I was staying at the historic Biltmore hotel, a nostalgia-filled gem situated 12 miles from Miami’s raucous South Beach in the serene neighbourhood of Coral Gables.
Built in 1926, it’s renowned for its famous guests, from Judy Garland to Bing Crosby, Kim Kardashian to President Obama.
Notorious gangster Al Capone even committed one of his most infamous murders in one of the hotel’s 133 suites. Bullet holes are still visible in the grand fireplace.
Now, the hotel is known for its luxurious rooms, outstanding food and as an escape from Miami’s nightlife. Set in 150 acres of land, one of the main attractions is its utterly gigantic swimming pool.
At 23,000 sq ft, it is one of the biggest in the United States – only the fittest swimmers could manage a lap around the entire thing – and is surrounded by loungers and cabanas to keep the whole family happy.
With waiters bringing caipirinhas, pina coladas, and mojitos, there’s no better way to soak up the Miami sunshine.
Although my swing is not exactly up to scratch, it would be remiss of me not to mention the 18-hole, 71-par championship golf course, which has played host to some of the biggest stars of the game.
For those feeling more adventurous, The Biltmore has teamed up with Dragonfly Expeditions to offer guided tours to south Florida’s Everglades. We were introduced to the history and diverse ecology of the area, as well as seeing dozens of alligators in their natural habitat.
A traditional Everglades airboat (if you don’t know what that is think of the opening credits to CSI Miami) took us to the historic home of the Miccosukee tribe, who are a federally recognised Native American people who inhabit the area.
Our guide Alberto also showed us the animals he was helping to rescue and release back into the wild, such as giant tortoises and vicious snapping turtles. I held a baby alligator as Alberto explained the importance of preserving the Everglades, not just for the thousands of species that live there, but for our own benefit, too.
The passion of those involved in the conservation of the area showed just how important to Floridian culture the Everglades are.
By the end of the day I had worked up an appetite and was ready to be treated to a meal at the hotel’s five-diamond restaurant Palme d’Or. The six-course menu showed French fine dining at its best with classics such as frogs’ legs and escargot to Maine clams with gnocchi and Iberico ham.
The black cod and Japanese kobe beef…