Miami nice: Everybody into bachelorette-party pool

Art deco buildings grace Ocean Drive in Miami, just the place for friends of the bride to convene before the wedding. Surrounded by tanned flesh and tiny bikinis, an apprehensive mother-to-be found herself welcome at the glamorous gatherings.
Art deco buildings grace Ocean Drive in Miami, just the place for friends of the bride to convene before the wedding. Surrounded by tanned flesh and tiny bikinis, an apprehensive mother-to-be found herself welcome at the glamorous gatherings. (JOE RAEDLE / Getty Images)
Posted: September 25, 2011

MIAMI - We are surrounded by some of the most beautiful women in the world.

Their bodies are perfectly bronzed, accented by white bikinis and sky-high stilettos, and their hair is so well-groomed that you know there's no way it's going to touch the clear, cool water of the inviting pool in front of us.

Me? I'm sporting a full-coverage maternity suit with side ruching and a belly panel, the tops of my feet puffing up like marshmallows under the straps of my flip-flops.

Maybe it wasn't such a great idea to visit Miami for the first time at 7 1/2 months pregnant.

But when one of my lifelong friends asked me to be in her fall wedding and said she wanted to hold her bachelorette party in this sparkling, whitewashed Florida city, I wasn't about to let a little heartburn or swollen ankles keep me down.

From the upbeat dance music spun by DJs in discos and diners to the postcard-perfect beaches to the celeb-studded culture, Miami was the perfect weekend destination for our girl group.

Our center of operations was the Mondrian South Beach, a bayside boutique hotel with a decor that can best be described as eclectic chaos. Guest rooms feature a giant picture of a floating female head with huge eyes and bright red lipstick; the hallways are decorated in a blue-and-white china pattern like something that, in plate form, would fetch a fortune on Antiques Roadshow; and the lobby is so gleamingly white that you have to wonder if Clorox is a part owner. And yet, while this decorating scheme probably wouldn't work in any other city, in Miami, it feels right.

We sat down for dinner the first night at the hotel's Asia de Cuba restaurant, which blends Asian and Latin cuisines into delicious dishes such as lemongrass-skewered chicken, lobster-shiitake potstickers, oxtail spring rolls, and Asian-spiced pork spare ribs. We were wrapping up our meals when Brittney heard a familiar voice at the booth behind us.

Even though he was wearing a baseball cap and had his head buried in his food, we all recognized Cary Elwes. Name not ring a bell? In addition to roles in Twister, Robin Hood: Men in Tights, and Saw, he played Westley in The Princess Bride, a movie that bride-to-be Rachel and I adored so much that in middle school we made our own version, complete with a scene of "shrieking eels" (played by foam swim noodles) shot at the neighborhood swimming pool. Elwes graciously accepted our group's gushing compliments as the agent-manager type he was dining with gave us a not-so-subtle brush-off.

The next morning we went from being starstruck to being treated like stars at the Elle Spa at the Eden Roc Renaissance Miami Beach, which recently underwent a $220 million renovation. The beautiful space not only courts rest and relaxation but, with plants that spring from the walls and its vibrant blue and green tiling, it also fills your head with decorating ideas.

After pedicures all around, we decided to take a walk along the beach, which, because we were staying bayside, we hadn't yet experienced. The view of the ocean from the sand was spectacular, but it quickly became clear that the real fun was behind the pool gates of the luxury hotels that face the beach. Nearly every hotel we passed seemed to have a pool party in progress, and each one seemed better than the last.

Our favorite was at the Fontainebleau, a gorgeous, 22-acre luxury hotel that sports a "poolscape" composed of six swimming areas, VIP cabanas, and a children's area. Although you usually need a wristband to access the pool area, the doorman took one look at me and let us in. The standard uniform at this particular pool party: bikini top, thong, and stilettos.

For lunch, we ate at the Fontainebleau's casual poolside French restaurant, La Cote. The food was fresh and flavorful, with highlights such as beef carpaccio, Nicoise salad, grilled mahi ciabatta sandwich, and lobster proven├žal gratin. The atmosphere - complete with a DJ spinning the best mix of songs we heard during our trip - was ideal.

Even driving around the Miami area was fascinating, the million-dollar mansions of the aptly named "Star Island" neighborhood conjuring up visions not of celebrity fabulousness but of grisly crime scenes featured in shows such as CSI: Miami and Dexter. The city also was the setting of E!'s Kourtney and Khloe Take Miami, in which the Kardashian sisters run a clothing store called DASH. Visiting DASH was on our agenda, but after hearing reports that it wasn't worth the effort, we turned instead to Lincoln Road, a pedestrian shopping center located between Miami Beach's 16th and 17th streets.

The weekend wouldn't have been complete without presenting an inappropriate cake to the bachelorette in a public space, so we made a midnight dinner reservation at STK, which also has locations in New York, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas and is known for its cool, sleek vibe. Located inside the Gansevoort Miami Beach Hotel, STK was a great choice for what we were looking for: It had club-worthy music, drool-inducing fare, and a surprisingly accommodating staff that went above and beyond - from adding sparklers to the cake to bringing out a free round of shots - to make sure we had a good time.

Since everything in Miami seems to be centered on a pool, we headed next to the Rooftop, a pool/lounge on the Gansevoort's 18th floor that offers stunning views of the Atlantic. Here, the bartenders mixed up a special drink for bachelorette Rachel and invited us to join them for a "Medical Fetish Party" at a neighboring bar the next night.

There were things about the city we didn't like - the superficial Vegas-meets-L.A. vibe was one of them - but for the most part, it was a wonderful place to kick up our heels.

Or flip-flops, as the case may be.

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