The Authentic Miami.

I don’t think Ms. Tuttle imagined what Miami would turn up to be, neither Mr Henri Flager, when after a lot of insistence accepted to build the train rails from St Augustine down until where Downtown Miami is today.

Those who love her will be forever grateful to both of them, particularly her: Julia Tuttle, known by some as “The Mother of Miami”, because in 1891, after she bought 640 acres by the Miami River, she set her mind to found there a city. She convinced Henri Flagler and together  built the Royal Palm Hotel, the first one in the city that would be latter named “Miami” because of the aborigines “MAYAIMI” that inhabited the area.

They probably didn’t guess either that in  1959, because of the Cuban Revolution the first 280000 exiled cubans would arrive an become a key factor in the growth of the city. Neither that in 1980 the Liberty City riots would take place there too, as well as the violent and sad era known as the “Cocaine War”.

Blissfully the violent Miami that some television shows portrayed, is gone. The new century –thank to great local government, tourism and the energy of the constant migrants that arrive filled with hope of a new better life – has brought with it, a new radiant Miami, and this radiance allures Russian, British, Chinese, Canadians, and of course lots of Latin-Americans that keep dreaming about her.

For her is easy to please everyone visiting, offers a wide variety of things to enjoy: shopping, restaurants, nightlife, sports, art galleries, museums and amazing beaches. Miami also hosts wonderful events like Art Basel, Sony Ericsson Tennis Tournament, Ultra Music Festival, Antique Fair Show and a very interesting Book Fair.

 

It’s personality is a result of the Melting Pot it has become. Around the streets you can hear Cubans, Argentinians and Ecuadorians, You can eat arepas just like in Caracas; empanadas like in Buenos Aires and for dessert the perfect “suspiro limeño” like in Lima. The variety of nationalities is also accentuated by the very different cultural background of its habitants: Political exiled, journalists, bankers, singers, writers, models and retired. Miami’s air feels full of stories and history, on the streets you perceive hope, and also melancholia and longing.

 

Miami is what it is,  because of all the ones that came and keep coming willing and hoping for a life in democracy, freedom, tolerance and opportunities, something that the city seems still offers after all this time.

The authentic Great Miami experience is only found visiting every neighborhood: From Aventura to Kendall, South Beach to Wynwood and always stopping in Coral Gables and Little Habana. In my next post you will find a list of interesting activities on each neighborhood.

 

 

 

 

Atlanta: do you need a reason?

Atlanta isn’t on everybody’s bucket-list. There are far to many places around the world tempting us, even inside USA there are many more iconic cities on the top of our lists.

This wonderful city is mostly visited for business – Atlanta’s airport is the busiest world wide– after all it’s the third city, behind NY and Houston, to be home for more Fortune 500 companies. Among them: Delta Airlines, Southwestern Airlines, CNN, Coca Cola. This is the reason for the  huge variety of retail stores and restaurants, enough to please the most demanding travelers.

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I have visited it many times, for various reasons, nonetheless never ceases to amaze me. Atlanta’s allure for me, is that is REAL. A real city. The streets exude a history full of contradictions and differences, war and suffering, tradition and change, rebirth and generosity, dignity and peace. The people you encounter are mostly residents, many of them students that bring to the city a good amount of needed  heterodoxy. Nothing is staged for tourists, the energy is authentic.

 

During the Civil War, Atlanta was a strategic location for the Confederate Troops… it was constantly attacked. Numerous battles took place nearby, before falling definitely on 1864. It’s siege and evacuation were later (1936)  immortalized by Margaret Mitchell on her famous novel “Gone with the Wind”

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During the 60’s, this city was the epicenter of the Civil Rights Movement, leaded by Martin Luther King (born in Atlanta 1929). Later the city was the first one in America to have an African-American as an elected mayor. Today  is a city of great importance for the GLBT community. The opennes of the city and its habitants  was recently materialized in the new Museum dedicated to Civil an Political Rights, a place that I would recommend everyone to visit for an eye opening experience.

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The architecture of the city is different than other Southern cities, they decided to change the classical structures and buildings by more modern ones. Renzo Piano, John Portman and Richard Meier are some of the famous architects that have contribute to this new skyline.

Cinema and literature are also interesting in Atlanta, after the approval of a tax incentive’s program designed to promote the production of  films and television   – and with the undenniable benefit of the weather– has become a mayor destination for the industry, the most famous and recent TV series is probably “The Walking Dead” that isn’t only filmed there, but has Atlanta as setting for the story. The beauty of this city has also been the backdrop of great films like Driving Miss Daisy (1989); Fried Green Tomatoes (1991) and American Beauty (1999).

Every year on April,  the city hosts the “Atlanta Film Festival” which offers a wide array of independent films to the public, as well as conferences and events.  The city also hosts the biggest Independent Book Festival in USA, besides being the city where authors like Natasha Trethewey and Chandler Harris were born.

Last but not least, the southern hospitality is real, you feel it everywhere you go, and that makes your visit a very pleasant one.

As you see, there are many reasons to visit Atlanta, on my next post I will recommend you the places I treasure the most.

 

 

 

 

About Heroes and Cheesecake.

According to the dictionary a hero is a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievement or nobel qualities. To my mind come, firemen, soldiers, Batman, martyrs, Ghandi.

I don’t entirely agree with that definition. I mean, I recognize those are heroes, but feel that many others are excluded, I call them “everyday heroes”. Semantics and editorial dictatorship is one of the perks of owning a blog.

These everyday heroes will never have streets named after them, nor statues. Legends won’t surround them. They probably don’t recognize themselves as heroic either. But for me they are. Neither perfect, nor saints. I haven’t romanticized their existences ( I do that sometimes) they are flesh and bone, but in my dictionary they do hazardous and extraordinary things every day; they follow their dreams. Even if those dreams sound wild or absurd to others. Most of the time they triumph – even though that isn’t a requirement to be considered heroic by me– they go the extra mile and sacrifice, but mostly they perform ordinary activities with extraordinary love, as Mother Theresa said.

Foolish dreams deserve so much respect.  “I dream about been a professional diver” “Ice Cream Salesman” “Ride my bike around the world” “Give a rock concert”. People apologyze about having them, breaks my heart. Even I have apologyzed about mine. So many unnecessary explanations…

When your dream is becoming famous or a millionaire everybody agrees. But saying out loud: “I want to be a Yoga Teacher; ride a hot air balloon around the world, bake the BEST cheesecake ever” takes a lot of courage. Sometimes the wildest dream is just to look yourself in the mirror with acceptance and compassion.

Joseph Higgs  is one of this dreamers.  After graduating in USA he went back to Providenciales and announced his family he wanted to bake the best cheesecake of the world… Not exactly, but almost.  He came back to the island and got a job at the Power Plant, but started dedicating his free time to his passion: baking.

He tells me how much he wanted to try and bake a good cheesecake. After doing lots of research he baked his first one around one year and a half ago, the reaction of families and friends was extraordinary. “My family would go straight to my fridge to try new cheesecake flavors after that.” It was them who convinced him to offer the cheesecakes for sale for Valentines day (2015). The orders never stopped.

When I ask him to give advice to other dreamers he says: “HARD WORK, be willing to sacrifice a lot” In his case the sacrifice has involved time and money, but he doesn’t want to stop until his dessert are famous worldwide.  He continues with advice: “Keep setting goals even after accomplishing one.
There will be many people who will not understand what it is that you’re trying to accomplish, but that’s okay, what’s in your heart and mind to do, can’t be hindered by anything.”

Among the succes he has had this past year are many things like being  featured on Turks and Caicos Mag and offered to sell his cheesecakes on the biggest supermarket chain on the island. But certainly the most important is being a wonderful example for his two years old son Nathan– he is the reason behind the name of the bakery-.

If you go to Turks and Caicos please try  Nathan’s Cheesecakes at any of the following locations: KayJos Restaurant, The Caravel Restaurant- Grace Bay, Danny Buoys- Grace Bay, Chopsticks- Grace Bay, Tongue & Groove Cafe’ (located at the do it center) Leeward Highway. In the meanwhile enjoy his pictures at @nathanscheesecakes

Turks and Caicos Bound

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I could start by telling you how Turks and Caicos is actually conformed by 40 islands and keys, located close to Cuba and Bahamas and just an hour and a half flight from Miami or Fort Lauderdale.

I could also tell you that the official language is english – they form part of the United Kingdom, so a picture of the Queen of England is the first thing you see when you step off the plane –.  They also drive on the left side of the road and many of their vehicles have the stirring wheel in the wrong side – only God knows why the English insist on doing that–.  At the same time their currency is the US dollar, and most of their tourism comes from Canada.  But if you check Wikipedia, probably find out all of this and many more interesting facts. So I rather give you the feeling I got from visiting this white sand paradise last week, and how beyond their natural beauty their biggest treasure is their people.

I have been dreaming about Aman Hotels for a while know, even though that is not my usual motivation for traveling this hotels spoke to me. They seemed like an experience. So zen, quiet, health oriented, located usually in remote places and surrounded by nature. The perfect place to enjoy a real vacation with my husband –something that we rarely do on our trips. So I must confess what first got me looking in to Turks was the Amanyara hotel. But I was in for a double surprise: the resort was even better than I expected and the island vibes were wonderful.

Who should go?

 Nature lovers, yoga lovers, spa lovers, divers, beach lovers, tennis lovers, sea lovers, golf lovers, boat lovers, lovers in general.

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Where should you go?

Providenciales and Big Turks. The airport is at Providenciales and if you wish to go island hopping there is a wide offer of ferry boats and private tours. Chartering a boat for the day is the ideal way to island hop, arrange a secluded beach picnic or practice scuba, snorkeling or fishing.

Contact any of these operators and they will be happy to arrange everything for you:

After 5 Concierge (649-946-4585)

Atabeyra Sailing Charters (649-231-0624)

Big Blue Unlimited (649-946-5034)

Caicos Dream Tours (649-243-3460)

Caicu Naniki Sports Adventures (649-432-5000)

Caribbean Cruisin 649-946-5406 or Cell: 649-231-4191)

Catch The Wave (649-941-3047)

Kenard Cruises (649-242-3866)

Ocean Vibes (649-231-6636)

Reef Peepers (649-941-8605)

Sail Provo (649-946-4783)

Silver Deep (649-946-5612)

 

Where should you stay?

 I am bias with Amanyara.  The people that work there are beyond amazing, they go out of their way to please you. The food is delicious. The location and the architecture of the place is priviledge, but has been built with such respect for the enviroment that surrounds it, that you feel really immerse in nature, with the obvious benefits of civilization –like wi-fi all over the place–. But I reckon is not budget friendly.

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There are other beautiful hotels closer to the downtown for every budget, and also great offers for families traveling with children like the famous Beaches Resort.

My 3 personal favorites things to do:

 Try Nathan’s Cheesecakes @nathanscheesecakes :

Their cheesecakes are so delicious, people come from other islands just to try them. The story behind this bakery is a beautiful example of a dreamer pursuing his dreams – I will post the interview I did to him ASAP.

Eat and Dance barefoot at the Conch Shack:

I swear I felt inside a Sponge Bob cartoon here, the place is magical you will feel here all the island’s good vibes.

Conch is the national food, you will see it everywhere and other than eating I brought home a couple as a souvenir –it’s legal to do so. I suggest going there on a wednesdays or during weekends because there is a local band playing, the urge to dance is impossible to resist.

At sunset try a boat ride:

 It’s very a special experience and all the boat companies listed offer this service.

About their people:

Other than feeling their cheerful spirits and super warm welcoming, the thing that struck me the most was their pride to be part of the island progress.

Going back to the airport the driver said to me: “You must come back, I promess this is only getting better and better” I guess that was the heart felt statement that resumed the strength of their souls.

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Wabi – Sabi: Japanese for Unconventional Beauty

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Probably in your language there are a few words untranslatable to other languages, I know we have them in spanish, and in english the word “wanderlust” is one of them.

I don’t know exactly how or when I came across with this concept but became really curious about it’s meaning and started researching. It wasn’t that easy to my surprise, to find books or any written information about it. Eventually I understood the reason why…

If you ask a Japanese to translate or explain Wabi – Sabi, they will probably hesitate and give you an apology for not been able to do so. But they all recognize the feeling of it for sure, because it’s a core concept in Japanese culture.

The best definition I found, was this that follows:

“ Wabi-Sabi is a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete.

It is a beauty of things modest and humble.

It is a beauty of things unconventional. “ ( “Wabi-Sabi” by Leonard Koren)

As you can infer this concept can be applied for visual arts, architecture, poetry, literature, philosophy and spiritual life.

The lack of written information contributes to the vagueness of the definition, but why does so much mysterie surrounds it? The origins of the word are related to the ceremony of tea, which was mostly performed by zen monks and zen tea masters. In their tradition, essential knowledge can only be transmitted from mind to mind and not through the written word.

My interest in this aesthetically and philosophical concept has me involved on a very particular mission:  to spread the word about it and  stop it from disappearing.

Since the mid 20th century the predominant aesthetic has been modernism – I am a big fan – but it has been so popular and preeminent that even in Japan now days Wabi-Sabi is fading away. In my opinion that would be a big loss for all of us. With that in mind I wanted to list here the differences between both, so that we can open our minds to perceive this other version of beauty that surrounds us. A beauty that is vulnerable, irregular, imperfect, intimate, unpretentious, simple and earthy. A bit like most of us uh?

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Modernism                                                                   Wabi-Sabi

 

Logical, rational.                                                           Intuitive.

 

Absolute.                                                                         Relative

 

Universal Solutions                                           Personal Solutions

 

Mass Produced                                                   One-of-a-kind.

 

Future Oriented                                                 Present Oriented

 

Pro Technology                                                   Pro Nature

 

Geometric forms                                                 Organic Forms

 

The Box as the metaphor                                The Bowl as the metaphor

 

Needs to be well mantained                         Accommodates to degradation

 

Intolerant of ambiguity.                                  Comfortable with ambiguity.

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As Hume suggested:   “Beauty in things exists merely in the mind which contemplates them.”   Let’s make some room and accept as part of our lifes the imperfect, faded, broken and ambiguous beauty that exists everywhere and in everyone, even in ourselves.

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