7 things I love about Miami (and then a few more)

I got withdrawal symptoms the moment I left Miami at the end of last year. I visited again in early April and felt EXACTLY the same, and after reading these next few paragraphs through, I think it makes sense…

The buildings
The spiritual home of art deco and actual home of the former Versace Mansion, Ocean Drive is the place that makes Miami Beach the icon that it is. It’s full of gorgeous photo opportunities and is just a really beautiful place to experience.

The food
Cuban influences are everywhere in Miami, and nowhere is it more apparent than in the food, whether it’s a classic Cuban sandwich, or a punchy chicken with rice, beans & plenty of plantain. I highly recommend everything from the menu of Havana 1957, particularly their tres leches dessert.

The people
I love the American attitude to meeting new people, and my experience of the states so far has only made we want to return more and more. But Miami is on another level for me. The service, the ViBeZ, and the laidback but forever helpful mentality blew me off my little British feet when I first arrived, and I’ve still yet to find any place that compares when it comes to the shiny happy people factor.

The mojitos
I mean, do I need to explain?

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The ‘Ultimate Mojito’ at Havana 1957

The nightlife
Like any big city, there is a lot going on in Miami, at pretty much any time of the day or night. However, there aren’t many other places where you can walk down the street past a Michelin star restaurant, a dive bar, a jungle themed mojito spot and an open-air jazz gig outside what looks like the back of a warehouse. And then you have the clubs and bars for those who want to get dressed up and go ‘out-out’. It’s the most bizarrely beautiful mix of things, all of which you learn to love & appreciate.

The views
There’s something incredible about the mix of huge skyline with sprawling beaches, and even the bridges and roads connecting the city to the beach have the most beautiful views across the water.

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The art
In particular, the street art, found in the Wynwood area of the city, a lively and up and coming place filled with craft beers, independent stores and the famous Wynwood Walls. The Walls represent a new era of art gallery, showcasing stunning and expressive pieces in an outdoor space accessible by all, and giving street artists a place to show their talents to the world. It’s definitely one of those places you have to actually visit to fully appreciate – no photo would ever do some of the work justice.

Annnnd, a few other Miami based shout outs while I still have you:

W South Beach Hotel, 2201 Collins Ave, Miami Beach
This place quite literally incorporates all of the things I’ve mentioned above. Just stay here. It’s mindblowingly good and there’s no beating that sea view…

BACON/DRUNK BITCH, 860 Collins Ave, Miami Beach
Bacon on one side, cocktails on the other, all with a serious amount of personality. If you’re a fan of coconut, I’d recommend trying the ‘Fame’ frozen daiquiri.

Love Hate Tattoo Studio, 1360 Washington Ave, Miami Beach
The home of Miami Ink, and more recently, the birthplace of my latest tattoo. The fact that I went in and left a few hours later with a beautiful custom-designed tattoo says everything about this place.

Mac’s Club Deuce, 222 14th St, Miami Beach
The oldest bar in Miami and the longest happy hour of any bar I’ve ever come entered and the ultimate Miami dive bar. Make sure you keep one of the chips as a memento, it’ll bring back a LOT of memories when you find it in your bag a few weeks later.

Alter, 223 NW 23rd St, Miami
Chef Bradley Kilgore takes you on an insane and incredible dining adventure through local Florida staples, all with a twist. If you go, do the full seven courses and add the drinks pairing.

Havana 1957, 405 Española Way, Miami Beach
Mentioned above but worth repeating. I’ve eaten at this branch of the Cuban change three times, had three different meals and loved EVERYTHING, and their Ultimate Mojito is a thing of beauty. If you’re looking for more of a view, there’s also a branch down on Ocean Drive.

Maya Beach Club, Ibiza

Whoever came up with the concept of the beach club, in its numerous different forms, is nothing short of a genius.

The beauty of these kinds of places is that no matter what type of holiday, event or group you find yourself in, there’s a version for everyone – particularly on the beautiful island of Ibiza.

Maya Beach Club | Flying Into Ibiza

If you’re in the mood for a champagne shower and are into swimwear that mostly involves string, then you’ll probably enjoy the likes of Nikki and Ocean Beach. If you’re after great food & great cocktails tucked away in a laidback spot with light house playing throughout the day, then head over to Experimental Beach.

But if you want to take in a truly exceptional beach club experience, then Maya Beach is most definitely my recommendation…

I came across Maya whilst researching potential spots for my birthday. I took a look at their website, dropped an enquiry through online, and within the hour one of the team had come back to me. I like that – it makes me feel special.

We booked out one of their clifftop Prive areas for the next day, which costs nothing to hire but includes a minimum spend of 450 EUR, giving us the perfect excuse to eat ridiculous amounts of food (including paella and a whole damn lobster for lunch).

So we arrived the next morning in high spirits at the level of service we’d experienced so far, and it only got better from there. Isabella greeted us and we were invited to have a drink in the bar area looking out over Cala Vadella beach while they made final preparations to the space we’d hired.

We then headed up the stairs to the Prive terrace, a beautiful private area made up of lovely white furniture, including a king size Balinese style bed with a retractable remote controlled canopy. It was really quite stunning.

Maya Beach Club | Balinese Bed

The area could have easily fit 10 or more people and created a much more upbeat party atmosphere (particularly with the magnums of wine & champagne available from the menu). But our aim for the day was to simply to eat, drink, relax and enjoy the stunning views.

Maya Beach Club | Bed & Chairs

The food throughout the day was truly amazing, starting with a late breakfast featuring eggs, bacon, chicken & onions on the same plate, moving onto the seafood and rice feast I mentioned earlier for lunch and ending with an incredible fresh sushi platter in the late evening.

 

Underpinning all of this was what seemed like a few gallons of wine, (a magnum of rose disappears surprisingly quickly if you’re in the mood) several mojitos and a traditional birthday shot of tequila. Not to mention the world class service that our host Esayas and the rest of the team at Maya gave us.

Our entire day was perfect, and through all of our gluttony, we only managed to spend 2.50 EUR more than the minimum charge, so the value for money was really clear.

The real beauty of Maya, however, is how universal it is. Down in the beach club itself, there was such a broad mix of people, both local and tourists in groups, families and couples of all different ages. And everyone was having such a lovely time, right into the late hours when the live music began in the bar.

Maya Beach Club | Restaurant

If you’re visiting Ibiza before the season ends, this hidden gem is worth a visit, even for just a few hours. You can find more details on Maya Beach and all of the services they have to offer over on their website.

 

 

Hard Rock Hotel, Ibiza

My boyfriend and I decided to celebrate my birthday in style this year, with a 5-night trip to my favourite island on earth; Eivissa. We stayed in the place that my dreams are made of, the 5-star Hard Rock Hotel, situated less than 10-minutes from the airport in Playa D’en Bossa. Anyone that knows me can tell you how obsessed I am with the cafe chain, but this took my obsession to new levels.

Hard Rock Hotel Ibiza | Statue

Our room of choice was the Rock Suite Platinum, chosen primarily because of the promise of sea views from the private solarium area which sat above the suite itself – and it certainly didn’t disappoint…

Hard Rock Hotel Ibiza | Solarium View

All of the hotel’s suites come with a fully stocked Maxi Bar, including bottles of wine, a half bottle of champagne and various soft drinks & light snacks. We also had the added bonus of a drinks cabinet (which at first looks like an amp case) filled with premium spirits from vodka to whiskey. So naturally, it didn’t take long to crack open the Belvedere.

 

The room itself serves up the rock star vibe with a stylish Ibiza twist, combining elements like a faux snakeskin headboard with soft custom coloured effect lighting around the bed, complete with abstract art to match the look and feel of the hotel. A sofa bed in soft metallic, coffee table and accompanying breakfast bar complete the interior and bring a bit of convenience to the place.

Hard Rock Hotel Ibiza | SuperKing Bed

Onto the solarium and the real star of the show, the spiral stairway to which can be found on the reasonably sized balcony outside the room. The area is made up of two levels, one slightly lower containing two white sunbeds and the other set a little higher and under the cover of slatted wood, which houses the wonderfully comfortable double daybed (complete with removable sheet and cushions) and a round jacuzzi bath which is the perfect size for two people. Each the bed and the jacuzzi came with a curtain for added privacy and shade, although in all honesty, we didn’t use these once.

Hard Rock Hotel Ibiza | Jacuzzi View

Outside of the suite, the hotel itself has so many things to explore, from the classic Hard Rock memorabilia (which you can book a guided tour for) to a number of restaurants and chillout areas for any type of holiday group – it’s probably one of the most inclusive hotels in the south of the island.

Hard Rock Hotel Ibiza | Memorabilia

There are also two pools playing music throughout the ‘sociable hours’ of the day, including live performances from some of the Hard Rock team. One event we did sadly miss out on was the ‘Children of the 80s’ concert which takes place every Friday evening of the party season, a show that’s visible from the majority of the Rock Suite terrace areas.

My personal favourite booking perk though, was the free entry to the Rock Spa, a haven located right in the heart of the hotel with a fantastic array of in and outdoor facilities, including the best thalassotherapy pool I have ever come across. We decided against booking in for a massage (which comes at an additional cost) but did take advantage of the other areas of the spa for a few hours.

Hard Rock Hotel Ibiza | Rock Spa EntranceHard Rock Hotel Ibiza | Rock Spa Outdoors

Another highlight of our stay was the ‘In Heaven’ dinner show, which takes place every Saturday & Wednesday throughout the season. For 80 euros per person, we spent our last evening enjoying really impressive entertainment in between the 5 courses of our meal inspired by the four elements (plus the fifth element, which is apparently chocolate – who knew?). The singers & musicians were madly talented, and combined covers of modern hits with a bit of opera, without forgetting to add a touch of Hard Rock-ness and a few nods to the Spanish heritage of the island – it was beautiful.

 

The only thing I can say against the hotel is that we didn’t stay long enough and that the pretty huge stage seems a little wasted on one concert per week. Other than that, it’s without a doubt one of the top hotels in Ibiza and does the Hard Rock brand proud. Now, someone take me back please?!

A weekend and a bit in the Algarve

I love a city break and spending long weekends wandering around looking for the best food – but chillin poolside, bikini on, oversized sunglasses in tow, is really where my heart is; and that’s exactly what this Portuguese getaway was for.

Morning flights out of Southampton make the whole airport experience so damn easy. No two hour wait in a holding pen with no air con – just enough time for the obligatory eggs benedict and mimosa combo before walking across the airfield and climbing aboard with FlyBe.

A little over two hours later, we land in the comfortable mid-twenties of Faro, pick up our darling little city car, and head for the hills…

Villa Organica

The stunning little villa in Vale de Telha, Aljezur, and our home for a long weekend. It’s the perfect spot for a couple or family who want a to get away from the mainstream of Southern Algarve and enjoy some time in a peaceful, nature-filled setting. And the view is something else…

We spent days with music, a bottle of Portuguese wine and a saltwater pool and all through Airbnb.

Restaurante Praia Arrifana

A surfer bar around a 10 minute drive from our villa, set in a cliffside looking over the Praia da Arrifana. They have quirky live bands with exotic instruments, and they do a damn good cocktail.

O Sargo

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Half restaurant, half cafe but all homemade goodness. We stopped by for a fresh pineapple juice, hummus and flatbread moment – it’s all about the little things. Another stunning lunch view looking out over Praia de Monte Clérigo.

Puro Beach

One of the many and probably the best beach club in Vilamoura, it’s reasonably priced loungers and Balinese beds attract couples, groups and even some families. Service got a little slow on our trip this time, but generally it’s laid back with some serious Ibiza cool factor.

El Patron

El Patron

Mexican food that is worth the wait – you can be waiting a while for a table here. They serve some of my favourite cocktails out of anywhere in the region, and the al fresco area sits right on Vilamoura marina.

I’m so in love with Portugal that we’re actually going back in a few weeks time – keep an eye on my Instagram for more hidden gems.