Thursday, 10 July 2014

Summer in the Sunshine state - south east Florida the worlds most famous beach

We continued south from Savannah one sunny afternoon towards Daytona beach on the eastern coast of Florida . Daytona is billed as the worlds most famous beach , I had been there multiple times as a child and felt my husband should see it . It is beautifully maintained it is also one of the few beaches in the world that you can still drive and park (for a reasonable 3-5$) on .
We parked and despite the yellow flags and crashing surf the Hardwoo family headed to the beach. Calhoun tentatively  approached the water after his experience on VA beach the moment the water licked his toes he understood why I had always considered the water anywhere or anytime in Canada to be too cold. Unfortunately dogs are no longer allowed on Daytona beach. Between that and our pasty skin, our visit was relatively short but sweet soak in the crystal clear tropical waters .
Calhoun and Girlie at the sea buoy
Daytona it's self is rather run down and depressing unless your here for a Nascar event (yes this is the home of Nascar) or a motorcycle rally it's a pretty uninspiring place however the beach is well worth the visit .
From Daytona we made the push for Pompano breezing swiftly through large chunks of east Florida. Beach front mostly at night but the air was warm and pleasant we arrived after a hour long wrong turn thanks to poor GPS signal at our family friend Dave's house in the Pompano highlands . He, recovering from dental surgery, and us having been on the road a month now (and a good while in the car from Daytona) didn't last long. A couple of drinks and stories later we were all ready for a good long sleep which we engrossed into like a good book.
got enough coconuts Calhoun?
Next day the sun was shinning the weather sweet, a late morning walk to the grocery store and Calhoun whipped up a lovely breakfast , as he would do every morning of our week long stay in Pompano. I don't feel guilty in admitting we did much of nothing our first day there but watch TV take much needed showers and work on some pretty things for the Hadrwoo store, you can check some of them out if you like at
That night Dave treated us to dinner we tried for the fish shack, a favorite local hole in the wall seafood restaurant which cooks up the local catch of the day but were deterred by an hour long wait time, the tiny place being packed to the gills but apologetic none the less. Instead we dinned at seafood world don't let the kitchy name fool you this place is south Florida decadent, the front entrance is largely dedicated to their on site seafood market where you can purchase local favorites to take home. fFom out of town? don't worry they'll pack it in ice and ship it to you (no joke).

Girlie hiding from the sun under a boat
synchronized swimming in a Miami lake
The menu is adorned with huge grilled fillets of fresh fish from the on site fish market . Calhoun and Dave both opt for the catch of the day Grouper. You can have it different way,s personally I like it blackened ( Dave's choice) but it's good any style , Calhoun had his poached in a sweet sauce with artichokes and tomatoes which was also delicious. What did I have you asked? Well being a committed shellfish addict I opted for fresh jumbo shrimp stuffed with crab with a creamy lobster sauce shellfish nirvana! They were so huge I had to take two home with me . Where else can you have a meal like that in shorts and flip flops? Only south Florida, I love this place.
To see south Florida, really see it, you need to see it from a boat so that's exactly what we did Packed a cooler, donned our hats and swim suits and set out for Hillsboro inlet. Through the canals and water ways that run all over Florida there are posted and enforced speed limits largely to protect the manatees and other wildlife . On the ocean though your free to let a rip in your boat as fast as you dare , a knuckle chilling bone thumping brain rattling (and very new experience for Girlie) few minutes later we're up the beach in Boca Raton, home to more fabulous houses and palatial gardens. We cruise down the canals widow shopping houses we can't afford. Then take a quick dip in the boonies, a canal system which was once apon a time overgrown with mangroves and used by water skiers and the like for it's lack of speed limit. After at quick stop at a floating gas station and corner store we return home down the intercostal water way, a wide highway for boats that runs the length of the Atlantic side of the U.S. from Norfolk, VA to south Florida.
We spent the rest of our visit being quintessentially Floridian visiting the beach , eating, shopping and collecting coconuts. we spent most of our time at Deerfield beach, a large near by beach I remember from my childhood. Pompano Beach is also nearby but I think Deerfield is nicer and the parking is cheaper .
hanging gardens at PAMM
We left Pompano a week later with full bellies, sandy shoes and a Hadwoo filled with coconuts. Our next stop was in Miami , in everyway that Pompano is one side of the coin that is south east Florida Miami is the other streets lined with seafood shacks, pastel colored ranchers and Spanish mansions on private canals give way to world class fine dining ,sprawling urban jungle and tightknit gated communities.
We stayed in Miami for the weekend, took in the visually stunning Perez Art Museum Miami. This, the city's newest gallery in three levels of modern space displaying a wonderfully varied collection of works spanning from modern to contemporary. The huge glass window span celling to floor providing a picturesque view of  the harbor on the entrance level you walk under the unique hanging gardens which are in them selves a spectacular work of modern art . A bit peckish from our day of art walking we stopped for a bite at the Verde restaurant and bar inside the PAMM itself , they serve up light sandwiches, wraps and Italian style pizza along side fruity cocktails and specialty coffee and tea drinks. We split a margarita pizza which made for a lovely fresh midday snack washed down with sweet tea.
outside the Clyde Butcher gallery
That night my Aunt and uncle took us to La Carreta a busy restaurant serving traditional Cuban food  which was tasty and filling. Calhoun had a Cuban sampler platter which included grilled plantains , boiled yucca , roasted pork shredded beef and of course rice and black beans , a good way to try a little of everything.
The house we were staying in was built on stilts over a beautiful placid lake which is home to many turtles, toads and birds , needless to say we spent plenty of time relaxing in and near it.
behind us in above picture
The day we were planning on leaving one of Florida's pounding rainstorms blew in and we decided it was in our better interest to make for the everglades the following day.
also behind us
The 41 offers a fabulous drive through the everglades the best way to see in is on an air boat tour run by a local chief but highway 41 is a close second. Aside from the airboat tours the everglades is breathtakingly desolate, it's main inhabitants being alligators, mosquitoes and abandoned pet pythons that grow to enormous size in the protected national park (yes this really
happens and it's not as amusing as you think as they are actually causing a lot of real problems for the native animals).
Another excellent way to see the everglades is through the photographs of Clyde Butcher who's oversized works have a lovely little gallery on the west side of the park right on highway 41, it also has a cute little nature trail behind it which gives you just a little look into how beautiful life can be among the mangroves. If you take the trail you will doubtless see how an artist could make this place his life's work but bug spray is a must (seriously it's bad ) .
Back on the road and now for another way to see the everglades in the sleepy town of everglades city from a quirky lakeside seafood restaurant featuring some of the areas most prominent stars gators and frogs deep fried for your enjoyment , uummmm tastes like chicken , fishy chicken . All topped off with a slice of authentic key lime pie .

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