The weathered, pale blue steps to the patio of the old Copley Plaza at 3900 Collins reminded me so much of real structures in the Caribbean and their beauty, even in decay. I forgot I had landed in present-day Miami Beach. Given the unrelenting heat, I could have easily been in Viejo San Juan or even La Havana.
Just steps across the stoop, lined with old cast iron tables and chairs covered in sun-beaten and chipped blue paint, a pair of automatic doors provided a touch of modernity. Sliding open, they revealed not only much-welcomed cool air but several tanned, exotic faces. The hotel staff stood dutifully poised as they were beautiful.
Readily accommodating of my meek attempts to speak the most common language spoken in Miami Beach, el Español, Alejandra de Colombia officially welcomed us to the hotel and provided instrucciones for finding our room. We were to take el ascensor to the second floor and walk across a vine-covered, outdoor bridge to our room.
Lined with plush and colorful carpeting, Circa 39’s interior reflected a thoughtful but decidedly minimalist tropical theme; the floor served as the focal point in vibrant hues of orange, blue and mojito-mint greens. Clean, white walls and sleek chrome fixtures provided soothing contrast.
Standard key card-entry led to a modest room. Three white walls and one wallpapered accent wall extended to meet a baby blue ceiling. A full-length mirror hung on the wall near the door, and a flat-screen television hung on the wall above a wooden bureau framed smartly by several small canvas paintings and photographs.
A king-size bed sat between two identical end tables and lamps. All of the rooms at Circa 39 had been recently remodeled to a reflect more refined, contemporary island flair. Changes included upgraded bathroom fixtures – a spacious glass shower, newly tiled floor and an extended counter top and mirror.
Dining options on this stretch of the beach were few and far between, though take heart, lovers of all things American-Italian; there is a Carrabbas Italian Grill at the Courtyard by Marriott directly across the street. There are also a Subway sandwich shop a bit further down Collins and a Walgreens just across the Julia Tuttle Causeway.
A short walk nextdoor to Primo Cafe and Market would prove to be our saving grace. This little half deli, half convenience store, open from sun up to midnight, was serving a little of bit of everything — from eggs and bacon on gargantuan croissants to empanadas and other pastries, fresh juices, salads and sandwiches. Their especialidad, however, is el cortadito or Cuban coffee. Just one of these little guys will give you all the energy you need to endure the tropic Sun.
Of course se habla Español, and it is preferable that you do, too. There was a marked change in the demeanor of the ladies behind the counter when I gave ordering completely in Spanish my best shot with, “Quisiera una empanada de pavo y queso y un cortadito con azucar.” By the fourth and final day of our vacation, I had earned several smiles and compadres, hard to come by unless you’re a cafe regular.
(Ah, and a word of caution – if you do stop by Primo, be sure to order first, pay at the register and then wait for your food, receipt in hand. It is a bit flawed by design, but failing to follow procedure here will win you a prompt scolding from the ladies working from behind the counter. Don’t take offense.) Compliments and small gracious phrases like, “Muchas gracias, bonitas,” even through clumsy American-accented Spanish, however, go far.
Despite challenges finding our next meal, Circa 39 does offer a sexy and serene sanctum away from the spectacle that is South Beach. Plus, it’s clean, stylish and suitable for couples and families alike. It’s conveniently situated directly across the street from the warm turquoise waters on the coast of beautiful Miami Beach where your room key scores you free beach chairs. Plus, getting to South Beach for a run at the nightlife is as simple as an $8 or $9 cab ride down Collins.
Special thanks to Alejandra y Matthew (who provided some assistance after an eventful night out in South Beach) de Colombia and Isis (who checked us out) de Mexico, as well as the rest of the staff, for making our stay comfortable, easy and an obvious choice for future visits to Miami Beach.
3900 Collins Avenue
Miami Beach, Florida 33140