Better the second time around

 Ever visited a well-known place and wondered what the fuss was all about?

 It’s happened to me more than a few times, but occasionally I’ve returned to a famous spot and changed my mind. Such was the case on a recent trip — my second — to South Beach.

 The swanky Miami Beach neighborhood was not at the top of my list for a long weekend, but friends — not to mention Michigan’s lingering winter-like weather  — persuaded me to seize the chance to escape.

 This time around I had more time to explore. Wandering the expansive, inviting beaches, I wondered why my initial impressions had been so far off. I liked being able to get around by foot, admiring Art Deco hotels and other structures as I walked along streets lined with palm trees.

 Browsing the shops, art galleries and restaurants along Espanola Way reminded me of European villages along the Mediterranean coast. How’d I miss this? Dinner at an Italian restaurant here was so-so, but the warm evening air, festive street life, and colorful wait staff made up for the disappointment.

 The food and entertainment scene is lively and diverse. Sitting outside Yuca, a contemporary Cuban restaurant with a menu blending Latino and Caribbean cuisine, I watched a parade of people of all ethnicities stroll the pedestrian-only stretch of Lincoln Road, one of SoBe’s main thoroughfares. It was an evening scene reminiscent of Las Ramblas in Barcelona.

 Looking back, I’m not sure what accounted for that negative first impression. Could I have been influenced by the biases of family or friends? Could I have built up the place up so much in my mind that there was no room for anything but disappointment? In any case, I relearned a lesson, and the next time I travel along the well-worn path, I’ll strive to keep an open mind.

Greg Tasker
Greg Tasker is Detroit News Arts and Entertainment Editor and has been writing about travel for more than a decade. His travel stories have appeared in AAA Living, Frommer's Budget Travel, Scouting, AMC Outdoors, Vermont Life and Island Life.