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Miami - Latin and Funky

miamibeachArriving in Miami after a couple of weeks hardcore travelling in South America, and almost 3 months away, was like finding gold at the end of a rainbow. Having traipsed through jungle and eaten from a can in remote ramshackle half-built huts you can't imagine how great it feels to get to somewhere so happening.

We stayed in central South Beach - the place to be. Immediately we were excited by the varied dining and shopping options surrounding us. Cocktails and sushi and italian ice-cream. Bargain finds, Urban Outfitters and Armani. I chucked out the now-decrepit walking boots and bought gold sandals. The fleece was exchanged for a new dress. We made plans to go out on the town. This place is buzzing and we wanted to be a part of it.

The first morning I spent in a hairdressers with a interesting menagerie of locals preening their bazaar beards and colourful locks and getting decoration nails. I was surrounded by plenty of fast-flowing banter and it was an experience in itself. You quickly realise that Miami is largely latino - apparently 75% of people living here are spanish speaking. People switch between english and spanish mid-sentence and this I felt very home with being an english person living in Spain.

Back on the street, I now felt I belonged as I sauntered to the beach. No longer a backpacker, but a spanish-speaking, sharp-haired, bohemian-chic dressed temporary Miami-ite. I probably should have got a tattoo and worn a cowboy hat and stilettos too but there just wasn't the time.

The beach was crowded with sunloungers and body-beautifuls and plenty of people splashing in the sea. Why then, when my kids entered, do they seem to be the only ones embraced by jellyfish?? If you plan to spend the day down there its worth hiring a lounger from one of the hotel sections. You can order drinks etc (at hotel prices) and they'll keep an eye on your stuff if you go off for lunch.

Ocean Drive lines the wide beach area and shiny convertibles swish along it, batting their eyelashes at passers-by. Skate boarders and roller bladders join the parade. Whilst a showy place, its also very relaxed and friendly. Everyone is welcome to join the party.

mangosAnd so nightfall came. The babysitter arrived, Monopoly in hand. And we, with another couple we'd befriended, took a stroll down Ocean Drive. The restaurant's each have greeters eager to seat you but we weren't to be distracted. We were set for a few drinks in the Clevelander but found it garish and naff, despite recommendations, although the roof bar had a better vibe with female DJ and accompanying drummer. The tables are cordoned off ready for guests willing to buy a bottle. At $350 a pop we sipped our drinks at the bar.

Next stop was Mangos, a latino club. There was a small entrance fee but it was worth it! Quickly we realised that we were in for a show, with gyrating silicon-pumped butt at every turn. A bare-topped man expertly bumped willing women from the crowd, being tipped by their boyfriends for the privilege. It was bazaar, eye-popping, Chippendale-style entertainment but fun after a few drinks.

Next day, we took a slower pace. We breakfasted at The News Cafe and made it to Lincoln (outdoor) mall at the end of the day, There are many shops and eateries and lots of atmosphere. Great for people watching, as is Miami as a whole.

Our last, delicious breakfast we took at The Pelican. Owned by Diesel founder, Renzo Rosso, it oozes style and individuality.  It retains retro features mixed with colourful tiles, animal prints, art, brickwork, vintage extras and views to the beach. A bright shiny star in a minimalist hotel world. This hotel was one of the first at South Beach and remains in the heart of it all. I highly recommend a visit.dieselhotelpelican1suitespeakerzebrapelican