I’ve been to Miami
several times – and loved every single one of them. Miami and the surrounding area has so much to offer: Ocean Drive, Coconut Grove, Key West, the Everglades… the list goes on.
The first time I went there as a student on a spring break – just a kid on a classic American road trip in a crowded van, escaping frosty Pennsylvania for the warmth of the southern sun. As you can imagine, the long journey itself was quite an adventure and it made reaching a Miami tent camp feel like arriving in the promised land. In fact, Miami very much felt like some kind of foreign land full of what at the time were very exotic items to the young me raised up north: palm trees, alligators, ever-present salsa beat, and arroz con frijoles negros =)
My subsequent trips thankfully involved more civilized modes of transportation – and more sophisticated lodging and food choices. In fact, I was just there last week (unfortunately just for one night while in transit), enjoying amazing ceviche and mahi mahi tacos at my favorite Coconut Grove restaurant, Jaguar. I’m always ready to go back and explore more. That’s why I was excited to see that FlipKey picked Miami Beach as the location for one of its inaugural virtual tours, a new feature to enhance pre-trip research. Read the rest of this entry →
Today I found a fascinating post on BuzzFeed
featuring photos of the 33 most beautiful abandoned places in the world. It’s hard to pick favorites but I have to say the one of the sand-filled house in Kolmanskop, a ghost town in the Namib Desert, is the most striking to me. The blues, yellows, and oranges are striking. And the multiple door frames captured in this shot make the image self-referential, reminiscent of the hall of mirrors.
It made me look through my own photo collection to find beautiful abandoned places I’ve come across. Here are my top five. How about you? Have you taken any photos of desolate yet striking locations that you’d have to share? If so blog about it and link back – which I guess would officially make this my first-ever travel theme post! Read the rest of this entry →
The non-stop news cycle from the Republican National Convention in Tampa last week was for the most part nauseatingly repetitive (check the word cloud
: “America” – “President” – “Mitt Romney”) and occasionally hilariously bizarre (thank you, Clint Eastwood
). But now that it’s over, I want to reconnect with a meaning of the word “Tampa” that does not equal the RNC. To me that meaning goes back some years ago when I had a chance to visit.
Tampa is not necessarily on Florida’s A-list of destinations. It doesn’t have the vibrancy of Miami, history and natural charm of Pensacola, or Orlando’s Disney World (ok it has Busch Gardens but it doesn’t quite measure up). When I was there is also felt in a large part under construction with street closures and cranes dotting the landscape. So to me the highlights were a few special, memorable places rather than the city as a whole. Read the rest of this entry →
Coconut Grove hibiscus
If Miami had an old town, it would be Coconut Grove, its oldest continuously inhabited neighborhood. It was originally settled in late 1800s and annexed by Miami in 1925. And even though little of the frontier character remains, Coconut Grove still has its unique village-like feel (if you can tune out high rise hotels). Fortunately, it’s easy to find places where the past comes alive.
One of them is the Barnacle Historic State Park with the oldest house in Miami still in its original location having survived several murderous hurricanes. Just like a barnacle clinging to a sea rock, the house has stuck to the edge of the Biscayne Bay since 1891. It was built by Ralph Middleton Munroe, originally from New York, who bought bayfront property among the wilderness of Florida hammock (tropical hardwood forest) for… $400. Ok, it was quite a bit of money back then! Read the rest of this entry →
When the weather in the northeast turns cold, my thoughts migrate south in a snowbird fashion. Today I’m thinking about one of my favorite Florida escapes – Pensacola. More specifically, I mentally teleport to the Dunes hotel sitting on a narrow strip of Santa Rosa Island. It faces the Gulf and is separated from the mainland by a long sound, which means that every guest room faces the water. I still remember walking into my room and being greeted by the soft humming of the ocean surf, so close it seemed like I could just outstretch my hand and touch it. And I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw dolphins playfully jumping between the waves just offshore.
Santa Rosa is a perfect escape. The site of Spanish arrival in the early 16th century, this 40-mile barrier island today belongs in part to the Gulf Islands National Seashore with the landscape ranging from gleaming white beaches and rugged maritime vegetation to historic Fort Pickens on the island’s western tip. Built in 1834, it was the largest of four forts guarding Pensacola Harbor. During the Civil War, Fort Pickens was reinforced the day after Fort Sumter surrendered, later withheld the Confederate assault in the Battle of Santa Rosa Island, and became one of the few southern forts to continuously remain in Union hands. The Fort stayed under military use until after WWII when its old fortifications and gun batteries became obsolete and now is a part of the Seashore. Read the rest of this entry →