SOUTH BEACH MIAMI
When I was in high school, I spent one New Years' Eve camped on a sidewalk in Pasadena with some friends, securing a great seat for the Rose Parade the following morning. When I was married and living in London, my husband and I went to Leicester Square for New Years' Eve. I arranged to meet my mother at FAO Schwartz in New York the Saturday before Christmas one year (neither of us made it). And once, several years ago, I went, with my sister and daughter, to New Orleans to celebrate my birthday. It was the week of Mardi Gras.
I loathe crowds.
Now I live in the country, driving meandering roads past ponds and cows, rusting tractors and kudzu-covered tumble-down sheds. I hear a train twice a day, and on still nights I can hear the football games at the high-school half a mile away. While I relish a great city vacation in New York or Paris or London, you won't find me in Times Square on New Years' Eve, in Rio for Carnivale, or on Ocean Avenue, in South Beach, on a Friday or Saturday night.
If you want to be where the action is, however, that's the place for you.
Not that many years ago, the southernmost tip of the island that is Miami Beach was a jumble of lowrise 1930s apartment houses sheltering primarily low-income seniors. As the owners died or as the taxes rose, the buildings became more and more dilapidated. Many were completely abandoned, ready for the wrecker's ball. But some developers had vision, and saw the deco magic behind the crumbling structures; with minimal investment, some of the worst of the buildings were purchased and renovated, restored to their original pre-WWII glory (with modern amenities). Many of them were resurrected as trendy hotels.
Photo by Cookie Kinkead
for Island Outpost
In 1979, the Art Deco area of South Beach was declared a national treasure, and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
With the pastel colors of the renovated buildings, the curves and zigzags of the Deco style, the temperate climate and the beautiful beach, the area became known as an ideal year-round photo-op for designers and their models. Soon their names were being dropped all over the South Beach area ("I did lunch with Calvin.") Gianni Versace bought an old Ocean Drive hotel which he turned into a palacial single-family home. When the models came, the rock stars came. When the models and rock stars came, the world went to watch. South Beach became SoBe.
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