A GUIDE TO SPENDING TIME IN LITTLE HAVANA <> MIAMI, FLORIDA

One of the top recommendations when I was planning a recent trip to Miami - a visit to Little Havana. We arrived too late on Friday evening to go anywhere and I was tired and frustrated from nine hour flight delay getting to Miami and lost luggage. Saturday morning was spent waiting for the airline to deliver my luggage.  Once all of that was sorted, we headed out to Little Havana. 

We arrived mid afternoon, parked the car somewhere around 8th avenue and started walking (apparently in the wrong direction) for about 10 minutes before realizing the main attractions are located between 12th and 17th avenue (many thanks to the helpful tour guide who pointed us in the right direction). We turned around and headed towards 12th avenue. We had all afternoon to wander around Little Havana which allowed us to pop in on anything that seemed interesting. Just in case you don't want to spend all afternoon here on your Miami getaway, here is a guide to the best (of the best) of Little Havana.

Little Havana, Miami

The main street of Calle Ocho is lined with restaurants, cigar shops, quaint mini markets and fruit markets. First, We walked past the Bag of Pigs monument at 13th and memorial avenue. The monument of an eternal flame burns in memory of those killed in the Bay of Pigs invasion.

Continuing on Calle Ocho, we arrived at  Ball and Chain restaurant renowned for live music and authentic Cuban style food - The mojito is highly recommended. Then on to the domino park on S.W 8th and S.W. 15th - stop here to take in a spirited game of dominos and chess. About a half block from the domino park, you will find the only theatre in Miami dedicated to foreign films. I almost missed it.  However the blue vintage car packed outside caught my attention. There was a film festival going one and I did not want to brave the crowd so we continued on Calle Ocho. Eventually, we arrived at  El Pub  -considered one of the best restaurants in Little Havana. We did not stop in for lunch, because I was hoping to get to the world's most famous Cuban restaurant - Versailles restaurant, but it was highly recommended by locals which means a great deal to me.

We continued our walk past more shops and restaurant until we arrived at Cuba Tobacco Cigar Company - known for selling authentic Cuban cigars and the finest cigars outside of Cuba. Since I am not a cigar connoisseurs, I have to take their world for it, but the flow of traffic in and out of this store seems to attest to the claims.

The amazing aroma of coffee drew me to Cafe La Llave where I had a shot of cuban coffee - very dark and strong and quite good. On the corner, there is a shop that claims to have the best Cuban mojito - I did not put that claim to test, however, I can vouch for the lemonade - it was top notch.

A short while later, we arrived at Yisell Bakery Cafeteria, a classic cuban bakery famous for its guava filled pastry (oooh la la) and then on to Los Pinarenos Fruteria - the over 120 year old fruit stand/shop around the corner. Down the street is the Azucar ice cream factory serving the most incredible ice cream with authentic Cuban flavors like plantain, rum raisin and guava. I had two scoops - plantain and guava.  I would have been satisfied to return to my hotel after this - It alone is worth the trip to little Havana. 

Pay attention as you walk through the neighborhood so you don't miss the fabulous graffiti art that lines the walls and Calle Ocho walk of fame stars dedicated to famous latin entertainers. Our exploration was interrupted several times by light drizzles but nothing major enough to put and damper on the day. We spent a pleasant and entertaining three hours in Little Havana before heading back to our hotel. Don't leave Miami until you have spent time in Little Havana.

Little Havana, Miami
Little Havana
Little Havana, Miami
Little Havana, Miami
Little Havana, Miami
Little Havana, Miami
Little Havana, Miami
Little Havana, Miami
Little Havana, Miami
Little Havana, Miami
Little Havana, Miami
Little Havana, Miami
Little Havana, Miami
Little Havana, Miami
Miami

Have you been to Little Havana ? What did you think ? Any other recommendations ?

While I was in Orlando...(and life lately)

I was in Denver most of last week on a business trip. I arrived in Denver barely 24 hours after returning to Dallas from Miami. Denver was supercold, Miami was nice and toasty - I don't think my body knew what to do with the significant swings in weather and three time zones in 48 hours bit, so naturally, it revolted and informed me that it needed a break. I got back to a very wet Dallas which was the perfect excuse to spend all of Saturday in bed watching the great Bristish bake off (if all reality competition shows were like this one, I might start watching them often). Sunday was a light day. I went to church, and then lunch with my lovelies before an afternoon of major R & R to get my body back 100 before heading off on the European vacation this weekend. All of that time in bed got me thinking about my time in Orlando last month and now you get to read all about it. 

I had a chance to go to Orlando for some work training last month. It was one of the better trainings I have attended but I will spare you all the nerdy accounting stuff and get to why YOU are here. The days were spent in training sessions, but a few evenings were free and naturally I spent those free nights exploring Orlando. We stayed at the Gaylord Palms resort in Kissimmee and the hotel alone was worth the trip to Orlando. If you are ever in these parts,  I suggest a visit to the Gaylord (even if you dont want to stay here), grab lunch at one of the many restaurants on site and just take some time to explore the Hotel, you will not be disappointed.  

On one of my free evenings, I went to EPCOT Center with some coworkers. Compared to disney, there are not that many rides - we managed to get in the Spaceship Earth ride - it is not as thrilling as Disney rides, but it is something I recommend if you visit EPCOT. After the ride, we made our way to the Countries to sample foods from around the world - It also happened to be the same week as the food and wine festival at EPCOT (which runs through November 18th). Needless to say, there was a whole lot of food to sample. I started off in Africa (purely coincidence) - even though I disagree with the food representations for Africa, I have to say the spicy hotdog with kimchi and mustard sauce along with a drink called frozen brown elephant was quite good.  Several countries later, I decided it was time for a taste of Italy with a pistachio gelato cookie sandwich (ah.mazing). Airsupply was on stage while we were there and there may have been some belting (out of tune) to making love out of nothing at all. Next we stopped by Brazil , Germany and America - where they seve a pumpkin spice funnel cake that was delish. Final stop was at France - the intention was to get the crepes, but there was a line wrapped around so we bailed on that to find a spot to watch the fireworks show for the evening. They know how to do fireworks at EPCOT.

The last night in Orlando was spent exploring the Disney Broadwalk. There was nothing spectacular here - we stopped into the JellyRolls Piano bar. It was a Thursday night and we had plans to spend time at the ESPN Club, but it was packed, so we ended up at JellyRolls piano bar for a little while before ending up on the patio of the Big River grille and brewing works - the rest of the evening was spent chatting with new and old friends. 


Thanks for letting me share.