Miami Beach, United States
25° 47' N 80° 7' W
Jun 23, 2006 18:30
Distance 7130km

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Text written in: English

Miami here we come!

Hi everyone,

Hope you're all well!  I'm fantastic and having the biggest blast!
I've needed this holiday sooooo blady much.

Had the most amazing flight over from London to Miami, 1st time I've ever enjoyed a flight out of the 100 or so times I've flown before, thanks to therapy I didn't have any panic attacks & could even look out the window!!  What an amazing experience for me!
Clare & I flew American Airlines & Kat flew BA as after the trip she's going back to Oz.  Arrived here and met Kat at the airport at 1:30pm Miami time, which is about 6:30pm London time, Miami's 5 hours behind so we saved half a day coming here.  The heat was unbelievable, beautiful blue skies and so humid, just like Durban but oh so great to feel your skin sizzling!  Caught a bus for an hour to our hostel on South Beach, the ride was great, I was talking to everyone on the bus, as I do.  I can't get over how friendly everyone is, it's unbelievable.  Everytime we sit to eat or just cruise around people say hi so I end up chatting to them for ages.
Our hostel is The Tropics hotel which is in the Bad Boys 1 movie, we found that out from someone staying there, so look it up.  It's one of the only hostels with a pool which is so awesome to get up and have a swim etc.  The water is so warm it's like having a bath.  We chucked our stuff down when we got there and went venturing.  We walked along Lincoln Avenue which is a very long paved road with cafe's & restaurants all along the pavement.  There's loads of shops to (and housemates - I bought the sporty Prada glasses I wanted as I left my other Prada's in London hoping I would buy here, it's so much cheaper!!).  We ate dinner at 10pm (3am London time!!) so I nearly fell asleep in my food, I was so tired.  Went back to the hostel and crashed.
Got up early yesterday and went exploring to South Beach, beautiful white sands and extremely clear blue sea, no waves so it reminded me of the Med. We swam & tanned then went for a walk down Ocean Drive with loads of bars, cafe's & restaurants on.  Gianni Versace's house is right there and you can stand on the stairs where he got shot.  Incredible!!  It's now an exclusive bar which you have to pay $20,000 dollars a year to be a member of.  The bars are so vibrant and amazing, I've already taken over 200 photo's, but will delete the duplicates etc, so don't worry!  We had dinner on Espanola Way, a very spanish paved road, electric atmosphere with Flaminco dancers etc.  It is so safe here and is the cleanest city I've ever been to.  Absolutely no litter and no tramps or poor people around begging for money etc, what a nice change from London!  This morning we got up early and did a tour of Miami by bus & boat which was packed with information - this place has so much to it and has cool history plus I've just written pointers of what we saw:

- Up until 1880 Misosooki Indians lived here and it was all swamp & jungle, when the first Dutch & Spanish settlers arrived they didn't pay for any land as the Indians didn't know what money was\
- The 1st guy to build here was John Dear, owner of Caterpillar, he built a massive mansion called Vizcaya but left all the jungle as his garden and didn't change anything, we drove to his house and around it, amazing to see how it must have all looked then.  All the sculptures around this house, and there are loads, are all made from rocks & coral he dug up from the bottom of the Ocean - incredible hey!
- We drove around Downtown Miami
- American Airlines Stadium, the home of the Miami Heats Basketball team who have just recently won the Championships, so they're the best in America at the moment, everybody's loving it
- Bongo's Bar & Restaurant - the last place Gloria Estefan bought, she owns loads of bars etc in Miami. This place is unbelievable, they have live music and the female dancers dancing in leopard print bodysuits on the bar and the guys wear leopard print tops and black pants.  All the waitresses work in hotpants and bikini tops, you guys would love it.  The whole place is decked out in trees and plants and the walls are so vibrant with colours, it looks like you're in a jungle with bright lights everywhere.  Electric place to be.
- Freedom Tower - where the 6000 refugees stayed when they fled from Cuba, it's a beautiful building
- Bayside Shopping Mall which is practically surrounded by water, it's almost identical to the V&A Waterfront mall in Cape Town.  1 of the Hooters bars is there and a massive Hard Rock Cafe.  I held 2 beautiful Makaw parrots (or however you spell it, mom - ignore all my spelling!) and got my photo taken.
- Statue of a Red Indian holding a bow & arrow and pointing it to the sky, this was built to commemerate the original Red Indians.
- We drove through the Financial Centre of the world where all the banks are
- The bank is there that Pablo Eskovar, who was the biggest Cuban drug lord kept all his money until they found out what he was up to and what the money was from.  They jailed him & confiscated all his money & all the extensive properties he owned in Miami.  The bank is in the movie Scarface
- Esperito Desanta bank - half the height of the Canary Wharf tower but with the biggest glass windows, the bank is an incredible Architecural design.
- La Santa Maria is a "block" of apartments & penthouses where only lawyers, doctors etc live.  This is because, apart from Star Island, it's the most expensive place to live close to the Miami city and starts at $2 million for a 1 bedroom apartment.  The grounds are so beautiful.
- Brickall Mall where Luciano Pavarotti lives in a $25 million penthouse, 1 of his many homes.
- Brickall Mansions, next door, is where Richard Nixon, Rockafella, Martina Navratilova, Venus Williams etc live - they have massive tennis courts there and is where they play tournaments, exactly like Wimbledon.  I thought Richard Nixon & Rockafella were dead, if they are, then this is where they lived.
- From 1880 to 1959 only millionnaires came to and lived in Miami, it was the LA & Hollywood in it's day
- All the english people that came to the States lived in Hampshire, New Jersey etc.  New York was originally called New Amsterdam from the Dutch but they changed its name in 1680 when the first english speaking people went to New York and settled.
- We drove down Coconut Grove where all the millionnaires first lived back in the day and still do. It has tree lined roads with the biggest houses I've ever seen.  There are no walkways as nobody is allowed to walk around and you're not allowed to stop and park.  Everything was built by hand by the poorer people they brought over.  We saw Don Johnson & Melanie Griffiths home when they were married.  There's a yellowish mansion where 1 of the Ferrari family members lives.  They bought it for $15 million back then but because the European currency was stronger, it only cost them $13 million so they made $2 million just buying it.  Because of that they started buying and selling loads of houses in the area.  Not a bad way to start here!
- We saw the harbour next to Coconut Grove where ex president Bush had his yacht, he went there almost every weekend as his favourite pasttime was fishing the blue Harley.
- Grove Harbour Hanger - in 1931 American Airlines started here with 1 sea plane that they flew from Miami to the Bahama's and started making all their money.
- City Hall next door was the main offices of Pan Am Airlines before they went bankrupt.
- The mansions nearby are called the American Riviera as it looks identical to St Tropez and the French Riviera
- The middle of Coconut Grove is the place to be where all the top designers in the world have their shops, what a dream to be able to shop there, I hope they keep Victoria Beckham out, she would ruin it with all the paparazzi.  All the restaurants here are French and is based on what Paris looks like.
- We drove through the Little Bahamas area.  It's where all the black people first lived from 1880 when they brought them over to build all the millionnaire's mansions.  The houses are so small in comparison to the other houses here, obviously.  The houses are built a few feet above ground because that's how they built them in the Bahamas.  It's quite run down and a lot of the black people still live there.  They speak Bahamian English, a mixture of both and when they first arrived they had never seen the types of trees that grow in Miami or buildings.
- There are 5 million people in Miami of which 65% are Cubans (all the original millionnaires), 12% is Jewish (with the 3 types of Jews: Sinagogues, Orthodox & regular Jewish) and the rest of the population is other nationalities.

I'm going to stop typing now, my fingers are sore.  I'll write the rest of what we saw another time, and trust me there is loads!  I wrote down everything the guy said on the tour bus and boat.  I also will tell you about Star Island where all the rich and famous people live now and we saw Shakeel O'Neal playing basketball in his garden, he waved at us!!!!

Love you all lots and take care!