Searching for Normalcy

"And finally, above all else, it is about leaving a mark that I existed: I was here. I was hungry. I was defeated. I was happy. I was sad. I was in love. I was afraid. I was hopeful. I had an idea and I had a good purpose and that’s why I made works of art…" – Felix Gonzalez-Torres

Miami: See It Like A Tourist December 5, 2010

Filed under: Photography,Travel,Video — Lulu @ 5:46 pm

WARNING: Super photo heavy!

Yesterday Fanless and I had a chance to take the Original Miami and Everglades Eco Adventure tour with Miami Tour Company. Miami Tour Company is owned by Gus and Michelle Moore, of MiamiBeach411.com, with whom we are personally acquainted. We had heard great things about their tour company and they’ve received really great reviews from past guests. So we booked our tour several months ago and I was really looking forward to it. (As it turned out, our very friendly and knowledgeable guide, Jim Moore, was none other than Gus’ father, but we didn’t find that out until the very end of the tour).

Our tour began when we were picked up right on time (9:35AM) in front of the Avalon Hotel on Ocean Drive in South Beach. The weather has been really beautiful lately and perfect for enjoying this kind of activity.

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We were part of a small group – approximately 28 people – and we got to ride in a very comfortable air-conditioned bus, with large windows on both sides. The bus also had two video screens that would show live video of the road ahead as we were driving. After a quick stop at Joe’s Stone Crab to pick up a few other guests, we were on our way. First we drove down Washington Avenue in South Beach.

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We paused at the Holocaust Memorial for picture-taking…

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before making a stop at the Miami Beach Botanical Garden.

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I had absolutely no idea this even existed, but it’s really lovely.

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We then exited the beach, via the 395 Causeway, and headed to Coconut Grove, where we saw the former homes of Madonna and Sylvester Stallone, along with a few other locations of note.

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We stopped for lunch in the Grove (Fanless and I made a beeline for Sandbar Grill and their delicious seafood tacos), and then drove around the Grove where we saw some interesting homes, the Bahamian Cemetery, and the Kampong Garden.

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From the Grove we headed to Coral Gables, viewing gorgeous homes along the way, prior to making a quick stop outside the Biltmore Hotel for a photo op.

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We headed down Calle Ocho into Little Havana, where we got to stop at Domino Park for a few minutes. Los viejos were so wrapped up in their games, I don’t even think they noticed the odd group of tourists taking their pictures.

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From Little Havana we headed back to downtown Miami to drop off a few guests that were taking a sightseeing cruise from Bayside.

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The rest of us continued on to Gator Park in the Everglades, where we took an airboat ride (check that off my bucket list).

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We saw a great blue heron just chilling out at the dock.

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We also saw a few gators – including a newborn! – and turtles.

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Our airboat guide was really nice and very funny, but I don’t remember his name.

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Following the airboat ride, we were treated to a live animal show where we got to see a really cute skunk named Paris…

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a not-so-cute alligator named Norman…

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and several wild peacocks.

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As that concluded the tour for us, we headed back downtown to pick up the guests from Bayside and start dropping everyone off at their respective hotels.

I think the only negative for us was just the fact that it was a really long day. We didn’t get back to the beach until about 530PM, so we were kind of beat by then. But all in all, we had a really enjoyable day. The tour went at a very relaxed pace and it was nice to just sit back and let someone else do the driving for once. It was also really informative, even for a native Miamian such as myself. There were several times when I found myself saying “I never knew that” to Fanless after a particular piece of information had been shared by either Jim or by the audio recording of the tour. For example, did you know that parts of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video were filmed in the Bahamian Cemetery? Yeah, me neither. It was little tidbits of info like that which kept the tour interesting for me.

I would definitely recommend this tour for out-of-town visitors, and even to locals that are looking for something fun and different to do.

(Oh, and here’s a video Fanless shot of the crazy animal guy sticking his hand in Norman’s mouth! Nutter!!)

Alright, that’s all. Peace out, yo!

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