“How the other half live”
Walking along South Beach watching people the same age as you swigging champagne, ordering expensive food and raving at 3pm whilst you wander around with warm peanut butter and jam sandwiches in your bag side by side with your all day bus ticket is a very clear indicator that you are not where you are supposed to be. Miami is not particularly budget friendly and, with $80 for the week, there was not much room for beach parties and night long raves. Instead I had to choose between splashing out on a Cuban buffet for lunch or whether or not I really needed that extra bottle of sun cream. It was obvious as soon as we arrived that to do Miami right you had to have the cash and that’s why so many students across America save all year for their one week of madness.
“I quite like the quietness of Sunny Isles”
My friends and I managed to find a great deal at a hotel resort at Sunny Isles Beach, about 25 minutes by bus north of Miami Beach. It was quiet and its main clientele appeared to be families and couples however the palm trees, cabanas and proximity to the sea was all that we needed for a good time. After a long first half of the spring semester filled with midterms and deadlines it was relaxing to finally lie down on our deck chairs and sunbathe in temperatures we hadn’t experienced since before arriving in America. We swam in the sea, read our books, burnt to a crisp and enjoyed every minute. By the end of the trip I looked like a red and white patchwork with strange areas of red appearing wherever I had forgotten to apply sun cream. It was beautiful and I loved the routine of getting up, putting on our bikinis, packing our bags and heading to the beach for the day. For a beach holiday alone it was a wonderful deal but a lot of the time I couldn’t help but think “this is Miami, shouldn’t we be partying? Or at the very least exploring?”.
“America just doesn’t do public transport”
It’s not completely true. Some cities are excellent when it comes to public transport. Chicago and New York are just two examples of places that are doing it right. When it comes to Miami though it’s a complete nightmare. Don’t get me wrong there are a multitude of buses and several routes that run all over the place but traffic is such an issue that it can take hours to get anywhere. For example on one day we decided to go to Little Havana. We expected it to take up the morning so that we could get back to the beach for the afternoon. In the end we didn’t get back to our hotel until gone 4pm, spending more time on buses than we did in Little Havana itself. It is possibly my biggest and only gripe of the trip as I knew at the beginning that we wouldn’t be going it large but I didn’t expect to be spending a lot of my time waiting for transport. The only silver lining was that the buses, trains and trolleys were all air conditioned.
“It was worth the wait”
Speaking of Little Havana I really enjoyed my experience there. It was typically Cuban and exactly what I expected. There were cigar shops all along the main street, Calle Ocho, and many restaurants serving typical Cuban cuisine. We visited stores all along the street. After being asked to buy mojitos, cigars, hats and shirts I eventually gave in and bought a block of famous Cuban coffee, intending to give it to a friend for her birthday. There were also many interesting murals on walls everywhere, one of my favourites being a caricature of Mr.Worldwide himself, Pitbull. The Visitors Centre recommended that we go to a local Cuban buffet, which advertised itself as the best restaurant on the street, and we chose to believe them. It was probably the wrong decision as the food was relatively cold and the service quite abysmal but we turned our frowns upside down by going to the ice cream parlour across the street. The ice cream there was incredible. Maximo Park is also situated in Little Havana, the park for which the band took its name, and is an excellent place to watch many Cuban expats while away their hours playing dominoes. Visiting Little Havana was like visiting a different country and I really appreciated the different culture there despite it being an obvious tourist trap.
“It’s been a great trip though right?”
I feel as though this post has been hugely negative but really the trip wasn’t. Sure I wasn’t overly impressed with Miami but that was because I couldn’t experience it to its full potential. We worked with what we had though and with what we had we did very well. The bright blue sea, hot sand and beating sun was all we really needed to enjoy ourselves and, despite living off microwave meals and $1.37 oranges, I had a great time just relaxing and splashing around with my pals. My verdict on Miami is pretty low; I would not visit again even if I had the money to go all out. On the other hand though I am so glad I came and would not have changed the trip for the world even if it did take over 24 hours to get back to Wisconsin.