Miami Beach in brief
Life in Miami Beach is an unbearable lightness of being. The average temperature is 28 degrees and sunny every day. Boredom.
You get up in the morning and need to practice something : jogging, swimming or yoga on the beach. Then you have to choose the best beach to sunbathe. There is a normal beach, beach for naturists, beach for gay, beach with one or another umbrella color and so on. Then patiently sunbathe on this beach. On one side, on the other side, so the tan will be uniform. Suddenly you discover it’s late. Get into the car to get to the downtown to make some shopping. There are traffic jams so it takes you a while.
And it’s time for an afternoon walk.You have a dilemma where to go: To the feline paradise on the South Point or discover another tropical oasis of Coconut Grove. Or maybe just walk through the colorful Ocean Drive? Can’t stand this street longer than 20 min. because of crowds and loud Latin music you’re screwing up to the Lincoln Road and it’s already midnight and it’s far from the beach but the girls still walking in their bikinis. And no one is surprised and this is exactly Miami Beach.
But Miami Beach has to offer more. Definitely visit Vizcaya Museum and Gardens. Is a European-inspired estate with a Main House and formal gardens on Biscayne Bay. Built in the early 1910s by Chicago businessman James Deering as his winter home. Amazing, how one person can create something for a pattern of the little Louvre. Right on the ocean shore.
I love also South Pointe Park with walking paths, a food stand, a lovely grassy area and tremendous 360 degree ocean views. It’s a local park as well as a beach. Kids large and small enjoy the miniature water park here. There is also a dog park and …cat heaven nearby. So we called with my friend local overgrown in which live dozens of homeless cats and they are fed by people living here.
The Old Florida
When I am on Saint Pete Beach I always feel so grateful that Ponce de Leon found this Florida! If you believe in paradise on the earth you will find it on the beaches of the Old Florida. There are no white beaches like there nowhere else. And a fantastic blue waters in an incredible variety of attractions : fishing with the great blue heron bird, boating, camping and picnics. And there are positive, friendly people in the Old Florida too.
Wonders of Florida
If your life’s passion is full of surprises, traveling by a car in totally unknown Florida will make you feel like a fish in the water. Ocean bridges, swampy restaurants and bars with killer drinks, alligators and crocodiles, sea shells, the smallest post office in the world and panthers are just a few of Florida’s wonders that you can see on the way through the heart of the sunny state, from Tampa to Miami. When we started this escapade, an American friend informed me that we had two choices. One is called Alligator Alley and is faster but boring. Despite the name, little by little alligators. Apparently they used to go to the road but recently they changed their preferences. The second route is TaMiami Trail and this route we chose.
First we passed by the amazing Sunshine Skyway Bridge over the Gulf of Tampa, which glowing in the sun proves that has a good name. I felt like we drove into the middle of the ocean when we crossed that bridge. So it is. The Sunshine Skyway bridge is 6.67 km by ocean. The bridge has an interesting history that has made it look so spectacular. It was built in 1954, and already in 1969 a second, parallel to it was built. Unfortunately, on May 9, 1980, during a violent storm, the “Summit Venture” freighter hit the bridge. The water has fallen over 250 m. of the construction, killing 35 people, what you can read from the memorial plaque before entering the bridge.
Bridge across the ocean with the dolphins
Americans do not have the habit of thinking so long, so the Florida Department of Transportation has decided the next day after the tragedy to build a safer bridge. Because of the way the first one was destroyed, the designers put a great deal of emphasis on protection against ships. The solution was the concrete islands on the bridge called “dolphins” to absorb unwanted hits. “Dolphins” are able to withstand the impact of even 87,000 tons of ships.To pass by this unusual bridge you have to paid. For one car you have to pay 1.25 $. You will take it to Tampa and from there you can enter State Road 41, called Tamiami Trail by the name of Tampa and Miami of course. The 270-mile-long road runs through the middle of the wetlands of the Everglades National Park. It’s an ideal road for amateurs of peculiarities who want to know the real Florida and its inhabitants.
The route is officially called U.S. Highway 41 (but also S.R. 45, 90, and earlier US 94). Some of its stretches are also called Florida Scenic Highways and the Lawton Chiles Trail, because of a governor who ran for the US Senate in 1970 and who went on foot for a 1,003-mile trip by the state, earning the nickname Walkin Lawton. Although the TaMiami trail normally takes about 5 hours, even when you are driving the Mercedes SLS AMG this route can last up to … one week. The opportunities to get off the road and see something amazing is the whole mass.
Bye Bye Hut
We barely moved down the trail, and the first of them one came. A south of the Sarasota Bradenton International Airport, right next to Golden Host Resort, there is a building with a huge spoon instead of a door handle. That’s mean we arrived at Bahi Hut. For decades, this cottage was and it is the same. The interior is dark with all the typical decor for the South Pacific from surfboards to carved tiki gods. You must order Mai Tai here. It’s a tradition. But you can order only two glasses of this drink. Bar determined this tight limit because of the lethal strength of the drink, which brought him the affectionate nickname Bye-Bye Hut. Ask the bartender what’s in your Mai Tai. He will not tell you. It’s also a tradition. Time to get out is just the beginning of the tour, if you have someone to drive the car.
Just going south through Sarasota and we are tempted to leave the roat when we see the sign with the words Osprey Historic Spanish Point. The object is advertised mysteriously as 30 acres and 5000 years old. The 5000 refers to the prehistoric people who came to Sarasota Bay and lived here from the sea food before settling down to the nineteenth-century pioneers. The 30 acres includes majestic spaces with amazing plants and dense wooded mangrove shores. Flowers like there, you will not find anywhere. In addition, the entire space along the path is covered with an quilt of ancient shells, broken ceramics and even human bones. There are also chapels, a citrus fruit packing house and residences.
Swamps, crocodiles and mosquitoes
Hence, with each kilometer further south is deeper into swamps, marshes and … into history. In 1923, when Florida was governed by alligators and mosquitoes, and something like air condidtion was like science fiction, the Tamiami Trail stopped at this stretch – the insanely dangerous Everglades wetlands full of alligators, panthers, snakes, and who knows what else. In the spring of 1923 a group of positively crazy guys called themselves “Tamiami Trailblazers” set out to “light up” TaMiami. Ten cars filled with twenty-three white men and two Indian guides took a dangerous three-week trip through the swamp. They stuck, lost, abandoned some cars, built makeshift bridges, ran out of supplies, were searched by rescue groups and considered dead and finally arrived in Miami more than three weeks later announcing triumphantly, Hurra! Let’s build the rest of this road!They have proven that the route of the proposed Tamiami Trail is feasible and has opened the way for land development. They even built a revolutionary machine called a stepping dredger, which did what the name suggests: It built the road ahead when it crossed the swamp. In 1928, the TaMiami trail was ready as “Florida’s greatest road building achievement.”
Knowing this story after reaching the western border of the Everglades National Park, we turned to Collier-Seminole State Park. There is something like a gigantic mechanical dinosaur at the entrance to the place. This is the machine that paved the way for the creators of TaMiami. After seeing this thing we turned right, to Everglades City and Chockoloskee, a ghost town. It is a ghost town because there are more of them than living inhabitants. There are also some interesting things like the Smallwood Store Museum. When you open the door of this shop – the spirit that once was the center of life in this part of Florida you feel like you enter in the 1920s. There are spittoons and mousetrap, wooden rocking chairs, canning machines, school supplies, cart wheels and animal skins. Welcome to old Florida! You will also find the Everglades City Museum not near, where they have an old vinyl record of 1926 with the ballad The Tamiami Trail.
Fleeing from the ghosts, we returned to the main route towards Miami. But we could not miss the old wooden building painted on the murderous red. Welcome to the Blue Crab Joannie’s in Ochopee, informs the inscription. If you want to have lunch it is the only place in this area of untouched nature. We do not regret to stop there because you can see there piece of authentic, pioneering life in the swamps. You can try fried alligators listening to folk American music performed by such artists as Raiford Starke. Joannie’s has also a family album with photos on the walls and even in the toilets. I do not think there is any more american-crazy place in Florida. Just around the corner of the bar waiting for us the next obligatory stop on the route TaMiami. You need to stop and make some quick photo shots in the “smallest post office”in the world. This is not a joke. The cottage under the fluttering American flag is slightly larger than the telephone booth. Come here and send something, just to get the famous postmark “Ochopee, FL”.
Alligators, Alligators and Miami
Ten miles east of here is the Big Cypress National Preserve with the Big Cypress Gallery, featuring the stunning panoramic photography of Clyde Butcher. He spent much of his life in swamp water with a tripod and cameras producing very large negatives. About 15 years ago at the Reading Festival in Sarasota someone asked how close he had come to the alligator. “I do not know,” Butcher said succinctly. His pictures speaks for themselves. After this stop, the landscape gets a bit monotonous. There are many small roadside docks for airboat tours, run by members of the Indian tribe Miccosukee. This is, of course, a typical tourist trap, but enjoy yourself and jump into one of these boat-traps. Just to see the amazing nature of this long canyon with tall reeds. Get on board the airboat to realize that you are completely surrounded by the huge, shallow water tank that Marjory Stoneman Douglas calls “Grass River”. You will see so stunning numbers of alligators that you will understand that Florida is their state and we are just visiting. Now you can say that you have traveled a little beat of Florida state so you can lie on the beach and have a cup of Cuban coffee in the Cuban part of Miami that you just arrived to.