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Touring the US East Coast - Day 11

Written By:
Alain Kasteleyn
February 13, 2014

A full day in 'So-Be' - Miami is what we have planned today! It will start off as work in the morning, and then hopefully we can do some touristy things during the afternoon. All good stuff and exciting to think what we’ll see and do!

The view from the James Royal Palm Hotel really is spectacular and we love just standing by the window (the room is on Floor 17, by the way), and looking out over the north of South Beach, and then over to the Atlantic Ocean. The city was lit up last night and looked absolutely beautiful. There's a small balcony which you can stand on, providing you’re not afraid of heights, and take it all in. We had a breakfast meeting with Berit the hotel Sales Manager here at the hotel and updated her on our business, and how we see it going. We then had a tour of the hotel, checking out different categories of rooms in each of the three main buildings, plus also the spa, restaurant, bars and facilities that are offered to the guests. The place did not disappoint and we were very impressed.

Once we had finished at the James Royal Palm Hotel we set off on foot to some other hotels where we had arranged to undertake similar visits. First stop, and about twenty minutes from the James Royal Palm Hotel, was The Angler’s Hotel, part of the Kimpton Group. Basically this was an old house, owned previously by a New York resident, who liked to head south and enjoy Miami. We were told that this person actually built a large extension so that friends and family could come and stay. And that was it, a hotel was born! Today it’s bigger still, but still very much a boutique property. The rooms were all beautiful, and we could quite happily have moved in for a couple of days. Oh well, we’ll just have to come back some time in the future. Second stop was a quick drive over to the Surcomber Hotel, actually just up Washington Avenue, a short distance from the James Royal Palm Hotel. Alex, our contact in Miami for the Kimpton Group, took us as he was showing us these two properties. The Surcomber Hotel was equally impressive and we could quite happily moved into that place for a couple of days as well. So, that’s potentially a third trip over to Miami at some point!

We had heard of yet another Kimpton Group property in Miami, which is the Epic Hotel, near the Downtown area of the city. Sadly Alex could not take us there, so we were feeling a bit disappointed that we would not be able to pay a visit and have a look round. But then we had a little brain wave as to how we could get there ourselves without using a cab; we could pick up the Miami City Bus Tour and include a visit of this hotel as part of a tour! Fantastic, we could kill two birds with one stone! After a short walk back to our own hotel, we grabbed a bag, put some waters and things in it, got the tickets for the Bus Tour and headed off to the nearest Bus Tour bus stop. Ten minutes later we were climbing up the stairs on the bus, sitting in the sun and heading west towards Downtown Miami.

The guide was busy telling us all about the various restaurants and glorious buildings we were driving past and in no time we arrived at the bus stop near the Hotel Epic. And then there we were, going into the hotel, totally amazed at the huge high space that was the entrance lobby, and asking for the contact we had for the Hotel Epic. Our contact was very welcoming, and despite the late notice to visit had arranged several rooms for us to view. We were really blown away by this hotel! It was beautiful, really impressive and potentially required a fourth trip to Miami in order to stay here. The location was as we said in the Downtown area, and absolutely ideal for people arriving to pick up a cruise ship departing from the Port of Miami. Or even stay over for a few days post-cruise. Or both!! We saw the bars, restaurants, meeting rooms and the outside pool area. This really was where the ‘Miami set’ came to hang out, and we saw many potential members throughout the hotel! We were so glad we’d found a way of visiting and made the effort to get there. And the welcome we received made it all the more special.

Once completed, we headed back to the bus stop and jumped on to a double-decker and continued with the Miami City Tour. We were back to tourist mode, and our work part of the day was over. The tour was great; it took us south through Coconut Grove, where all the arty things happen, west through Coral Gables, where there were some amazing houses and parks, and then on through 'Little Cuba', where many Cuban refugees settled and started their lives in the USA. The sun was out, we were on the top deck taking in all the sights and sounds of Miami. The commentary was informative and interesting, and we got a really good overview of the city, the main districts and areas where there was so much to see and do, and potentially where you could head back to if time allowed.

We needed to change tour bus back in the Downtown area and then headed back over the bridge to 'So-Be'. En route we passed through the area south of Fifth Avenue, which was called 'So-Fi'. This former Jewish quarter had been re-vamped and was now so popular and trendy that it had its own abbreviated name – 'So-Fi'; south of Fifth Avenue – get it….?! We were understanding this name trend thing now, and thought it all very clever! Very 'in' to be honest! Before long it was time to leave the City Tour bus, and walk the sort distance back to the hotel. We’d spent a really great afternoon visiting, touring round, and just relaxing in the sun. However, we'd yet to try the James Royal Palm Hotel swimming pool, so figured now was the time to do that, and make use of the day's final rays of sun. It didn't take long to change and be there in the pool, surrounded by the 'Miami set', splashing about in the water, Buddha Bar music playing in the background…. It was truly magical.

During our walk the previous evening we’d seen a restaurant called 'Balans', which was on the car-free Lincoln Avenue. This is a small London-based chain, with six restaurants in London and four in Miami; we know from many visits in London that food is good, service is great and drinks are sensibly priced. So, we had a plan for that evening and after a shower and change we were heading off along Lincoln Avenue. We managed to have a table right in the middle of the outside terrace. Perfect for people watching and taking in the atmosphere of the place; we could see everyone walking along the street, watch what they were doing, hear what they were saying and just be discreetly nosey! The food was really good, and our waiter looked after us. We were even given a Balans Loyalty Card, which allows you to earn points and use them on future visits. With all these hotels to return and stay at in the future we would be pretty sure to return to Balans! The 'check' arrived, and this evening we were pleasantly surprised. Plus we had told the waiter to slow down and not rush the main course, and that meant we’d been there for two and a half hours, and really, really enjoyed it!

This is old hat now, but you know what’s coming up…. We were tired, it was getting late and the hotel beds were waiting. Our full day in Miami was coming to a close and we had loved every minute of it! Good night!!

**Alain’s top tips**

  1. We’ve mentioned this before, but if you are taking a cruise it is advisable to arrive one or two days beforehand. The hotel we stayed in and the ones we checked out come with our full recommendation. Hopefully you picked this up whilst reading today’s events, but if not please take note right now!
  1. Review and read about some of the restaurants prior to leaving home. We knew there was a Balans restaurant along Lincoln Avenue in Miami, and to find it and eat there was a pleasure. Don’t be afraid to tell the server to slow the service down so you can be nosey and watch everything going on!
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