Miami Beach, FL Wednesday, March 25
The blog has been quiet since we have been quiet, not doing much of any major notice. Not that Miami Beach (South Beach) has been quiet; that would really be unusual. No, Chris and I are in our laid back mode, letting the party goers and expense account people have a good time. Miami is host to a major tennis tournament now and a music festival, the Ultra Music festival, and the Winter Music Conference is also underway in Miami. There is tremendous spill-over to Miami Beach. The Ultra Music festival is for electronic music by DJs, etc. If you know what I am talking about, great. If not, I don’t understand it any better and can’t explain it more. But while it is not my style of music, it certainly keeps the place hopping.
Tonight (March 25) we are at our second lodging in Miami Beach, the Marriott Stanton at about 2nd and Ocean Drive. The Marriott is on the beach and has an outdoor pool. After checking in this afternoon, we just lazed at the pool. We are likely to be doing the same thing Thursday during the day. Just a half block south of us is Nikki Beach, an outdoor party/event place that is rocking away and will probably be blasting through the night. No tickets needed for us to get the vibe.
We spent Saturday through this morning (March 21-25) at the Hilton Grand Vacations Club (HGVC) at about 14th and Ocean, about 12 blocks north of the Marriott. HGVC is across the street from the beach, there is a park across the street between us and the ocean. HGVC has no pool, we have spent the last four days at the beach under an umbrella. The days have been glorious, mid-80s with a slight breeze.
Our last blog posted mentioned that Miami Beach was founded 100 years ago so this is a new town. This was a slender sand spit, with New Jersey Quakers trying to grow coconuts and avocados. That failed and years of dredging up muck from Biscayne Bay to build up the island and the construction of a bridge from the mainland began the land rush of the 1920s. A 1926 hurricane and the 1929 stock market crash put an end to that. The advent of WWII with its Florida training camps for the military brought another boom after the war-aided by the advent of air-conditioning. The late 1960s and 70s brought another crash but its re-birth is credited to historic preservation of the old hotels, aided by artists and gays. Now it is a very hip place, a hub for many people from Europe and South America.
Tuesday night we attended two of the birthday celebratory events being held. The first was a Jackie Gleason marathon. Okay, just like I don’t understand electronic music, many of you may not have heard of Jackie Gleason. He was a comedian, radio, movie and TV show personality in the 1950s and early 1960s. Some of his shows were based out of Miami Beach and he helped publicize Miami Beach as a travel location. Obviously many of the people in Miami Beach don’t remember Jackie Gleason either. There were only about 25 people in attendance.
So, we went across the street to the New World Symphony. I won’t go into details about the Symphony but it has an 7,000 square foot outdoor wall that is used as a super sized movie screen. This evening the 90 minute pilot episode for the TV show “Miami Vice” was broadcast. At least this showing was slightly better attended, possibly 200 people. Miami Vice was a police show running from 1984 to 1989 that influenced popular music, dress, etc. Based in Miami Beach, the TV show actually primarily used South Beach locations which helped again to popularize South Beach.
Continued, Thursday March 26
Tonight’s birthday celebration was a major music concert held on the beach at 8th and Ocean Drive from 5 pm to midnight. A huge music shell and seating was constructed on the beach; tickets ranged from $79 to over $1,000. We went early and just listened from the beach way far away where the sitting was free. A very few of the 40 musicians we had heard of (Gloria Estefan, Andrea Boccelli); most we had not (Afrobeta, DJ Zog). After 30-60 minutes we decided it was not worth it. We walked back along Ocean Drive, watching the people; the street had been closed for the event.
We have been coming to Miami Beach for 14 years, usually spending 7-10 days here in mid-March. It is impossible to say we know the Miami area (population 400,000, metro Miami going up to Palm Beach is 5.5 million) but we are comfortable knowing Miami Beach (population 90,000).
We have certain places we go most years, adding in some new places. Actually you have to try new places, changeover in restaurants is high. Property values have skyrocketed, forcing out most Mom and Pop restaurants. This year we discovered that Jerry’s Deli, just two blocks from HGVC, closed last summer. It’s old-fashioned, deli-style menu must not have resonated with the new crowds.
New construction is constant, to a degree. Year one a building is shuttered. Year two a sign is up listing some new condo or hotel will be built on the site. Year three some construction is underway. Year four, construction is almost done. Year five (if all has gone well), the building may be open and operating. Magazines and newspapers are advertising the newest and fanciest condos and apartments. Condos usually start at over $1,000,000. I saw one advertisement this time for condos in a new building priced from $5,000,000 to $40,000,000. Supposedly foreign buyers are providing much of the impetus.
But all of that is moot for us. We come, sit on the beach, walk a bit, go to some cultural events depending on the weather, and go back home. Which is what is happening this year. The weather has been great so it has been pretty much all beach and pool time, practically no walking around. Trip 1 draws to a close tomorrow as we fly home. It has been a pleasant two month excursion through a varied Florida landscape.
Ed and Chris March 26 10 pm