I’d never go to Miami out of choice – I like places with history, grandeur and, ideally, temperatures that aren’t constantly over 30 degrees. But, thanks to a mix of friends organising stuff and me getting off my arse to have a look around, I managed to find plenty to do to keep me entertained and distracted from the organisational farce that was the OutGames.
First up was the drag brunch at The Palace on Saturday afternoon – $50 for a huge chunk of steak and constantly topped up (if watered down) mimosas. As we booked in advance, we got a front row table to the promenading drag acts… a table that was also part of the show when one artiste sashayed along it before collapsing down into the kind of splits that make you wish that she tucked really carefully that day.
Sunday was a day of contrasts – it began at Miami’s haunting Holocaust memorial and ended at a pool party. Sandwiched between was a trip to the small but perfectly formed botanical gardens, which is something of a green oasis in the concrete jungle. Along with turtles and many large fish, there was a guide called Gaylord, so there really was something for everyone.
Having had my fill of lushness, it was time for the Vagabundos pool party, which was a bit of a schelp away at a motel that looked like it had seen its fair share of prostitute murders. Location aside, it was a fun if daddy-heavy way to spend the afternoon. Pretty sure they stiffed us on some of the drinks though – rounds that were $32 at the start were closer to $40 by the end. That said, the measures were so generous that vodka-cokes only had the merest hint of brown to them.
Diamonds and deco
Football took up much of the daytime early in the week, but we managed to slip in an evening trip to catch the baseball at Marlins Stadium. My only exposure to the sport had been late night games on Channel 5 in my youth, and it’s not exactly enthralling, is it? Still, a mix of free Wi-Fi, having a laugh with the group and outrageously oversized snacks helped make it a pleasurable experience.
Wednesday was my first chance to actually get some free day time during the week, so I checked out Miami Beach’s nod to history – its art deco architecture. Sure, it’s only a century old, but the place is trying its best, and its best is pretty spectacular. It’s a bit gaudier than your standard art deco, but given the azure skies and verdant palm trees that dominate Miami Beach, adding a bit of colour certainly isn’t out of place.
The art deco museum is scarcely worth the $5 entry, but you can increase your insight by joining the 10.30am guided walking tours, or paying $15 for a personal audio tour. Timing meant that I wasn’t able to take up those options, but I rather wish that I’d been able to.
Boats and birds
There was more house-viewing to be had later in the week, with a boat tour around the bay to peer at the homes of the rich and occasionally famous. There were some pretty grand places on the manmade islands, but the trouble with living on places like that is you look out onto some right rubbish… such as boats with tourists who have spent $20 to gawk at your gaff.
It was time to hop onto another island for our final full day, as we hit the zoo on Jungle Island. I love a good animal prison, and this seemed to be a better one, despite torrential downpours. While it didn’t have the range of animals that many zoos have, the ones that were there appeared much more lively and engaged, especially the birds that loved a tickle on the back of the neck and a singsong to Nelly Furtado. On top of that, I stroked a small kangaroo – it was SO soft to the touch.
And that was that, time had beaten us – kinda wished I’d been able to whizz around the Everglades on a fan boat, while the Seaquarium and science museum sounded cool. Would it be worth going back to do them? Nah – unlike Will Smith, I’ve no desire to make Miami my second home, although I’m going to New York in August, and that’s got a decent shout.