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Sunday, 30 June 2013

Party in the city where the heat is on

Welcome to Miami

Miami Beach and English roses shouldn't mix, perhaps. But since they invented factor 30 to, well, 80, I felt encouraged to brave the heat for the pool, the beach, the beats and the cabanas.

 Pool Party

 The beach along the east side of Miami Beach is breathtaking. Turquoise waves crash to shore (it's windy here, so better for water sports than west Florida). It's not hard to imagine why New Jersey father and son Henry and Charles Lum were so captivated that they decided to buy much of the island, back in 1870. Yes, I confess, if I had a few quid to spare; if I had won the Power Ball last night...(unlikely since I didn't buy a ticket) I would definitely be thinking of a small pied à plage here.

Hideaways at the W South Beach

 If Gatsby circa 2013 took a trip to Miami Beach, I think he might have taken a suite (or four) at the W South Beach hotel, my Saturday night residence. He could probably still have shown them a thing or two, but this hotel is all about decadence - an adult playground par excellence. Lounge by the pool while the resident DJ plays a series of chilled out (but on the verge of partying) tracks. Dip in the pool or dip your tortilla chips into freshly made guacamole. Sun yourself on one of the loungers or sip more cocktails. (Incidentally, there was a disappointing lack of umbrellas in drinks here, but no doubt the Carlyle can supply those for the camper contingent.)

Miami by Night

Never one to shy away from the local attractions, it was great to try out the resident Bliss Spa for a 75 minute massage. Definitely worth the five days of running that I got in last week! The spa was an interesting experience from the inside of the hotel - a separate elevator takes you to check in (you take the hotel elevator to the fourth floor, then walk to the Bliss elevator...down again to two...then back up (in a different elevator again) to the massage room. Labyrinthine relaxation? So it would seem.

Miami Beach Waking Up

Post massage, I took to the private area of the beach to lounge by the waves. Of course, there's no accounting for your neighbours. A stag party (bachelor party, whatever) on my left, already in the annoying "Dude"--"No, Dude!" phase of the day with their Coors light and tasteless Bermudas. And on my right high powered ladies drinking prosecco and bitching about the CFO. (Lose the prosecco and that could have been just another work chat...)

Sand Bar...Beach Bar

Fortunately or not, these conversations were cut short by the arrival of darkening clouds and thunder, so I headed back to my suite to enjoy views of the lightning and listen to the rain from a dry haven. They certainly know how to organise their rooms at the Ws I've stayed at (Chicago and South Beach so far). Admittedly I had an upgrade this time (I used my hotel points...a lot of them...for this stay) and therefore was greeted by a suite of rooms twice the size of my apartment in New York, and I think, also, bigger than my place in England.

Kitchen to Balcony. Just one of the rooms with a view

The suite has its own amusements. Two toilets, TV & DVD room, that's in addition to the TV in the main lounge and the one in the bedroom; complicated lighting structures; lots of (super expensive) hotel booze and snacks lying around. And two balconies. Thank you, I'll take that.

Sunday morning check out is regimented here at 11am - which didn't quite allow for the lie in merited by the comfy bed listening to the waves. They've thought of that, though, so a hospitality suite is available for the beach-hungry, even after check out. And I took advantage of the complimentary car service to explore other parts of Miami beach with the lovely Pedro. Including the beautiful house outside which Gianni Versace was shot. Colourful, Miami? Indeed. 

Versace's Last Stand - beautiful house

This blog has turned out to be a review of the W South Beach mainly, and that's because there are so many different aspects to talk about. As someone who definitely does not relax well, a place with pretty much everything here is wonderful. I can find seating under the trees for quiet, lounges / day beds by the pool for chilled out music listening and people watching, loungers by the sea for tanning (other people's) and sea sports, and several bars and restaurants. And of course, my own sweet suite. Let's come back here, friends!

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Flights, and flights of wine.

There's something about travel that brings time into entirely new dimensions. I stand on the railway platform and a three minute wait becomes a lifetime. I watch the seconds counting down to the point where the train is supposed to pull into the station. The clock reads 8:19:01, 02, 03... It seems to slow time down. Are the people around me sipping their coffee more slowly, flicking the pages of their throw away commuter-rags at stop-motion speed? It seems that way.

 Up with the sun

These days, of course it’s more about airport travel. At around 4.30am on a Monday, or 3pm on a Thursday (in situation normal) I get up and get out to the airport. And then the fun begins. Have you seen Up In The Air? I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone as slick as George Clooney at getting through security without seamless unloading and reloading of various items. I try my best: laptop out and in a bin by itself. (“Yes, I know!” I scream silently at the security attendants. “I do this every week. I know your name, Jerome, and we’ve been here before!”) Shoes off. Of course in the summer this is extremely pleasant. I love reaching the airport at 5.15am only to realise I’m sharing my foot germs with 3000 other travellers as I walk through the security screening.

 Happiness is an on time PM flight home with a G&T

The time to get to the gate is paramount. To get settled. To eye up the competition for upgrades (no chance of this on a commuter flight at 6am; every chance at 1pm travelling with grandparents, college students and weekenders. If it’s the afternoon I may seek out a glass of wine or a G&T. If it’s the morning I just want to sit down and be quiet, away from the children running around screaming and the non-frequent fliers who don’t appreciate the silence that is the code of the regular business traveller.

 The road home...on a wing (and not) a prayer

Before that comes the security clearance, which is always fun. Firstly, I now really enjoy the contemptuous death stares “How dare you be in a priority lane? You clearly don’t deserve it even if you’ve spent $50,000 on travel this year..” which (being British and a lapsed catholic I so enjoy).
On various days the fact that I wear a Nike fuel band is either: a) something that means I need to be patted down for having, and delays me; b) something that I am told I don’t need to take off or c) something that Mr / Ms. Security feel a burning need to chat about. Which is fine, unless I’m in a TravelRage™ in which case I need to be cheerfully ignored.

Delta Blues. And not even in Economy Comfort 

And then there’s the rest of it. In airports a lot of people are having fun getting paralytic-ally drunk. Depending on the time of day, I might be one of them. However, at 7am I’d be unlikely to be joining in with the guy next to me in first (OK, so I got upgraded) who ordered back-to-back screw drivers. This is not too bad depending on how bad the accompanying behaviour is. It’s not great if the screwdrivers are accompanied by fried eggs and ‘home fries’ (little roasted potatoes, heavy on the grease, for you non-Americans). Grease+Eating Sounds+Alcohol = we might as well be going to Ibiza. Why not take off your shirt into the mix? Why not start singing? Why not take both the arm rests?

Today I find myself in the unusual position of travelling back on a Thursday, which my work commitments haven't permitted for a long while. I have, however, forgotten the Travel Gods' rule number one for Thursday trips home: the weather will be AWFUL. No matter it was 80 degrees (that's upper 20s, Celsius enthusiasts); no matter that there was not a cloud in the sky. That was Wednesday. Today is Thursday, and you're going home, which means rain, snow, freak tornadoes, hail, hurricane strength winds. Fun times for all.

Hooray for flights of wine

So here I find myself. It's 5.20pm. My flight leaves at 5.25. Oh, sorry, I mean is *scheduled* to leave at 5.25. It's currently floating between the 7pm-8pm mark. I'm just hoping not to be re-routed to Philadelphia and left there to fend for myself (thanks to my friend B who kindly let me share his ride to Manhattan).If anyone is in any doubt that consulting is glamorous let this decide you. There's only so long you can be jet set before you have to throw the towel in and check in to yet another hotel because you're so tired of the travel delays that you can't take anymore. And with that, why yes, I'll have another flight of roses. It is the summer after all, even if all evidence is to the contrary in NYC. Cheers.