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Turning 30 South American Style With the dreaded 30th birthday looming, I ran away to South America to celebrate the landmark birthday in style.

Welcome to Miami

USA | Sunday, 24 August 2008 | Views [766]


Happily tucked into a seat on Lan Airways, blanket on lap and glass of red in hand, I turned to Steve and said how lovely - for the first time in almost a year we will be able to just talk to people, in English.

The first person we met in the airport strolled boldly up to us and asked: "De donde vienen ustedes, Bogota?".

Quite quickly we realised that Miami is about as Latin American as a city can be without actually being in Latin America. We already knew this, but we didn't realise quite how true it was.

And oh what a lovely city. First pleasant surprise came at the airport. We were dreading the immigration line after having such a bad experience of it at New York on the way in but it was lovely. People here were genuinely pleasant and even had a bit of a laugh with us.

We soon discovered the cheap seats we got from Colombia were probably due to a combination of it being a popular holiday destination for Latin American holidayers and arriving in the middle of hurricane season.

Fortunately we missed hurricane Fay by a week, but we did have some quite impressive tropical rain to greet us on arrival, partially flooding the streets of South Beach.

Flip flops on, we waded through the water to get a pizza at a lovely friendly place run by tattooed blokes who chatted to us as we perched on our bar stools shoveling bin lid sized pizza slices into our gobs.

The next day we got up with the sun rise to get onto the beach and could not quite believe how lovely it was.

True, it was packed and every square inch of sand was covered in loungers and umbrellas, but the sand was lovely powdery white and the sea stretched for miles, crystal clear, shallow and oh so still.

Stepping into the ocean here is like dipping your toes into a lovely warm bath, soothing, relaxing and heavenly. The warm water means that you can lie bobbing around like a floating tadpole for hours without getting the least bit shivery.

And to be honest, the glaring white heat from the sun makes it pretty much the only pleasant thing to be doing on this beach in mid summer, unless you have a large sun shade and cooling fan close by.

After a couple of hours we beat a retreat from the merciless sun and headed down the strip for something to eat.

We caused something of a commotion in a restaurant after trying to negotiate the 'optional' 18 per cent tip. The cheeky waiter took the 18, then treated himself to a little extra on top.

Renegotiating his tip down involved a long wait, and him throwing a hissy fit and threatening to call the manager. Us unbowed, he finally handed over the change.

That done we set off with self righteous zeal to explore the art deco district and snap some pictures of the lovely palm tree lined pastel shade streets. It really is a beautiful city,much more so than we imagined (Miami Vice did tend to look at the steamier side of the city, all be it from the perspective of a yacht).

A night on the town led us to a half empty Irish bar at 3am on a dull Tuesday morning, sipping pitchers of beer and talking nonsense before stumbling home to bed.

It made us want to come back with more time, money and clothes to really do the place justice as it really is an incredible place.

Tags: america, bars, hotels, latin america, miami, restaurants, service, south beach, united states of america, usa

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