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By: A.M. De la Torre

The Dutch wife-and-wife couple, Maartje Hensen and Roxanne Weijer, left their Amsterdam home behind and traveled the world from 2017 to 2020. They traveled to 45 countries and began a blog, Once Upon A Journey. Their mission was to capture the magic of their explorations, from a lesbian and queer perspective.

Now resettled in Amsterdam, Maartje and Roxanne have a photography business specializing in LGBTQ+ portraiture and couples’ photography, and they travel worldwide for photo shoots.

We recently had a chance to catch up with these international LGBTQ+ travel bloggers and spoke with them about their trip to Miami, their experiences and impressions.

How and when did the Miami trip happen?

Roxanne: We were going to Atlanta for the International LGBTQ+ Travel Association (ILGTA) Convention in September 2021. When you’re coming from Europe to the U.S., it’s a big deal and a long journey, so you don’t come to just to see one thing, you usually want to make it a bigger trip. We had heard great stories about Miami and had always wanted to visit.

Maartje: We were able to arrange to fly first to Miami, which is more affordable from Europe, rather than going straight to Atlanta. It was our first trip here, and we were very excited!

In your opinion, what makes Miami unique?

Roxanne: The colors, the light, the cultural diversity. Of course, we had heard about Miami and its reputation for the famous spring breaks and all the parties. It was a big surprise that it's so much more than that.

Maartje: There are so many different neighborhoods and areas to explore, and each has its totally different vibe. Wynwood, Little Havana, South Beach...

Roxanne: Miami is so colorful, bright and cheerful. It’s a place that makes you smile.

Mister 01 Star pizza
Try the amazing pizza at Mister 01

What are some of your favorite food spots?

Maartje: We are vegetarians, and we were extremely excited about the amazing vegetarian food we had in Miami. There was a good variety of places to eat, for vegetarians.

Roxanne: The place we loved best was Organic Food Kings in Wynwood, hands-down the best vegetarian food we’ve had anywhere, run by some tough-looking, yet friendly guys. We loved their vegan tacos, hamburgers and hot dogs.

Maartje: We found some amazing pizza in Wynwood, too. Mr. 01 Extraordinary Pizza – a friend of ours who’s Italian and lives in Miami took us there. There are other locations in South Beach, Brickell and Coconut Grove, also. It was amazing.

Artechouse Exterior
Experience immersive art at Artechouse

What were your expectations of Miami before you visited, and how did they change or evolve when you traveled here?

Roxanne: The reputation of Miami being a loud, non-stop party town was one thing that we were expecting, but (maybe because we were being careful due to Covid) we did not experience.

Maartje: It was wonderfully surprising that Miami is so much more than the hype of endless parties and hot spots. We loved the Artechouse museum in South Beach, with its immersive, technology-driven works by artists who are forerunners of the new age in the arts and technology. We loved Vizcaya Museum and Gardens in Coconut Grove, as well – the complete opposite, a classic, and a beautiful trip back in time.

Roxanne: We weren’t expecting to come across the many cultures that are found here, the cultural diversity in cuisine, art and neighborhoods.

Maartje: The beautiful weather also took us by surprise. We visited in September. For us in Europe, September means it’s cooling down for fall. We were delighted by the warm and sunny weather, which we understand is mostly year-round – and that we could swim at the beach in September, too. It was great!

Palace
Have fun at one of Palace's drag shows

Tell us about your experience with the locals.

Roxanne: We found the locals to be open, welcoming – and very curious! When people would see us taking photos for the blog or shooting videos, they’d come ask what the photos were for, and they would strike up conversations with us.

Maartje: Americans in general, we think, like to connect. We’d traveled in the northeastern USA and found people a bit more reserved. The locals we met while in Miami were very engaging, social people.

Roxanne: It’s a place where it’s easy to connect. We got cozy with the owners of a food truck in Wynwood, which made for a wonderful time. We felt like we made friends in that one evening.

Maartje: Hanging out and mingling with the queer community was a lot of fun. We had a blast at Palace and stayed a few nights at the trendy hotel, AxelBeach Miami, in South Beach. It was easy to fit in, be yourself. The experiences were very positive – and we liked that the community seemed to live very authentically.

How different is Miami from your hometown or other cities you’ve visited?

Roxanne: We come from Amsterdam, in The Netherlands. It’s a major city, sure, but somehow it’s small compared to Miami. And in Europe, it seems that almost everyplace you visit is small (in comparison to Miami). Another difference is, although Amsterdam is on the sea, our beach isn’t so nice, our water not as blue – or as warm!

Maartje: Getting from point-to-point took a bit longer here. We used ride sharing a lot.

Roxanne: We enjoyed the walkable places such as South Beach and Wynwood. And the free trolley services in Miami Beach and Miami were a great feature for us.

Green Lifeguard Stand
Spot the colorful lifeguard stands on South Beach

What was the highlight of your stay?

Maartje: For me, it was Wynwood – we loved the street food, the murals and art galleries, breweries, bars and shops. We liked that it’s less polished – more urban – and very hip. Definitely my favorite neighborhood!

Roxanne: We also loved South Beach – those funky, colorful lifeguard houses (over 30 of them!), Ocean Drive and the collection of Art Deco buildings and hotels. The light, the ocean, the gay beach and the Beachwalk.

Maartje: We also took an exciting, 30-minute helicopter ride over Miami. It was stormy and cloudy, but what a way to take in a city!

What spot in Miami will you miss the most?

Roxanne: Not a spot, so much as a feeling. As a lesbian couple, we felt very welcomed. And that’s not something you get everywhere. And also, the light… it’s just so bright and beautiful.

Maartje: We stayed one night and had a beautiful room at the Eden Roc Miami Beach with an amazing ocean view, and those pools! Very glamorous! And I miss that we missed seeing the Everglades – that’s on the list for our next trip, for sure!

If you had one or two sentences to describe to someone your quintessential Miami experience, what would it be?

Maartje: For LGBTQ persons, go to Miami because you will feel welcome! I think it’s now one of our favorite places in the U.S.!

Roxanne: Miami is its own unique feeling and vibe. Come to Miami because it’s such a colorful city, and a place where you can travel colorfully and be authentic!

Ways to Connect with Roxanne and Maartje of Once Upon A Journey

About the Author
A.M. De la Torre is a Miami-born writer and communications professional. She has traveled extensively and currently calls Miami Beach home.

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