Florida Keys

Picture of keywest The 'Southernmost Point' in the so-called continental United States. We have a few issues here, without even getting into the tacky nun buoy marker in need of a paint job. First of all, we're not sure why islands connected by bridges to the mainland become part of the continental US, secondly this isn't really even the southernmost point on Key West as there are peninsulas jutting out on either side of this point. As near as we can tell this should be called the 'Southernmost publically available land in Key West at the time we decided to make this a tourist attraction'. Notice the 'Conch Republic' insignia at the top which is Key West's nickname for itself not some secret militia organization. On the roads arriving at this point you get to pass the southernmost everything in the U.S. We're not kidding about this it even includes the southernmost dog groomer and the southernmost barber shop. We waited around about ten minutes to get our picture taken here with no other people in the photo and then we fled.
Picture of keylargo We next visited Big Pine Key - home of the Key Deer, an elusive minature deer species. Fully grown bucks are only a about three feet (one meter) tall. They proved to be too elusive for our cameras, though we did see a few lurking in the palmettos. Farther up the keys in Key Largo we visited John Pennekamp State Park. Here is Melanie (in an otter shirt of course) searching for interesting sea life. Either that or she's just practicing standing on one leg like flamingos do it's hard to tell which.
Picture of vizcaya The next day in Miami (not technically part of the Keys but close enough), we visited the Vizcaya estate. It was owned by industrialist John Deering back in the days when you could go around with a title like 'industrialist'. This is the back of the villa sitting prettily on Biscayne Bay.
Picture of gazebo The grounds are extensive and contain a variety of formal gardens. At the time Vizcaya was built this was all pretty much mangrove swamp and sub-tropical forest. Nowadays, downtown Miami is fairly close at hand, and so it doesn't quite have the same feeling of remoteness it once did. This gazebo for instance overlooks the port of Miami across the bay. Melanie however, has chosen the direction still facing the mangroves.
Picture of maze Also on the grounds is a circular hedge maze. Here Melanie is considerably closer to the center (the goal) than I am, but probably just because I had to stop to take this picture.
Picture of fountain One can also find this fountain (and many others). It was clearly time to take Melanie home as she was now climbing about in the fountains. If you look closely you'll see the odd birdbath-like structure at the top of this waterfall. That's the foreground in the next picture...
Picture of southfront The house is a classic villa-style, a hollow square that was originally open but now the central courtyard is covered by a glass roof. The tall windows on the first floor overlooking the garden lead into the 'breakfast room' which has some lovely Venetian murals on the walls. Photography is not permitted inside, so you'll just have to go see that part for yourself.

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