Thursday, January 7, 2016

Christmas and New Year's Week - Miami

Off the cruise ship December 20th and drove to Doral, FL to meet the homeowners, Dora and Jerry and pets. Nice people and cute big orange cats. Glad Paco has a white chest or it would be hard to tell them apart - well length of hair would be a huge clue. Here are who we took care of, including a few feral cats.
Lazy bums

Paco - a cutie

Nico.  A big fur ball and he reminded me so
much of my kitty Boots.  This cat can purr.

Next day drove Dora and Jerry to the airport for their trip to Argentina.  On the way home did a little exploring and looking for a restaurant/bakery called Patagonia.  In that pursuit we ran into two unbelievable bakeries.  One was international and we had two empanadas and a pastry each there.  Then into another bakery to look and also found a French bakery.  I may move down here just for the pastry.  We finally found Patagonia and had a few more empanadas. We had to do a taste test didn't we?

Stocked up on groceries, got some monster shrimp for our Christmas Eve dinner, along with staples for our 10 days here.  Home, some TV and then to bed.

Next day was going to get up, but I think we were pooped with our trip so we got up late, spent time with kitties, finished my cruise blog and I made a nice dinner of chicken fajitas.  To bed early as we plan to get up early and head to Everglades National Park.

The Everglades were interesting.  So many wonderful birds, saw a few alligators. Such an important wetlands and water system.  Nice day.

Too the 15 mile tram ride

Usually dry season here, but they had lots of rain

Neat viewing tower - looks futuristic

Butterflies were very cooperative

An Anhinga (male)

We saw several gators from the tram, but couldn't get a picture.
Later we walked a bit and got our only gator picture.  He was big.

Christmas Eve and a lovely day.  Off to church in Coral Gables at 3:00 p.m.  A nice service in the chapel and a beautiful church with a wonderful nativity at the front door.  We had dinner at Famous Dave's BBQ and took home dinner for tomorrow too.  Some traveling years we've been at Denny's. So funny, so nontraditional. 

They had a wonderful nativity

Trumpet was interesting

Quite a nice chapel

Christmas Eve BBQ, no complaints here.

Zoo Miami on Christmas Day, how nice.  Zoo was actually open half day so we went and it wasn't really crowded which was nice.  A pretty big zoo.  We saw several animals that we had never seen before and we've been to many zoos. Weather was in the 80's and pretty humid, but we had a nice breeze.  They are making lots of changes and improvements and the animals seem to be pretty content here and have room to roam.

Look at those teeth. 

This huge rock formation looks like a turtle head

Never had seen this bird before.  The coloring was beautiful.
Double Wattled Cassowary

Right before we got to the tiger we could hear him growling.
Hot day and he got into the water for a short soak.  One of my
favorite animals and extremely endangered.

This is bright green.

The crocodile monitor is thought to be the longest lizard in the world.
 Its tail is twice as long as its head and body.

Galapagos turtle, he was fun to watch.

These hold 5 people and rent for $25 half an hour.  Wow.

Beautiful carp

 My favorite sighting of the day.  What a magnificent bird.

Pretty birds.  I enjoy birds now that we've moved to Florida.

I think tapirs are cute.  Like half pig, half elephant.

The next day was mellow.  John took the car in for oil change and then we spent the afternoon at the pools.  This place is just like a resort.  Has a little cafe with good prices and they serve beer and all kinds of cocktails, a warmer pool, cooler pool and jacuzzi.  Beautiful grounds, plenty of chairs and tables, so what's not to love.  We ate at home and had our traditional Christmas shrimp cocktail a day late.

Children's pool, playground and volley ball

Several lanes for lap swimming, pool area and this is pool 1
It is a lightly heated pool and I was able to walk right in.


Pool #2 - no one was it it, too cold.

The next day we returned to the zoo to finish the half we didn't get to see.  Sure don't remember doing that years ago - zoo, two days, but that walking just can poop us out.  But we had to see the African animals, the huge ones and I love giraffes so it was really neat.  Sort of cool too because when you keep your receipt and return to the zoo within 7 days, it only costs $7.00, so you can't beat that deal.

Well, you know I love corny pictures.
How could I resist.

My favorites.

This Gerenuk is the most delicate animal I've ever seen.  We watched
 them for a long time, so interesting how they stand to get leaves.  

We were fascinated watching him eat.

John found his pot of gold at the zoo.

Our next adventure was an air boat ride.  Can't live in Florida and not do this.  We headed out to Coopertown and had a good time in the Everglades again.

Pre ride nature talk, demos.  Showed us some snakes and this
Florida snapping turtle.  You do not want to play with these guys.

It is weird when you leave the main canal and go off into
the saw grass.  You think you are going to come to a screeching 
stop but the air boat just keeps going.  I had to get used to that.

See the gator (left side).  We saw several, but I was on the 
wrong side of the boat to get pictures.

Back to the dock.

I had read about a lighthouse so the next day we drove over to Key Biscayne, a neat little island joined by causeways.  We wanted to see the Bill Baggs State Park and the Cape Florida Lighthouse.  This land was saved from development by Bill Baggs who championed a many year effort.  It is wonderful that this area has been saved for the people.

There are several fishing piers 

Man just caught a fish.  This is path to lighthouse.

They saved this lighthouse, originally built in 1835 and a ton of money was
spent on restoration.  It was worth every penny -- so picturesque.

Green leaves to red - so pretty

Fast iguanas.  These are not used to people.

View from our table at lunch at the Ritz Carlton
Last lunch of the year - Mexican food, of course.
Most expensive lunch we ever had.

Our New Year's Eve celebration because we're not going
to be out in the chaos tonight.
Delicioso - cochinita pibil tacos

Key Biscayne Beach with Miami in the background.
Nice way to spend the last day of the year.

Lobby - Ritz Carlton I had to touch these roses to see if they were real
 - they were.  I could not really believe any place would have a bouquet like this.

They are getting ready for New Year's, looked so pretty.

Bathroom - such quality.  Surely out of our price range.  Hard to
believe prices.  Each paper towel here probably cost .25 each

 View from causeway park.  Miami is a very beautiful
city, looks like the TV shows.

Good bye Miami.  This is as close as we are getting with the holiday
season.  We didn't even go down to South Beach.  Just too much
traffic and people.  At least we'd already been down there once for a few
hours.  This whole area is nuts with traffic, people and prices.

Took New Year's Day off to rest and the next day we again headed into Miami to visit Vizcaya - a former estate of 180 acres that the family sold to Miami-Dade County. It is quiet unlike anything we'd ever seen. Quite impressive. No photographs were allowed inside the mansion.

The Barge
a stone breakwater for the house's harbor

Over 70 rooms

An entire area made of coral

Thought the variegated colors were pretty.

This couple was getting wedding photos
taken.  So sweet and a beautiful background.

Saw this man statute

Across path was a same type statute
of a woman and when I walked around the
side, I saw it was two in one.


A wonderful day here.  Felt like
we'd been to Europe.

Rated best pork in Miami.
Our last dinner and it was wonderful.

Sunday up at 5:00 a.m., did wash, changed bed, straightened up and then around 7:30 a.m. went to airport to pick up Dora and Jerry.  Great drive right up to the airport where it came to a screeching halt.  Last holiday day and airport was a madhouse.  Finally saw them, took them home, visited a minute and then we were ready to go home.  One last stop at bakery on our way out of town.

Stopped in Englewood to see our friends Debbie and Larry and we met their friends Kate and Paul who live in Canada.  Great folks and Larry made delicious split pea soup/stew, eclairs we brought for dessert, and a short visit.  Home in the rain, and it felt good to walk in our door.  Ready to be home awhile.

Luckily with all the eating out and pastry, pastry I ate and prior cruise, I did not gain any weight.  Must have been all the walking we did so that was excellent news.  Going to start the new year working on being healthier by eating better and exercise -- all in moderation.  But nice to have a good goal and I need to get in shape for our next adventure.