USA Florida 

A Guide to Miami

The peninsula of the Seminole Indians was discovered and named Florida in 1513 by the Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leòn, becoming the 27th state of the US in 1845. After the devastation of the Civil War, the railroad barons saved the state by building rail networks and luxury hotels, attracting wealthy visitors. With its balmy climate and magnificent beaches, tourism became Florida’s major industry from the early 20th century.

Miami, in the south-east of the peninsula, which began life as a small trading post, is now the Sunshine State’s major financial and trade centre and a wealthy tourist resort with a Hispanic vibe. It has a good public transport system, including an elevated driverless Metromover which provides a quick overview of downtown skyscrapers. The best way to get around is by car, but use cabs at night. A Biscayne Bay boat trip which sails past Dodge and Lummus islands, the world’s biggest cruise port, is a pleasant way to see the opulent shoreline homes of the wealthy.

Miami Beach is more than just palm-fringed beaches under azure skies. The 10-mile long South Beach on the island is not only a pleasure playground for the beautiful rich, but also has interesting architecture like over 800 of the world’s best preserved Art Deco buildings, the old City Hall, an example of Mediterranean Revival architecture, Delano Hotel containing furniture designed by Gaudi and Dali, and Fontainebleau Hotel, in the style of a modern French chateau, which featured in the 1960’s James Bond movie ‘Goldfinger’.

Stroll down Espanola Way, a delightful leafy street of 1920 buildings characterised by ornate arches, balconies and capitals. Boutiques, alternative art galleries and weekend craft stalls grace this pretty quarter.

Art lovers should visit ArtCenter South Florida on the Lincoln Road Mall and
Bass Museum of Art on Park Avenue exhibiting enormous 16th century Flemish tapestries.

One of the largest populations of Holocaust survivors lives in Miami Beach. A stark Holocaust Memorial in Meridian Avenue, a sculpture of an enormous bronze arm and hand stamped with an Auschwitz number and covered with over 100 life-size figures in agonising death throes, reaches for the sky.

Across the MacArthur Causeway on the mainland are the neighbourhoods of Little Havana, a vibrant haven for Cuban immigrants since 1959 where Spanish is spoken and Cuban cigars are rolled; Coral Gables, known as City Beautiful for its part-Italian, part-Spanish architecture and grand old Biltmore Hotel, frequented in the 1920s by royalty, gangsters and film stars, features a 315-ft tower modelled on Seville cathedral’s la Giralda; and Coconut Grove, home to the ’Sixties hippies, now known for its boutiques, cafés, restaurants and Caribbean ambience.

Two other attractions are the stunning spring-fed Venetian Pool built out of a coral quarry in 1923 where candy-striped Venetian poles, fountains, waterfalls, caves, pink stucco towers and vine-covered pergolas add to its splendour; and Vizcaya, the former mansion of James Deering, millionaire industrialist, built in 1916. Its architectural styles range from Renaissance to Neo-Classical and exquisite formal gardens are set amongst tropical foliage.
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