Saturday, April 18, 2015

Take a Tasteful History Tour

By Jeff Burns

Do you like history and food?  It’s very easy to combine both of your passions when you travel.  Many cities offer walking tours of historic neighborhoods that make stops in restaurants along the way.  You can find these tours listed by the city’s tourist and visitor information organization, through sites like Tripadvisor, or by searching online.  In Miami for spring break, my wife and I took the South Beach Cultural Food and Walking Tour offered by Viator.

This particular tour lasts about 2 and a half hours and makes five to seven food stops along about 10 blocks of the South Beach Art Deco district.  We met our tour guide Katherine and the 7 other tour participants at the starting point and made introductions.  The diverse group included to women from Montreal, a couple from Cincinnati, a couple from Virginia who were in the process of relocating to Miami, and a Chinese student. Katherine is a self-described history nerd and foodie who is very knowledgeable. Before moving to Miami, she had lived and travelled extensively for several years in Latin America, a real plus as so much of the food scene in South Beach is Latin American based.

We started at a Columbian place called Bolivar where we enjoyed a drink that combined a Columbian beer and a cream soda, a great ceviche, and an empanada.    (No pictures of food, unfortunately, since it disappeared very quickly.)  From there, we walked to another restaurant for an Argentine-style churro that we ate as we walked to the next stop on Ocean Drive, in the center of the Art Deco district:  Lario’s, the restaurant owned by musicians Gloria and Emilio Estefan that features Cuban home cooking.  There we enjoyed the beautiful décor and ropa vieja , a popular shredded beef recipe.  The next stop was a five star hotel , The Tides, once frequented by the likes of Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack for a Moroccan curry dish.  The tour wrapped up with a walk to the busy pedestrian area known as Espanola Way with a stop at an artisanal pizza shop and ending at a gelataria for delicious Italian gelato.

Along the way, Katherine gave us a great history lesson on the architecture of the area and its cultural history.  We learned about the development and change in Miami Beach in its 100 year history.  For example, we saw the Versace mansion, the building where Al Capone maintained his business office, and the club where Desi Arnaz entertained in the days before “I Love Lucy.”
It was a very fun evening. We learned a lot, met some really nice people, and got to sample the fantastic cultural diversity that South Beach offers.  This was our first tour like this, but we definitely plan more in our future travels.

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