Driving on this trip has certainly had its pros and cons, but the worse place to drive was Miami. With the sheer amount of traffic funneling down the interstate 95 and slip roads appearing left, right and centre, Tom and I were looking forward to leaving the car behind. We eased our traffic worries away with plates and plates of fine Sushi.
Miami Beach has the largest collection of Art Deco architecture in the world, with some 30 blocks of hotels, apartments and other structures, crammed into the Art Deco Historic District which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. From our hotel, The Shepley, we followed the Lonely Planet’s walking tour around the Art Deco District. In 1915, businessman Carl Fisher became the regions’s chief PR pro, promoting the area as a winter getaway for Northern wealthy families. Fisher built a number of luxury hotels and a golf course and by 1925 the island was transformed from mangrove swamp to glamourous playground. In 1926, the Great Miami Hurricane flattened many of the early wooden structures, making way for architects such as L. Murray Dixon, Henry Hohauser, Albert Anis and T. Hunter Henderson, pillars of Art Deco movement, to set the tone for next three decades.
Following the Great Depression, Miami’s building adopted the fashion for ‘Streamline Moderne’, a form of Art Deco which evolved a less decorative, more sober twist and relied on machine inspired, industrial forms. It was also imbued with a belief that times would get better, extolled by America’s futuristic World Fairs.
In Miami, architects morphed ‘Streamline Moderne’ with local icons – flamingos, palm trees and ocean liner motifs – tropical imagery to reinforce the seaside resort and bringing us ‘Tropical Deco’. The movement to preserve the Art Deco District’s architectural heritage was led by former interior designer Barbara Capitman, who now has a street in the District named in her honour. For me the Art Deco District was by far best part of Miami Beach, but by nightfall holiday makers looking for a good time and cheap drink flood Ocean Drive.
Lincoln Road, the outdoor shopping mall, provided us with some excellent last minute holiday souvenirs whilst Espanola Way, with its Mediterranean- Revival buildings, is a hot bed of European eateries and I was delighted to see an Italian chef making proper pasta in the window (I’d seriously been lacking on the pasta front by that point!).
For our last supper, before catching the flight home we headed to St Diner – and excellent diner in a winnebago (our second trip in two days) for tall glasses of banana and peanut butter milkshakes, meaty burger stacks and piles of sweet potato fries. The sort of feast that will leave your lips smacking just thinking out it, even two months later.