21st Century
The Future
World Travel
Books & Film
New Original Fiction
Opinion & Lifestyle
News Analysis
Film Space
Movies in depth
Kid's Books
Dreamscapes Two
More Original Fiction
Lifestyles Archive
Politics & Living



The International Writers Magazine: Miami FLA

Views of Vizcaya
• Tyrel Nelson
It’s me, the trees, and Juan Ponce de León. Never before did I think I’d be face-to-face with such a famous man. Not only was he Puerto Rico’s first Governor, but he also named the state beneath my feet. I’m not starstruck though … perhaps because I’m on the verge of heat stroke.


The lid of the Miami morning is intense; the sky practically white it is so bright. And the mid-August air is heavy, almost forcing me to fall at the boots of the towering Spanish explorer.
            Glancing left, my parched jaw drops at the sight of an awesome stone structure. It seems out of place due to its Italian look in a subtropical backdrop. But Juan’s stare remains stone cold. Maybe he is disappointed. Even though we’re on historical land, we aren’t at the legendary, albeit undiscovered, Fountain of Youth attached to Ponce de León’s bio. Excited to explore Vizcaya—the winter estate of industrialist James Deering (1859-1925)—I opt to move on sans Juan. He is a statue after all.            

Vizcaya I enter the main house, which, in spite of its centuries-old appearance, was actually completed in 1916. I’m immediately fascinated by the courtyard. It is immersed in sunlight and surrounded by flourishing native plants. Inching my way along the first and second floors, I study the antique European and American décor (ranging from the 1400s to the 1800s) displayed throughout the mansion. Among the thirty-plus rooms are an elegant sitting room, a tea room with stained glass windows, and an intimate music room that one sees in movies like Pride and Prejudice. It has a piano, harp, and even a dulcimer.
At the same time, I am intrigued by the home’s technologies that are well-advanced for the early twentieth century. For instance, there is an elevator, telephone room, and bathrooms modern enough to compete with today’s standards. My favorite parts of the house are its spiral staircase, the dumbwaiter linking the main kitchen and butler’s pantry, and the bookcase in the library that doubles as a disguised door to the reception room. Nevertheless, the nooks are endless, and I am beginning to feel claustrophobic. I bolt to the marbled East Loggia. I open the big glass doors.
vizcaya Stepping onto the East Terrace, I am introduced to the Atlantic. But much of my view of Biscayne Bay is obstructed by a rock ship (“Barge”) serving as a breaker. I ignore the boat landing located at the north end of Vizcaya’s inlet and shuffle over to the quaint, open-air tea house on the opposite side. I am circled by tall teal windows. There are mangroves swamping the shoreline apertures. I turn to the sea. The waters are still. The sound is silent. Ogling the ocean for a bit, I forge for the formal gardens.   

The southern acreage is capacious. I take a deep breath. I embark on the eastern edge, eager to eyeball the mixture of Renaissance French and Italian architecture framing the grounds. My first stop is the Secret Garden. I especially like the jagged cavern hiding between the two staircases to the west. I also appreciate the long scarlet leaves of the plants alongside the steps. Next I pause to rest in the shade of the branches covering the East Statuary Walk. Wiping the sweat off my sunglasses, I admire a pair of white marble sphinxes facing the open gate of the Theater Garden. I wander inside and visit the metallic, intricately-carved shepherd and shepherdess protecting the peaceful enclosure. I proceed to the Fountain Garden. Despite being bone dry (due to renovation), I am still impressed by the yard’s bull’s-eye: a grand bubbler at the center of a ring of stoic sculptures. Moreover, the garden’s bright green plants and lawns provide a striking contrast to the dark mangroves wildly looming behind. So does my beet red mug. I saunter to the southern tip of the property.    

I climb an asperous staircase. There I find the Casino, a two-roomed, open-air edifice. Leaning against the iron railing of its balcony, I catch my breath while examining the pavilion’s ornate columns. I am transfixed by what I notice next. I leave the Casino. I walk in the light. Atop the Mound, I take in an all-encompassing vista of the main gardens. Below are breathtaking cascades and grottos. Just beyond them is a charming central island moated by a tranquil pool. The sight of all the water, however, makes my thirst even worse. I smack my lips.
vizcaya I wend my way west. Like I did their eastern counterparts, I contemplate the carvings on this edge of the grounds. But my attention soon turns to the verdant background of the West Statuary Walk. I am drawn to the labyrinth of dense bushes, vines, and trees. Plodding past more flowers and fountains, I rubberneck the depths of the rockland hammock—a forest far different than those of the oaks back home in Minnesota—all the way to the exit.

Sighing and sopping, I drag myself toward the rental car. I stop to bid Ponce de León adieu. I then wonder about his quest for immortality and whether, half a millennium ago, he once stood where he stands now. And if so, what did he see? I turn around to get some perspective.
            Taking in Vizcaya one last time, I don’t blame Ponce for pulling up here. Although he never came across the Fountain of Youth, he found something magical nonetheless.
© Tyrel Nelson December 2012
More about Vizcaya

Forging Through the Fourth
Tyrel Nelson

Spending all day indoors is simply too much for me, especially when it’s an off day. Whether the weather is fair, frigid, or feverish, I believe I have to spend my extra free time outside the house
Lake Reflections
Tyrel Nelson

I exit the hardware store with new work gloves in hand. I immediately slip them over my numbing fingers. The wind of the gloomy February afternoon picks up as I hustle to my pickup

Share |
More travel


© Hackwriters 1999-2012 all rights reserved - all comments are the writers' own responsibility - no liability accepted by hackwriters.com or affiliates.