My Last-Minute Luxury Vacation in Miami, FL

Monday, January 28, 2019

I am not a fancy-vacation kinda gal.

Sure, Mike & I stayed in a luxury hotel while we were on our honeymoon in Costa Rica - but we were on our honeymoon! Aside from that, I usually go the AirBnB route, or the timeshare route, or the Marriott-level-hotel route, or even the crashing-with-a-friend route. I love to travel, but I'm pretty chill about my travel needs.

But when my friend Rebecca asked me if I'd join her in Miami Beach, FL, for a few days following her dad's death, of course I said yes. She takes a solo trip every year, but this year, she didn't feel like being alone - so I booked flights, requested a few days off work, & off to Miami I went.

Rebecca & I met in 2007, when we were both fellows in a legislative assistant program for recent college grads. (That's also the year I started this blog - & she made many an early appearance!) We shared an office space & became fast friends, despite our many differences. 

Becca is now a restructuring lawyer in Manhattan, where she's from, while I still work for the organization that first hired us all those years ago - but here in Cleveland, of course. She was one of my bridesmaids & is one of my very best friends; I'll take any opportunity to spend time with her.

Rebecca booked us a room at the St. Regis Bal Harbour, where she found a great deal on an extremely large room - like, far larger than her Brooklyn apartment. And man, was everything glitzy. It was like Ivana Trump's personality, all played out in a hotel lobby. Check all those mirrors!

Let's be honest: The St. Regis Bal Harbour was not as great as it could've been. It was overly technology-ridden, but with technology that didn't always work (lookin' at you, wacky bathroom lights that we never figured out how to turn off). The service was good but not great, especially not given the cost of staying at the hotel.

And the food costs were outrageous: Our first meal there, at the pool bar, cost me $85 for a calamari appetizer, a small vegetarian salad, & a single cocktail. It was decent food, but not $85 decent.

Good thing the view were as gorgeous as they were! Our room had a large, shaded balcony overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. We didn't spend as much time out there as we might've liked, in part because it was a bit chilly in the shade. Still, it was nice to hang there for a bit, to catch up, to relax, & to catch our final views of the ocean on our last day, before we left.

During our stay, we had private beach access with beach chairs & service (though the service was not always present), just a few short steps outside of our hotel. We both brought Kindles, earbuds, magazines, & books to keep us busy - & by "busy," I mean "totally relaxed." We ordered skinny cocktails (a margarita for her, a caipiroska for me) & chips & guacamole to be delivered to us at our beach chairs, & let me tell you: Nothing is more glorious than that kind of service!

We never did hit up the pool. Because the weather was so inconsistent, we chose to spend our time at the beach & just suck it up, bundling up as needed. If you're going to be near the beach, be at the beach, right?! Truth be told, I like the beach far better in less-than-hot weather. It's far less sweaty!

The weather was great on our first day there but slightly chillier on our second. As the sun moved behind the clouds on day two, we noticed that we were the only people left on the beach who weren't Orthodox Jews - but we realized that, frankly, if you have to dress that modestly at the beach (arms & legs covered, wearing long skirts), then chillier-than-usual weather is probably the best time to be there! As for us? We slid into workout pants & cardigans to keep us warm & stayed out until we couldn't take it anymore.

And yes, I got sunburned even on that very overcast day.

So what did we do while there? Honestly, not much. We spent a few hours at the beach each day. We found a Starbucks within walking distance & had a social justice conversation over lattes. We walked the footpath near the beach, which passes various rental properties - commercial & residential - & where you can spot a lot of cute dogs out for their daily walk.

We also left our hotel a few times to check out other hotels Rebecca had stayed at & liked in years past, including dinner at the Ritz Carlton Bal Harbour & lunch at the Four Seasons Surfside. We had delicious meals at both - for less than we spent at that pool bar! The Four Seasons was especially lovely, with a much more understated vibe - & some seriously delicious food.

Two night, we went out for with Rebecca's law school friends who live in the area. Both times, we took long Lyft rides to get to them, but the meals & the company (not to mention the weather) were very much worth it. No photos, but one night we ate at Yardbird, where Becca & I split the chicken & waffles: Vermont sharp cheddar cheese waffle topped with three pieces of fried chicken, honey hot sauce, chilled spiced watermelon, & bourbon maple syrup. Damn.

I always get so nervous about meeting friends of friends - but I almost always turn out to love them. I'm pretty extroverted, so it's usually easy for me to chat with new people - & really, what's the likelihood that you won't like the people your best friends love?!

We barely remembered to take any photos of ourselves or one another until the last day of the trip, when we grabbed free coffees & a light breakfast together at the hotel cafe (where the food was less expensive & much tastier than at the pool bar where we had our earlier $85 meal).

I didn't dig into any of the flavored croissants you see below, but aren't they gorgeous?! And that watermelon juice was to die for.

In all, it was a really lovely time spent with one of my favorite people in the world - one of those trips where, like I said, we didn't actually do much, but the people you can do that with are the best kind of people. We spent a lot of time walking, talking, resting, relaxing, &, of course, eating (& clearing out our wallets in the process); I hope it was as rejuvenating for Rebecca as it was for me, given that she needed it so much more than I did.

I'd been worried about taking the time off work, especially because I'd just taken some time off for the holidays, followed by a couple sick days for a bout of the stomach flu. It was one of those times when I thought, "Should I really be doing this?" but ultimately, I decided I didn't want to leave a loved one hanging, even if it meant taking a hit at work. Luckily, my boss was very cool about it, & it was totally worth it.

Life's short, friends. When you can, live it up - & try to do it with the people you love most, in the places with the most sun.

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