As some of you know, I won a trip to Miami from a local sweepstakes I had posted on the Secret site. My husband and I took this trip last weekend. Here is an update with some pictures.
I have always loved taking pictures and playing around with my Sony digital camera. I have always owned Sony cameras and am loyal to them. They are easy to use without having any real camera knowledge. I also like the fact that I can hook it into my computer and then grab individual pictures instead of waiting for everything stored on the camera to load. I am not a professional and have no clue about the settings but it’s fun to see what comes out. But, I do know how to use Adobe Photoshop Elements to fix up the pics if they don’t come out quite like I want. The night shots at South Pointe Park were a bit too dark so I used tools in Photo Elements to make them lighter.
I think I like being a travel writer. Sounds like a new blog to me! Anyone want to send me on a trip?
The trip included airfare, hotel stay, $250 cash, $100 for ShopRite (grocery store) and a year’s supply of water. It was sponsored by ShopRite and the Cristina show. We were supposed to attend a taping of the show but Cristina was not taping when we were there.
We stayed at the French hotel, Sofitel. This was the second time we have stayed at an Accor Sofitel hotel. The first time was on our trip to France. Their Miami hotel is much bigger than the one in France. Maybe because there isn’t as much room in Paris for a hotel. It is larger overall, has a pool, a huge dining room, Starbucks, conference rooms, and huge lounge area.
Note: Click on a photo to see it larger.
The people working in the Sofitel know all about customer service in the hospitality industry. I was really surprised. I think it has to do with either Miami, and the fact that they thrive off of the tourist industry, or the fact that the Sofitel is a European hotel. There was always a mixture of people in the hotel from French, Spanish, and Italian. I heard so many languages that my head was spinning. I sure wish I could speak all of them because I feel left out. I can say, without a doubt, that we have never had this level of care at an American run hotel.
In the dining room the waiters, waitresses, managers, and bus boys were busy every second clearing, cleaning, primping, or attending to diners. The Italian coffee was the best. They used a French press to serve it. I think it was Lavazza but I can’t really remember. I will have to try to find it and get some for home. But first we will need a French press to really make it the way they did at the Sofitel.
We had a full breakfast everyday and while most of the time they assumed we wanted the “American breakfast” we always tried something different each day – French crepes, French toast, a fruit platter, or an omelet. My husband and I like to try all kinds of new foods, experiences new cultures, and go new places. That’s how you learn – by getting out of your comfort zone.
While we were in Miami we had a rental car so we drove around a lot – and got lost alot too. I can safely say that we drove around The Ritz Carlton in Coconut Grove 6 times. I memorized the front lawn. There’s one hotel I’d like to stay in. I bet it sure is pricey.
Did you know it rains almost everyday in Miami? Well, at least it did for us. But it doesn’t last long. It rained when we got there and that was the first view I had out of our window. After that we had the most gorgeous sunset.
Besides sunflowers (my favorite flower), my favorite living plant it the palm tree. I have a 1-1/2 foot one in my kitchen that I bought at Walmart this past summer. I am trying to make sure it lives through this Connecticut winter. I took more pictures of palm trees than anything else. I couldn’t believe all of the varieties out there.
We really had no clue what to do so we picked a handful of things to do. We ended up going to Merrick Park Mall and walked around. They call this a luxury shopping center. It has stores like Williams and Sonoma, Coach, Juicy Couture, and L’Occitane but we didn’t buy anything. We walked the entire mall, which is outside, just to look at the scenery. They even have valet parking and when the counters in the bathroom are made out of marble you know it much be an expensive place to shop.
We also made it to Coconut Walk (nothing much there to see), drove through Coral Gables and The Miracle Mile (not impressed) and then found a Fresh Market store (similar to Wholefoods) where we sampled their Christmas coffee and bought some home. The regulars in this store were so friendly that we actually stopped and chatted with a few of them. We even came back later in the day to get our dinner to take to the hotel. I could have walked around this store all day. Everything is so fresh and colorful.
The next day we drove out to South Beach. It was only about a 15 minute drive. Along the way we could see cruise ships docked.
South Beach is wonderful. Along the main strip on Ocean Drive you see all of the hotels and you swear you are living in the 1950s. They call this the Art Deco section. They are all the original hotels, beautifully restored. People are sitting in the outdoor cafes chatting away and while there are people everywhere you go there aren’t crowds because there are so many cafes, hotels, and shops that it is spread out nicely. We never made it to the actual beaches for lack of time – that will have to be on our next trip.
We drove all of the way down Ocean Drive and then turned and went up Collins Avenue. You can see luxury homes on the other side of the Avenue on an island. Man, wouldn’t it be nice to live here? That is if someone else could do the cooking, cleaning, and taking care of the yacht! Oh, yeh, and pay the taxes.
We finally parked and walked up and down Lincoln Road Mall where we landed at an Italian restaurant for lunch. We sat at their outdoor cafe area eating and doing a little people watching.
After eating we drove down Washington Avenue and parked at South Pointe Park. This is a one-mile, at least, walk along Biscayne Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. It was newly renovated in 2009 so we got there just in time to enjoy it. It is lined with luxury condos on one side and yachts on the other. You can also see cruise ships and cargo ships go by. We walked almost a mile, I think, and then sat and watched the water for awhile.
That evening we came back to the hotel for our Chocolate Lover treats. This was part of the hotel package. We were given a selection of fabulous chocolate cakes and pastries, along with that wonderful Italian coffee.
The next day we were to leave but we had about 4 hours to kill so we decided to take a ride out to Fairchild Tropical Botanical Gardens. It’s a bit pricey ($20 per person) but the fee does go to keep the garden running. They don’t have a military discount but they do have a senior and children’s discount if you decide to ever go. If we had known we were going we would have printed out this $5.00 discount coupon.
We took the tram ride around the park, which is definitely the way to see it. The tram ride was 45 minutes long and the hilarious driver pointed out everything of interest. There was never a dull moment on the ride. If you just walk around you have no clue what you are looking at. Take the tram ride first and then walk around. The walk would probably take you 3 hours alone. See map
The garden is run by volunteers and they have all kinds of great events all year long. It is also a place for art lovers. There we sculptures all throughout the park and places to sit and just take it all in.
Did you know they have over 100 varieties of palm trees – amazing! And all kinds of lizards, geckos, and iguanas run all over the place. After the tram ride we picked a few spots that were pointed out to walk through and the geckos would scurry past out feet, 10 at a time in some cases.
I think my favorite area was the waterlily pond. Some of the lily pads were 4 feet in size.
The airfare ride to and from Florida was uneventful and that is good. You really want it that way so you don’t have much to write about. But, I can say that you sure do see a lot of characters in the airports and that is an adventure in itself.
Well, we are back to Connecticut where it is 20 degrees and snow is on the way. I miss the 80 degree weather already. Until the next great trip.
Oh, I have posted many more photos, mainly more palm trees, on my Facebook photo page.