All posts by John Cameron

Hello Sunny Fort Lauderdale

Mention Fort Lauderdale and the first thing most people think of is spring break. But if you’re worried about being caught in a hazing ritual in a hotel elevator, fuggetaboutit. The spring break crowd has long graduated, gotten jobs and moved on.

Not that Fort Lauderdale doesn’t have a youthful vibe. Fort Lauderdale’s arts and entertainment area, known as the Riverwalk Arts & Entertainment District, has the impressive NSU Art Museum.

Frank Stella at NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale
Frank Stella at NSU Art Museum photo credit: Sherel Purcell

Highlights of  the permanent collection’s 6000 pieces include the largest US collection of William Glacken’s work, avant-garde CoBrA artists from Copenhagen, Brussels and Amsterdam and works by leading Latin American artists.  

Its distinctive modernist building, designed by the renowned architect Edward Larrabee Barnes is a short walk to the shops, restaurants and galleries of vibrant Las Olas Boulevard as well as to the picturesque Riverwalk waterfront promenade.

The district runs east-west along Las Olas Boulevard, from the beach to the heart of downtown, easily traversed aboard a cute trolley.

Homes along canals Fort Lauderdale
Homes along canals Fort Lauderdale photo credit: John Cameron

Another fun way to see Fort Lauderdale is by water taxi. Often called the Venice of America for its extensive network of canals, Fort Lauderdale has Venice beat with its 165 miles of waterways compared to Venice’s 26 miles of waterways and canals.

Fort Lauderdale has something for history buffs as well. But If you’re hoping to see forts here, like the 315-year-old Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine, you’ll be disappointed.  At the end of the conflict the forts were abandoned and it took 50 years before the development of the city began. Fort Lauderdale is named for William Lauderdale who built the first fort during the Second Seminole War in Florida.

Bonnet House Museum & Gardens
The Bonnet House Museum & Gardens photo credit: Sherel Purcell

Instead, for a rare glimpse into old South Florida, visit the colorful Bonnet House, listed on the National Register of Historic places. Hugh Taylor Birch gave the house and property to his daughter Helen and her husband, Chicago artist Frederic Clay Bartlett as a wedding gift in 1919.

Hugh Taylor Birch came to Florida in 1893 and purchased ocean-front property for a dollar an acre. Wishing to keep the natural environment from development, he donated his estate to Fort Lauderdale with the proviso that it remain a public park.

Hugh Taylor Birch State Park, located between the Atlantic Ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway, is a 180-acre island of trees and greenery in the middle of urban Fort Lauderdale. The park features nature trails, canoeing, camping and picnicking areas, and features the Terramar Visitor Center, with exhibits about the ecosystem of the park. The on site outdoor tiki-type bar makes a fun happy hour stop after a warm afternoon of hiking.

For swimmers and fans of the sport, there’s The International Swimming Hall of Fame, that houses a large aquatic complex as well as a museum, theater, and research library.

Where to Stay

Sonesta Fort Lauderdale Beach

Sonesta Fort Lauderdale Beach
Lobby Sonesta Fort Lauderdale Beach photo credit: Sherel Purcell

Overlooking Fort Lauderdale beach, Sonesta Fort Lauderdale Beach hotel features 240 modern guest rooms with on-site amenities, open to guests throughout the day and night. Guests of the hotel can sample daily happy hour creations such as Taco Tuesdays.

The “ beachy chic” Bistro at Sonesta Fort Lauderdale is the perfect blend of contemporary casual and a professional full-service restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner in a recently redesigned space with white-washed wood floors and cool blue, leather furnishings and walls.

 Hilton Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort

Hilton Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort
Hilton Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort photo credit: John Cameron

Just steps from the beach, the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort features spacious guest rooms with great ocean views from private balconies.

Guests have three great options for dining at the Hilton, the casual and contemporary S3, Ilios and Marche. At S3 try the burrata salad with faro, the chili-rubbed bavette steak perfectly grilled medium-rare and the grilled octopus sitting atop giganda beans and salsa verde. For dessert, try their panna cotta served with strawberries and blackberries.

Atlas Lobby Bar at The Conrad
Atlas Lobby Bar at The Conrad photo credit: John Cameron

Next door to the Hilton Beach Resort, The Conrad, the Hilton’s hip younger sister offers a cool, contemporary cocktail bar.  Try the Old & Smokey if you enjoy an Old Fashioned – the great presentation matches the drink. WOW. We also enjoyed the swordfish empanadas and the smoked salmon pizza.

South Florida Food Tours

Tailored for small groups of foodies, South Florida Food Tours offer a great introduction to local ethnic restaurants. The tour operates on a “dine-around “ system so that different course and drinks occur at different venues punctuated with lively commentary and fun facts on the scene.

Fort Lauderdale Travel Planner

Visitors have the option of flying direct to Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport or into Miami International. From the Miami airport Fort Lauderdale is a 40 minute drive north on I-95 with Sunpass tolls – or catch the new Tri-Rail train in the Miami airport to Fort Lauderdale, about an hour’s journey for $5.

Sonesta Fort Lauderdale Beach  

999 N Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd, Fort Lauderdale
On the corner of Sunrise Blvd and A1A,  across from the tranquil Hugh Taylor State Park.

Hilton Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort

505 N Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd, Fort Lauderdale

 

Carmel-by-the-Sea, California

Carmel by the Sea, or simply Carmel, is California’s perennial favorite  travel destination. Formerly an artist’s colony –there seems to be more art galleries than people, tiny Carmel, population 4000, has worked hard to keep their village lifestyle.

The one-square-mile village of Carmel has no big-box stores nor chain restaurants. Don’t worry about paying to park your car – there are no parking meters and no street lights – great for star-gazing.

Monterey Cypress at Carmel Beach
Monterey Cypress at Carmel Beach photo credit: John Cameron

Carmel’s city founders favored a central post office instead of door- to-door delivery thus no addresses. Carmel street signs, carved vertically on short wooden poles, are easy to miss.

Court of the Fountains
Court of the Fountains photo credit: John Cameron

The ubiquitous Dutch doors, favored by almost all business owners, really enhance the friendly small-town feel.

Famous citizens include 93- year-old Doris Day, part owner of the dog- friendly Cypress Inn, whose movie posters adorn Terry’s Bar – an homage to her son. Another famous resident and former mayor of Carmel (1986-1988) Dirty Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood) made it safe to once again eat ice cream on Carmel’s public streets.

Rated the #1 dog-friendly town in America, you can bring your pets to restaurants, bars, the beach, even wine-tasting rooms.

Where to Stay in Carmel

Hofsas House Carmel by the Sea
Hofsas House Carmel photo credit: John Cameron

Family-owned and run for three generations, the pet-friendly Hofsas House Hotel is very popular with travel-savvy Europeans. Get practical daily trip advice from the helpful concierge with a large continental breakfast featuring pastries from a local bakery.

Hofsas House Mural by Maxine Albro
Hofsas House Mural photo credit: John Cameron

The first thing guests might notice is the Bavarian themed mural opposite the Hofsas House welcome office. Donna Hofsas commissioned artist Maxine Albro to paint the mural in 1957.

Hofsas House Guest Room
Hofsas House Guest Room photo credit: John Cameron

The Hofsas House has 38 well-designed and comfortable guest rooms with Dutch doors in every room and featuring amenities like a fireplace.

Hofsas House balcony
Hofsas House balcony photo credit: Sherel Purcell

A small heated pool and a dry sauna that’s always warm and a communal rooftop deck for good views over Pebble Beach are special touches found at Hofsas House.

Hofsas House has the only poolside meeting facility in Carmel with classroom seating for up to 24.

The Hofsas House has partnerships with four different golf courses in the area. If you don’t want to pay the big bucks to golf Pebble Beach or Spanish Bay, the back nine at Pacific Grove Golf Links  has great water views. As the starter in the pro shop said,” It’s the same ocean for 300 bucks less. “

Things to do in Carmel

Taste the wines of the Monterey and Carmel Valley all within walking distance of downtown.

Scheid Vineyards Tasting Room
Scheid Vineyards Tasting Room photo credit: Sherel Purcell

Schied Vineyards at San Carlos & 7th Avenue in Carmel offers complimentary small bites to pair with featured wines and new releases on the second Tuesday of every month.

Just down Ocean Avenue at the Carmel Road Tasting Room, sample their flight of Pinot Noirs.

Carmel Road Tasting Room
Carmel Road Tasting Room photo credit: Sherel Purcell

Actor Drew Barrymore works with Carmel Road winemaker Kris Kato to produce a great rose for her signature collection, Barrymore Wines. Both Scheid and Carmel Road offer wine clubs – get a taste of Carmel sent right to your doorstep.

Wine Enthusiast named Carmel one of the top ten wine tasting destinations in the world.

Carmel is the perfect base for exploring the beautiful California coast. Steinbeck’s Cannery Row in historic Monterey is 30 minutes to the north while Point Lobos is just 15 minutes to the south. Big Sur is an hour’s drive south on scenic US 1 .

Lone Cypress photo credit: John Cameron
Lone Cypress photo credit: John Cameron

Take scenic 17-mile drive for a great introduction to the relentless beauty of the northern California coast. Tip: take your receipt for the ten-dollar entrance fee with you and have it credited to your lunch at The Bench at the Pebble Beach Lodge, overlooking beautiful Pebble Beach’s iconic 18th green.