As the cold weather starts to settle in over Canada, it’s always a real treat to get away to a warm and sunny destination. And there is no closer and more convenient destination from Toronto than Florida. So I used up some of my Airmiles to book flights for my husband and me to Miami. On November 27, 2010 we arrived at the Miami Airport, picked up our rental car and drove north to the City of Weston, where we would be spending a week at the Mizner Place Resort in a well-equipped one-bedroom apartment.
On Sunday, November 28, 2010, I drove south into Miami to do some sightseeing where I visited Villa Vizcaya, an opulent mansion that was constructed between 1914 and 1919 for James Deering, an industrialist and heir to the International Harvester fortune. Built in a Venetian and Renaissance revival style, this National Historic Landmark impresses with its interior courtyard, its formal reception rooms, lavish private living quarters and its breathtaking location on Biscayne Bay.
My explorations continued on Monday with a trip into downtown Fort Lauderdale where I explored the Las Olas Riverfront. Las Olas Boulevard is Fort Lauderdale’s most popular shopping avenue and the Las Olas Riverfront is an entertainment complex that features several restaurants, nightclubs and retail outlets, all set on a scenic waterfront promenade along the New River.
On November 30, 2010 I headed off again to another interesting destination in Miami: the Spanish Monastery at St. Bernard de Clairvaux Episcopal Church. Publishing tycoon William Randolph Hearts purchased the Cloisters and the Monastery’s outbuilding which were all part of a monastic complex in Sacramenia, near Segovia, Spain, that was built between 1133 and 1144. Hurst had the entire complex dismantled stone by stone, protected with hay and shipped to the United States in 1925.
I headed off to Miami again on Wedesday. At 1 pm I was planning to meet a real local expert — David Brown, the Urban Tour Host. David offers cultural community and eco tours in the Miami area and specializes in sustainable community-based tourism that gives back to local communities. We started our driving tour in Overtown, a historic African-American area of Miami. Little Haiti was our next stop where we visited the Little Haiti Cutural Centre as well Kalbassi House, an artist’s cooperative and retail outlet. Finally David took me to the Downtown Miami Riverwalk, a waterfront promenade next to the Miami River.
On December 2 we explored the local areas in Weston, a master-planned community west of Fort Lauderdale. Established in 1996, Weston is home to many celebrities including Dan Marino, José Canseco and Sugar Ray Leonard. The next day we played a round of tennis with a friendly couple from Kentucky and explored the Fort Lauderdale waterfront in the afternoon. In the evening we enjoyed a nice dinner with George and Jill in an Italian restaurant at the Weston Town Center.
On December 4 we checked out and drove into downtown Miami to take a stroll around Bayfront Park, one of downtown Miami’s top attractions and outdoor gathering places. Next to the park is the Bayside Marketplace, an outdoor shopping complex right on the water. In the late afternoon we drove to South Beach and took a stroll on busy Ocean Drive and Collins Avenue.
Sunday, December 5, was our last full day in Miami, I ventured back into downtown Miami for an urban bicycling adventure. I rented a bicycle at Bike and Roll at the Bayside Marketplace and started to explore downtown Miami as well as the large collection of upscale condos along Biscayne Bay and the New River. I also cycled across to Miami Beach where I checked out the Lincoln Street Mall.
Our time in South Florida had come to an end and on December 6 when we flew back to Toronto where we were greeted by a winter storm with frigid temperatures. After our little subtropical escape it was right back to reality…