Marriott Hotels

The Low-Key yet Lovely Life of SoBe

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When most think of South Beach, they immediately think of a club scene and bottle service, myself included, but as I learned in my past visit it's actually possible to go to there and take it easy. You can really just go out for drinks at a quiet bar (!!!) and remember the night before hangover-free. I admit I was hesitant at first to leave my relaxing lounge chair at the luxurious 1 Hotel South Beach for the hectic SoBe life beyond resort grounds but I'm so glad I did. In fact I surprisingly enjoyed art-deco land so much that I am already contemplating my return.

As I mentioned in my previous post the main reason I was in Miami was to experience the fabulous 1 Hotel South Beach. In fact, most of our long-weekend vacation was spent lounging but when we weren't enjoying a cocktail poolside under that famous Florida sunshine with the turquoise sea in our view we were eating and drinking (and biking) our way through the streets Crockett and Tubbs used to patrol. If you're looking to maintain a low profile rather than party the night away, here are my recommendations:

 

WHERE TO EAT

27 Restaurant - This eclectic dining room, literally, is part of the Freehand hostel but don't let that deter you. The farm-to-table fare and hip atmosphere is one of the best on SoBe. And it's soooo not typical SoBe, which makes it SoCool.

Beachcraft - No surprises, in a good way, at this Tom Colicchio restaurant located in the 1 Hotel. Similar to its sibling Craft in NYC, expect yummy food in a rustic-chic environment.

Pubbelly - This true gastropub offers delightful small plates with an awesome Asian twist in a lively, sort of hipster space. And its location is off-the-cliche-path, which gives it an advantage in my book.

Bodega Taqueria - A garage that's home to a funky-but-fantastic, casual taco bar in front and a hidden, trendy speakeasy in back. To find the alcohol, just look for a door to the bathroom (but it's really not the bathroom if you get the gist).

Bazaar - For a fancy splurge at a see-and-be-seen place typical of SoBe, hit up this José Andrés Spanish tapas resto inside the SLS Hotel. Let the waiter help you decide on which plates to get, you won't be disappointed.

 

UN CAFE, POR FAVOR

Rosetta Bakery - If you're tired of paying hotel prices for a mediocre breakfast, definitely check out this little Italian espresso joint. Come early for the breakfast pastry otherwise you will be eating focaccia and mini sandwiches for breakfast, which is by no means a bad option at this place.

An authentic caffè macchiato at Rosetta Bakery

An authentic caffè macchiato at Rosetta Bakery

Shepherd Artisan Coffee - A quaint little espresso bar in the Art Deco district that also offers egg breakfasts and acai bowls. A great pit stop when you're exploring the pastel playground.

A refreshing açai bowl at Shepherd Artisan Coffee

A refreshing açai bowl at Shepherd Artisan Coffee

 

HOW TO SPEND HAPPY HOUR

The Pool Bar at the Delano - An iconic palm-tree-lined pool makes for a great backdrop to enjoy your glass of rosé.

No trip to SoBe is complete without a cocktail at the Delano 

No trip to SoBe is complete without a cocktail at the Delano 

The Martini Bar at the Raleigh - The pool bar is awesome too but this tiny, quiet bar inside takes the cake. It has a vintage, relaxed feel which is perfect for escaping the craziness.

The Broken Shaker - This hip tiki-inspired bar that Hemingway would've loved is also located in the courtyard of the Freehand hostel and mixes up some of the greatest craft cocktails in the area. Grab a drink before heading to dinner at 27 (see above).

Tiki-inspired, retro, funky decor at the Broken Shaker

Tiki-inspired, retro, funky decor at the Broken Shaker

Matador Terrace at the EDITION - A lovely outdoor sanctuary lightly lit with cafe lights serving up craft cocktails in copper pineapple cups. For a second I forgot I was in Miami.

The lanterns make the Matador Terrace extra cozy, don't you think?

The lanterns make the Matador Terrace extra cozy, don't you think?

The Social Club at Surfcomber - Fun, handcrafted cocktails served in a swanky, artsy spot.

 

WHAT TO DO

Explore the retro Art Deco district which is roughly between 5th and 15th Streets. If there's only one spot you see, make it Lummus Park at Ocean Drive & 7th. This area is quintessential Miami Beach.

Anyone recognize the Carlyle from Miami Vice?

Anyone recognize the Carlyle from Miami Vice?

Tropical Lummus Park at Ocean and 7th

Tropical Lummus Park at Ocean and 7th

Just missed Crockett and Tubbs at the Clevelander Bar…only about 30 years too late!

Just missed Crockett and Tubbs at the Clevelander Bar…only about 30 years too late!

Rent a bike from the numerous CityBike stations and take a ride along the Miami Beach Boardwalk which runs from mid-beach around 46th Street all the way down to the tip of South Beach known as South Pointe Park. Warning: in the summer it can get VERY hot, so morning bike rides are best at this time of year.

The beach at South Pointe Park

The beach at South Pointe Park

#onmybikeride

#onmybikeride

Views from the boardwalk

Views from the boardwalk

Bowl a strike or lace up those ice skates at Basement in the Miami Beach EDITION hotel. Who ever thought you could find something like this in Miami Beach? With a DJ spinning some great hip-hop throwbacks, it was quite the little hotspot even on a Sunday night.

Bask in the sun and go swimming in the aqua-blue sea. I mean after all, this is SoBe! But be on the lookout or the purple flag at the lifeguard stands. Apparently that means dangerous marine life and unfortunately I did not realize that until AFTER the jellyfish stung me.

Miami Beach as seen from our hotel

Miami Beach as seen from our hotel

Lastly when you're searching for a place to stay, it helps to look for hotels on the Northern edge of SoBe, or mid-beach, which is well above the Art Deco district. They are going to be more low-key but still close enough to all the action if you decide to make a night of it. My previous post helps you do just that so be sure to check it out if you haven't already.

If you're looking for a refined, relaxing, beach vacation, definitely consider SoBe rather than rule it out. As I mentioned before, it's totally possible to avoid the raging party scene in a place that's known for its craziness and enjoy it.

Loving the quirkiness of Miami Beach

Loving the quirkiness of Miami Beach

The BVI's: A Little Slice of Britain in the Caribbean

Cane Garden Bay
Cane Garden Bay

As the weather starts to cool down in the Northeast, it's time to start thinking about swapping snow for sand. One of my favorite winter destinations happens to sport red telephone booths and belong to Her Majesty. No I'm not talking about London, although we all know how much I love that city, I'm talking about a little British Overseas Territory called the British Virgin Islands. Despite its ties to Britain, the culture is more Caribbean than British but you can expect to meet a lot of Brits vacationing here as well as other well-seasoned travelers decked out in their pastels sipping on painkillers. It's worth noting, though, that there is definitely more sophistication and wealth in the air here than other Caribbean islands, making this destination a pricey one in the high-season. Regardless, this place should be on your bucket list for the beauty alone. The BVI's are located in the Caribbean Sea just east of Puerto Rico and primarily consist of the islands known as Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Jost Van Dyke and Anegada but also include various smaller islands and cays. Tortola is the largest and most populated island in the BVI's therefore it's where you'll find the main airport, Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport a.k.a. Beef Island Airport. It's located on the East End of the island (technically on Beef Island which is connected to Tortola by a bridge) just a few minutes from Trellis Bay, and despite being the "main" and/or "international" airport it is relatively small. In fact, the only jet service is via private charters so most of the commercial aircrafts are small puddle jumper propeller planes. Your best bet is to fly direct to nearby San Juan or St. Thomas and then hop on a puddle jumper for your last leg which is quite the scenic ride. Note: If you're freaked by hopping on a plane this small, I always like to think the smaller the plane, the better the destination (in regards to the Caribbean anyway)!

It's important to note that cruise ships stop in Tortola occasionally, although not nearly as much as their American neighbor of St. Thomas. Still, the island can get crowded when ships are docked but if you plan it right you can avoid the ship crowds. This website is super helpful and has accurate and up to date ship schedules so you can plan your day's activities accordingly. Trust me, it's so worth it. Regardless of the crowds, Tortola is a wonderful island worth visiting and here are my recommendations on what to do there.

 

SEE

Cane Garden Bay - Think beautiful turquoise waters, white powdery sand lined with palm trees and steep green hills in the distance. That is what you will find at this beautiful, peaceful beach. Enjoy a leisurely walk along the shore, a refreshing swim in the clear water or just relax with a good book. There are beach shacks offering light fare and refreshments as well as clean facilities and lounge chairs with umbrellas for rent. Note: I highly recommend going on a day that there won't be a cruise ship in port because it gets extremely crowded and takes away from the ambiance. 

Callwood Rum Distillery - A perfect end to your day at Cane Garden Bay, stop in at this family-owned working distillery to sample some of the rums made from the island's sugar cane. It is walking distance from the beach or your taxi driver will happily make a stop here for you. The facility is rather small so you won't need much time here, no more than 30 minutes, but it's fun to have a taste of the various rums they make and purchase some to take home. (Cane Garden Bay)

Road Town - Not necessarily a must-see, this town is the capital of the BVI's and where you can stock up on provisions, wander through souvenir shops, and grab something to eat. It is also where the ships dock and is one of the places you can catch a ferry to nearby islands or charter a boat. Stop into Pusser's Pub for a bite to eat and a drink. Despite being a chain, you can rely on good pub grub and a lively atmosphere. (Pusser's Pub, Main St. Across from the Docks)

 

EAT

Red Rock - Casual, outdoor atmosphere overlooking a marina with good food and great service. There is just about something for everyone on the eclectic menu which includes seafood and pasta. Reservations suggested. Closed on Mondays. (Penn's Landing Marina, Waterfront Drive, Parham Town, East End)

The Sugar Mill - Romantic candlelit dinners in a tropical garden of an old sugar mill, this place is slightly more upscale, by island standards anyway. You'll find a good wine list, an ever-changing menu centered around delicious seafood and friendly service. Reservations recommended. (Sugar Mill Hotel, Little Apple Bay, East End)

The Last Resort - Sometimes the journey is part of the experience, which is the case for this lively restaurant located on a tiny island in Trellis Bay. This restaurant is only reachable by boat but landlubbers don't fret-- there is a boat service from the Trellis Bay ferry dock. Just look for the random land phone, pick it up and someone on the other end will send a boat for you. This open-aired restaurant is best for its live music and good-humored entertainment on Thursdays and Fridays. (Bellamy Cay, Trellis Bay)

Pusser's Restaurant - Known for its red telephone booth on the dock, this place is also located on a small island and provides a water taxi from the Trellis Bay ferry dock. Open-aired and on the beach, you can't go wrong. Food is Caribbean-style and dishes include local seafood and jerk chicken. Order a painkiller made with Pusser's Rum, and they will let you choose the potency. The dessert menu is interestingly presented in a red ViewMaster, who remembers those from the 80s? Reservations suggested. (Marina Cay) 

D' Best Cup - This casual café has some of the best coffee and breakfast on the island. The cappuccinos and breakfast sandwiches do not disappoint. I am sad to report the Trellis Bay location by the ferry dock has closed down but the two other locations remain. (Village Cay Marina, Road Town & Soper's Hole Wharf & Marina)

 

STAY

Scrub Island Resort, Spa & Marina - Located about 10 min by boat from the East End of Tortola lies a small island called Scrub Island, which is home to this luxurious Marriott Autograph Collection resort. Since the resort is the only thing on this island, guests feel like they are staying on a remote, private island yet have easy access to the main island of Tortola thanks to the resort's private water shuttle. Operating on an hourly schedule to/from the Trellis Bay ferry dock, the water shuttle makes it possible for guests to explore Tortola or catch a ferry to another island. The resort also offers private boat rentals from their marina incase you don't want to adhere to a ferry schedule or want a custom itinerary. The best part of staying here is definitely the expansive views from the infinity pool overlooking the gigantic yachts docked in the marina but other highlights include the resort's North Beach, a warm welcome by the staff offering rum punch, and pizza night at the market on Tuesday's.

Note: North Beach is actually located on the other side of the island, about a 10-min walk from the main resort but worth it because it tends to be incredibly quiet and peaceful. The sand in the water is rocky due to a coral reef, so water shoes are recommended if you plan to swim in the sea. Otherwise there is a small pool to cool off in.

Rates start at around $350/nt for a standard room in the off season and can go up to as much as $600/nt during the winter. Sometimes you can catch a deal on Jetsetter, so be on the lookout. For more info on the resort visit their website.

When you're planning your trip, definitely dedicate a full week to this beautiful place and longer if you can. Trust me, you will want some time for both island hopping and relaxing on a chaise lounge sipping your rum drink of choice. I guarantee once you experience this place you will be longing to get back. My next post will be all about island hopping to the other beautiful islands in the BVI's, in my opinion the best part of vacationing here, so stay tuned!

Cane Garden Bay

Cane Garden Bay

The view from the beach in Cane Garden Bay

The view from the beach in Cane Garden Bay

Beach shack restaurants

Beach shack restaurants

Rum distillery

Rum distillery

Clowning around at Callwood Distillery

Clowning around at Callwood Distillery

Scrub Island Marina
Scrub Island Marina
view at Scrub Island
view at Scrub Island
infinity pool at Marriott's Scrub Island

infinity pool at Marriott's Scrub Island

North Beach Scrub Island view

North Beach Scrub Island view

north beach
north beach
Viewing the dessert menu at Pusser's

Viewing the dessert menu at Pusser's

Rock lobster at the Sugar Mill

Rock lobster at the Sugar Mill

007 Things I Fancy about London

A martini at Duke's Bar

A martini at Duke's Bar

I don't know about you, but I'm pretty psyched for the release of the new James Bond movie, Spectre, this week. In honor of 007 I thought I'd give you a list of 007 things I love to do in London, the home of MI6 headquarters and one of my favorite cities.

001- Breakfast in style at the Wolseley. Reservations needed and for a reason. This is the see-and-be-seen spot for your eggs benny.

002- Having a pint at The Only Running Footman, a traditional 'boozer' in Mayfair.

003- Taking a trip down memory lane in South Kensington, the posh neighborhood that I called home during my semester abroad. Whether you've lived here or not, it is a great neighborhood to explore.

004- Afternoon Tea at the Ritz. A total splurge but absolutely worth every crustless finger sandwich and scone. The atmosphere in the Palm Court is just lovely. The quintessential British experience.

005- Strolling High Street in Marylebone, a charming fashionable neighborhood chock full of quaint cafés and boutique shops.

006- A milk chocolate chunk cookie from Ben's Cookies. Chased with a cold glass of milk, of course.

And appropriately last but not least:

007- A martini at the Dukes Bar. Shaken, not stirred. This place happens to be James Bond author Ian Fleming's old haunt and where the writer got his inspiration for Bond's signature cocktail.

Queue the music. It's Bond. James Bond.

 

The Wolseley, 160 Piccadilly

The Only Running Footman, 5 Charles Street

The Ritz London, 150 Piccadilly

Ben's Cookies, various locations

The Dukes Bar, 35 Saint James Place

Big Ben

Big Ben

Breakfast at the Wolseley

Breakfast at the Wolseley

South Ken tube stop

South Ken tube stop