GirlCrew Member Melissa Ushtchenko Takes Us on a Virtual Trip to Miami

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Passionate about travel Melissa Ushtchenko offered to take us along with her on her recent trip to Miami, just virtually this time but maybe we can join the next one for realz 😉 Melissa blogs at and if you’re also a travel fan, come join the GirlCrew Trips & Travel Group for instant travel companions, tips and advice.

March 24, 2016

A quiet thrill courses through my veins in anticipation of seeing a new place for the first time.

Upon disembarking from the plane, I quickly remembered that my body is not particularly built for this kind of heat, although my hair seems to like it.

I spent an hour working my way out of Miami International Airport and once I was on the bus headed East (this way to the beach), I wondered whether I should have run into a TSA agent for screening at some point. No one checked my bags upon arrival, but maybe it’s because they checked my bags upon boarding at Pearson. Still, it seemed odd, and I remained unsure until a safe distance from the airport (I have since confirmed that, yes, I was in fact checked by TSA agents at Pearson).

Despite my fears that Americans would be rude (sorry, neighbours), everyone I’ve spoken to for help so far has been kind. Maybe because Miami is such a big tourist destination?

TIP: The Miami-Dade Transit system does not issue transfers. If you pay for your bus trip with cash and need to transfer to another bus, you will have to pay the fare again. I recommend getting Day Passes if you plan to use transit to get around (I also recommend using transit, as a great way to see the city).

I found my Airbnb apartment just fine, and as soon as I arrived, I had a quick rinse in the shower to wash away the fog of travel and flight delays. I had planned to explore the beach, but realized once I was outside that it’s closed after dark. So I started running. There was no other option it seemed. I hadn’t really realized that I was going to run until after I had already started. There was no stopping it. And it was rejuvenating. Although I’m sure I got a few odd looks once I reached Bal Harbour thinking there would be food at such a big shopping establishment. Wrong. I stumbled across a CVS though and managed to survive both the run and the night.

On the topic of the trés luxe Bal Harbour, my run there reaffirmed a few things for me. One, I’m not the girl who goes to those types of places; I’m the girl who runs around a new city at night without fear. Two, I didn’t come to Miami to shop, which seems strange to people, since Miami “is so great for shopping.” The juxtaposition of sweaty me at Bal Harbour seemed to prove both parts of that statement. Three, I actually came to Miami for the culture. I may have already known this, but it wasn’t explicit in my mind yet. This is when I conveniently stumbled upon a Starbucks and was able to search for delicious places to eat while I’m here.

Cue: mapping the journey to Little Havana!

March 25, 2016

  • 6:00 am – wake up. Snooze alarm. Several times.
  • 6:15 am – finally get out of bed, brush teeth, eat breakfast, make tea, get dressed, and prepare camera gear.
  • 6:40 – leave apartment in search of a good spot to capture sunrise.
  • 6:55 – settle into spot and snap photos experimentally (and realize I need some serious practice before I can start a lucrative postcard business).
  • 7:20 – sunrise snapping is officially over. Delight in the magic of the waves crashing against my legs and cyclically swallowing my toes.
  • 7:45 – begin the walk back to the apartment, realizing my formerly sprained foot/ankle is in rather a lot of pain. Possibly from my surprise run? Combined with the strange sensation of walking on a beach? Disregard and carry on.
  • 8:00 – eat breakfast and decide how to begin the day.
  • 8:30 – nap.
  • 8:45 – wake up in a panic because I’m napping and missing the day. Realize it’s my vacation and I can do what I want. Set alarm for 9:30.
  • 9:30 – snooze alarm.
  • 9:45 – finally exit bed and get ready to leave.
  • 10ish – start journey to Little Havana in search of La Camaronera for a snapper sandwich lunch.
  • 1:00 – find La Camaronera and enjoy lunch (The Original: pan con minuta) and lovely service from kind people.
  • 2:00 – make journey to Downtown Miami to walk through Lincoln Road Mall.
  • 3:00 – decide I’m looking for a bakery, as per my tradition of travel.
  • 3:30 – arrive at Charlotte Bakery where I decide to indulge in espresso, Alfajore (dulce de leche, caramel), Pasta Frola (quince jelly), and moments of solitude.
  • 4:00 – head to South Beach
  • 4:30 – decide I’m going to swim. No towel. Doesn’t matter.
  • 5:00 – done swimming. Head back to apartment wet.
  • 6:00 – arrive at apartment. Pouring rain begins conveniently just after I get inside. Start getting ready to go find live music and more food and/or some alcohol.
  • 8:51 – handling some serious traffic jams on the way to the South Beach area, along with growing hunger.
  • 9:30ish – decide against the touristy, high-cover bar and opt instead for a Cuban sandwich at Deco Sandwich and Burgers, obviously washed down with una cerveza.

March 26, 2015

My second full day in Miami was spent much the same as the first – doing exactly what I wanted to do. The difference being that I wanted to do different things than on the first day. Today was my lazy beach day Saturday.

Today I woke up and walked north – with no intentions to venture to South Beach – until I found what I’ve decided might be my favourite area of Miami Beach (beaches excluded). Right when Harding Avenue meets 94th Street, you suddenly enter a quaint area with shops and cafés and restaurants along either side of the street. Welcome to the Town of Surfside, home to a beautifully landscaped police station.

I stopped at a place called Josh’s Deli, and if you’re not careful, you might walk right by it. There is so big sign announcing its presence, no flashy “open” sign hanging in the window. There is a piece of paper stuck to the inside of the door telling you where you are, with a caricature of Josh himself. This is a great place for breakfast – simple, delicious food, made and served by kind, welcoming people. I picked “three eggs” from the simple, unassuming menu, and it was exactly the breakfast I hoped I would have on my last full day in Miami.

Unlike downtown Miami and South Beach, the north part of Miami Beach is much less chaotic – and much less touristy. Of course there are still tourists, but there are far more locals, which enables the area (the Town of Surfside in this instance) to develop a more permanent sense of community. If that’s what you’re after when you travel, I highly recommend a trip to Surfside on Harding Avenue. If you do want the crazy party feeling, then South Beach is for you. Downtown Miami isn’t bad. I did find Charlotte Bakery there after all. And in truth, I enjoyed every part of Miami. But I would pick Harding Avenue over Lincoln Road Mall, because that’s just the kind of girl I am.

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Passionate about travel Melissa Ushtchenko offered to take us along with her on her recent trip to Miami, just virtually this time but maybe we can join the next one for realz 😉 Melissa blogs at and if you’re also a travel fan, come join the GirlCrew Trips & Travel Group for instant travel companions, tips and advice.

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