Sunday, April 14, 2024

THE HOYOS FILE: Boomtown downtown: Miami


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THE ROLLS ROYCE TOOTED, no doubt miffed that its progress through the provinces should be held up by a plebeian exiting a mere Kia Soul. Which, by the way, is a great little wannabe SUV.

The pleb looked up, smiled as if greeting a travelling companion and proceeded to take exactly as much time as if the horn had not been, well, blown. In the status-driven world of Miami, you can buy as much as you like but you won’t necessarily get treated any better, except by those who provide you with the service, of course. A cup of Starbucks coffee costs the same whether you are rich or poor.

But where the money is flowing the stakes in the competition for status go up commensurately. So at the Epic Hotel that recent Saturday night the circular parking lot seemed more like the automotive equivalent of a Chefette sampler – one or two of each product so you can decide which ones you like best. Apart from the vehicle made famous by Messrs Rolls and Royce, I saw at least one vehicle each from Porche, Toyota Lexus, Jeep (very grandiose version) BMW and Ford F-150.

I had not been to Miami for at least a decade, preferring instead to spend my time with my wife in New York City (NYC), dividing our stay between our favourite hotel anywhere, the Marriott Marquis on Times Square, and family in Brooklyn, taking in all the sights and sounds in between.

In both that town and Miami, it really doesn’t matter what the colour of the stuff running through your veins is, as long as your money is, of course, green. And just as it is in NYC, in Miami there are quite a few people who live on the streets and walk the trendy areas by day, reminding us that there but for the grace of God go we.

The Epic is one of the trendy places to be in the revitalised, resurging boomtown downtown of Miami, which used to be a graveyard after the tourists fled East Flagler Street as the sun went down.

That is not history, just what I gleaned from the hotel’s well-trained and informative employees, but weekends at the Epic can be, well, epic, if you happen to be at the age when you believe you can conquer more than a bottle of your favourite spirits on Friday and Saturday nights.

Epic’s 80 or 90 storeys include both hotel floors, parking garages and residences at the very top. Built on the water inlet called the Miami River, which flows in through parts of the city, the Epic also has its own moorings for yachts, just in case you sailed in from, let’s say, Bimini, for the weekend.

They don’t know me, and unfortunately have not sponsored this article, so before I move on, I can freely encourage you to stop by this hotel, which is trendy, beautifully appointed and has a great group of people at the ready to asset you, next time you are in Miami for business or pleasure.

For me the Epic seems to be at the heart of the rediscovery of downtown Miami by the trendy set, and I do not use that word in a patronising way. They are the ones who like to go out looking their best and they spend money. They are the builders of tourism in places like Miami and, well, Barbados.

Anyway, speaking of tourism, what is Miami without a visit to South Beach? Well, it is pretty great actually, as I have visited many times without ever going there, but my son showed me around, although it was late and we mainly walked around. I can report that they were playing Hot Hot Hot in one of the bars on the avenue next to the beach, but the conga line I saw did need some work. Make that “rhythm”.

In Miami’s South Beach there exists, I have since ready, the largest collection of functioning and well maintained art deco buildings in the world. Three avenues are something like thirty blocks. It checks all the boxes of superlatives, even if, like me, you are not a great fan, but more of an admirer of this between-World-Wars genre of architecture, which embraced what the machine could do with iron and steel as well as paraded some of history’s iconic images across its concrete and plaster motifs.

If you want a local (basic) sample of art deco here, check the Globe Cinema. For perhaps the highest-end version, check the Chrysler Building in Manhattan. South Beach is somewhere in between, its buildings much more subtle than the Globe but rarely going past a handful of storeys. Despite whatever may be going on at its famous nightclubs or other establishments, the homogenous architecture of South Beach makes you feel you could walk the sidewalks forever, just absorbing the aesthetic.

On the third street there are family restaurants of all kinds with tables outside until late, so you don’t have to be personally trending yourself to go there and enjoy an evening. The food is reasonably priced and of good quality. And by two in the morning, the police are out routinely rounding up the inebriated who couldn’t make it home by themselves.

I can simply end here by saying: Miami rocks.


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