All that Wine, none of the Grapes

Sometimes a drive to a place is worth it and sometimes it is worth a repeat.

Not many people who live down here know about this, but occasionally you run into someone who has been there, and you always get the same reaction… “I Love that place!”

What am I talking about?

Schnebly Redland’s Winery, of course. This couple of hundred-acre winery and brewery sits in the heart of the Redlands (named after the dirt) in Homestead, Florida.  Founded by Peter and Denisse Schnebly, this winery started when Peter realized that they were throwing away too much agriculture and his friend Bill Wagner, who was visiting at the time, fell in love with the lychee fruit.

An idea was born, why not make wine from the leftover fruits that didn’t pass inspection and were heading to the compost pile.

They hit a snag, turns out that because you cannot grow grapes agriculturally in South Florida, there are no wineries in Southern Florida. And a bunch of politicians wasn’t willing to take a gamble on a South Florida wine made from fruit grown in South Florida.

Wagner and Schnebly had a plan, take politicians to the New York Lake area, for a couple of days of classy wine tasting.

DSCN4572.JPGAfter convincing the politicians that if people were willing to drive 4 hours for a bunch of wineries, they would drive 1 hour for one.  Schnebly Winery launched its first wine from a trailer on the side of the road, and the rest was history.  Now 25 years later, the winery makes not only wine but also beer. And the amazing thing is not a single grape is hurt because the wine is made from strictly from Florida fruit. Avocados, lychees, carambola, mangos, and other homegrown fruit are fermented to make some great, wine.

So why drive almost 2 hours to the middle of nowhere a couple of times a year just to buy wine, especially since Total Wine and More carries it. To enjoy the winery, of course. The Schnebly did not only create good wine, brew some amazing coconut beer, and put the Redlands on the map; they also created a great spot to enjoy the Florida weather, eat some great local food, listen to music and just enjoy the day.

DSCN4582.JPGThe winery is open seven days a week and has live music on Friday and Saturday night. Along with the restaurant and wine tasting area, in the back part of the winery is a bar that is home to the Miami Brewery Beer and the famous Big Rob Coconut Beer. The tap room is in a converted warehouse and has pool tables, cornhole sets, and live music.

You can also sample some of the other beers that are brewing behind the scenes or pick up your favorite one in a growler. And I have been told by self-proclaimed beer sommelier (my boyfriend) the only way to drink Big Rob’s is from either the tap or a growler. 

DSCN4585In the wine tasting area, the bar was handcrafted and designed to allow the bartenders to reach up and grab the glass, symbolize the way the fruit is picked from the tree. The ceiling has a beautiful mural of a Royal Poinciana tree in full bloom.

Outside is a tropical oasis, complete with a Koi pond, an iguana, and waterfall. The restaurants serve a brunch on Saturday and Sundays, but you can bring your food. Wine can be purchased by the glass or if you are unsure about what to get, opt for the wine tasting.  You will get a Schnebly glass.

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At the beginning of April, a group of us went down to celebrate OJ’s birthday. Even though OJ and go at least a couple of times a year, it was a treat to introduce our friends to it. First time there, I would recommend doing both the wine and beer tours, because at the end of each tour, is a chance to taste the wine and beer.

The tour allows you not only to see how they make it, but it also gives you a sample of two different beers and a choice of 5 different wines. 

At first, some of our friends were surprised that we choose to drive all the way out to this place, but it didn’t take them that long to start to enjoy the wine and the astrosphere. 

The kids enjoyed playing on the open grounds, feeding the koi and just dancing to the music. While we hung out at the bar, they came up with their own game of corn horn. 

DSCN4603.JPGIf you are going to be in the Fort Lauderdale/Miami area and looking for a Florida experience, head to Schnebly Redland’s Winery and the Miami Brewing Company for the day.  It is a chance to see the agriculture side of Florida and learn what exactly is a lychee and carambola are.

To See more photos of Schnebly Redland’s Winery and the Miami Brewing Company
Evanescent

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Something Old and Something New

Silver springs.jpgIt has always amazed me how much a place changes over time. Even animated objects seem to grow and mature as the season changes, much like a child. Some of them change for the better while others change for the worse.

It is a reminder, in some ways, that even rocks never say the same.

Back in fourth grade, when my parents believed I was old enough to start to travel and remember what I saw. We took a road trip to visit Florida. And even though our last stop was the Disney, my parents wanted me to see the real Florida before I started to study it.

So they loaded my Dad’s station wagon with suitcases and camping equipment (this would also be the last time we camped, turns out we like hotel much better) and headed North. Part camping trip, and part we are off to see the world, we spent two weeks exploring Florida.

One place that stuck in my memory from that long ago trip was Silver Springs. Part amusement park, part zoological park, and part ecological park. Visitors could test their courage on rides, meet Florida’s wildlife, or look at the springs from a glass bottom boat. This was the place I tried to steal a snake.

scapbook final.jpgSo on an overcast day, while visit my parents, we decided to visit this place again. This time, with my furchild, Skyy along. It turns out the Silver Springs no longer has it rides, but still stays open as a state park. Dogs are allowed, in the park, except on the glass bottom boat, which was fine with us because Skyy doesn’t do too well in moving vehicles.

The sign, the fountain and the bridge have stayed the same. I can remember walking across it as a child, excited about the activities on the day ahead.  Once we paid the fees, we wander around the park. For the most part, the gardens were kept nature, with Florida wildflowers and cypress trees. Most of the rides and attractions are long gone, but there are hints of the past. I remember the white house in the distance, what it was used for, I couldn’t tell you.  It was an old antebellum looking place, maybe used for some sort of show, or a chance to see how Floridians lived before the railroad came down.

DSCN4053.JPGWe walked around the path and talking about what we remember of the place. Skyy had fun sniffing every flower, tree, and squirrel she came across. A couple of times, I had to stop her so I could remove all the souvenir from her fur.

Hint: If you bring your dog, bring a brush, especially if they have long fur, because they will pick up a lot of tag- alongs.

DSCN4075.JPGShe was also very interested in the water, every place we stopped on the path her little nose when over the railing to look down at the water.

We finished up by having a quick snack at the snack bar and allowing Skyy to have some water.

She was exhausted by the time we got back to the car and slept the whole hour drive back to my parents’ place.

It should have been sad to see what had become of a place I had loved and had such great memories. But in some ways Silver Springs change was inevitable. It had been a fun and exciting in its youth and adulthood, but now it had hit retirement age, stepped back and became slower pace. 

It had become another reminder of Florida’s Gold Age of Tourist.

But even the rock change in time.

See more of the pictures from Silver Springs
The Road Less Traveled
Everything Changes

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A Lasting Reminder of Florida Golden Age of Tourist

I moved to South Florida at the end of the golden era of the tourist industry. Back then Parrot Jungle was located in Ft. Lauderdale, Six Flags over Atlantis was a water park in Hollywood, and there was an Ocean World right off the 17th Street Causeway. I can still remember touching to dolphins in a shallow pool that would make any PEDA member pissed. We weren’t very animal friendly back then. 

  In the mid-80s, these traps disappeared as families were more interested in spending time on the beach, shopping, and a more real Florida. So I was kind of surprised to find in Florida one of those long lost tourist destination reimaged.

       dscn3709  In the 1960s The McKee Jungle Gardens opened up. Spreading over 48 acres, it offered the traveler a glimpse of paradise that Florida was trying to sell. In reality, Florida was still a big swamp back then. With its imported tropical plants, birds, and monkey. It was a place of wonder, delight and a detraction of the real Florida. Sadly, like so many of these sites, it went belly up in the 80S.  Most of its acres were sold off and turned into golf courses. But 18 acres were saved and turned into the McKee Botanical Gardens.

While doing some research on what to do in Vero Beach, I came across a local blogger take on this place. She talked about a beautiful garden and something to kill a couple of hours. So I jotted it down in my notes, so if laying by the pool was busted, I had a backup.

           dscn3727     Turns out, laying by the pool did bust, OJ had surgery on his hand, and he was in the cast. So the pool was out of the questions. So after brunch at a great little café in Vero Beach, we headed over to the gardens to check it out.

After paying the $10.00 charge to get it, we wondered the twisting path around the property. It was the tail end of the lilies being in bloom. The ponds around the property were alive with purple, blue and yellow lilies.

There were a couple of unique things to check out. One was a large grill that would be any barbecuer dreams. We weren’t sure why they had a grill, but it is worth checking out.

Another attraction is the sleeping tree, which is a type of tree that grows sideways instead of up and down.

dscn3769 The gardens also had an art displayed done by Patrick Dougherty called The Royals. He is an artist that twists branches into three dimensional shapes. These were three heads like statues that you can walk around and through.

Along the path are reminders of the past. There were the runes of the aviary that once held a collection of exotic birds, a couple of waterfalls that used to be part of a larger exhibit, and the historical markers talking about what was there.

In its own way the gardens, play homage to the past, admitting it once was a cheesy tourist trap, while being a beautiful gathering of native Florida flora and fauna. Florida’s originally named Pascua Florida, meaning Flowering Easter. There are certain times of the year that Florida lives up to its name.

Wandering around the gardens took about a couple of hours, and I would suggest a bottle of water and some bug spray. The gardens are very well kept, in a natural way, so make sure you have a pair of good walking shoes.

I did realize something, I miss these long ago tourist traps of my youth, and I wonder what my today self would have thought of these places. 

                If you are up in Vero Beach, it is worth checking out.

Check out my pictures

Vero Beach Flicr

Realize

$5.00 for 15 minutes and leave the children behind

The Red Onion SaloonOnce in a while, you come across something that for all purpose doesn’t sound great but turns out to be. So on a family Alaska cruise, I saw a signed that said.

$5 for Fifteen minutes (Just like in 1898).

We had just met at the Red Onion Salon in downtown Skagway, Alaska for some refreshments when the sign caught my attention.

The Red Onion Saloon, off of 2nd and Broadway, claim to fame is that it is the oldest brothel and saloons in Alaska.

A brothel that is boasting $5 for fifteen minutes – kind of sketchy. So I do what any morally sound person would do, I took a shot of liquid courage (Gold Rush Brewery Root Beer), walked up to the bar and I slapped $5 on the counter and said sign me up!

Before you click away thinking that this is going to become rated X – what it meant was a 15-minute tour through the history of the brothel and the upstairs rooms. No girls are working are there!

The Red Onion hasn’t been a brothel in many ages, but it did find its niche as a one of kind tourist traps, saloon and a great place to meet after exploring Skagway. This place will send you back to the area of miners when Alaska was more of a frontier and less civilized.

What a Saloon looked like back in 1890s

There are a restaurant and bar, where ‘saloon’ girls will serve you American bar food and drinks. It was nothing to write home about on food quantity, but the atmosphere make-up for it. You feel like you are sitting in a wild saloon with bar fights, a lively piano, poker game, and the occasional trips upstairs to have some fun.

The building creaks and groans and the smell of polish wood and alcohol floats in the air.

Saloon Girl and Tour Guide

The tour starts on the staircase, and you get a little about the history of the building and the Red Onion Saloon. Then you head upstairs to see the rooms that the working girls would have had to conduct their business.

There are about 10 ‘cribs’ up there, small rooms that the girls would have used for business. These rooms were big enough for a bed, and not much else. The girls lived and worked in these chambers.

Our tour guide showed us the walls, which had many different layers of wallpaper. She explained to us that each of the rooms would have been decorated by the girls, very elaborately.

Included in the tour was two of the Red Onions one of a kind unique objects. One was a doll, and the other was a silver nightgown dress from the turn of the century.

Our tour guide explained that the dolls were originally behind the bar. The dolls were painted to look like the ladies who worked upstairs. If you were a lonely miner looking for some love. You would pay the bartender your $5 and choose a doll. The bartender would put the doll down, showing that the girl was unavailable because she was conducting business. You would head upstairs for your 15 minutes. Once you came back downstairs, the bartender would stand the doll up again, signaling she was open for business.The Crib

Upstairs among the antiques are also painting of ladies, done by different artists. Some of them a little risqué.

At the end of the tour (which is exactly 15 minutes), the tour guide brought us down stairs again.

I will have to admit; it was very entertaining and somewhat embarrassing, but totally worth the $5.

So next time you are in Skagway on a cruise or just passing through, stop at the Red Onion Saloon for some good old fashion moral corruption and a Shady Lady (the pizza!).

Red Onion Saloon

Red Onion Saloon Ghost

My Alaska Cruise Photos

Forbidden

It’s A Trap– A Butterfly Trap!

 

Sometimes a trap is worth being caught

When the city that you work for is the Butterfly Capital of the World, you have to wonder…Is there that many butterflies in Coconut Creek.

Atala Butterfly
Atala Butterfly on white flowers

I have been attacked by atala coming out of work, and once in a while you see a monarch or whatever mimicking it floats by. But do we really have the largest collection of these colorful insects?

The answer might not lie in our parks and gardens, but in our very own tourist trap, Butterfly World, home of a million butterflies.

Yes, a million butterflies! Making this the largest collection of a living and dead butterflies in the world.

At $27.00 per person, one might wonder if this trap is worth getting caught in.

Hint: If you are from the area, or planning to come down more than once the season pass is worth it. At $54.00, you break even in two trips. Also check out Groupon or local stores, they sometimes have a deal for two for the price of one.

Butterfly world path

Path at butterfly world

I will admit to getting caught in this trap more than once.

Why you might ask.

To tell you the truth, it’s peaceful there. First of all, the butterflies are housed in a huge aviary, that is about two stories high and about a couple of acres wide. This makes it one of the biggest butterfly houses in the world. And not only are there butterflies, but hummingbirds, flowers, trees, and a waterfall. You can walk to the top of the waterfall and overlook the who scenic wonder. Stepping into the aviary, you feel like you have entered an enchanted garden.

Tranquil music plays while you stroll around looking at the butterflies.

The butterflies are free to move around, and some of them zoom at you, barely dodging you (the little things really can zoom). Make sure you have a fast shutter speed because they do not stop for pictures.  So as you walk through this very peaceful garden, you are surrounded by colorful butterflies, listening to very tranquil music and flowing water, you can help but feel at peace yourself.

We will spend a couple of thousands of dollars to go to a tropical paradise to get the peace that this place offers.

If you are really lucky, one of the butterflies will even land on you.

Butterflies with banana

Butterflies eating banana

Hint: Butterflies like to hang out at the feeding stations, so if you are looking for a good picture, look for a dish with bananas on it. I guarantee that you will find more than one enjoying a snack.

Along the path you can also check out the cocoons (The ones that have been collected). Last time we were there, a couple of the butterflies started to emerge from their cocoons.

Hint: Butterflies prefer warm, bright days, so make sure you visit them on a warm bright day to get the maximum effect of butterfliness.

Two passiflora

Butterfly World also has other attractions than the butterfly aviary. One of my favorite areas is what I like to call the alien garden. Different types of exotic vine flowers grow freely, and when the flowers are in full bloom, they look like they are from some alien planet.

Lorikeets

Another favorite is the Lorikeets encounter where you can meet and feed these very colorful (and loud) feather friends. Last time I was there, I got a new boyfriend, by the name of Caesar. The lady who was overseeing the encounter said that Caesar was somewhat of a ladies’ man, and sure enough as soon as another young lady enter the encounter, I was forgotten. Oh well, so much for true romance.

For a $1.00 you can feed these very friendly, intelligent and loud birds.

The last stop is only for those who are brave (or get dragged by their boyfriend). Inside a building next to the Lorikeet encounter is the bug house (yikes!)

Me with Ceasar

I have a parrot on my head

Spiders I have no problem with, scorpions I think are neat, and who doesn’t love grasshoppers, centipedes, and millipedes. There is one thinking I cannot stand.

Cockroach…. both the flying and non-flying ones.

The number one reason why Florida is not paradise. Florida has both types of cockroaches, and they are huge.

This place has hundreds of them (in a glass cage, or there will be no way in hell you would have ever gotten me in there). I can’t even type this out without getting the heebie-jeebies.

Butterfly on red flower

Zibra longing butterfly on a ixora

If you are interested or like bugs, check it out. If not, stay very, very far away…you have been warned.

The last stop is of course the gift shop. And along the usual shirts, postcards, and knickknacks, you can also purchase live lady bugs (we did).

Those lady bugs were living in my refrigerator for a week until we could release them. Turns out the maximum time to release them into the wild is at night after a rainstorm. And for some reason, our usual monsoon had taken a vacation that week.

They also have the seeds of the alien vine flowers and of course caterpillars (that you can watch turn into a butterfly before releasing them).

So there you have it, Coconut Creek’s very own tourist trap. So is this worth getting trap in.

Well, it’s no 100 foot ball of yarn…it’s better!

So next time you are driving down the Florida Turnpike and see a sign boasting over a million butterflies. Make sure you stop. You will be glad you did.

Visit Butterfly World
Visit my Flickr Butterfly World Album
Carefree