Today’s post is a throwback to when we discovered that we were expecting Little T! We found out the amazing news one week before our vacation in South Beach which added a special element to our trip, knowing that it would be one of the last before our new addition to the family arrived. We lucked out with outstanding weather during most of the trip, swapping sub-zero temperatures and grey skies in London for bright sunshine and beautiful beaches in South Beach. Here’s a photo recap of some of the highlights from our trip!
Where We Stayed
We stayed at the James Hotel South Beach – now the Royal Palm South Beach – which is located right on the beach and a short walking distance from the bars and restaurants of Ocean Drive, or, in the other direction, the shops and restaurants of Lincoln Road. Our room had a stunning view of the ocean, the beach, the two hotel pools and Florida Cookery restaurant. We booked the hotel through the British Airways Executive Club, redeeming Avios points towards our stay.
We were early birds throughout this trip, partly due to jetlag, and we were often up just in time to watch the sun rise.
It was always blissful to just sit back, relax and enjoy the hotel’s sun loungers and a complimentary basket of water and fruit…
Or just enjoy some time walking along the shore and taking in the bright colours of the South Beach scene…
Renting a car is not necessary (parking is expensive and there’s often traffic) – unless you want to visit other parts of Miami. Most places in South Beach are within walking distance or a short taxi ride away. I’d recommend renting a scooter or bicycles to move around the area. During our visit we regularly went to the Reebok CrossFit Miami box, which was about a mile and a half from our hotel, so we rented a couple of bikes from Bike and Roll. We rented beach cruisers on a discounted weekly rate, and the hotel doormen stored them away for us in a storage area behind reception.
Towards the end of our trip, we traded the cruisers for road bikes so we could have a day to cycle and sight-see around South Beach and along the scenic Venetian Causeway, which crosses through a chain of artificial islands in Biscayne Bay from Miami Beach to the mainland.
The day before we left, we rented a car to drive down to Key West. It’s a beautiful drive through the Keys and while we didn’t have time to during this vacation, it is worth it to stay there overnight as the drive to Key West takes about 3 1/2 hours. We were happy to make a day trip out of it though and enjoyed the gorgeous scenery along the way… and the scrumptious key lime pie at Blue Heaven.
Where We Ate
I really enjoyed the Cuban food while in Miami, especially at what turned out to be my favourite restaurant during this trip, Versailles Restaurant, which was about a 15 minute taxi ride away in Little Havana. We ate at a few cafes on Ocean Drive and Lincoln Road for a simple lunch or dinner, visited a couple of South Beach’s most famous restaurants, had one of our best meals at an unassuming cafeteria-style place and admittedly had some very disappointing dinners from a few highly recommended places which we’ll leave unnamed.
These restaurants were the highlights of the trip;
Las Olas Cafe, 6th Street – We discovered this place by chance when I searched online where to get the best Cuban sandwich, which is a grilled sandwich made with ham, roasted pork, Swiss cheese, pickles, mustard and crusty Cuban bread. I had an awful one at the hotel restaurant, Florida Cookery, and wanted to try an authentic, well made sandwich before leaving. We got to Las Olas Cafe, which is small and cafeteria style, with a counter of hot food, including roasted chicken and pork and all the sides – fried plantains, steamed vegetables, rice, black beans, etc. My husband ordered two roast chickens (yes, two) with steamed vegetables and fried plantains, which altogether came out to only about $8 or $9. I placed my order a Cuban sandwich, which takes about 5 minutes to make.
Meanwhile, I had some of the roast chicken which was so extremely delicious! It tasted amazing and was so juicy and tender that the meat was just falling off the bone. It was the best roasted chicken I’ve ever had and I would highly recommend this place for fantastic value and well made, delicious food. And definitely go for the roast chicken, you won’t be disappointed.
The Cuban sandwich I ordered certainly did not disappoint – Las Olas roast and slice the pork loin each morning, and you can tell all the ingredients are fresh and well made.
BLT Steak at the Betsy Hotel, Ocean Drive – We enjoyed the atmosphere and ended up coming back to the Betsy Hotel for drinks on the veranda a couple of more times during our trip.
On our second night at South Beach, we had lovely dinner at the BLT Steak. The photos came out very dark and awful so I’ll leave you with a photo of the unexpectedly huge pile of doughnut sized onion rings we had as an appetizer while we waited for our table.
Joe’s Stone Crab, Washington Avenue – This was one of our favorite restaurants, especially for the atmosphere. It’s one of South Beach’s most famous restaurants, considered a local institution, that also ships its famous seafood all across the continental USA.
Here are those famous stone crab claws!
My husband had the swordfish, while I went with fried shrimp.
Van Dyke Café, Lincoln Road – This casual dining restaurant is a great place on Lincoln Road to people watch and enjoy the lively atmosphere of the area. We came here twice – once for lunch, and a second time for a quick, late dinner after our drive back from Key West. The servings are big here and they don’t skimp on toppings!
I had a turkey burger on a wheat bun with spinach, tomatoes and Swiss cheese plus an enormous portion of sweet potato fries.
My husband asked for an extra portion of grilled chicken to accompany his Van Dyke Salad – baby greens, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, radish and onions with honey mustard dressing on the side – and like I said, they’re very generous with the portions!
Where We Bought Essentials
There’s a CVS Pharmacy on Lincoln Road where we stocked up on some toiletries, snacks and large bottles of water. And on our way to the CrossFit box, we would regularly stop by the Art Deco Market, a groceries store on Washington Avenue near our hotel, to stock up on fresh fruit, smoothies, coconut water and snacks.
We had a great time basking in the sunshine of South Beach and I enjoyed reliving those memories going through the photos to put together this post. It makes me look forward to returning to Sunshine State for another vacation, this time with our little one joining us.
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