|beachfront of our hotel, Newport Beachside Resort Hotel in Miami|
|the spa lounge|
Our brief getaway for Valentine’s 2012 proved to be a unique experience. Our hotel is right on the beach with a most charming view of the Atlantic Ocean. The palapas on the white sands below are even more inviting than the glistening blue pool and sizzling hot tub. But the best facility of the hotel is its exquisite spa with a strong seductive aroma. There are also a fitness center and salon, the 5-star Kitchen 305 and hearty breakfast buffet at the dining hall each morning.
|preparations at the beach|
|high-rise condos along the coast|
|South Beach sidewalk cafes|
|the freedom Tower across the Port|
|colorful residential homes|
So we spent Valentine’s Day in Little Havana, undoubtedly the best known neighborhood for Cuban exiles in the world, characterized by a robust street life, excellent restaurants, cultural activities, mom and pop enterprises, political passion, and great warmth amongst its residents. About 20,000 households thrive in the many blocks around Calle Ocho (SW 8th St.) from SW 11th to 37th. Bill loved his Cuban espresso and sweet potato pudding for afternoon snacks at Versailles. Then we sampled authentic Cuban goods (dominoes, roosters, hats, etc.) at Sentir Cubano whose mural proudly declares, Miami, the 7th province!
|mural at Sentir Cubano declaring the city Cuba's 7th ptovince...|
|@ Casa Panza's sidewalk bar table|
|our Valentine platter and my unique roses|
So we perched ourselves at one of Casa Panza’s sidewalk bar tables and ordered the platter of jamon Serrano, chorizo Espanol, queso Manchego, and aceitunes with a glass of house wine. We watched the unique lifestyle unfold before our eyes: bikers plying to and fro on the sidewalk between the restaurant and us. At the next table was the friendly Rafael, a friend of Gloria Estefan who makes Hibiscus Island her home, waiting for his daughter who was studying flamenco nearby.
|Haiti's fight for freedom|
Back at the hotel, we continued our celebration sipping champagne while watching Blue Valentine and being what the world expects from two lovebirds.. The next day, before we went back to our home at the campground, we made a quick visit to Little Haiti. It was a more depressed neighborhood around a smaller group of street blocks at the northeastern corner of Miami. But the murals were bolder and more colorful. One that depicted the history of Haiti, especially their fight to freedom in 1804 caught our eyes.
|Star Island with millionaires' homes and boats|