A greater Miami adventure
FOR THE MAJORITY of Bajans, shopping is the big Miami lure, but there is so much more to attract the visitor looking for the holiday adventure and a different cultural experience.
The Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau provided the opportunity for a media group from Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago to see another side of Miami over the Columbus Day holiday.
The five-day jaunt took in the food, cultural diversity, the variety of hotel accommodation, and exposed both the laid back life and excitement to be found in the area called Greater Miami as well as the beaches.
The early morning American airlines flight out of Grantley Adams International Airport touched down at Miami International Airport exactly three hours and fifteen minutes it usually takes, despite a half hour unanticipated delay in Barbados.
Hurricane Matthew was hovering to the north, but down south, people were counting their blessings at being spared the fury while making preparations for the biggest Caribbean event of the year – the Miami-Broward carnival. The spotlight this year was on Barbados’ 50th anniversary of Independence at the event which attracts over 50 000 participants annually. Local artistes Alison Hinds, Edwin Yearwood, King Bubba and Lead Pipe and Saddis kept the Bajan flag flying high at the post-parade concert at Miami-Dade Fairground.
The media group’s first hotel was the centrally-located Hampton Inn and Suites in Brickell, downtown Miami, close enough for us to take in festivities celebrating the tenth anniversary of Brickell’s Adrienne Arsht Centre.
There was a delectable four-course dinner at the centre’s Brava restaurant where award-winning chef Brad Kilgore paired courses with Remy Martin, and the signature fourth course was a Nutella mousse paired with a US$3 000 bottle of Louis X111 cognac.
The heady experience was topped by an energetic performance by hip hop artiste CeeLo Green whose US$10 birthday concert packed the Ziff Ballet Opera House with screaming fans.
Next day lunch at Bubba Gump Shrimp Company at Bayside Marketplace on Biscayne Boulevard is a must-do in that area of Miami. Seafood is the order of the day and scrumptiously–prepared shrimp is the staple in a menu matched in excitement only by the shopping and boating activities available in the surrounding area.
Fine restaurants abound in downtown Miami and food is an adventure in itself. Jamaican Delius Shirley and his partner, chef Cindy Hutson, offer a fusion of Caribbean and international cuisine in their restaurants Ortanique on the Mile in Coral Gables, and Zest located in downtown Miami’s Southeast Financial Centre.
Hutson, an award-winning culinary genius, who by her own admission never attended culinary school, says the dishes she prepares in the restaurants “just come from the heart”.
Similarly, at Peacock Garden Café in Coconut Grove, the oldest community in Miami, there is a rich marriage of Caribbean flavours and international cuisine. Located across the street from Peacock Park, the restaurant’s patrons may be lucky to catch sight of one of the majestic birds strutting their stuff. Our media group was not that fortunate.
The African-American, Cuban and other Caribbean influences are highly evident in South Florida and the representative communities which continue to grow in that part of the United States have not broken the tentacles of their roots.
Evidence of this is clear in Miami’s oldest African-American neighbourhood, Overtown, a thriving black community with prosperous business and community life, where the historic Lyric Theatre and the Black Police precinct Courthouse and Museum stand out as beacons of both the past and the present achievements of African-Americans, Bahamians and other West Indians who settled in that upscale section of Miami back in the 1920s.
Conducting a media tour of Overtown’s “The Kampong”, a lush 11-acre park with a variety of fruit trees, sprawling banyans (bearded fig trees), and a plant collection from many tropical countries, Corky Dozier spoke passionately about the life of this Miami community where prosperity is still evident.
The art exhibition at the Kroma Gallery in Overtown reflected recent violent encounters between blacks and police, but the outlet for black art expression also spoke of Overtown’s artistic heritage.
Not far away in Little Havana, Cuban immigrants have dug their heels in, creating a community that has transplanted everything Cuban to Miami. Here you find the Hernandez family with their produce shop, selling fresh cane juice squeezed in a hand-operated grinder. Close by, Cuban retirees spend the greater part of their day playing dominoes in Domino Park, and overshadowing it all is the Cuban Memorial Park with images and reminders of a past which some Miami-based Cuban settlers would rather put behind them, but which stands out as a reminder for successive generations of Cuban-Americans.
The wide expanse of beach framed by the boardwalk running along the expansive line-up of hotels such as Cadillac Miami Beach Oceanfront Hotel brought a contrasting sense of the leisure and relaxation Greater Miami has to offer.
Yes, Barbados boasts pristine beaches with white sand, but in this section of Miami, it is the added option of shopping and sightseeing that can seal the deal for someone in search of another great sand, sea and sun getaway.