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When Canadian Traveller’s publisher took-off for Miami with one of her best friends (a mom of three in dire need of some “me time”), the goal was to live like the rich and famous – if only for one epic, whirlwind weekend. And while personal butlers, VIP access to the city’s hottest nightclub and three nights in an upscale hotel made that achievable, this ultimate girls’ trip meant so much more, as the two established a bond only possible by experiencing new things with those closest to you.

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I KNEW WHAT THE
answer was going to be by the way Steph's eyes lit up when I suggested Miami. 

That’s the one,” she said. “Let’s do it!”

We were sitting in her living room having our weekly coffee date. It was mid-August, and having had three kids with her at home all summer, Steph was ready for a break. An ultimate girls’ getaway seemed like the perfect idea, and while we had been throwing around a plan for a while, this was the first time we’d discussed specific destinations. Vegas, New York and Montreal were among the top contenders, but everything we’d seen about Miami – the hot, sexy, upscale and trendy vibe – spoke to exactly what we wanted. Once the option was on the table, all others were off.

Steph and I have been friends since high school. Now in our mid-thirties, we see each other frequently and talk or text almost daily. Despite being so close, we’ve never travelled together. A self-professed “Disney girl,” she wanted to plan-out our trip down to the minute, while I was after a lazy and indulgent weekend. This was bound to be interesting.

Sleep: St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort

St.RegisSt.Regis Hotels and Resorts

We pulled up to the St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort in the middle of a Friday afternoon rain storm. This being our weekend, we were going to do it right; we’d booked three nights in a Deluxe Oceanfront room, had reserved a poolside cabana for Saturday and dedicated Sunday to massages. We were also planning to do a yoga class, dance the night away on South Beach, and explore Miami’s fast-growing Wynwood Art District.

We’d chosen Bal Harbour because we wanted to be away from the hustle that comes with a typical South Beach vacation; we were after the kind of luxury that neither of us had experienced before, and wanted to get a taste for a lifestyle one would equate to that of the rich and famous. Positioned at the northern tip of Miami Beach, Bal Harbour Village is one of the most exclusive neighbourhoods in South Florida. Only 20 minutes from South Beach and 30 from downtown and Wynwood, we were both far enough from and close enough to the action.

The valet and bellman met us outside. Our luggage was whisked away while we were led into the lobby to check-in. We were served pink champagne before being escorted to our room by Bob the Butler, who gave us the grand tour and showed us how the high-tech control panel near the beds worked to operate everything from the lights to the drapes. Steph and I were brimming with excitement, eager for our balcony view to be revealed. When Bob opened the curtains, we saw that the rain had moved out and, in its place, a perfect rainbow that arched into the ocean in front of us.

St.RegisSt.Regis Hotels and Resorts

“Welcome to your girls' weekend!” Bob said grandly. “I was worried you’d miss the rainbow I ordered for you.” We dissolved into excited giggles. Yes, girls' weekend had begun.

Considering our time spent together these days takes place mostly in our kitchens or living rooms (every now and then, we’ll do double-dates with our husbands), unpacking felt like being back in our younger days – curiously pawing through each other’s clothes and jewelry, trying on outfits we’d brought, and mixing and matching our wardrobes.

Glam retail therapy

We got dressed for dinner and headed across the street to the Bal Harbour Shops where we had a reservation at Makoto, an upscale restaurant serving-up creative takes on traditional Japanese dishes, as well as American classics.

MakotoMakoto Restaurant

This is home to the world’s most famous and exclusive fashion and jewelry brands, which made for an ambient evening surrounded by beautiful people and unparalleled luxury. Spilling out of the restaurant into the open-air mall after dinner, palm trees swayed gently in the humid evening breeze as we joined other unhurried patrons, wandering from shop to shop.

Relax, Miami-style

Remede SpaRemade Spa Bal Harbour 

Saturday morning, we arrived at the Remede Spa for our yoga class that was to take place on a terrace overlooking the beach. An attendant escorted us outside and introduced us to Nichole, who would be instructing us. She led us through a series of postures that went beyond stretching and relaxation, and that made us work hard to hold them. Minutes in, we were both sweating.

I’ve always found there to be a vulnerability about doing physical exercise around friends; we can laugh, talk, cry and share our lives with each other through conversation and common experiences but rarely do we showcase our physical limits.

I know Steph goes to the gym; she knows I run. We see the results but rarely the effort that produces them. She doesn’t see how often I stop to walk and I don’t see what weights she uses or how much she might struggle to finish a set. All this to say, doing poses that neither of us had done before – and with no one else in sight except Nichole – we couldn’t help but be hyper-aware of each other.

We laid on our backs at the end of the class as Nichole spoke about the importance of feeling our emotions instead of supressing them. I don’t know where it came from but I felt tears burning in my eyes before they spilled down my cheeks. Not wanting to disrupt Steph beside me, I laid still and tried not to sniffle. When we both sat up, Steph surprised me by wiping tears from her eyes too. Nichole assured us that it’s perfectly normal for yoga to bring up emotions and feelings we didn’t know we had, and having that kind of a release with a friend is a special experience.

Seeing my friend push herself physically – working her body that’s given birth to three beautiful children and that’s carried her through life up to now, her back slightly twisted from scoliosis and scarred from corrective surgeries – I felt love, pride and appreciation for this woman I’m fortunate to have in my life.

Poolside pleasures

St.RegisSt. Regis Hotels and Resorts

For the remainder of the day, we had booked a poolside cabana. Our butlers, Wagner and Fausto, showed us around the small, air-conditioned villa with a daybed, bathroom, shower, TV and private patio. We had another daybed under a clamshell cover on the beach for our exclusive use and, to our amazement, a butler button to press when we needed something. “Try it!” they urged us. “See how cool it is!” I pressed the button and Wagner’s watch lit up. Cool indeed.

We spent most of the afternoon on the beach – lounging on our bed, reading books, napping, chatting and soaking up the sun. Though we were always together, half of the afternoon was girl time and the other half, side-by-side "me" time. At the height of my own indulgence, I was sprawled diagonally across the bed, eyes closed and lazily moving only my arm to reach for grapes on the platter beside me. The breeze was just enough to be comfortable, the waves gently lapped against the sand, the sun was warm, and the bed so comfortable. Wagner and Fausto had left us with an ice bucket of champagne but it was an effort to lift my head and reach for my glass. Sun-drunk, a contented moan escaped my throat; this was exactly the level of relaxation and decadence I’d been craving.

Steph managed to turn off her inner “Disney girl” for the day. Always “on” at home with three kids in tow, she couldn’t remember when she’d last had time to read a book. Leaving home, she’d said she was going to miss her kids so much. Just over 24 hours later, sitting on Miami Beach, she nonchalantly announced that she’d forgotten to call them that morning. We laughed as she admitted she hadn’t been that relaxed since her honeymoon.

 

Play

On our way upstairs, we spoke to the hotel concierge, Robbie, about our plans for the evening. We’d decided we wanted to try to get into Liv Nightclub at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach. Renowned as the hottest nightclub in Miami – and possibly in the country – we were determined to make it happen. Trouble was (according to our research), it has a high cover charge, a long line-up, and doormen who are choosy about who gets in. Robbie echoed what we’d read online but told us to get there at 11 p.m., and gave us his business card with the name of the club manager written on the back. “Give this to the guy at the door,” he offered. “Tell them Robbie from the St. Regis sent you. No promises, but it may help.”

We ravaged our room as we got ready; dance music played from the speakers, clothing and accessories covered the beds, beauty tools and make-up littered the bathroom. Outfits were assembled, tried on, modeled, critiqued and reassembled. Hair and make-up was a team event. The last time we’d been out dancing together was at least eight years ago, so this was serious business.

LivLIV Miami 

We arrived at Liv just as it was opening, and the line-up was already long and intimidating. The doorman took Robbie’s card before disappearing. I was nervous; being denied after cutting to the front of the line would have been insanely embarrassing, though seemed like a possibility since we had nothing more than a business card that got us there. Once back, the doorman simply lifted the rope. “Come on in, ladies,” he said, without ever looking at us. So Miami cool.

We marched in like we owned the place. Once inside, however, my voice squeaked with excitement, “We just skipped the line at the hottest club in Miami!”

By midnight, the club was packed with well-dressed patrons and the music was thumping. The energy steadily built all night and we danced until nearly 3 a.m. – until our feet couldn’t take it anymore. Collapsing into our beds an hour later, we agreed it was the best night of dancing we’d ever had.

 

Reward & rejuvenate

Our Sunday massages were booked for late afternoon. After another day spent on the beach recovering from the night before, we were led into the tranquil waiting area of Remede Spa. Disclaimer: I’m not a relaxing-massage kind of girl; I prefer having knots worked out and getting deep into the tissue, so I was happy when my therapist told me that all massages at Remede are customized. Using combinations of massage techniques and specialty products, no two massages are the same. I opted for serious work on my back and glutes, while Steph chose pure relaxation. Sharing truffles and champagne back in the waiting area afterward, we were both contentedly dazed.

Culture trip

WynwoodGraciela Cattarossi

For our final evening, we drove to the Wynwood Art District. Famous for its street art and graffiti, the former warehouse district is quickly gentrifying and now one of the trendiest spots in Miami, boasting block after block of buildings covered with murals by artists from around the world. I’d first visited the area almost four years ago, and had instantly fallen in love with the gritty, artsy vibe. Back then, I was with my mom who'd refused to get out of the car because she'd found it too “sketchy.” This time, pedestrian traffic abounded, and the number of cafés, restaurants, boutiques, tattoo parlours and galleries that have sprung up shocked me. We wandered aimlessly, admiring the murals at every turn and taking countless photos.

When it got dark, we hopped back in the car and headed for South Beach; no trip to Miami is really complete without seeing the Ocean Drive hotels lit up at least once. We spent the rest of the evening walking the strip, peoplewatching and wandering through the famed art deco hotels.

Farewell, not good-bye

Checking-out and heading for the airport the next morning, we felt like we’d been gone longer than three days. Girls' weekend had been about us – no kids, husbands, jobs or anything else. We’d each had different reasons for wanting to get away – kids and home life for Steph, work and business travel for me – but we ultimately left with the same things; relaxed minds and bodies, an appreciation of how lucky we are to have the lives we do (and to have each other in them), and a deeper bond that can only be achieved by experiencing new things together.

 

This article originally published in the spring 2017 issue of Canadian Traveller magazine. 

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