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Apr. 27th, 2013 | 08:32 pm

Yesterday I went to Fairchild Tropical Gardens in Coral Gables, south of Miami. This was my third time (or maybe 4th?) at these botanical gardens. While it has no fountains (I'll forgive it), it does have amazing plants and landscape sections and plenty of wildlife. And I made it there by noon - still not enough time to adequately see everything, but I still saw most of the gardens, including some new sections.

Animal-wise, I saw a snake, several African rainbow lizards, a brown basilisk running on its hind legs, oodles of brown (Cuban) anoles, Mediterranean geckos, some curly-tailed lizards (which surprised me, as I didn't know they were found so far south), and a lizard that I couldn't quite identify. Oh, and iguanas. Some big ones.

Plant-wise, I saw more than I could name or remember - cycads (which I learned were poisonous), banana trees, groves of palms from all over the world, a jade vine on the pergola, the baobab, figs, walking trees, cacao, jackfruit, mangosteen and other tropical fruit trees, date palms, lots of pineapples (the fact that they go from black to pink is adorable to me), orchids, the young rainforest, the spiny desert forest of Madagascar, the new butterfly conservatory (very well done, and the blue morphos kept landing on me), a carnauba tree, Bailey palms (I love those), wild coffee, rainbow eucalyptus, vanilla, a blooming jacaranda tree, flame vines, powderpuff tree, bat flowers (as gothy as a flower can get) and a bunch of other plants I can't recall because the names are unfamiliar.

I visited the hothouses for the first time - one for rare tropical plants and another for fruits and other edibles. The new butterfly conservatory was behind the hothouses and also incorporated the new cafe. The cafe was gorgeous. A glass Chihuly sculpture hung from the ceiling in clear and gold, and the dark tables and chairs were the most comfortable I've ever sat in at a restaurant. Glass window walls allowed one to view the butterfly garden while eating. My wrap wasn't that great, but the mango soda was divine. (I hope I'll be around for the mango festival. That sounds delicious.)

They had new art installations, including one of Zimbabwean rock sculpture in the lowlands by the lakes. They were really quite exquisite and moving. A very large iguana was eating near one of them, and it was kind enough to pose for photos. It was also a somehow surreal moment, as every element was somehow imported. African art and a Mexican lizard in a landscape of artificial lakes showcasing plants brought from around the world. Yet the result was so harmonious, a work of momentary art in its own right.

After the grueling rush hour trip back to the condo, I grabbed a small milkshake and then swam in the pool and hot tub for awhile. I was so exhausted afterwards I thought I'd fall straight asleep, but I was up until 3 a.m. Annoying.

So today I slept and slept. I didn't get out of the condo, but at least I showered and took my pills and got out of bed. I hope to do something tomorrow. Maybe the beach.

Only a week until I leave. I really, really miss my family and pets and friends, but I also really, really wish I could bring the palm trees and ocean and wildlife and pool up north with me. Still, how lucky I am to have these two worlds, even if having one means missing the other half the year.

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