Tag Archives: florida

Floridays

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So I am back in St. Augustine for Thanksgiving for some Floridays. The weather has been perfect and I am getting to re-experience my old home and the site for the make believe setting in my book, Latchawatchee, Florida! Latch is alot different than St. Augustine. For one, there’s no bad energy in St. Augustine and it’s alot older than Latch. If you’ve never been to St. Augustine, you truly must go and I think you will really enjoy my book, The Opaque Stones also—read it while you’re thereTravel to the oldest city in America sometime and experience the history for yourself, don’t take my word for it. It’s as rich if not richer than New Orleans and as amazing as San Francisco. I even traveled down St George street to get a new Panama hat. Everything is just dripping in history and aura, it’s like a spiritual place. They’ve even got a Fountain of Youth if you want to live forever. Anyway, check out my latest book, How To Live also, plus I got a Youtube channel with some St. Augustine videos there promoting the book. For more Floridays articles, click on the Florida tags or see related articles below. Thanks!

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Me with my new Panama hat on St. Augustine Beach.

A DAY ON 30A

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I have been going to 30A since I was a kid, so if you want to know the best way to spend a day on 30A, take it from me.

So I went to the 30-A area in Florida to hang out, and had an awesome time! Beach shells, swimming in the ocean, grubbing at Modica Market, walking through the lovely Seaside sand swept streets at night, cozying through the small little nook walks here and there—the green spaces, the food, the white sand beach, the people, nothing beats Seaside, except Watercolor right next door! I really like all these communities along the Gulf Coast down the highway 30-A from Grayton Beach to Alys Beach to Rosemary! They all have their unique appeal, cool shops, and great food! Just south of Destin, Florida, Seaside was born in 1980 and features a sprawling array of cottages built close together in a new urbanist community based on small towns of the South.

Sitting out on the beach in my blue chair with my umbrella, watching the waves roll in while reading a nice book was how I spent my late mornings and early afternoons. I also spent a lot of time in Seaside’s swimming pool, which came equipped with its on towels and lounge chairs to lay out on. Another thing I did was cruised on foot everywhere. Be sure to stop at Sun Dog Books and Record store. It’s like awesome reading for me there, plus off the wall LPs upstairs. Get a coffee across the way at Amavida and browse the grove marketplace (an open-air market!). That’s right, I said it, an open-air market! There’s a pizza joint there also that hit home runs on my appetite, but nothing really appealed to me more than sitting in an Adirondack chair right next to the beach, listening to singer songwriters being pumped through the stereo system, and drinking a cold beverage. It was like that for me right out in front of the Shrimp Shack (that’s where my beer came from). Up and down 30-A, the Shrimp Shack is my pick for the freshest, quickest seafood to eat. Nothing beats their marinated crab claws I tell you. They also serve Dreaming Tree wine and have a whole cooler full of beers and beverages alike—anything to cool you down when you’ve been in the hot Florida sun. The atmosphere is unbeatable with screen doors and sand coming up to the back door entrance. You feel like you’re in paradise—some kind of Jimmy Buffett song I guess. A cool breezeway for eating at picnic style two-seaters is a great place to take it away on the food or out back at the big gazebo overlooking the Gulf. Just take it away there and trust me, it’s the place to be. Another place to check out is Bud N’ Alley’s in the grove. More of a sit down place, they offer anything you could want seafood-wise, plus they have a killer bar upstairs that overlooks the Gulf. It’s a great place to catch a game—we saw the World Cup there! For fancy dining, don’t forget Thirty A up the road. Named after the legendary drive and area, it has simply the best high dining fare you could ask for. I had the scallops and loved it.

Back at Seaside, check out the Airstream trailer line-up anytime you’re hungry or parched. Go to Raw n’ Juicy for a fresh green juice after body surfing in the Gulf or to Frost Bites for ice cream! At night, the green space offers outdoor movies sometimes, and there is also an awesome theater. Also, nothing beats just walking around gazing up at the stars. While we were there, two rainbows lit up the sun baked sky! It’s that kind of place. Magical things happen there all around you. Check Seaside out, it’s worth the trip. Rent a house or a condo or stay at Watercolor Inn! Thank me later.

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THINGS TO DO IN ST AUGUSTINE FL

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If you’re going to Northeast Florida, one place to not miss is the oldest city in North America, St. Augustine. There are a lot of things to do in St Augustine, FL that you won’t want to miss. Founded in 1565 and discovered by Ponce de Leon, this wonderfully preserved ancient city sits almost right on the water and boasts some of the most beautiful stretches of isolated beach in Vilano Beach just north of St. Augustine that you will find in modern day Florida. One cool thing is that there are building codes in place, unlike other parts of Florida, that discourage taller ocean front buildings. I think there’s like a three-story minimum or something, maybe less! You might start out your day in the old city by doing a walking tour up and down this historic slice of old Florida. Go for it on a cup of coffee somewhere there and get the European feeling the city has to offer as you sit outside with gentle ocean breezes blowing. While there, go see some history like The Castillo de San Marcos and the Ximinez-Fatio House—it goes back to 1573—wow! Also, be sure to stroll down St. George Street in the old area. Two very old churches in town really capture the essence of this place and are worth visiting also. Next, think about the Fountain of Youth. You will learn all about the city’s history and how Ponce de Leon thought he had discovered the spring of eternal life there. Next, you might pack a beach bag for the day and go to St. Augustine Beach by the pier. You’ll cross the incredible Bridge of Lions on your way over. Feel the wonderful energy of the natives who lived in this place that you’ve learned about and the Spanish conquistadors like Leon in the vibe of this place. Hey, go surfing for the day! After a day at the beach relaxing, you could be like me and drive south to Crescent Beach just to check it out. Hit a shell shop on the way—there’s an awesome one. There are some beautiful vistas of the ocean on Crescent you won’t see in many places in Florida. On the way back, maybe check out the Alligator Farm. I know there is also an awesome dolphin/marine park, but I’ve never been to it. After running through all the above things to do in St Augustine, you might check out Vilano Beach as the sun sets. It’s beach stretches on for miles, so it’s a great place to catch the sunset. Hey, try out Cap’s On The Water up the way there for fresh seafood and a steller vibe. Next, for night, take it to one of the many bars in the old city. Walk around and immerse yourself in this place I once almost called home. It’s that cool.

TOP TEN THINGS TO DO IN MIAMI

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So, I grew up coming to Miami for vacations and always loved this wonderful city. Although, I never lived there, I have a list of my favorite top ten things to do in Miami. Here it goes:

1. Lay out on the beach!
2. Go for a sailboat cruise of the area (you may have to go to Key Biscayne to find one, but it works there also—they even have snorkeling!).
3. Go shopping in South Beach and see the Art Deco houses and hotels there.
4. Have a cup of cuban coffee at a cafe.
5. Tour the historic Italian Meditarrenean Vizcaya with it’s sweeping views of the ocean.
6. Go to Garcia’s Seafood Grille and Fish Market. Unlike Joe’s in South Beach which I wrote about, Garcia’s feels more like a local crab shack on the Gulf Coast or Maine and sits right on the Miami river. Boasting a fresh seafood market, it really takes you there on the quality of their fish. Everything is fresh. It may not always be the best extras or the best sauces, but the quality of seafood is outstanding.
7. Cruise over to Coconut Grove for cool bistros, a little more shopping and coffeehouses, plus a park on the water and great classical architecture to drive by. Getting some ice cream there to cool down is good idea for me.
8. Sitting right next to Coconut Grove, the wealthier enclave of Coral Gables boasts more big old sprawling Spanish style homes to wander by. Similar to Beverly Hills, it has tons of wonderfully designed historic houses for a driving tour. The houses literally hide behind swooping banana palms and tropical vegetation. You might check out the Venetian Pool while you’re there.
9. Go see the Miami Heat cook it up.
10. Have a drink at the hip Fontainebleau hotel.

*Don’t forget to explore cultural neighborhoods like Little Havana and take advantage of Miami’s awesome downtown museums and opera if you like that sort of thing. Look at Trip Advisor.

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JOE’S IN MIAMI

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While eating in Miami, I always make it a habit to go to Joe’s Stone Crab at Miami Beach. Touristy or not, Joe’s big mouthwatering stone crabs fill the plate and your appetite for all things seafood that come from the ocean. The last time I was there, my mouth was watering for New England Clam Chowder from Maine or something, so I got that, and what did my eyes see, low and behold, it was the Killer King Crab Claws, I believe I went for it there on the two pounder, and had Key Lime Pie for desert. It was like Key West, Maine and Miami all rolled into one for me that way. I sat alone, drank iced tea and watched the bustling South Floridan traffic brush by me as I dined in style at 11 Washington Ave. What a bar they have there also. Stop in for drinks before walking on the beach at night. Maybe a Mojito or something.

PALM BEACH’S ARCHITECTURAL HISTORY

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Palm Beach’s architectural history is rich. You might not know this, but a lot of the Mediterranean Spanish Style houses in South Florida, particularly Palm Beach, were designed primarily by two men, Addison Mizner, a widely traveled American and a Swede named Maurice Fatio. Their styles, especially Addison Mizner’s one room deep approach to design gives Palm Beach its unique distinctive feeling. You could be in some Spanish castle from another country, while sitting in one of these estate’s living rooms. Mizner, who moved to Palm Beach for his health around 1918 believed in South Florida’s future—he even helped eventually found Boca Raton. He was also friends with Paris Singer, famous sewing machine heir and Palm Beach resident who encouraged him to primarily work in the area. Some notable Fatios and Mizners don their Spanish root names and have been lived in by the likes of rockstars, tycoons and even politicians. I have driven by all these wonderful estates with their sprawling tropical lawns and in many cases, well-manicured hedges, although, the occasional jungle house lawn appears hiding away as if a tiger might lurk there in the bushes. So, if you’re ever in South Florida, tour the homes there like me. Or pick up a book like Palm Beach Houses and take a journey through many of the famous architecturally inspired houses—some of them like The Everglades Club are visible right off Worth Avenue in Palm Beach and others are businesses like The Brazilian Court Hotel and The First National Bank of Palm Beach that you can actually walk up to, others are homes with romantic names such as Villa Flora, La Guerida, La Bellucia, El Solano, The Warden House, Buenos Recuerdos,  Il Palmetto and Casa Eleda.

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THE ART OF TREASURE HUNTING

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The art of treasure hunting is both real and alive today and has always been of great intrigue to me! I wrote about it in my book The Opaque Stones for goodness sake. In doing the research for the book, I read quite a bit about it online and in books to get the facts straight. Treasure hunters search for treasure underwater and on land for buried treasure generally. A great deal of hunting today occurs underwater though for lost artifacts, including gold and other jewels. This is done via scuba diving and robots, as well as other very sophisticated technical equipment. Its like video game stuff there! Underwater antiquities range from gold coin, some of which has numismatic value, to silver, rubies, pearls, and other jewels, as well as other precious artifacts that might have survived with historical value such as an antique mirror. Sunken ships aren’t merely the stuff of movies and books either. The ocean floor is literally littered with shipwrecks. A little wiki fact I pulled states that the UN estimates roughly 3 million shipwrecks are scattered on the sea floor. How many of those contain buried treasures from forgotten times? Many of the fleets containing treasure are Spanish galleons such as the one Mel Fisher found. Mel, one of the most famous modern offshore treasure hunters, found the Nuestra Senora de Atocha off the coast of Key West where the heavily armed ship was destroyed in a hurricane. The Atocha finds are valued at around a staggering, whopping, and measly pathetic 450 million dollars.

Everything from bad weather like Key Largo hurricanes, rival ships or Johnny Deppish pirates, even on deck fires could bring a ship down, just to name a few. Many times, treasure survives better underwater when it is buried in sand where crustacean, oxygenation and wave action doesn’t deteriorate it as quickly, although, the sand itself can deteriorate the ship and artifacts. In many cases, wood doesn’t do as well underwater, so many ship artificats will just be buried under the sand. Maybe you get lucky and find a bell from the ship or a brass plate with the ship’s name on it.

A tagline of my book is “every hunt starts with a good story” and I think there is a lot of truth to that for all treasure hunting. Nothing is more true for on land hunting where buried treasure is sought. As with underwater hunting, the equip goes far beyond metal detectors, involving very technical devices. This treasure was often buried by outlaws or hidden in place of banks, and it was never retrieved. There are abandoned mine shafts too. But that’s a danger all its on. You’re not just dogging sharks there like the underwater guys, you’re in danger of the mine collapsing, not to mention dangerous vapors to dodge. Besides, what’s in a mine that hasn’t been taken? As long as lost treasure exsits, the art of treasure hunting will continue!