For my next adventure I got to escape the cold of Connecticut and trade it for a warm and sunny Miami. In Miami I do not think there is such a thing as winter. For the most part everyday was around 80 degrees, with the occasional rain shower and only one actually cold day. It was a different experience from what I normally associate with winter time. This was my second time in Miami and I do have to say the city is growing on me. It is full of culture and there is almost always something to do. The first night in Miami we headed to Lincoln Road. Lincoln Road is the place to be in Miami Beach, it is a pedestrian road so there are no cars. It is similar to an outdoor shopping mall, there are many high end and modest stores, side by side with some really fantastic restaurants. Along the road there is the occasional surprise like an art gallery or a church. It is a very lively and vibrant place to be. From there we went to a place called Española Way. This is again a pedestrian road but the focus of Española Way is restaurants from around the world. My favorite is a traditional Spanish tapas restaurant called Tapas & Tintos Tapas Bar. It has outstanding food which always make me reminiscence about my time in Spain. From there we went to Miami Beach to get a look at what was going on down there and to see the beach. All of this is within a fair walking distance, it took us about 20 minutes or so to walk from Española Way to Miami Beach.

For New Year's Eve we went to a part of Miami called Bayside. It was called the 'Times Square of the South' for New Year's Eve which I did not believe until it turned about 8:00 or so and all of a sudden hundreds of people flooded the area. There was a fiesta of music and food. They celebrated all the different cultures with music performances that reflected the people of Miami. To call in the New Year they have this thing called the Big Orange. You can see it in the second photo...its literally an orange with giant sun glasses. Now the Big Orange is a little different to the Crystal Ball that drops in Times Square. This one reaches the top of the building at mid-night. That started off a brilliant display of fireworks! If you ever want to celebrate the New Year in a unique way I would highly suggest going to Bayside Miami!

Every time that I have gone to Miami there has always been at least one incredible sunset. This one was captured a few days into the trip from a mall parking lot. But, it is always stunning, since the sunsets up North are not nearly as beautiful. Although they do have their days where they are really nice. I think the palm trees make it look a little better!

 One thing that was weird for me was how hot it was. I swear Miami does not have a winter! It was around 80 degrees or high 70s every day with one exception. The only difference is that it rains a little more during the winter months. But, to bring in the New Year we went to the beach! On January 2nd! That is unheard of for me. Something I would never consider unless it was one of those Polar Plunges for charity. But here are some pictures I took of the beach that day...

One thing that keeps me coming back to Miami besides the wonderful weather, and my girlfriend, would definitely be the food. There are so many great restaurants it is hard to choose between them at times! Also, for me I get to try a lot of new foods that I have never had before. The photo below is a perfect example...it is called Ropa Vieja (Old Clothes), and it is like pulled beef with a very tasty sauce. It slightly reminded me of a German dish that my grandfather often makes called Sauerbraten.

 Up next is a little pastry called an Alfajor. This was delicious. It has two cookies with some coconut sprinkled on the outside. Between the cookies there is a Dulce de Leche filling, similar to a caramel filling.

 This is a pastry or bread covered in sugar. It is filled with guava which is very sweet and also cheese! Both this and the Alfajor I tried when we went to a local bakery called Don Pan. It was filled with many fantastic pastries and breads I could have stayed there all day and just devoured everything they could offer me.

For the holidays my girlfriends parents had gone to Cuba to visit family and spend the holiday with them. They brought back some Cuban pizza for us to have. It can be found from street vendors in Cuba and is really a soft dough pizza with not too much sauce folded up in half as shown. Again...I could have had 100 of them. It was a really interesting take on a pizza, very enjoyable too.

Last up for the food is the best burger I have ever had. We went to a restaurant called Giraffas. It is a Brazilian food place. This was their original burger. It had some cheese, bacon, lettuce, and also a fried egg on top. All fairly standard on a burger. But, the burger itself was the unique part to this burger. Instead of ground up meat, it was a very juicy and tender steak! I have never eaten a burger so fast until I came across this beauty. Unfortunately they do not have any of these up North so it looks like I will have to go back to Miami sooner rather than later.

On our last day in Miami we got a really beautiful day of sun. This was a perfect opportunity to visit a place called Vizcaya. Vizcaya is a mansion complex that was built around 1914 or so if my memory serves me correctly. It was originally privately owned by one man. It has a beautiful complex of gardens, and the house itself is quite a masterpiece. The whole place sort of reminded me of the Palace of Versailles in France. It has a similar feel although on a smaller scale. A lot of the inspiration for this place came from Europe as well as from the owner's passion for sailing. Once the man passed away he left Vizcaya to the people to serve as a museum. Unfortunately it was prohibited to take photos inside the house, so I hope you enjoy the photos of the gardens.

All in all, Miami always continues to surprise me each time I go. I have to say that Miami is starting to grow on me and quickly becoming my favorite city in the US. Mostly due to the wonderful climate, people, food, and things to do down there! If you haven't gotten the chance to go yet, make sure to put this on the list! Definitely worth a visit or a longer stay!

Until the next stop...