Miami is a very sexy city. Its sleek architecture, trendy and outstanding restaurants (such as Havana 1957, Toscana Divino, and PM Buenos Aires), and very pretty people make it nearly impossible to imagine it as the swampy backwater it once was. Somewhere along the way, around 1900, Miami took off, but you can still visit one of the precursors of the city’s current glitz and glam at Vizcaya Museum & Gardens, a grand 1916 estate on Florida’s Biscayne Bay that still continues to attract the glitterati. Read more >
I had already enjoyed an excellent Cuban meal at Havana 1957 and a wonderful Argentinean dinner at PM Buenos Aires just a few blocks away from my hotel in the Brickell area of Miami, Florida. As I scoured the same neighborhood for another restaurant the next night, I found myself in Mary Brickell Village, a little collection of shops and dining options a couple of blocks south of the Miami River. Every restaurant seemed to be playing music, loudly, but pumping house beats were not exactly conducive to the pleasant meal that I was searching for. So I found the quietest of the group, upscale Toscana Divino, and serendipitously stumbled upon the city’s outstanding contribution to Italian cuisine. Read more >
Key West, Florida, is quite literally the end of the road, the final stop along the Overseas Highway, one of the world’s top 10 drives. The richest city in Florida and one of the richest in the United States in 1889, despite its isolation, Key West’s glory days didn’t last very long: It declared bankruptcy in the 1930s. During that short time span, however, the city thrived on its tobacco factories and shipwreck salvage industry, creating handsome structures while wisely maintaining a low-rise profile better suited to survive the annual threat of hurricanes. Read about the top five buildings in Key West >
Remember when you would get in your car with your family or a friend or two and go for a leisurely drive, with no particular agenda or destination? If so, it’s probably a memory from a long time ago, when driving wasn’t a hassle, when roads weren’t littered with potholes and road ragers, when traffic was light, and when gasoline and tolls were affordable. But anyone eager to hit the road just for the heck of it shouldn’t be discouraged. There are still plenty of places where a casual drive — punctuated by mesmerizing scenery — is delightfully possible. Read more about the top five drives in the world >
December 25 is rapidly approaching, and for 2.2 billion Christians around the world, the Christmas season is in full swing. Although the secular aspects of this important holiday increasingly garner all the attention and overshadow the real meaning of Christmas — the birth of Jesus Christ — all you have to do is look at a Nativity scene (or listen to Linus’ beautiful soliloquy in A Charlie Brown Christmas) to be reminded of what it’s all about. For centuries, artists have been depicting that day that changed the world in Nativities in every type of media imaginable. Some of these painters, sculptors, glaziers, woodworkers, and other talented experts broke the traditional mold of just showing the Holy Family in a stable with some hay, farm animals, a couple of shepherds, and the Three Wise Men. I found these works in particular to be the most imaginative, and most memorable. Read more about my top five Nativities in the world >
Following President Obama’s recent trip to Cuba, you can rest assured the flood gates of tourism to the largest Caribbean island will open very soon for Americans, and the lines to get in will be fairly long. While you’re waiting your turn, you can do the next-best thing by taking a stroll through Miami’s Little Havana. My hunger for a Cuban meal intensified as I walked along Cuban Memorial Boulevard, with its memorials to the Cuban independence movement and its heroes dotting the verdant meridian, and then along the main drag, Calle Ocho, past Domino Park, where older men gather to play this national pastime; past the Walk of Fame on the sidewalk with stars for famous Latino performers; past abundant cigar shops. Fortunately, I didn’t have to travel very far for what I was yearning for when I found Havana 1957. Read more >
The deep blue sea is probably the last great unexplored place on the planet — a dark, forbidding netherworld filled with beauty and mystery that has long held the fascination of mariners and landlubbers alike. Examine any map from the 1500s and you’ll see the oceans illustrated with ferocious sea monsters that terrorized sailors. Although many of the legends and myths surrounding those creatures have been dispelled or explained (mermaids don’t really exist, and the Kraken was most likely a giant squid), the sea and its myriad denizens still fascinate us.
Whether it’s the ferocious dragonfish or horrifying viperfish that could petrify even the bravest explorer, the perennially happy clownfish (thank you, Nemo), the vividly colorful mandarinfish, or the remarkably intelligent dolphin, life under the sea is an ongoing voyage of discovery. Thanks to aquariums around the world, we don’t have to plunge to the ocean floor to see and understand what lies beneath (although that’s fun, too). These are my top five aquariums in the world. Read more >