I'd learned the Dubai lesson well, and while I have a number of destinations on my hit-list, I make the final decision on standby trips based on the number of free seats on both outbound and return flights.

I also book only one day ahead, and plan a very short visit so any extra days are a bonus rather than a problem. Years of business travel with very tight schedules means I'm used to cramming lots in to a short visit.

A flight with a decent number of empty seats has the additional benefit of maximising my chances of an upgrade, and I was duly upgraded to Premium.

I'm not much of a beach guy, but Miami Beach made the cut purely on the basis of the art deco architecture. Hey, people fly thousands of miles just for a patch of sand, so you can stop looking at me like that, ok?

My editor kindly let me take three days off at short-notice so I was saved from having to get up at 6am local time to cover my usual slot on Monday morning. I was also saved from having to work on Tuesday after a red-eye flight landing an hour before I would otherwise start work.

When I did a lot of business travel, I used to take my Brompton on some trips. In those days, I took the bike just as it was, asking to gate-check it (as per pushchairs). I'd then ask at the aircraft door if they might be able to find space for it inside, and because I flew business class, they usually obliged ...

However, that didn't always hold true when flying economy, and I'd experienced a number of airports where gate-checked baggage was delivered by conveyor belt into the baggage hall. I thus decided it would be safer to get a case for it. I'd bought the Polaris Bike Pod some time earlier from a fellow member of the London Brompton Club, and this would be its unaugural trip.

The bike fitted comfortably into the bag with only the hinges removed. Saddle, saddlebag and even camcorder mount remain in situ.

My one criticism of the Bike Pod bag is the pull-out handle is a little short, seemingly designed for someone about 5'6" tall, but it's ok for short distances - and there's enough room to fit the Brompton T Bag on top of it, securing it in place with the shoulder strap.

I must confess to a certain degree of nervousness as I watched my Brompton disappear into the depths of Heathrow's baggage system ... The first time I'd travelled with hold baggage in 30 years of flying. (Please assume I started flying shortly after birth; thank you.)

In the lounge, I noticed a woman reading a book I was reading myself, What Jung Really Said. Written by a good friend of Jung, it is a very accessible overview of his work – a word that cannot always be applied to Jung's own writing. An enjoyable conversation ensued (yes, she was cute, why do you ask?).

Coincidentally, my friend Adrian was the certifying engineer for my aircraft. One of his duties is meeting the captain on the flight-deck to explain what's been done to the aircraft and any faults found, and get a signature accepting the aircraft for flight. I was just getting seated when he called me to invite me up to the flight-deck for a chat.

It always amuses me how low-tech airliners are in essence. It's not surprising when you think about it: you don't want to put anything on an aircraft that isn't tried-and-tested technology. They are not a place for beta versions of anything. All the same, there's still something faintly bizarre in 2014 about a first officer reading waypoints from a printout and manually typing them into a flight computer.

The coincidences didn't end with Adrian signing-off my aircraft: it turned out the captain's father had been one of Adrian's teachers at school - all the more surprising when both of them are from Northern Ireland.

The captain flew a Vulcan in his spare time, and pulled out a photo to show us. I'm willing to be proved wrong, but I reckon it would be pretty hard to top that as a hobby ...

Adrian also introduced me to the Cabin Service Director, who kindly offered me a seat change to the rear row of the Premium Economy cabin. The final row was empty, which gave me a free seat next to me. Friends in high places, literally. :-)

The service was excellent - I may be biased, and I may have gotten a little extra pampering on that particular flight, but I don't think anyone does premium economy better than Virgin. (Film recommendations: The Monuments Men, and The Love Punch if you like silly but fun rom-coms. Or so someone told me - I was obviously watching something high-brow in the original Russian.)

We landed a little ahead of schedule at 5.20pm local, and my usual trick of manually setting iPhone and iPad to local time as soon as I boarded off more-or-less succeeded in fooling my body into accepting that as the real time. Albeit having consumed rather more wine and brandy than would generally be the case by that hour ...

I had been slightly concerned that years of habitually getting off planes and heading straight through Immigration might have resulted in me merrily heading off without my Brompton, but I did manage to remember to stop by baggage reclaim. The Bike Pod case appeared intact, and no-one had written 'It was, wasn't it' across the Fragile stickers.

I took a bus to my hotel. Booking flights the day before means doing the same with hotels, of course, but hitting up hotels.com and laterooms.com at the last minute works well. £207 got me three nights in what looked like a lovely hotel with fantastic reviews, right in the middle of Miami Beach. It was nominally a gay hotel but the website said that all were welcome, so I planned on simply being discreet about being straight.

Love the welcome message on the door!

As you might imagine, the decor was pretty funky.

I grabbed a quick shower, changed and decided to find out whether my Brompton had enjoyed as comfortable a flight as me. Opening the Pod Bag and refitting the hinges, it seemed to have survived the tender ministrations of baggage handlers. A couple of laps of my rather funky hotel room seemed to confirm this.

I then headed out for a gentle evening ride to get my bearings. This proved very easy: I was on Lincoln Road, which appeared to be the place to be. It was chock full of restaurants and upmarket shops (including the obligatory Apple Store - still, at 9pm, with a long queue of iPhone 6 buyers outside).

It was pure good fortune on my part that I'd picked a hotel there - I just searched for Miami Beach then looked for a good intersection of price and reviews - but miamiandbeaches.com described it as a 'must do' with 'the best in fashion, art, architecture and more.'

Most of it is pedestrianised, but I think courteously-ridden bicycles are ok. Leastways, none of the cops I passed took any interest. This was just as well, as my road riding demonstrated that the standard of driving in Miami Beach leaves much to be desired ...

I stopped at a cafe for a snack, and it was like being back in London ten years ago: I had an attentive audience for both folding and unfolding of the bike, and several people approached me to ask about it. That hasn't happened in London for years: Bromptons are simply the Default London Commuter Bike.

I also picked up my usual disposable tripod. Usually this is needed as I fly hand-baggage only, and Security takes a dim view of taking on board items that look like they could be used to club half an aircraft to death (I refrain from observing that a 35-70/2.8 lens attached to a D3 could do the job equally well).

This time, I had hold baggage, but no room in it for a tripod. You get what you pay for with a cheap tripod, but weighing them down with a bag containing a spare lens or two makes them usable, and they only have to last a few days.

I generally only use tripods for night shots, but I'd been reading up on a post-processing technique for shooting a bunch of photos and overlaying them to remove the people, so this trip planned to use it for daytime shots too.


My body didn't stay fooled for long: I woke up at 6.30am. Ah well, that gave me time to plan my day. Oceans Drive and Collins Avenue are the two main streets for art of the deco variety, with a couple of detours for particular buildings.

It was 34C. For a Brit, cycling conditions were what meteorologists refer to as Bloody Hot and so humid that a visiting Texan was complaining about it.

My Brompton is generally used for London cycling, where I'm doing only a few miles at a time, and my habitual Brompton cycling speed is fairly brisk. I had to have words with myself, pointing out that I'd better slow down or be reduced to a puddle.

I cycled the length of both roads first to get a sense of what was there. My first thought was that I'd then stop off at specific locations to take photos, but this really was art deco central, so I decided to simply walk both roads.

Walking was even hotter as it lacked the cooling breeze from cycling. But it was worth it. This isn't even 10% of what's out there.

And a little extra treat.

By this time, the pool of sweat formerly known as Ben decided it was time to head back to the hotel for a cool shower and a rest. Which was good timing as a massive thunderstorm hit about 20 minutes later.

The evening plan was a rooftop terrace about ten blocks away. I abandoned all thought of cycling there and instead grabbed a cab so that I would arrive as a solid.

The bar was pretty cool.

They had a good happy hour system from 5-9pm, where you can get either a decent glass of wine or a range of cocktails by 'paying the hour,' from $5 at 5pm to $8 at 8pm. At 9pm, prices reverted to normal.

Sunset was at 7.19pm, so I made it there shortly before $7, and had a very drinkable Pinot Noir. I then wandered out onto the terrace to await the sunset.

Sadly, it wasn't much of one by Florida standards, but hey, I'm a Brit: in London, this would be considered a pretty good effort!

I had a second glass of wine and a burger. I'm not a massive fan of heat, but adore warm evenings. It was lovely it remaining shirt sleeves weather outside after dark.

Tomorrow's plan was to cycle across the causeway onto the mainland, then to cycle along the waterfront to to Vizcaya Gardens, then head up into Little Havana.

I'd found cycling was cooler than walking or standing, so decided to call my photography duties at an end and just video the cycle ride instead.


I woke at around 6am again, so lazed around for a while watching West Wing. Crazy licensing: in the UK, it's not on Netflix but is on Amazon Instant Video; here, it's the other way around.

The weather was not being terribly cooperative, with very threatening-looking skies and thunderstorms forecast. I decided to follow my West Wing fest with a leisurely breakfast.

By 9.30-ish, the skies had cleared and I set off across the causeway. I won't blog the day, just leave that to the video. Executive summary, the causeway, waterfront and gardens were all lovely. Little Havana was over-sold, so I didn't bother shooting any footage there. Hopefully I'll make it to the real thing later in the year.

The day ended a little abruptly just as I was about to head back onto the causeway when I hit a rock with my front wheel while admiring the view rather than watching where I was going. The front tyre went bang. Oops.

Ah well, this is one of the advantages of a Brompton: ten minutes later, it and I were in an Uber car heading back to the hotel. I checked-in online, and was again pleased to see the lovely 'You are now checked-in' message rather than the 'Sorry, pal, ask at the airport and we'll let you know' one.


Having completed my Miami mission, I had nothing more energetic planned than brunch at the 11th Street Diner (which got rave reviews) and a little wandering between waterfront bars - before setting of at 5pm for the airport for the redeye home.

A very enjoyable mini-break, and another tick on the travel to-do list.