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Postcards from Miami
Our very own Peter G. visits the mega model mecca of Miami.

¡Bienvenidos a Miami! There's something about Miami that makes it such a great vacation spot- the weather, the beaches, and the nightlife. It's such an escape from reality that it's no wonder so many people visit this "American Riviera."

My journey to this wonderful city began as I exited the plane at Miami International Airport. The temperature was warm, the humidity was low, and it felt so good.

On my way to the Kenmore Hotel in Miami Beach, I caught my first glimpse of the sunny beaches-it looked so laid back. I also caught Miami's atmosphere which was great with all the Latin shops, the restaurants, and even the art deco buildings of the South Beach section of Miami. The ethnic diversity of the people enhanced it as well. I encountered people from Cuba, Nicaragua, Argentina, Venezuela, Panama, Brazil, and just about every other Latin country. It almost made me think of Miami as the capitol of Latin America!

After I checked into my hotel, I couldn't wait to hit the streets on foot. I ventured right outside of my hotel on Washington Avenue and walked east to where I found some nice second hand thrift stores. I also ran into a nice eatery (the one seen in Will Smith's "Miami" video) called the 11th Street Diner. Its food offerings were typical of a good diner with great low prices. I couldn't resist so I had a burger and fries.

I continued walking east until I reached Ocean Drive where I found many side street cafés and restaurants including the News Café, The Palace Bar, and The All Star Café. I even happened to come across an interesting, yet morbid, monument on the corner of 11th street and Ocean Drive-it turned out to be it was the home of Gianni Versace.

Walking a little further east, I found myself right in front of the beach. All I could say was "paradise!" The water looked so clear and peaceful, and when I jumped in, the temperature was perfect. It was lukewarm. The beach's atmosphere was nice as I saw many faces, including a few European ladies who went topless to enjoy some fun in the sun. Of course, there were plenty of topless guys, too. And yes, I found myself glancing at them at every chance I could get!

Then, I found a beach area where I encountered many QV people! It started on 12th Street and Ocean Drive, and extended to 13th, 14th, and 15th Street. I was also told about another interesting area of the Miami beach called Halover, a clothing-optional section! But I wasn't sure if Halover was QV or not.

Once the sun went down, the city became more alive! Neon lights lit up and decorated art deco buildings. People started cruising Ocean Drive, and street performers came out to create a lively circus atmosphere.

I wanted to visit some QV bars, so I checked out two QV clubs called Twist and Warsaw which were located near my hotel. There were numerous other QV clubs such as Score, Cactus, and Friends. And, of course, in the South Beach area, there was Splash and Ozone. The ultimate in Miami clubs was Salvation on Saturday night. I couldn't believe the cover charge was $15-45 dollars, but it was well worth it with all the cute Latino and Anglo circuit party boys. Most clubs in Miami closed at 5a.m.-then afterhours started! The most popular of afterhours club was PUMP.

After my all-night club experience, I got a few hours of sleep, and then reluctantly woke up. And what did I do? I went shopping and sight-seeing with my friends. First, we headed up to the Bayside Marketplace. This was an open-air shopping and entertainment center located in downtown Miami. The atmosphere was nice, and there were many shops and restaurants including Hooters and Hard Rock Café. Then, we took a little harbor cruise which took us past various island houses owned by stars such as Julio Iglesias and Gloria Estefan.

After the cruise, our next stop was Coconut Grove with its one-of-a-kind boutiques and elegant shopping malls, including Cocowalk and the Streets of Mayfair. Then, we visited Lincoln Road, a pedestrian area in South Beach, where there were specialty shops, al fresco dining, and antique shops.

Next, we took a one day trip through the Florida Keys. We drove all the way down to Key West, the southernmost tip of the continent. In Key West, we visited Cayo Hueso, the Spanish Key West. There at Cayo Hueso, one could visit a lot of Cuban-themed places such as cigar shops, Cuban restaurants, and a Cuban store selling various spices and cooking utensils that a Cuban abuela would use!

Our last day in Miami, we visited a section called Little Havana. We walked through Calle Ocho where we ate authentic Cuban food at a restaurant called Comidas Para Llevar. It had great food and it was only $2 per combo plate. Another Cuban eatery that we found was a place called El Siglo X, a grocery store cafeteria located across from the Cuban Memorial Blvd. Last, but not least, we ate dessert at a nice place called Karmen's Bakery. For only 60 cents, we bought maguelita de coco and empanada de guayaba y queso-just the thought of writing this makes my mouth water!

Finally, our happy journey in Miami had to come to an end. If we had more time, we would have visited some other places such as the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, which is an Italian Renaissance style villa and formal gardens. Then we would have visited Parrot Jungle and Gardena, a bird sanctuary, wildlife habitat, and a botanical garden with more that 1,100 birds and 1,000 varieties of plants. Finally, we would have visited the Miami Seaquarium, which is South Florida's largest marine aquarium. It's the home to Lolita, the killer whale, and Flipper, the dolphin superstar.

All in all, Miami was a great vacation spot and I highly recommend you go especially with your other half-just to relax in the sun, to enjoy the nightlife, and to appreciate the distinctive atmosphere of one of the most diversely Latin populated cities in the U.S.


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