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Florida: the land of sun, sand and long nights

When the sun sets on the horizon, life really begins in southern Florida. That is the time of day that South Beach lives up to its name.

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When the sun sets on the horizon, life really begins in southern Florida. That is the time of day that South Beach lives up to its name as a place for nighthawks. Celebrities like Jennifer Lopez or Mick Jagger are known to turn up in nightclubs on Ocean Drive.

Bars over the city's rooftops serve drinks with glowing ice cubes and life under the subtropical starry sky gives the impression of being just one long party.

Miami Beach is a place that many travellers have fallen in love with. It's also a place where many young couples spend their honeymoons and other romantic holidays.

South Beach with its lush green vegetation, warm nights and exotic drinks is a place that charms its guests. Hardly any of the area's discos close before 5 a.m. Tired dancers then have the choice of going to the Sky Bar for more romantic moments.

The club offers patrons dozens of beds with canopies and curtains to relax in the garden. When the disc jockey makes a pause in the music, you can hear the sea in the distance.

When darkness falls, small boutique hotels like Catalina light torches at the edge of their pools. The Catalina is just a few steps from the beach on Collins Avenue, one of South Beach's main roads.

The Catalina belongs to the South Beach Group of hotels and specialises in creating a romantic atmosphere at an affordable price.

The hotel rooms are all in white and the Spire Bar and Lounge on the roof terrace is a place for models to relax and where guests lie on white sofas and enjoy the view of the city.

The restaurant "Wish" is renowned among gourmets. The head cook, Michael Bloise, specialises in Asian cuisine. Guests at "Wish" can sit in chilled rooms or between palm trees and waterfalls.

Another popular place to eat is "Tantra", a sensual restaurant decorated with statues of Buddha and other deities. "Tantra" has dishes such "Sea Bass Aphrodite" on its menu, which is reputed to have ingredients acting as an aphrodisiac.

Instead of music, the restaurant's ambience is helped along by a speaker system that plays the sound of lovers and the movie version of the Karma Sutra beamed onto a screen above the diner tables.

The island of Miami Beach and South Beach at its southern point have a lot more to offer holidaymakers than romantic and erotic moments.

Miami Beach is separated from Miami city by Biscayne Bay. The bay is lined with palm trees and its white sandy beach stretches 12 km along the Atlantic and is never full.

This area is renowned for the 400 buildings that were constructed there in the art nouveau style. Not surprisingly perhaps that for the past five years the island has hosted the Art Basel Miami Beach, on of the biggest art fairs in the US.

Water sport enthusiasts are also drawn to the island thanks to the ideal conditions. Golfers also enjoy what the island has to offer.

Some tourists take the opportunity to combine a cruise in the Caribbean with a few days in Miami Beach.

A few hours drive to the north is another popular destination for couples looking for a more romantic experience: Disney World in Orlando has monopolised the business in catering for newlyweds or people who are thinking of splicing the knot.

This was the place where Emma Robert's dream came true and where the bookkeeper from Wales spoke her marriage vows. Roberts and her husband were then driven in a classic car to the "Grand Floridian" hotel that has a ballroom and suites for honeymooners.

One of the hotel's trademarks is its marble staircase on which newlyweds walk arm in arm up to their room.

"I felt like a real princess," says Emma recalling the occasion with moist eyes.

"Everyone gets a custom marriage," says Korr McFann, the head of Disney's Weddings and Honeymoons service.

She has a very skilled team attending to her clients' wishes. But weddings do not come cheap and even a basic ceremony on a weekday starts at 10,000 dollars. Charges double for a Saturday wedding ceremony.

Some couples go on safari in Disney's "Animal Kingdom" and are wed to the sound of drumbeats in "Harambe Village". Others prefer the Epcot Centre where wedding ceremonies are held to the tune of a Bavarian brass band or Mariachi music.

Disney offers a range of venues to celebrate the wedding day. Film fans, for example, can book the "Great Movie Ride" in the Disney-MGM Studios theme park and have their reception in the kingdom of Wizard of Oz.

Disney can even help out when it comes to getting engaged and can choreograph the event, according to the rules of etiquette.

Disney requires clients to hold their partner's hand and go down on bended knee when presenting the engagement ring hidden in a glass slipper.

And just as the big question is being posed, a photographer is on hand to immortalize the moment as a band serenades the betrothed with a fanfare.

First Published: Mar 07, 2007 19:21 IST