Wheeling Miami

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Happy holidays, happy holidays
While the merry bells keep ringing
May your every wish come true

Happy holiday, happy holiday
May the calendar keep bringing
Happy holidays to you

Bing Crosby
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South Beach…

In Norway there is a saying that Christmas lasts until Easter. This means it should be pretty safe to blog about a Christmas holiday now, right? Even if it happened over a year ago…?

Because Norwegians have a strong relationship to Christmas holidays, Christmas food and Christmas traditions. But as you could see in my post from January, we also have some cold and bad weather. And in December 2014/2015 we had a longer Christmas holiday than usual. Consequently we chose to exchange the potentially white & cold Christmas in Oslo with sand & sunshine in Florida. And as you might know – my Christmas tradition the last years has been to visit a new sunny place every year:

Fortunately my travel friends were still up for keeping the tradition with me. Christmas 2014 we were therefore heading to South Beach with a little excursion to Key West in the middle. I myself, had been to Miami two times before. The first time (exactly 5 years ago) I went all by myself and stayed 10 days at South Beach. You can see the photos from my trip here. The second time around (February 2012), I spent one week in South Beach with Grybetrotter, before we went on a one week Caribbean cruise with Norwegian Cruise Lines. After the cruise, we spent three more days in downtown Miami; in Mary Brickell Village. I visited the village again in December 2014, and second time around it seemed run down and in the dark shadow of some new sky scrapers.
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Miami Harbor
All three times in South Beach I have stayed in the Dorchester Hotel, which is a small, medium priced and fairly accessible hotel in Collins Avenue. The hotel is pretty close to Lincoln Avenue (the pedestrian area and mall). This means it is super central, but also pretty noisy. Especially the two disabled friendly rooms, that are close to the road. The positive thing about Dorchester, is that they have a friendly staff and a nice breakfast served in the backyard patio. In December 2014 however, the hotel seemed a bit run down.
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Carpets anno 2011
Especially the carpets, which kind of remind me of ‘The Shining’. They are thick, smelly, ugly and hard to wheel on. And I almost used more calories wheeling the few meters from the elevators to my room, than wheeling several kilometers on South Beach. Please pretty please Dorchester – will you please exchange your horrible carpets? If you do, I will consider coming back one sunny day. With earplugs, but not during Christmas…
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South Beach
Because we were not the only ones who were planning on spending the holidays at the beach during Christmas (or Hanukkah if you prefer to celebrate that instead). Christmas week-end was not that bad. But during the New Year’s week-end  you really had to struggle to get a table, to see a smile from the waitor and the prices were twice as high as normal. Pep talks were needed to keep the (same) waitors going for twelve hours 3-4 days in a row. With a minimum salary. Poor suckers!
So New Year’s was perhaps not an ideal time to go. I also made a big mistake not checking other important facts before our trip. Namely the pool…
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The pool at South Seas
Because the first time I visited the Dorchester (that has a pool without sunshine), I was allowed to use the swimming pool and the wheelchair accessible sun terrace at the Marseilles right across the street. The Marseilles was now under rehabilitation, meaning we had to use the pool at the South Seas instead. The challenge with the South Seas was that they had steps to get to the toilet and they also had some ‘pets’, I could never really get used to…
But enough complaining! Even during tourist season, Miami is still a very relaxing place to hang around, as long as a huge iguana isn’t staring down at you from the sun umbrella. The well known Art Deco-buildings are old, but they definitely do an effort to make them accessible. Especially the restaurants. But when you are looking for a centrally located hotel, you should always e-mail them and ask for detailed specifications. Art deco hotels have many different levels. And you don’t want a hotel with stairs at the entrance or an unstable platform lift, do you? Or bedbugs for that matter…

Bedbugs or not – our main plan was to spend ten relaxing days on South Beach, without too much activity. But at least one of the days we wanted to go sightseeing. We bought bus tickets from a normal tour company (The Gray Line). But the buses that used to be accessible in 2011, were not accessible anymore! However – because of the American Disability Act (ADA) we got our own minibus, driver and tour guide that we could use for the entire day. The guide recommended that we spent some time in Wynwood, where the project Wynwood Walls have brought a new awakening to a previous run down and dangerous area. We also visited Coral Gables and Little Havana, where we had Cuban lunch and watched the old guys play domino in the Maximo Gomez park.

And after sightseeing and relaxing, it was time to celebrate. New Year’s Eve at South Beach was not bad at all. Definitely better than Cape Town. Just make sure you hang around the 8th street. And follow the herd. If not – you will not see much of the fireworks…

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Happy New Year!
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Dancing into 2015…

And to sum it up – Miami Beach might be crowded, loud and expensive during the holidays. But you will never be bored. There are so many weird things and people to watch. This is also why it is a good destination if you are a single traveler.

And if you like fancy cars or strange vehicles, there are some of those as well. Maybe you’ll get to read about those later…

So how would 2015 turn out?
Little did we know when this photo was taken…

 

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