Day Two: Flora & Fauna

Earlier start today with the need to put our things back into their proper places with a noon checkout. We drank coffee outside in the courtyard by the disneyish pool—watching the passing parade to the glamour pool. Interestingly enough, I found out later that even the Bal Harbor Sheridan was designed by Mr. Fabulous, Morris Lapidus. Kind of explains the fantasy lagoon pool with the bridges spanning the parts—with each end of the lemon yellow faux-dobi capped with huge, flaired, white, lattice worked baskets on either side of these 4 or so bridges. Also explains the nice, blocky texture the rooms with the balconies have—forming a dense wall of texture against which the parklet is placed. K and A were delighted to find out that tryouts for some sort of reality show to pinpoint the next supermodel were happening today at the Bal Harbor. Just this significant news took what was okay and supercharged it into something really special.

Miami is an entirely different vibe from Southern California. Here it is about dealing with the heat and humidity. It’s about hanging out, relaxing…spending the day at the beach or the pool. It’s about drinking water and being in water. You are surrounded by water—and when you think you are far from the ocean, its right there—Spanish is spoken here…in every dialect and type…and that Spanish, south American, Cuban heritage is fused into food, music and the club/dance scene. Lots of low cut tops amongst the ladies. Lots of white. Lots of stripes. Lots of chains and big rings. The whole pattern thing is big too. I’ve noticed that antique or vintage fabrics are hip too…made into light silk dresses or shirts. There are these cool multilayered skirts made from silk that are sold everywhere that are floaty and textured. It’s a low-key place where the whole “hostile New Yorker” thing is diffused (and believe me, they all are here too).

The Bal Harbor experience was all about staying at the hotel and making a day or week of it with the swim> tennis> beach> beach motorized toys> shopping at the high end mall across the street> the gym> spa services and another round until it’s time to leave. Lots of like people doing this—and it definitely is relaxing and out of keeping for all of us who live in the land of snow. It slows down the pace of things and bobbing in the tropical blue water and watching the parrots in the trees or the grackles bathe in the pool is plenty to keep the brain occupied.

We spent last night at another wild card from Hotwire. Score! The Mercury Hotel is 100 Collins Avenue, way down in South Beach. The Mercury is a small place with a chic little pool and hot tub with Calvin Klein Modern interiors—tan walls, cream/white accents/ floaty draperies—very cool and understated. We were upgraded to a penthouse with a hot tub and Jacuzzi as the fellow who had paid for it stormed out of the lobby of the Mercury loudly proclaiming it unsuitable for the celebration of his birthday. R. suggested they give it to us in a playful, joking way….(bold move) and they did! We sat in the hot tub on the balcony last night with the every playful K. laughing and talking and gazing at the night sky and the twinkly apartment towers being built all around us.

The Mercury is nestled in this cute South Beach neighborhood, with several restaurants in the block and a club…with chairs and plantings spilling out of doors making the whole place seem very festive. It is a block from the beach—where people and families were gathered last evening—after work, to swim, surf, boogie board and play with their dogs.
This is the land of the “lifeguard station that landed from Mars” types of lifeguard stations. Every one is different—and their colors and shapes are truly a la Mary Blair and Mr. Fabulous, Morris Lapidus. One can look down the beach to see a line-up of one crazy building after the next…a gallery of little single function buildings that are approached as follies with fun and humor infused into that sole purpose.

About noonish, we all got in the car and made for Coconut Grove. Bit of a trip…but really, everything is pretty close and the driving/navigation was quite simple. Our goal was to see the Chihuly exhibit at the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens. We had lunch at a Thai/Japanese restaurant called Moon that was delicious, affordable and perfect. We then, did a drive through of the University of Miami’s campus just to get an eyeful. Then on the the Fairchild.

The Fairchild is in the tradition of the Huntington Botanical Gardens in Pasadena—but focused exclusively on tropical. They are hot on saving Palm species—even reintroducing them to places where these species have died out. They also are big into plants with pharma qualities and food. We saw the dying “Mr. Stinky”, a plant that produces an enormous flower (to me, it resembled the flower in the “Little Shop of Horrors”) that generates this enormous smell similar to carrion that the docent told us projects to the boundaries of the property when Mr. Stinky is in full belch. Apparently, Mr. Stinky is majorly attractive to beetles—that scent, that look….and the poor beetles adore it…and carry pollen etc. to continue the offspring of Mr. S. I am not a beetle. You get the idea.

We saw pineapples, which K and I were dying over how cute and beautiful they were—popping up in the center of a pinkish plant…kind of the jackpot seedpod of the plant. Similar to the cyrus plant that the Fairchild is preserving…We saw mango and papaya plants which takes the specialness away…The strange Mangrove trees with their web of shooters covered in a bark that resembles grey human skin. There were plants that were unbelievably strange and some that we know from the plants that are in corporate office buildings … all together within the happy context of where they grow and We saw iguanas, lizards, box turtle, a snapping turtle with a long nose, a cormorant (bird), some white ibis, and a cowherd egret. I was thrilled, but the general populace took all of these exotics in stride.

The Chihuly work was well suited for this environment. Very bromeliad—and the colors and placement really complemented and added some humor to this environment. The most impressive was a spectacular series of pools—one behind the other—with his floats in one and a tower of light pink squiggles at the end…as the exclamation mark that this This is where one gets married. It is rather formulaic—with sharp tall rods or pulled forms in all the colors of the rainbow –I can imagine the boxes of these forms being delivered and the Chihuly minions spending a week placing the rods, balls and plant like forms within the gardens—creating little jokes or look heres. These are not site specific, but sort of like forms that are placed as a form of decoration within the gardens. I do not know if it is art…but that is always an odd call. I do know that his presence and work at the Fairchild drives traffic. And more traffic is more money—more money to do the good things with plant preservation, cultivation and education that they espouse. Noble motives, world class institution. I would like to visit again. I feel we only scratched the surface.

Today promised the beginning of the boat segment of our trip. More later>>