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Miami Florida

Miami - A 'Tropicool' Hot Spot For The Hip And Romantic
Story by Jane Cassie
Photos by Brent Cassie

The caressing breeze alleviates the humidity that hangs in the night air and the metronome sway of our hammock lulls us into a dream-like state. Beneath our suspended haven, a powder sandy beach leads to the bath-tempered Atlantic. Above, feathery palm fronds frame a golden moon. It's pure escapism, doused with romance, and during our visit to Miami we discover that it's just the beginning of more to come.

Although once known as 'the geriatric ward,' over the past decade Miami has undergone numerous reconstructive surgeries and now reverberates with energised vitality. Worn out hips have been taken over by the ultra hip and romantics like us have replaced retirees. Boasting a vivacious nightlife, cultural diversity and a lively pulse, it is evident that this effervescent city is nowhere near the grave.

For a romantic stay, we discover that Beach House Bal Harbour promises all. Instead of a grandiose reception area, we are greeted with fresh cut daisies, chocolate chip cookies and other wonderful comforts. A seascape décor, shimmering pool and hammock grove, where we ogle at the moon each night, are just a few other enticements for amour. "We want our guests to feel right at home," shares Karen Maerovitz, Marketing Coordinator, "and with the help of the Ralph Lauren Design Team, the property takes on the feel of a cozy Nantucket-style beach house estate."

Although it's hard to pull ourselves away from these five star pleasures, we yearn to check out other handholding opportunities in this 'tropicool' hot spot, and a personalized tour with Style Ventures reveals that the city sizzles with them. Bryn becomes our driving almanac and provides a sensational synopsis of Miami, unrivalled by any guidebook. "Miami is the only destination on the continental U.S. to boast year round sunshine," he informs, "and that's why it's one of the world's famous playgrounds!"

We can see that there's truth to this fact. High rise hotels that line the white sandy shore host scantily clad sun-lovers that laze on lounges and romp in the surf. The modern maze interconnects with the art deco treasures of South Beach by a continuous evergreen walkway where people meander for miles. We cruise the trendy Ocean Drive, boasting a palisade of pastels and neon that glows long after the sun does, and Bryn shares notorious landmarks, like the gated mansion of murdered fashion designer, Versace, and the News Café, where he enjoyed his final cup of coffee. Today, couples mingle on the same sidewalk eatery that spills into the gridlock street and there is an undeniably chic feel about this trendy square mile that embraces the most southern edge of Miami Beach.

As well as the rich and famous, Miami's sprawled out metropolis hosts a thriving kaleidoscope of neighbourhoods and multiculturalism. Thick rooted banyan trees shade our drive through South Florida's oldest settlement and captivating Bahamian enclave of Coconut Grove. Graced by flowering hibiscus and jacaranda the neighbouring Coral Gables or 'City Beautiful,'charms us with dazzling mansions, and Little Havana shares its varied Latin cultures, boasting a unique flavour all of its own.

Vizcaya and Deering Estate are two of Miami's historical haunts that truly imbibe the romance of yesteryear. Although both were residences of wealthy industrialist brothers in the early 1920's, and both boast exceptional properties fronting the picturesque Biscayne Bay, that's pretty much where their similarities end. While Vizcaya expresses flamboyancy and passion for Italian Renaissance throughout its seventy rooms bedazzled with gilded ceilings, elaborate tapestries, and period pieces, Deering Estate in its unpretentious, unfettered and serene setting lends a hint of mystery with its conservative Mediterranean Revival feel. Its four hundred and fifty acre parcel also encompasses the offshore island of Chicken Key, and destination point for the night time canoe trip we sign up for.

"Stick together like a pod," our guide instructs, "and if you tip, don't worry, the water is never over your head." Biscayne Bay is incredibly shallow and flat and I ponder this forgiving quality, rationalizing that I probably won't even get my hair wet if we flip.

Joining us are honeymooners, Argentineans, Kansas folk and their children from Miami, Andy and Carla, and with the promise of a full moon, we slip our shiny two-man torpedoes into the emerald clear water and start paddling like merry gondoliers. En route, we sight double-breasted cormorants, stoic looking herons and a glorious spectrum of colour as the sun falls from the sky.

When we reach Chicken Key the camp fire is burning, the wieners are roasting and the stars are twinkling above, and the only thing missing to complete my memory of summer camp is a sing along with Kumbaya. After feasting, American style, we reflect on nature that abounds. The memory stays with us long after the fire burns out, long after we push away from the shores of the tranquil island and long after we paddle back home by the light of the moon over Miami.

Jane and Brent Cassie are a travel writer/photographer team. Follow their other adventures on their website -






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