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  • Writer's pictureCathy Lou Theresa

Miami's Cultural Palace: Art, History, Beaches and Drag Shows

We arrived at the airport for Miami at a very nice and decent hour. Our flight was at 1:30, so we got to the airport at 11:30 and had sushi for lunch and a stroll through the art galleries of the Philadelphia Airport. 

When we arrived, we took the Miami Metro to the Opa Locka Station so we could pick up our rental car from Turo. First thing we did was go food shopping. We filled up with snacks and mini meals and a cooler and checked in at our airbnb. We got a nice big bed and a private bathroom for $29.00 a night!  The only drawback was there was no coffee maker or access to hot water. It ain’t called But Where’s The Coffee for nothing! 

Then we went for a drive to check out the strip in Miami Beach! We ended up at the Palace Drag show that was so phenomenal that we ended up there every night. The food was great, the service was great, the atmosphere outside for sidewalk seating was great and the entertainment was unrelentingly fabulous. They have these fans that people use to "clap" with, which is so fun. It's right by the beach, so afterwards, you can take the fan and go on the beach!

Chris's sunrise adventure (while I sleep)

After Chris's sunrise adventure, we had breakfast out of our cooler, eggs, English muffins, avocado and then we hit Starbucks on our way to South Beach, at the Marjory Stoneman Beach Park. Swimming in the ocean in Florida in the summer is the best. The water is like bath water and you can just swim and swim. Then we walked to the South Point Park Pier. This is the pier at the southern tip of Miami Beach. The view is of South Beach shoreline, the cruise ships and downtown Miami skyline. 

Our friends Natalia and Nick lives in Reston, Virginia, which you might see in another blog later, but they were visiting Miami the same time as we were. We picked them up in the town of Miramar, in a cute little housing community and we all went to the Hollywood Beach. 

Hollywood beach has a great boardwalk area, or “Broadwalk” as it was known in 1925 which more adequately fit its description,  along with a main street that leads to the beach, with lots of shops and places to eat. We ate on the beach with our friends, with homemade ceviche, corn on the cob and sweet potato. Of course, we all had to get pictures of us on the big beach chair on the strip.

After walking the strip and boardwalk with our friends we had more of an appetite for ceviche, so we went to a little Peruvian restaurant right next to the strip with outside seating called Pachamanka for more, as well as a quinoa salad and a little bit of Rita’s afterwards. At the end of the street, by the beach, there is a music pavilion where there was a band playing. What’s better than listening to music in the warm, summer air? I felt like Hollywood beach was a chill, relaxing place where you could spend your entire day in a one block radius, eating meals, walking and seeing the sights and swimming on the tree lined beach and ending with music at the pavilion.

The next morning, we all went to Buenos Aires Bakery and Cafe. This is a cafe on 71st street and Collins Avenue, that had its roots first in Argentina, to Queens, New York, Jackson Heights to Miami with a menu offering authentic Argentinian cuisine.  The food was a challenge to our diet, but at least there was an omelet along with spinach empanadas and fruit tarts! The bakery items were silly delicious. 

While I went to get a massage Chris, Natalia and Nick went on a drive to Fort Lauderdale. They got a picture of the Thrive statue which sits outside the Society Las Olas Apartment complex since 2020. Thrive depicts a woman opening her heart to showcase some greenery. I am not sure why this piece of art was commissioned and built here by South African artist Daniel Popper, but it’s beautiful and I’m sorry I missed it!

Then we went for a walk in Fort Lauderdale and walked to the large swimming center and museum, International Swimming Hall of Fame Museum, where Chris’s son once dove for his diving team. We also walked the Fort Lauderdale strip, where so many years ago Chris and I were both there, at the same time, completely unaware that each other existed and both engaging in whatever 20 year olds do on Spring Break in the 80’s. (We’re not telling). I had some memories of the Elbow Room in Fort Lauderdale, where I had stayed directly across the road in a hotel with a dozen other 20 year olds.  We then went to lunch with Nick and Natalia at one of the bars along the strip, called the Rock Bar which I am sure rocks the Spring Break crowd on the right nights. 

Nick went to the airport for his flight home, but Natalia’s wasn’t until later, so we took a drive

to  the Wynwood district. We had heard it was very bohemian and artsy. The problem was that it was raining so we drove around until it stopped.

At one point, Natalia and I hopped out in order to get some tea and use the bathroom. We stopped by Rodilla Coffee House, but as we were told it was closing in 15 minutes, there was nothing but soda and water, and tea. I ordered a tea and went to the use the bathroom, but the bathroom was closed! I could not order a tea without using the bathroom first so I canceled my order. They were not very friendly and soon Natalia and the owner were arguing in rapid fire Spanish of which I could not follow. Anyway, we do not recommend.

It finally stopped raining, so we got out to walk around a bit and find some food. It was very artsy and beautiful! We found the best place to eat, sushi at Go Bistro where they had great jelly alcohol drinks. I don’t mean jello shots, I mean jelly! It was cool!

Wynwood, Miami, has a diverse history that has seen significant change. Originally an industrial area in the early 20th century, it was known for manufacturing and warehouses. However, as businesses moved out, the neighborhood fell into disrepair. In the early 2000s, Wynwood experienced a revival, driven by artists and entrepreneurs who were attracted to the area's affordable warehouse spaces. This led to a flourishing arts scene, with the neighborhood becoming famous for its vibrant street art and the renowned Wynwood Walls outdoor gallery. This artistic transformation attracted investment and redevelopment, turning Wynwood into a hub for arts, culture, nightlife, dining, and shopping. 

We dropped Natalia off at the airport and went home to our airbnb. 

The next morning after our continental breakfast out of our cooler, we had to drop by the Turo place to get something minor on on our car fixed. It was no hassle at all. 

Trump was getting indicted, so we went to hang out and see all the hubbub in Miami. I stayed in the Starbucks most of the time while Chris went out into the heat and talked to all of the passionate people on both sides of the issue. I was pretty bored in the Starbucks.

After all that, we went to Key Biscayne, an island town south of Miami. We went swimming at the beach on Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park. Bill Baggs was a prominent journalist and environmentalist in the 60’s and 70’s in Miami. Then we went for a walk to the lighthouse. The path was closed, but we kind of snuck in. It was quiet and gorgeous!

The Cape Florida Lighthouse, located at the Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park in Key Biscayne, Miami, has a rich and storied history. Here's a brief overview:

The original Cape Florida Lighthouse was built in 1825 and was operated by the United States government. It served as an important navigational aid for ships traveling along the Florida coast and through the Florida Straits. During the Second Seminole War in 1836, Seminole warriors attacked the lighthouse, resulting in its destruction. It was subsequently rebuilt in 1846 and has since undergone various renovations and improvements. The lighthouse played a significant role in Florida's history, particularly during the early years of Miami's development. It helped guide ships to the growing port of Miami and was an essential part of the region's maritime infrastructure. Over the years, the Cape Florida Lighthouse has been restored and preserved as a historic landmark. Visitors can tour the lighthouse and learn about its history at the adjoining museum, but it wasn’t open when we were there. 

I really enjoyed sitting on the porch of the lighthouse keeper’s cottage and pretending in the quiet that it was a hundred years ago. 

The Cape Florida Lighthouse area served as a crucial escape route for escaped slaves, known as Black Seminoles, who sought refuge and freedom in the Bahamas. The Black Seminoles, African Americans who sought shelter among the Seminole Native American tribe, often fought alongside the Seminoles in resisting U.S. government efforts to force them into reservations or back into slavery. However, the construction of the Cape Florida Lighthouse made it more challenging for escaped slaves to use that route for fleeing to the Bahamas across the Gulf Stream.

Guess where we went for dinner and drinks? Yup, back to Palace Drag Show at sunset. Best food, great people watching and fun entertainment. 

The next morning, we had coffee and fruit tarts at the Versailles Bakery. The Versailles Bakery is part of the iconic Versailles Restaurant in Miami, Florida, which has been a hub for Cuban cuisine and culture since it was founded in 1971 by Felipe Valls Sr., an immigrant from Cuba. The bakery, known for its Cuban pastries and desserts, is located next to the restaurant and has been a popular destination for locals and visitors seeking an authentic taste of Cuban baking.

The restaurant and bakery have served as a gathering place for the Cuban exile community, attracting politicians and visitors, and have become a symbol of Cuban heritage in Miami. Apparently, Trump stopped by there, offered to pay for everyone’s food and then didn’t pay. Look it up!

After breakfast, we went to Vizcaya. Vizcaya is a gorgeous, old estate in the Coconut Grove

neighborhood. It was built in the early 1900s and was the winter home of James Deering, an American businessman.

Vizcaya is known for its unique architecture, extensive art collections, and opulent furniture, as well as huge, well-kept gardens that overlook Biscayne Bay. And this was all for him and all of his guests. He did not have family and was a lifelong bachelor.

I loved the boat dock in the back. The "big boat dock" at Vizcaya is a feature of the estate known as the Vizcaya Barge, which is located at the water's edge behind the main house. The Vizcaya Barge is a stone structure designed to resemble a 16th-century Venetian barge and serves as a decorative element of the estate. It was originally used as a breakwater and dock for James Deering's guests to arrive by boat, adding to the grandeur and opulence of the property. Guests include President Warren G Harding, Ronald Reagan, Queen Elizabeth II and Madonna. 

After that, we enjoyed more swimming at South Point Beach and then biking all the way down the strip on the bike path by the beach! 

South Pointe Park and South Pointe Beach are located at the southern tip of Miami Beach in the South Beach neighborhood. South Pointe Park offers beautiful views of the ocean, Fisher Island, and the downtown Miami skyline. The park features walking paths, grassy areas, a playground, and a pier that extends out into the ocean. The beach is known for its blue waters and is great for watching cruise ships depart from the nearby Port Miami.

Then we went to our favorite Palace restaurant for a chicken dinner and tacos. 

The next morning, we checked out of the airbnb and went to breakfast before our flight. We went to First Watch. First Watch is a cafe chain that specializes in healthy, fresh ingredients in their breakfasts, brunches and lunches. They started in 1983 in California, and the name refers to the nautical term for the first shift of the way. In 1986, they relocated to Florida.

 I had the Turkey egg white omelet and watermelon juice and Chris had breakfast tacos. 

On our way to the airport, we got a message that our flight was overbooked and would we be interested in flying the next day instead?  We looked at each other and said, ”Yeah!” So, I hit the reschedule buttons on my frontier app and searched for an airbnb for that night. We returned our car and took an Uber to the Deco hotel in Fort Lauderdale, as we were flying out of Fort Lauderdale. It was really, really, really hot, so we ended up taking naps at the Deco hotel in the air conditioning, and took short swims in the pool and even shorter sun siestas on the sunny porch in this beautiful little hotel!

When it got a little cooler, we walked to the strip in Fort Lauderdale, back to our old Spring Break stomping ground. We had dinner with live music at Spazio, which is right next to the Elbow Room, of early morning vodka and Bloody Mary fame in the 80’s. We had Calamari and mussels and I had a mimosa ale drink. It was a great surprise ending to our trip. We went to bed early as we had to be up at 3am to get to our flight. 

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