Travel | 6 comments
By Zdenko Kahlina
Miami has sun, sand, sea, and wave of cultural traditions
I just came back from Miami after having spent 7 full days at the Fontainebleau hotel with my wife. I was attending yet another technical conference. This obligation comes with the type of work I do as a computer specialist. One always has to stay up to date on technical staff if working within Information Technology.
Fontainebleau hotel in Miami Beach
IBM technical conferences are a key part of the on going development of systems programmers but are not held in Canadian cities. This year all conference activities were held at the Fontainebleau hotel in Miami Beach. For me this was a well deserved pre-winter brake from every day activities in Edmonton. My wife Vera was excited knowing she’ll be spending one week by the pool enjoying the warm Florida weather.
Crossing the Julia Tuttle Causeway
We flew in from Edmonton via Huston to Miami on a beautiful sunny autumn day – it was 82 degrees Fahrenheit when we landed at Miami International Airport (MIA). If you are coming to Miami Beach on vacation, you are most likely arriving by plane like we did. The two closest airports are: Miami International Airport (MIA) and Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport (FLL). There are pros and cons for arriving at each.
Downtown Miami and Port of Miami
Downtown Miami and Port of Miami
The day was October 1st, 2011 and the weather in Miami was like it was still summer. To get to our hotel in Miami Beach, we had to take a taxi from the airport. If you are arriving at Miami Airport with 3 people, or less, the fastest and cheapest way to get to Miami Beach, Downtown Miami, or Port of Miami is a taxi. The flat rate is $22 to Downtown, $24 to the Port, and $32 to South Miami Beach. When you add tax and a tip, it will cost you around $38-$40.
After crossing the Indian Creek you’re on Collins Avenue
Directions from Interstate 95 to Miami Beach:
Arriving via 41st Street (Julia Tuttle Causeway) – If your hotel is located in Miami Beach north of 30th Street, it’s best to use Julia Tuttle Causeway. From Interstate 95, look for signs that read 195 East. After you cross the Causeway, (which is just a fancy name for bridge) continue eastbound to Collins Avenue and turn either left or right, depending on where your hotel is located. The Fountainebleau hotel was just few blocks north on Collins Avenue. With the taxi it took only 15 minutes from the airport to arrive in front of our hotel.
Oceanfront Collins Avenue and Millionaire’s Row in Miami
Someone’s yacht is docked in front of the hotel
Fontainebleau Miami Beach – “Top Notch hotel”
The Fontainebleau Miami Beach is one of the most historically and architecturally significant hotels in Miami Beach. Opened in 1954 and designed by Morris Lapidus, it was considered the most luxurious hotel on Miami Beach, and is thought to be the most significant building of Lapidus’s career. The Fontainebleau is situated on oceanfront Collins Avenue in the heart of Millionaire’s Row in Miami.
Arial view at the Hotel Fontainebleau Miami Beach
This hotel is split into three towers: Chateau, Tresor and Sorrento. Actually there is also the latest addition, fourth building named Versailles, attached to the main Chateau tower, where the conference center is located. The Central part of the hotel consists of the curvy Chateau tower and it is so big people get lost. If you take time to review the map it will save you a lot of steps when you walk to the other building or searching for the exit to pool area. If you are planning to vacation here remember to bring walking shoes because you will walk at least 2 miles a day. Just getting to the beach from the lobby is about a half-mile walk.
By the pool at hotel Fontainebleau
The concierge was quick to check us in and courteous. The bellhops outside were super fast bringing our luggage directly into the room. I exchanged few words with the bellman who brought luggage to our room. He told me his name was Levi Forte and that he is the only leaving person who stayed in the ring with George Foreman for full 10 rounds back in 1969. Jokingly, I responded by telling him that I am probable the only person in this hotel who still remembers George Foreman! We both end up laughing!
Later on I Google his name and learnt that Levi Forte was in fact a colorful and exciting heavyweight trail-horse, who was a fan favorite on Miami Beach during the 1960s. Forte was a good boxer with a sturdy jab, but lacked knockout power. He won the Florida State Heavyweight Title from Ollie Wilson and successfully defended it, until Big Al Jones took it from him. His greatest claim to fame was working as a sparring partner for 3-time World Heavyweight Champion Muhammad Ali; he also trained with champions Sonny Liston, Willie Pastrano, and Jimmy Ellis.
Our room was on the seventh floor in the main Chateau building. We got a standard two bed room without balcony, but with the ocean view. The room (742) was nice and clean, beds extremely comfortable, with new furniture and big window overlooking the pool area. Bathroom didn’t have a bathtub. Nothing over the top as far as luxurious goes, but maybe that is because this was one of the more basic rooms. I must admit it was hard to leave the room every morning for the conference sessions, seeing all those people swimming in the pool. But I did what I had to do…
There is wireless internet in the hotel, but it is not free and is not included in the room price. Every room has a computer, but you have to pay extra $17.95/day to use it. Even when you pay, you get restricted access to internet. What was even worse, the USB ports were disabled, so I couldn’t download any conference sessions to my USB disk drive. You can’t even save your “favorites”…
I wanted to use minibar refrigerator in the room for our own food and drinks. However they have you sign in a waiver, that if you take out any object from the minibar refrigerator, that you own it, if it is out for more than 20 sec. I am not making this up. I had never seen such a foolish policy. It only detracts from the excellence of the hotel.
View of the pool area from the room window
The pools are by far the best around. They are open from sunrise to sunset and are
designed to give privacy and access for adults and kids alike. The Adult only pool area had a steady beat thumping and endless bar service. Music was too loud for my taste. There is a kid’s area with a waterslide! And the rest of the pool area was donned with group pods, beach beds and single chairs with cabana boys and girls ready to take your order. Though, only beach beds are free…
Girls enjoying leisure time by the pool
The service by the pool was wonderful, but it comes at cost. You pay for their service. We walked down to the big pool and 2 of the hotel workers rushed to set up our beach chairs complete with pillows and towels. You can order drinks if you stay at the pool as waitresses walk around and take orders. If you love listening to blaring music, you’ll be fine…
Pools at hotel Fontainebleau
We also spent one afternoon at the ocean beach by the hotel. This experience was different because outside of the hotel property you see the real world. The beach is gorgeous outside the hotel and even has a cool kid area. If anything, I noticed the city is not doing a good job at cleaning the beach which had a lot of ocean grass spread all over the sand.
Ocean beach in front of the hotel could be cleaner
Miami Beach has been rated as one of the 10 best in the world. White sand, warm water, and bronzed bodies everywhere provide just the right mix of relaxation and people-gazing.
Ocean beach in front of the hotel
There’s a Charge for That, Sir!
I don’t think anyone disputes that the hotel is beautiful. However, when you are paying $250-$500 a night, you expect your hotel room comes with something, anything. Well, at the Fontainebleau, you don’t get anything for free. Food was ridiculously expensive. For example, price for a breakfast that included two bowls of oatmeal, 2 coffee, two kids meals of pancakes, and smoothie: $70. A sandwich sells for $15. Need to park your car? Well that’s $34 a day sir. Need Internet, that’s $14 per laptop per day or if you’re using their computer in the room, that’s $17.95 per day. They also force you to pay an 18% gratuity on all the overpriced drinks and food you buy, so the staff has no reason to help you. You want a chair when you get there? $18. You want a drink? $15. Just a side of fries for a snack? $8. Here at the Fontainebleau we prefer to bleed our customer dry…
Drinks in the hotel bar are very expensive
When you stay here you should expect to pay way too much for everything. But overall this is an amazing hotel. The hotel does have a cool vibe, but it’s not worth the $$$
Beyond this, the hotel was great. We did a little scouting during the weekend and the Fontainebleau hands down had the best mix of luxury, on site restaurants, beach access, pool experience and on site clubs. I recommend it if you have tons of cash to burn. It’s not for those on a budget by any means so many IT professionals attending IBM conference left disappointed.
Vera and I quickly discovered bus routes and almost immediately started to use them. There was a bus station right in front of our hotel on both sides of Collins Avenue. Bus “S” would take us to downtown Miami Beach in 10 minutes for only $2 per person, but you must have exact amount, as the bus driver doesn’t provide change. We used the same bus in other direction (north) to visit Aventura Mall, which was almost 45 minutes ride. For $2 it was well worth it!
Aventura Mall by bus
For $26.00 you can get a 7 day pass good on all the buses & trains anywhere in Miami-Dade County. (Buy it when you arrive at the airport & you can use it for the Airport Flyer Express to SoBe). I believe the pass would even cover the trip to Key Largo or as far south as Marathon in the Keys. That trip would require a bus-train-bus-bus connection from SoBe & would probably be impractical unless you stay overnite. While in Miami South Beach, use the 25c “south beach local” bus that circles south beach and runs up and down Washington Ave.
Miami Beach is a narrow, 7-mile island that boasts hundreds of hotels, restaurants, attractions, and places to shop, not to mention beautiful beaches and exciting nightlife — there is simply nothing like it.
Arial view of Miami Beach
Arial view of Miami Beach
One thing that contributes to Miami Beach being such a popular vacation destination is how close they are to Florida’s best attractions. Disney World is a 4 hour drive and Key Largo is just an hour and a half away. A short 40 minute drive can have you on an Airboat buzzing through the Florida Everglades.
Most visitors want to stay in Miami Beach, a city on a barrier island of the same name off the coast of Miami & connected to it by several causeways. “South Beach” is the southernmost 2 miles or so of Miami Beach. It contains the best known beaches, shopping streets, clubs, dozens of hotels of varying size, quality, price & ambience and the historic “art deco” district.
To be in the center of or within walking distance of the center of South Beach (SoBe) you want to stay somewhere below 23d street (address number under 2300) and on or within a block of Washington or Collins Aves., or Ocean drive.
Arial view of Miami Beach
Lincoln Road is one of those places that is synonymous with South Beach. The road is closed for traffic and at night is full with people who are just walking up and down the street. It has everything and its location is well situated in SoBe. Looking for art galleries, I recommend Peter Lik Photography with his pieces being so visually tantalizing, Britto Central, and the Art Center.
Walking dead on the Lincoln Road South Miami Beach
Walking dead on the streets of South Miami Beach
Restaurants on Lincoln Road are aplenty. There is a flavor of food for every palette. Mostly, the expensive palette, but there are some cheap options around like Pizza Rustica and Paul.
Church on Lincoln Road
Bars and clubs surround Lincoln Road. One of the best bars on SoBe resides right on Lincoln, Zeke’s. A place with great beers for a cheap price.
But….. the main reason to go is… PEOPLE WATCHING. There are so many dam, beautiful people that I may never recover from Snapped Neck Syndrome. The eye candy is never ending on Lincoln. With all that said, Lincoln is the perfect destination to be on the weekend with all its endless possibilities.
Street performers on Lincoln Road
Collins is home to many historic Art Deco hotels, and several nightclubs to the north, including Mynt and Rokbar. North of 41st St. this boulevard lies between the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Creek, lined by palm trees, and famous hotels from the 50s and 60s such as the Eden Roc and the Morris Lapidus-designed Fontainebleau Hotel, built in the curvy, flamboyant Neo-baroque fashion that defined the 1950s ‘Miami Beach‘ resort hotel style. Coined as “Millionaires Row,” Collins Avenue is lined by historic hotels such as The Wyndham Miami Beach Resort, formerly known as Westin Resort, and formerly known as the Doral Hotel. The annual Miami International Boat Show also occurs on Collins Avenue.
Vera and Zdenko by the hotel pool
The weather of Florida is as hospitable to tourists as the people of United States are. It means that you are welcomed to Florida at all times. Miami enjoys a great weather throughout the year with sun-drenched days and blustery nights. However, the best time to travel to Miami is during winters, i.e. from the period between October and April. The weather is much more pleasant during this period as compared to the other seasons.
Winters are not very chilly. In fact, the mornings are slightly warm. The peak season to visit Miami is from December to April. The weather at this point of time is simply perfect. The season gives an opportunity to the visitors to take a look at the beautiful clear skies. Winters provide the scope to visitors to indulge in various activities. Therefore, to enjoy your visit to the fullest, it is best to plan your vacation during the winter season.
If you want your tour to be economical and wish to visit the place when it is crowded with people, you must have the courage to bear the hot weather conditions of the city. South Florida is much more quite in summers as compared to winters. It feels as if the swiftness and rapid movements of the city comes to a halt due to the harsh weather conditions. The cultural activities totally come to a standstill. Summer months from June to December are characterized by a slow tempo, damp weather, fewer crowds and comparatively lower hotel rates.
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