THERE’S a reason why so many songs pay tribute to the city of Miami. From Bette Midler to Pitbull, from John Mellencamp to U2, Miami’s been praised for its nightlife, sky-high architecture, sun-kissed people lying on South Beach, romantic escapades and link to Latin America, as the new home for refugees.
So having heard so many ofthese songs before − and even as I write this I can’t not hear Will Smith over and over in my head − I’d gobbled up a version of Miami I’d been sold by pop culture. But as I find myself on my way to opening night of the New World Symphony at the New World Center, designed by non-other than architect Frank Gehry, I’m surprised that in the extremely busy and amusing three days I’ve spent in Miami, I haven’t so much as seen a beach. Instead, I’m seeing a side of Miami no one’s really talking (or singing) about. It’s fresh, slightly glam and pretty damn cool.
With seats inside the symphony hall sold out, I − along with about 200 other people − sit on a chair in the park in front of the building, sipping on champagne as classical music surrounds us from state-of-the-art outdoor speakers − the concert projected onto the massive facade.
Earlier today, I found myself in near-Nirvana at the Christo and Jean-Claude “Surrounded Islands” exhibition at the Pérez Art Museum Miami, which is quite frankly one of the most beautiful modern buildings I’ve ever seen, and I’d expect nothing less from a world-class firm like Herzog & de Meuron.
And yesterday, I was treated with tickets to opening night of the Miami Ballet at the Arsht Center, an enormous hub for the performing arts designed by Cesar Pelli, while the day before that, I went on a lightning shopping trip to Ironside, an incubator for design and artisanal creative production designed out of the reconverted warehouses next to the train rails. I fell behind the rest of the group as I popped my head in and out of cool, little shops, wanting to buy things I probably didn’t need, before I was whisked away to my hotel, East, to get ready for sunset drinks at its rooftop lounge, Sugar.
As the lavender sky above me turned deep, deep blue, dinner at East’s Tea Room followed. A household name in Hong Kong and China, Tea Room’s two-hour dining experience with food and drinks, which the hotel refers to as Asian night brunch, can’t be found in any other city in the United States—only in Miami.
Of course no trip to the Magic City would be complete without a visit to Little Havana or Little Haiti (courtesy of Miami Urban Adventures and La Perle de Miami Little Haiti Tour) to get a better understanding of the close relationship Miami has to its neighbours: Cuba and Haiti.
As I walk through Little Havana, and after an intense trip exploring the rapidly growing Miami art and design scene, a quick peek into its santería and cigar shops, and its bars and restaurants shows a completely different side of Miami than what I’d seen the last few days. I’ve swapped my champagne glass and skyline view to Brickell city centre, for a mojito and a front row seat at a salsa concert within a pineapple-shaped stage inside a bar/restaurant Ball and Chain. Looking back on it all, Randy Newman’s lyric “Gee I love Miami” comes to mind—this is what everyone’s been singing about, and I’m so happy I get it now.
by Regner Ramos
East hotel, 788 Brickell Plaza, Miami, FL 33131, USA
Tel +1 305 712 7000