Florida Revisited: Classic Gardens

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After a delightful flight via Denver, we arrived in Miami to awaiting Jim and Carol. Our plan is to explore as much nature as possible while not overdoing it this time; keep busy, get exercise, and chill.

Of course, the one place we didn’t get enough of last year was Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. In order to take advantage of the early morning light, we got there shortly after opening and hung out the better part of the day. There was a wonderful blend of flora, fauna, and an exhibition of Chupungu: Custom and Legend, A Culture in Stone. Featured were stone carvings (and a carving demonstration) by artists from Zimbabwe, Africa.

Click to view more images from the Monument.

Day 2 was all about something new for us: the Vizcaya National Historic Monument. Modeled after a lavish Italian Renaissance style palace, Vizcaya was built in 1916 as the winter residence of industrialist James Deering. The estate is located on the west shore of Biscayne Bay and is operated as a decorative arts museum by the Dade County Park and Recreation Department. The heir of International Harvester conglomerate, James Deering, built his mansion on the water in Coconut Grove, just up the road from the Richard’s home in Coral Gables. We were greeted by a perfect Kodachrome day, and really enjoyed the variety of light and culture, a perfect environment for color exploration. Particularly interesting were several Hispanic families documenting their daughters’ quincena celebration, their 15th birthday celebration (the equivalence of our “sweet sixteen” recognition complete with gowns and fancy tiaras). Deering really went overboard importing art and artifacts from all over the world and the adjacent garden was remarkable.

As if we didn’t pack enough into the day, we met a bunch of friends and dined and clubbed in Miami on South Beach. We passed a boisterous joint called the Clevender that Dave Berry featured in his upcoming book, “Insane City.”

The Clevlender (is) a legendary South Beach bar bearing no resemblance to anything that has ever existed in Cleveland. On a small stage next to the packed bar a woman wearing a basically invisible bikini was writhing to inhumanly loud pounding music. Nearby, beneath a sign that said D.J. BOOGA WOOGA was a man wearing black lace-up boots and a purple thong held up by orange suspenders. He was shouting into a microphone: “LAST CALL FOR THE MISS HOT AMATEUR BOD CONTEST! LADIES COME ON UP! FIRST PRIZE IS ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS! COME ON LADIES! LET’S SEE WHAT YOU GOT!”

Standing near the DJ were a dozen young women wearing garments that, if all of them were combined, might have provided enough fabric to make a sock. More from this excerpt is available online at the Miami Herald.

Complete with the $50 margaritas, the column provided a humorous (and surprisingly accurate) account of our experience, capturing the sights and sounds we experienced while maneuvering our way down the boulevard along with all the other tourists.

Today is SuperSunday and should present a new slant on things (but no less a media hit if it’s anything like Super Bowls past).

Bird sightings:

Pied-billed Grebe, Double-crested Cormorant, Anhinga, Brown Pelican, Great Egret, Little Blue Heron, White Ibis, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Short-tailed Hawk, Common Gallinule, American Coot, Black-bellied Plover, Semipalmated Plover, Ruddy Turnstone, Sanderling, Least Sandpiper, Laughing Gull, Ring-billed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Royal Tern, Rock Pigeon, Eurasian Collared-Dove, Mourning Dove, Common Ground-Dove, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Red-bellied Woodpecker, American Kestrel, Blue Jay, American Crow, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Gray Catbird, Northern Mockingbird, European Starling, Common Yellowthroat, Palm Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Prairie Warbler