Tag Archives: South Beach

Dreaming of Warmer Places and New Literary Travel Adventures

Dreaming of balmy weather and tropical sunsets in Miami Beach, Florida.
Dreaming of balmy weather and tropical sunsets in Miami Beach, Florida.

January. It’s the same routine every year. The relatives go home, the last toasts to the new year have been made, and I’m feel slightly blue–partly because my kids have left and partly because it’s been crazy cold here in Minnesota.  It didn’t get above -11 on Monday.  I’m talking Siberia cold.

Though it’s a bit of a letdown when the holiday frenzy is over, the quiet time of January provides a time to reflect on what I’ve done over the last year, new things I’d like to do this year, and after enough procrastination, to get fired up to do a few of those things.  Since it’s been too frosty to go out, I’ve had plenty of time to hunker down and “reflect” (okay that’s my word for not getting to work). I looked back at the first post I made on this blog, which was called “Book Club Traveler” then, and I’m glad I took the time to revisit it.  I always have giant lists this time of year of all the things I wish I had accomplished, a lot of “should-have-done this and why-didn’t-I-do-that,” things I need to do now. But looking back a couple of years at those first days of blogging, I’m feeling pretty good, optimistic even. My goal was to encourage readers to take their love of literature to the next level and actually travel to the places they read about. I concluded my first post with: “So, this blog will explore the places where literature and travel intersect, how to escape with a good book and understand the places we travel, with or without a book group, through the eyes of authors who have gone there before us. Let’s get out of the living room and hit the road.”

I got enough positive feedback on the concept and enough comments like, “I wish my BeatenPage_12book club would do that,” that I gradually I came to believe that the concept was worthy of a book. And, as a result, Off The Beaten Page: The Best Trips for Lit Lovers, Book Clubs and Girls on Getaways (Chicago Review Press) came out last May, hence the new name of the blog. The book features 15 U.S. destinations with essays, an extensive reading list, and a detailed itinerary for each.  People always ask what was my favorite destination.  In January, my favorite getaway is South Beach/Miami, Florida.  I’ve written several posts about that trip like this and this.  It was just arduous doing research there as you can see from this video.  Notice that no one is wearing bulky sweaters or long johns.

However, if you’re dreaming of Florida right now, but not exactly getting there as soon asdotr you’d like, pick up any book by Carl Hiassen for a crazy look at south Florida, especially Miami; Susan Orlean’s The Orchid Thief; Peter Mathiessen’s Shadow Country about the Florida frontier; or Karen Russell’s Swamplandia! I’m snuggled in with new books to read and dreaming up potential new adventures for the year based on those books. One benefit of travel and reading is that even if I’m home in the deep freeze, I can conjure up previous tropical sojourns to warm my heart if not my fingers and toes.

Advertisements

Vivid: South Beach Lifeguard Houses, Miami Beach, Florida

The 5th Street Guardhouse– beach yoga and a cruise ship leaving port.

The hotels and other buildings in the South Beach art deco district of Miami Beach, Florida, get all the attention.  But if you’re there, you should lift your head up from your beach chair and take notice of the collection of whimsical and funky lifeguard stations that extends from the jetty at South Point to 74th Street.  If you can’t make it to South Beach, take a look at photographer and former newspaper journalist Susan Russell’s book, aptly titled South Beach Life Guard Stations to see what I’m talking about.

While there have been elevated lifeguard stations here almost since the area became a resort, they weren’t so interesting until Hurricane Andrew swept most of them away in 1992.  They were rebuilt with panache typical of South Beach. They serve a very practical purpose for lifeguards, but also make great landmarks when you stroll the beach and an excellent place to meet for beach yoga at sunrise.  Here are a few of more….

The Towers Guardhouse, a.k.a. The Surfboard, South Beach, Florida
Lifeguard station at the jetty, where you can see the entire vista of South Beach
The 5th Street Guardhouse, with a version of the Miami Beach logo.