A visit to southern Florida

Florida is not my number one destination but I was there the first week of January for my mother’s burial.  She died in December and my sister, our sister-in-law and I traveled to Hollywood, FL to bury her beside her husband of 21 years(my stepfather).  The weather was not the best due to the “bomb cyclone” that was heading up the east coast. But it was still better than remaining in the frozen tundra where we were experiencing a deep freeze with temps below zero.  It was nice to get a break from that!  It was raining the day we got there and the day of the graveside burial it was very windy.  We were grateful that the funeral home offered to us to have our service inside.  Mom was 94 and had dementia for many years, I think it started in 2010.  She had a great fall the day before Thanksgiving and never recovered. While I am sad that she’s gone, I am grateful that she is no longer in pain. We’re having a memorial for her in Clifton, VA where my mother lived with my sister for the past nearly 3 years.  I will be writing something to say for the memorial and I’ll post that here when it’s done.

I decided to extend my trip to southern Florida to visit with my good friend Bev, who I have known since 10th grade. She lives in Boca Raton. We met in band, we both play the flute and by 12th grade we shared first chair because our director couldn’t decide who was better. We have kept in touch and have had a few chances to see each other over the years.  The last time was when she and her older daughter came to St. Paul to see a play.  We met them for dinner one night just over five years ago.  I needed a break from the frozen tundra and lucky for me Bev was in town!

Bev and I have many things in common, one of which is that we’re both very organized.  Before I arrived she had given me ideas of things to do while I was there but I had no idea she was going to create an agenda for us.  When she showed me to my room, there on the bed was our agenda with a big “Welcome to Florida!” on top.  It was so cute! And she did say we didn’t have to do everything as planned.  She made me breakfast every day and she had picked out a few places of interest for us to visit and all were loosely scheduled.  I switched two of them because of the weather and it all worked out great!  We had so much fun visiting the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden and Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens.  We went shopping in Del Rey Beach and had a nice lunch too. I of course took photos so I hope you will enjoy a photo display of these three great places to visit in southern Florida.

We went to Gumbo Limbo Nature Center first and it was a chilly day so we didn’t see everything there.  We looked at and admired the beautiful fish in their outdoor tanks, peeked into the research area and checked out their gift shop.  It’s too bad it was too chilly or we’d have taken a walk on their boardwalk and checked out the many varieties of plants and animals. I did enjoy the fish tanks and Bev was particularly fond of the parrotfish whose excrement supplies a large percentage of the sand on the beaches of southern Florida. Bev brings everyone who visits her to Gumbo Limbo and she knows so much about it that I suggested she volunteer there. It seems like a win/win to me.

The next day we visited Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. This was the one place I absolutely had to see.  As most people know, I love flowers and the chance to visit a tropical botanic garden while I was in southern Florida was a chance I did not want to miss. It was my favorite of the three places we visited.  I enjoyed all three places for different reasons.  I loved learning about the turtle rehabilitation and research going on at Gumbo Limbo.  And visiting it with Bev, I learned so much that I never knew! But it doesn’t compare to Fairchild.  Wow! It’s near Miami so it was at least an hour from Boca Raton and you get to drive through some gorgeous neighborhoods.  More wow.  And this was our best weather day so that really helped for just a fabulous day. You have to take the tram tour.  It’s so interesting and you learn about all the plants and what goes on in all the buildings as well as some history about the place.  The tram driver and tour guide stopped along the way for photo ops.  After the tram tour we walked around, ate lunch and visited the butterflies. The first gallery are some photos from the tram tour and others that I took when we were walking around.

The next gallery consists of the butterfly building.  So many beautiful and delicate butterflies.  At certain times of the day they will place a butterfly on you so Bev did that and while I was taking a photo of her with her butterfly one landed on me!  They tell you to watch where you step as they land on the ground as well.  We did see a few on the ground.

Next are some photos of the art exhibit, The Art of Balance.  These were all up in the air throughout the gardens. They’re all part of a temporary exhibit and they were  so interesting!  I tried posing as one of them and you’ll see the photo that Bev took of me in the next gallery.

My last gallery from Fairchild consists of the handful of Chihuly sculptures that are there.  They are all so beautiful.

On the day that I was scheduled to go home Bev took me to Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens.  My flight was departing in the late afternoon so we had time for another tourist stop.  Another fascinating place! We got there when it opened and it was so quiet and peaceful.  We headed out to tour the gardens on foot.  There are rock gardens, bamboo gardens and I especially enjoyed the bonsai display. There is a museum about how the Japanese came to southern Florida and how the gardens were formed. They recreated a typical Japanese house complete with food containers in Japanese and an example of a grade school class.  We saw a bird that was a cross between an egret and a peacock that was swimming in the water as well as an alligator.  Towards the end we saw coy and other fish and one turtle in another body of water.  We enjoyed a lunch of salmon and rice and visited their gift shop.  You have to visit the gift shops.  So many beautiful and interesting things to buy!

I am not a huge fan of Florida mostly because of things that I dealt with while my mother still lived there.  And it occurred to me after this trip that I never really spent time visiting any sights.  My sister and I (and occasionally our brother) would fly into Ft. Lauderdale and head to Mom’s place in Pembroke Pines. We were there to visit Mom, which was always fun.  So it was nice to see some of the wonderful things southern Florida has to offer.  I’m still not a big fan.  Too many strip malls and it’s way too crowded for my taste.  But, if you’re visiting southern Florida, I highly recommend any of these three fabulous places.

I’ll close with a couple of photos from the plane. The coast of Florida and Chicago at night.  Enjoy!!

14 Comments

Filed under Travel

14 responses to “A visit to southern Florida

  1. Very nice! Wow! What a great trip! Forget about volunteering… Bev should be a tourguide!

  2. So sorry for your loss. Un fuerte abrazo desde Madrid. xx

  3. Toby, It sounds like your trip to Florida gave you a chance to say good bye to your mom and then a chance to reconnect with a good friend. What a great adventure you two had together. I’m glad you were able to get away and have a little break from the tundra! I hope all is good in Roseville and that Miss Maggie is enjoying her senior year! Laurel

    • Yes, it was just what I needed and the timing was perfect. Things are mostly good here but Miss M has had her worst year yet and she can’t wait for it to end unfortunately. She’s a bit better now, up until about two weeks ago though were less than fun. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  4. I’m so glad you visited all these wonderful gardens while in Florida, Toby. Death doesn’t have to be all sadness, but can also be a celebration of life. You certainly made the best of it, while also mourning your mom. I think visiting gardens is a great way to silently grieve but also see hope and promise. You have a lot of rebirth coming up in the years ahead.

  5. Toby, I am terribly remiss in commenting. I am sorry for your loss. I hope you can focus on good thoughts of your Mother’s life. I have my days when I remember her fading memory and her thinking I was her husband rather than son.

    I am not surprised by your feelings about the place you went to help her. The negative feelings permeate the place.

    Take care, my friend. Keith

    • Oh, no worries at all. I haven’t been blogging much but hope to get back to it soon! Yea, the Florida thing….if it was just a one-off thing that happened I probably wouldn’t be left with such negative feelings. But it was way more than one thing. My friend Bev did a wonderful job showing me some beautiful things in southern Florida and we had a great time. But I’m still not very anxious to return. I’m glad my mother was happy there, it’s just not for me. We had a celebration of Mom’s life at the end of March and I am planning to put a post together about it and her life but first I have Miss M’s graduation coming up! I should have more time to blog this summer and forward. I think we lost our mothers about a year apart, right? Thanks again for your kind words. I so appreciate it.

      • Toby, you are right about the year apart, as my mother passed Christmas Day, 2016. I grew up in Florida, but enjoy the four seasons where I live in NC. From your travels, I think your affinity for Spain far exceeds Florida. I look forward to living vicariously through your travel blogpost. Keith

      • Spain is da bomb ;) thanks, I look forward to writing more travel posts…..eventually! thanks my friend. appreciate it.

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