Saturday, April 19, 2008

A View of Miami: Coral Gables: April 14, 2008 Part III

Miami's Coral Gables Part III
On My Way Home
Monday, April 14, 2008
Approximately 11:00 A.M. - 1:00 P.M.

(click any of the photos for an enlarged view)

I had a 4:00p.m. flight and figured since I had "time to kill" I might as well see if I can capture MORE of Miami. I checked out at 10:30a.m. and the Sheraton manager on staff recommended Coral Gables. Of course, they were directing me to the shopping district where most tourists enjoy going. *I* however had a map, which is all I needed, to get myself into trouble . So with map at hand, I decided to drive to the coast, further down the beaten path. Hey, I'm the adventurer not just a mere "tourist" (Thanks Anthony Bourdain!). Coral Gables had lots of fancy mansions and it was an enjoyable scenic drive.

There were these wild, absolutely WILD banyan trees that seemed to "leap out from the ground" in animated suspension. I had a fun time imagining interesting stories for these trees while I drove through Coral Gables. They were SO BEAUTIFUL, captivating and eerie, but absolutely so beautiful to me.

Finally there was a stopping area further down at Peacock Park in Coconut Grove area that looked to be a vista point. Here I thought I would just take some scenic photos so I parked the little RED Chevrolet. And after snapping the photo below, the lovely Kodak decided to lose power. Aargh! I knew I forgot to do something back at the hotel, I FORGOT to charge the darn battery. Goodness, here I am WANTING to snap more photos and not being able to. Hmmm, what is a girl to do? Well THIS girl thought a mile a minute and was determined to have the battery charged so she could continue her adventure.

I decided it was probably time to have lunch and I figured, if I am nice to the restaurant staff, maybe, just maybe, they will let me charge my battery so I could continue to capture just a bit more of
Miami before my flight. Okay 1.5 hours left, time is a ticking away, but I'm on the move in my little RED Chevrolet.

Peacock Park in Coconut Grove

So, I'm driving along SW 27 Ave following the arrows that told me I was going towards the airport. I spotted the Las Culebrinas Restaurant as I drove past it. Ah, there's lots of cars in the parking lot, it must be good food! I wasn't going to settle for the norm or fast food and still had a taste for what makes Miami - well, what makes Miami, MIAMI! So I did a U-Turn (legally, mind you!) and decided to give it a try. My Kodak battery was yearning to be charged baby! We had further adventures to explore. The valet parking attendant didn't even have to do his job, I saw an open spot and figured $4.00 was nothing if I could experience more of Miami. I am sure the attendant thought I was strange to park my own car but yet willing to pay him too. Ahaha!

Las Culebrinas

The friendly and wonderful waiters of Las Culebrinas who was kind enough to wait for my battery to charge so I could snap this photo of them. It's not the best photo since the Kodak takes so-so indoor shots but I had to share this with you. The restaurant is a mix of Spanish and Cuban cuisine. My mouth watered as I read dish after delicious dish on the menu. (i.e., Bistec de Palomilla, Zarzuela de Mariscos, Filete de Salmon Balsamico, Vaca Frita Marisquiada, and more! Yes I have a to go menu here still salivating with good yummy-ness!) Decisions, decisions! Only one item for lunch? It was so hard to decide what to have for lunch. My eyes wanted them all! Goodness why have I only discovered this restaurant right before I left? I would have eaten at Las Culebrinas EVERY night whilst I was in Miami if I only knew of them! (Okay, note to self "next year... when I'm back in Miami... Las Culebrinas and these guys have a definate date! Maybe several dates! haha.)

As a consummate teacher of sorts, I encouraged the guys to go to English school. Although we were able to communicate through smiles, hand gestures (not the bad ones!), slowly speaking, and some misinterpretations, I couldn't help myself but to suggest that English classes would make their lives more rewarding, living in the U.S. Okay, I should mind my own business but hey I have this BIG mouth, you know. So I was telling them I was in Miami from Los Angeles, promoting my new book, Bead Romantique. I was doing a gesture mimicking the motions of "writing on a paper" but they thought I needed a pen and paper to write something for them. HAHAHAH. Anyhow, the gentleman second from the right, was attending English school to learn how to write POETRY in Spanish. I was able to talk to him more in depth and he interpreted my comments to the others, which were followed by smiles from all of them. One of the guys even blew a kiss my direction. (smile)

The guys had a great time it seemed. They smiled at me and a few even winked at me too while I was eating my lunch. It was somewhat darling to experience. I think they thought it was strangely exciting that a Chinese woman (who loves Japanese arts) walks into their Spanish/Cuban restaurant in the United States and actually, scrumptiously enjoys their culture. I even spoke broken Spanish to entertain them. It was fun all the multiculturalism. I LOVED every moment spent at Las Culebrinas!

I passed out some business cards and told them that I will be sure to come back to visit them on my next trip back to Miami. They thought for some reason that it would soon, perhaps the same week. I told them, no "next year"and that I was flying back to Los Angeles after lunch. (Btw, my American Airlines flight was delayed ONE hour but I did make it home, exhausted with the flu, but rewarded by all my experiences in Miami - especially meeting so many wonderful people. This is what life - at least mine is all about - meeting wonderful people, having wonderful experiences and making CONNECTIONS in life. Thank you Miami!)

The wonderful linen draped ceiling ART started giving me so many ideas sitting underneath it. I couldn't stop gazing up (ALWAYS look up everyone) while I chewed on my churrasco. I must have seemed very much an odd girl, running around the restaurant, taking photos in between the battery being charged. Some other photos came out too blurry to share. SHUCKS! Oh! THAT Kodak, misbehaving at this moment. Naughty Kodak! (Note to self: Must break in Canon for next trip!)

Okay, so this is not much of a photo since I ate most of my churrasco (flank steak for those that don't know). The Kodak's battery was charging and I had mis-loaded it, so had to fix that mid meal. In the meantime, the clock was ticking and I had to eat some of this delicious lunch. The chimichurri sauce was ABSOLUTELY the BEST I have EVER had. I had churrasco at the hotel but nothing like this. The flavors, YUMMMMIE!, just thinking about it.

I learned that there are several ways of preparing plaintains. At the hotel, they served the churrasco with sweet plaintains, so it was not battered. At Las Culebrinas they serve the plaintains like potato fritters. Plaintains are DELICIOUS any which way they are prepared. I love plaintains when prepared properly. I enjoyed my entire meal but as always, the food was great but the company was EVEN better. Until next time, Las Culebrinas, I will be back (Terminator voice!)

Coral Gables City Hall

After leaving Las Culebrinas, I turned onto the shopping district of Coral Gables heading towards the airport. And then I spotted the City Hall. I looked at my watch and I was cutting it close (of course I didn't know my flight would be delayed!) but I just HAD TO stop to photograph the architectural elements of this building! I asked permission to photograph the building since there were landscapers working on the outside.

The George Merrick Statue stands in front of the Coral Gables City Hall. George Merrick was the real estate developer that is credited for planning and building Coral Gables in the 1920s, one of the first planned communities in the United States. His statue's placard states "I have given my life to the development of our city and to the working out of an ideal".

Yes, this REALLY is the City Hall of Coral Gables as shown by this placard. Look at the beautiful columns

The columns are decorated with acanthus capitals. In architecture, the capital forms the crowning member or the decorative element to a column. The design of the Coral Gables City Hall is reminiscent of Romanesque influences.

Closeup of the capital on an inner wall column. Notice the acanthus-like leaves and a Green Man ornament?

A Green Man decorates the ornate sculpture that line the building's roof. According to Wikipedia, there are many different variations of the Green Man, which is found in many cultures around the world. The Green Man is often related to natural vegetative deities springing up in different cultures throughout the ages. Primarily it is interpreted as a symbol of rebirth, or "renaissance," representing the cycle of growth each spring. Some speculate that the mythology of the Green Man developed independently in the traditions of separate ancient cultures and evolved into the wide variety of examples found throughout history.

A side entrance to the City Hall. Notice the two Green Man ornaments?

Closeup of the Green Man ornaments. Again from Wikipedia, carvings of the Green Man may take many forms, naturalistic or decorative, usually referred to in works on architecture as foliate heads or foliate maks. The simplest depict a man's face peering out of dense foliage. Some may have leaves for hair, perhaps with a leafy beard. Often leaves or leafy shoots are shown growing from his open mouth and sometimes even from the nose and eyes as well. In the most abstract examples, the carving at first glance appears to be merely stylized foliage, with the facial element only becoming apparent on closer examination. The face is almost always male; green women are rare. Green cats, lions and demons are also found.

A Green Man guarding the wall fountain.
(Wikipedia) From the Renaissance onwards, elaborate variations on the Green Man theme, often with animal heads rather than human faces, appear in many media other than carvings (including manuscripts, metalwork, bookplates, and stained glass). They seem to have been used for purely decorative effect rather than reflecting any deeply-held belief.

In Britain, the image of the Green Man enjoyed a revival in the 19th century, becoming popular with architects during the Gothic Revival and the Arts and Crafts era, when it appeared as a decorative motif in and on many buildings, both religious and secular. American architects took up the motif around the same time. The Green Man traveled with the Europeans as they colonized the world. Many variations can be found in Victorian-style Neo Gothic architecture. He was very popular amongst Australian stonemasons and can be found on many secular and sacred buildings.

First United Methodist Church of Coral Gables

Some churches and/or temples have the best architectural elements and I always look for these, in my trips, if a church or temple happen to be nearby. Welcome to the First United Methodist Church of Coral Cables.

The Arabesque style arches on the church and bell tower

A closeup view of the church's doors and entry way. Another key feature I look to capture, when I seek out architectural elements in my travels, are beautiful doors. The doors are the most "welcoming" aspect of a building.

A close-up of the gorgeous Arabesque style entry way and doors. Notice the Alpha and Omega symbols on the wall. (Wikipedia) The New Testament has God declaring himself to be the "Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last."

The Trees in Between City Hall and the Church

I love trees. Trees of life. Without trees we would not have life. Without trees we would not have oxygen. Trees are beautiful. Trees are my teachers. I love the way the branches twists as the tree reaches out to me, to the world and to us.


But I will be back next year
Until then, THANK YOU
For some great fond memories
In your beautiful city,
With it's beautiful people,
And beautiful (delicious) food
I will think of you in between now
And again, in my dreams
Yearning to be in Miami soon, very soon
Next time, not for a show
But for pure FUN with Nick
And I'm leaving THAT Kodak home!

Haha! (smiles)

Be at Peace

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