Visiting Miami, Florida in the USA With a Dog
We live a charmed life. Truly. I think it is important to say that out loud. To acknowledge it. So many times things happen and we are not sure what we did to deserve it. We are, however, incredibly grateful that they do. Like the time we were at The Maison enjoying the Kiki Hamann hospitality and were kidnapped by Anastasia the Great and George and were whisked away to their lovely home in “Downtown” Miami.
If ever you are being kidnapped by Anastasia The Great, just go with the flow. That is my advice to you. You will not regret it.
On a perfectly sunny Florida morning, the bipeds and I climbed into our rental car, put the top down, and drove to Miami. At last. See, I’ve landed in Miami many times before, and from there driven to Naples Florida, or gone to the Redlands; yet, somehow I had never made it to Miami itself. So, finally, with sun on my fur, wind in my ears, I was going to see Miami!
We went straight for Ocean Drive. After all, we had been in Florida for almost an entire week and had yet to see the beach. We had to rectify this immediately. We found parking and started to walk. Dad’s tummy grumbled so I knew the beach would have to wait a little bit longer. We would stop for some lunch first.
We found a lovely dog friendly patio at the Cardozo Bar and Grill. We ordered some delicious salads and just sat back, relaxed, and did some people watching. Ocean Drive is special. We had a good time watching lovers holding hands and another group of friends doing a “gangnam style dance.” Young, barely dressed women walked past; young beautiful people drove by in “look at me cars.” It really is a show.
We decided to take a little stroll and have fun looking at the Art Deco hotels that Ocean Drive is known for. Dad stopped in and got a cigar. We spotted the famed Versace mansion, one of the most photographed houses in North America. Mom was loving it. She loves the Art Deco style, you see, and well, this street is the centre of the Miami Art Deco District, which is home to about 800 preserved buildings.
We at last made our way to the beach, where, unfortunately, dogs are not allowed. Mom placed me in the sling bag and we went anyway. We were going to see the ocean. I sniffed the air and listened to the birds from my “tucked in” perch. The bipeds avoided the lifeguards on duty. Then we made our way back to the boardwalk. Here I was allowed out of the sling and did I have a great time! I even found a little graffiti tag spray painted on the ground that made all of us smile!
As the sun started to set, we made our way to Anastasia and George’s home. We were warmly greeted, made very comfortable in our lovely hand-painted-by-Anastasia guest room, and then treated to a wonderful meal and … Zuza!
Zuza is a splendid specimen of a Cockatoo. She is impressive and … LOUD. She also totally fell in love with Dad. So much so that she would get aggressive if Mom or I would go near Dad while Zuza was on his shoulder. Dad was thrilled. He had never known parrots before. I tried very hard not to be jealous.
Anastasia and George wanted us to discover Miami’s treasures. So they took us about town to discover some, starting with the Vizcaya Museums and Gardens. Sadly (and in the end our only disappointment), the Vizcava is closed on Tuesdays and that, unfortunately, was the only day we had. It is important to note that the Vizcava is not dog friendly, so for me it was a good thing it was closed: I did not have to be left behind.
With that little wrench thrown into our plans, Anasatsia decided to take us to the Biltmore Hotel as a consolation. One word for you: WOW!
This magnificent hotel is located in an area called Coral Gables. We are not ones to love hotels as an attraction, but this one is a National Historic Landmark, built in 1926 and situated on 150 tropical acres.
Other than being absolutely visually spectacular, the Biltmore also has an interesting history. It served as a hospital during WWII and as a VA Hospital and campus of the University of Miami medical school until 1968. It became a hotel again in 1987.
The Biltmore has been used as a setting for the movie Bad Boys and television programs such as CSI: Miami and Miami Vice. The hotel was also a major setting for Ken Wiederhorn‘s 1977 cult horror film Shock Waves, starring John Carradine and Peter Cushing. The film was shot at a time when the hotel was in a state of abandoned disrepair, and featured long camera shots and eerily shot angles. That likely helped to keep the rumour alive that the hotel is haunted by the spirit of Thomas Walsh.
In its heyday, The Biltmore played host to royalty, both Europe’s and Hollywood’s. The hotel counted the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Ginger Rogers, Judy Garland, Bing Crosby, Al Capone and assorted Roosevelts and Vanderbilts as frequent guests. Franklin D. Roosevelt had a temporary White House office set up at the Hotel for when he vacationed on his fishing trips from Miami. There were many gala balls and aquatic shows by the grand pool. Weddings were de rigueur as were world class golf tournaments. A product of the Jazz Age, the hotel engaged big bands to entertain wealthy, well-travelled visitors staying at this American Riviera resort. As I walked the halls of the hotel, I could sense all of that history and glamour still hanging in the air.
The entire Coral Gables area is a pleasure to drive around. It is largely residential and affluent, graced with broad, planted boulevards, golf courses, and country clubs. Stately Mediterranean homes, Banyan trees, and tropical foliage line the quiet streets. The thriving business district is home to over 150 multinational companies and multinational headquarters.
To the East of Coral Gables is another area worth a stop: Coconut Grove.
What is today referred to as Coconut Grove was formed in 1925 when the city of Miami annexed two areas of about equal size, the city of Coconut Grove and most of the town of Silver Bluff. The area is often referred to by locals as “The Grove.”
Several waves of immigration established Coconut Grove, the first in 1825, when the Cape Florida lighthouse went into operation and was manned by John Dubose. Dr. Horace P. Porter is credited for coming up with the name “Coconut Grove” when in 1873, he rented a home from Edmond D. Beasley’s widow, who homesteaded 160 acres bay front property. He lived there for only a year but during that time he established a post office which he named Coconut Grove. Around the same time, the area saw an influx of Americans from the Northeastern US, as well as British and white Bahamian immigrants.
The first hotel on the South Florida mainland was located in Coconut Grove. Called the Bay View Inn (later known as the Peacock Inn), it was built in 1882, on the site of present-day Peacock Park, by English immigrants Isabella and Charles Peacock, who had been the owner of a wholesale meat business in London. Coconut Grove’s first black settlement, in the 1880s, was established by Bahamian labourers who worked at the Peacock Inn. The Barnacle Historic State Park is the oldest house in Miami-Dade County, still standing in its original location. It was built in 1891 and was home to Ralph Middleton Munroe, an American yacht designer and early resident of Coconut Grove. Munroe was also known as ‘The Commodore’ for being the first commodore and founder of the Biscayne Bay Yacht Club.
We made our way to Cocowalk, where our friend Kiki Hamann once had her flagship store. We strolled the area, falling in love with amazing little architectural gems. We stopped for lunch at the Mayfair; we window shopped; we chatted with our new friends and guides. All of it is dog friendly and all of it is under the warm Florida sun.
And so, sadly, our visit to Miami ended. The next day, we sleepily said goodbye to our lovely hosts and drove to the airport. We dropped off the car and checked in for our flight. As we sat waiting for our flight to board, I looked at the bipeds and we all sighed. It had been a really good 2 days.
We had heard that Miami was transient and that there wasn’t much culture. I assure you, Dear Readers, if you know where to go and where to look, Miami will have many stories to tell you. And it’s dog friendly!