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From Anchor Araksya Karapetyan

Exploring Miami & Key West

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This was my first time in Miami. What a vibrant, colorful city! So many different kinds of people, cultures, foods, music... there is so much energy exploding from every corner. The weather was uncomfortably humid.

You would take a shower, go outside and in a second, feel like you needed another shower. Forget the hair and the makeup. There was no point. The air was so heavy, it drained your energy, made you want to sit or lay around and do absolutely nothing...except eat and drink. I really enjoyed the sudden bursts of thunderstorms that would roll in and roll out throughout the day. It was fun sitting outside, in a covered area and taking it all in.

To be honest, I wasn't a big fan of South Beach. It was a little too wild, too crowded and too many tourists were around. I didn't like how in front of every restaurant you walked by, someone was trying to convince you to go inside. It was a little stressful and overwhelming. I found myself trying to escape the experience, rather than absorbing it. It was definitely interesting to see, but I was so glad we weren't staying in that area. We stayed on Brickell Key, a man-made island - the neighborhood is just east of Downtown Miami and the Miami River. Close to all the action, but not in the center of it, it was perfect for what I needed... some peace and quiet.

http://www.brickellkeymiami.com/

My favorite part of the trip was sleeping in, reading an actual book and of course, eating, drinking, eating, and more eating... what else do you do on vacation after all? One of my favorite areas was Espanola Way - a blocked off street, filled with restaurants and bars in the"Art Deco" District, which has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. Its one square mile area includes over 800 significant structures. The principal architectural styles in this district are Mediterranean Revival, Art Deco, Streamline Moderne and Miami Modern or "MiMo." We had some excellent Cuban food at Havana 1957. http://www.havana1957.com/

The chicken and rice was simple, but it was the perfect homemade meal we craved. Loved trying the yuca fritas with the side of some kind of a cilantro yogurt sauce. The classic mojitos were so refreshing!

One of my favorite meals was at La Mar - a Peruvian restaurant. http://www.mandarinoriental.com/miami/fine-dining/la-mar-by-gaston-acurio/

I was so impressed with the food that I made a point to write down everything I tried:

Lomo Saltado - stir fried angus beef, potatoes, red onions, tomatoes, soy sauce, cilantro, papas fritas and rice

Cebiche mixto- yellow tail, octopus, shrimp, rocoto leche de tigre

Chikcen Anticucho - free range chicken,potatoes, choclo, chalaca, ocopa sauce

Arroz Con Mariscos- aji panca fried with mussels, octopus, calamari, clams, criolla sauce

Chicha Morada Sorbet (purple corn sorbet)

Just looking at the pictures I am sure you will crave the food. The bright colors alone open up your appetite!

Driving to Key West was like a vacation within a vacation. The drive was much longer than I had expected, but it was tolerable. It was fun going through the Keys, across the water, connected by bridges. It was a change of pace- from the city life of Miami to the laid back, casual island feel of Key West. It was fun hanging out at the local bars, eating fresh seafood, drinking margaritas, watching the World Cup.

One night we had a unique experience - we got on a boat and went to a small island for dinner. In order to get on the island, you either have to have dinner reservations at Latitudes, or be a guest at the Westin. http://www.westinsunsetkeycottages.com/latitudes-key-west

The meal in and of itself was fantastic, but it was the location that made the evening so memorable. Sitting right on the water, watching sailboats go by, followed by an incredible sunset.

For me it takes a lot of effort to disconnect and truly be present in the moment. I am always thinking of what's next, where we are going after, what we are doing later... but for once, being on that island I had no choice but to soak it all in and enjoy the moment. Or, maybe it was because I knew I had no choice since the boat had left and I was literally stuck...on that island... maybe...




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