The queue outside the back door of the Shore Club is growing by the minute. It may be Sunday, but every night is party night on Miami's South Beach. And the Shore Club, one of the city's famous Art Deco hotels, is the place to be.
We're waiting for the nod that will allow us to slip past the velvet rope and into the garden of "America's coolest hotel", according to Vogue. Normally, I would not have a hope of getting in, but tonight I'm with Rosemary, one of this city's army of publicists who make things happen.
The power of the publicist in Miami can't be overestimated. No matter how good a service you offer, it's all about who hangs out in your venue. This city is so vain it's no wonder The Miami Herald puts its people column right up on page four: that morning it had reported sightings of the actor Mickey Rourke in SET, the hottest nightclub on the beach, and Brazilian supermodel Alessandra Ambrosio at the Skybar's Redroom.
Back at the Shore Club, beyond the bouncers, we find some space on one of the sofas that surround the outdoor pool. The place is heaving, but Rosemary tells me it's quite quiet. It's Sunday, after all. The crowd is young and beautiful, the women more so than the men – but then the phrase "wallet, watch, shoes" sums up how men are deemed attractive in Miami.
The thrill of hanging out here is beyond me and the effect of jet lag combined with chef Douglas Rodriguez's eight-course tasting menu eaten earlier at Ola, around the corner on James Avenue, sends me to my bed. I head home to the Mandarin Oriental hotel, 20 minutes' drive away in the less than trendy business district. The area may not buzz, but then neither does it offer a thumping bass as a lullaby.
My quest to be a socialite continues the next day back in South Beach at one of the most exclusive properties in town – the late Gianni Versace's former home, Casa Casuarina on Ocean Drive.
I pass through its gates to the slack-jawed surprise of the tourists snapping ghoulish pictures of the limestone steps where the fashion designer was gunned down in 1997. Inside, I add my number to the small elite who have seen the interior of this Spanish palace, built in the Thirties as a homage to the Alcázar de Coló* in Santo Domingo, home to Christopher Columbus's son, and extended by Versace during his brief five-year tenure with the addition of a wing, a garden and a pool.
I am now at liberty to relax by the pool, ostentatiously designed with Romanesque mosaic tiles, to refresh in the equally flamboyant showers and to chill out in the opulent Moroccan-style relaxation room. I can to and fro to the beach as I wish and enjoy something to eat in the dining room, its walls decoratively studded with thousands of pebbles (another Versace flourish).
How did I get in here? The game is up. I certainly don't have the bucks to join this invitation-only private club – a membership fee of $50,000 (£24,380) plus annual payment of $4,000. I can't even stretch to the $1,200 required for a night in one of its 10 suites. But with the pound so strong I could stump up the $175 to buy a special package titled "The South Beach Experience" from my hotel, the Mandarin Oriental, which enables its guests to experience the life of the super-rich for a day. The deal, first offered earlier this year but suspended while the Casa did some refurbishment, goes back on sale on Friday.
And the package certainly promises a lesson in living the high life. As well as all of the above, the price includes a chauffeur service to the Casa – buy the $350 deal and they'll sail you round on a yacht – and use of private cabanas on the beach, attended by "butlers" who will supply chilled towels, sun lotions, even an iPod specially programmed with your favourite tunes.
What it doesn't buy you is access to the suites, the members' bar and roof terrace. These areas are only for the Casa's paying guests. So does that mean you'll miss out on rubbing shoulders with any A-listers currently in residence? Well if they don't show at the pool during the day you could book for dinner (non-residents are admitted), or just keep a low profile and you might happen upon a celeb-packed party in the evening.
After all, living the high life is one thing, but if you've no interesting people to watch while you're doing it, well, that's just not South Beach, is it?
How to get there
Kate Simon travelled to Miami with BA Holidays (0870 234 3406; ba.com), which offers four nights at the Mandarin Oriental Miami from £816 per person, based on two sharing, in November. The price includes return flights and room-only accommodation.
further details Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau (gmcvb.com).
Further browsing For more on Art Deco in the city, contact the Miami Design Preservation League at mdpl.orgReuse content