As those of us who live in the Miami-Dade area are well aware, each and every one of the neighborhoods that make up Miami has its own special flavor. Quaint Coral Gables could not be more different than saucy Little Havana, laid-back Coconut Grove, or sexy South Beach. Dragonfly Expeditions’ city tour, Miami Magic City Bus and Walking Tour, introduces guests to several of Miami’s communities and shares the stories behind each neighborhood’s drastically different development. Paul De Windt, publisher of a newspaper called The Daily Herald, joined us on a city tour last September. The Daily Herald, which is distributed in several places throughout the Dutch Caribbean, featured De Windt’s article in the “Business, Culture, & Leisure” section. De Windt’s work provides a snapshot of each area to which he was exposed during his visit to Miami. In addition, his closing sentence evinces the fact that our tour clearly imparts a true sense of place to a visitor, which is one of Dragonfly Expeditions’ most sought-after goals. Keep reading to see De Windt’s article.
“Bridging the Americas” by Paul De Windt
… there was a four-hour bus tour of Miami’s distinct neighborhoods starting in Coral Gables with a history and Mediterranean architecture that truly sets it apart from the rest of the city, while it’s also the home of the University of Miami (UM) and its “Miracle Mile” is renowned for shopping. One of the nation’s first fully planned communities was founded in the 1920s by George E. Merrick, whose elegant residence built using coral rock on a wooden structure in 1899 has been preserved along with his furniture and art. Not to be missed is the stately Biltmore Hotel with its hand-painted ceilings and the largest hotel swimming pool in the continental US. It served as hospital during the war and is said by some to be haunted on the 13th floor since then, although others attribute such more to an incident involving the legendary gangster Al Capone.
Next up was Coconut Grove, a contrast with Coral Gables in terms of being more loose and laid back both regarding its buildings and prevailing lifestyle. Settled in the 1800s by bohemian pioneers, its tree-lined streets breathe a bohemian spirit that can perhaps best be sampled with a stroll down “CocoWalk” with its outdoor cafes, enchanting taverns and exclusive shops or savoring the waterfront ambience.
Then to Little Havana, where we enjoyed a Cuban “cafecito” in Calle Ocho after visiting the adjacent traditional cigar shop, of which the owner had been jailed by the Castro regime for refusing to sign away his land before he was allowed to leave the communist island and head for Miami, as did thousands of others in different waves over the years. The Domino Park and Plaza nearby was another solid reminder of the roots of a considerable part of the city’s population and one of their favorite pastimes.
The tour also […] made a stop at the former Pan American headquarters when air transport in the area was primarily by seaplane and which now serves as City Hall. In the old days people would gather there to watch the rich and famous as they traveled back and forth. […]
For lunch we headed to the Wynwood Art District with its many galleries and studios, but also all the paintings and artistic graffiti on many buildings that make the area so special. Food was served in the Wynwood Kitchen & Bar featuring a floor-to-ceiling mural, panoramic canvases and an 11-foot sculpture inside, while the outdoor terrace and courtyard are surrounded by the “Wynwood Walls,” called the largest street art park in the US. The affordably priced small plates subtly layered with global-Latino flavors are designed to encourage mix and match dining, which we gratefully did in order to sample the different flavors. […]
In the shuttle on the way to the airport the next morning I reached the predictable conclusion that one of the most interesting things about Miami is that it’s a US city but at the same time a collection of communities and cultures that truly make it the bridge connecting all of the Americas. The thing is, you have to really be there to feel what that truly means.