Thursday, December 29, 2011

Miami, Florida and Vizcaya--part 1

Altogether I spent 3 days in the Keys then drove back to the Everglades to spend a peaceful Christmas.  The weather was perfect and the campground was very quiet until Christmas afternoon when tourists started pouring in.  So on the 26th I  headed to Miami where I met nothing but traffic.  If the malls are any indication of the state of the economy then it must be booming.  Holy cow!  Where were all these people coming from?  Or going to?

Phew! A break in the traffic just in time to get a picture of the Miami skyline--which will be all I will see of Miami for the next two days.  I do not enjoy driving freeways!  I kept getting in the wrong lane and, 1/2 hour later, would finally get turned right. And then I would realize I was lost.  I tried to find some old haunts--The Miami River, Little Havana, etc. but finally got too tired of fighting the traffic.

But I learned that Vizcaya is located right off the freeway.  Wow!  I remembered wanting to see it from years past and now I had my chance.  The long winding foot path that is the entrance to the estate is a soothing respite from the traffic piling up right outside the gate.

The home was built in the very early 1900's by James Deering who was heir to the International Harvester fortune. He was a collector of antiques and his home is now a museum operated by Miami and Dade County.  The gardens were designed with Versailles in mind and the home is very Italian Renaissance with a beautiful inner courtyard.  The enormous estate sits on Biscayne Bay in the suburb of Coconut Grove.

The Front entrance.
The View from the back entrance.  I had to walk around to the back right away to see the view.  That is a granite barge that Deering built into the bay.  It is not accessible but holds many of his statues.

The back of the

The gardens have statuary everywhere...brought from Italy, Spain and France.

The mazes were inspired by Versailles.

This gazebo was tucked away at the end of a promenade along the bay front.

A view of the granite barge from the gazebo.

And one more of the 'back of the house' from the gazebo.

There was a birthday party (quinceanera) for this lovely young lady.  During my tour of Vizcaya I noticed that the languages of the other tourists were from many many different countries.  There were the Cubans, the Jamaicans and the Brazilians but there were also Germans, Swiss, Chinese, French and Japanese.  During that whole time at Vizcaya,  I met only one other couple that spoke English. Miami is definitely an International city.

She was one of the attendees of the  birthday party.  I expect she will be a stunning beauty when her quinceanera party comes due.

Vizcaya--Part two

The music room.

Photos were not allowed to be taken inside the house so I don't know how these ended up in my camera.  The flash was turned off so they are not as good as they might have been...but they give a clue as to the incredible decor and design of the

That wonderful inner courtyard.  When I win the lottery I am going to build a house with an inner courtyard.  First of all I think I better buy a lottery ticket.

I lost track of how many bedrooms there were.  The furnishings are the original.

This was actually one of the suites of rooms--for visiting dignitaries.  I kept thinking, "What a great Bed and Breakfast this would make."

The view from the windows of this room looked out over the Bay.  Once again I noticed that the antique beds were much shorter than the standard bed of today.  Have we really gotten that much taller?

This was the servants staircase--one of two.  There was also a large main staircase and a very elaborately appointed elevator.  Deering made sure that the had every modern convenience.  The chandeliers were electric (very new for 1915), there were phones with small elegant phone booths, a dumb waiter that covered three floors, a swimming pool in the basement, an intercom system, and a kitchen that could equip a modern gourmet restaurant.

And, of course, I had to discover something that brought out the cynic in me...the lions holding up that bench in the picture above were taken from the Pompeii ruins in Italy.  Several years ago when I was in Italy I learned that the statuary that was left in Pompeii had to be removed and put in the museum because so much was being carried away and wealthy collectors like Deering.
So I left the's den and went looking for a place to spend the night.  Next stop--Ft. Lauderdale.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Key West--Part 2

I spent 1/2 hour here looking for one of Ernest's 6-toed cats but never found one.  

I did not take the tour of the lighthouse--I didn't think I would make it to the top.  But I learned that the keeper of the lighthouse at the turn of the last century was a woman.  She eventually was fired because she insisted on flying the confederate flag instead of the US flag.  I have seen enough confederate flags flying around the south to wonder if they wouldn't be willing to fight that war all over again.

The Conch Republic!

There was whimsy like this all over the island but I was usually driving and couldn't stop for a picture.

I loved the island feel of the houses.  They were all brightly painted and well cared for.  Most have the wooden storm shutters.
More flowers for Aunt Pauline...

Besides the trolleys there were 'conch trains', bicycle rickshaws, horse drawn carriages and 6-seater golf carts--all doing tours of the old town. Each would stop in the middle of the narrow streets and block traffic while their speakers bellowed out some bit of history about a building or house or whatever.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Key West Part 3--kitchy koo

Some of the junk made me smile...

At least for today...

This really touched my gardener's nerve...It is a bougainvilla topiary!  There are three colors of the plants that are trained up a common stalk then trimmed like a tree.  It is stunning!  I would not have planted all that other stuff at the base--it just detracts from the beauty of the 'tree'.  When I stop traveling I am going to try to grow one of these.

Besides tourists everywhere, there are chickens!  They roam free!  and they are plentiful.

This rooster was living in a local park but so were about 5 homeless guys.  I wondered how this old bird has managed to survive.  Then I tried to take his picture and he kept running around this tree.  He never let me get very close.  It's survival-of-the -fastest!

Key West Sculpture.

and Key West car art.

This guy was rather impressive....

80 degrees and sunny.... AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Watching the sunrise every morning at the beach was worth the whole trip.  I drove back to the Everglades on Christmas Eve and will be here until the 27th.  

Key West, Fl.

The series of roads and bridges that reach to Key West were started in 1926.  The length of the highway from Key Largo to Key West is just over 100 miles long.

There is no place to pull over to take pictures in some of the most scenic parts of the trip, therefore most of these pictures were taken from the front window of the RV .  I would sometimes slow to a crawl to get the picture but could not do that too often.

The entrance to Key West.  Immediately I was struck by the amount of traffic.  People were everywhere.  I had checked out a few RV parks on the way south and the best rate was $76 per night.  Some were over $90!  And the RV's were jammed in so tight I wondered how they were going to get their doors open.  It looks like this is going to be a short stay.

Parking was an immediate problem as well.  The streets were so narrow I hesitated to try to wedge the RV into a parking space.  I drove through the old town but never found a comfortable place to stop.

US 1 begins at this corner.  I hope to make it all the way to the other end of US 1 next fall.  We'll see.  By the way, does that guy standing next to the sign look familiar?

I was worried that, by now, Key West would have developed into a 'charming' Carmel East or a pink plastic Disney World village.  Not so.  The funny old houses are still there. There are still some signs of the old 'Conch Republic'.  However, there are so many people overrunning the island and so many t-shirt and  souvenir shell shops that the experience of the laid-back island of Ernest Hemingway is long gone--never to be captured again.

The latest rage are these kites--I watched these surfers for hours and they never stopped.  I could only imagine the amount of muscle needed to steer those kites and then to do it for hours on end.

Wow!  I am in awe of them.

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