A December Trip to Miami, Florida

After looking back through all of my pictures on the computer I decided to write about our experiences at the Sofitel hotel in Miami.

This was a December trip. We flew coach air through USAirways and stayed 3 nights at the French Sofitel hotel in Miami, Florida. This was the second time we stayed at an Accor Sofitel hotel. The first time was on our trip to France back in 2002.

The Sofitel Miami hotel is much bigger than the one in France – maybe because there isn’t as much room in Paris for a hotel. Miami Sofitel has a pool, a huge dining room, Starbucks, conference rooms on several floors, and huge lounge area. The hotel rooms were much larger too and include a sitting area.

Sofitel Hotel Review Miami Florida

The people working at the Sofitel know all about customer service. I was really surprised at the level of service. There was always someone around to ask us how our stay was or if we needed anything. I think it has to do with either Miami, and the fact that they thrive off of the tourist industry, or the fact that the Sofitel is a European hotel. Someone told me I was just experiencing Southern Hospitality but I don’t think that is why at all. I am originally from Virginia (born and raised 21 years there) so I understand all about Southern hospitality. Miami and the South are two different things but then again, when people are friendly I’m happy. I think it has to do with warmer climates. I find people are naturally happier when it is warm and sunny.

At the Sofitel Miami there was always a mixture of people from French, Spanish, Cuban, and Italian. I heard so many languages that my head was spinning. I sure wish I could speak all of them because I feel left out.

In the dining room the waiters, waitresses, managers, and bus boys were busy every second clearing, cleaning, primping, or attending to diners. The Italian coffee Lavazza

was the best. They used a French press to serve it.

We had a full breakfast everyday and while most of the time they assumed we wanted the “American breakfast” we always tried something different each day – French crepes, French toast, a fruit platter, or an omelet. My husband and I like to try all kinds of new foods, experiences new cultures, and go new places. That’s how we learn and have adventures – by getting out of our comfort zone.

While we were in Miami we had a rental car so we drove around a lot – and got lost a lot too. I can safely say that we drove around The Ritz Carlton in Coconut Grove 6 times. I memorized the front lawn. There’s one hotel I’d like to stay in.

Did you know it rains almost everyday in Miami? Well, at least it did for us. But it doesn’t last long. It rained when we got there and that was the first view I had out of our window. After that we had the most gorgeous sunset.

Miami, South Beach, Coconut Grove, Luxury Homes South Florida, Merrick Park, Sofitel Trip Update

The view from our room when we arrived. Pretty little raindrops overlooking a beautiful sunset over the bay.

miami florida sunset

Besides sunflowers (my favorite flower), my favorite living plant is the palm tree. I have a 1-1/2 foot one in my kitchen that I bought at Walmart this past summer. I am trying to make sure it lives through this Connecticut winter. I took more pictures of palm trees than anything else. I couldn’t believe all of the varieties in Florida.

palm trees miami florida december

It was Christmastime after all so you could see decorations hanging from palm trees, quite a site for us who were from Connecticut.

We had an open schedule so we picked a handful of things to do. We ended up going to Merrick Park Mall and walked around. They call this a luxury shopping center. It has stores like Williams and Sonoma, Coach, Juicy Couture, and L’Occitane but we didn’t buy anything. We walked the entire mall, which is outside, just to look at the scenery. They even have valet parking and when the counters in the bathroom are made out of marble you know it much be an expensive place to shop.

miami merrick park mall christmas florida

It’s so beautiful you almost feel like you are at a park.

miami merrick park mall christmas florida

We also made it to Coconut Walk (nothing much there to see), Coconut Grove, drove through Coral Gables and The Miracle Mile (not impressed) and then found a Fresh Market store (similar to Wholefoods) where we sampled their Christmas coffee and bought some home. The regulars in this store were so friendly that we actually stopped and chatted with a few of them. We even came back later in the day to get our dinner to take to the hotel. I could have walked around this store all day. Everything is so fresh and colorful. It was right on the water too.

The next day we drove out to South Beach. It was only about a 15 minute drive. Along the way we could see cruise ships docked.

south beach miami cruise ships florida

South Beach is unique in that it has high-rise buildings but it doesn’t feel like a big city. It also has old, Art Deco buildings and hotels that add to it’s charm. Along the main strip on Ocean Drive you see all of the original hotels and cafes and swear you are living in the 1950s. They call this the Art Deco section. They are all the original hotels, beautifully restored. People are sitting in the outdoor cafes chatting away and while there are people everywhere you go there aren’t crowds because there are so many cafes, hotels, and shops that it is spread out nicely. We never made it to the actual beaches for lack of time – that will have to be on our next trip.

miami florida art deco palm trees

We drove all of the way down Ocean Drive and then turned and went up Collins Avenue. You can see luxury homes on the other side of the Avenue on an island. Man, wouldn’t it be nice to live here? That is if someone else could do the cooking, cleaning, and taking care of the yacht! Oh, yeah, and pay the taxes.

miami florida south beach collins avenue luxury houses

miami florida luxury homes

We finally parked and walked up and down Lincoln Road Mall where we landed at an Italian restaurant for lunch. We sat at their outdoor cafe area eating and doing a little people watching for a couple of hours. This is Segafredo. We actually should have eaten there becuase it was bustling with people and where we ended up was just kind of average. We will know for next time though.

Segafredo Llincoln Mall Miami Florida

After eating we drove down Washington Avenue and parked at South Pointe Park. This is a one-mile, at least, walk along Biscayne Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. It was newly renovated in 2009 so we got there just in time to enjoy it. It is lined with luxury condos on one side and yachts on the other. You can also see cruise ships and cargo ships go by. We walked almost a mile, I think, and then sat and watched the water for awhile.

South Pointe Park miami florida

South Pointe Park miami florida

Must be nice to have a yacht AND a helicopter.

That evening we came back to the hotel for our Chocolate Lover treats. This was part of the hotel package. We were given a selection of fabulous chocolate cakes and pastries, along with that wonderful Italian coffee.

The next day we had about 4 hours to kill before we boarded the plane so we decided to take a ride out to Fairchild Tropical Botanical Gardens. It’s a bit pricey ($20 per person) but the fee does go to keep the garden running. They don’t have a military discount but they do have a senior and children’s discount if you decide to ever go. If we had known we were going we would have printed out this $5.00 discount coupon.

We took the tram ride around the park, which is definitely the way to see it. The tram ride was 45 minutes long and the hilarious driver pointed out everything of interest. There was never a dull moment on the ride. If you just walk around you have no clue what you are looking at. Take the tram ride first and then walk around. The walk would probably take you 3 hours alone. See map

Fairchild Tropical Botanical Gardens florida

The garden is run by volunteers and they have all kinds of great events all year long. It is also a place for art lovers. There were sculptures all throughout the park and places to sit and just take it all in.

Fairchild Tropical Botanical Gardens florida

Did you know they have over 100 varieties of palm trees – amazing! And all kinds of lizards, geckos, and iguanas run all over the place. After the tram ride we picked a few spots that were pointed out to walk through and the geckos would scurry past out feet, 10 at a time in some cases.

Fairchild Tropical Botanical Gardens florida

I so wanted to take this little guy with me to add to my “critters” back home.

Fairchild Tropical Botanical Gardens florida

I think my favorite area was the waterlily pond. Some of the lily pads were 4 feet in size. Just beautiful!

Fairchild Tropical Botanical Gardens florida lily pond

The airfare ride to and from Florida was uneventful and that is good. You really want it that way so you don’t have much to write about. But, I can say that you sure do see a lot of characters in the airports and that is an adventure in itself.

We came back to Connecticut where it was 20 degrees with a snowstorm on the way. I miss the 80 degree weather already. Going for a weekend trip to Florida in December is definitely a must if you live in New England.