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Biltmore or Billmore?

You first may be wondering, why I would go to the Biltmore in Miami? Well, a couple of reasons: 1) I went to high school there (go Sabres) and 2) I won a foursome of golf in a silent auction and I had heard that the golf course was very nice. Since this is my month to walk and play golf, it seemed like the right time.

When I got off the Sawgrass Highway to the hotel, I immediately thought I was in New York City with the traffic and the horn blowing — I didn’t know Miami had embraced the horn blowing … too bad. But, within just minutes, I was in a new world … the serene surroundings of Coral Gables.

Coral Gables was one of the first-ever, planned, high-end residential communities in Florida and was started in the 1920’s. The builder of this community became very rich … and then lost his fortune … but he built a nice long-lasting community along the way. One showcase location within Coral Gables is the famous Biltmore Hotel. Built in the 1920’s, it was completed in about 10 months for about $10 million dollars — neither of which is something we could do 100 years later.

It was nice to park and not have to pay a valet or resort parking fee. But, on the way up to the main entrance, I picked up not one, but two nails that were waiting for the tires of the Bentley’s, Roll Royces, and other very nice cars that frequent this facility — this was a hotel with clientele much more financially prepared than I — good thing I found a great hotel booking place that got me a 2-double bed room for about $300 a night versus $650 a night (email me and I will let you know). Trust me, I am a shorts and t-shirt guy … I only came out of curiosity.

When you walk into the lobby area, it’s like a transformation back into historical luxury. The craftsmanship involved with making a lobby so unique is worth a visit alone. Check-in was fast and friendly and I was heading up to my $650 a night room — what will it look like? Every hallway has large framed pictures of high-society of the past … you could spend hours just looking at them all from a museum experience.

The 3-room 2-bed living space was very classy and it gave a view of the pool and golf course I would soon be tearing up. It was very clean other than the fact that the previous renter’s used towel was left on the back of the door — bummer. The room proved to be very nice in many ways but I was disappointed in two items: 1) the beds were very hard for my liking and so both nights I spent time on the couch; and 2) it was very windy outside and so the television reception via satellite was continuously breaking up and stopping — not how you want to wrap up a day before going (trying) to sleep.

The golf course was amazing but landscape simple. It had some of the oldest banyan trees around and its waterways were well kept all the way to the alligator’s sunbathing. We were greeted very professionally and put on the 1st tee in short order. We were given these golf carts from the future where they have a digital scorecard and a GPS breaking system that will kill the vehicle if you go anywhere they don’t want you to go. Their insistent 90-degree requirement from the pathway proved to be very cumbersome for this hacker golfer — it was clear that this course and cart equipment was designed for golfers who don’t find sand, water, rough, etc on every hole. My biggest claim to fame is almost all of my tee-shots went past the women’s tee — my first goal in every tee-shot and I had some success there!

For all the great weather Miami has, I would have thought the golf course could have had more color by adding tropical plants from around the world … but, it didn’t. What it did have, however, was some of the strongest dog leg holes I have ever played on and some of the most strategic waterways requiring the golfer to have to decide whether to play it up to the water or try to get over it with a big hit. Watching the golfers in the area, most made the wrong decision on a windy day.

I have to give the golf course a thumbs up all said and done. Even though the Course Ranger came up to us and told us we had to play faster, and I picked up my ball a few times here and there, I have to say the design of the course was never boring, the greens were in great shape, and we met with nothing but fun and nice people throughout our duffing day.

Grudginly, I took out a few dollars to see someone wipe off my clubs and put them away for me — and then it was off to the Clubhouse … what a mess. The food was over-priced but good … but, unclean tables, trash on the ground, seats with berry droppings on them (I know, because my shorts got stained), and servers just passing all that needed to be cleaned in a rush to get all the orders filled. Combined that with inexperienced-made and overpriced cocktails and you have to wonder was spending $1K for a 4-some to play a round of golf worth it. Fortunately, I didn’t pay that.

The pool time was something I was really looking forward to. The Biltmore’s pool was once one of America’s greatest aqua wonders — huge by even today’s standards with water cascading into it. The water was warm and inviting and I enjoyed it very much until the first salt and pepper packets drifted past me. That led me to start taking notice of the trash and leaves and such in the water’s edges — I guess that can happen when you are serving food and drinks pool side but it didn’t lend itself well for such an expensive location.

For crying out loud Biltmore, hire one more person to keep a busy pool area clean or make the two young men handing out towels do it. Regardless, the water did wonders to my aching body … it’s tough to get old but it is better than the alternative!

The night had us meeting with others for a dinner at Fontana … what a treat. Although the menu was limited (because of my limited taste buds), what I had was very good and the chef introduced tastes and flavors that this Hamburger Helper man really enjoyed. The server was on top of things and very pleasant … and it seemed like everyone was getting the same quality service. The prices were reasonable considering the hotel’s prestige … but, I still can’t get over how much the bar charges for their drinks … too much to really enjoy a socially drinking night.

All in all, the Biltmore Hotel was a pleasant experience. Would I ever go back? Probably not just out of principle with how much everything costs in addition to the lack of on-ground/in-water trash lack of attention-to-detail … plus, their beds were just too hard for me to get a good night’s sleep … and everyone wants a good night’s sleep. But, if you got the money sitting around, and you want to bump elbows with a lot of very well-off people, this is the place for you. And, I really would recommend it for a lunch and museum like experience … just know you won’t be able to get to any of the floors without a magical key card that allows you to do so–great safety feature!

A side note challenge to Hotel Management: On the 5th floor, there is a picture with a clear grammatical error written on the gold-plated description — find it and I will send you your very own RAM t-shirt!

But, it is always good to go back to my old stomping grounds, see where I did this or that when I was young and dumb and trying to stay clear of Father Dennehy’s wrath. In some ways, I was hoping to see that Miami had culturally assimilated more; but, I also was glad to see that it was maintaining its cultural uniqueness — not an easy balance. But no trip going back to Miami is worth doing if you don’t stop at one of the best dining dives in America — Arbetters — they say that hamburgers are good but hot dogs Arbetters!

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