Chris Rea & The Great British Actress ( PT.3 )

The harbour cruise, we had done it on our previous visit 20 years ago. You take in Star Island, and while the Latin music plays in the background, you end up cruising past countless celebrity homes such as Gloria Estefan ( she was big then ), and better still Vanilla Ice, ( I’m guessing he don’t live there anymore ), then round Biscayne Bay before finishing up in Downtown Miami. If nothing else “the rhythm is gonna get ya”… Excellent plan. Or at least it would have been, if it hadn’t been the wettest day of the year in the “Sunshine State”. Or is that California?… Panic over. I looked it up. Cali is known as the golden state. Better still, Idaho, ( no, I didn’t have slap’n’tickle with a lady of the night , I mean the state of Idaho ), is referred to as Potatonia or The Spud State. I never knew that. The important stuff you learn from reading my blog is simply endless!

The closer we got to our harbour cruise the deeper the water got, the harder the rain got. It was harder than a bare knuckle fighter wearing a cap saying “come get it punk” while his chimpanzee gave you the finger in his pick-up truck…We hit traffic just a mile away from the cruise disembarking point. At first I thought it was just traffic. Then it became clear it was FLOOD traffic!… I’m not talking a bit of rain here, there was the odd car abandoned. A few vehicles had their hazard lights on. Miami was supposed to be bloody hot!…Our options were, chuck a left, and sit in a pool of water at least half a wheel deep in the hope we could keep the engine running and make our way to the tour, or get the hell out of there before things got worse, and they were getting worse at a rapid rate.

In the end it was a simple decision, made easier by virtue of the left hand turn being closed. TH suggested a little spin back to their hotel, ( Oi!… Easy tigers, not like that ). It made sense and bizarrely that part of Miami was like cooking oil, ( crisp’n’dry ). Though our fellow travellers had paid a lot less their room in the EB Hotel was massive in comparison. It seemed to me, more for the stopover, rather than a holiday hotel. Business meetings I imagine were a regular occurrence. I’m not knocking it, it was lovely. It also had all the facilities needed for total relaxation, spa, pools, very nice eateries. It was however in the middle of nowhere. No good for GB and moi, excellent if you wanted to be close – ish to the airport, though I wouldn’t want to walk it!

We had a drink and TH, our designated driver in the States agreed to rough the roads again and head back into town. It was still a near on 25 minute drive back so fair play to him. Thankfully even after the hailstorms etc etc, things had calmed down to the extent everything was back to normal. It was time to experience The Cheesecake Factory. Oh YAY!…For those of you with a sweet tooth, this is the place for you. If you like your food how the church likes its donations , ( on a big and full plate ), this is the place for you. The amount of food they give you is just ridiculous. The thing I will say though is its bombastically good!…

The ladies took on the CF Caesar Salad. It was a large pizza plate sized thing. Looked the bees knees, and by all accounts tasted very much like the flying insects middle leg section, ( not literally ). TH has a liking for the CF Sheperds Pie, ( can’t remember exactly what they do but they make it slightly different ). It was finished off no bother with a morsel of help from the dizzee rascal rapping Juzza. I went for the Kobe Beef Burger. It really was one of those things you have to try to believe just how delightful this fall apart slab of beef in a bun was. The fact it had sweet potato chips ( who knows probably from Idaho ) and onion rings was a bonus of epic proportions. This food was of an exceptional standard in my eyes. What’s the point of a visit to TCF though if you have no Cheesecake. I fought with both my weight and conscience before giving in and getting a slice ( they are big enough for 2 ) of the White choc and raspberry number. I had to get it to take away though, I was full to the bees limb.

TH got a piece of pie to split with Juzza and we left, four very happy little bunnies. A nice cruise back saw our friends Dropping us off at Lincoln, our plans were set and we waved them off with a grin knowing that in 24 hours our next destination was to be very different. Me and GB done the couple thing and had a walk down the road to find a last few drinks. Time was ticking on. We found a little spot on the corner of 10th and Collins but the chap was about to close. One quick beer and we were off again. We dipped our toe into Essex House. Not just a hotel but a stunning looking Art Deco building. A swift half, nope, too busy.

The light was draining from my eyes. I was starting to feel the weight of the Kobe Burger pulling me down. Then we stumbled across it. I grant you we only had two drinks here. I promise you next time I am in Miami, which will be March next year all being well, I will take a trip to Taquiza to eat the Tacos. It’s a cross between a lounge, a street food stall, and your back garden ( admittedly that’s if your back garden is slightly sunken with a view of Collins Avenue ). I loved it, and they served “proper beer”. It just had such a relaxed feel to it. With a chalkboard menu and kickback and chill appeal this is what Miami should feel like. Go there. Try it. Let me know what you think.

After two beers it was time to head for home, or The Leslie. We navigated our way through the bastion of servers at the front door, at one stage I was going to put one in an arm lock to let me through, would that be called a “Miami Vice”?… Oh come on!… Finally, GB opened the door to our room and after a quick check, I am happy to convey I had Wi-Fi, it’s just a shame I was getting it from the hotel next door… That’s 100% true, so thank you Dream SoBe.

I fell asleep relatively quickly. We had a busy day mañana so i set my alarm for 7.30am. What I failed to realise is that it’s very rare to get Miami,
6am, and quiet in the same sentence. I was half awake at 05:30 when GB gave me a little nudge. Thinking my luck was in, I flipped over to see her fully dressed, out of bed, and beckoning me towards the door. I chucked some shorts on and followed my lovely down the corridor. As we reached the lobby I could hear a full on commotion. There was definitely a megaphone being used. A few cheers went up. I dreaded what was about to be sprung on me.

6am… Miami… Peaceful… You are having a giraffe!

A huge sigh of relief then, at least in some ways, that Sunday March 1st was the day of the Miami Half-Marathon. Due to the climate here, sensibly it is started at 6am. The starting line was smack bang in front of our hotel. Great as a spectacle, not so great if you were looking forward to a lay-in. Oh well, what would be would be. I thought that if we hopped ( not literally ) up to the rooftop we would get some fantastic shots of the MHM start. We still had ten mins. Taking the worlds slowest lift up three floors I was first out. The bad news was the door to the rooftop was locked. Worse still was a woman asleep, slumped, hands on her knees, head on her arms, in a pool of something not very nice. Classy. She was moving. She was alive. A good thing.

Back downstairs we spoke to the Wi-Fi specialist night porter and pointed out there was someone upstairs in trouble. Apparently they had been up to see her and all was well…. Exactly what circumstances did she need to be in to be in barney rubble?… Maybe she needed to be floating in mid -air screaming “I am the key – master are you the gatekeeper”, Sigourney Weaver ghostbusters style. Then again, if she had Wi-Fi. We watched the start, the flurry of people charging through and I have to say it was a pleasure. We were cheering and yipping ( I think that’s the right word, or it could be the noise a chihuahua makes ) the folks on. They were all ages and fair play to them. I couldn’t do it.

It was still dark at the start, by the time the first people were finishing, it was warm and getting warmer. You could understand why it was set up to go so early. We had walked down to get a coffee and an awesome pastry , scrapping the relatively poor breakfast on offer at our hotel. I was more worried that our pick – up wouldn’t be able to get through. We were due to be collected by TH at 10am. At 9:30 the finish line was still being taken down. A quick call was made and after a swift conversation all was sorted. We packed, and battled our way through the hordes of beverage muggers outside our hotel. It’s shocking that no – one is there to help hotel guests to be honest. They are too busy trying to get people sat down for a scandalously priced fishbowl and 2nd rate breakfast sadly.

TH and Juzza were waiting in the next street as we wheeled our cases round the corner…. It was time to embark on the next stage of our journey. I could hear the calypso music already!…

Chris Rea and The Great British Actress ( Pt2 ) 

Chris Rea & The Great British Actress – ( part 2 ), 

Let me be honest about a few things. I enjoy writing this stuff. Whether I personally believe people enjoy reading it is another matter entirely. It’s a form of release from the day-to-day struggles I have staying positive. I also find that sometimes when I write it just sounds like complete garbage. Other times it reads back exactly how I want it to. How I wish it was the latter 24/7 but if it was maybe I wouldn’t be sitting here at 05:00 typing this for whoever is unlucky enough to fall upon it.
At this point it has to be noted that my photography skills are dire!…I’m really selling myself here aren’t i!… I was going to insert a photo but having looked at them, it’s for the best for the time being that they are cold-shouldered!
The next thing is Miami. I couldn’t wait to get there. When I did it wasn’t how I remembered it. Hardly surprising really considering I was last there, ( with GB I might add ), just under 20 years ago. Do you ever get that feeling of disappointment brush over you when something isn’t how it was supposed to be though. I don’t think it helped that after a meal and a further walk to the end of Ocean Drive, while sat outside it absolutely hammered down. We had left a lukewarm England for a rainy Florida. Had we been hoodwinked and were really in Macclesfield?…That’s how it felt when I went to bed on night 1. 
Both of us were wide awake five hours later. It was 10:45am back home. In Miami it was just approaching 6am. It was still quite dark, but not wanting to waste a second we got dressed and headed across the street to the beach.
I will give you more details about The Leslie Hotel as we jog along but the one thing I cannot argue with is its location in South Beach ( or SoBe if you are under 25 ). From the opposite sidewalk The Leslie looks fantastic. A proper old school Art Deco masterpiece. It is smack bang in the middle of Ocean Drive, and as are all the hotels on OD less than 30 seconds from sand and water. Well there is a lot of construction work going on!.. I’m pulling your danglies, the Atlantic is a mere Michael Jackson backslide away, the clue being in the name of the road.
Many moons ago, for a wedding, GB and I were lucky enough to visit Hawaii. On our first night after arranging to meet up with the happy couple for dinner, the four of us all went back to our respective rooms for a nap and to freshen up. Near on 10 hours later, GB was standing over me with a guilty look on her boat. We had fallen into a deep slumber. It was now 4am. Riddled with guilt the two of us decreed that as awake we might as well go do the romantic thing, and watch the sunrise on the beach. 
As we slipped a note under their door apologising for our 40 winks turned 1000 blinks, the door opened. A startled soon to be bride was looking at us in horror. Before we had said a word, She had spat out a sincere apology about getting back and drifting off. Pure coincidence but they had done exactly the same thing!… The 4 of us ended up on the jetty watching the most incredible sunrise I’ve ever had the pleasure to witness. I’m not including sunrise over the Thurrock riviera obviously!
Off the path we go, so far that I got lost… The main point being that it was such an intense vision of colours, that given the chance to witness something similar, we jumped at the opportunity, and there we were. I should mention that on our way through the hotel lobby I asked the night porter if there was an issue with the Wi – Fi. Her response was second to none. She waved her tablet at me, and said “Mines working”. I did sort of laugh, but then I also asked is it because our room was at the back. Again she waved her iPad and pointed to the signal. Brilliant. I went back, grabbed my device and tried to show her my signal problem. She shrugged. I took my tablet back to the room and walked over to the beach, a little miffed. She did say she would get someone to look at it , but I was a little cynical by now. 
There were joggers, skaters ( not on the sand obviously, though that would have made interesting viewing ), mutual sunrise admirers, and surfers. After a stroll up to Starbucks for a morning coffee, we found a spot on the beach and had a lovely sun rising hour of bliss, if you ignore the guy sleeping in the lifeguard tower, and the other mutual sunrise admirers. It was worth getting up for though. A random Rollo tip. After being witness to one of those poetic moments we fluffy Bob – tailed back to our room to shower and get ready for the day. We had a plan to have breakfast at our hotel then go for a wander. 
Now here is my second random tip for those travelling to Miami. Watch out for the beverage muggers. After showering and slipping down to the lobby, we were,  shock horror, greeted by a minimum of 3 waiters asking if we wanted a table. Happy that we said yes, they showed us to a nice space, before being dismayed that our b/fast was included. It wasn’t the greatest food I’ve ever eaten. Most of it was at best warm. While we were queueing, and GB was hanging around for at least 10 minutes for bacon, another couple had perched themselves on our table. We soon moved them on!… And then the beverage muggers arrived.
One of the waiters, with outlandish charm suggested a “Happy Hour” cocktail. Of course, being on holiday and also easily swayed by alcohol, it sounded like a cracking idea. His punchline being “This is Miami, it’s always Happy Hour”. I opted for a Mojito, GB had the Bloody Mary. What arrived was sadly just ridiculous. We wanted a cocktail. What we got was a 36oz monstrosity of a drink. It looked ludicrous, Distasteful, obscene. It tasted alright. It just wasn’t what I would expect from a relatively high end hotel. Of course then the bill arrived. $64!… 
To make matters worse, because the hotel is run independently from the restaurant out front, we were unable to put the drinks on our room bill. Thankfully GB had some wedge on her. It was only AFTER we asked how it was happy hour that the waiter agreed to sign our receipt for 2 more drinks, but in truth we had no intention of trying to get through another 2 of those. I did try to warn an English group of 5 as they arrived, but after I was asked by these random group of strangers if firstly, were they being too rowdy, and then better still,  if I wanted money I gave up. Cheeky buggers.
We returned to the room and then grabbing camera and more money we made our way to Collins in search of the hotel we were to preside in upon our return in roughly a weeks time. After a good 35 minute stroll, a pastry and a second coffee, we arrived. It looked lovely. We showed our faces, mainly for a quick butchers and to make a table reservation for next week. The chap at reception booked our table, made a note of when we were due to arrive back and then gave us maps of the area. This was how I was expecting a Miami greeting to be. GB and I both commenting on how we were looking forward to the return already.
Once back at The Leslie, ( no working Wi-Fi ), we got a pack of beers , ( shop purchased, no contest at 8 bucks compared to the 66 it would have cost in the hotel ) and meandered up to the rooftop pool and terrace. It was a relatively nice space. It looked like it could have done with a splash of paint here and there, but overall, cool pool and spa tub. If I wanted to be negative it could have done with being set out slightly better.  It wasn’t the cleanest and there were a few families already up there taking up the majority of the small – ish pool. As it was though, and it was so much better than the alternative of being at home and working, we supped our beers and awaited our companions appearance. TH and Juzza arrived roughly an hour later. It was getting windy and overcast.
After a short wander either side of the beach, getting a bit of sand in our toes, the clouds were starting to gather above us. To be perfectly blunt, it looked as though it was going to pour down. We got a bite to eat in a large Irish pub just off of Collins. Playwrights I think it was called. In all honesty that was about the only Irish thing about it. The food was what I would describe as run of the mill pub grub. By the time we had finished it was raining. With the beach off the menu, the four of us took the horn by the balls and booked a round the harbour cruise.