Since many of us will be spending time in Florida this winter we thought we'd talk about our Florida experiences. We have spent a great deal of time in the Miami area and usually stay at the Riviera Court in Coral Gables, on US 1, (800) 368-8602, a small very clean and reasonably priced motel with its own security guard, a helpful item when staying in this area. It is close to the following shows: Coconut Grove, the south Miami shows, Beaux Arts, and fairly close to Baptist Hospital. Also nearby are Howard Johnson's and Holiday Inn. There are many interesting places to eat close at hand. One of our favorites is LB's eatery on Ponce de Leon on the edge of the University of Miami's baseball stadium. The food is good, fresh, and it has good prices and a decent vegetarian selection. There are also lots of movies nearby at the Riviera and the Bakery Centre. From this area you are not far from many activities. It's a short drive to Key Largo and the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park where you can go on a snorkeling tour or a scuba trip. It's not far from Everglades National Park, although to really get the flavor of the Everglades you should stay there for a few days. You can stay at the Flamingo Lodge at the end of the road or at the campgrounds in the park. This is not at all commercial. It's a very nice break from the crowds and noise of Miami.
We have really played tourist in Miami and had a great time. We have rented a sailboat at the Marina in the Grove and sailed in Biscayne Bay with dolphins swimming around us. One day between shows a group of us boarded the metrorail and rode it all over town, got off and visited the historical museum and the Bayside Marketplace. One of our favorite ways to spend the day is to drive over to Miami Beach, park on Ocean Drive and walk the beach (this is the famous South Beach area). The architecture is wonderful (only in Miami), the cafes have interesting food, the people are a sight in themselves. Then you walk off the beach and enter the Cuban areas, have a cafe Cubano, and mix with the retirees shopping on Lincoln Avenue where there are international stores, more restaurants and interesting galleries. Of course, there are many place to stay around here but we're too nervous to take our van loaded with artwork to some of these areas overnight. Miami is where we learned not to park next to another van. It sets up a blind area between the vans that results in many break-ins, as happened at the Coconut Grove Artists' Dinner a few years ago.
We've spent many days exploring the 83 acre Fairchild Tropical Garden in Coral Gables, the largest tropical botanical garden in the continental United States. Just north of the garden is Matheson Hammock Park, developed by the CCC in the 1930's, very scenic with a quiet beach. It feels like the Miami that used to be, years ago.
To really get into the Florida mind set read some books set in Florida. Recommendations: Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston; Miami by Joan Didion; Killing Mr. Watson by Peter Matthiessen. Also, outrageous adventures by Carl Hiaasen including, Tourist Season and Elmore Leonard's book, Get Shorty and many others. Caribbean by James Michener, travels many of the streets where you will be walking. We love to be in Miami in the winter and consider it to be one of the perks of our business to have to go to Florida every year. We think Michigan is a great place to live, but there is something wonderful about being in a hot tub in Key West while the blizzards are blowing at home.
When we recently ran into several artists at an antique mall in central Ohio we realized that a lot of people in our business frequent these places. We are always looking for a great prop for a photograph, a piece of inspiration or to add to our collection. So we gathered a few tips from friends. Sonny and Roxie Dalton often leave a few days early for a show to look for antiques or junk for his sculptures. On their way to Florida they stop near Franklin Tennessee on I-24 where there is a good collection. Mike ad Carol Weber's favorite stops are:
Pickers Paradise, 2809 S. 11th Street, Niles, MI . This is just a few miles north of the Indiana Toll Road near South Bend.
Webbs Antique Mall, 200 Union Street, Centerville, IN. This is just off I-70 near the Ohio state line.
Jeffery's Antique Mall #1, visible from I-75, Findlay, Ohio, about an hour south of Toledo. Also nominated by Jan Kaulins.
Jeffrey's Antique Mall #2, I-70 Fairgrounds exit near Springfield, Ohio. This is also one of our favorites.
Country Meadows Mall, 17200 E. 40 Hwy, Independence, MO.
All five carry a good general line of merchandise. Webb's is the largest with tons of cases for "pricey" merchandise. But the best buys will be in the open interior spaces near the back. Jan Richardson recommends (and we second) downtown Frederick, MD. for a great variety of merchandise and really decent prices.