Jan 082015

Did you ever receive a book that you just couldn’t set down?  This inspiring travel guide, 100 Places in the USA Every Woman Should Go, is written by Sophia Dembling.  She weaves over 100 enticing tales involving remarkable women that helped shape America’s history.

What better way to read her comments about ski resorts than while stopping near Robert Redford’s Sundance Resort, on Utah’s Alpine Loop scenic roadway.  If you were expecting to see me sharing this chapter with Bob, well – not on this trip. Our on-going joke is that everyone has personally seen him, except me.
Honeymoon Camper for two on Route 66
Our first camper was perfect for traveling across country with our 1964 Pontiac convertible. Those were the days of driving down Route 66 on a tank of gas for less than a dollar a gallon.  You can see why this camper was descriptively named the “Honeymoon Special.”

We can relate to Sophia’s statement, that you know America is a big hunk of land when driving from sea to shining sea. We’ve visited many parks and landmarks mentioned in her book, but now she’s given us quite a few more places to check off on our bucket travel list.

Dead Horse Point State Park
Mentioned in her book is Utah’s Dead Horse Point State Park.  You can view, but please not do, a Thelma and Louise moment where their final drive over the cliff was filmed.  This is also a very tragic view of where wild horses were corralled. They could see the water, but would plunge to their death in desperation to reach it.

Utah scenic roads
Pioneer women had to be as tough as men to travel on the wagon trains that brought them out west.  Sophia notes that there aren’t many museums dedicated specifically to women.

Her book still has something for everyone and plenty of gal loving trivia about the USA.  She describes museums dedicated to women pilots, brothels, Salem witches and artists. I can relate to her descriptive trivia and history about shopping malls, where we have all done the “shoppers death march” laden down with purchases.
HO Scale Train Room

My husband and I manage an HO scale train room.  You are always invited to see how we have depicted some scenic travels on our trains. This is where you may find me re-reading her travel guide for help in planning our next trip across the USA.

Since travel maps were replaced with a GPS, I hope you will share what is now your favorite travel planning guide.

Jun 082014

Villa Vizcaya was built in Miami with a view of Biscayne Bay, although if appears to belong on the Mediterranean coast.
Vizcaya Gardens and Villa Vizcaya's Pool 21 Ornate Door - Copy Vizcaya Archway with family Vizcaya's GardensVizcaya BreakwaterView of Vizcaya from Breakwater Since America didn’t have castles built for kings and queens, the nation’s wealthy industrialists became America’s royalty and built their own lavish homes.

How better to flaunt their newly earned riches, than through extravagant displays of conspicuous lifestyles and mansions.

The early 1900’s gave optimism for becoming rich, whether by discovering gold, building bridges or inventing farm machinery.

James Deering, vice-president of International Harvestor Tractor Company, had a vision.

He desired a winter home that resembled a centuries-old Italian Renaissance villa.

The purchase of 180 acres of rural and unspoiled land in Miami, required his estate to be self-sufficient with a working farm.

Deering’s tractors thus contributed greatly to Florida’s agricultural farming success.

The workers were an international mix of nationalities, but learned quickly how to deal with mosquitos, crocs and snakes.

Since running to the local garden center wasn’t an option, they developed a new approach to horticulture in this hot and humid climate.

Local gardeners, familiar with the climate, knew how to incorporate native sub-tropical plants, as well as area rock, coral and limestone, in building the gardens.

James Deering was used to having his own way, so he chose an “up and coming” architect that would let him have the fun of designing his dream home.

Together they traveled to Pompeii, Italy, as well as other European countries to purchase 15th through 19th century furnishings and art.

The villa took two years to complete, but work continued on the gardens from 1910 until 1923.

The many fountains, statuary, pool and themed gardens were modeled after Italian and French designs.

The golden age of splendor was coming to a close when Deering died in 1925 at the age of 65.

Hurricane damage and the “Great Depression” made the home a white elephant for his heirs.

The breakwater was carved out of Florida limestone to create the fantasy of a Venetian barge with decorative sculpture and numerous live plants.

Of the 180 acres, only 50 acres of gardens and the main estate were kept intact.  They were generously donated to the Miami-Dade County as a condition that Vizcaya would be used as a public museum.  The heirs also donated the entire 15th through 19th century furnishings and art.

I wish we would have been allowed to take photos inside the villa, to show you the lavishly decorated rooms.  Fortunately Vizcaya’s website can guide you through this beautiful villa.

Visiting Vizcaya gave us the chance to imagine what it was like to live in this gilded era.  We walked through his many rooms, filled with ancient artifacts, instead of viewing them in some stuffy, gallery type museum.

What name would you bestow on your dream home?

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