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One week in Miami, in search of iguanas, orchids and alligators. I found iguanas at the amazing Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens, along with gorgeous lily ponds and an orchid garden! The informative docents offer an excellent tram ride around the gardens, explaining the history of the place and pointing out interesting plant facts. Start with the tour, then walk to the butterfly garden for lunch with the butterflies (the food is very good and the cafe overlooks the conservatory). You will find huge iguanas around Center Lake, hidden among the mangroves, and many beautiful birds along the ponds.
In the heart of busy Miami Beach, there is a smaller botanical garden called Miami Beach Botanical Garden. It can only be described as an oasis in the city with its quiet paths, a lily pond (where I enjoyed chasing dragonflies) and a lovely Japanese Garden, complete with red bridge. While there, I had a nice chat with one of the staff who explained that Hurricane Irma had done a lot of damage to the various gardens in the area and that hundreds of volunteers helped with cleanup. Just around the corner from this garden is the Holocaust Memorial. If you have a chance, please stop and visit this beautiful, unforgettable tribute to those who lost their lives in the Holocaust.
Alligators were on the agenda for a day trip to Big Cypress Preserve. My husband and I drove east on HWY 41, to Big Cypress Welcome Center, taking our time along the way to stop at the various roadside parks (this is where you will find gators). My favorite stop was at Kirby Storter Roadside Park which has a lovely boardwalk meandering over pinewood flatlands and a lovely cypress swamp. It’s fun to do a little research on swamp wildflowers, spiders and birds before you go, come up with a list and check them off as a kind of treasure hunt. I suggest you bring a picnic lunch (not many places to eat), extra water and bug spray. Heading back to Miami, we took the Scenic Loop Road, which I highly recommend, if it is open. At the moment, it is closed due to high waters, so check the website before you visit. It is a one-lane road through the “wilds” of the Everglades. I found it hauntingly beautiful and a great place to see wildlife. One of my favorite photos from the trip is of an “Audubon-like” scene of a Great Blue Heron hiding among the cypresses.
Other highlights from my week in Miami were: walking along Miami Beach boardwalk, eating lunch on Ocean Drive (people watching is amazing there) and hanging out on Lincoln Street, a lovely pedestrian shopping area with great restaurants, well-known stores and a very cool bookstore called Books & Books. I saw several movies at the theater there, including Loving Vincent. I was so excited to see that it was playing and bought tickets before I arrived. Very special.
A quick trip to Little Havana was very fun. I enjoyed taking photos of the colorful buildings, walked through the famous Maximo Gomez Park and enjoyed yummy Cuban food (and probably the best mojito I’ve ever had), at La Esquina de la Fama. I didn’t have time for Viscaya Museum and Gardens this time, but is an awesome place to visit, as is Biscayne National Park with its beautiful beach and lighthouse. So many things to do and see in Miami. One week is not enough time to see it all, but it is just enough time to have a lovely vacation.
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