Eighty years ago, where Orion sits on her mooring today, we would be in a prime spot to watch the comings and goings of PanAm’s Clipper fleet, sea planes that ferried passengers to all of its Latin American destinations. The vestiges of this era are seen in the model planes in the Marina office along with the sample menus (e.g. filet mignon) and pictures of luxurious aircraft interiors. The Miami City Hall next door was the main terminal and the old hangars are now boat storage for the nearby Grove Key Marina. This was a major transportation hub in its day.
As with any big city, Miami offers lots to see and do. We started our touring by heading downtown to the Visitor’s Bureau. We found information in a guidebook that said this was on the 27th floor of a skyscraper downtown, but when we got there, there was nothing at ground level that confirmed this. We took a chance, walked into the sleek Bank of America building and walked on to the first open elevator. Oops. Not so fast. Apparently, these elevators don’t have buttons inside them. Instead you walk up to a console outside the elevator, key in the floor you want, then it tells you which one to get on. The elevator goes straight to that floor – fast. When we got off, we were greeted and welcomed with an overwhelming amount of information and brochures, even a PC with internet access. Then there was the amazing view from this office – of downtown Miami, the port. It was definitely worth the trip. We got more information about possible things to do that would help guide us through our visit.
It’s hard to talk about our day in the Everglades without a sense of awe. It was a nearly perfect day – sunny, windy and cool. With it being the dry season, the animals were gathered together more than in the wetter months. Along the popular Anhinga Trail, we were standing next to alligators, herons, egrets, nesting anhingas, purple gallinules, and on and on. They were incredibly close and almost completely unfazed by our proximity. It was hard to know where to look with so much going on. The alligators were everywhere, simply sunning themselves on any higher ground they could find. The nearby birds wandered around them, apparently unafraid of becoming the next item on the menu.
The Fairchild gardens were created in the last century by reclaiming 60 acres of mangrove swamp to transform them into gardens that recreate everything from desert landscape to a rainforest. Within the gardens are endless varieties of tropical plants, augmented by the placement of several sculptures from a traveling exhibit by the LaLannes and Yoko Ono’s Wishing Tree. We had a wonderful walking tour by a volunteer guide that was amazingly knowledgeable about seemingly every plant and tree that we passed. Then we took a tram tour which gave us an overview of all of the park grounds. It was a beautiful, idyllic landscape.
We plan to stay in Miami through the Boat Show weekend (Feb 17 – 21) and then plan to look for weather to move into the Florida Keys and Marathon. We have found a couple of other boats with the same general agenda and we might find some traveling companions to make the next hop. In the meantime, we’ll get the most out of our stay here. It’s not too hard to bear.