Chris Rea & The Great British Actress PT. 3 ( The Other Side Of Miami ) Metroplitan By Como Miami

Miami Take 2 ” A Different World “What a difference a week makes. Up early we departed the Celebrity Silhouette mid morning on Sunday. With TH as always leading the way the 4 of us made our way to the car rental area at the airport in Ft. Lauderdale. Everything was done and dusted and before you could say “I’ve just spent a week on a cruise ship, let’s go again”, we were in our hire car making our last journey as a group of 4 , ( no tears please ), to the Metropolitan By Como Hotel on Collins Avenue, back in Miami. 
Thanks to the driving skills of TH and the satellite navigation skills of a very irritatingly voiced Tom Tom, we arrived at our hotel in extremely good time. We were greeted by one of the friendliest people I’ve ever had the pleasure too meet.
 Brian, I’m not sure what his “official” title is, seems to be the concierge/porter/shopkeeper. It could just be that he is the face of the MBCH. Brian made us feel more welcome in Miami in 10 minutes than our previous hotel did in 3 days. I can honestly say that if there is something you require, you get the feeling that Brian would move heaven and earth to get it for you.
Cases taken and car parked we headed into the bright and light airy ness of the lobby. The chap at reception recognised us immediately. Believe me it’s not because we are instantly memorable. The treacle and I on our previous visit to Miami had located the hotel and popped in to book the restaurant. The fact he ( Michael ) upon our return, recollected where we had been, our reason for staying and our names was highly impressive and the sort of welcome that you only get in the very best of hotels. It was explained that Our room wasn’t ready but obviously all the facilities were free to be taken advantage of. 
We sat around for roughly 45 minutes on the circular and very comfy sofa. We were early. Check – in wasn’t actually for another 2 hours. Once the cleaners had done the necessaries and our room was good to go, the 4 of us danced upstairs for a butchers. 7th floor. Nice views. We also had a little plate congratulating us on our wedding anniversary which was a very cool touch. Keeping in style with the rest of the hotel, the room was quirky without being outlandish. A mixture of sage green and white in colour, Oh and a walk – in rain shower, happy with that!
After a quick shuffle through various bags we got changed and went downstairs to hang out by the pool. It was a nice day, and so like on every other nice day I settled for a beer from the pool bar. TH, Juzza and GB all got a snack and we passed the next hour or two drifting through peace and tranquility. As the clouds drifted over the 4 of us went to explore the hotel. I remembered reading about it, but until I saw it, I’d forgotten about the rooftop pool. Leaving TH and Juzza to get changed myself and wifey stripped to the bones and hopped in to the bubbles. Oh yes, JACK-OOZY sty-lee. 
All 4 of us wasted the next hour just watching the ships going out from our little piece of paradise. If somewhere up there, there is a heaven, surely we were sitting in a watery bath next to it at least. This was luxurious bliss with a capital L. I was already loving this hotel. Unfortunately though it came to the point where 4 became 2 as the spice girls would sing, ( I know it was 2 become 1 but you wouldn’t have me admitting to knowing the music of the Spice Girls would you?… “The Doe & Dizzee” had a plane to catch. Walking them down through the lobby I have to admit I almost shed a tear. They are two fantastic people to go away with. We were going to miss them, welllll…. for a bit anyway….They must be good twin bags, we are doing something similar next year, unless they have cancelled on us!
All of a sudden we were alone. “Ju-u-St the two of us ” as Bill Withers would sing, ( if he were still alive that is ). GB and myself were becoming peckish. Dinner for the following evening was already sorted. Table booked in the highly acclaimed Traymore Restaurant based in our hotel. This evening though was to be a mystery tour. I approached the front desk, and asked the advice of Michael on reception. He told us of a little Indonesian restaurant on the ground floor of where his apartment was. It certainly sounded worth a shout, adding to the bonus of it being roughly 500 yards from our hotel we sauntered out and into the fading sun.
Indomania is a small place. Almost like being in someone’s living room. As soon as we opened the door we were being treated to a table and drinks. The front of house couple couldn’t do enough for us. Very hospitable. We had a set menu of ” Rijsttafel Java “. Its basis is similar to a tasting menu comprising of 14 different dishes such as slow cooked beef in kecap sauce, shrimp cracker, and boneless chicken in coconut sauce. The standouts though were Sate Ayam ( Chicken in Peanut Butter Sauce ) and the aforementioned Semurjawa ( Slow Cooked Beef ). I would have no hesitation at all in suggesting this as a place to eat if you find yourself In mid – Collins Ave. It wasn’t expensive, but it most certainly was a real pleasure. What a cracking little find.
We mustered back to MBCH and relaxed at the bar with a Mojito or two before bidding goodnight. The barman in a similar vein to the pool bar attendants were very friendly and boy do they know ho to knock up a decent cocktail. It had however been a long, ( though very relaxing ) day and so the Rollos retired for a bit of American TV and a few hours of kip.
Bright and early her indoors was nudging me to get up. Time for a sunrise stroll before breakfast. After half an hour we returned and sat outside on the terrace for breakfast. GB had something off the a’la carte menu choosing an Eggs Benedict, while I stayed within the boundaries of the free continental cuisine. One of the things I chose was this little Granola type thing, well, you know what it’s like when you are lean, mean and fighting fit, you need to keep in trim. Or in my case it was just the idea of eating something that looked like it was in a novelty jar. If I was given just one breakfast item to eat before I met my maker it would be this little jar of conkers. I cannot stress how wonderful this glass canister of healthy stuff was. Apparently the Eggs weren’t three bad either. A win double then. 
My good lady loves her shoes/trainers/flip flops. Equally I love my football team. Since landing on American soil. One of her goals had been to purchase a new pair of pumps, or if you are American, sneakers. One of my goals was to make sure I was in place to watch the FA Cup match that evening between my beloved Arsenal FC and Manchester United. We made a pact. We would hit the mall first for GB’s foot fetish and then jolly on to Elwoods Bar where the MASC ( Miami Arsenal Supporters Club ) meet for most games to indulge my addiction ( or some would say my affliction ). 
The first part went well on a scale of 1 to 10. We made it to the excessively large shopping precinct by public transport. All was well. GB found her footwear of choice. Excellent. Then arose problem no.1. After trawling most shoe/footwear shops, GB could only find one shop that sold this particular pair of spotted sprinters, and as luck would have it there were none in her size. Try as she might, and believe me she had a bloody good go, no others took her fancy. Time was ticking on. Mission failing, GB conceded, and we left empty handed. We studied the route map of two buses and chose what looked on paper the quickest. We still had an hour so plenty of time……. Or so I thought!
I knew we were in trouble when the bus turned down Biscayne Boulevard and the 1st stop was something like 183rd street. There was 35 minutes till kick off. We wanted 2nd street. I was still trying to stay positive that maybe we’d make it to Elwoods by half time. Sadly at half time the bus was just hitting 116th. Only another 114 blocks to go. Maybe the driver could see my anxiousness, although I doubt it as he put a little spurt on around 50th. Then it hit me like a boomerang I’d just thrown and forgotten about. Two and a half hours on a bus, we get there and we’ve lost. Top that with no trainers for the treacle, it would have been a day in Miam- AAAAARRGGHH!
Believe it or not, we got off the bus, roughly a 4 minute walk from the bar, with roughly 4 minutes left of the game. Typical!… I really didn’t want to walk in. I was dreading the score. Well after the time spent trying to prevail GB was having none of it and frogmarched me in. Knock me down with a ten pound sledgehammer. I couldn’t believe it. They were playing 5 minutes of injury time. More importantly Arsenal were WINNING!… That 5 minutes took longer than the bus journey to go by. Eventually though the whistle blew and the sea of red and yellow tops were jumping around and clinking glasses and bottles of victory. More good news followed as my team were drawn against Reading in the semi – final. That journey was worth every second!
We had 2 or 3 drinks and then it was bus time home. Thankfully this time a mere 45 minutes. 

Arriving back at MBCH at roughly 7pm we swiftly changed, I have to say her indoors looked a proper hotty!… We dived down for an electric cocktail before being seated for our food. The Traymore Restaurant is said to be, hang on research required…..when we were there the restaurant was the No.1 place to go in Miami. All jokes aside ( which I seem to be saying a lot lately ) I can understand why. The food was outstanding. We had a starter and a main course. It wasn’t expensive which was surprising. I would recommend to everyone going to Miami to try the food at Traymore. If disappointed I’d be shocked. The room you are dining in warrants a merit in itself. 
I had the Mussels to start. Those little babies alone were worth the scheckels. I could argue at minor faults but to be honest I love this hotel. The food was as good as the service. I would suggest eating inside in March though as it was a bit blowy. 
For the record, please let it be noted I love the stick on “Do Not Disturb & Please Clean Me” signs. Quirky. The following day was ‘We have to go home day’. Again the hotel has enough facilities wise to ensure guests are able to enjoy the luxuries before leaving. We spent a day ( GB and I ) literally chilling by the pool. The weather was spot on. It was an incredible day. Of course we had to finish how we started. We made our way up to the rooftop pool, for one last dip in the hydro pool. It was quite windy and so GB decided against going in. 
Trying to be confident, ( I will dictate to the water that I am not scared sort of thing ), I jumped straight in. The water was warm and the view of ships leaving or returning to Miami Harbour was awesome. As the bubbles in the Hydro pool died I lost my enthusiasm. Luckily a lady who had just hopped out offered to spark up the water again. Excited at the new array of testosterone about to hit the water i stood up. At was at this point I realised that for the last 20 minutes I had been bathing in the pool with my iPhone in my pocket!
In case you want to know, the iphone4 is semi water proof. After leaving it in dry rice ( surely a myth ) , for a few hours and then placing the phone on a radiator for 3 days upon our return I can now get a full 9% battery use on it, which lasts as anyone with an iPhone will know all of about 4 minutes. 
Things I learnt on holiday.

1. Miami – I’m more of a Collins than SoBe person.

2. MBCH – I’m not a regular visitor to Miami but if you want an unbelievable hotel to stay at, I seriously suggest you consider this little number.

3. Brian & Michael who represent the MBCH are the sort of people who make you want to revisit Miami. 

4. You really need nicknames for your friends. ( Tony SourDoe & Dizzey )

5. A bus ride in Miami is not like a bus ride in London.

6. I don’t mind the water, ( when I’m on a huge cruise ship, in calm waters ).
I know some of my phrases are repetitive but I have to emphasise this point again. It’s not always the scenery or the accommodation that makes your holiday. The thing that made a difference to us both aboard Celebrity Silhouette and staying at Metropolitan By Como Miami were the staff. These people done everything possible to make our stay a memorable one. We thank you all for that, and better still it’s fair to say you succeeded in every way 🙂 

Roll on next year!

Finally I’ve got no pics but the blog site is playing up!


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. 

A Social View – Miami “Chris Rea & The Great British Actress” (part 1)

Miami – Chris Rea & The Great British Actress! ( part 1 of 4 )

Right lets get over the first hurdle. The title. I think you may have worked out where I’m writing about. Anyone guess the sub – title though ? It’s fairly straightforward. One of Chris Rea’s biggest hits was “on the beach”, and the great British actress, well let’s face it, it could be any one of hundreds but I chose Joan Collins. Why? Our second hotel was in Collins Avenue. Yep I am a fiendish little blogger.
Our holiday had been a long time coming. I was exhausted, work was taking its toll, and GB had since starting a new job been up to her ears in the development of courses for all aspects of social working. Don’t we live exciting lives eh!.. We needed the break and after what seemed like a lifetime, ( it had been just under a year in planning ), we were finally flying toward the warmer, sunnier, climate, of Florida for part one of our 11 day break. 
We stayed by the airport overnight just to avoid any last minute hiccups and after a very pleasant meal and stopover at the Premier Inn, ( Lenny Henry is right, it’s a good nights shut – eye ), we hot footed it over to Heathrow to catch our big bird courtesy of Virgin. We had A little burst of Dizzee from a team member at the airport in between free drinks and food at No.1 Lounge. Not quite sure how they got that name, but quite frankly it was a very poor advert for a “perfect airport escape”. 
The pictures on the website show people chilling in their suspended cocoon chairs, peacefully reading or having a laugh. All I would say is that these people must have got there at opening time. When we arrived it was busier than the the main airport ( slight exaggeration granted ), with nowhere to sit. Parts were closed off and the only thing chilled was my wallet after losing 120 quid of its lining booking No.1 Lounge. It was noisy and the food was what I would expect from a burger van ( no offence meant burger vanners). Never again, until next time.
That was the first of Rollos random tips. This is the second of Rollos random travel tips. Don’t waste money on expensive upgrades. Book exit seats. We had more room on the way there in these, than in our premium economy seats on the way back. That’s what I found anyway. Of course if Mr. Branson wants to chuck us a cheeky upgrade to Upper Class next time I will be more than happy to review it for him. Over to you Dicky!
The flight itself was very pleasant. The cabin staff were polite, attentive and friendly enough, the in-flight entertainment was first class and it was a completely trouble free journey. My last Virgin flight was a good while back, the food wasn’t overly great then, so it pains me to say rather than improving, it seems that the edibles have actually gone downhill. The meals provided were at best ropey, ( look at me getting technical ). I know it’s cattle class but come on Virgin, sort out the tucker for yer muckers.
Four of us made up the group. My snow buddy ( and now cruise buddy ) TH, and his Dizzee Rascal rapping partner Juzza. Then there was GB and myself. We had separate hotels for travelling purposes. After landing and collecting a throng of luggage we Tally – Ho’ed off to our respective lodgings for the next two days in our consciously uncoupled transporting aides, that’s a taxi to everyone else. ( ooh, I’m quoting Gwyneth & Chris, with the conscious uncoupling… well I did sit next to them in a restaurant once so we are virtually best friends ). 
Our base for the first part of our hollybobs was Ocean Drive. We had been up since 7am, not particularly early I will give you that but with travelling it was tiring and we were both looking forward to thrusting our cases into the room and trying to kick back. As we pulled up at The Leslie Hotel my whole being sank. Ocean Drive itself was awash with a typical hipness and busy-ness that was expected. What was more difficult to instigate was getting our luggage from the sidewalk ( look at me going Yankee Doodle ) to the hotel reception. 
There was no porter. No assistance was offered. It’s funny looking back but quite clearly The Leslie had plenty of staff outside. The problem was that they were so insistent on getting you sat down in the independently owned restaurant that swamped the walkway, that you were blocked from getting into the reception. GB was in the meantime picking up the contents of her handbag after it fell over and out into the road. This was not the start of the holiday we were looking for. 
Finally, after evading numerous offers of food, and dodging half a dozen waiters out front we made it inside with our cases. In the end we went in through the side door reserved for the bar staff, as getting hassled each time I took a case in was getting right on my Messerschmitts. I felt like there was something missing as I stood at the desk in the lobby. Then I realised exactly what it was. The one thing you can rely on an American for is a big bouncy totally overboard welcome. Or maybe in Miami you can’t. 
The guy behind the desk if I’m being James ( Blunt ), was about as interested in us being there as we were of getting a table out front. It felt like us turning up at 10pm was a chore. In fairness it was all our fault that Virgin Airlines flight arrivals coincide with desk mateys tea break. We were tired, hungry, and a little bit strung out. Oh and it was …. Wait for it…. $21 for two bottles of beer. We got our room keys and headed off to freshen up. We had no idea where to go, and captain helpful wasn’t forthcoming with ideas or maps etc… It was down to GB and myself to seek out food and favour.
As we were both weary we just decided not too head to far. After a relaxing stroll up and down the road, and with rain in the air, I took the liberty of deciding for us. A short walk from our bolt hole was Tides. It’s a plush old place, and was virtually double bubble for the same length of stay as at the Leslie. The menu seemed reasonable though. Dining Al fresco We had a shared platter for two which included the following:
Coconut Shrimp
Chicken Tenders
Buffalo Wings
Mozzarella Sticks….. 
All very well cooked and prepared. Nothing too fancy, but all we wanted was food to “tide us over” boom boom!…. There was a lot of food, so we also shared a main of Fajitas. Well you know what they say. When in Rome, have Mexican. It was much smaller than expected thankfully and the beef was cheddar gorgeous. A really enjoyable finish to the day. I think it’s worth the Rollo seal of approval. A solid 7 out of 10 and good value for your uncle buck. Well done Tides Hotel.