Vero Beach, Florida
Vero Beach Florida
Tues. April 19,2011- Bonita Springs, Florida
We were up early on this fine Spring day in Florida. We were headed across the state for a visit to Jupiter Island and then on to Vero Beach, to have dinner and spend the night with friends. We had coffee and perused the morning papers while we watched the “Today Show.” The announcers were already beginning the frenzied run up to the Royal Wedding of Kate and William in Britain. It was still ten days away, but the clips of Diana & Charles and a an entire panoply of British Royal wedding history was already being discussed for a celebrity thirsty American public. Actor Charlie Sheen and actress Lindsey Lohan were also contributing their usual brat pack escapades.
Busy Route # 75 North led us up to the exit for Palm Beach Boulevard, the storied cross the state roadway that led directly to West Palm and Palm Beach on the East Coast. The traffic was heavy with morning commuters. Commercial trucks and delivery vans vied with work commuters and tourists to clog the roadway. We sailed across the verdant country side of central Florida. Orange Groves and cattle farms had given way here to recreational vehicle camps and several large housing developments and golf communities like Verandah and River Hall Estates. They stood as seeming islands of prosperity in a sea of economic ruin.
Passing through LaBelle and the Clewiston, we got a visage of a still rural Florida. Vast sugar cane fields spread out from the roads in both directions, A sea of foot-tall cane grass held the promise of another crop of cane sugar. The tractors and buses hauling migrant labor back and forth crawled across an agricultural landscape little changed in these last fifty years. We saw a sign at the local high school cheering the “Cane Fielders” on. Much of the economy in these parts centers around the sugar industry. The vast interior of the everglades had been drained by huge canals here to make way for agriculture. The soil was an almost black-like, volcanic soil like that of in Hawaii. It promised to be rich and crop bearing.
The vistas along the roadway here are of another age, remnants of the 1960’. Motels, shopping plazas and other commercial enterprises typical of small towns in America. The large prison for men in Clewsiton reminded us of another reality.
Midway across the state here one runs into the considerable bulk of Lake Okeechobee. Fifteen foot walls of the “Hoover dikes” contain the large lakes whose depths reach only to fifteen feet in the wet season and sometimes eight feet in drought season. The lake is over 2,000 square miles in area and is a source of recreational fishing and boating for this area of central Florida.
Past the Lake, we drove through Belle Glade, a small town whose economy was sputtering along as best it could in these hard times. The businesses were smaller here and looked less prosperous. We were almost thorough the old area of the everglades and nearing the suburban sprawl of West Palm Beach. The large signs for the Lion Country Safari Park always denote for me our arrival into Eastern Florida.
The roadway expanded to six lanes here as we passed the huge shopping malls and housing developments in relatively affluent West Palm Beach. The airport here is large and handles traffic for the entire area. The fabled wealth and beauty of Palm Beach lay just ahead across a small causeway. But, we were not headed there today. We entered and drove up the busy Florida Turnpike. We were visiting the PGA National Golf Course resort. It is a large and very wealthy resort area just South of Jupiter. We drove into the parking lot and walked into the spacious clubhouse and resort center. The huge central foyer houses a reception area, bar, snack area and restaurant. A large convention of reform Jews were meeting here this day. We saw a circle of serious men in yarmulkes talking earnestly in the lobby. It was the first day of Passover. We wandered down to the Pro shop and even bought a golf shirt in the expensive retail facility. Then we wandered out to the large central pool area. Waving palm trees and lush shrubbery surrounded this turquoise rectangle of water. Families were swimming and sunning and enjoying the venues on a beautiful day in South Florida. We watched for a time, as one does around large pools, and then ventured back into the air conditioned comfort of the lobby. We bought some coffee and then decided to head back out. We had miles to go before we slept.
We drove along PGA Boulevard to the County road and followed it east to Route U.S. One North. We had planned to visit the Jupiter Beach area. Traffic here is heavy amidst the continuing visage of expensive retail strip malls. We followed the automotive stream until we saw signs for “Jupiter island.” It is a wealthy enclave of the rich and famous in the area and included golfer Tiger Woods amongst its residents. We drove across the causeway onto the island. Clusters of residential condominiums and beach houses lined the beach and roadway. There was little retail development. We drove slowly admiring the expensive homes and the beautiful deep blue of the Atlantic Ocean just off shore. It was a beautiful day to drive along the ocean, surf crashing just over the Dunes.
We didn’t see Tiger or any other celebrities but got to enjoy the absolute splendor of the manicured gorses and hedges protecting their estates and seaside homes. It is eye candy here that we munch enjoyed. A very old woman in a small auto ahead of us led us along, at twenty miles an hour, for the last ten miles until we exited the island for the reality ot the surrounding community. The Dixie Highway, or Route A-1-A heads north from here in a two lane panoply of the “other side” of Jupiter. Ramshackle homes and ratty looking trailers sat quietly a few short yards from the wealth of Jupiter island. The two communities as unaware of each other as Earth is from Mars.
We drove back over to the busy and commercial stream of Route One North and came back to the suburban sprawl of the Ocean side towns. Stuart seemed to go on forever in a string of restaurants and box stores that supply the many communities in the area. We were hearing the hunger bell and turned into a Perkins for convenience. It was an older facility that had seen better times. The patrons were all above seventy and slowing down. So were the waitresses. We had a sinfully delicious Blueberry muffin and some decent omelet's before heading back into the commercial stream of U.S. 1.
Up ahead, Ft. Pierce appeared to be less prosperous that Stuart. We drifted through the traffic streams until we saw the signs for Vero Beach. We had stayed here a few months back in a wonderfully lush boutique hotel named Costa D’Este. owned by Gloria Esteban. It is both chic and confortable. But in high season it is out of our price range.
We crossed the huge bridge that leads onto the sand bar that is Vero Beach and followed the road to Ocean Drive, the road that parallels the ocean. We were looking for a small boutique motel called the “Caribbean Hotel.” Even close up, we almost missed it. Enclosed in a wall of swaying palm trees and veritable flowered walls of every type, the hotel sits in an almost storied enclave. Only two stories, it houses eighteen rooms and a gourmet restaurant. ( Maison Martinique’) It is a storied end destination. Mary had found the place when searching for the restaurant on the internet. We were meeting friends here for dinner this evening.
Walking through the grounds, you have to keep looking for signs of where you are going. Other wise, you wind up walking down blind flower laden alleys and amidst the lush splendor of the flowering bushes that are everywhere. We found the small pool area. A few guests were already sitting around the pool reading and enjoying the sun.
In the compact office we waited while the helpful clerk detailed the area restaurant choices for a couple form armscratch, Iowa. After her helpful rendition, we saw them walk across the street to an old pizza shack.
The clerk signed us in for room #120 on the second floor at a
reasonable $150 per night plus local taxes. The room wasn’t ready so she suggested we walk across the road and down and short right of way to the beach. It was a good suggestion. The sands were hot as we walked through the seas grapes and small dunes to the Atlantic Ocean. The surf on this side of the state is much rougher. The Atlantic rollers were pounding the shore in a continuous cacophony of surf that is music to the ears.
We doffed our top siders and walked along the beach, enjoying the sand and the cold feeling of the frothy surf and it crashed on the shore. The beach here is tidal. It almost a twelve foot drop from the surf at low tide to the top edge of the beach. A good storm rolling through here must change the entire landscape.
Old folks reading, children riding boogie boards in the frothy surf and beach walkers peopled the shore on this lazy Tuesday in mid April. Colorful dots of umbrellas and beach blankets spattered the tan beach like an artists painting. The Pelicans and gulls circled over head always on the look out for fish in the shallows. Cute little plovers and sand pipers, with their wind up doll motions, ran along the shore looking for food washed in by the tide. Some visitors looked for shells using that awful characteristic bend over position that is flattering to no one. We walked a a mile or two on the beach enjoying the sand and wind and sun and surf in the eighty five degree temperatures. A slight sea breeze made the day idyllic.
It was nearing three O’Clock in the afternoon, so we walked back towards the hotel. We passed through South Vero Beach park and washed the sand from our feet. The parking was free here and the facility has rest rooms and shelters for picnics, all at no charge to residents and guests.
The hotel eventually made our room ready and we dragged our bags up the narrow stair case to find a very small but comfortably furnished room # 120. The entire building dated form the 1950’s and had luckily rescued from the wreckers ball. The bed and furnishings are comfortable and the Air Conditioning unit had the room cooled nicely. We settled in to read and relax. It had been a six hour drive from this morning and we were tired with the day. A glass of decent vodka on ice helped ease the weariness. We read, then showered up and dressed for dinner.
Perry & Theresa Miceli, friends from suburban Buffalo, were meeting us at the restaurant on the first level for dinner. They came by at 5:30 P.M . We dragged a bottle of very nice Pinot Noir to the pool side ,with cheese and crackers. We sat there in an idyllic, floral setting next to the small pool and caught up on the news and gossip of Buffalo, as all friends do after a long absence. The wine and atmosphere relaxed us and we enjoyed the visit.
At 6:30. P.M. we walked the ten feet to the doors of the “Maison Martinique.” It is a transition from pool side to elegance that most would not believe. The cloistered and heavily draped walls made for an atmosphere of a small provincial restaurant in France of Italy. The dozen or so tables were all full. The clientele was dressed to the nines, something unusual for the heat and casual elegance of South Florida.
Perry selected a bottle of Oregon Pinot Noir as we perused the menu which is printed in French. Less you be daunted, the wait staff is very helpful with translations and assistance. The Micelis had dined here before and reccomended the “Red Snapper For Two” special. We enjoyed pear salads and caesar salads while sipping the very nice wine and enjoying both the ambiance and the company.
The platters of “Snapper for Two” were presented to us. They were enormous and looked wonderful. The waiter placed portions on all on our plates. Boiled potatoes, carrots and greenery served as a garnish. The red snapper was as delicious as any that I have ever eaten. It was steamy hot and mouth watering. We laughed as we ate the huge portions and enjoyed the wine and the company. It was a lovely and enjoyable venue. After a time, we surrendered to the inevitable. We were not going to finish all of this delightful meal, no way, no how. We had some very good coffee and Mary and Perry actually sampled a delightful dessert creation before the meal came to an end. It had been a wonderful experience and we much enjoyed it. The tab was appreciable, but nothing we had not expected. We settled up and walked out into the balmy night of South Florida.
I had a bottle of very good Italian Chianti stored in the room. We retrieved it with our paper cups and once again settled in pool-side to enjoy the floral scents and deep ink of the starry night sky. We could well have been sitting deep in the Caribbean or in Tahiti as we sipped the Chianti and recounted the meal and how beautiful an evening it was. I would reccomend the place to anyone both to stay and to dine.
It was 111:30 P.M. and we were all tiring with the day. We said our goodbyes and promised to meet on the beach again for breakfast at a much more humble setting. We repaired to our room, read for a time and drifted off to visit the sand man.
Wednesday, April 20,m 2011- Vero Beach, Florida.
We were up by 7 A.M. We had some very nice coffee in the room and watched the Today show for news. It was 70 degrees out at 7 A.M. and promised to be a another beautiful day. We packed up our gear and called the Micelis, arranging to meet them at an ocean side breakfast venue a few miles down the road. We checked out and drove down the beach to this very nice pier and park area along the Beach. “C.J’s” I think it is called. It is a small restaurant with a lovely patio that looks right onto the ocean. It was crowded with breakfasters already. In season, during rush hour, the line of prospective eaters can stretch for hundreds of yards. We got a table and ordered coffee. The Micelis arrived soon after and we settled in for some pita and egg sandwiches. A slight breeze and the warm sun made it a great place to start the day.
After breakfast, we walked down to the beach and enjoyed the crashing surf as it broke on the shore and washed around our legs. If you weren’t careful the surf would drag you back into the sea. It was that powerful. The luxury homes and condo developments here are as lovely as they are in most of South Florida. We stopped at the Vero Beach Spa where Theresa and Perry were staying. Their room was very nice, looking out onto the ocean from a small balcony. You could be at home there for quite a while. The grounds included an open air restaurant and pool.
From the hotel, we walked back along the beach, enjoying as always the sun and sand and surf with a light breeze. What’s not to like here? It was nearing noon and we had four hours of driving yet to do. We made out goodbyes to Perry & Theresa Miceli and saddled up the voiture for the run back across the state.
We followed busy Rte. #95 South for ninety miles to West Palm Beach where we found and traversed Route # 80 West, reversing the course that we had taken the following day. Traffic was heavy until we entered Belle Glade and rural hinterlands. The sugar Cane, and vast open plains here are always easy on the eyes. It took us almost 4 hours to make it back to the busy precincts of Ft. Myers on the West Coast of Florida. We were tiring with the day.
Bonita Springs welcomed us back as we drove through the gates at the Spring Run Complex. We unpacked, settled in to view our e-mails, relax and enjoy a late afternoon Toonie. We had a dinner in of fish and vegetables before reading and settling into retire. It had been a busy two days and it seemed like we were gone much longer. But we had enjoyed the excursion and the company we kept.
Joseph Xavier Martin