Brickel Avenue with downtown Miami to the far right as seen from the Rickenbacher Causeway heading west

Key Biscayne skyline as seen from the
City of Miami Docks, Coconut Grove

Entrance to Vizcaya, once the home of James Deering

Vizcaya, 1920s mansion on Biscayne Bay

Just a small part of the gardens at Vizcaya

And another small section.

Opa-Locka City Hall - Town has an Arabian theme. All homes and businesses have iron bars on the windows too.

Coral Gables has some beautiful streets.

Coral Gables street

Venetian Pools in Coral Gables

Thursday we were up and eating our fruit breakfast early. The Doubletree doesn’t offer breakfast.

Hitting the road we toured Key Biscayne located just across the bay and once again hit heavy traffic. Seemed to be the norm around Miami . We passed the Seaquarium and Crandon Park where the zoo was when I was a kid. Now it is an endless parking lot which is probably crowded with beach goers on summer weekends. The Town of Key Biscayne itself has gone to the extreme to “quiet” the streets. Every block on the back streets has humps, bumps and circles to slow the traffic which is mostly golf carts. The intersections are bricked as are most of the places we would see over the next couple of days. Must be a Florida thing. They have to spend their money on something.

The next stop was Vizcaya, the home of James Deering Vice President of International Harvester in the 1920s. This was our second visit here and getting there early we had the run of the place for an hour or so before the tourists ganged in. This three story mansion built around a central courtyard is truly unique. The art works, furniture and decorations alone are worth a fortune and were purchased in Europe by Deering himself. The French and Italian themes are gaudy, but interesting to look at. One table in the dining room dates to 100 AD. The house had central heat, central vacuum, and indoor/outdoor swimming pool, two elevators, church organ, bowling alley, refrigeration, automatic electric telephone system, and even a fire control system.

The house overlooks Biscayne Bay and the Italian Renaissance gardens complete with statuary, a bayside tearoom, maze hedges, bridges, moats, stairways, and fountains surrounded with sub-tropical trees and plants. The original property encompassed 180 acres and included a dairy, poultry house, greenhouse, machine shop, paint and carpentry workshop, and staff residences.

A quick run up I-95 took us to Opa-Locka which had a unique city theme. Many of the public buildings are designed with Arabian architecture. All of the residences in this area had metal bars over their windows indicating crime might be a problem, so we didn't stop for long. We barely dodged one of Florida's afternoon thunder showers that only lasted ten minutes.

We then took a tour of Coral Gables . This is a beautiful planned community with many homes of Mediterranean design dating to the 1920s that have retained their charm and are well maintained amid the tropical flora.

Coral Gables is the home of the University of Miami and is also known as “City Beautiful”. The Biltmore Hotel, constructed in 1926, was for a while the tallest building in Florida and had the largest pool in the world where Johnny “Tarzan” Weissmuller was swimming instructor. The hotel itself is said to be haunted. It is located adjacent to the Biltmore Golf Course which is open to the public. Nightly rates here are over $400, a little too expensive for our tastes.

Just down the street is another historical landmark built in 1924, the Venetian Pools. My grandmother, who lived in Coral Gables , used to bring me here to swim. The pool, complete with several waterfalls, is made to resemble a Venetian lagoon with bridges, grotto, beach and mooring posts. There is much more to see in Coral Gables , but you can just take a scenic 20 mph tour and enjoy the unusual qualities of this community.

A quick tour of Downtown Miami had the CapoNorde running hot even with the air temperature at a mere 80 degrees. We wondered how riders and bikes could stand the temps in the summer 90s. The traffic was unbearable and construction of new high rises everywhere. My family used to get a room in one of the upper floors of the Columbus Hotel overlooking Biscayne Boulevard to watch the New Years Eve Parade from the open windows.

After swinging by my grandmother’s old house which was sold in the late 1980s and still looks the same, we returned to our simple room at the Doubletree. Dinner was a tasty deli take-out from the Fresh Market across the street which we ate on the balcony as darkness descended on Biscayne Bay and the city noises slowly abated.

SUMMARY: Sightseeing loop around Miami

TOTAL DISTANCE: 45 miles and several miles of walking

TOTAL TIME: Most of the day

HIGHLIGHTS: Seeing some of the old places I used to frequent

Vizcaya Museum and Gardens

Coral Gables tour

Venetian Pools

Good imported beer, dinner on the hotel balcony from Fresh Market and a hard king-size bed

Miami traffic is insane at times. The CapoNorde overheated in this mess. It's enough to drive you up a wall.

Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables

Venetian Pools in Coral Gables.
A1A TRIP 2005 - Fernandina Beach to Jensen Beach