Friday, August 3, 2018

Valhalla in Miami? Close...it's Vizcaya


We're burning towards the end of this very long adventure. Before we continue, we're taking a little break to have a meal with our friends, David Paul Appel and Jose Balido of the great travel site, Tripatini.com (really, check it out...it's chock full of great information).

As we enjoy their company over fantastic $5 burgers and margaritas at Tarpon Bend Bar and Grill in Coral Gables, we commiserate over our travels, writing, and what's coming next. As we tell them we've basically ran out of things to do, with one day left, I believe it was Jose who said "have you seen Vizcaya?"

Why, no...I've never even heard of it.


Watch the Video!



As the partners tell us about this house, formerly owned by Jim Deering, the founder of International Harvester, we grow more intrigued. We now have something to do on this last day.

Vizcaya is easy to get to without a car, it sits right off the Metrorail at the Vizcaya Station, just south of downtown Miami. It's only a couple of blocks from our hotel to our local station, and then just one stop on the train.

From here, we cross the Dixie Highway on the pedestrian overpass and what an overpass it is.

It's nicely ramped for wheelchairs.  'Nicely' is an understatement...this is the most spectacular pedestrian overpass and ramp I've ever seen.



Winding it's way slowly down to ground level, from the highway it transverses the treetops like floating down through a jungle canopy to the street below.



It's still a couple of blocks to the entrance of the grounds on Miami Avenue.

There is a driveway for vehicles and another paved path for pedestrians. The pedestrian path winds through a jungle of trees. It's bumpy and, at every bend you think you've finished, it continues on. It's gorgeous, enclosing, very engrossing, and also very bumpy.

We exited later via the vehicle road, which was a bit more boring but easier on the wheelchair.

After buying tickets, a security guard tells us there is a wheelchair lift off to the side. It's one of those lifts that go up the stairs. Another tells us with the heat, he'd recommend that we explore the gardens and the outside of the house first while the day is still relatively cool...save the house for the end when it gets hot outside.

Seems like good advice with all the hot weather we've been enduring for the last couple of weeks.



Turning south, we come around a corner of a wall and the landscape opens up into a large, oval shaped manicured garden with fountains around the edges. The old, Mediterranean style mansion sits at one end and a waterfall between two grottoes is at the other.

It reminds us of some of the European castle gardens we've seen in Germany.

We have to navigate around groups dressed in their wedding or Quinceanera finest, who are here and there with their photographers taking pictures.



Behind the waterfall, there used to be a couple of large lagoons but the property has shrunk over the years to its current 43 acres.

While Letty is snapping away with her camera, Tim and I explore the perimeter of these gardens but soon come to a dead end...stairs...and we have to navigate back the way we came.

Temporary wooden ramps have been build on the main staircase between the garden and the house. I get Tim up to that level, where he can roll over to the ocean side of the house.

Deering really went all out here. A Venetian-style canal sits here with a large, concrete barge just offshore.



Guests were ferried on gondolas from a landing at the house, across the little canal, and onto the barge where parties were held.



Iguanas stand guard along the edge of the wall.



It's an amazing sight and we can just imagine the gilt age shenanigans that went on here.

On the north side of the house, the gardens are closed off because of damage from Hurricane Maria in 2017. 



We can still see the swimming pool that flows out from a room in the house. Not quite Hearstian splendor here but pretty impressive anyway.



A small orchid garden is here.



Tim and I explore it while Letty checks out the nearby gift shop.

Now, we head back over to that stair lift and go inside the house.



Upstairs is not accessible but downstairs, we're able to see a small kitchen, a dining room, and a living area.


A music room leads us into a large, central atrium.



Thankfully, it's now air conditioned so Tim and I wait here while Letty goes upstairs to take pictures.



She's able to see Mr. Deering's bedroom...



...and the main kitchen of the house.

It's quite a sight to see. The house is imposing, beautiful, and a reminder of Miami's past. 

Catching our breath a little after exploring, we make the short ride back to the train station. With that last blast, it's time to pack our bags because tomorrow, we're flying back home.

Thanks to David and Jose for recommending Vizcaya to us and than you all for coming along vicariously on this trip.

Time for a little rest up before the next one.

CORRECTION: In the embeded video above, the builder of the mansion is referred to as John Deering. It is James Deering.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2018 - All Rights Reserved

Photos by Letty Musick
 Copyright 2018 - All Rights Reserved



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