If I were to be completely honest with you, I would tell you this: before I arrived to Miami, I had very low expectations of the place. Maybe I’m a location snob, but I like places rich in culture, charm and class – places steeped in history, filled with leafy boulevards, beautiful people and quaint sidewalk cafés (which is why I despise going to Brighton and pubs) – so Miami had never exactly appealed to me.
Nonetheless, I went there two weeks ago. I was met at the airport by Camilo, a friend of mine whom I had met a couple of years previously in England. (He is a Colombian who lived in Canada, and had I known he was now living in Miami, the whole palaver of not finding anywhere to stay until the morning of my flight [briefly mentioned in the previous post] would have been avoided.) As he drove me through the city, from the airport to his house, I felt that my previous notions about Miami had been correct – It seemed to be nothing but a vast and uninspired expanse of concrete with a few palm trees scattered across it as a half-hearted consolation. To me it seemed the place had no personality, no soul – the entire city, a grey expanse tinted a grubby yellow by the sun, seemed fake.
[Reader: if you love Miami and I have offended you, please do not storm off at this point without finishing – things are about to change, I promise.]
Though I wasn’t finding Miami to be a beautiful place (or even remotely attractive) I was, nevertheless, enjoying myself. I was spending time with Camilo and his sister, meeting their friends, making new ones, and generally having a good time. It was two days into my stay in Miami that my opinion about it began to change. That night I went, for the first time, to the beach. This was the first time in a year that I had seen the ocean, so to feel the sea-breeze, hear the sound of waves breaking, and look out at an endless horizon came as an unexplained relief. There was something about walking along the shore under the stars and feeling the sand under my toes, with the blue darkness of the warm Atlantic on one side of me, and the restless lights of the city on the other, which was calming and almost alleviating to me. As I walked along the sand I noticed the silhouette of a large piece of driftwood, bobbing along with the rhythm of the waves at the point where they broke onto the shore, suddenly begin to crawl out of the sea onto the deserted beach. I approached cautiously, (obviously it was some kind of sea monster) whereupon I realised it was a huge sea turtle coming to nest. I was even able to touch its shell (don’t attack me, animal rights people – I was gentle.) Maybe you wouldn’t agree, but for me this was an amazing experience.
The next day I returned to the beach, but this time in the daylight to swim. Intelligibly, the atmosphere had changed completely to that of the night before, but I hadn’t anticipated the kind of ambience that I encountered there that day. The whole beach and surrounding area felt like a party. Music played from all directions, bar patrons sipped cocktails along the waterfront, and people danced on the beach. Save for its hordes of people, the beach itself – with its white sand, leaning palms and turquoise waters – conformed to the paradigms of how paradise should look.
We spent my few days there eating out at restaurants, relaxing on the beach, and spending time with friends. I went to a Colombian restaurant to relive my time in Bogotá, where I ordered cholado – a beverage of chopped tropical fruits, crushed ice and condensed milk, typically mixed with ice cream. I miss Colombian desserts!
After going out for lunch on my last day, some newfound friends and I decided to go to Bayside – an area in downtown Miami of restaurants and bars with enthusiastic street entertainment all wrapped along the edge of the marina. There we walked around listening to the Colombian salsa that played live on the waterfront, and watching the couples who spontaneously began to dance along to the Latin rhythms. Impressive yachts lined the water’s edge and their proud owners sat out on them drinking wine as the sun went down. The atmosphere was like one big party and it was infectious. I loved the laidback feel of the place, and this was reflected in the attitudes of the people I was spending time with.
After eating at Bayside overlooking the marina, we decided to go to a late showing of Madagascar 3 at the cinema! The movie finished around 11, and while driving home, we all decided to turn around and go to Dunkin’ Donuts for a snack. In Miami, people don’t make plans – they just go with the flow.
There were around ten of us at the restaurant, and somehow, as we sat around a long table with our coffee and donuts, we got into an intense debate about relationships. Camilo had some very strong (and controversial) ideas on how relationships should “be done”, and the rest of the group disagreed. Then the disagreeing opinions of the individuals that made up the rest of the group began to conflict with each other’s disagreeing opinions, and the whole group ended up
arguing discussing the issue with some intensity. Of course we were all very grown up and diplomatic about the situation, but soon we found it was 3am, and we had been in the donut shop for over three hours. It was time to leave.
Pushing open the doors out onto what we presumed was going to be an empty parking lot, we were somewhat bewildered when we were greeted by blue and red flashing lights, a helicopter flying low overhead, sniffer dogs patrolling the pavement, a cordoned off street, and hordes of serious looking police officers standing around their patrol cars.
“GET BACK INSIDE!” they ordered.
So we turned around and re-entered the shop. The man behind the counter asked us in disbelief if we seriously hadn’t noticed anything that had just happened, and our confused faces confirmed to him that we really hadn’t. Apparently our debate had absorbed all of our attention and the store had been robbed at gunpoint just a few feet from where we had been sitting without any of us noticing. I found this hilarious.
Here is CCTV footage of the whole ordeal. I can be seen sitting at the far left of the screen.
Anyway, along with that adventure, I had a great time in Miami. Being in a city with a 70% Latino/Hispanic population, its laidback and relaxed atmosphere was something to be expected. The people I spent time with there spoke to each other in a language that can only be called Spanglish – a tongue which oscillated between both English and Spanish equally, which at once I found both charming and confusing. I met many new people and I made some new friends, and I hope to be able to go back there for a longer time in the future.
I am now back in the UK. I have been busy over the last two weeks since i got back, so forgive me for not writing about Miami until now. Tomorrow I fly out to Menorca with my sister to meet my parents who are already there, and while I am there I will try to find a job. I’m writing this looking out of the window at a grey sky and rain, but I will be writing my next post from the middle of the Mediterranean in 30+ degree heat! Until then!