No matter how I much I love New York, I physically and emotionally feel the need to take a break away from the City every 6 weeks or so. I'm not really sure why - perhaps because I keep myself so busy (too busy?) here or because it can be an overwhelming metropolis where it is difficult to get away from the energy and the noise .. All I know is that after a few weeks here, I start feeling extremely run down.
As soon as I started feeling the above symptoms, a couple of weeks ago, I hatched a plan to finally visit Miami with Larry for a long weekend of fun. We had talked about it for a long time and I had never been to Miami, where Larry has spent a lot of time over the years, so it was an obvious choice.
So I boarded my plane from JFK on Thursday evening last week, excited by the prospect of lying on the beach and swimming for the next 3 days. I felt on holiday as soon as I stepped off the plane and was hit by the humid heat and even more so when my taxi left the airport area and I spotted the first palm trees. I love that feeling- you know you are away from your normal life and responsibilities and your mind somehow empties of every day worries and of anything at all in fact.
I arrived at the Beacon Hotel, a wonderful Art Deco affair facing South Beach, at around 10.30pm. Larry, who flies on standby, was meant to get there before me but couldn't get on a flight until much later. The hotel wouldn't let me check in as the reservation was in his name so I found myself doing something I have never had the courage to do before: having a glass of wine by myself, sitting in the open air bar of the hotel. Miami is so laid back that I didn't feel self-conscious about being on my own at all. The waiter was very friendly anyway, spent most of the evening talking to me and didn't even charge me for my drink.
Larry eventually arrived at around 1am and we strolled down Ocean Drive, which was a vision of white and pastel coloured buildings, neon-lit signs, cars slowly cruising with music blaring out of them. I felt I had stumbled in the middle of a "Pimps & Hos" costume party as the dress code in Miami is distinctively "bling, tight & short" for both men & women.
Our hotel was great and we were excited to find that our room was fitted with an ipod player, as we had both brought ours. It made for some amusing games though as I would play Kanye West or Hotel Costes and Larry would switch it to Maria Carey or House music at every opportunity ... thankfully, we found some musical common ground in R Kelly's "Ignition" and Madonna's new album, which became the soundtrack for our holiday.
A few things about Miami surprised me - the most obvious one being that people addressed me in Spanish first. It is very much the first language there and there is a huge Cuban and Argentinian community, which adds to the exotic feel of the city. I was also surprised by the daytime drinking culture, where it's not unusual to see people drinking Mojitos from what looked like enormous fishbowls as early as 10 in the morning.
In addition to the relaxing sunbathing and frequent swimming in the wonderfully warm Ocean, it was very much a party weekend, filled with many fun memories. Chatting and sipping Caiparinhas on a friend's balcony overlooking South Beach. Lying on the beach at 3am while philosophying about love and life. Spending a boozy afternoon at The Palace, a fantastic gay bar, chatting to all the boys (including a Matt Damon lookalike) and laughing to the point of tears when their drag queen show involved these giant "ladies" strutting down Ocean Drive, singing and waiving rainbow flags, jumping in passing cars and hugging startled bystanders ... at 3 o'clock in the afternoon ...