by Bob Wonders
Back in 2009, Powerboat-World editor Bob Wonders wrote what might be termed an introductory piece on Miami, aimed at those who may be planning on visiting the Miami International Boat Show for the first time.
Looking down on the Sea Isale Marina from the towering (and adjacent) Marriott Hotel.
With Miami, 2011 on the doorstep, so to speak, we thought this advice may again prove of value for prospective show visitors.
For those who have never visited Florida’s southern cities, it is probably desirable to point out a few facts.
Miami and Miami Beach; Miami Beach is not the beach at Miami!
Miami and Miami Beach are two separate cities, each with its own council, its own police force; they are about a 20 minute cab ride (depending on traffic) apart.
Much of Miami Beach is built on a series of islands, linked to the mainland by bridges and causeways.
The two cities are very, very different.
Miami Beach is the destination favoured by wealthy residents and the tourists and is home to many of the region’s attractions, such as the famous art deco hotels, the beaches, the five-star hotels, nightclubs and restaurants.
Latino singer Ricky Martin is obviously doing ok. This is where he hangs his hat in Miami.
Miami is much more like a city, and has the normal downsides associated with a typical city such as slums, ‘street people’ and a crime rate well in excess of Miami Beach.
Miami has been labelled 'America’s most un-American city.'
The reason for that is the influx of Spanish-speaking citizens, manly from Cuba and Puerto Rico; there is even a fairly large area of the city known as ‘Little Havana.’
I recall about 20-years ago, one of my early visits to the city, and the lead story in the press and on the electronic media centred on an ‘Anglo American’ who was knocked back for a job on the grounds that he couldn’t speak Spanish.
Several sections of the community were upset, to say the least.
Frankly, I find it an interesting place to visit, although I don’t imagine I would ever want to live there.
I have been to Little Havana and found it quite a fascinating experience and discovered that Cuban food and cooking was definitely appealing to my palate.
Because of the convention centre, most of my time is spent in Miami Beach and it is an equally interesting place.
Outside the Miami Beach Convention Centre is this huge open air area, part of which is used for a series of brilliant marquees which house all manner of boating related items.
It can be ‘party town’ at the drop of a hat and there are well-known restaurants (such as Joe’s Crab House) where it is virtually impossible to get a table during boat show time.
For the history buff, Miami Beach has its attractions, too.
Having once been a regular reader of gangster novels, I went to take a look at the waterfront mansion on Star Island once called home by the legendary crime boss Al Capone; a few months ago it was up for sale, a snip at USD$16.5 million.
Ol’ Scarface died in the home, but there’s been no talk of it being haunted.
Just a few doors along from Al’s, still on Star Island (on the water, linked by causeway, about half-way between Miami and Miami Beach) is the former home of basketball superstar Shaquille O’Neal,
He sold it for about USD$16 million to the boyfriend of supermodel Naomi Campbell.
That home is almost next door to the spectacular mansion which ‘starred’ in the Al Pacino movie, ‘Scarface’ (no connection with Al Capone).
This impressive waterfront 'pile' was the home of 'Scarface' (not Al Capone) in the Al Pacino movie of the same name. When I was in MIami it was on the market for something in the order of $18 million.
The very same island also features a very nice, actually quite conservative waterfront home once owned by Frank Sinatra, while another close by is owned by the Parker family and if you’re wondering where that family made its money think pens!
Other celebrity homes nearby include that of Julio Iglasius and Ricky Martin and both are very impressive ‘piles’, complete with tennis courts and marinas.
Another piece of history I came across will no doubt impress movie fans; on the façade of a hotel near the convention centre was a plaque informing all that a team of West Point cadets were stationed there during World War II ‘under the command of Captain Clark Gable.’
History can be found all around Miami - movie fans love sighting this plaque commemorating the days when Clark Gable was in town.
Movie buffs would also appreciate seeing many of the hotels which have featured in Hollywood ‘blockbusters’, such as the Fontainebleau, where much of the James Bond Movie ‘Goldfinger’ was filmed.
Miami or Miami Beach, take your pick, they’re well worth a visit and I’ll rate it in advance that it will be a visit you won’t regret.
One section of the massive convention centre; more than one million square feet of exhibition space available for exhibitors.
This Tiara Convertible may be long way from the water, but it still looks mighty good inside the cavernous Miami Beach Convention Centre at a recent show.
Miami claims it is the world's cruising capital. With ships like these arriving and departing daily, who's to argue?
Queensland manufacturer Maritimo displayed its award-winning boats at the Yacht and Brokerage Show on Collins Avenue., Miami Beach.
Back in the years just after World War II a certain Chicago-based fellow called this home - his name was Al Capone and he allegedly died in this house in 1947. The "joint' (I'm sure that's how Al would have referred to it) sold not long ago for $16 million-plus.