Round and around on the Big Bus Tours

If you want to see what a city is really like and get around its different neighbourhoods, hopping on a bus is a great way to go. When you’re a tourist and don’t have a lot of time, a bus tour can give you a great snapshot of what the city has to offer. That was definitely the case with the Big Bus Tours in Miami last November.
I’d been invited to go to Miami with my friend, author Doreen Pendgracs, to be with her when she received her Bronze Medal at the Readers’ Favorite Awards for her book Chocolatour. 
Hmm, Miami in November? It was cold and snowy here, so–Yes! Thank you, Doreen.
While we’d hoped for warmth and sunshine, we only got the warmth for the first two days. The rain and winds were quite strong, which made looking at palm trees fun, but not much fun walking around—so we hopped on the bus. Thanks to Jennifer at the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau, we’d been given some passes for the buses, which we took full advantage of  by taking three tours in two days!
We really saw the diversity in the city—everything from Millionaire’s Row to Historic Overtown. We also learned a lot about the history of the city. Some of it was a little sad, but you take the good with the not so good. Millionaire’s Row, while beautiful,  is now in what used to be large avocado groves, and Overtown was a thriving black community until the building of the I-95 forced the destruction of many homes, and the diversion of traffic away from this business district. It is slowly coming back, thanks to the unique street art and shops in this area. All of this gave us a glimpse into the history of this wonderful city. That’s where taking a guided tour is better than venturing out on your own. On a tour, you have someone sharing the stories of places we drove by, which made them all that more interesting. The guides were all informative but our first guide, Jake, seemed to be the most spontaneous in his presentations, so that made the tour fun, making up for the dull weather. We learned that Thomas Edison brought the palm tree to Miami from Cuba. They’ve certainly thrived, haven’t they?
Another fun fact we learned from Jake—the Gantry cranes—used for loading and unloading ships in the Port of Miami —inspired the design of the Imperial Walkers in Star Wars. I couldn’t get a good shot of these, but found this one with a “Google search.”
Miami port dockside gantry cranesI see where George Lucas got his inspiration. Do you?
As I mentioned, we saw some lovely areas of the city. Coral Gables was especially beautiful–no doubt because  homeowners have to get their choice of paint colour approved to make sure it will “fit” with the local décor.
This Coral Gables church is one of the most popular choices for local couples to get married because they are one of few churches to offer interdenominational services.
One of our tours took us through Little Havana, home to a thriving Cuban community. I would have liked to hop off to buy my souvenir Cuban cigars here, but there wasn’t time.
IMG_00000631I was able to purchase them back at Bayfront Market, the hub where all of the tours start and return.
Looking back on our Big Bus Tours map, I am reminded what a wide area of the city we were able to cover  in such a short time. There are three loops–the Beach loop, the City loop, and the Uptown loop, and we were able to do them all.
Jennifer (at the Conventiona and Tourist bureau) also gave us passes for a boat cruise. The warm sun was shining that day, although there were still a few clouds.  I’ll tell you more in a future post. Here’s a teaser:
One of our first sights was of a yacht , the Attesa IV, owned by billionaire construction magnate Dennis Washington. This little jewel now is complete with a helicopter onboard for quick get-aways.  My photo does not do this magnificent vessel justice. You can learn more about the yacht and Washington in this YouTube video
Looking back at my maps, guides, and other little souvenirs from this whirlwind five-day trip, there is so much to tell you about our accommodations, food, and fun.
Stay tuned!
For more great stories and photos, please visit Doreen’s travel blog, Diversions with Doreen.