A cycle ride to the district of Wynwood and Little Haiti were on our list for an energetic day in Miami. We had an early breakfast of orange juice, more pancakes for the boys and Egg’s Benedict for me at Oliver’s bistro, just a block away from our hotel.
As planned we cycled north to Dane Boulevard, where we turned left to join the Venetian Way. The Venetian way is probably the best and safest route with pedal cycles to reach city side from the beach. Most of the time we were able to cycle on the pavement, avoiding the busy morning traffic on the road. The Venetian Way, crosses a few smaller islands, the Venetian Islands on its way to Downtown Miami. The islands are built up with up market and luxury villas, some modern, others already showing their wear and tear. Most houses located next to the shore also own their own private boat mooring spots, many with sizeable yachts parked outside the large back gardens. It was not hard to try and understand where the islands got their name. Cycling past these villas was quite a contrast to the high-rise and apartment blocks on South Beach. Jerome and I pointed out the villas that we liked best while cycling past.
At the end of Venetian Way, just before we reached the mainland we had to stop at a red signal. To Jerome’s joy, the drawbridge of the causeway was just about to lift. We could already spot the boats, mainly yachts and sailboats with tall masts were already lined up and waiting to pass through. The road suddenly started to lift and the boats moved through. Jerome loved watching them. He wanted to stop and wait for the bridge again on our way back but we had to disappoint him, as we would be going a different route to return to South Beach.
We cycled past the Metromover station, Miami’s attempt at European style public transport, and turned right onto Biscayne Boulevard. Jerome had liked to ride the Metromover on our first trip to Miami, when he was smaller, sitting right at the front, pretending to be the driver.
Every time we have cycled this route we have to go past the old Bacardi headquarters before turning towards Wynwood. The two buildings that make up the old Bacardi headquarters and now house the National Young Arts Foundation are my favourite buildings in Miami. The Bacardi tower, which appears to float above a glass pedestal, was designed by Cuban architects for the company. The walls of the tower contain beautiful blue and white murals, made of Brasillian azulejos (glazed tiles).
The second building, I can never make up my mind which one I like more, is called the “Jewel Box”. An outstanding example of modern construction, the square building is raised a few meters off the ground. The distinguishing feature of the building, are the stained glass tapestries, which were based on an abstract painting by German artist Johannes Dietz. I would really love to go inside, it must be an incredible sight to see the sun shining through the coloured glass shards. However it was never open during our visits there, as the building is mainly used for exhibitions and events.
We moved on, away from the strip of fast food restaurants to Wynwood, the design district. This district has become one of the hippest places to be in Miami since developers transformed disused warehouses into art galleries and spaces, restaurants and up market design boutiques. These days it is one of the largest creative communities in the US. Besides the shops and restaurant, we like to spot the street art that is literally present on every other wall or surface. We also just like to get lost in the district rather than following a certain walking or cycling route, as advertised by some guidebooks or tours. If you are really interested in finding out more about the artists, you could take a walking tour, children most possibly would enjoy the Graffiti lessons that some include.
We cycled on, heading north towards Little Haiti. The area turned residential again and we cycled past apartment blocks, bungalows and other houses. All of them set back with their little garden or courtyard in front. We felt like we could be anywhere in any southern US town or village, the obvious big town feel gone. There was barely anyone on the street, just a few cars passing us every now and then.
We crossed the train tracks and stopped for lunch at Soyka. There were no guests sitting outside on the terrace, the locals preferred the air-conditioned restaurant. We got our cards out and played some rounds of Uno while waiting for our food to arrive. Jerome had always wondered if there were any trains running along the track. We asked our waiter and he told him that there were still a few long distance trains going all the way from Miami to New York City, but mostly only goods trains. We could not have planned a better timing, as just as we finished our food, we heard the famous sound of a train whistle and soon enough a heavy goods train with a long trail of wagons made its way past. Jerome was overjoyed, the first American train he had ever seen.
After so much excitement we cycled further north, we wanted to ride across the John F Kennedy Causeway to North Beach. There was much more traffic now that we were back on Biscayne Boulevard, and for safety reasons we cycled on the pavement. We passed a lot of motels on the way, some of them looked like they could be straight out of 70’s movies. School must have been out as well as Jerome kept on spotting lots of the orange-yellow school buses.
Cycling across the Causeway was less fun, the traffic was heavy and some of the cars sped by fast. Thankfully the cycle lane was separated by a concrete wall from the motorway, and therefore we felt safe enough. After a quick ride past North Bay Villages and Normandy Islands we reached North Beach.
We were tired by now from all the cycling and did not pay much attention to the architecture and sights along Collins Avenue. We were desperate to get back to our hotel after maybe 18 kilometres on the bikes. There we changed into our swimming clothes and chilled by the pool while enjoying a well-deserved cocktail and another dreamy sunset.