Friday, December 30, 2011

Hialeah Park, Hialeah, FL..A day at the horseraces....

Thursday, 12/29/11 - Another Arts & Crafts day in the park and I must say I should have quit while I was ahead. I had 2 winners - the Christmas decorations...which went to Nancy & Howard and the Broom - that is heading for Kim and Bill's. Well today was "glass etching." I had a bad feeling about this when I saw it but put my money down anyway. I picked 2 wine glasses and the idea is to pick out what decorations you want to put on them and then the procedure starts. I won't go into all the problems I had but it took me 3 hours (yes, only me & the teacher were there at the end) and Howard's glass I put the decorations upside down & to low. Nancy's pattern didn't show up good and you can't tell what it is.....but I put them in a box and sent them UPS anyway. I told them to put them in the BACK of the china closet much for glass etching.

Friday, 12/30/11 - Hialeah Park is a very, old and famous horse racing park in the Miami area. Actually, I don't have much history of it and plan to find out more as it was extremely interesting. It has been closed for some years but just this year they have opened it back up and big plans for it. A race track PLUS a casino right there.

Our neighbors, Brad and Hilda, who are full time RVers from Michigan were talking about it the other day telling us that after the fourth race the flamingos that live in the center of the race track park actually fly around the park. They have been wanting to go so we ALL went today.

Of course one of the other big attractions, beside the flamingos flying, was that the entrance into the park and the parking were FREE. The current schedule is 11 Quarter horse races only and the first race starts at 1:15 pm with the birds flying about 2:30 pm. So we set off about 11 am with plans to get there about noon, have lunch, take a tour of the place and bet on the first 4 races. Well, it couldn't have worked out more perfect!!!!

We found the place with no problem and NO help from the girlfriend, GPS.....that address was not listed so we used an old fashion map and went right to it. As we arrived into the grounds the place is beautiful and very impressive. With grand, curved staircases up to the second and third floors. The place is huge with large old pictures hanging on the walls of the rich and famous who have been here through the years. We walked around just looking at the stables where the horses are kept, the beautiful statue of the famous horse- Citation. We even learned a scene from the Godfather was filmed right there by the statue of Citation.

Because we took our car, Brad & Hilda insisted on buying our lunch....which turned out to be a hot dog for Will (a 7 on the 1 to 10 scale) and a hot, salted pretzel for me....a perfect lunch. We then got our racing program and of course started checking out horses. Will gave me $20 to bet for him & me and we won 3 out of 4 races...with me returning $30 to Will. It was all very exciting and on the 4th race Brad who had not won our horse and fun when you are winning.

After the fourth race, right on que, the flamingo's take off and fly around the inside of the horse track for several least a good 5 minutes or so. It was amazing to see, those beautiful pink and black birds flying through the air. With that we decided to quit a WINNER and took our money and headed out the door and headed back to the RV park. It was a beautiful, warm. sunny day and we had great fun. Actually, we were dead tired when we got home which is so amazing when we aren't really doing anything. Oh well......much love to all our family and friends.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A fabulous Air Boat ride, Everglades, FL

Tuesday, 12/27/11 - We headed out with our friends Ron & Ms Dixie for an air boat ride on my favorite Florida road....Tamiami Trail on Hwy 41 West. We had been once before when we were here in Florida 2004/05 and loved it and wanted a repeat ride.

We headed out about 10 am and were going to try each of the 3 air boat places we saw when we visited Shark Valley a few weeks ago. Now when we were there at that time....each and everyone of these places were deserted....I mean no one. Well, today was another story, Christmas vacation and snowbirds have arrived. You would have thought they were giving rides away. The first place we stopped, which was the crummiest, Will did NOT like it, and I didn't like the boats, way to packed with people. So we headed for the next one, it was busier than the first one, so we headed for air boat number 3. Now this place is the nicest of the three but today was also the busiest. First we couldn't even find a place to park and then they squeezed us into some field to park. There must have been at least 6 tour buses loaded with people, BUT because it was the last air boat stand and I had a $3.00 off coupon for each of us....we decided to wait it out.

We got into line and purchased our ticket, which with the coupon was $20 and for that you got a 40 minute air boat ride, which included a talk out in the Everglades from the boat driver and when you returned they had an alligator show they put on. The best part of this particular ride was the boats were smaller and they didn't pack them, we had 16 people on our boat, which was only 4 people on a seat cross ways and allowed for lots of room to see. Our driver was excellent and he gave us a great ride even turning the boat 180 degrees. After I asked him if he ever does a 360 and he said no because they get water in the boat. But the 180 was great fun and going at that speed it felt fabulous. I was on an end seat (of course) so did get some spray but great pictures.

He then stopped the boat in one of the "hammocks" where we saw several alligators and he told us about the Everglades and the creatures that live there. The current most pressing problem is Python snakes in the Everglades. During Hurricane Andrew (in the 80's) a huge snake collector in Homestead, FL, where the hurricane hit the hardest, blew these snakes everywhere and through the years they have multiplied at an alarming rate. Also the "dumb" people that buy them when they are little, eventually bring them into the Everglades and "dump" them when they get to big to keep. He said there is a famous You Tube video that shows a 20 ft python snake that has swallowed a 7 ft alligator in the Everglades...I don't think I want to see it.

When we returned to the dock side it was apparent that everyone aboard had really enjoyed the ride and the entire experience. We were then escorted into the alligator show which was already going on. It was a trainers inside this fenced area with 4 very large alligators. We couldn't believe how this guy was able to touch, pet and even kiss these alligators. And they actually knew their names....I only remember Fat Albert and Killer. We should have gone back, after lunch, to see the beginning of the show that we missed.

We then headed for the outdoor area where Dixie & I got a picnic table and Will and Ron went and got our ice chests from the car. Yep, we even have them packing their own lunch too. It was perfect weather for being outside as there was some cloud cover (protection from the sun) a great breeze and the temp was was low 80's. It was a really fun day and after lunch we packed up the car and head for home. However, because we needed a "bathroom stop" half way home we stopped at an Indian casino for a look around.....NO gambling, we just used the bathrooms, checked out the buffet prices - $11.03 per person and left. We got home about 2:30 pm and everyone was really tired, as in, I think it's nap time. Tomorrow is Ron & Dixie's day to get their RV ready to hit the road as they leave out of here Thursday morning. We sure will miss them and sorry to see them go. Much love to all our family and friends.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Deering Estate at Cutler, Miami, FL

Monday, 12/26/11 - This was our day to go see the Deering Estate , this was owned by John Deering, the brother of James Deering who owned the Vizcaya Museum & Gardens (which we previous toured.) If you remember, (and why should you) these were the sons of William who started International Harvester Company....and everyone was very, very rich and of course this was before personal income taxes.

Believe me, these two homes could not have been more different. Around 1900 John Deering purchased the Richmond Cottage, which was the first hotel between Coconut Grove and Key West in Cutler, FL. He eventually bought up the entire town of Cutler and built right next to the Cottage in 1922, Stone House, which he used both of them as his winter home. It was interesting to see that when he built Stone House there was NO kitchen included....they cooked and ate in the Richmond Cottage. Stone House, a concrete house with 18 inch walls housed his vast art collection.

The most interesting room in Stone House was the wine cellar. This room was built during prohibition and has a huge vault door (think bank vault) but disguised with a dry-good shelving. In 1945 a hurricane flooded the cellar and rusted the vault door closed and it remained sealed for 45 years. When it was eventually opened over 4,000 bottle of champagne, wine and liquor bottles were discovered there. Of course everything had been ruined by salt water, breakage and insects but absolutely fascinating. The houses were beautifully decorated for Christmas and it was fun to see that. Unfortunately, when the houses and property were sold all the furnishings were taken by the family so there is no original furniture. However, the rooms were grand and the views out to the Bay were magnificent.

The homes are open all day for self guided tours but we took the only guided tour they offer at 10:30 am with our guide Linda. We were lucky it was only us and another family of three. Well, this family turned out to be a complete delight.....Amanda, a bright, darling 12 year old who is in the 7th grade, her mommy, and mommies boyfriend. Unfortunately, we never learned their names. Such an amazing story....they came here from Cuba 3 years ago and it was fascinating hearing the stories and telling us about life in Cuba.

After the tour we headed back to the car to have our guessed it, our ice chest, chairs & Mimi's TV tray parked right in the parking lot watching the people come and go into the Deering Estate. After lunch he headed back on to the property to await the 12:30 pm tour of through the natural areas which are a mangrove forest, a boardwalk which led to an American Indian Burial Mound. There our guide Linda, showed and explained about artifacts from centuries back. On this tour we had our wonderful Cuban family plus 3 visitors from China. It truly was amazing learning about each of the people on our of the young Chinese girls is a PhD student of Economics in Pittsburgh and I never learned about the others....however they ALL spoke English and it was wonderful to be able to talk with all of them. Of course they were equally amazed at our story.....bumming around the country for a year.

The grounds on this 450 acre bay front estate are incredibly beautiful. The view from these homes look right into Biscayne Bay. There is a "horseshoe" opening from the bay into their estate that manatees come into for the warm water that is there. They said last Saturday there were 6 to 8 manatees there. Fortunately, after our nature tour Will, Amanda and I went down there to see the four manatees people were talking about. They are huge animals, weighting up to 1000 lbs, but unfortunately they stayed "inside the horseshoe" and we were only able to see them when they came up for air. Not a great sighting but at least they were there.

It was truly a wonderful day (I guess I keep saying that....) the sights that we saw and the people that we met....Amanda said I reminded her of her grandmother in Cuba and I told her I don't have any grandchildren (only a grand puppy) and I could be her American grandma!!! Much luck and love Amanda and I know you will grow up to be a fine, young's hoping our paths cross again. Much love to all our family and friends.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas from Miami, Florida

Thursday, 12/22/11 - A very BIG day in W. Orange, New Jersey, Nancy and Howard traveled to Minnesota to pick up their new adorable dog.....MAUI. Maui is a cross between a Cocker Spaniel and Golden Retriever and should be about 20-25 lbs fully grown. If you can, check out Nancy's Facebook page just to see how adorable this puppy is.

Nancy & Howard arrived in MN mid morning and the breeder delivered Maui to the airport in the afternoon for a return flight at 6:30 pm. They kept texting me pictures and she did just great in her carrying case which was located under the seat in front of them. Since her arrival at home it has been non-stop puppy craziness and from what I have is love on all of their parts......lucky Maui has found a wonderful home and I can't wait to meet her.

A birthday SHOUT OUT.......Friday, 12/23 was my friend, Mary Ann's birthday and it's a BIG I won't mention the number but I will be catching up with her in 2 months. Saturday, 12//24 was Howard's birthday.....and of course his present was Maui.....A great big HAPPY BIRTHDAY to two of my favorite people.

Sunday, 12/25/11 - A very Merry Christmas to all of our family and friends. As much as we miss everyone, Will and I both agree we LOVE spending Christmas where it is warm and we are able to wear shorts. We truly want to follow the sun and never be cold again!!

Our Christmas celebration was to out to the Main Moon Chinese Buffet about 3 miles from the RV park with our dear friends Ron and Dixie of Texas. Actually, it is one of the few places open around here, we couldn't believe how quiet the streets were and where are all the crazy Cuban drivers. We all agreed dinner was wonderfu and we all over ate, of course, except Will. When we returned I immediately put back on my elastic waist shorts and got comfortable.

Here's hoping that everyone had a wonderful Christmas and got everything they asked Santa for and we again send our love out to all of our family and friends.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Another long but wonderful day at the Miami Zoo

Sunday, 12/18/11 - This afternoon we took our friends, Ron & Dixie down to RF Orchids in Homestead, FL for the 3 pm tour of the gardens. We had gone a week or so before but Will enjoyed it so much he wanted to go back.

In just this short time there were so many more varieties of orchids blooming and the place looked fabulous. We did not have Bob, the owner as our tour guide but Julie who has worked at the nursery for 12 years. Bob gave a great tour as he told a lot about his family's history, which was so interesting, but Julie gave a much better tour regarding all the plants. It was a marvelous afternoon and Ron & Dixie purchased a couple variety of air plants to put into some large shells they have in a basket. An of course no day would be complete without a trip to WalMart for much needed groceries. A fun day.

Monday, 12/19/11 - A local Chinese Buffet very close to our RV park has an annual anniversary special each year....2 for the price of one so my neighbor Mary asked if I wanted to go to lunch as her husband, Harold would NOT step foot in the place. Well, you only have to ask me once to go out for Chinese away we went. Actually, it was a pretty good selection and Mary and I certainly got our monies worth. We had a fun time sharing stories and lots of laughs and the most amazing thing.....I told her about our wonderful time in Rome, NY and our experiences on the Erie Canal and singing the songs. When we got back into the car she brought up on her CD player Bruce Springsteen, singing our old favorite...On the Erie Canal. We both broke out into song singing I ask you, how many people would just happen to have that song available in their car???? Great going Mary, it was fun.

Tuesday, 12/20/11 - It's Tuesday so that's when "the old people" get into the Miami Zoo for free with the Golden Pass so we invited our friends Ron & Dixie, who LOVE zoos to go with us. We got out there about 10:15 am and didn't leave until 4 pm.....A long and tiring BUT wonderful day.

We started out on the 11 am Tram ride that takes through out the entire zoo (which is HUGE) but also tells you about the animals. We didn't do that on our last trip and thoroughly enjoyed the ride. After the tram ride we got our hand stamped so we could go back out and have our picnic lunch on the median of the parking lot. As you know, this has become a tradition with us and we had them bring their folding chairs and it was great.

Because of the Christmas Holiday, they were lots of people (kids) at the zoo but they also had special "feedings" for different animals at different times. Actually, on our way to the tram we discovered that at 10:30 am it was the Bengal Tiger which the zookeeper explained about him and tossed him 2 snacks.....2 - 10oz steaks, which he devoured in two bites. We also saw the Chimpanzee and the Gorilla' was a 800 lb Silver Back male Gorilla and the Asian Elephants get fed and the zookeeper told about each animal and answers any questions you had. It was a wonderful experience and because it was a cooler day (in the mid 70's) the animals were incredibly active. We all agreed we had never seen so much animal activity at any zoo as we saw today.

We did a lot of walking and also rode the raised monorail around the zoo which is certainly a different look at everything plus the fact you are going through the beautiful trees. We attempted to go and feed the giraffe (you buy a cup of lettuce for $1.00) but the line was way to long and by this time we were exhausted. We boarded the monorail to head for the stop by the front gate so we could head on home. It was a glorious day and we were all very tired little boys and girls by this time. Now of course, since dinner, the trick is trying to stay awake until it's time to go to bed. Much love to all our family and friends. A special note: Happy Hanukkah to Howard & Nancy and all of their family......Bobbi, Jack, Roe and Herman that are celebrating this evening. Wish I was there with all of you!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Another beautiful week in Miami, FL

The time is just flying by here at Larry & Penny Thompson's RV park in Miami, FL, I can't believe we have already been here one month....and just one more month to go.

Tuesday, 12/13/11 - We experienced bingo Miami style.....played in the afternoon 2 to 4 pm for a fee of $4.00 for 3 cards and 2 hours of bingo. Best part was, Will finally won a bingo game....his first ever for a huge jackpot of $4.00. At least he got his money back that was more than I got, but we had fun and I'm sure we will be back there next week.

Thursday, 12/15/11 - Now this was a big day, my second Arts & Crafts project of which I made a Christmas Wreath. Actually, it turned out really well and I was so proud the teacher took a picture of me with the wreath and emailed to me. I sent it out to friends but they mostly commented on MY TAN, which is fine with me. Actually, those 2 great projects will be sent UPS to daughter Nancy as she really doesn't believe her mother did anything like that.

The other big thing today was our friends Ron & Dixie.....Driving Ms Dixie.... arrived for a 2 week stay at our RV park. Will and I were both excited to see them again and we even made up a bright neon green sign that said: WELCOME - Driving Ms Dixie - oh an Ron.....Texas. We attached to our lawn chair and were going to put it right in the middle of the RV space but it was so windy we had to keep it home and they didn't see it until after they arrived and came over to see us. It was fun and so good to see them and we visited for a very long time and are looking forward to doing things with them while they are here.

Friday, 12/16/11 - More visiting today with our friends Ron & Dixie plus other friends in the park. At 12 noon we all headed to the clubhouse for a pizza (the works) lunch. Later that day our friend Mary, who with her husband Harold, are hot air balloon people. Late that afternoon she came over and asked Will and I if one of us wanted to go up in the balloon early 5:30 am Saturday morning. I couldn't believe when Will said he wanted to go......First off, did he not hear 5:30 am and second, HELLO you have a rod in your back & it doesn't seem like a good thing to do. But he was excited and wanted to go. After Mary left I reminded him about his back and what if it was a hard landing, or a lot of wind or even if he had to jump out when the balloon came down. Of course, he then realized he couldn't go and went over to Mary & Harold's to tell them. I hated to be such a spoiler but really......Hot Air Ballooning, I don't think so and Kim would kill me if I let him go.

Saturday, 12/17/11 - A very fun day, at 9 am this morning in the club house they had a Flea Market for the campers. I went but what I decided I didn't need anyone else junk to add to my junk so was just a looker. However, the best part of the day was to come, my friend Sonia and I had made plans to go to Bayside on Miami's public transportation today.

Sonia is a friend I made the last time we were here in 2004/05 and they have been coming to this park for 13 years. Sonia is originally from Columbia but now lives with her husband James in North Carolina....wintering in Miami. She had purchased our round trip ticket, $5.00 ea for our days outing and Will took us to the bus stop this morning about 10 am for our "first leg" of the trip. Our first public ride was a bus to a huge shopping center, Dadeland where we then waited for the Metro Rail, our "second part" of the trip. We got off at Government Center, which seems to be the main spot and then boarded a "people mover." The people movers are small cars that run on a track, elevated above the streets, which are standing room only. They go in a circle around the So Miami area and you can just keep getting off and on at different stops, this part is always free. It was a great way to see the Miami area.

Our destination was Bayside, which was a great double decker open air mall, that had lots of kiosk, shops, arts & craft booths, many restaurants and a food court all located on the water. It was a fabulous place to walk and people watch. We were able to see lots of private yachts and even several cruise ships. We spent the entire day there, had a wonderful fish lunch and even sat and listened to an outdoor concert......Spanish music that is. Somewhere after 4pm we headed back to the RV park and this time, Sonia's husband picked us up at the bus stop. It was a wonderful day and we had a great time together. It was also very nice to have my private Spanish interpreter as few people speak English here. We have made plans to take another outing to the Art Deco area in South Beach on the public transportation. I can't wait. Much love to all our family and friends.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Shark Valley, The Everglades, Florida

Monday, 12/12/11 - We headed to the northern most part of the Everglades, Shark Valley mostly because they are the only viewing center in the park that offers a tram ride. The Everglades is a National Park so with our Golden Age Pass we get into the park for free but the 2 hour tram ride is $19 per person. Shark Valley is so named because this is an actual valley and is located in the Shark River Slough....there are NO sharks here!

We arrived about 10 am for the 11 am tram ride and were able to walk around the visitors center and there were alligators laying on the banks of the water ways ...right at the entrance. I was able to get a picture of Will with 3 alligators laying on the road in the background and sent it to his daughter Kim.....who of course thought we were crazy and told us to get the heck out of there!

We boarded the tram and then began our 2 hour, narrated journey through the saw grass prairie which consist of wide open prairie with mounds of trees which are called "hammocks." Unfortunately, we had a guide in training who also was from another country and was difficult to understand as well as she didn't have a lot of knowledge. Just the bad luck of the draw.

This particular part of the Everglades has the highest viewing of alligators and birds and we hit the jackpot today. One Florida guy on the tour who had brought out of state guests on the tour said it was the most alligators he has ever seen on the tram ride. From the minute we got there....the driveway into the park, there were alligators laying all over the place. During the tram ride we also saw many baby alligators that are usually born in September and and are about 4 inches when they are they were 6 to 8 inches long. The biggest alligator we saw on the tour was about 8 feet and the way you measure an alligator....just in case someone asks you.....the distance from their eyes to their nose, say is 6 inches.....they would be a 6 foot alligator. That's all the trivia I have for today!

The bird life out here was amazing however the most amazing bird was the anhinga....they are an underwater swimmer that pierces a fish with their sharp bill and afterward the bird "preens" and dries its wings. We saw them sitting everywhere with their wings spread out in the sun....just drying off.

Midway on the tour we stopped at a 65 foot tower that has a circular walkway so you are not actually climbing stairs to the of course we had a chance to make it, which we did. The view was spectacular and we were able to look down and see alligators lying in the saw grass and even very large turtles in the water. This area was originally owned by an oil company (who else) but was unprofitable so they turned it over to the government and this tower was originally used as a fire lookout. After the tower, which was the half way point we headed back to the visitors centers.

The road we were on in the tram is a 15 mile loop which is also used by bicycle's riders and walkers (those crazy people) Actually, I couldn't believe how many bike riders were out there. You can of course bring your own bike or rent a bike for $8 an hour. Trust me, the tram is the only way to go.

When we returned to the visitors center we of course found a lovely place to unload our chairs and Mimi's TV tray and have our lunch.....overlooking the Everglades. It was a fun and interesting day and we plan to also go down to the Northern part of the Everglades before we leave this area just to get a different view. Much love to all our family and friends.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

An update on this and that in Miami, FL

Thursday, 12/8/11 - Every Thursday this month in the park at 10 am they have an Arts & Crafts project, in the club house, you can sign up for....this being December, they are all about Christmas, decorations, duh! For what ever reason, and I still don't believe I did it, I signed up and showed up to make a table decorations. Of course, the other ladies took me "under their wing" and helped me even showing me how to use the glue gun. So I started gathering up poinsettias flowers, Christmas bells, leaves, ribbon & etc and "attacked" my piece of foam and came up with what I thought was a beauty!!!! Actually, I was shocked how nice it turned out and a picture is available on request to see the finished project. When I brought it home Will even wanted me to put it on the kitchen table to display it.....which shocked me as nothing is displayed here. I can't wait for next weeks project (I'm already signed up) a Christmas Wreath!!!

Saturday, 12/10/11 - RT Orchid Co of Homestead offered a free tour of their gardens this weekend so Will and I decided to go down there (a 10 mile trip south of us) for the 11 am tour. Because of the tropical weather here, orchids grow everywhere around here, in the trees, gardens and lots of nurseries specialize in them. We got there about 10:30 am and strolled thru several large greenhouses filled with every imaginable orchid....beautiful colors and my camera was going non stop. At 11 am Bob, who turned out to be the owner of the place, was gathering up people for the 11 am tour.

He then proceeded to explain that his grandparents started this nursery in 1932 on about 160 acres they purchased for the vast sum of $2,500. It was property they couldn't practically give away. The grandparents started the nursery & it has been in their family ever since. The amazing part we were to discover that the "garden tour" actually turned out to be his "backyard." The grandparents built their house there & he has added on....A LOT and what we saw were the orchids, plants and sculptures he has accumulated from all over the world. IT WAS FABULOUS. One incredible thing he told us that after Hurricane Andrew in 1992 there was not a green leaf or plant left standing. Most of the trees were toppled over and a lot of the palms that fell....they were able to pull them back up. His house & the grandparents house, when rebuilt, were constructed out of concrete and steel.

The tour consisted of about 25 people and Bob took us through the front, side & back yards explaining about all the different orchids, the amazing parrots he has in cages through out the yard. He told the story of one red, very large parrot that was given to him by some wealthy lady as one day the parrot "escaped" from his cage and completely destroyed a Chippendale dining room table & chairs by the time she had returned home. The bird left that night and rules the other birds in that cage.

The back yard had two amazing features, a beautiful black bottom swimming pool with a spectacular large orchid decoration on the bottom of the pool. He also has in the back yard a natural water spring that they have built 3 waters falls. The spring is FILLED with different types of huge fish, turtles and even a small alligator. When the alligator gets to big he donates it back to a local alligator farm and gets another "baby." He threw a hand full of fish food in the spring (that required NO maintenance as it is a natural spring) and every fish/animal in there went crazy feeding on them. We also were able to view his fabulous outdoor living room complete with a bar and lots of seating with an amazing stain glass window of orchids and animals. Words do not do this place justice and it was hard to keep remembering...this is someones backyard! Plus the fact that Bob was a genuinely nice guy and was very appreciative of what he has been given and he is definitely a good steward of the land and the people that work for him. It was a wonderful experience.

That evening, back at the RV park, was a potluck dinner at 5 pm open to all to attend. I, of course, brought, my world famous....WalMart potato & macaroni salad but I must say all of the people brought a wonderful array of food. It was a fun dinner and we met more very nice RV people from different pods. It was a busy Saturday while Sunday was just an off and on rainy day but the laundry got done and then we went out for our favorite lunch..... Costco....Will for a polish hot dog and me a yogurt and of course a quick tour around to visit the "food ladies." Another great day in Florida and sending out much love to all our family and friends.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, Coral Gables, FL

Wednesday, 12/7/11 - Ok, as of today the fabulous Golden Pass (available to all seniors) saved us another $ savings for 3 sightseeing outings so far = $86.00. How cool is that? The first Wednesday of each month a senior with a Golden Pass gets in the Fairchild Gardens for FREE including the guided 1 hour tram ride. Of course this was our day to visit the the 83 acre botanical gardens specializing in tropical plants from around the world.

The place is absolutely amazing and they must have every kind of palm tree from around the world. It consists of beautiful lakes, path, lots of benches and walkways into different areas such as plants of Madagascar (which was one of my favorites) a beautiful rain forest, a butterfly garden (plants that attract butterflies that were everywhere), a Conservatory, a sunken garden, edible garden and so much more. Actually, words cannot describe the beauty of this place, do yourself a favor and look it up. We took our first tram ride through at 11 am, brought our picnic lunch inside the park (they welcomed us to do so) then walked for hours thru the rain forest, sunken garden, down around the lakes and through many of the the specialty areas, after the walk we boarded the tram AGAIN, and took another tour around.

Also there was my favorite glass guy...Dale Chihuly in the Conservatory he had a gorgeous multi colored glass art piece at least 12 - 15 ft tall mounted in water so that you could see the refection of it as you looked at it. Outside, he had a series of at least 10 - Cobalt Herons in a pool. December, has been a HUGE art month in Miami and at the Fairchild there was an exhibit of by Will Ryman, a 42 year old guy from New York that built these unbelievable rose "structures" made out of fiberglass and steel and they were placed throughout the park. The biggest one was 5 red roses (pedals & stems only) that measured 30ft tall and 12ft wide. There were other smaller ones of pink, blue, purple and yellow through out the park. Also around the roses would be "petal shaped chairs" of the same color - it was breathtaking......I can't imagine how many pictures I took of just those roses. He also had bumble bee, about 15 ants displayed outside in the park. I am really looking forward to going through these pictures this evening.

We finally left there about 3:30 pm and were thoroughly exhausted when we got home, it was a beautiful Miami winter day....83 degrees and hardly any wind. I swear, when you hear them play a Christmas Carol on the radio it seems so strange.......REALLY, this can't be Christmas time here!!! Much love to all our family and friends and the fun just keeps on coming.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Vizcaya Museum & Gardens, Miami, FL

Monday, 12/5/11 - We picked another "freebie" out our our 2011 Golden Ticket book for Seniors and visited Vizcaya Museum & Gardens, , which is located north of us about 15 miles right on Biscayne Bay in Miami. (Side note: with our Golden Tickets so far we got into Zoo/$30.00 and Vizcaya/$20 for FREE with more to come)

Vizcaya was the winter home of James Deering and built in 1916. James Deering and brother Charles Deering were from the family of International Harvester. We will see "the other" Deering estate while we are here. Vizacaya was originally 180 acres of swamp located on Biscayne Bay right in the heart of old fashionable Coconut Grove/Miami but currently the house and formal gardens remain on 50 acres. James was a life long bachelor and built this beautiful Italy Renaissance house that was eventually donated, by his nieces, to the state of Florida to maintain as a museum open to the public.

The house is a 2 story home with all the bedroom and the kitchen located on the second floor. James had the kitchen built upstairs as he didn't want cooking smells through out the formal rooms located downstairs. What a view the kitchen help had! Downstairs rooms were located around a very large atrium, much like the Builtmore in Ashville, NC. Each room was decorated magnificently and all furnishings came from Italy, Paris and other parts of Europe. They at one time rented a huge warehouse in New York and stored furniture they purchased from Europe THEN designed a room to put it in....just the opposite of most homes.

James had a 3 room suite upstairs with a view of Biscayne Bay and a balcony. He had a bedroom, an office and bathroom. Although James never married he had a beautiful "adjoining" Cathay (Asian) room for "his" female guest. We wandered throughout the rooms while listening to the audio headset (we rented only one??) so I listen & repeat info to Will. Actually, Will said he liked this estate BETTER than the Vanderbilt's Builtmore....but not me. It was amazing to see but so much smaller and way less grand.

However, the formal gardens were something else. True Italian gardens with statues every where and lots of beautiful trimmed bushes, many in a maze formation and so many water features. There was a formal tea house overlooking Biscayne Bay an actual structure shaped like a large yacht that they would use a row boat to go and sit out there. At one time there was a canal completely surrounding the house & gardens where a gondola would travel showing the guest the estate. We actually loved the garden and spent a great deal of time out there walking around and just sitting and listening to the head set tell all about it.

Actually, after viewing the house we headed back to the parking lot to have our picnic lunch (2 chairs and Mimi's TV tray) and "greet guest" as they were heading in. It has become such a tradition for us on this trip. After lunch we headed back to see the orchid garden and the formal gardens. Our total time spent there today was 5 1/2 hours, we needed a nap when we got home but it was fun to be back on the sightseeing circuit. Much love to all our family and friends.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Being very lazy in Miami, FL

Saturday, 11/26/11 - Nancy & Howard returned from a very nice stay in Key West, FL and got a hotel near the Miami Airport for returning to N.J. on Sunday. However, we got one more dinner with them at our (Nancy & mine) very favorite, P.F. Chang's. It was located in So Miami on a "restaurant row" in a very cute part of Miami. We had a great dinner, with all the usual specialties ordered. Afterwards, we took a walk and had some great gelato, a perfect way to end a evening. We said our good byes and the next day they were home in dreary New Jersey.....already missing the Florida sun.

Tuesday, 11/29/11 - Tuesday is Seniors day at the Miami Zoo, which is a FREE day for us so we headed over to the zoo which is actually right behind our RV park. We hear the monkeys in the early morning yelling for their breakfast. The Miami Zoo is a HUGE place and we made a mistake by not taking the tram around to all the exhibits but walking. What we didn't know when we made that decision is how large this place is. We walked for 5 hours and didn't even see all the animal exhibits. The animals are not locked up in cages but in large grassy areas with a moat between the animals and the people. (keeping the animals safe)

Actually, we were more impressed with the landscaping at the zoo - the beautiful plants, flowers and trees. We are going to go back on another Tuesday Senior day and take the tram and see all of the animals. It is a beautiful place but San Diego Zoo is still the best!

Wednesday, 11/30/11 - On Tuesday evening as I was attempting to work on the computer my fabulous Verizon 4G was NOT doing it's job and just "crashed" as it would not hook me up to the Internet. I called the Verizon Tech Support.....they are actual Americans in America.... and he tried to talk me through doing an "up date" to prevent the problem I was having. He learned very shortly that I had no idea what he was talking about & suggested I go into a Verizon Corp store for someone to help in do the update for me! What kills me.....I just got this 4G 1 month ago and I already need an update. REALLY.... As I was talking with the Verizon tech, my phone crashed/went dead I have 2 things phone and computer. So Wednesday morning I gathered everything up and went to the Verizon store and they did the update with no problem. Then hard as it was to believe the ATT store was on the same block and they fixed the phone. I was hopeful they would replace it as the back won't stay on and I have been using scotch tape to hold it together. No such luck, they just replaced the scotch tape but at least the phone works.

Thursday, 12/1/11 - Can you believe it's already December.....where has this year gone? Before you know it we will be back in Fresno, but for now we are enjoying the beautiful Miami weather and today was one of the "laying out in the sun" days. Oh I managed to wash some clothes but that was it. Will is looking forward to hot dogs at the clubhouse tomorrow at noon, that's how relaxed this day has gone. Much love to all our family and friends.