MiamiOriginally a native American settlement at the mouth of the Miami river for 2,000 years, Miami became a settlement in 1836 after the United States got it from Spain. A fort was built soon thereafter to suppress the Seminole Indians. Major migration to the area started in the late 1800s and it was incorporated as a city in 1896. Miami was founded by Julia Tuttle, the only woman to found a major city in the US.
Relying heavily on African-American laborers to build the city, there was little appreciation for their efforts as KKK, Jim Crow laws and mobs regularly forced out any settlements from the center of Miami.
The prosperity of the 1920s and World War II caused Miami to truly expand into the city it has become today. There was a major training center where 25% of the US soldiers were educated, along with the base of anti-submarine operations. This was Miami's golden moment in the sun.
Castro's victory in Cuba sent many more wealthy people to live in Miami. The city's connections via air travel to the rest of the world, along with its distinction of being the one place in the continental US that never freezes makes it a destination for those escaping winter worldwide.
The ArrivalFlying in first class from Minneapolis, it wasn't a very momentous flight. There was no alcohol or food available on the flight. The flight was 2/3 full, but only a couple of people in first. I watched movies because... nothing else to do. The airport was pretty empty when I landed. Miami is usually wall-to-wall people. My bags came off super quickly, and then I found that the trains and all public transport were free in Miami, and had been since March. I took the train into the city.
I wear a 3M P100 mask, which is about the best protection anyone can buy. It stops everything incoming - smell, moisture, acid, virus, particulates, everything. As things are going right now, you need to protect yourself, not depend on others wearing the cloth masks to protect you. It's a sad state of affairs, but it's required to be safe.
I also santized a ridiculous amount; my hands are very dry, very clean, and well, I could not eat finger food as the horrible sanitizer taste transfers.
I took the train to downtown, then the Metro Mover (little cars that run along various routes above the city), which took me within blocks of the hotel. Compliance on masks was about 50%.
I walked the final two blocks to the W Miami on Brickell. That night, I had food from the restaurant (wings and a burger) and I was in for the rainy Friday night.
Miami BeachMy favorite part of Miami is South Beach and the Art Deco district. I took the bus over, a very quick trip. By this point, my mask was digging into my nose so I had gone to the nearby Publix grocery store for some snacks and mixers for my vodka and picked up some band-aids to put across my nose bridge to help with the constant friction.
People on the bus were adhering to the mask order and it was polite and pleasant (this coming from a guy who just hates city buses). It dropped me off two blocks from Ocean Drive, which is closed to cars, so only foot traffic. It was nice, but the people, vast majority tourists from elsewhere, were behaving so trashy and so poorly. Mask usage was 25%. Beach was closed (kinda), and for damn good reason. People are NOT listening or following rules.
I got the heck off the main drag after taking about 200 pictures (to be detailed in the Miami Beach post) and went to the regular places frequented by actual people living there. Nice parks, interesting synagogues, museums (sadly closed but lovely outside). It was a nice thing to see, with few people around, and easy to navigate. I walked 8 miles that day.
WynwoodA historically Puerto Rican area, and usually economically disadvantaged, Wynwood was set up for change by Tony Goldman in 2009 (to be detailed in the Wynwood blog post!). In a very altruistic move, he engaged six world renowned street artists to paint the walls of a one block area of Wynwood. The next year he engaged 10 more, and then things started to organically take off on its own. It now boasts over 50 artists and 80,000 square feet of walls. It has revitalized the neighborhood, but unlike in many other cities, it did not gentrify, remaining primarily a Hispanic community. This was very nice and easy to navigate without a real risk of infection transference.
MiamiDowntown was pretty empty. There were a lot of homeless people about, and I even saw a protest in a park with signs calling for justice for Vanessa Guillen.
Mask compliance was very poor in the "exercise areas", mainly trails that skirted the bay. Brickell Key was particularly non-compliant.
Miami International AirportOn the final day, I made my way back to the airport using the train again. The security process was pretty onerous, and even though I was the only person in precheck, they made me put my super mask in the x-ray. I'd recommend bringing an additional mask, a cloth one, to transit the security situation until you can get your good mask back.
I went to the American Airlines Admirals Club to wait for my flight. They have a new setup, and are doing a great job at distancing and mask compliance. They have 6 individuals serving everyone drinks and light snacks, keeping us in our area and making it actually comfortable to be there.
Arrival back at MinneapolisLanded quite on time, and they did a controlled de-planing by row. The regular exit to the baggage claim was closed by that time (11:30pm) so they sent everyone out on the airline counter level which is on the level above where you need to be. The only way down to the baggage claim - because they have construction everywhere and have closed every stair and escalator - was via elevator, where people just crammed in. It was quite an uncomfortable situation and no distancing observed. Baggage claim was also just a free for all with nothing being enforced or people taking their own measures.
SummaryTourist areas of Miami are pretty much a 'go at your own risk'. The flight with the level of mask I felt would protect me, was pretty uncomfortable. A full respirator like mine does make it feel harder to get air in. If you fall asleep, you're likely to wake frequently - or at least I did.
While I was there taking video and photographs, which already adds a bit of extra work to my trips, I found the additional precautions and constant sanitizing resulted in a much higher effort to get everything accomplished.
Every shop I saw in Miami did require masks, as did the hotel. That helped make my room a great place to relax and be "safe" from the goings-on around me. There was lot of inconsistency while flying when it came to masks. American Airlines makes announcements at the beginning of the flight of the rules around covering your face, and flight crew check for compliance. First class becomes basically coach in terms of service during these times in the USA.
While I was able to see and experience new things in Miami, it was difficult to truly enjoy, and there were still risks present even with my *super mask*.
Flights were uncomfortable, bring a snack you bought from the store before the airport, options are limited. You may want to bring a few mini-bottles through security, buy a soda and risk spiking it in the terminal before you board to help with passing the time.
Bottom line: I would not travel without a full protective respirator and possibly face protection. While costs are extremely cheap to fly and stay many places, there is not a lot to do once you get there. If you're just going to isolate and get away for a while in a place that's not your home, it's probably worth it, but to SEE Miami? I don't think the effort, risk, and lack of activities offset the savings.
Omar - 2020-07-23
Rob - 2020-07-23 From the Real Rob