Archive for October 6th, 2021

October 6, 2021

My memorable restaurants of Florida !!

I believe have written on them on general posts of places to see, however, feel obligated to keep them firmly in my blog with a post of their own, This time will take you to a cherish place of mine where I lived for 18 years, that is Florida to remember my favorite restaurants! Of course these are not all, but the best with pictures that I have, Hope you enjoy the memorable moments and can come and visit them one day. Thanks for reading me since November 2010 !!!

Miami’s original Cuban kitchen , La Carreta (the wagon) was born out of the growing demand for an authentic cultural Cuban hub.  A Cuban family-owned establishment, it continues to be a staple of  old Cuba’s family dining traditions of “grandmother style” food and famous Cuban espresso. To characterize Cuban food in terms of other cuisines, it’s basically a fusion of Spanish, French, African and Caribbean cuisines, drawing many distinctive flavors from each of these, with heavy influences of garlic, citrus, and sugar cane. As a restaurant, you don’t stick around for more than 40 years and expand into a local chain if you’re not doing something right. And for La Carreta, that something is food. Lots of it. Though you’ll find some Spanish-inspired dishes, you can’t go wrong by sticking to Cuban classics like ropa vieja (shredded beef cooked with onions and Cuban mojo sauce (coming from Tenerife, and the word use later to describe the mojito drink or little mojo !) , served with rice and sweet plantains) and boliche (pot roast stuffed with chorizo). Even when the restaurant is packed, the waiters are great at making you feel like you have all the time in the world to figure out what it is you want to eat. They’ll help you figure that out, too, if you want, they’re full of suggestions, and recommendations. But mainly they’re super-friendly and fast. Each day, the restaurant offers a selection of three or four specials, and weekday lunch deals ! Expect large portions on the plates and a backroom café for strong Cuban coffee, sweet pastries and sugarcane juice. Though most of the ordering happens at the walk-up coffee window, serving up flaky pastelitos and espressos until the wee hours. We came to them many times and our favorite family location were at the International Mall parking lot outside the mall right next to the Dolphin Expressway (State road 836) coming from Miami Beach at NW 107 ave. you see it from the Expressway. Another location we went is the original restaurant at SW 8th street Miami. And by now, they even have branches closer to my old home in Miramar, Pembroke Pines!!!

La Carreta webpage: http://lacarreta.com/locations/

miami-front-la-carreta PF-aug09

Another dandy is TGI Fridays reputation as the best corner bar in town started in Manhattan in 1965 and my fav location was near Sawgrass Mill Mall in SunriseBroward County,  just north of my old home.  Located near W Sunrise Blvd & Yellow Toucan Rd, proudly bringing you the best local mix of food, fun, and handcrafted cocktails. Many times here with the family! Sawgrass Mills shopping center is huge, I mean huge  ,one of the biggest if not the biggest mall in the USA, and Florida’s largest.  Also, tried them while visiting the USA at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport near Gate B19.  They were in Paris, France at 8, Rue Du Faubourg Montmartre 9éme,  but departed by 2013 and not back yet. Also, tried them near one of my old homes in Ormond Beach, FL!  However, they are in Spain and have tried their Madrid branch (calle Virgen de los Peligros)  as well as Prague,(Nádražní 110) Czech Republic!! The TGIF Florida locations webpage: https://locations.tgifridays.com/fl.html

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Another twist on the above is Applebees!  They are  your go-to restaurant for burgers, chicken, steaks, and the infamous riblets all served in a relaxed family-friendly environment. And don’t forget to checkout  their Neighborhood Drink of the Month special. Applebee was Established in 1980 originally base at Kansas City Missouri, later in 2015 relocated to Glendale, California. The first restaurant opened in November 1980 in Decatur, Georgia. Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar offers a lively casual dining experience combining simple, craveable American fare, classic drinks and local drafts. Now that’s Eatin’ Good in the Neighborhood. a chain where the the ambiance is more towards sports decorated walls, location been to Sunrise and Doral by Miami (both now closed here for the memories). I have gone for the trios and seafood platters with plenty of beers.  They now have a new location closer to my old last home there in Pembroke Pines! 

The Applebees’ restaurant webpage on locations in Flhttps://restaurants.applebees.com/en-us/fl/

Miami Applebee by doral aug09

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Another family souvenir is the  Latin American Bayside Cuban Café at 401 Biscayne Blvd, Miami, in the Bayside Marketplace right at the entrance to the Port of Miami.  Awesome food and the Cuban sandwich & coffee are to die for. Great service n friendly staff. Made us go back again everyday while we were there.  For the big eaters this cantine type restaurant is a go and the possibility of choosing from a large selection of salads, meat grills all you can eat. There is a wine cellar and drinks but small selection. However, the location is superb in downtown/city center Miami. The Latin American Bayside Cuban Café  has a nice location, with a small indoor seating area and bar, and a much larger outdoor patio, so you can overlooki Bayside’s harbor a wonderful tropical escape with boating cruises on Miami harbor by the port of Miami and passing by the home of the famous.  This restaurant has closed due to covid they say, unfortunately; here for the memories! They still have a webpage on here: https://latin-american-bayside-cafe.business.site/

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Another hugely favorite of ours is the Columbia Restaurant; we have been to the original in Tampa and also, St Augustine.  Founded in 1905 by Cuban-Spanish immigrant Casimiro Hernandez, Sr., the Columbia Restaurant is Florida’s oldest restaurant, and the largest Spanish restaurant in the world. It began in Tampa’s Ybor City, (from city area founder Vicente Ybor of tobacco fame) as a small 60-seat corner cafe known for its Cuban coffee and authentic Cuban sandwiches, frequented by the local cigar workers. To this day, more than 116 years since it first openedthe Columbia remains in the same family. Over the years, Columbia Restaurant has attracted some of the most well known athletes and entertainers from yesteryear to today. From Babe Ruth to Derek Jeter, Lou Piniella, Ken Griffey Jr. and Barry Larkin, from Liberace to Bruce Springsteen, Steven Tyler of Aerosmith and Brian Johnson of ACDC, from Jack Dempsey and Rocky Marciano to Evander Holyfield, from Marilyn Monroe and Liza Minelli to Bo Derek, everyone enjoys the Columbia.  Other recent visitors include George Clooney, Stephen King, Bryant Gumbel, Brooke Shields, and Lauren Hutton. The restaurant’s wine list contains more than 1,056 wines with an inventory exceeding 50,000 bottles, and Columbia has won several awards for their Spanish wines. The restaurant features performances of flamenco, one of Spain’s traditional dances. another wonderful Florida combination of shopping, food, and games for the whole family! The other exquisite Columbia Restaurant we have been sits in the heart of St. Augustine in the historic district of the nation’s oldest city, which was founded in 1565. Located in the heart of the historic district at the corner of Hypolita and St. George Streets. We used to lived 45 min from it and visited often!!  Ybor City is a district comprised of cobblestone streets and brick buildings that are an architectural fusion with strong Cuban/Spanish influences. The area reeks with history, for example President Teddy Roosevelt stayed there during the Spanish American War as did Sr. Winston Churchill who was reporting on the war for the London Daily Graphic.

The Columbia restaurant webpage on locations bottom page: https://www.columbiarestaurant.com/

The Ybor City webpage on the Columbiahttps://yborcityonline.com/columbia-restaurant/

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And now two of my favorite French hangouts while living in Florida USA.

The Royal French Bakery, was run by Christian from Lyon, so it was heavens, now closed ,but post for the memories.  We had our Büche de Nôel always done here as was not sold to the public for lack of knowledge of it;  ordered by my dear late wife Martine. The Royal French Bakery was South Miami’s go-to boulangerie/patisserie, with all that you’d expect from a French bakery (tarts, macarons, croissants galore), plus salads, sammies and cafe au laits. You can score the flaky, buttery treats in flavors like guava, ham & cheese and almond, to name a few of the goodies we got here over the years. The location was at  7370 SW 57th Ave, South Miami, FL 33143.Just off Sunset Ave or NW 72 St. 

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Pleasant to verify the Croissan’Time Bakery at 1201 N Federal Hwy, Fort Lauderdale, FL is still there! This bistro, bakery, and grocery store opened in 1986 by Bernard Casse, from  Port-Sainte-Marie in the region of Lot & Garonne France and very nice guy!! We came here for everything French even paying more for import taxes. He had started as a bakery in the southwest of France in the 1960’s and arrived in the USA in 1978. He began working in several establishments such as the prestigious La Grenouille, New York, before starting his own business.  In his team there was also Matthieu Cartron, that had worked in France, Saint-Martin, and New York, that came to lent a hand as well as the baker Garry Petigny. All the breads of Croissan’Time  are done on site from scratch à la Française bien sûr!!! 

The official Croissan’Time Bakery webpage: http://www.croissantime.com/

fll-croissantime

And to show how the French community of Florida mingles and get to know each other as we had for many years there from 1990 to 2003; Miami Accueil is managed by the Consulat de France de Miami (very helpful understanding group who helped us immensily the transition from USA to France! merci!) and put together all the French residents in its jurisdiction. The group was done to share activities with French families of all sorts. Here for information for those French there and those thinking of coming to live in France, very helpful.

The Miami Accueil webpage: https://www.miami-accueil.org/lassociation/

There you go folks,  try to be as brief as possible for all these souvenirs of my life ,never to be forgotten and thanks WordPress for allowing me to share it here for my memories and the enjoyment of others. Hope it helps.

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

October 6, 2021

Wonderful Key Biscayne!!!

And again, this is a find from my vault! After trying to update several posts realised not written fully about this memorable spot in my previous life in Florida USA. It’s a must to visit while in the Miami area. Let me tell you a bit about the wonderful Key Biscayne!!!

Key Biscayne is located on an island in Miamli-Dade County, and the State of Florida, near Miami. The village of Key Biscayne incorporated in 1991. The northern part of Key Biscayne is home to Crandon Park, a county park. The central section of the island is home to the village of Key Biscayne. The southern part of the island is the Cape Florida.  The island is connected to Miami by the Rickenbacker Causeway (glorious ride !!) which was built in 1947. Alongside the old bridge, now used as a fishing pier, stands a taller and newer arched structure built to serve the population growing area of ​​the island and the many boaters who sail in Biscayne Bay. It cost you $1.50 for entry to Key Biscayne island (provide change !), and $ 5 for entry to the park beaches.

key-biscayne entrance to the key 2009

Key Biscayne is approximately 8 km or about 5 miles long and 1,5 to 3 km or 1 to 2 miles wide. The northern end of the island is separated from another barrier island, Virginia Key, and Bear Passage. The southern end of the island is Cape Florida. The Cape Florida Channel separates the Island from Safety Valve, an expanse of shallow channels cut by tidal channels that run south about 14,5 km or 9 miles to Keys Ragged at the north end of the Florida Key.

key biscayne over to beach bill boggs mia skyline aug09

The wonderful Crandon Park is two-mile stretch of wide sandy beach and calm waters draws locals and visitors from around the world , and yes is very nice I went there as my favorite spot, You also, have the Crandon Golf at Key Biscayne, a championship 18-hole golf course and the former site of the Senior PGA Tour and one of America’s top 75 upscale courses by Golf Digest. The park offers a world class 26 court tennis facility ; The Tennis Center, which was also the former host site of the PGA Open from 1987-2018.

The highlight to eat here and one of my favorite , this brings me lots of memories was the Rusty Pelican restaurant, An iconic restaurant. With its elegant waterfront setting and floor-to-ceiling windows perched above a marina, a meal here is accompanied with dazzling views of Biscayne Bay and Downtown Miami’s skyline. And still going strong!!!  Webpage : http://www.therustypelican.com/

As you continue along the causeway toward the village of Key Biscayne, you’ll cross through Virginia Key , also home to one of the destination’s classic attractions, the Miami Seaquarium (see post) .

And finally ,you reach the Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park a natural paradise at the southern tip of Key Biscayne. The beach here was our favorite and I came even as a boy with my parents and local family aunt and cousins, You can climb to the top of the lighthouse for fantastic views, walk along tree-lined trails and soak up the sun on the beach , Built in 1825, Cape Florida Lighthouse offers one-of-a-kind views from its wraparound balcony. Climb the 109 spiral steps and emerge to bird’s-eye views of the Atlantic Ocean, the floating homes of Stiltsville, Cape Florida, Key Biscayne and world-famous Miami Beach. Bill Baggs’ beach has been ranked as one of the country’s top ten beaches and is a great place to relax and soak up the sun. Over a mile of the beach is open for swimming, but note that there are no lifeguards on duty. No problems at all safe for the whole family ! The park is also part of the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom heritage preservation program, commemorating the journey of escaped slaves to the British Bahamas.

key biscayne

key biscayne cape boggs lighthouse beach the boys aug2009

Some webpages to help you plan your trip and is a must are

The Village of Key Biscayne parkshttps://keybiscayne.fl.gov/parks___recreation/parks___beaches/index.php

The Village of Key Biscayne on the history of the village and the islandhttps://keybiscayne.fl.gov/uniquely_kb/about_key_biscayne/index.php

The Miami and beaches tourist office on Key Biscaynehttps://www.miamiandbeaches.com/neighborhoods/key-biscayne

The State of Florida tourist board on Key Biscaynehttps://www.visitflorida.com/places-to-go/southeast/key-biscayne/

There you go folks, now I feel better to have this wonderful piece of my life in my blog. Key Biscayne brings a lot of memories we were there last in 2009. Hope it helps you come and enjoy it as we did.

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

October 6, 2021

West Florida!!!

Ok here trying my creative mind or lack of lol!! hard to come up with titles but just glance at some old pictures and gave me the idea to do this post on three cities of West Florida dear to me. I have several posts on last stronghold in the United States, but not enough on the cities of Tampa, Cape Coral,and Fort Myers. I will try to bring them to life in my blog for memories’s sake. Hope you enjoy it as I.

Let me introduce to you the city of Tampa in the county seat of Hillsborough on the west coast of the State of Florida. It is located about 300 km from Miami, on Tampa Bay. It was discovered in the early 16C by the Spaniards, the town was founded around Fort Brooke.

The conquistador Pánfilo de Narváez was the first European to discover the Tampa region in April 1528. The following year, another Spaniard, Hernando de Soto, rescued the members of the Narvaez expedition. In the 18C, the region of Tampa saw the installation of Cuban fishermen, in the current district of Hyde Park. When Great Britain acquired Florida in 1763, in the treaty of Paris (Spain, GB, Cuba) ,the bay was baptized Hillsborough Bay (which is the name of the river). After a second period of Spanish domination, the Territory of Florida integrated the United States in 1821,finally becoming the 27th State in March 3,1845.

Tampa was a major center of cigar production, when Vicente Martinez Ybor relocated his tobacco factories from Key West to Tampa in 1886 (after coming from Cuba to Key West). Tobacco was imported from Cuba and processed by Cuban and Spanish workers. At its peak, Ybor City had nearly 12,000 tabaqueros (cigar workers) in 200 factories ! There are still a couple left in Ybor City (name after Vicente) , The Ybor City district has many historic buildings, including two former cigar factories, the El Pasaje Hotel, the Ritz Theater and the Ferlita Bakery, which now houses the Ybor City State Museum. It was the center of Cuban revolutionary actions for independence from Spain.

In 1891, Henry B. Plant had the Tampa Bay Hotel built in the then fashionable Moorish style. 400 meters long and with more than 500 rooms, it was equipped with electric lighting and the city’s first elevator. The building is a testament to the tourist boom in Florida in the last years of the 19C. Three years after its closure in 1930, its premises were taken over by the University of Tampa (which I played soccer against them) In 1956 the University of South Florida was created (which I played soccer against them and had my girlfriend from PA,,,).

The city of Tampa on thing to do/see : https://www.tampa.gov/info/things-to-do

The Tampa Bay tourist office : https://www.visittampabay.com/

I have several cousins living here now, and been visited this city since 1985 to 2009 my last coming for a visit from France, The wonderful road I4 reach the Tampa area from Orlando and Daytona Beach areas, I remember fondly visiting Busch Gardens (a zoo and beer park owned by Budweiser), Ybor City , where you will find the oldest Spanish restaurant in the USA ,est, 1905. Columbia our home away from home wherever they were in Florida, several location now.  Also Shells restaurant home of show business,  and shopping at Channelside, Hyde Park Village, Westshore Plaza,and Ybor City own stores. Also, the Florida AquariumLowry Park Zoo, etc ; nice memories here. I ,when not with family stayed in nice hotels like the Grand Hyatt, Marriotts, Intercontinental,Embassy Suites, and Holiday Inn Busch Gardens locations.

tampa busch gardens MF et boys c1998

tampa shells resto MF et PF c1998

The memories of going to Tampa Stadium at 4201 North Dale Mabry Highway are huge this stadium was called Houlihan’s Stadium from 1996-1998 known also as the Big Sombrero (hat), then demolished to built the  Raymond James Stadium. The new Raymond James stadium webpage : https://raymondjamesstadium.com/

And for the historical incline like me info on the old Tampa Stadium where I cam to see the Tampa Bay Rowdies (NASL) football/soccer team with leyends like Rodney Marsh,  etc!! : http://football.ballparks.com/NFL/TampaBayBucs/oldindex.htm

I have an old picture from the later name Steinbreinner stadium for the spring training of the New York Yankees baseball team, my team since birth, their webpage : https://www.gmsfield.com/directions-and-parking

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The city of Fort Myers is the seat of Lee County. The city is named in honor of military officer Abraham Myers. On May 10, 1904, access to Fort Myers was improved with the arrival of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad from Punta Gorda, Fort Myers stretched along the winding banks of the Caloosahatchee River. While the urban expansion of recent decades has pushed the city limits beyond Interstate 75 or I-75 and into the neighboring towns of North Fort Myers and Cape Coral across the river, the city center, now renovated, with its restaurants and old houses, attracts tourists. The city of Ft Myers on things to do/see : https://cityftmyers.com/1744/Venues-Attractions

As we had and still have cousins nearby we came by here a lot for a long period, One thing that took us in with the boys was the Seminole Gulf Railway trains, This is a short line freight and passenger excursion train base in Fort Myers, The run we took ran from Arcadia south to North Naples via Punta Gorda, Fort Myers, Estero and Bonita Springs ! Memories of parenthood in my dear Florida, They did operated a more adult ride still doing call the Murder Mystery Dinner train running weekday nights year around at the stop in Colonial Boulevard.

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The official Seminole Gulf Railway webpage : https://semgulf.com/

The Florida State tourist board on the train ridehttps://www.visitflorida.com/travel-ideas/articles/seminole-gulf-railway-train-rides-from-fort-myers/

The city of Cape Coral is in Lee County. The town contains one of the largest canal networks in the world (640 km) on the edge of which many houses are built which have direct access to these canals via a pontoon, Most of these canals are navigable and allow access to the Gulf of Mexico. Cape Coral is a large peninsula and is bordered by the Caloosahatchee River. The town of Fort Myers sits on the south shore of the river.  The town’s origins can be traced back to 1957 when developers Leonard and Jack Rosen purchased 270 square kilometers of land in Lee County for $ 678,000. The development of the city began in 1958: canals were dug, streets cobbled, houses and businesses built. The first homes were completed in May 1958 on Riverside Drive and Flamingo Drive. My parents also had two lots to build here but sold them as they left with us to France, we did spent many trips here to see them and check out the development then, cousins still there they follow us for the purchase and built their homes.

The city of Cape Coral on things to do /seehttps://www.capecoral.gov/department/parks_and_recreationhome/beaches.php

You can reach it from the I4 to the I75 south or the Tamiami Trail I75 all the way to Cape Coral  , When visiting we stayed at the Holiday Inn Express  at the entrance to the city nice property, as well as the Casa Loma Motel (now management and new name here for the memories).  Shopping best is by the Coralwood Shopping Center or the Miromar Outlet mall other land side of the I-75.

cape coral casa loma hotel MF boys c1997

I am doing the post as found couple pictures from the bridge crossing into the Cape Coral Gulf side, The Cape Coral Bridge spans the Caloosahatchee River connecting McGregor and Cape Coral. It is made up of two parallel fixed spans, each 3,400 feet (1,000 m) long. The original span opened for traffic on March 14, 1964, with one lane in each direction , The Cape Coral Bridge was the only link between Fort Myers and Cape Coral until 1997, when the Midpoint Memorial Bridge opened just north of the Cape Coral Bridge on the Caloosahatchee River now allows Colonial Boulevard to extend, connecting to Veterans Parkway on the other side of the river. The Lee County webpage on the bridges :https://www.leegov.com/dot/tolls/lw_facilities/cc

cape coral intracoastal bridge jun2002

cape coral intracoastal bridge crossing jun2002

For reference, the Florida State tourist board on the Central West and Southwest areas: https://www.visitflorida.com/places-to-go/

There you go folks, a short but very memorable post to have on West Florida in my blog for us. Hopefully, it will help your planning too visiting a wonderful part of my dear Florida. I lived first 13 yrs in Central NJ and the last there 18 yrs in Central and South Florida before coming for good to France already 18 yrs here!!! (8 Yvelines 78 and 10 Morbihan 56)!!!  A lovely life only cut short for losses to dear mom and wife. Enjoy the post as I doing it for you and me.

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

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