It's not always cold on top
Today was set aside for sightseeing in Miami. When you only have one day, I will recommend a sightseeing bus, that shows you the most interesting places, preferably with hop on, hop off, sĺ that you can leave the bus, to take a closer look at something you find particularly interesting. So the day before our sightseeing day we bought a 24 hour ticket to three bus tours through different parts of town. In the end we didn't hop neither off nor on again, but the possibility was there except for the first trip. More on that below.
From the hotel in the building called The Arch we walked to the monorail station and grabbed the first train. From the brochure, we had decided that Bayfront Park station would be the closest to the bus terminus, so when we arrived here, we left the train. We couldn't spot the terminus right away but had a fairly good idea of which way to go. Tim's phone was helpful here. His phone subscription has something called "3-like-home", which means that he does not pay roaming rates to be on the internet, but only pay as if he were back in Denmark. That saved him quite a lot of money. I don't have that so I only used my phone for internet access on hotels and other places with wifi. Anyway we found the place and along the way we visited a 7-11 store to buy some water. At this time, 9 am, it was already 91 F.
Trinity Episcopal Cathedral
When we got to the terminus a bus was ready to depart. Tim had our tickets on his phone, but the guide told us, that we should change them to paper tickets in the office a few hundred yards away as her reader could not read the phone. There wasn't time for that though as the bus was about to leave, but if we would stay on the bus it would be allright. So we did. We climbed on top and found seats in the very nice but hot sun. The guide climbed the stairs as well, and we took off. It was only then we found out, that we were on the "Uptown tour". We later discovered that there was some overlap with the "city tour". the guide was an middle-aged and wellspoken lady, who spoke with enthusiasm of the things we passed.
Right after "take off" we passed American Airlines Arena, home ground of NBA team, Miami Heat. We also passed Freedom Tower, build as newspaper headquarter and later serving as a hospital, before it became the immigrant station for the many cuban refugees that arrived in Miami in the 1960's. Thus the name. The building is also known as Miami's Ellis Island. Today the building houses a museum and offices for the Miami Dade College. From an island in the bay between Miami and Miami Beach we had an excellent view of the many cruise ships, that were in town. We passed the Jungle Ísland Zoo before returning to the mainland. Back on terra firma, we passed the Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, a very interesting building, and then we got to a shooting range, that our guide recommended with joy in her voice. Here we could try shooting machineguns and sub-machineguns, but fortunately we had to stay on the bus! From downtown we moved through Design District into the Overtown area of Miami.
Overtown used to be the "colored" part of town, and we passed a building that used to house Miami's only (and maybe the only in the whole of USA) police precinct manned exclusively with black police officers. Today it is a museum, Black Police Precinct Museum. While in Overtown we made a stop at a small car museum. It was not an official hop off/hop on stop, so everybody left the bus including Tim and I. The place is called Elo's Supercar Rooms, and is an offshoot of a museum, London Motor Museum in England, created by Elo, a former Abercrombie and Fitch model and himself a fashion designer. He once had a last name, but somehow it disappeared and his first name became the last name. In his passport his name is given as "Xxxxxx Elo" An anecdote tells that once Elo was in Miami and drove up in front of a fashionable restaurant. The parking attendant wouldn't drive his transportation away though, even if Elo told him, that it was a Lamborghini and one of only two existing original Lamborghini tractors from 1948! The museum itself was ok, but no more than that. The real attraction was not the cars, but the free icecold lemonade, that they offered. From the museum we continued through Overtown with the many painted house. Not only painted with colors, but made out as works of art.We were also told how David Beckham are building a soccer stadium in the area and setting up a soccer school for the loal kids. We continued into Little Havana and slowly headed back to the terminus. The trip had lasted around 1 hour 30 minutes, and when we got back another bus was ready to leave, but this time we managed to get our electronic tickets changed to paper.
The bus was going on the city tour, so once again we climbed the stairs to the open top. The sun was even brighter now and the temperature around a 100 F so we put on some more sun screen. The beginning of the tour followed the same route as the uptown tour, but soon we went in another direction. Among other things we passed the police station where the television show Miami Vice took place. Along the way we passed some statues that used to be placed in Bayfront Park. The sculptures show some peace-loving people like Mother Theresa, Nelson Mandela and Ghandi equipped with arms. Pablo Picasso is armed with a bazooka. The sculptures are knows as "War against war" and "What if...". The sculptures are made by Iraqi born artist Ahmed Al-Bahrani and today they are placed outside The Gary Nader Center of Fine Arts. We took the freeway south to a part of town called Coconut Grove. The is the oldest residential area in Miami. It's a very interesting place with large mansions and ordinary homes amongst each other. The streets are bordered by large trees and palmtrees, of which quite a lot is actually coconut palms. Along the way we took pictures of houses, trees, and coconuts. Including four shotgun houses. That is houses that are so narrow, that one shot from a shotgun would kill everyone inside. Another story tells that if you shoot a bullet through the front door it will leave by the back door with hitting anything on it's way. And finally some claims that it has nothing to do with weapons at all, but that it comes from an African Dahomey word "togon", meaning "assembly place" and that the name has come to USA from Haiti.
Mediteranean style villa in Coral Gables.
Anyway, from Coconut Grove we continued further south to Coral Gables, a very wealthy neighborhood, where you find among other things, The University of Miami. Coral Gables was originally built as a gated community, but that's not the case anymore. The area was developed in the 1920's and the developer (and owner of the land), George Merrick promised that he would build a Mediterranean style home to everyone, who bought a tract of land from him. He also guaranteed that he would make sure, that the place would be cooler than anywhere else in Miami. He managed to fullfill his promise by planting large trees everywhere, that provided shadow from the sun, and you can actually feel temperature drop when you enter the area. By car as no sidewalks exist in Coral Gables.
In the northern part of Coral Gables you find Biltmore Hotel, one the famous Miami Hotels, complete with it's own ghost and everything. The ghost is what is left of a mobster that was killed during a poker game in 1929. Now his lost soul haunts the elevators. It is not a cheap hotel, but not as expensive as I would have thought. You can actually get a room for less than $ 300 a night. The two floor Everglades Suite will cost you around $ 2,000 though. From the hotel we passed "the most beautiful public pool in USA" according to our guide. Unfortunately we couldn't see much of it from the bus, but I have later seen pictures of The Venetian Pool on the Internet and it looks nice. From Coral Gables we returned to the starting point through Little Havana. Our guide was very keen on telling us stuff here. He was of Cuban descend, at had grown up in Little Havana, so he knew and told us everything there was to know about the area, and the Cubans that had made it good in USA. When we returned to the starting point only one tour was missing, and as it appeared, a bus was ready.
Art Deco buildings in Miami Beach
The last tour was the Beach Tour, that would take us across the bay to Miami Beach and South Beach. We were a little late so only one seat on top was free, but the guide told me, I could sit in his seat, as he would be standing for most of the way. He didn't though, because as soon as someone "hopped off" he took the seat they abandoned and stayed there for the rest of the trip. I understood why it was easier to sit than to stand because of all the low-hanging traffic lights, signs and branches of trees that we passed along the way. Each time a standing person would have to duck his head. Also the heat was almost too much at this time. The temperature was now above 105 in the shade, and the guide told us, that it was probably 125 F or more in the sun on top of the bus.There is nothing much to tell about the trip. Miami Beach is known for it's many Art Deco buildings many of which are painted in pastel colors. I love art deco, and find the buildings nice including the colors while Tim liked the building style, but definitely not the colors. Many of the buldings had something looking like the top of a lighthouse on top. I never discovered what it was or why it was there but it was.We didn't see much of the beach as the view was blocked by hotels and other buildings. We did see some of the other thing, we had hoped to see in Miami Beach though, girls in bikinis :-). Yes, we are naughty old men, when we are on vacation, but just looking....
At around 2.15 pm we were back at the starting point, and we were both tired and baked from the sun. We therefore decided to call it a day, eat a late lunch/early dinner at the nearby Hard Rock Cafe, and then just take the monorail back to the hotel, so that's just what we did. We both like Hard Rock even if it's not exactly a cheap place to eat. Two burgers and some chicken tenders to share, a Pepsi and a Sierra Mist cost us more than the excellent meal at the Argentinian Restaurant the previous day. OK, I have to admit that we were a little too nice when we calculated the tip for the waitress. After lunch we walked back to the monorail and returned to the hotel. For the rest of the day we stayed in the room, surfing the internet, reading books and watching Baseball Homerun Derby on the telly. We only left the room to go to the drugstore next door to the hotel to buy some water and some fruit.