Sleeping in a Motel, driving on 8-lanes highways and being overtaken by huge pick-up trucks, buying food in a supermarket on a Sunday at 10 pm or even eating a bagel for breakfast: they may be simple things for Americans, and they might be insignificant for many Europeans. But for me, it was almost a dream becoming true. A few months ago, I went to Miami and its surroundings. Today, I’m taking you with me to have a look around (with a French point a view).
For a better experience, every article is along with a music that corresponds to my mood, the theme of the article or simply that remind me of the scene from a movie or a piece of series that I like. Yet, in that case, you have to find the reference. You can listen to it before or during your reading. Today, I’ve chosen a song by Miami Horror, because I think their vibe totally corresponds to South Florida’s spirit. When I listen to their songs, I feel as it were warmer and I can imagine palm trees… This song is an extract from their last album, which I like much. (it should be noted that the band has nothing to do with Miami, in spite of their name. They’re Australian)
If you talk of Miami with someone, there are several possible reactions. For example, there will be the one who thinks it’s an amazing city since it’s like in CSA: Miami, and who believes that you can find the most beautiful beaches on earth, there. However, he will have no idea of what you can find around there. You’ll also find the snobby one, believing that you can find nothing but tourists and that you won’t see more than beaches and nightclubs. But actually, he doesn’t know anything either. Personally, I was the one who knows the name, who knows that it’s famous, but who doesn’t know it well and wants to discover it more. And I have not been disappointed. Indeed, Miami is a city full of surprises, opposing totally to all the clichés that you can have. To share with you this amazing experience, here are my 4 favorite points.
A Giant Art Gallery
It might not be Miami’s most famous aspect, and yet, it’s the one that struck me the most: this city is full of art. Street art, more precisely. In almost every neighborhoods, you’ll find repainted facades in diverse styles. It gives a very colorful aspect to the city: yellow, green and blue walls come after each other and abstract frescoes are facing huge portraits.
But there’s a district where this artistic aspect is even more present since there isn’t one neutral wall. It must be one of Miami’s less known areas by foreigners, and yet, it’s the most popular: Wynwood. It’s a very new district located at the northern part of the city. About decade ago, it was an abandoned place. But then, the buildings turned into restaurants, cafés, stores and other artists’ landmarks. It rapidly became a very trendy area and I think that we could consider it today as the “hipster” district of the city. Thus, it’s the kind of places where you can find Batman hanging around in the street, or you can even play the Nintendo when waiting at the hairdresser’s
Beside this very cool atmosphere that I loved so much, its beauty and originality strike. Its name “Street Art Capital” is especially due to Wynwood Walls, an open-air art gallery, but it is also because each wall of the district has been painted by artists from around the world. Thus, as soon as you enter the district, your sight is attracted by all these colors and all these different shapes. You’ll find a purplish on one side, a portrait on a yellow background in front of it and a black and white striped building just next to them. It is so beautiful, impressive and diverse that when you walk in Wynwood, you want to take a picture of each wall. I spent a few hours there, and I was not very happy to leave. Actually, I had a sort of frustration, because I knew I had not seen everything. The district offers so many surprises, you never know what the next street will look like. It’s obvious that there are many hidden things and that’s why it deserved to be explored more…
What I’m certain of is that I fell in love with this place and it’s probably the one which struck me the most during this journey, thanks to its originality. If you want to discover it more, I’ve made an article about it on Jenare Magazine.
The American Way of Life
If you know me a bit, you must know that I love the USA and its culture. It’s the reason why it became the main theme of my YouTube Channel, incidentally. Yet my love for this country is simply due to my education. I mean, not the way I was raised, but the things with what I grew up. Indeed, as many other Europeans, I grew up with American movies and series. For all these years, I’ve watched a lifestyle that was not mine. I’m not saying that it was better, what I mean is that it was different and that it had a lot of distinctive characteristics. That’s why as soon as I sat my foot on the American land, I found again every aspect that I had seen on TV since my youngest age. So much that I never stopped saying “It’s just like in the movies!” That’s something that I had already seen in New York City, but this time, it was different, because as everybody knows, New York City is a particular case that does not totally represent the USA. During this trip, it was mostly when I was in the small towns that I felt this. I spent my first night in a Motel at Florida City, a very small town with 11,000 inhabitants… The real Florida! That’s why the customs officer asked some questions since it was unusual for tourists to go there. That’s the kind of place where the V8 of a huge Dodge RAM wakes you up, displaying an impressive flag saying “Vote Trump”. That’s the kind of things that you would never see in France (just like the hundreds of Clinton signboards on the luxury houses’ gardens at Coconut Grove). In France, you don’t display your political views like that, it’s much more taboo. And by the bye, the size of Dodge RAM is quite impressive when you are used to European cars. Apart from this, sleeping in a Motel really gave me the feeling that I was in a movie. It may seem stupid to you since it’s banal, but this is so… American !
However, I only spent one night in this place since I then have been accommodated in an Airbnb home located in Hollywood, a small town in the North of Miami. Once again, the “It’s like in the movies” feeling strikes. Not only because of all the fast food restaurants at every crossroads but thanks to little things that make the American way of life, according to me. Living in one of those housing estates, with small detached houses around a large road. Most of these houses display proudly the American flag over the door, and a sedan car with a pick-up truck are parked in front of the garage door. And most importantly, houses are surrounded by perfect lawns, with not any fence.
Oh, and you might find this stupid, but I’ve been happy to see this in real life: the young man on a bike dropping a newspaper on the door, your mailboxes with the red flag, the big yellow buses and the yard sales. I know it’s totally common to you but to me, it totally represents the small cultural differences that I’ve seen in movies and series for all my life.
Otherwise, for the ones who prefer high skylines, full of shops and big corporations’ buildings, then Downtown Miami is the place to be. It’s at the same time the historical center of the city and the business district. You never stop looking up!
A cultural mix
Though Florida allowed me to see the American culture as I expected it, it also struck me with its interbreeding. And now, I’m particularly thinking of the city of Miami. When you change of neighborhood, you have the feeling of changing country. Of course, it’s due to the fact that Florida had been a Spanish territory for a long time, and it’s also due to its proximity to the Caribbean islands, often quite poor. In Little Haïti for example, a poor district of Miami, you feel far from Wynwood’s luxury stores or South Miami’s villas. You can find dilapidated houses, cars in bad states and stores that don’t look much. People don’t seem unhappy, however, and the district is very colorful thanks to all these paintings on te walls (once again). Regardless, it’s still a true contrast with other neighborhoods located a few miles further.
But indeed, if you want to talk about culture changing, impossible not to talk about Little Havana, another of my favorite places in Miami. During the Cuban revolution, the Fidel Castro opponents that had emigrated to the USA met up in this small area of Miami, bringing their culture with them. Over time, Cubans gave way to other Hispanic peoples, by welcoming exiles from Honduras or Nicaragua for instance. Thus, from the moment you arrive in the area, English becomes a secondary language. Billboards are written in Spanish, signs are in Spanish, and people in the street speak Spanish. It’s not shocking since Miami has a strong Spanish community and that Spanish is one of the main languages. Yet, there, it’s different, because finally, it’s more Spanish that is English subtitled (or even not subtitled at all). And since I believe that language also creates a change of scene, then I can say that Little Havana gave me the impression that I was elsewhere.
But that’s not all. Exiles haven’t only brought their language in the United States since the district is actually (as its name indicates) a miniature Cuba. You’ll find the music, the smells, the architecture and even if it can seem a bit cliché, cigar factories every three yards.
If like me you don’t have much time, then a walk on Calle Ocho (the most famous street) will allow you to feel in the heart of latin culture. You will find for instance the walk of fame with the stars of Cuban and latin leading figures, the domino park in which the inhabitants play dominos outdoors, or a few dozens of cigar shops and factories.
A City That Doesn’t Sleep
For this time, I’m going a bit far from Miami’s small residential areas or big buildings in order to take the tremendous bridge that leads to Miami Beach. Though it may be the most touristic area that corresponds to a few stereotypes, it stays a must-see place thanks to its style and the vibe that it can offer. In the day, you’ll appreciate the Art Deco District, an enjoyable stroll between the Art Deco hotels from the 30s.
But when the night falls, it’s an occasion for the latter to light the neons and give way to the DJs. It’s the perfect moment to walk on Ocean Drive, a very famous and must-see avenue that goes along the large beaches. You’ll find once again many hotels from the 30s that liven things up after the sunset. There’s something for everyone! Whether you are a partier or not, you will be likely to enjoy this off the wall atmosphere. For instance, I went there during Halloween and I’ve been amazed when I crossed paths with zombies and witches. Yup, it’s quite unusual when you come from France (even for Halloween).
You can also walk on Lincoln Road, there is no lack of good atmosphere. You’ll find many shops and restaurants, all with music and once again, you’ll find quite unusual people, especially for Halloween… even dogs are dressed! (I don’t know if this is common for Americans, but it wasn’t for me). In a nutshell, Miami Beach is a limitless city. And I like this!
Thus, even though it was a short stay, I had the chance to see many beautiful things and to feel far from my everyday life. It was a pure happiness to discover the American way of life and to feel this change of scene. But that’s not all since this trip to Florida was the opportunity to spend a week discovering the Caribbean a board of Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of The Seas, one of the biggest ships in the world. Of course, I’ll tell you about that a bit later… In the meantime, you can check my Flickr account to discover my pictures of Florida and all the aspects I’ve talked you about (they all have been shot on iPhone 7). With this, I encourage you to leave and go wherever you want, because I don’t know a better feeling than the one that you can feel when traveling…
See You Soon!
PS: This post first appeared in French. To help me practicing English, a language that I should speak every day in a few years, I’ve decided to translate all my articles. That’s why you’ve probably found some mistakes, but it’s a perfect training for me and I hope, if possible, attract English-speaking people!
All my posts are to be available on Medium one week after their publications on the blog.