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 >
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 >
The pervasive Latin influence in Miami is inescapable, whether it’s the Mediterranean-style homes, the Spanish-language music emanating from clubs and cars, or the accents of residents from a couple of dozen Latin American countries. Ultimately, all of that will have you hankering for some food from south of the border. Just about every nation and cuisine is represented here, from Creole dishes in Little Haiti to a coronary-inducing but fantastic Cuban sandwich in Little Havana to Guatemalan bakeries. Near the top of the list is PM Buenos Aires, an upscale Argentinean establishment that served a dinner more delectable than any I had during a week in Buenos Aires itself. Read more >
Designated historic districts in cities throughout the United States provide a tangible glimpse into their past as well as the opportunity to experience a unique urban environment. Long before the era of modern, uninspired skyscrapers and insipid glass-and-steel boxes that increasingly make cities less distinguishable from one another, these places developed as areas not to be mistaken for any other. Thanks to historic preservation movements and landmark commissions, they survive today to entertain, educate and enchant us. These are my top five historic districts in the United States. Read more >