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Trip Report Ft. Lauderdale day trip from Miami -- trip report

Will be posting trip reports from various places I explored in Florida, with this being the first.

Had decided to try and see Ft. Lauderdale and Palm Beach/West Palm Beach as day trips from Miami. Had concerns about both, especially the latter, but the concerns turned out to be unfounded.

For Ft. Lauderdale, originally had set up an itinerary as found on this thread:

http://www.fodors.com/community/united-states/palm-beach-or-ft-lauderdale-as-miami-day-trips-suggestions-wanted.cfm

There were several changes that occurred. Further research revealed that the International Swimming Hall of Fame's hours have shrunk to 9 am to 5 pm (only the gift shop is now open to 7 pm). And taking the local city buses as planned worked well, though time wasn't available for Old Ft. Lauderdale, so that was scrapped. And it turned out there was an even better option to get to this city from Miami -- there's a somewhat limited schedule commuter bus (one of the 95X routes) that runs from downtown Miami to the Ft. Lauderdale commuter rail station, though to catch it, taking the "S" bus from South Beach was what allowed hooking up with it early enough. So this ended up:

======================================

"S" bus from South Beach to main Downtown Miami bus island. 95X Commuter Express Bus to Ft. Lauderdale Tri-Rail station. Shuttle from Tri-Rail Station to Ft. Lauderdale bus center. #11 bus to within two blocks of

9:00 AM: International Swimming Hall of Fame.

couple blocks walk to #11 bus, then a few blocks walk to

11:30 AM tour: Bonnet House

a few blocks walk to #11 bus to

3:00 PM tour: Stranahan House

walk to

4:15 PM: Ft. Lauderdale Museum of Art

walk to central bus station, shuttle to Tri-Rail station. 95X bus from Tri-Rail to Downtown Miami, than "S" bus to South Beach.

=======================================

The Swimming Hall struck me as a place best enjoyed by die-hard swim fans. There was a good bit of less-than-engaging quality visual art, a little historic information about Ft. Lauderdale's swimming historic issues (including some information on hotels and segregated beaches), lots of medals and swimsuits won and worn by championship swimmers, and more in-depth collection of memorabilia from a few of the Hall's most famous inductees (Esther Williams, Johnny Weissmuller, Gertrude Ederle, Greg Loughanis). The members are listed individually on large plastic flip holders with information about their accomplishments -- sorry, no plaques or busts like in fancier Halls. I had also arrived enough before 9 AM here to walk the nearby beachfront area, featuring both a very pleasant beach and several shops and restaurants.

Both historic houses were very interesting and very different, the Bonnet being owned by a well-known artist and his wealthy wife, the Stranahan by a more working-class level couple who were involved in local public service. The Bonnet has extensive natural Florida style (hammock) grounds dotted with interestingly eccentric out-buildings . The house itself is a sizable and very personal take-off on Caribbean structures, centered around a large garden style courtyard and filled with the owner's artwork and refurbished carousel animals and other unusual art pieces. The tour was lengthy (ca. 90 minutes) but impassioned and informative, well done. The Stranahan is a more prosaic place, right off Las Olas Boulevard and sitting on the nearby river-type waterfront. The tour was every bit as good as that at the Bonnet. The house itself is smaller and more wood-based inside than the Bonnet. Both tours covered the interesting residents in excellent detail.

The rather modest sized art museum is indeed worth a visit. It doesn't try to be broad-based in its holdings, but does quite well within the limits of its mission, containing such things as Picasso ceramics, art by Ashcan school painters such as Glackens and Henri, African and Papua New Guinean artifacts, Dutch CoBrA artists, and isolated 20th century nuggets by artists such as Giacometti and Stella.

Was lucky enough to finish in time to get back to the Tri-Rail station to take back the 95X bus to Downtown Miami.

The one interesting food experience here was at a place normally associated with Pittsburgh. It turns out that there's a branch of the Primanti Brothers sandwich chain down the street from Bonnet House. They're known for meat and cheese sandwiches on Italian white bread that contain fries, cole slaw, and tomato slices right on the sandwich. It's a good guilty pleasure, as the fries appear fresh cut and fried, the cole slaw has an enjoyable vinegar tang, and choosing capicola as the meat gave a nice spicy bite to the whole thing. Good, and very much unexpected.

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