If you live in Minnesota, winter is long — really long. It is imperative to take a break from those very short days of January or February. (We say this realizing that not everyone has the luxury of scooting off to somewhere warm.) Joan Didion’s Miami intrigued us both, and we added the city to our list.
We had stayed at the Mandarin Oriental in Las Vegas for a few nights several years ago and were impressed by it. After going back and forth between choosing a smaller art deco hotel on Miami beach or something closer to downtown, we opted for the Mandarin Oriental on Brickell Key.
The Mandarin Oriental chain is, in our minds, a step up from the Hiltons or Marriotts of the world; both the Las Vegas and Miami M.O. have a distinctive identify that we don’t find in most of the big global chains. We know some hotel guests like to know what to expect — they like the sense of comfort that a chain can offer — but that tends not to be for us. Still, being a corporate property has its advantages. And the MO-Miami was able to lean on the corporate muscle to dial things in close to just right.
A bit “Cancun honeymoon”
One of us, being a real romantic, couldn’t help but ask, “Who’s going to clean this up?”
On our first night’s stay, we arrived back at the room from a walk around Brickell (which adjoins downtown Miami) with a bottle of prosecco and some nice cheese. Our plan was to have a little happy hour on the balcony overlooking Biscayne Bay. Upon opening the door, we surprised a friendly housekeeper, who told us she was doing turn-down service. No problem, we said, we’ll just head to the balcony. Twenty-five minutes later, we could still hear her busily doing something inside. When she eventually finished we walked in to find our room decorated with fresh rose petals. One of us, being a real romantic, couldn’t help but ask, “Who’s going to clean this up?” It was really a lovely gesture, but we’re fairly sure the hotel had us confused with another couple who must have been celebrating a honeymoon or anniversary. And, truth be told, it did call for some tidying of our otherwise pristine room.
Not Miami Beach
This was our first stay in Miami, and we were tempted to do the Miami Beach thing. But downtown and its environs appealed to us more based on the things we wanted to do. The decision to stay in Brickell was a good one. The scene on Miami Beach is fun to take in…for a few hours. The Mandarin Oriental clearly hosts people on vacation who are looking to unwind, but the M.O. seems more grown up than what we experienced on Miami Beach. What’s more, the hotel is within walking distance of several Miami neighborhoods and destinations, or you can connect easily with public transport.
Competing for a pool spot
Of course, even though we weren’t staying Miami Beach, we still wanted a little pool time. The Mandarin Oriental has a nice, although small, pool with all of the requisite features including a poolside bar, and a man-made “beach” that is really an extended kind of patio covered in sand (no swimming in the bay here). With the help of the staff, we managed to secure two nice chaise lounges in the shade on one day of our stay, but on other days, the crowds were too large, and we aren’t competitive enough to vie for the next opening. In fact, a few twenty-somethings snatched two lounges right away from us. Ces’t la vie. Bottom line: Serious pool goers might find the lack of lounging spaces a stress inducer.
…And the manatee
Walking around Brickell Key on the first day, we read a sign that describes the manatees that inhabit Miami’s waters. One of us declared that we were not leaving Miami until we saw a manatee. So there you have it, and here it is.
- The Mandarin Oriental Miami: www.mandarinoriental/miami
- Location: Brickell Key
- Our Stay: 4 nights — February 15-18, 2018
- Room: Deluxe Bay View Room
What we saw, what we ate
- Perez Art Museum
- The Miami Monorail
- Dinner at Mignonette in Edgewater
- Vizcaya Museum and Gardens
- Dinner at Cardon y el Tirano in Little Havana
- Drinks at Ball and Chain in Little Havana
- Lunch at Puerto Sagua on Miami Beach
- Miami Water Taxi from Miami Beach to Bayside Front Park
- Wynwood Walls urban graffiti
- Dinner at Michael’s Genuine in the Design District
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