Posts tagged ‘Americas’

November 27, 2020

The St Johns river!!!

Ok so this is new, because I found me a picture! I like to document my memories in my blog if I can find a picture! In my road warrior ways I criss cross the State of Florida USA many times. I have great memories of youthful reverence in these towns going out and meeting friends, even long time friends that are still in touch with me.

Therefore, let me tell you about the St Johns river of Florida! For starter, my personal recollection tells me of my passing on the SR 40 from Ormond Beach (I lived) to Ocala (cousin lives there) near Lake George. Along SR 17 to Palatka and Gainesville (UF home!), and by Jacksonville (old school friend there) the river on the I 95 and driving a boat on the St Johns passing by Mayport the US naval base! Wonderful memories glad to add them to my blog!

The history and places I love to recount and great memories of passing by these towns for many years. Hope you enjoy it and thanks for reading.

The Saint Johns River from the Spanish; San Juan del Puerto is the longest waterway in the state of Florida. it stretches over a length of 500 km (about 310 mi), winding through or on the border of twelve counties!. The river is one of the few rivers in the United States to have a north-facing channel. Many lakes are formed by or drain into the river and the maximum width of its bed is 4.8 km, spanning several kms between the towns of Palatka and Jacksonville, the latter city being the largest urban area on the river. The narrowest point of the bed is at its source, a non-navigable swamp in Indian River County. With a watershed of 22,900 square kilometers, the Saint Johns is one of Florida’s major inland wetlands. The river has been the subject of journals by naturalist William Bartram, books by writer Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, and letters by writer Harriet Beecher Stowe.

Having its source in Indian River County and emptying into the Atlantic Ocean in Duval County, the Saint Johns is Florida’s main commercial and recreational waterway. It flows north from its source in the direction of Lake Wales Ridge which is located at an elevation slightly higher than 9.1 meters above sea level. Due to this reliable elevation, the course of water has little current. Indian River County is where the river begins. Originally, it was more of a swamp system, in St. Johns marsh (“swamp”) in west of the town of Vero Beach in central Florida. The upper basin measures approximately 5,200 square km. The river turns into a waterway in the next county, to the north, Brevard County. The stream passes close to Osceola and Orange counties, then crosses Seminole County and enters the Middle Basin north of the town of Titusville. The length of the river through the upper basin is approximately 121 km.

The middle basin of over 60 km long, the river passes through a basin of 3,100 square km mainly supplied by springs and stormwater runoff. This basin, covering part of Orange, Lake, Volusia, and Seminole counties, is home to the greater Orlando metropolitan area. Widening to a bed 2.4 meters deep and about 91 meters wide after leaving Lake Monroen the Saint Johns meets its most important tributary in the middle basin, the Wekiva River. Near this confluence are the towns of DeBary and Deltona.

The riverbed turns north again as it passes through a 190 square km basin through Putnam, Lake, Marion counties and the western part of Volusia County. Slightly north of the Wekiva is Blue Spring, the largest spring in the Saint Johns with over 240,000,000 liters per day. The Florida springs remain at a temperature of 72F or about 22 C throughout the year. For this reason, Blue Spring is occupied in the winter by Caribbean manatees which are protected in Blue Spring State Park. Bordering the northern Blue Spring State Park, is the State Park of Hontoon Island accessible only by boat. The Saint Johns enters the southern tip of Lake George, the second largest lake in Florida at nearly 190 km in area, 9.7 km wide and 12 km long. The Ocklawaha River flows into the Saint Johns and is its largest tributary, with significant historical significance. The Ocklawaha watershed stretches across Orange, Lake, Marion and Alachua counties for a total of 7,170 km2. The towns of Ocala, Gainesville, and the northern suburbs of the Orlando metro area lie within this basin.

Stretching 163 km from the confluence with the Ocklawaha River to the Atlantic Ocean, the Saint Johns lies in the lower basin with a total area of 6,700 km2 in the counties of Putnam, Saint Johns, Clay and by Duval. Twelve tributaries flow into the river in this area. The bed of the Saint Johns widens considerably at the north end of Lake George; between Lake George and the town of Palatka, the river varies between 180 and 800 meters in width and then between Palatka and Jacksonville, it widens between 1.6 and 4.8 km. This portion of the river is the most navigable and river transport is its main human use.The tides cause seawater to enter the mouth of the river and can affect the water level in the middle basin. As a result, much of the river water in Jacksonville is salt water, making it an estuary-like ecosystem.

sanford st john river passing by to Orlando 2009

The final 56 km of the river’s course crosses Jacksonville, a major city in Florida.The United States Navy has two bases in the Jacksonville area: the Mayport Naval Base at the mouth of the river is the country’s second port for the fleet of the Atlantic Ocean, while the Jacksonville Naval Air Station is primarily a Navy airport.

Some webpages on the tourism side are

The Florida tourist board on the St Johns riverhttps://www.visitflorida.com/en-us/cities/jacksonville/along-the-st-johns-river.html

The Jacksonville tourist office on waterways: https://www.visitjacksonville.com/things-to-do/beaches-water/

Some webpages on the technical side of understanding the St Johns river:

The environmental group St Johns Riverkeeps on its protection: https://www.stjohnsriverkeeper.org/about-us/

St Johns river water management districthttps://www.sjrwmd.com/

And those who helps keep it clean as well as creating waterways ,the United States Army Corps of Engineers or USACE: https://www.usace.army.mil/

There you go folks, I feel better. A wonderful part of my Florida now is in my blog! The St Johns river is awesome and unfortunately only one photo afar but it brings memories to have in my blog. Hope you enjoy the story and again thanks for reading my blog. Appreciated.

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

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November 27, 2020

Miramar, FL and beach volleyball !!!

Those were the days of youth and glory! Memories flashing as I look at this old post in my last home in USA! Miramar, Broward county, Florida! And the wonderful corporate sports ambiance that I was part of.

One of the best moments were on the beach volleyball team of my company in the corporate league! This was fun times ,getting together with collegues and going out after work to play some beach volleyball and sometimes practices for the big game! Memories forever!!

Well just cruising on my older posts and came up with this one I like to revise update with the only photo I got as souvenir to remind me of my beach bum days in my dear Florida and playing that sport call Beach Volleyball.

By now establish as an Olympic sport in its two tandem teams we used to play it also, as a regular 6×6 only on sand.  The FIVB organisation for it is here: https://www.fivb.com/en/beachvolleyball

Back in Broward county is where I began to play as an organize team event even if had played before in Volusia county.  I am going way back folks maybe 1998-2003.

Some of the rules are still the same today only we not only played 2×2 but also 3×3 and more regularly 6×6. These rules are : the terrain measure 16 by 8 meters, the net is in the middle at a height of 2,43 meters. The ball is play sending the ball on the two ways with the first two match played to 21 points and if a decisive third is needed we go to 15 points; needing two point difference to win the match if it goes beyond 15 points.

The team need to change side every 7 points and each team can touch up to 3 times the ball. As the service is done to the opposite team , and it is touch/block in any way it remains two touches to the receiving team to get the ball on the other side of the net.  The player who block or touch the ball first can do the second touch. The ball needs to be spiked and not handle with the hand or fingers.  Another thing we played it Co-Ed or mixing boys and girls/men and women on the team in a corporate league.

jl-audio-beach-volley-team-2001-pedro-left-seated-front-row

And the reason of this post was that I came across the name of my old park where the games were held and the picture. The park was Forzano Park at 2001 Douglas Rd, Miramar, Fl 33025!!! and the info on it from the city of Miramar page is here: https://miramarparks.org/Facilities/Facility/Details/Forzano-Field-22

Who knows maybe some of the folks on the photo will show up here lol!! Helloooo!!!

I won’t give away the name of my company or names of players for sake of privacy, (well I am in front left ::))  but the bottom line is, go ahead and enjoy some beach volleyball ,it can rewarding and everlasting friendship. And memories to last ,photo from 2001!!!

The huge choices of parks are in the Broward county page on parks here: https://www.broward.org/parks/thingstodo/pages/sports.aspx

Great to remind myself of these times, and thanks for following along with me on this memory lane journey. Miramar was a nice experience and always remembered

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

November 22, 2020

Cayo la Rosa, Bauta, Cuba!!!

Ok so one of the biggest enjoyment of looking back at old posts and revising them is finding out that some spots are little mentioned or left out! As my blog is part of my life’s history as well, I like to bring you to a little corner of Cuba not on the tourist trail. Well not even in off the beaten paths! This is personal and for the memories.

Cayo La Rosa, off Bauta, was a huge textile plant (Ariguanabo) of 5000 workers done by Americans now in ruins. The village have not change much, and took a ride with my cousin in an electric moto on the town, crazy but a great and cheap means of transportation there now.  And proud of myself was able to take my local driver from Havana there as he did not know how,and I did it with so many years out just on good memory lol! He was impressed!

Cayo calle 11 apr12

The Textilera Ariguanabo or textile plant Ariguanabo was created and owned by the American Burke Osborne Hedges. My dear late Mom Gladys worked there for a while. In the hands of the Hedges, the Textilera de Ariguanabo was an integrative civil and cultural project. It included an advanced social security program, a campaign for the prestige of employment, the construction of a baseball stadium, a first-aid house, an airport, a fire station, daycare centers, and the financing of various publications to cover local and national events. They introduced rotating six-hour shifts and an excellent system of credits, vacations and withdrawals. All of this was eliminated by the 1959 Cuban revolution.

Cayo La Rosa , part of the town of Bauta and of the new Artemisa province created in 2010 before it was Havana province. It is really part of the bigger town of Bauta. Bauta is a town located about 40 km (25 mi) from Havana. The territory to the south reaches up to the old Laguna de Ariguanabo (lake), now almost dried up. However, it was big and surrounded the town which is why the name is Cayo or Key La Rosa or the Rose or Key Rose! I still have an aunt and cousin living there!

The town of Bauta was found on January 14, 1879. Bauta was best known internationally as the location of a Soviet listening base intended to spy on the United States. In 2000, the service known as the Lourdes base was closed by the Russian government. Thet town is crossed by the highways linking Cuba west to east such as the autopista de Pinar del Río, the autopista Panamericana (norte) ,and the Carretera Central or central highway which we always took.

My last school in Cuba was based at Bauta, where I needed to come by bus, car, hitchhike whatever means. I did not do much school as most of the time I sneak out to go to the baseball stadium not far from there. The school was named after Nguyễn Văn Trỗi a Vietnamese electrician and fighter for the National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam (Viet Cong). He was sentenced to death by the government of the Republic of Vietnam (south Vietnam), and was executed by firing squad. He was considered a national hero by the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam). And of course ,now the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. I believe now they have change the name,not sure.

Bauta escula nyen van throi ultima escuela en Cuba de Pedro

As you can imagine, there are no webpages for this. Just my small recollection and memories of always. These towns Bauta, Cayo la Rosa, look so distant now but never forgotten. Hope you enjoy the post anyway and maybe one day we can get to drive by them again!

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

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November 20, 2020

The fortified towers of Havana or La Habana!!!

In my swing updating some of my older posts I came upon this one. Great memories flashing my mind of better times in my Havana. One of the emblematic monuments that got it to be name Unesco World Heritage site in 1982 , was the fortified towers that serve one time as defense of the harbor around Havana. I like to tell you about 3 of them.

I guess can be call fortified towers, for us they were the torreones de la Habana.  As nostalgia sits in, once in a while, looking at my past photos, I came upon the torreones or small fortified towers used for defense along the harbor of Havana. As a boy used to go there with my dear late mother Gladys, and now when back always stopped by. I left Havana, Cuba in 1970 early to Madrid Spain, and came back to it and Cuba in 1984 (for a last farewell to my paternal grandmother who guarded me), 1998 (for a last farewell to my paternal grandfather who guarded me and to show my wife and kids my native land), and 2012 (on a company business trip from France).

The one that always caught my attention was the Fuerte de Santa Dorotea de la Luna de la Chorrera, short for Chorrera. This one was built in 1646! On the English taking of Havana in 1762-63 it was almost totally destroyed and was rebuilt after they left. This tower fortress lies at the mouth of the Almendares river.

torreon-de-santa-dorotea-de-la-luna-de-la-chorrera-1646-havana-cuba

The other nice one is the Torreon de Cojimar, built in 1649. This is made famous as it was from where Ernest Hemingway used to go to do fishing and here influenced by it wrote The Old Men and the Sea from which he won a Pulitzer prize in 1952 and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954.  This one too was rebuilt after the English were expelled unter the Paris Treaty in 1763 (signed at Fontainebleau). Here a bust in memory of Ernest Hemingway was built in 1962.

torreon-de-cojimar-havana-1646-cuba

One more is the Torreon de San Lazaro o Caleta; built in 1665. It was a lookout between the fortress of La Punta and Chorrera tower on a site of the old San Lazaro Hospital therefore its name . This location in the entrance of way of the bay San Lázaro, where many pirates landed and now sits in the property of the park Antonio Maceo by the Malécon (boardway  wall promenade facing the sea).

torreon-de-san-lazaro-o-de-la-caleta-siglo-xvii-havana-cuba

These are some of the off the beaten path of Havana and well worth the detour to know the city.  San Cristobal de la Habana official name, founded in 1519 by governor coloniser Diego de Velázquez is said by Unesco to hold about 144 buildings from the 14-15-16-17 centuries , more than any other city in the Americas!! webpage Unesco: https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/204

The 3 torreones or fortified towers above were done by engineers as such. The Chorrera and Cojimar towers were done by Juan Bautista Antonelli, son of Bautista Antonelli the architect of the Castillo de los Tres Reyes del Morro or short Morro castle. The torreon or fortified tower of the San Lazàro o Caleta was done by the engineer Marcos Lucio.

The tourist office of Cubahttps://www.cubatravel.cu/en/Home

There you go now updated text with same old pictures. Hope you enjoy it as I did seeing them again. Havana great for my soul and memories of youth that unfortunately will never be back.

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

November 11, 2020

WordPress, you and me!!!

So taking a small time to thank you all for your loyal following these last 10 years. It has been a wonderful trip which I have enjoyed very much, hoping you too.

I started on WordPress after advice from an American  friend living in Madrid for about 25 years who told me it was easy to work for the non technical guy in me and it has been so. It was November 26th 2010 so holy cow already 10 years !!!!!

And ,I have decided to look at my numbers with the help of wandering a bit into WordPress. Even with humble numbers compare to some of you, it has been a wonderful ride and fully satisfy. Again thank you so much. Merci beaucoup, muchas gracias, muito obrigado.

After already not counting this one 3 113 posts in my blog, come to realize my best viewing day is Sunday and the best time is 9h or 9am!! The best day viewed was December 10, 2012! with 972 views!!!

My best view pages or posts have been: The Somport Tunnel and Peak !!!, Lagos, Nigeria an Adventure, and A look back at history, the Palais des Tuileries.

The most commented post has been Versailles and it’s historical Churches with 172!!!! wow and we do have a palace there lol!

I have 1061 other blogs following mine an honor! ,thank you all. Never in my wildest dreams would I thought to have these many reading my blog wow! There are about 18 steady commentators and the top 10 are well known you know who you are , and my wish is to have more comments, constructive comments that is.

The countries that have most folks viewing my blog are in order: USA,   France, UK, Germany, UK, India, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Spain, Finland, and Australia! Thanks!!! In actuality, it covers the world with many many countries even in those where internet is little or controled.

The year of great activity with most views was 2012 with 120 701, and the one with the most visitors was 2013 with 27 140. However, it seems that 2020 even if not over year will break all records. So far I have 40 371 views, 21 294 visitors, 16 816 likes!!! and 668 comments!!!. So it seems I will beat all time records in Likes and Comments for sure. Thank you!!!

There are a total of 7 pages on front page, 15 categories of posts and 15 tags with 11 links in the blogroll bottom of page. There are over 40000 photos already here wow!!!

I am sure WordPress will have better numbers to tell beginning of 2021 for 2020. In the meantime, thanks for reading mine and sharing yours, and happy healthy travels to all. Enjoy your week, and end of year. I will have a short one,due to the virus; and finally Merry Christmas and Happy New Year’s.

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

November 3, 2020

San Francisco, golden gate, and more!

I feel that when I think of one of USA best travel destination it had to be San Francisco. I was lucky enough to be there in 2004, and it remains one of my goals to come back to this vibrant city by the bay and the golden gate bridge. I will need to find my pictures lol!!! So black and white reading it must be!

San Francisco is a city and county of the same name in the State of California, USA.  The mission was founded by the Spanish in 1776 in honor of St Francis of Assis or San Francisco.

I actually was there from France! bizarre when lived in the USA for 31 years never sought of going there, and then from far away there I was. Life is a beach! But glad was able to say I was there ::)

Many folks like me entered first by the SFO or San Francisco International Airport, when I went we rented a minivan for road travel.

The highways I 280 and I 80 as well as US 101 criss cross the town! However, ,of course walking even those hilly streets can be an adventure not to forget and never had.For buses ,cable car, tramway information the official site is :https://www.sfmta.com/

My stay there was spent at the fabolous Hotel Nikko  at 222 Mason Street, Union Square very close to market str and the cable cars and up the Nob Hill to Fishermans Wharf and Pier 39 areas.Webpage: https://www.hotelnikkosf.com/

One of the most to see in the city is the Golden Gate Park, extending from the Pacific Ocean along Ocean Beach to Stanyan Street. Another nice park is the Lincoln Park by the end of Ocean Beach and the Bay with the Palace of the Legion of Honor, an art museum. Over to the Presidio National Park that  leads to the Golden Gate Bridge. However, the best way to see the city is by the famous SF cable cars ,and they even have a museum.

One of the funny anecdote is that my collegues all French, took the minivan or monospace vehicule to try to reach Napa wine country; they did took about 5 hrs roundtrip but never went into any winery! Me ,I stayed behind in the city nice and easy sightseeing mostly on food or cable cars !

The Pier 39 with lots of stores and restos and my favorite Crab House at Pier 39,  as well as the Bay and Blue boat rides into Alcatraz. If you want to see the real thing and get on to Alcatraz ,this is the specialist althought I would choose Bay and Blue, second choice Alcatraz Cruises from Fisherman’s Wharfs.

The Ripléy’s Believe or Not museum great with many extraordinary displays , it seems I follow then wherever they are and the very nice Madame Tussauds Wax Museum both at Fishermans Wharf.

The Merchants Association of Fishermans Wharf has lots of info here: https://fishermanswharf.org/

You have the wonderful museum of the Legion of Honor, done in honoring Californians who fought in the wars at France, and today an arts museum; another interesting museum I like is the Exploratorium, where Science and Arts is fused, started by Frank Oppenheimer in 1969, and on a building from 1915. Another is the Museum of Modern Arts , the pompidou of the city, there since 1935.

Some other things to to see that I enjoyed were the Aquarium of the Bay, by the bay, near Embarcadero and Beach st.

There was time to do lots of shopping and bring back , and my favorite because its near the Financial district is Crocker Gallery .

To eat my favorites were Ghiraldelli Chocolates ,and coffee shop and dine especially in the evenings for a wonderful view of the bay at Bistro Boudin, another exciting place to be is The Cannery, the old Del Monte canning factory and since many years, the place to be for shops and restos in San Francisco. with Leila mediterranean cuisine resto (unfortunately this one is closed) , and  Johnnie Walker for those Californian wines!.

If you want to have a nice meal, great steaks,and be in movie history as it was here that Humphrey Bogart’s The Maltese Falcon was filmed then head for John’s Grill  you wont go wrong here ::) , and if you want your munchies and great pints, beer that is then head for Johnny Foleys’and since folks like me cant never be too far from a good French resto, then head for Cafe Bastille off Market and Kearny streets.

Walking I did a lot especially around Japantown (Post st)  and Chinatown (Washington and Powell) ,and Russian Hill areas. You can get a city pass good for all transport in cable cars, Muni transport system, and some of the places I have mentioned above. And finally, for a look back of where it all began ,see the Mission Dolores house, built upon city foundation in 1776, the oldest of course, and the only remaining of the 21 that Father Serra started then. It is at 3321 16th street and Dolores St.

The tourist office of San Franciscohttps://www.sftravel.com/

There you go folks a brief overview of my week in San Francisco long ago! Hope you enjoy the post, the story and do visit San Francisco, California USA!

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

October 25, 2020

Florida,the Sunshine State!!

I am changing? do not know, but have some lately posts without photos. Well, you need to search because they are here in other posts. I am just updating very old posts that I feel the text is good to refresh , update for the history of my blog and me! Hope you enjoy them as I do!

A wonderful 18 years in the State of Florida, my biggest chunk of life! In one region/area.  Memories that will not go away easy. The State is sunshine, family, friendly, and happy; so many things to do it will take an entire blog history to tell. Florida is University studies, work life, marriage, fatherhood, joys and tears , the human struggle! I will hit the highlights of my favorites.

Starting with the Daytona Beach area, NASCAR ,the 500, the Pepsi 400 ,the moto 200, the 24 hrs of Daytona, and the Spring Break, the beach season from Memorial day but all year for our snowbirds from the North. You see the Daytona International Speedway, you are now waiting for the Daytona 500 ,in my time I used to sneak in to see the races for free (inside the car trunk!); those were the good old university days.  You have my University, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University the best in the air, Eagles Soar. Go Eagles. That I visit as much as possible now far away. I was for a while until moving to Bretagne, the mentor for my alumni assoc in France, about 3 high schoolers from France who went there got the complete rundown from me. ERAU, the founding chairman of American Airlines (1934) , trained in civilian disguise the British pilots in four Florida airfields to be able to defend Great Britain in WWII; and lately about 50% of US pilots graduates with college degrees from there! Awesome experience!

I have my memories with the  Aquatic park (now call Daytona Lagoon) and an unlimited amount of water activities, not to mention the Angel & Phelps Chocolate factory and store tour, the Bulow plantation ruins, Sugar Mills Botanical Gardens, Ponce Inlet lighthouse, Jackie Robinson memorial park, the Casements (old Rockefeller house now museum), and Tomoka Indian Mound. The hotels are plenty in which either have stayed later visiting or had school or business conferences in them such as Treasure Island Hotel, Daytona Hilton, Daytona Inn, Acapulco Hotel, etc, Glorious eating establishements like Barnacles (now gone); Alfie Restaurant, Aunts Catfish, Oyster Pub, etc, and a wonderful Daytona Beach International Airport,for the ins and outs.

Out west along the SR 40 you reach Ocala, old home of Tarzan and Silver Spring park where the first movie was film with Johnny Weissmuller. Cousin lives there!

Up in historical Saint Augustine, you have the oldest city in the USA founded by Pedro Menendez de Aviles in 1565! Here you have Lightner Museum, Ripley’s Believe or Not, Fountain of Youth ,where the great Pedro landed; Fort Matanzas , trolley tours, horse wagon tours, the oldest House in America, and the Bridge of Lions,old world setting. The Spanish Columbia restaurant ,like you were in Spain.  So many weekends spent in this town, I can walk it again blindfolded. See the beautiful Cathedral, with its Spanish mudejar construction.

Moving to the west along the I4 expressway, you reach the Orlando magical area, what can I say here, Disney, Universal, Medieval Times, International Drive, Lake Buena Vista drive, the Florida Gator Bowl, the lake at Eola, so much that is impossible to list all.  You have the more affordable area of Kissimmee just by the Disney entrance with many hotels, and restaurants  to choose from; my favorites were the Santa Fe Disney hotel, and the Caribbean Hotel too. The restos were the Hemingway at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress hotel, Bongos Cafe (now closed), Rainforest Cafe, Wolfgang Puck, Red Lobster, etc. The best location for staying other than inside Disney property or Universal official hotels is to find a property by Lake Buena Vista.

A bit further in Kissimmee you have restos Applebee’s, Chili’s, Dennys’s Friendlys , the choices are endless here.  You have shopping at Florida Mall, Pointe Orlando, and The Mall at Millenia, and International Premium Outlets, in addition to those in the theme parks areas. The area is very well serve by the Orlando International Airport which have used. Cousin lives in Orlando now!

Moving further west still on the expressway I4 you will reach the Tampa area, more wonders, like Busch Gardens,the aquarium at St Petersburg (now closed) ,wonderful beaches like Fort De Soto National Park, Clearwater Beach, Treasure Island,St Pete Beach, and Ybor City in Tampa, Florida Aquarium, Lowry Park Zoo, etc etc . You get nice hotels like the Grand Hyatt, Marriotts, Intercontinental,Embassy Suites, and Holiday Inn Busch Gardens locations.  The Tampa international airport never got to use it. I have several cousins living here!

At Ybor City you will find the oldest Spanish restaurant in the USA ,est, 1905. Columbia our home away from home wherever they were in Florida.  Also Shells, and shopping at Channelside, Hyde Park Village, Westshore Plaza,and Ybor City own stores.

Going even further west , you have the wonderful Saint Petersburg greater area, the Sirata Beach Resort is marvelous to stay in, and restos like Sloppy Joe’s, and PJ’s Oyster Bar are great.

Coming down on the I75 you will reach the Cape Coral area, where I spent many times because my parents used to owned land there. However this area is best known for the Sun Splash Family Park, great rides in water and else Hotels the Holiday Inn Express at the entrance to the city is great, as well as the Casa Loma Motel (now management and new name OYO reviews are not good).  Shopping best is by the Coralwood Shopping Center or the outlet mall by the I75 road at Miromar Outlet. I have cousin living here now!

You will head down on the I-75 and east on the Alligator Alley to Miami area ,and the wild Miami Beach. You can see the Miami Seaquarium, Miami MetroZoo, Barnacle historical Park, ancient Spanish monastery (North Miami Beach), Vizcaya castle and gardens, Fairchild Tropical park, Everglades Alligator Farm, Island Queen Cruises, Miccosukee Indian Village,Wings over Miami museum (aviation museum) , etc.  there is more the above are just my favorites.

The beaches the nightlife is awesome , so much to tell, Lincoln Road is great down to South Beach at Miami Beach, then up north Bal Harbour is nice and trendy. Coconuts Grove is quaint and chic, as is Miracle Mile.  Shopping /resto is wonderful in the places above as well as  Bayside Marketplace and  Miami downtown or city center area offers plenty, by the port of Miami . Plenty of Restaurants, from La Carreta, Joe Allen’s (gone), TGIFridays, Puerto Sagua, Smith &  Wollensky, Joe’s Stone Crab,  Bongos Cuban Cafe (now Estefan Kitchen I am told),Versailles,News Cafe, so many good ones over the years,but I can narrow them down further see post. Shopping you have International Mall, Dolphin Mall, Aventura Mall, Dadeland Mall, Bayside Marketplace as my favorites

For transportation best is get in by Miami International Airport, so many times by here even if it has change quite a bit in the last few years. You can see a great basketball game of the  Miami Heat at the American Airlines Arena in city center. I have aunt and cousins living here!

My last footprint here was moving a bit north to Miramar in Broward county, main city and near was Ft Lauderdale. In this area, you have for shopping the very best Sawgrass Mills, then Broward Mall (part of group Westfield now) , Pembroke Lakes Mall, and Galleria Mall as best known over the years. The Las Olas blvd area is fantastic,

You should pay a visit to the International Swimming Hall of Fame. Visit the Bass Pro Shops (Dania Beach) for fishing gear par excellence. More such as the Bonnet House Museum and Gardens, Boomers (closed), Butterfly World (Coconut Creek), CB Smith Park, Seminole Indians Casino, Billie Swamp Safari, Flamingo Gardens, International Game Fish Association museum (Dania Beach), Jungle Queen Riverboat, and Anne Koln Nature Center as some of the best sights.  The sports enthusiast can watch a game of ice hockey at the Florida Panthers BB&T Center  in Sunrise.  Plenty of restos such as TGIFridays, Cheesecake Factory, China Grill (closed), le Bistro (Lighthouse Point), le Cafe de Paris (closed after 50 yrs!!) , Quarterdeck Bar and Grill with great munchies and beers always No hotels as this was my last home before leaving for France. Great times in the Ft lauderdale/Miramar area of Broward County. Ins and out on Ft Lauderdale airport!

But Florida goes deeper into the keys , wonderful heaven off the Caribbean and closer to old home! The Florida Keys, my fondness for Key Largo, Marathon (fam kept boats here), and Key West. Plenty of water sports, fishing, and good laidback eating. The best is the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park the first underwater park. Everglades National State Park,and the Biscayne Park, all great nature lovers heavens.  Have a bite and great beer at Coconuts Restaurant (now closed), you could have rented fishing accessories and boat out of here too. Marathon is better for scuba diving, and has the keys Airport as well as the nicest beach at Sombrero Beach, a huge popular conservation program of turtles and dolphins, a city marina with 224 berth. For that leisure back Florida conch living and nice meal try the Porky’s Bayside BBQ, and still open!!!

And then we have Key West, the southernmost city in the USA, only 90 miles (145 kms ) from Cuba . Try the Dolphin encounter charters to chase and see them in the wild, get a seaplane adventure and head out for Tortugas isle even further from the mainland USA, at the Dry Tortugas National  Park, and see Fort Jefferson, get on the Trolley or Conch train for a ride thru the streets of Key West, and of course don’t leave without seeing Ernest Hemingway house and museum, Key West Aquarium, San Carlos Institute (a Cuban heritage center founded in 1871 by Cuban exiles who came to Key West to plan the campaign for Cuba’s independence),  the Mel Fisher Maritime museum, and Mallory Square  amongst the best.

For eating, we are regulars of Kelly Caribbean Bar & Grill, the old actress of TV and movie fame (Kelly McGillis) no longer owns it , and there is a new name as well First Flight , the site is the founding hangar of Pan Am airline. Then head for the El Meson de Pepe, and Sloppy’s Joes.

Hope you have enjoyed this overview of the great State of Florida with lots of memories for me. Some of the places are gone, others change names, and others still there. And of course, the faces do change and landscape. Do not know when our feet will cross again but the memories will stay for the rest of my life. Again, hope you enjoy this nostalgic post and do visit the Sunshine State!

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

October 25, 2020

My best restaurants in Florida!!!

To complement the shopping in Florida, will give out my best selection of restaurants in the areas that I lived, 18 years in Florida USA. The restaurants have usually  hours that start with lunch around 11am and continue straight to dinners open until about 23h. You have cafes, and restaurant that do the same thing, and then bars, the tipping is not included. Some restaurant come up to me already figuring the tip at 15%;18%;and 20% on the bill. The pay is low, so tipping is expected, but not obligatory. I tip if the service warranted it, and if I am a regular client I tip a bit more than just a casual passer-by. Again the choice is yours, but folks there are used to so they tip.

I am updating this post done first in 2011! and of course, things change indeed, my last time there was 2016. Some of my favorites were/are:

Columbia restaurant, the oldest Spanish restaurant in the USA. I have visited the properties in Saint Augustine and the original from 1907 in Tampa. 98 St. George Street, St. Augustine, FL 32084 . And , the original in the Ybor city area of Tampa at 2117 East 7th Avenue ,Tampa, FL 33605.. Fantastic Spanish cuisine with flamenco performers at nights in a quaint Spanish hacienda setting, very romantic and cozy. The best of Spain. webpage  https://www.columbiarestaurant.com/Menus-By-Location

TGIFriday’s chain of restaurant is fabolous for its spared ribs a la jack daniels, simply great and couple with great cocktails. The setting is Americana with lots of objects hanging out and frame to its wall of yesteryear. I have taste the ones in Ormond Beach (ocean shore blvd) , Sunrise (13350 w sunrise blvd) , Orlando( international drive) , Miami (s dixie and dolphin mall) , and Tampa (fowler ) the webpage is  https://locations.tgifridays.com/fl.html

Applebee’s, a chain where the the ambiance is more towards sports decorated walls, location been to Sunrise and Miami. I have gone for the trios and seafood platters with plenty of beers. webpage  as now part of a group Dine Brands Global that cannot be access from France! https://www.dinebrands.com/en

Quiznos, a great sandwich chain, with succulent big sizes and great prices ,wonderful for lunch and on the go eating. the taste is definitively great and fast service; to eat on site or take home.  Its a chain and even with international locations, my favorite location is near old home at Pembroke Pines, Miramar, and Sunrise; even if these branches are now closed. webpage  https://restaurants.quiznos.com/

Barnacles’ seafood at Ormond Beach, a great place with fresh product perfectly made all the time and right on the Atlantic Ocean. One of my all time favorite, and keep coming back when in the State. Fish and Chips, Schooner sampler or just a nicely made fish, great ambiance like a fisherman village.  This has closed here for the memories.

Julian’s, for the best steaks in the area, many times recognise by the leading ranking houses. You just come for those juicy steaks in a upscale ambiance of old New York. In Ormond Beach since 1967, now with new owners since 2005 but still all is good I am told.  Well eventually they closed for good, just for the memories.

Aunt’s Catfish, on the river intracoastal at Port Orange, just south of Daytona Beach, an institution in the area, you can have a better fish resto with southern hospitality. Try the blue crabs!!! webpage  http://www.auntcatfishontheriver.com/

The Oyster Pub, a tradition of mine since college days!, still going strong, the IN place to be in Daytona Beach. oysters of course and plenty of good beer and good cheers, with great sports TV screen , the place to be and to be seen. Families ok for lunch. webpage http://www.oysterpub.com/

Razzles, if you want to party late and have fun while a block from the Atlantic ocean in Daytona Beach came here, another area institution visited since my college days!. Great ambiance to please until late hours.  Dance, Drink, and be happy here. webpage http://www.razzlesnightclub.com/

Maison & Jardin is no longer a restaurant but it was French back in my days in the State, and now its an event planning place for all your business or weddings, etc needs, worth checking it out, you never know if you need a place like this and its sentimental neighborhood for me (same owners thus). At Altamonte Springs, alond I4 goings towards Disney and before reaching Orlando. webpage tells you more , http://www.maisonjardin.com/

La Crepe en Haut, Ormond Beach, the ultimate French restaurant in my old town, a place to practice my French while dreaming of visiting France again, you will be in France, French owners; unfortunately closed, here just for the memories.

Mr Wich deli, is without a web still but confirm still there!, tuck away in a tree laden place in Ormond Beach, the best place for lunch in the area, and the best pastrami south of 45 st NYC ! sandwiches are huge, try the combo with chips and drink. 21 N Nova Rd Ste A,  Ormond Beach, FL 32174; just go from I95 direction Ormond Beach on the SR40 or Granada Blvd, same road, when reaching Nova Rd turn left and the deli is right on your right hand side.

New York pizza, the ultimate NY pizza in my times done ably by wonderful Marie of NY. Still going strong after so many years for good cause. You wont eat a better pizza in the area. Now at new location than on my days but taste it good in 2009,637 N. Grandview avenue , Daytona Beach, FL 32118.  https://www.newyorkpizzasubs.com/

Alfies restaurant in Ormond by the Sea next to the ocean, an institution near one of my old hangouts, indeed the best breakfast in the area, and a great opportunity to catch the latest in the world with the regular customers of many years. webpage  https://alfiesrestaurant.com/story-of-alfies/

Mr Dunderbaks, the German sausages and beer place, an institution still going strong after so many years and again for good cause in 2009. Inside the Volusia Mall, 1700 W. International Speeway Blvd. unfortunately this has closed, here just for the memories.

Inlet Harbor Restaurant and Marina, an institution in the south Peninsula, south of Daytona Beach, at Ponce inlet .  Now the resto is separate from the marina and call Off the Hook at Inlet Harbor. just great catch of the day straight from the fishing boats.   https://offthehookatinletharbor.com/

Hemingways inside the Hyatt Grand Cypress hotel, a wonderful time past of old Florida conch ambiance and great raffine seafood cuisine by the best in Orlando. Even if now closed due to the virus. https://www.hemingwaysorlando.com/

Bill Wongs Super Buffet,Chinese perfection at great prices in Orlando, 5668 International Drive, Orlando, FL 32819. tel +001 407 352 5373.  No web near Disney off I4. This is now closed, here just for the memories.

Wolfgang Pub  Cafe, now just a bit further at 1518  East Buena Vista Drive, Downtown Disney, Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830. Great exotic cuisine with an American/Japanese twist. A renown chef in a wonderful ambiance. webpage  https://wolfgangpuck.com/dining/orlando-bar-grill/

Bongos Cuban Cafe, 1498 East Buena Vista Drive,Downtown Disney,Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830. tel +001 407-828-0999. the best Cuban resto in the central Florida area, a resto own by Gloria Estefan ,famous American singer of Cuban origins(Miami sound machine). The latest in mojitos and daiquiris with modern succulent cuisine avant garde. This was the original location now at South Beach Miami and others too.  This one is closed, here for the memories.

Pacino’s Italian Ristorante, a great Italian with wonderful decorations and ambiance, mamma mia in Kissimmee, near Disney . 5795 West Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway, Highway 192, Kissimmee, FL 34746 tel +001 407-239-4141.  webpage  https://www.pacinos.com/

Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament , an event to have dinner without utensils as in middle times with horse shows of lancers. A great family time, always remember well.  4510 West Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway, Kissimmee, FL 34746. Now at 4510 W. Vine St.  webpage  https://www.medievaltimes.com/plan-your-trip/orlando-fl/index.html

Shells seafood ,in Tampa, seafood with hollywood history, it has been reorganised lately so need to verify the decoration, but it was a great family time there. 202 S Dale Mabry Hwy. Tampa, FL 33609.  webpage https://www.shellsseafood.com/locations

Bennigan’s, an Irish resto experience, popular locations my initial contact was in Tampa around the Univ of South Florida and then continues to Miami locations.  The monte cristo sandwich is huge and yummy with a nice beer alongside, Guinness blue bacon hamburger is awesome. At Miami it was near the airport on Le Jeune Rd. Now all closed except at Melbourne Florida! webpage: https://bennigans.com/bennigans-locations/locations-domestic/

Croissan’time, a French institution in Ft lauderdale area, and our little piece of FRance there, the owners are from Avignon, France. You can have a bistro type setting next door and a delicatessen store next with all the goodies to take home from France or made by French in America. Sunrise Square, 1201 North Federal Hwy, Fort Lauderdale,  Florida 33304, Tel +001 954-565-8555    webpage  http://www.croissantime.com/

Joe’s Stone Crab, a miami institution of greater culinary sensation. One of my favorites and should be yours too…. 11 Washington Avenue
Miami Beach, FL 33139 . tel +001 305-673-0365. You guess it stone crabs and lobster the finest,  Now closed, here just for the memories.

Joe Allen, was in Miami and we met again in Paris (still open diff owner), great American steaks, burgers,and Americana deco. In Miami Beach at 1787 Purdy Avenue, Miami Beach FL 33139. Now closed here just for the memories.

News Cafe, the ultimate gathering place for talk coffee and know it all be seen and see in Miami Beach.Open 24 hrs !!!  800 Ocean Drive, Miami Beach, FL 33139. tel +001 305-538-6397. webpage http://www.newscafe.com/

Restaurant St Michel, yes refine and French, excellent cuisine in a old world ambiance. In hotel St Michel same refinements. 162 Alcazar Avenue, Coral Gables, FL 33134. tel + 001 305-444-1666. webpage  https://www.hotelstmichel.com/zucca-dining

Los Ranchos, for Miami best steaks Latin style, come here its an institution with several locations. My favorite was at Sweetwater(Miami) the original. webpage  https://www.beststeaksinmiami.com/

La Carreta, the best Cuban original and typical, the real thing if you are looking for that. A family tradition try again in 2009 on my visit back home. the Platters combinations are sublime. My best is at 106633 NW 12 street, next to International Mall, webpage  http://lacarreta.com/locations/

Hooters, in Coconut Grove at CocoWalk, the Americana sexy in you, for an American bar with burgers and nice girls.  3015 Grand Avenue,Suite 330
Miami, FL 33133. No longer at this address but in others around the area. https://hootersflorida.com/locations/

The Rusty Pelican,steaks but best seafood on Key Biscayne overlooking the bay of Miami, best views in Miami. Lovely evenings with locals, and the fishterman,yatchmens of the area and beyond. 3201 Rickenbacker Causeway, Key Biscayne, FL 33149. tel +001 305-361-3818.   webpage   https://www.therustypelican.com/

Latin American Cuban Cuisine, at Bayside Marketplace downtown city center Miami by the port of Miami, Great sandwiches and vaca frita, the Cuban staples. 401 Biscayne Boulevard, Miami, FL 33132. tel +001 305-381-7774. webpage  https://www.baysidemarketplace.com/directory/restaurants/item/latin-american-cuban-cuisine-2

P.F. Changs, Mary Brickell Village, 901 S Miami Ave., Suite 104, Downtown Miami, FL 33131. In the former fire dept house and previous Fire House four cigar bistro, there is the chinese cuisine par excellence. This is a chain, and the setting and ambiance here is special at least here. webpage  https://www.pfchangs.com/locations/us/fl/miami/901-s-miami-ave/9931-brickell.html

Little Havana Restaurant, 12727 Biscayne Boulevard, North Miami, FL 33161.  The best Cuban in the north of the county, really nice setting with fish tanks and inner patio. The food is well done and authentic. Try the stuffed fish dishes or the ropa vieja dish. webpage  http://www.littlehavanarestaurant.com/n-miami

Red Lobster, a chain of seafood restaurants but very good, my favorite in the area was at 1750 West 49th Street (Palm Springs Mile shopping road that is NW 103 St for Miami), Hialeah, FL 33012.  webpage  https://www.redlobster.com/?locationSelect=1&rlid=10246

Chili’s Grill & Bar, tex mex at its best with a great selection of cocktails, my gathering place at lunch whle at work in the area. Still meet old friends there when visiting like in 2009. 8696 NW 13th Terrace, Miami, FL 33126. The Beacon Center park, webpage  https://www.chilis.com/locations/us/florida/miami/beacon-center/

Flanagan’s Seafood Bar & Grill, another hangout about a block from the above place at NW 12 street, Miami (Doral). This is seafood, and buffalo wings, Spare ribs with great beers and sports screen all over. Best at nights, when the action is hot and fast.  webpage  https://www.flanigans.net/location/doral/

94th Aero Squadron Restaurant, the old hangout for Eastern airlines employees and locals, now the best view of the airport landing fields at MIA/while listening on earphone of the air traffic control tower . You have great drinks and burgers, steaks, and the ambiance is aviation. 1395 NW 57th Avenue Miami, FL 33126. webpage  https://www.94miami.com/location/94th-aero-squadron/

Le Bouchon du Grove, real French guy from Lyon will transport you to the bouchons of Lyon France. Exquisite cuisine in a wonderful village like setting. 3430 Main Highway – Coconut Grove FL (Miami). https://www.lebouchondugrove.com/

Cafe la Bonne Crepe, another wonderful French ,this one in Las Olas blvd of Ft Lauderdale, fine expert cuisine from the best in the area; 815 E. Las Olas Blvd. Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301.  You missed those crêpes from France well here they do it as identical as can be. webpage  https://www.labonnecrepe.com/

Olive Garden, italian and greatly made dishes , it was near us so we took many partakes here and never disappointed. In the Pembroke Lakes Mall property outside, but locations everywhere in FL.  11425 Pines Boulevard
Pembroke Pines, FL 33026. webpage  https://www.olivegarden.com/locations/fl/pembroke-pines/pembroke-lakes-mall/1409#restaurant-hours-reload

The Hurricane, at St Pete’s beach on the west coast just west of Tampa. A wonderful laidback Florida lifestyle ambiance with great seafood sandwiches and beer to go along your trip on the west coast. 807 Gulf  Way, St. Pete Beach, FL 33706. webpage http://www.thehurricane.com/
Quarterdeck Seafood Bar & Grill, an exquisite extention of great seafood fingers, drinks, sports bar, and great local ambiance you will love in your stay in Florida. This one was after an indoor soccer/football match,and it was great memories indeed. 12370 West Sunrise Blvd, Plantation 33323. Now only one left at 1035 SE 17th Street, Fort Lauderdale.  webpage  https://quarterdeckrestaurants.com/

The Globe, great bar and ambiance, sophisticated,business casual , evening dress to kill. The IN place in Coral Gables and sooo many years at the top. Cant missed it if in the area. 377 Alhambra Circle, Coral Gables Fl 33134. The mojitos, daiquiris and classic Champagne cocktails are wonderful to go with Spanish chorizos and manchego quesadillas. webpage  https://theglobecafe.com/

Churchill’s, the British in south Florida, great drinks and great sports venue. My favorite soccer/football matches were always here to go alone with a great pint ::) 5501 NE 2nd Ave, Miami, FL 33137. webpage https://www.churchillspub.com/

Piccolo Pizza, a great pizza place and more run by folks from Nice,France. On your way to North Miami Beach,   2104 Northeast 123rd Street, North Miami, FL 33180. the webpage mentioned closed but cannot tell if it is just now or for good, https://www.piccolo-pizza.com/

Versailles, THE Cuban resto in Miami Little Havana neighborhood, the in and out of the city and all the political, economic ,arts discussions you can handle. You know it first here. The food is authentic and the ambiance very latin.  Name in all travel guides to the city as a must stop. 3555  SW 8th St Miami, FL 33135. webpage: https://www.versaillesrestaurant.com/

The Royal French Bakery, was run by Christian from Lyon, so it was heavens, not verify if still there but if they are, you need to go right away. We had our buche de Nôel always done here. 7370 SW 57th Ave, South Miami, FL 33143. Just off Sunset Ave or nw 72 st.  It is now closed, just here for the memories.

Le Provençal, French and from Aix-en-Provence, you cant go wrong here, exquisite refine cuisine with a mediterranean flair. One of our stops while living there, and keeping in touch with France. 266 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables, FL 33134. This is now closed, here just for the memories.

Casa Juancho, when my tastebugs switch to Spain ,this is as genuine as it can get over the ocean. Great Spanish cuisines in a fabulous deco and ambiance.  Codfish, shrimps, and tapas with great Spanish wine as well, all originally done by Spaniards. 2436 S.W. 8th Street, Miami, FL 33135. webpage http://www.casajuancho.com/

Well these are the ones that comes to mind, of course they are not all, just what brings back my most memorable moments eating in Florida.  Not prone to take photos at restaurants but have written on some of these properties elsewhere in my blog. Hope you enjoy them too when in the Sunshine State.

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

October 24, 2020

My shopping in Florida!!!

I like to share and update this post on my shopping in Florida coming from my 18 years of living in Central and South Florida USA. An experience that I would never forget ,and last visited in 2016.

Shopping is a ritual, especially around the malls or shopping center. Its a way of life, social, dating, just having a good time all takes place while shopping under the Sunshine State of Florida. Some of the shopping is so near a beach a combination is sublime. Hours are usually from 10h to 21h some open at 9h and others closed at 20h. The hours are continuosly no closing for lunch as in Europe. All properties have heating and air conditioned housing. The only drawback is that public transportation is limited and the automobile is the way to go; however, that is no problem for me ::)

These are some of my favorites places, starting with malls aka shopping centers. The photos are in some of them individual posts in my blog.

Aventura Mall, north of Miami. 19501 Biscayne Boulevard, Aventura, FL 33180 . An upscale wonderlust of stores and restaurants, over 250 stores and 24 cinema screens, with favorites like Barney, Bakers,fossil, gap, and Macy’s, JC Penney, Johnny Rockets burgers, and the Cheesecake Factory resto. This has been improved and enlarged since my time there webpage http://www.aventuramall.com/

Bayside MarketPlace, on downtown city center Miami by the port of Miami. 401 Biscayne Boulevard Miami, FL 33132. A wonderful tropical escape with boating cruises on Miami harbor and passing by the home of the famous. Souvenirs stores and great Latin American Cafe. webpage  https://www.baysidemarketplace.com/

Cocowalk Shopping Center, in the small chic community of Coconut Grove right in the middle of Miami by the bay. 3015 Grand Avenue Miami, FL 33133 .  The cinema, the walks in a quaint village, Hooters’ on a nice breeze Florida night is sublime.  This one has been torn down to re do a complete new complex . More on Facebook for the new Cocowalk: https://www.facebook.com/CocoWalk1/ 

Broward Mall, right in the middle of Plantation a city near Ft. Lauderdale and close to the beaches. A huge place with wonderful stores to browse and eat. 8000 West Broward Boulevard ,Plantation, FL 33388 tel +001 954 473 8100. You have my favorites stores Dillard’s and Macy’s plus eating at Cajun Grill. webpage  http://westfield.com/broward/

Dadeland Mall, a huge shopping center south Miami and you can get there on the monorail public transport from city center Miami. 7535 N Kendall Drive, Miami, FL 33156 Tel +001 305 665 6343. You have here the Disney store, and Sephora, plus eating at Cafe con Leche, and Tango Grill. webpage:  https://www.simon.com/mall/dadeland-mall 

Dolphin Mall, an excellent place west of the airport, you can get there by the Dolphin expressway from Miami Beach to NW 107 ave the mall is right up the street to NW 114 ave .11401 N.W. 12 Street, Miami, FL 33172, tel +001 305 365 7446 . My favorites here were the old JC PEnney store, plus the cinema, the outdoor live music events under the Florida sky, just sublime. come to shop or come to party is all here. Gap, Banana Republic, the Borders Book store,  TGIFridays, for food eating, a great place for the whole family. webpage http://www.shopdolphinmall.com/

International Mall, another dandy right next to the Dolphin Expressway coming from Miami Beach at NW 107 ave. you see it from the Expressway. One of my favorite restaurant is here La Carreta, Cuban Cuisine at its best. 1455 NW 107th Avenue, Miami, FL 33172, now with 9 properties! They had a friendly former  JC Penney store here, a former Toys R Us on the parking property, former Dillard’s (still clothing from here!), and former Mayors Jewerlers. webpage https://www.simon.com/mall/miami-international-mall

You will find great bargain and more city life shopping at downtown or city center Miami away from the port of Miami (cruise capital) and Bayside MarketPlace by going on Flagler street and meandering the little side streets around it, loads of stores there at bargain bazaar prices.  They have an association at Downtown Miami , Biscayne Boulevard to 3rd Avenue, SE 1st Street to NE 3rd Street, Miami, FL 33131 Tel +001 305 379 7070. webpage telling you all about shopping eating and nightlife plus hotels around this area is https://www.downtownmiami.com/ 

Way down on Miami southern tip going towards Key West but still Miami you will find the Falls shopping center, an open air mall of great chic stores right off US 1 main road, they claim to be the biggest in the USA. Here you would see old names wow!! do not see these there now Bloomindales,Pottery Barn, Crate & Barrel, Williams Sonoma, as my favorites stores with eating places like Los Ranchos, PF Changs China Bistro, are still there but TGIFridays is not!. A wonderful shopping experience under the sun, but nice AC in the stores ::) webpage  https://www.simon.com/mall/the-falls

Lincold Road, this is right on Miami Beach , a very nice shopping place right off the beach for about 10 blocks of stores, restos, art galeries ,nice. Go for the upscale YUCA restaurant now gone!. The News Cafe was a place to talk and mingle with the locals and visitors alike and start your day fresh with all the news!!! Not to forget Joe’s Stone Crabs restaurant, and the beautiful Art Deco hotels lining up Ocean ave. webpage: http://www.lincolnroadmiamibeach.org/ 

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. It is in my home county of Broward, north of Miami and west of Ft Lauderdale. In the city of Sunrise, 12801 West Sunrise Blvd, Sunrise, FL 33323. It is an outlet mall per excellence, with many visitors and locals alike filling its magnificent array of stores.  Some of the former were Saks Fifth Avenue outlet was my favorite, as well as Book-a-Million bookstore (still there!) , Burlington Coat, Bed- Bath & Beyond, Dockers, Levi’s, and K-Bee toys, they have a wonderful role playing games complex center in Wannado City , The Regal 23 theaters cinema (still there!)  is excellent, Gameworks arcade for children (still there under Gamebox arcade) , and the TGIFridays restos,(still there)  around it, the Walmart store just outside (still there!) , Rainforest Cafe inside (still there!) , plus many additional shops and centers around it make it one of the biggest one stop shopping in all of Florida. webpage  https://www.simon.com/mall/sawgrass-mills

Pembroke Lakes Mall, the closest to my house in Miramar , this is a nice family mall, very nicely done in a  belle epoque art deco style inside. 11401 Pines Blvd., Suite 546, Pembroke Pines, Florida 33026, Tel +001 954 436 35 20. The great Toys R Us store, the former JC Penney, American Eagle, Bakers, Bath & Body Works,Macy’s,  former Sears, former  Radio Shack, GNC, Churromania resto with Spanish churros pastries!(still there!) An excellent food court with Nathan’s famous hot dogs, and Godiva Chocolatier. Come on in and relax. Webpage: https://www.pembrokelakesmall.com/en/directory/ 

Volusia Mall, by the international speedway in Daytona Beach, 1700 West International Speedway Blvd., Daytona Beach, Florida 32114. My old reliable place while in my college and post college days in the area. former JC Penneys my old nice clothing place (purchase my wedding ring here lol!) , former Sears for all those tools, American Eagles, the Applebee’s resto with succulent ribs, Radio Shack, and eat at Wetzel’s pretzels, Mr Dunderbaks german eatery, and Sbarro’s pizzeria. Great memories here, Webpage  https://www.volusiamall.net/shop/volusia.nsf/index

Altamonte Mall, Altamonte Springs, just before reaching Orlando coming from Daytona Beach on the I4 inter state highway on your way to Disney. Better prices ,great surrounding, nice place. 451 East Altamonte Drive
Altamonte Springs, Florida 32701, Tel +001 407  215 51 00.  Former Barnes & Nobles bookstore, Bahamas Cruise resto, Barnie Coffee & Tea, Perfumania, and nice surrounding. webpage https://www.altamontemall.com/en/directory/

The Shops at Pembroke Gardens, another distinctive location of fine shops and eateries near my old home and a family favorite. Here you will find the great burgers Fuddruckers, DSW shoe warehouse, Barnes & Nobles bookstore,and old Navy store.  527 SW 145th Terrace, Pembroke Pines, FL 33027 , tel +001 954  450 15 80.  webpage http://www.pembrokegardens.com/

A great area to do shopping,eating, drinking ,partying ,and all family fun in Ft Lauderdale is at Las Olas blvd area, in a quaint village atmosphere.  Gourment farmers market, galleo belgian chocolates, are two of my all time favorites there. Former Mango’s , Cafe la Bonne Crepe (still there) ,and the former Café de Paris are fine eating habits of the family when in the area. You will find in the link info on hotels ,art galleries ,and many other tidbits of the area, if need more let me know, dont want to write a book ,its just a blog Lol!! https://lasolasboulevard.com/

Centro YBOR in Tampa is another wonderful Florida combination of shopping, Food, and games for the whole family. Another favorite when visiting relatives or Busch Gardens. An escape when coming to play soccer at the Univ level Div 2,and summer leagues semipro Lol!!!  One of the oldest and the oldest Cuban enclave in the USA.  1600 East 8th Avenue, Tampa, Fl 33605. Get on Gametown, (still there) the Muvico theater for great movies, tried former Hamburger”s Mary for the real beefeater in you, try a homemade beer at the former Tampa Brewing. See a Cuban cigar being roll in front of your eyes ,and many more. Webpage  https://www.centroybor.com/directory

St Augustine Premium Outlet, its an outlet stores mall in the historical city north of Daytona Beach, was a family hangout for lunches many weekends. The city of Saint Augustine is the oldest city in the USA, founded by Spaniards in 1565. Jockey, banana republic,levi’s are all great here, as well as Van Heusen shirts, Carters  and Oshkosh B’ gosh were our daily routine for our kids growing up , former Bass shoes were my favorites, and the Book Warehouse (still there). 2700 State Road 16, St. Augustine, FL 32092, tel +001 904 825-1555.  webpage https://www.premiumoutlets.com/outlet/st-augustine/stores    

A similar outfit was visited too in International Drive, Orlando near Disney, at the Orlando Premium Outlet mall, 4951 International Drive, Orlando, FL 32819 . tel +001 407 352 9600 . Favorites here were façonnable, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Samsonite (where I bought my first luggage for Europe!) , and the usual Sbarro pizzeria chain. webpage:  https://www.premiumoutlets.com/outlet/orlando-international

Town Center at Boca Raton, to go up and get some French goodies we usually stop at this shopping center, great stores in a very nice setting. For Sephora and Godiva Chocolates indeed !!! 6000 Glades Road, Boca Raton, FL 33431. tel +001 561  368 60 01. You go there from Miami on best by I95 north to Glades Rd exit and follow to mall at town center drive left. webpage  https://www.simon.com/mall/town-center-at-boca-raton

My regular all time wine stores were ABC or Crowns in Florida, I became a wine aficionado while working at an ABC store in Ormond Beach while my college years, and was in charge of stock and ordering the wine section. 725 South Yonge Street, Ormond Beach ,that is the US 1 highway near the intersection with Granada Blvd going to the beach about 6 miles.  The store is here , still there!!! wow!!https://www.abcfws.com/product/23

I did shop in their Aventura, Fl store at 16355 Biscayne blvd.. ,now this store has move a bit south to North Miami Beach so their webpage:https://www.abcfws.com/product/51

I later on, as I moved south, my interest turn to Crown Wines & Liquors a more French look and friendly folks which I entertain for years there, guided by able senior wine purchaser Chip Cassidy. My favorites stores were in the North Miami area at 12555 Biscayne blvd, North Miami ,33181 where I came to lived nearby initially in the area,this store seems closed,   and the most frequented for wine tastings and shopping was at 1590 South Dixie highway, Coral Gables, 33146.  https://www.crownwineandspirits.com/store-locations/

Well the list is endless if I get to it, but I think these will give you a pretty clear picture of shopping in Florida from central to south of the State. And I am surprise what so many years from the day to day shopping can do with so many property changes, webpages and especially stores. Hope you have enjoy the tour and find it helpful for your future visits.

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

October 17, 2020

San Cristobal de la Habana, my Havana!!!

So once again back into nostalgia lane, this will be common in our times of covid19, wuhan virus , coronavirus etc ! I am relinquishing viewing some old post in my blog that needs update due to webpages changes routes etc. My last time in Havana was in 2012! After leaving it in 1970! However, always in my heart. Let me tell you a bit of update on San Cristobal de la Habana or simply La Habana or as most outside says Havana/Havane.

It was the ultimate Caribbean destination, the “Paris of the Americas” (by E Hemingway ), the “key to the gulf (of Mexico) the bulkward of the West Indies” (King Felipe II of Spain), to the whole of Cuba. The “most beautiful land human eyes have yet seen” (C Columbus upon arrival 1492) .It brings back memories of childhood, and still vibrates the world from no matter what place on the fence you might be. It is a beautiful city, if only can be kept in one piece.

havana C Oficio y Teniente Rey Feb12

You first arrive most likely by the Jose Marti International Airport in Rancho Boyeros, just outside the city of Havana,and now part of the city administrative speaking; here you ,also find the Havana Zoo. The real name from its founding in 1519 was San Cristobal de la Habana (St Christopher of the Havana), the saint is the name for the genovese navigator Cristobal Colon (Christopher Colombus), Habana is an old indian word meaning a savanah between two rivers the Almendares (also the best Cuban pro baseball team before the revolution) ,and the Cojimar (famous by Hemingway fishing out). The old center is all of a UNESCO heritage site.

If you go by El Templete you will see an old oak tree where the first religious Mass was held on the island on 1519 . There lies a bust to Christopher Colombus and 3 paintings by French painter Jean-Baptiste Vermay (who, also, did the Cathedral!).  It gain notoriety when the Spanish crown decided that the city will hold all shipment coming from the rest of the Americas to be sent in convoy to Spain this in 1561 (to avoid pirates ransacking them) . Finally in 1592 king Felipe II declares it a city!

It fell to British rule in 1762 after a succesful attack by British ships and naval man, it was then exchange for Florida in 1763, and Havana came back to be Spanish for good by the Treaty of Paris. In 1774 the first census of the city is done with 170 000 inhabitants, and on 1796 the remains of Christopher Colombus arrives from Santo Domingo to be put in the Cathedral, later to be transfered to the Cathedral of Sevilla, (where the wood of the tomb complex is from Cuba) as the legend goes. In 1837 the first railroad is born from Havana to the town of Gûines, a first in the Spanish-speaking world.  In 1863 the old city walls were destroyed so the city can enlarge into the suburbs being the first one, the Vedado. It became a free Republic on May 20,1902 under Republica de Cuba under American protectorate by the Platt Amendment until 1934. After some not so good dictators, it fell into the worse in 1959 where still is under a communist dictatorship; second oldest in the world behind North Korea!

The longest river is Almendares for 50 kms (31 mi), and the name for an old baseball team, my family’s favorite. The highest point is at Tetas de Managua at 210 meters (693 ft). The bay of Havana is one of the biggest and best in the world. The average temperature is 25°C or about 77°F. But near the airport it has been recorded as low as 4°C about 36°F in 2010. Today it has about 2,5 million inhabitants or about 20% of the island population.

It was once the Paris of the Americas, the most chic city of Latin America until the revolution destroyed everything; streets names were changed, city names were change, people left in hordes, and more poverty than ever sets in all under the glorious revolution still there. However, it was not always like today.

It quickly grew into the city with Latin America’s biggest middle class, and Hemingway quoted “In terms of beauty only Venice and Paris surpassed Havana”. Gas public lighting came in 1848 and railroad in 1837. Most of the building were inspired by French architect and style such as the Aldama castle build in 1844. See the University of Havana, Capitol (1929 replica of the one in Washington DC USA). Neoclassical like the Convent of Santa Clara, Art deco like the Bacardi building,modern like the Habana Hilton Hotel (today Tryp Habana Libre part of the Spanish group Melia), and wonderful castles like La Fuerza, Morro, Cabañas,Atares,Principe,La Punta. The grand theater also known as Garcia Lorca theater,and the biggest in Latin America, cementerio Colon (Colombus cementary).

Some of the places of interest to see in my opinion are the followings : Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabaña or simply La Cabaña in the west side of the harbor; Capitolio Nacional, built in 1929 replica of the one in Washington DC USA; Castillo del MorroEl Templete (first Catholic Mass in Cuba), Cemeterio Colon or Colombus Cementary ,the largest in the Americas; Plaza de la Revolucion ,old Plaza Jose Marti; University of Havana, founded in 1728 and one of the oldest in the Americas; Catedral de la Habana or Cathedral, Convento de San Francisco, Convento de Santa Clara, Palacio de Aldama, Estacion Central de Ferrocarril Or the railroad station, Castillo de AtaresCastillo del PrincipeEl Torron de CojimarAcuario or national aquarium of Havana at avenida 3ra; Museo de la Revolucion in the old Presidential palace ; Fabrica Partagàs, cigars of Cuba; go outside towards Cojimar at Vigia to the house /Museum of Ernest Hemingway, his old property; Walk on bulevard PradoManzana de Gomez, a whole city block building of stores, Cinema Yara the old radio city hall, Castillo de la Real FuerzaCastillo San Salvador de la PuntaPalacio del Segundo Cabo, the home of the 2nd in line governor of old Cuba under Spanish rule; Gran TeatroTeatro Amadeo Roldan; old Captain’s General building where the only king’s throne room in the Americas is located, the site of the governor of Cuba in colonial times and today a museum, Chinatown, as the Chinese quarters.

Havana Mon Maceo Malecon apr12

The way for transport is complicated, and very saturated but its the travelers choice to mingle with the locals and feel ,see the way of life as it is. There are metrobuses lines but very unfrequent and best hire a taxi with driver, and get to ride old American cars at least on the outside. There are some long line bus companies like the locals in inter city travel use the Astro buses from the same spot as below , where if pay in foreign currency you can get a preferential seat (not verify but I was told foreigners cannot use it anymore,check). You can also take the more tourist oriented Via Azul , last I heard their hq was at Avenida Independencia No 101 corner with calle 19 de Mayo, Plaza de la Revolucion, but I never taken anything there than a car. The line via azul schedule is from a French side in pdf file here: https://jdsdf.pagesperso-orange.fr/pdf/Bus%20Viazul%20Cuba%20Horaires.pdf

The same webpage above talks about a new service Transtur ,never heard of but apparently It offers transfer between airport and hotels pdf file here: https://jdsdf.pagesperso-orange.fr/pdf/Bus%20Transtur%20Cuba%20Horaires.pdf

Taxis are regulated  under private individuals and agencies, these are best to be hire for all your trips. Again not use them as have someone ride me around there from the family but this site is for real: http://: https://taxincuba.com/es/index.html

Its a very friendly city that will have no problem finding help and very safe. Driving is not recommended for visitors unaware of the laws and bad road signs but if willing to the best is Havanautos company   with official webpage here: https://www.havanautos.com/AboutUs.aspx?lng=2

The gas/petrol is not plentiful and need to know where are they once you hire the car The stations are call Servi-Cupet and need to pay in foreign currency preferably euros. This is a great map application to find them and more I have it on La Rampa Centro Habana: https://cubamaps.travel/es/compras/tiendas/83623-cupet-la-rampa

For hotels or eating places with the locals try the “Casas Particulares” private folks with official approval. These are best to hire for the experience of real Cuba and Havana of course. There are several sites but I put one from there in English and French too: http://www.casas-cuba.org/index.html

The places to eat best are again at the Casas Particulares that also offered restaurant service. There are now many Paladares or private folks restaurant paying a license to operate from the government but are more typical of Cuba and Havana of course. Again several sites but this one is local as I know it Alamesa or to the table! https://www.alamesacuba.com/en/la-habana/search/#places

And a more popular Restaurant guru for Havana here : https://restaurantguru.com/Havana

Then you have the old reliable like La Bodeguita del Medio, and Floridita Bar (the best bar in the world in 1957 by Esquire magazine); El Aljibe in Miramar, La Ferminia also in Miramar,El Conejito in Vedado ,the old family hangout of rabbit dishes; Los Doce Aposteles in the Morro castle; La Divina Pastora overlooking the harbor, La Zaragozana ; El Potin, near prado and Lineaand Coppelia for ice creams are some of my family favorites.

Oh yes to get to Cuba there are many airlines, but for Cuba there is Cubana de Aviacion, webpage in Spanish here https://www.cubana.cu/

There are others foreign companies that do a lot of flights into Cuba such as COPA, AeroMexico, InterJet, Air France, Avianca, Air Europa, LAN, Comviasa, KLM, Iberia etc. Need to check flights due to covid19.

Booking and al. info on Cuba ,see the old reliable junky at http://www.cuba-junky.com/

And another old reliable Netssa at http://www.netssa.com/

The Cuban tourist organisation in Spanish/English is at  https://www.cubatravel.cu/

As the most tourist now arriving and for the last few years are Canadians, here is the Cuba tourist board in Canada in English: https://www.gocuba.ca/en/

And of course ,the tourist board of Cuba in France in French: https://www.voyage-cuba.com/

Its a city to fall in love for no matter what period of time in history you may choose to visit. Just wishing for those there, better times ahead. Enjoy the ride into my nostalgia old land. Havana is for dreamers!

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

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