but now that his imposing Ocean Drive mansion has been resurrected into a busy, upscale restaurant and bar, it just proves that change is constant on this little island connected to downtown Miami by three causeways. www.miami.com
You can spend two days here and barely see all South Beach has to offer, so check out this list of ‘must-dos’ for your own 48 hours, some of which have a ‘Canadian connection’.
1. Arrive, if you can, at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood airport: it’s smaller and much less frenetic than Miami’s airport – and easy to leave with various types of ground transportation to South Beach. www.broward.org/airport/
2. Stay at The Bentley Hotel at 5th Street and Ocean Drive if you want to be in the midst of all the bars and restaurants (that stay open until almost sunrise), but which has self-contained studio suites where breakfasts and lunches can be made in your own room. Ask for a suite in the west end of the building, facing south, if you want to be nicely removed from the street noise. www.thebentleyhotel.com
3. If you need a venue on a much quieter block, book your two nights at the Hilton Bentley Miami, a much larger property a few streets south – in the “So Fi” neighbourhood, which refers to the non-nightclub-laden Ocean Drive that is south of 5th Street. It also has kitchens in the suites, and a great beach club. This is where actor Jamie Fox stayed when shooting the movie version of Miami Vice in 2006. Oddly, both ‘Bentley’ properties are owned by a French-Canadian family. www.bentleymiamisouthbeach.hilton.com
4. If top-end is more your style, there’s a new W Hotel at 2201 Collins Avenue which opened earlier this year. It’s too trendy for words, with 408 fabulous rooms beyond description. Your friends will envy you for staying there (but maybe that’s reason enough to visit). www.starwoodhotels.com
5. Moroccan food? Quelle surprise – South Beach has a great new place called Ta-zin at 427 Jefferson Avenue. Another French Canadian, Julie Anne, is the hostess, and the food, décor and atmosphere are terrific. Try one of the tagines, a subtly spiced stew with your choice of meat, and a delicious side of couscous. Stay long enough to see the balletic belly dancers who bring a genteel graciousness to this dance rarely seen in those old Hollywood B-pictures. www.tazinrestaurant.com