Monday, April 18, 2011


Palm Beach may be the center of wealth and influence in Florida now, but at the turn of the 20th century, South Miami was the place to build your castle in the sand.

In 1916, James Deering, V.P. of International Harvester, completed construction on his winter home “Vizcaya” on Biscayne Bay, just south of Miami. It has 34 rooms, and one of the largest private gardens in Florida. Deering and his architects traveled extensively throughout Europe seeking inspiration before designing the home and gardens, combining elements of Renaissance Italian and French designs. The house was intended to appear as an Italian estate that had stood for 400 years and had been occupied and renovated by several generations of a family. More than 1000 workers were employed in the construction process.

The house and gardens were eventually sold to the city in 1952 at well below current value and Deering’s heirs generously donated all the furnishings and artwork, provided the house would be opened to the public as a museum.

When the house was built, it contained an open courtyard and the entire home was open to the east. The breezes must have been lovely. Today, large glass doors and a pavilion style glass roof help to keep the interior furnishings and the priceless artwork safe for generations to come. A bit of a shame really. It’s still a very beautiful house and has spectacular gardens, but one can only imagine arriving at the obviously Venice-inspired boat landing and walking up the coral stone steps through the airy portico and into the courtyard. It must have been grand. I’ve included a link to some interior photos as photography isn’t allowed inside the mansion.

Vizcaya is definitely worth a visit if you’re in the Miami area.

More of my exterior photos Here
Vizcaya-Interior photos by house photographer

Monday, April 4, 2011

South Beach, baby!

No visit to South Florida would be complete without a stop over in South Beach (Miami). With its art-deco buildings, palm trees, and healthy, tanned bodies, South Beach blurs the line between a laid-back beach town and Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. Throw in a vibrant nightclub scene and you have a destination truly unique to the planet.

A simple red dot on a map cannot begin to pin down a place like South Beach. As a latitude with attitude, to borrow a phrase from Jimmy Buffett, South Beach offers so much to its visitors. With its crystal clear blue waters, pink, green, and blue neon art-deco hotels, it’s no wonder South Beach has such a strong artist community with art galleries and street art around every corner.

Of course, the beach in South Beach is amazing. Brilliant white sand and palm trees make this beach the place to be during the mid-day hours while lifeguards in pastel art-deco inspired towers watch over swimmers and sun-bathers alike.

There are plenty of street-side cafes in which to grab a bite and more than a few upscale restaurants when you want to dress up a little. Seafood is plentiful here and is usually caught fresh not far from the grill. Cuban inspired fare is a favorite as is Caribbean island food. Grilled Plantains and black beans with Jerk Chicken are a personal favorite.

The nightlife in South Beach is legendary and has been written about extensively so I won’t say much about it here except to note that fashion is a huge part of going out in South Beach. The choices for what to wear are endless and you’ll see folks come in right off the beach in swimming attire and those that have obviously hit the high-end boutiques on Ocean Drive. What else would you expect… it’s South Beach.

**NEW** More South Beach images at