2015 Miami Half Marathon Recap (and other things)

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Back in January I flew solo to Miami for a half marathon. It was the best half marathon I’ve ever run (I’ve run Brooklyn, Staten Island, and NYC Half) for many reasons. First, the expo was so much fun! Lots of freebies, picture opportunities, presentations, etc.

Since I had to wait for 2 of my friends to arrive from their flight, I went to eat at Morenos Cuba, a great lunch spot that serves Media Noches and Cubanos with crispy potato sticks.

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I loved their mason jars and iced latte.

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Medianoche ($11): Ham, mojo marinated shredded pork, swiss cheese, mustard and pickles on Cuban sweet bread.

Next, I walked over to the Bass Museum of Art. They had several outdoor installations while I was there.

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$8 gets you inside the museum, which isn’t bad. Note: No DSLR photography inside; only phone cameras allowed.

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There was a Gold exhibition… yes, this McDonalds cup in gold.

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After I met up with my friends, we went to eat some more.

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Charlotte Bakery is great for snacking: empanadas, tres (even cuatros) leches, lots of pastries here and some seating.

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The next morning, we rolled out of bed and headed for American Airlines Arena for the big race. It was great because we booked an Airbnb apartment right next to the start line.

6AM. 45 degrees. Shorts and t-shirt… I was frozen waiting for an hour in the corral!

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What I LOVED was that as soon as we started the race, the sun was rising right in front of us. I was swooned by the palm trees on the left side and calm waters and boats on the right side. I didn’t even take many pictures during the race because I enjoyed every moment of it. It’s one of the most scenic races I’ve ever run.

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At mile 11, we got little cups of pineapples! It was so refreshing and also contributed to my love for this race.

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After the race, there were so many goodies to munch on! All kinds of fruits and fruit cups, even rice and beans!!!!!! Definitely the best post-race party.

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#MiamiFamous

For our post-race brunch, we walked over to NIU Kitchen

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Rustic and fresh, they serve Catalan dishes.

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Watermelon gazpacho
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Pa amb tomaquet
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Delicious coffee
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Steak Tartare
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Ous – two poached eggs, truffle potato foam, jamon Iberico, black truffle.
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Esmorzar – botifarra, bacon, fried egg, sautéed white beans.

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I love that almost everything had fried eggs on top. Highly recommend the “Ous” and “Esmorzar”!

Afterwards, we went to the beach where I got a text that informed me my flight the next day was cancelled due to weather in NYC. I was “stuck” here…

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We went to dinner at Tongue & Cheek. All amazing meals so far.

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Chilled Plate of Oysters with Carbonated Cucumber Mignonette and Lemon

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The most amazing oysters ever. Because it’s carbonated and enveloped in a way that when you put one into your mouth, it pops!

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The rest: fried chicken, brisket poutine, beef cheek burger… ALL DELICIOUS.

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The next morning, I got another flight and then cancelled again, and decided to head to the airport to talk to them in person. But first, breakfast at Versailles!

 

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I got on the last flight to NYC that afternoon and GUESS WHAT — I was 2 hours into it when the pilot announced that we had to turn back to Miami. Oh well, more food for me!

I was lucky in that my friends were staying longer anyway so they had a hotel booked… I met up with them at Joe’s Stone Crab.

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Everything was great, plus we got hooked up with free desserts because the waiter was also Cantonese and from Brooklyn. I was loving this trip, can’t you tell?

The next morning, I woke up early to watch the sun rise. There’s just something about Miami skies.

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It was so glorious and I loved being by myself in that moment.

My friends were still not awake yet, so I grabbed a cubano at Las Olas Cafe, a homey little place for cheap Cuban food.

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Yes, I might have overdosed on Cubanos this month.

I took a yoga class before my flight. If you’re in the area, drop by for a class ($20 includes a mat rental) at Miami Life Center — ashtanga style yoga definitely kicked my butt.

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736 6th St
Miami Beach, FL 33139
http://www.miamilifecenter.com/

And that’s all, folks. I loved every minute of Miami. From beach yoga to running a half marathon, to eating innovative and delicious food to taking in all the art… These are all the things I love about Miami.

Miami: Everglades National Park (January 2015)

 

I’ve already seen the beach, the artsy parts, all the touristy places. What else was there to do? I looked up things to do on a last minute attempt and found the Everglades.

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There are multiple entrances to this national park, so we picked the closest one. About an hour drive from Miami Beach, we entered through Shark Valley Visitors Center.

Directions to Shark Valley Visitor Center
36000 SW 8th Street. Miami, FL 33194

From Miami, Shark Valley Visitor Center is located on Highway 41 (Tamiami Trail / SW 8th St.) 25 miles west of the Florida Turnpike, exit 25A (from the north) and exit 25 (from the south).

There’s a parking fee of $10 and a guided 2-hour tram tour ($23). OR you can rent a bicycle or just walk the 15-mile route.

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Our tour guide was amazing and entertaining, it was such an informative ride.

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She actually stepped out of the tram into the water. She also educated us on the difference between swamps and rivers. This is not a swamp but a river, because swamps are unmoving and the water here indeed flows.

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We reached the observation tower.

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Along the way we discovered alligators, birds, all different types of species.

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Tip: take the last tour at 4PM; it is otherwise known as the sunset tour.

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Look at all those birds! She told us to be silent for a few minutes to listen to them.

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Tram tour was over. As we stepped off and were about to leave…

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The alligators were so swift and got on land really quickly. It was time for us to leave.

I Yelped a place nearby that had pretty good ratings. There isn’t much around the area but we found this gem!

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Finka Table & Tap – AMAZING Korean-Peruvian-Cuban fusion food!

 

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Decor: hip.
Service: friendly.

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Ceviche / Sweet Potato Mash / Red Onions / Cilantro

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Korean Pork Ribs / Garlic & Parsley Truffle Fries

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Grass Fed Oxtail in Merlot ReductionMushroom Risotto

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BEST DISH EVER — Cuban Fried Rice / Shrimp / Maduros / Pineapple / Cilantro Aioli / Fried Egg / Scallions

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Cocktail: Yuzu Me & Izu You

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Dessert: Arroz Con leche (fried into balls!)

Such an amazing meal, definitely pay a visit if you ever happen to be in the area!

Finka Table and Tap
14690 SW 26th St
Miami, FL 33175

Miami: Art Deco Weekend. (January 2015)

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Puerto Sagua. Cuban breakfast. Cafe con leche. Get:

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Cubano. I get a Cubano every time I’m in Miami, sometimes multiple in a day. They’re more or less the same everywhere, but some places make it better than others. This was a pretty typical one.

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The usual Cafe Bustelo.

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Their breakfast is a pretty good deal.

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I just love the buildings all over South Beach.

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On Lincoln Road is a street of stores, cafes, restaurants; you never know what you will find.

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On the weekends, there’s always something going on.

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Back to South Beach, where it happened to be Art Deco Weekend.

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We stumbled upon an antique car show.

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Most of the cars had signs that said “look but don’t touch!” But as I was looking at this particular one, the owner actually came up to me and asked if I wanted to take pictures INSIDE! I was ecstatic.

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I love the art deco buildings.

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One more picture of food from Playa Cafe, one of my go-to places for Cuban food. It’s a hole-in-the-wall mom-and-pop diner that serves up some really delicious food for low prices. This was a dish with chicarron and yuca.

That’s it for now. Next post, we drive to the Everglades!

Miami Beach Eats: The Bazaar by José Andrés

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Continuing from the previous post, we crossed over to Miami Beach and took a stroll. We stumbled upon the Holocaust Memorial, which was breathtaking and at the same time a bit eerie at night.

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“The centerpiece of the Memorial is the Sculpture of Love and Anguish, an enormous bronze representation of an outstretched arm, rising from the earth and stretching toward the heavens. The entire sculpture area comprises vignettes of family members trying to help each other in a final act of love.”

It was a stunning and dramatic piece of sculpture.

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Next, we had a reservation at the Bazaar.

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Please excuse the dark pictures.

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This was a classy restaurant; I would recommend making reservations. The reason I came here was for the innovative “gastronomy” dishes. José Andrés is known for his creative fusion plates. On the menu, there is a new world section and an old world section (for the traditional tapas). We picked several dishes and shared.

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“Cubano” in honor of Cafe Versailles.

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Sea urchin and tempura shiso leaves. Whenever I see uni on the menu, I just have to order it. Apparently, we were the first ones to order this new dish. Chef was so excited he came out to ask us how it was. I liked it!

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Special of the day: Lamb that falls off the bones… so good.

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Cuban Coffee Rubbed Churrasco – highly recommended! There’s this foam on top and passion fruit on the bottom. The meat was tender and juicy. I loved this dish.

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Smoked Oysters: ice and smoke, apple mignonette. The foam was smoky!

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Bone Marrow with Caribbean white truffles, florida citrus, capers.

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Dessert was the best part!

Top: “mango bubble tea”- what a pleasant surprise! I loved this!!!
Bottom: “Pan Con Chocolate” – chocolate cream, cocoa crumble, brioche ice cream, and olive oil.

I loved the creativity that they showed throughout the meal.

What I Love About Miami Part I: Non-Beach Side

Since I’ve already been to Miami Beach back in 2013, I wanted to explore more of the midtown and downtown areas this time. After we landed and rented a car, our first stop was Sugarcane Raw Bar & Grill.

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It was easy to find metered parking. If you’re staying at South Beach and only staying there, you wouldn’t need a car. But if you want to explore more of Little Havana and Midtown, renting a car from the airport might be more worthwhile.

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I love outdoor seating. This place had a garden feel to it.

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Their brunch menu was exactly what I look for nowadays: fusion, innovative, unique items you will not find anywhere else.

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“Fat boy” hash with bacon jam, 2 fried eggs, truffle hollandaise. This was amazing. Look at the bacon jam underneath:

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Duck & waffle: crispy leg confit, duck egg, mustard maple. I love egg on top of everything.

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Spam musubi with foie gras and eel sauce. A huge chunk of foie combined with spam. My type of dish.

Our waiter was fantastic and even gave us recommendations on where to go next. We followed his advice and found Wynwood Walls not too far away.

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If you’re ever in Miami, definitely stop by Wynwood Walls. I’m a fan. It’s free, it’s outdoors, and every mural and art installation just took my breath away.

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So inspired after walking around this neighborhood.

Then we stopped by a little cafe that sold Azucar Ice Cream, which is inspired by Cuban flavors.

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Abuela Maria: a premium vanilla ice cream with red guava, rich cream cheese and crisp galleta Maria cookies. 

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It was pretty good! The story behind how this company started is actually pretty awesome too.

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Since we’re in Little Havana, might as well stop by Versailles Bakery (next door to its sit-down restaurant) for a snack. Or two.

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First, take a number and wait to be called. While waiting, you can look at the wonderful display of goodies to be devoured…

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The best thing here? The fresh-squeezed orange juice!!!!!!!! So amazing. And everything else too, I suppose… Can’t leave without getting a cafe con leche either!

Travelogue: Miami Beach, Fl (January 2013)

I decided to do a throwback travelogue for a memorable trip back in 2013 — Miami Beach, since I’ll be going back there January 2015! So excited about it since I had very fond memories of Miami: the beach lifestyle, everybody’s working out on the beach (beach yoga!), sunny and breezy weather, great Cuban food, amazing restaurants off the beaten path, walking around and seeing all the unique architecture and absorbing all the culture around you!

Many people think of Miami as a nightclub-party-beachy vacation, but there’s just so much more to it! Honestly, I went to bed every night before 10PM when I was there because (run-on sentence alert) I was exhausted from walking all day and seeing all the architectural gems and biking and eating and shopping (see how excited I am about Miami)!

So here is my trip from almost 2 years ago, all phone pictures because I didn’t see the need to bring my DSLR to a beachy vacation — I was SO wrong — there’s so much I want to capture on my next visit!

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We stayed the the Perry hotel, which is now completely renovated and rebranded as 1 Hotel & Homes. It was such a nice hotel despite the negative reviews on Yelp.

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The hotel had a rooftop pool overlooking the beach front completed with a bar and great service. The room was super spacious (much bigger than the picture shows here) and chic.

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They also had another huge pool on another level. It was such a good find.

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Walking around South Beach you’ll find a lot of picture ops.

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And of course, good, cheap Cuban food.

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Playa Cafe on Washington Ave– hole in the wall local Cuban food, nothing fancy and that’s the best!

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Wet Willie’s — apparently a must-stop in Miami. They have an upstairs with 20+ different alcoholic slushies for you to taste and purchase. “Call-A-Cab” was highly recommended, but we stuck with sour apple instead.  $10 is the usual size in a plastic cup, and $12 for the souvenir cup (larger size).

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Along the ocean front you’ll see a lot of tourist traps; they advertise with these giant margaritas. They can get pretty pricey.

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We walked down to Espanola Way — a street of restaurants, cafes and bars that become a salsa village at night. Or so we were told. It’s a tiny village that’s worth seeing. Very artsy and not “Miami-like”. But then again, this blog post isn’t about that scene.

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We got gelato at Milani Gelateria.

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This was a cool spot that we walked by; a picture at night and in the day time.

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There were many brunch places at the restaurants inside hotels. We tried out a couple. This was The Lantao Social Club, which has now been renovated completely (see the trend here?) and renamed The Social Club. It’s still inside the Surfcomber hotel.

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It was amazing; one of the best brunches I’ve ever had. Outdoor seating with big cushions too!

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We then walked to Lincoln Road again (seems like we were there everyday!) and got a frozen hot chocolate from Serendipity. It was my first time at this establishment even though we have one in NYC. There’s something about dining out in Miami, though, that’s different. First, they have outdoor seating in nearly most of their restaurants all year round, which can never happen in New York (snow and sleet make seats not desirable).

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More window shopping at Anthropologie.

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I found a Lululemon! It was closed though, since many places here closed at dusk…

Pubbelly was on my list of food to eat in Miami. And it was fantastic. It is SO underrated!

Highly recommend:
1) McBelly – pork belly sliders
2) Fried Chicken
3) Duck and pumpkin dumplings

We shared 5 or 6 dishes between the two of us. It’s tapas style, so the dishes aren’t huge. The rest were good, but those would be my top 3.

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We got the chocolate brownie dessert with bacon. You cannot go wrong with chocolate and bacon. It may be an acquired taste, and your companion may not ever acquire it… Which means more for you.

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There were DECOBIKE stations all around Miami Beach. They were SO convenient! …If only I didn’t fall off my bike.

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It was a laid-back kinda day everyday.

We decided to stop by one of these tourist traps along the ocean front, and it wasn’t bad! The only thing is that they lure you in with $3.99 appetizers and don’t list the prices of the drinks. This ended up being $25, but it was big enough to share, so it was okay.

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Our last dinner in Miami was a highly anticipated one at Yardbird Southern Table & Bar. I made a reservation ahead of time. I was a bit disappointed as it did not live up to the hype, but it was still a good meal.

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On this trip, there was one thing I regret… that I didn’t join in this beach yoga class! I didn’t have a towel and felt awkward just barging in. 3rd St Beach Yoga, you’re on my list!

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3rd St Beach Yoga