We recently had the opportunity to spend a few days in south Florida. This makes my third, well officially fourth, trip to the area and I always enjoy it. My first trip was as a 2 year old so I really don’t remember much about that. However, my mother never forgave me for not having fond memories. We were in Fort Lauderdale in March and she got to see college students in full spring break mode. From that time on I heard, “You are never going to Florida for spring break,” and I never did go anywhere, except home.

The year after I finished graduate school, my roommate  “won” a free trip to Hollywood , Florida, assuming we attended a sales session on buying swamp lots. We stopped at her aunt’s home in Gainesville on the way. We checked out the local nightspots,and  rode in some Texas architect’s Corvette. Well actually I did that, she followed in my car. We went deep sea fishing and I thought it was so cool to sit on the front of the boat as it bounded up and down in rough seas until, suddenly, it wasn’t. It was my belated spring break trip to Florida and a good time was had by all.

Then my husband and I and our daughter were invited to the Breeder’s Cup Races one December. We had prime accommodations on Key Biscayne at the Royal Sonesta Hotel and the local hospitality tent at the track. We shopped at Coral Gables and visited Fairchild Gardens–it was a great trip and we were struck with the beauty of the area. It was made possible by the owners of the farm we leased and their friends and it was a wonderful experience.

Our most recent trip was a perk from another travel purchase and we had three nights in Hillsboro Beach. We drove to Brunswick, GA the first night and went out to St. Simon’s Island for dinner. I had always heard this was a lovely place , but it far exceeded our expectations–beautiful live oak trees hanging with Spanish moss graced all manner of Victorian gingerbread cottages and other lovely homes.  We managed to snag a perfectly nice Red Roof Inn for $42 complete with breakfast in Brunswick. We hope to come back someday and explore Jeckyl Island–we passed on that because it was near closing time and we chose not to pay the entrance fee.

The next day we made it to St. Augustine by late morning and wandered around the historic district and Flagler University. We attended Palm Sunday services in a gorgeous Presbyterian Church dating from the 1800’s. It was a replica of St, Mark’s with incredible stained glass. We found a good local pizza place for lunch and hit the highway south.

Hillsboro Beach is a small area surrounded by Deerfield Beach to the north and west and Pompano Beach to the south. Our hotel was beachfront with a balcony overlooking the ocean. The suite was furnished in sturdy mid-century modern furniture–attractive and appropriate. We loved the Spanish style architecture and lush landscaping. Iguanas lounging on a monument at the town administration building told us we weren’t in Kansas (or North Carolina) anymore. Being, as always, on a budget, we grocery shopped (easy to do since once on the mainland there was a Public’s on every corner) for salad and sandwich makings.

. A snack of cheese and crackers and a glass of wine sipped while watching the ocean together–pure bliss. The hotel offered a fine breakfast. We did splurge for dinner on our last night at Two George’s at the Cove in Deerfield Beach.  An open air  sea food place on the Inter -Coastal Waterway–what could be more perfect? I had tacos with barely seared tuna served over julienned cabbage and snow peas and topped with Caribbean Salsa–yum.

It doesn’t take much to entertain us–we enjoyed walking on the beach, splashing in the waves, swimming in the salt water pool and driving by the lovely homes, apartments and hotels. We both really like to see different kinds of plants and landscaping. Our favorite was a very symmetrical South Florida pine–don’t know what it is, but it looks like the trees that decorate my Christmas village. The weather was cooperative. A bit of rain here and there but mostly sunny and warm with a brisk breeze off the ocean.

We also visited a Japanese Garden in Delray Beach. It had been donated by a Japanese farmer, one of many who came to South Florida to farm and found it unsustainable, later returning to Japan. Bonsai’s of all types, beautiful vistas of water and bridges formed a serene landscape. The trail meandered through 16 acres, each area featuring a different type of Japanese garden.

The population is dense here and parking is a serious issue. Public beaches have paid parking and we saw a lot of rollbacks moving illegally parked cars.

The only downside of our trip was driving back in one day. We alternated driving and made it fine, despite an overturned tractor trailer on I-26 and Charlotte rush hour. I missed that since during my turn I drove through Georgia and was happily reading through the later traffic.

I used to not understand the folks who wintered in Florida. That was for “old folks” and guess what–here I am. I would have said I prefer the West Coast of Florida, and I do like it, but South Florida is it’s own unique place and culture. I wouldn’t mind a few more opportunities to visit in the future.



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