Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Timeless Travel

I have wanderlust. Itchy feet. A very real need to reach for the passport and follow the sun. Sadly my bank balance is severely in the red; in fact my account looks like Carrie Bradshaw just ran rough shod through Manhattan buying up Manolos left, right and centre. I bet even Greece's coffers look better than mine at present; I wish I had a European older brother who could bail me out too. Ergo, the only exploring I'll be doing this month/year/infinitum, will be on the Internet. But that's OK, because I can relive my Miami exploits from earlier in the year.

The season is on the turn, so I'm getting wistful for the summer. There's talk that another heatwave is just around the corner, but that's just wishful thinking – like presuming only one workout a week will turn you into Cindy Crawford or that sex will always result in orgasms. So I can feel the chill in the air; the rain is back with its heavy clouded cape and summer madness seems like a distant spell in paradise. But you know where the sun always shines? Miami. 

During my vay-cay back in April, I was very spoilt and stayed at the glorious Betsy, the most beautiful hotel on South Beach. 

SoBe, as this little strip of Art Deco Miami mania is known, is famous for those looking for too good a time; a week or weekend of life-on-hold escapism, wearing very little and dancing your way around the sexiest, most fabulous clubs in the world. There's the late Gianni Versace's over-the-top mansion a mere saunter down the road where the building has been positively groped by Midas' touch, a drag show on the corner featuring some of the finest legs south of Collins Avenue and The Beautiful People cruising the Ocean Drive straight in their Hot Wheels cars. It's brash. It's colourful. It's very Miami. 

And then in the midst, sitting ever so cooly amongst the try hards, is The Betsy. This Georgian-style colonial mansion is like Lauren Bacall amongst a party of Marilyn Monroes; still uber sexy, just not with all it's secrets front and centre. Walking into this hotel is like stepping into a Dean Martin movie, where you can imagine peering around the potted palm fronds stacked in the lobby and looking to the bar to see Frank Sinatra alternately crooning whilst leaning on the grand piano or predatorily chatting up lucky dames as they knock back whiskey sours. 

This place is old school but, like a leather jacket, never ever goes out of style. The striped ticking sofas, the bell boys in their smart uniforms and the renowned wine cellar would have you think that this place is just for grown ups, but you'd be wrong. There's a little furtive impression of rock n roll just reclining beneath the plush exterior. 

During my trip, the hotel was acting as a gallery for ex-Rolling Stones tour manager, Bob Bonis' behind-the-Jagger-pout photographs of the Stones at work, rest and play. Seriously cool.  Then there's the speakeasy style bar to the rear of the hotel which is low ceiling-ed, dark and has the ghost of blues and jazz nights smokily hanging in the air. 

The current owner's father was a Pulitzer prize finalist, so this boutique hotel is also a writer's Mecca. Books line the walls, with each room coming equipped with their own library and every night a poem is left on your pillow – a nice little skinny extra as opposed to the standard chocolates. There's even a writer's room, which I readily fantasised would be the ideal place to pen my masterpiece, feeding off the energy of past novelists who had come to stay.

The spa is fabulous and the restaurant, BLT, is mouth watering; the staff are charming and the location unbeatable. There is a beautiful pool, where the only inconvenience is getting up to retrieve your iced cucumber water and the white sands and tanned bodies of Miami are a quick stumble across the road. All in all, it's understandably quite hard to narrow down an Ultimate Moment. 

Looking back, it's a toss up between enjoying champagne on the roof top day beds, feeling on seventh heaven away from the heat and noise of the SoBe tarmac; and enjoying pre-dinner drinks on the street-level veranda, revelling in a balmy evening and indulging in my favourite pastime; people watching. [Should I be concerned that both memories involved refreshments with a percentage?]

I am in love with Miami as a city; I adore how unashamedly full-on it is. It's not shy or retiring, demure or serene. It's big and ballsy and a huge serving of the American Dream. And The Betsy is the perfect balm; the ideal mixer which makes this hard liquor city exciting and energetic and incredibly palatable, but won't leave you feeling the post-night blues when you fly home. 

Doesn't it sound fantastic? If I close my eyes, I can almost feel like I'm back there, shaking sand from my hair and enjoying a sundowner with The Housemate.

PS: Good little tip, always charm the bell boys. Most of them work the club promotion scene in the evenings and not only will they know where the hot night is that particular moment, but they'll enable you to queue jump. You're welcome. 

For further info: The Betsy website
I stayed at The Betsy to write a travel feature for The Day Job (The Polo Magazine summer 2013)

Credit where credit's due: The Betsy and I

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