Image by Tuan Nguyen

Miami

I’ve been to South Beach more times than I can remember. But, I’ve never explored North Beach. I always thought it was where people lived and wasn’t where people actually vacationed. Boy was I wrong! North Beach Miami will forever be a coveted vacation destination for me going forward.

North Beach Miami is closer to the Fort Lauderdale Airport. But, the Miami Airport is still a good destination to fly into. North Beach is full of luxury five star resorts. I happened to stay at the Acqualina Resort. I arrived at nighttime so I didn’t get to see all the resort had to offer. But best believe, the next morning I was up bright and early to walk around the resort as soon as the sun rose. The pictures I saw online didn't do the resort justice. Of course, Acqualina had valet service. The check-in process was excellent, with the exception that the front desk clerk who gave me keys to someone else’s room. I almost tried to open the door but I heard people talking loudly in the room.  I didn't want any smoke from any other guests with being mistaken for trying to break into an hotel room.  I quickly went back to the front desk for a different room assignment.  At check-in, she did ask what time would I like my room cleaned and what time I would like my turn down service to be performed. I was thinking turn down service?? Ok. Ok. Y'all are fancy.  I said to myself “don’t get excited and act like you have been somewhere before”. And I also said to myself "I have arrived".  The room was gorgeous. Plush. Welcoming. Five Star. The entrance to my room had a chandelier and a large glass vase on the counter space beside the door. There was a walk-in closet. A living room. Not a living area. A whole living room with full sofa, high back chair, coffee table and custom cabinetry under the wall mounted flat screen TV. On the counter under the TV, I found fresh mandarin oranges and two letters thanking me for my stay. There was also a fully stocked bar with some bomb expensive snacks. The bathroom had marble-esque floors, soaking tub, double sinks, a vanity area and a water closet. Only thing missing was a bidet. But, I won’t ask for too much. There were two entrances leading to the enormous balcony overlooking the city side of North Beach. I only booked the resort for two days so an ocean view wasn’t a priority. Now, I wish I would have opted for the ocean view so I could bask in some morning sun rays on my private balcony. Once I settled in and got in the bed, I was pleasantly handled so gently by the coils of the mattress. That mattress cradled me like a newborn baby. I usually don’t sleep well in hotel rooms. But this one was different. I don’t know what brand of mattress it was but I would love to have this particular mattress to sleep on every single night. 

Let me rewind for a moment.  Before going to my room, I went to pick up take out from the International House of Mac.  Not only was the place 30 minutes in the opposite direction from my hotel, the vegan macaroni and cheese was nasty.  I can't eat regular cheese so I ordered the vegan version of mac and cheese.  I was super hype that I could try this black owned spot and indulge in a southern comfort favorite.  Granted, I ordered from the Overtown location and not the North Beach location, by accident. So, the 30 min drive was totally my fault.  And, I wouldn't have minded the drive if the food was worth it.  Good thing I ordered a safe backup: wings and french fries.  I wonder if the regular mac and cheese options are better and if they just don't know how to make a vegan version. The dish had a taste of burnt plastic.  I threw a $20 dish straight in the trash and ate some boring wings.  Blah.

I also went to a black owned vegan spot called, Vegetarian Restaurant by Hakin.  It was more of a small natural market combined with a take out restaurant.  I only saw two booths to sit down and eat and they were adjacent to the market area and beyond the take out counter.  I ordered the Vegan Phillysteak Sandwich to eat for lunch and a Veggie Lovers Pizza for a late night snack.  For right then and there, I wanted a smoothie. I think it was a limited special on the menu that had coffee, dates, bananas and non-dairy milk.  The smoothie was amazing. The food was underwhelming.  I try and I try and I try to eat vegan cheese but the consistency, when melted, is weird.  Although the mac and cheese from International House of Mac had a burnt plastic taste, the cheese was melted properly with a good consistency.  Had it not tasted like burnt plastic, it would have been on point.  I did have a small taste of the Vegan Curry "Chicken" and that was better than the Vegan Phillysteak Sandwich.  But, it was nothing to rave about.

One of my goals was to explore Miami like I never had before.  Like I said, I've been to Miami more times than I can count.  And I had actually sworn off going there ever again.  Before going, I watched a documentary called "The Black Miami".  All this time, I thought Miami was built by Cuban people.  The documentary opened up a whole new world on how blacks played a part in the history and building of Miami.  The in-depth recognition of Overtown, a Miami neighborhood, made an impression on me. And it was one of the places that I had to explore. Overtown, which was originally called Colored Town, was a place where blacks were heavily populated.  And it also included an all black police precinct and courthouse.  Wynwood is another neighborhood in Miami where urban street art is everywhere.  It's all types of colorful and inspirational graffiti art all over the walls and buildings.  Fun fact: It's also the area where Art Basel is held yearly.  In addition to street art, Wynwood has some nice restaurants I would try the next time I go, like BAKAN.  And lastly, I found this cute rooftop bar called, Sugar, in downtown Miami.  Sugar is Asian-themed and adorned with plush greenery and eclectic cozy seating.  One major issue happened while there though.  The sky opened up and it rained right after we ordered our first drink.  And not just a tiny mist.  It poured with the wind blowing the rain at a slant.  That put a literal damper on our night. However, I would definitely try Sugar again.

I was not leaving Miami without experiencing the beach at the Acqualina Resort.  Who hasn't been to the beach in Miami?  Probably 90% of Americans. But, when you go to Miami and sit on the beach behind your own resort, it's a totally different experience.  Make note that Miami beaches are one of my least favorites. The sand is not white enough. The water is not clear enough.  But, during the pandemic and tedious required preparations to travel to the Caribbean, Miami isn't such a bad option.  I walked to the hospitality booth to obtain a couple of towels and was surprised that they actually carry the towels to the lounge chair of your choice and set everything up for you.  I didn't have to lift a finger.  The beach towel he put on the chair even had a compartment at the top to secure it to the lounge chair so that it wouldn't slide down when sitting.  I can get used to this.  I wasn't sure but I had a good feeling that there were servers on the beach.  The universe must have heard my diva thoughts because a waitress came right over with a menu.  I ordered the Copacabana that has Leblon Cachaça, Coconut Cream, Banana Puree, Fresh Pineapple Juice Garnished with Pineapple Leaves.  And because I am me, I wanted my drink poured in a freshly opened coconut.  The drink came to me with the alcoholic beverage inside the coconut and the fresh coconut water in a cup.  But, I don't like coconut water at all.  So, I didn't drink it but I appreciated that she made sure I had what I paid for.  A little later, while my eyes were closed and my ears listening to the waves, I hear a voice a little louder than a whisper ask me if I would like some.  Some of what?  I open my eyes and see a server with a tray of food I didn't order.  Why yes.  Yes I would like some of whatever you have sir.  Random servers came around with fresh sliced strawberries topped with whipped cream and fresh sliced watermelon.  They must not want me to leave anytime soon.  The beach was relaxing.  Not many people or families were out there.  This was also a Thursday so I didn't expect it to be busy. The sun was gorgeous and gave me a slight sunburn within a few hours.  The only downside is that I wish I had more time on the beach.  

All in all, Miami was not a delicious food destination for me.  But, I would surely go back and try some new restaurants to go along with my extravagant stay at the Aqualina Resort.

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