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Trip Report Back from Miami Beach

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Just returned from a quick four night trip to Miami Beach. There were nine of us ranging in age from 6 to 79. We stayed at the Fontainebleu Hotel. Had a great time. We didn't do much other than lounge at the pool and beach, out for dinners and had some drinks at the lobby bar. So this may be a boring trip report but I'll describe the hotel and the restaurants we chose.

Fontainebleu: This hotel is huge - I think it has close to 1600 rooms.

Rooms: We had an oceanfront balcony room in the Chateau Tower. The view was great and the room very nicely appointed - bathrobes, slippers, and a computer with free internet in each room. The bed and pillows were very comfortable and the room itself was pretty sound proof. My only complaint about the room is that there is no coffee maker.

Pool: There are a number of different pools and the grounds are very expansive. This hotel has transformed itself quite remarkably and is now filled with young, good looking, trendy people. It's very loud and very marketed toward the young and rich. There is a dj at one of the pools during the weekend blasting loud techno/dance music from 1:00 on. However, the grounds are so expansive that you can find a quieter spot at one of the other pools if you desire. There is always the beach option also. On Saturday, there was a live concert at the pool which we could see from our balcony. The pool and beach service was very good. Waitstaff came around frequently for drinks and food. Food at the pool was good too and pretty varied - pizza, fish tacos, quesadillas, sandwiches, burgers, salads, etc. I had fish tacos and a cheeseburger, both of which were good. One complaint is that many of the lounges right by the pool were canopied or circle beds, either of which had to be rented for the day.

Beach: The beach was okay. It is very calm in front of the hotel and there was quite a bit of seaweed (which could be seasonal or temporary). Very nice that there is a boardwalk that extends for probably a half mile past the hotel (headed towards south beach). It actually extends further but there was some construction going on so there is a break in the boardwalk (you have to walk out to Collins Ave if you want to continue). I was at the Loews South Beach a couple years back and thought the beach there was better.


Breakfast: Two options at the hotel. You could go to one of the restaurants for either a breakfast buffet ($30) or order off the menu or you could go to the lobby, which offers coffee, juice, fruits, bagels, croissants, and danish. We had the buffet once. The other mornings, we just had something light from the lobby then ordered lunch at the pool. Breakfast buffet was typical resort buffet with an omelette station. Food was generally good, although one person in our party got a bagel that was moldy, which is really not acceptable - I would think a place like the Fontainebleu would be getting fresh bagels in every day.

Dinners: We ate at the hotel for two dinners. First night we ate at their casual cafe type restaurant called Vida. It's combined with the sushi restaurant, so you could order from either the sushi menu or the regular menu (which was pretty varied). I had a spicy tuna roll and split a vegetable roll. Both were really good and fresh tasting. We also ate at the Italian restaurant Scarpetta. Food there was excellent - I had squash blossoms stuffed with mushroom risotto over a light creamy sauce with English peas. Oh man, it was good. For my entree, I kept it simple and went with they say is a signature dish - It was bucatini pasta in a tomato basil sauce. I know that sounds boring but really, it was delicious. Not sure how it was made but it must have had a lot of parmesan in it because the "sauce" was actually creamy. I would order it again in a heartbeat. Everyone enjoyed their entrees. One word of caution - in keeping with the hotel's youth orientation, the music at the restaurant is pretty loud. I don't particularly care for that but the food was good enough to compensate.

We also had two dinners outside the hotel. The first was at YUCA (Young Urban Cuban Americans) on Lincoln Road. The food was very good. We shared empanadas, peppers stuffed with chorizo in a creamy sauce, and gaucamole. All very tasty. I had the churrasco (the skirt steak was cooked perfectly and was very tender). Again, everyone enjoyed their meals. It is a pretty casual place - large wooden tables. And it gets crowded pretty late.

Our second dinner outside the hotel was at Carpaccio's in the Bal Harbour Shops. This place, in the middle of a ridiculously rich area (the cars in the parking lot are almost uniformly super luxury models), was surprisingly moderately priced. A couple who we were talking to at the pool recommended it to us - said they go to Miami a lot and always go to Carpaccio's. Our concierge also said it was a good choice. It was. The place was packed from the time we arrived at 7:30 and was until we left at 10:00 (there was still a line of people waiting for a table at 10:00). Stuffed artichokes was a great appetizer. My entree was veal milanese with an arugula, radicchio, tomato salad sitting on top of it. The tables are tight and as I said it was packed but the waitstaff really knew what they were doing. Very efficient and attentive. I really liked that they had some decent red wine choices in the $30s - both Italian and California bottles.

General observations: Miami beach is great for a quick four day getaway. The Fontainebleu is very nice but given the youth orientation of the hotel, I am not sure if I would choose it again, especially if traveling with elderly parents or very young children. As would be expected, not only are the rooms very expensive, but everything at the hotel is expensive. For example, my fish tacos at lunch were $20 (as was the burger), pool drinks started at $14, coffee in the morning in the lobby was $5. Not complaining - just be aware that it can add up pretty quickly.

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