Thursday, May 30, 2013

Scenic run in Coral Gables

It's Joe again with a guest post for you! Keeping with the same theme as the past post, one of the things that I will miss most about Miami is the beautiful stretches of shaded sidewalks and scenic views in Coral Gables. Over the past three years, I have run over 2,000 miles through just about every block in Coral Gables. I'll have some nice running territory in Seattle, but I'll really miss the 7-8 month winter running season in Miami.

For this post, I made up a 6 mile loop through one of the most scenic parts of Coral Gables. There is some cool stuff in the southern part too but

Here is the link to the map of the route from May My Run:

The map of the route looks like this:

It starts and ends (green and red pins) at the corner of Almeria and Segovia. I finished this route in 65 minutes but it can be much faster if you aren't stopping and taking pictures all the time!

Here is the picture of the starting point:

This block is like many others in Coral Gables: it has the characteristic pink sidewalks and tree canopy. These trees are Mahogany trees: they keep their leaves year round and have large wooden seeds that break apart when they hit the pavement (or sometimes my car...). The best older trees are located in the northern half of the city, the southern half has younger trees that were planted after Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

At the 0.4 mile point (red star on the map) is the Coral Gables city hall with the statue of city founder George Merrick:

Merrick founded Coral Gables in 1925. He carefully planned Coral Gables and named it "City Beautiful" which followed the social movement by the same name which hoped to bring social order and a higher quality of live through urban design. Many of the buildings in Coral Gables follow the Mediterranean revival style and the streets are often named after cities and towns in Spain.

Just across from the City Hall, you can catch a glimpse of Miracle Mile, the main shopping district in Coral Gables. The business district is also located in that general area:

I prefer not to run in that area because there is too much traffic and too many people walking and texting and not paying attention to their surroundings.  Most of the restaurants are upscale, but Cibo Wine Bar is definitely the place to go if you want a nice dinner. 

Moving on, I then made a sharp turn and headed back toward the west to the Granada Golf Course (purple star on map) which is only 0.75 miles from the starting point: 

The golf course is my favorite spot for a short run, it is only about a 2 mile loop around the road that circles the golf course, Greenway Dr. This general area is very popular with walkers, runners, and bikers in the mornings and evenings. 

Following Coral Way, I reached the Merrick House historical site directly at the 1.0 mile pin on the map:

Merrick's residence was completed in 1910 and features a "coral rock" facade which is actually oolitic limestone. Real coral rock has actual coral fossils within it.  The oolite is porous and comprises most of the bedrock around Miami. The rock for this house and many others in Coral Gables was dug from what is now the Venetian Pool (see later in run). 

Merrick House is also located along Coral Way, which is one of the more scenic roads in Miami. Coral Way is lined with live oaks:

I followed Coral Way a few more blocks before turning right on Granada Blvd and heading back through the middle of the Granada Golf Course. The west side of the golf course features some amazing Banyan Trees (yellow star on map):

The Banyans are actually a type of ficus (fig), with large leaves and jungle-like vines. Unfortunately, Banyan trees do not handle strong winds very well, so they really shouldn't be planted in hurricane-prone Miami.

At 2.1 miles (green star), I passed the Alhambra Water Tower which underwent a full restoration in 1993 and just recently received a new coat of paint:

The water tower hasn't served any practical purpose since 1931 but it does look cool.

Just one block to the west of the water tower is a parkway called Country Club Prado:

I really like running on Country Club Prado because it is less crowded (traffic and pedestrians) compared with the nearby golf course. I didn't run through the whole parkway on this run, but it goes all the way up to 8th St. (Calle Ocho from the Pitbull song) and has fountain at the north end which is a popular place for wedding and Quinceanera pictures.

For this run, I simply followed the parkway south across Coral Way took a left on Sevilla St. Just past the 3 mile mark (light blue star) is the Church of the Little Flower:

I've never been inside but it opened in 1926 and is a historical landmark.

Just down the street from the church is Coral Gables' most famous landmark, the Biltmore Hotel (dark blue star on map):

The Biltmore is popular with tourist groups who like to take photos just to the left of where I took this picture. Rates start at $300-400 per night so we never stayed here, although rumor is that the weekend brunch is really good and at least somewhat reasonably priced. On the 4th of July, they set off fireworks next to the Biltmore and everyone sits and watches from the golf course behind the hotel.

Columbus Blvd, another one of my favorite roads, is located directly in front of the Biltmore:

Columbus has a banyan canopy and is close enough that I can reach it when walking the dogs.

From Columbus, I took a right on Almeria and followed it east almost back to the starting point. At Granada, I turned south and took a picture of the De Soto Fountain (purple star on map):

Directly adjacent to the fountain is another very famous landmark: the Venetian Pool. The pool originally provided the limestone for many of Coral Gables' historic buildings. Now, it is one of the more picturesque places in Miami, you can even rent it for special events and weddings. Since I ran in the evening, it was already closed for the day:

Just one block south of the Venetian Pool is one of the original historic buildings from when Merrick designed the city:

This is one of around 80 that were actually built. Originally, Merrick planned around 1,000 but the 1926 Miami Hurricane and the subsequent real estate market crash ended any hope of getting them all built. Unfortunately, Merrick also lost his fortune in the collapse and retreated to the Keys in 1928. 

The next part of the run goes through a residential neighborhood. It is one of my favorite areas for walking the dogs and features a few houses with impressive trees (can you tell that I like trees by now?). Sadly, one of my favorite trees in this section recently died and was cut down.

Eventually, around the 5 mile mark (black star on the map), I reached the Coral Gables library:

The library is surrounded by trees and a butterfly garden. Directly adjacent to the library is the War Memorial and Youth Center, which features a large field that is always crowded in the evenings:

At this point, I go a little out of my way to reach the pink snail statue at the pink star on the map:

According to the local papers, the snails are made of recycled plastic and were originally placed on Miami Beach. However, one night a snail somehow ended up taking a swim in the ocean, so they were relocated to Coral Gables. 

Segovia St serves as the home stretch for this run:

In the past two years, the city added a median, bike lane, and hundreds of oak trees to Segovia St. For now, it still has too much sun for my liking.

I'll really miss running through the Gables, if you ever get a chance to visit Miami, make sure to stop by Coral Gables and check out some of these landmarks.

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