Category Archives: Miami

Exploring Coconut Grove -the Barnacle//Deerfield beach, lester’s diner in Fort lauderdale

Malaga airbnb


Francine and Russ left early for the airport and Barbados so Dirck and I hung out on our own, having excellent French pastries (Buena Vista cafe!) and grapefruit by our pool on the nicest day of weather so far, the wind and clouds from days past gone. We walked, sometimes with a gaggle of peacocks, around the shady tropical backroads of Coconut Grove, enjoying the sun and greenery and blue skies and lush exotic trees and multi-colored bourganvilla. In the small coconut grove downtown, not  much there but we stopped at an old historic house that is now a state park (Barnicle House). It was lovely to walk past the stone fence into the woods toward the water and actually end up at a strange old dark stucco house with a wide lawn sweeping out to a little dock by the ocean. (We haven’t seen much of the ocean in the Grove.) Then we walked past all kinds of hidden estates along the main highway and then back into the lush dense tropical thicket of our neighborhood, swam on a perfect midday and had a quick lunch poolside. Dirck has left, sadly, and I am now awaiting Noah’s arrival.

Buena vista  deli

While waiting for Noah, I drove right into the spring break scene I successfully avoided in college and was even more intent on avoiding decades later. Mob scene with packed beach, girls in skimpy bikinis and scruffy guys. I kept driving until I finally found Deerfield Beach, which was refreshingly not lined with concrete highrises. I finally found a parking spot so I stopped for an hour, walked to the end of the pier near sunset, watched the fishermen and surfers, put my feet in the ocean, which was surprisingly warm. I stopped at Lester’s diner near the fort Lauderdale airport for a good Greek omelette and a gyro to go for Noah who arrived on schedule (thx Jet Blue.) We are in a somewhat grubby Baymount motel in Florida City. Onto The Keys tomorrow!

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Versailles, Little Haiti, Buena Vista Deli, Design District, Wynwood Walls – cool downtown Miami

Versailles cafe

We joined the old Cuban men at the Cafe Versailles takeout window for a sweet creamy Cortado (as good as imagined) then set out for the Little Haiti Cultural Center. Beyond some crafts for sale, there wasn’t much going on (I’d love to return for the outdoor market later in the week) so we walked several blocks south past various Haitian storefronts (bodegas, tax prep, immigration help) and side streets overgrown with vegetation and humble houses to Bueno Vista Deli, part funky Haitian-inspired decor and elegant Parisan pastry shop, where I had the best Niçoise salad and spinach quiche ever and picked up French pastries for breakfast that will no doubt be much better than the Cuban ones we’ve been eating.

Wynwood Walls

Just south of Little Haiti we were startled to find ourselves in the oppulent Design District, full of fancy designer clothing showrooms in dramatic new architecture. The Brits in particular found this sudden change in neighborhood startling. Soon after that we were in the hipster Wynwood neighborhood, a former grim warehouse area that is now home to work by major graffiti artists from around the world. WE went to the official “Wynwood Walls,” a park lined with walls brightly painted by one graffiti artist after another. The neighboring buildings also are full of graffiti works and trendy little boutiques. Great people watching with lots of Latin looking young people in tight casual getups. ONe interesting aside: at one point I saw an official looking person wearing a city vest and thought it wa parking control. The vest said mosquito control (or some such). Wynwood I has had Zika problems. WE didn’t encounter mosquitoes (or mossed as the brits call them) until Tuesday eve. RUss got a few bites sitting beside our pool.

In the late afternoon, we returned to our little bungalow and finally swam in our sweet little tiled pool. love this place and trip! the only thing I could do without in Miami is the traffic. WE had a nice dinner of leftovers and takeaway from Milam’s market. OUr bob hosts dropped by for a drink. INteresting people…the woman is a Cuban exile and has some strong opinions about the current situation. Their son is a well known movie director and producer (legos movie etc).

Peacock visitor


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Art Deco Tour, The Betsy, Tap Tap Room, Wolfsonian museum, in South Beach, Sugar Cane Restaurant

South Beach was still hopping on a Monday morning but not as wild as Sunday night. WE bought a pocket guide to maim with architecture with walking tours of various neighborhoods (including Coconut Grove) at the Art Deco Welcome Center on Ocean Drive, which was the same price as a ticket on the South Beach walking tour (which we missed anyway…the one tour a day starts at 10;30 and is the same price as the audio tour.) And off we went on a very windy somewhat cloudy day to admire all the cool Art Deco hotels and city buildings (police department, post office etc.) I could not place at all the hotel I stayed at in 9th grade with my Grandma Betty but then again, that was in 1973, before there was a “south beach.” Nor could I remember which highrise  my other grandmother lived in. I found the description of the Jewish Walking Tour interesting — ” the rise and decline of the Jewish population in Miami Beach.” As the woman at the info desk explained succinctly:  “Cubans.”

We all got a kick out of my namesake hotel, The Betsy, which had a small classy lobby that reminded me of Panama in its old world airiness. One of the coolest buildings turned out to be the Wolfsonian Museum on Washington Street, which houses what looked like a very interesting design museum with an Art nouveau collection among others. Lunch was Haitian food at the Tap Tap Room, a colorful place full of bold Haitian murals. Excellent  “pork chunks” and beans and rice that reminded me of food in Peru.

Tonight we had a superb dinner at Sugarcane near the Wynwood neighborhood. Creative small plates, tuna tartar on a long rice cracker; goat cheese croquettes; five spice Asian spare ribs: lamb kofka with a smear of whipped yoghurt, a delicious dessert of soft French toast with apple compote. Fun dramatic interior and very attentive service. As promised, Miami has a verve and dynamic that reminds us of a lively Latin American city.




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Little Havana (El Pub), 

img_0454We explored Little Havana today, strolling along Calle Ocho past shops selling cigars, guayabera shirts, Cuban coffee out of storefront windows and fresh mangos and coconuts. Also enjoyed the monuments to various Cuban American dignitaries, which our British friends found interesting since they recently visited Cuba, which has different heros. We had delicious Cuban iced coffee, Presidente beer and Cuban sandwiches at a outdoor high top table at El Pub and picked up some Cuban pastries at Nuevo Siglo supermercado.

img_0450 img_0452 img_0457Also enjoyed a visit to the gorgeous home of Myra’s brother in posh Coral Gables, a five minute drive from our sweet little place in Coconut Grove. can’t get enough of the flora and fauna here, the giant twisted other worldly fiscus trees, the Spanish moss dripping down over our heads, the orange, red, purple and pink bourganvilla blossoms.

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Coconut Grove, Cardon y El Tirano — Hello Miami

img_0448Greetings from paradise, a spacious bungalow tucked into the tropical jungle of Coconut Grove where we are sitting beside our small backyard pool lined with towering palm trees. The colors alone are lifting my Iowa spirits – blue sky, sun shining yellow onto the green palms, pink and orange bougainvillea spilling over the burnt red tiles of the front deck of our amazing Airbnb (4057 Malaga Avenue).

img_0453After an awful drive here on I 95 from the Fort Lauderdale airport (a crash left traffic at a standstill for an hour), the lush overgrown jungle-like roads of Coconut Grove were very welcome. Even better, Francine and Russ soon arrived, fresh off the plane from London. And then our “surprise” visitors, Myra  (from Connecticut) and daughter Emma (from Philly) knocked on our door. They are staying with Myra’s  brother in nearby Coral Gables.img_0445 img_0446

After drinks and appetizers by the pool (bought at a nearby IGA that is the fanciest IGA I’ve been to, called Milam’s) we had a fantastic dinner at a small Venezuelan restaurant Cardon y el Tirano, hidden in a strip mall at the western edge of Little Havana on Calle Ocho (SW 8th avenue). We shared little nibbles and plates of things I’ve never had before. Yucca balls, crispy pork dumplings, slices of salt-cured steak served with crispy tostones and burnt hard llanero. The desserts were crazy; one had avocado “rocks” (bits of frozen avocado) dotting a smear of Nutella with balls of sweet chocolate truffles. Meanwhile, “Anthony and cleopatra” was playing on a nearby screen, adding a touch of camp to the place.


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