Italia Spring 2020 “Ineffable Miami”: Coral Gables by Alexia Callava

Biography

My name is Alexia Callava and I am currently a sophomore studying Marketing at Florida International University’s Honors College. Some of my hobbies include, traveling, cooking, going to beach, and spending time with family and friends. I was born and raised in Miami, FL but my family is Cuban. Like I mentioned I really enjoy traveling and cannot wait to travel more in the future and experience many more cultures, and food.

GEOGRAPHY

Image of map retrieved from Google Maps

“The City Beautiful” or better known as Coral Gables is a city located in Miami Dade County, Florida. The City of Coral Gables is pretty central and located not far from South Miami, Brickell, Downtown, Pinecrest, and Coconut Grove. Specifically, Downtown Miami is a quick fifteen-minute drive away. Most importantly, the city of Coral Gables is less than five miles away from Miami International Airport. This is a big benefit for the city because it brings in tourists from across the world to experience the beauty that is Coral Gables.

When this city was first being built, the founders imagined a city where there was a good amount of greenery such as trees and plants throughout neighborhoods. Now, almost 100 years later the city still carries that same characteristics that founder George Merrick envisioned. The city offers the best of both worlds with a great amount of greenery as well as many restaurants and bars. The city’s business district is an international hub for many different types of corporate offices. Alongside all the different types of restaurants there is also a multitude of clothing, book, and furniture stores.

HISTORY

The City of Coral Gables was founded by poet and writer George Merrick in the 1920s. Merrick was inspired by Frederick Law Olmstead who was the designer of New York’s famous Central Park. During these times The City Beautiful Movement was taking place and it is clear that Merrick took inspiration from that as well. This movement consisted of a lot of greenery, tall buildings, big plazas, and fountains. All these features are seen throughout the city to this day, so it is made obvious that Merrick was fond of this movement. The style of the city takes after Mediterranean Revival which is a kind of Spanish Renaissance mixed with Arabic Andalusian and some Venetian Gothic style.

George Merrick moved to South Florida with his family in 1899 from Massachusetts. His father purchased about one hundred and sixty acres of land where they produced things such as avocados, oranges, and grapefruit around the area of now the popular Granada Golf Course. When his father died, he began to grow this land to great amounts and put his dreams and visions into action. He wanted to create a city named “Coral Gables” which was the name of a place where he spent much of his childhood up north. He had the help of many architects that would help bring his vision into a living reality. While designing the city there were different subdivisions that were made such as residential areas, businesses, parks, tennis courts, golf courses, and recreational centers.

Fountain located in Coral Gables. Photo by Alexia Callava

The city truly took Mediterranean styles quite seriously and had a panel of architects that were in charge of keeping the original image that Merrick wanted to create. Details such as the color of paint that was used to the roofing had to be approved. All the colors that were incorporated were vibrant and lively but also included aspects from the Mediterranean style that Merrick so loved. Throughout Coral Gables you see this kind of “old and historic” look to many buildings and even houses and this was the intent of Merrick all along. The city incorporates arches, limestone, and brick which is portrayed in the entryways into the city. In a short four years “The City Beautiful” was up and thriving with hundreds of homes, roadways, and sidewalks built. The city was off to an amazing and successful start and was only going to get greater from that point. After this the Biltmore Tower was born which to this day is very popular and loved by many and still carries that same Mediterranean look that was created in the 1920s.

Merrick’s imagination and visions never stopped, and he would not sleep until his visions were set in place. After all the success he had just experienced he set out to create different villages that were inspired from different countries all throughout the world. Some of the countries included Italy, China, France, Mexico, and Africa. This, though, was a failure due to two reasons that ultimately were out of his control and those were the hurricane of 1926 and the Great Depression that followed.

After all of Merrick’s success he did experience a major downfall and he fell into big debt. He moved out of the city for a bit and eventually moved back but was not as successful as he was before. Though Merrick himself was not as successful the city kept booming especially during World War II. During the war Coral Gables became a hub for soldiers to stay in including the Biltmore Hotel which became a hospital for wounded soldiers. The next big thing was Miracle Mile which incorporated corporate and commercial businesses. As the years go by and Coral Gables continues to grow, and flourish one thing will always remain the same and that is the Mediterranean style that George Merrick so loved.

Coral Gables City Hall. Image by Alexia Callava

DEMOGRAPHICS

According to the United States Census Bureau:

Fifty thousand nine hundred ninety- nine (50,999) people are residing in the city of Coral Gables. About fifty-one-point five percent (51.5%) of the population are female. Nineteen-point one percent (19.1%) of this population are people under the age of eighteen while eighteen-point one (18.1%) percent of the population are people over sixty-five. The Coral Gables population is composed of thirty- four point four percent (34.4%) of whites alone, three point four percent (3.4%) black or African American, zero point one percent (0.1%) American Indian, two point six percent (2.6%) Asian, and fifty- eight point nine percent (58.9%) Hispanic or Latino. The median gross rent is $1,583 and there is an average of about 2.59 persons per household. The city’s median household income is $100,000 (“U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts: Coral Gables, Florida”).

Biography of Fausto Callava (Coral Gables resident)

Fausto Callava. Photo by Mara Callava

Fausto Callava was born on October 16, 1972 and was born and raised in Miami, Florida. He moved to Coral Gables in 1996 and currently resides in the city. Mr. Callava also has his business office within the central business district in Coral Gables. He has been a real estate investor since 2009. Lastly, he received his degree from Florida International University.

Fausto’s thoughts on Coral Gables:

Alexia: What sets Coral Gables apart from other cities?

Fausto: I think first and for most its architecture is like no other. There is no other city in South Florida where you have old Spanish architecture within your residential communities and more modern styles in its business district. So, to me it is like have the best of both worlds all within one city.

Alexia: What is your favorite restaurant in Coral Gables?

Fausto: My favorite restaurant in Coral Gables is Ortanique. Ortanique is a true staple within the city of Coral Gables.

Alexia: What is one thing you would change about the city?

Fausto: I would say to add more of a night life.

Alexia: If you had to suggest what to do for a day to someone who has never visited the city what would you say?

Fausto: First I would visit all of the city’s landmarks such as City Hall, Venetian Pool, Matheson Hammock Park, and Fairchild Botanical Gardens. I would take a stroll down Miracle Mile and have lunch and do some shopping. I would also recommend staying at the Biltmore Hotel. Lastly, I would suggest playing a round of golf at the Riviera Country Club.

LANDMARKS

The Biltmore Hotel

Photo by Alexia Callava

The Biltmore Hotel opened in January in the year 1926 and still stands strong almost 100 years later. The beautiful landmark was designed by the same designers that built other notable places such as New York’s Grand Central Station as well as The Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach Florida. The building reaches twenty-six floors and is a copy of The Giralda Bell Tower in Spain. Here we also see the influence that many European styles had on Merrick and his team. Even in 1926 the hotel had so much to offer its guest including but not limited to tennis courts, a golf course, a casino, and a jaw dropping pool.

During World War II this resort was transformed into a hospital to aid soldiers that were injured. It is said that this is the reason why the hotel is known to be “haunted” because many injured soldiers died here, and their spirits still haunt the hotel to this day. Another reason why the hotel gets its reputation of being haunted is because it is said that a gangster was shot and killed on the 13th floor by another mobster. After the need for it to be a hospital was not necessary anymore it was transformed back into a resort in 1987 and still stands as a beautiful hotel.

The resort has 271 rooms, and each resembles the same kind of style that is the Mediterranean Spanish style in its own unique way. The resort is spread out across a 150-acre piece of land that has something to do for anyone and everyone. It offers a lush 18- hole golf course along with various tennis courts and walls. Once done playing one can enjoy the enormous pool which happens to be the biggest pool in all of the East coast of the United States. There also happens to be a state-of-the-art spa where you can enjoy steam rooms, saunas, and massages. On top of all that the hotel also provides culinary classes with a chef for both children and adults. The Biltmore Hotel truly does offer so many things to do for all ages and genders and that is why it is still such a popular hotel.

The Venetian Pool

Photo by Alexia Callava

The Venetian Pool opened in 1924 and was used as the “Venetian Casino.” This pool was a project that Merrick wanted to bring into the city to provide enjoyment for the residents. The limestone found at the site was the same limestone that was used to create different parts of the city such as archways and buildings. The same pit that had the great amounts of limestone ended up being the Venetian Pool. This pool stood out from all the rest being named “the world’s most beautiful swimming hole.” It was also seen as a pool for the elite back in the times when it was first built. The pool would have an orchestra playing music for those that went to swim. In more recent years the pool was emptied out to host a concert in honor of 75 years of being open.

Photo by Alexia Callava

The pool still holds the same history and features as it did before such as the fountain, secret cave, and bridge. Today, the pool offers swimming lessons for both adults and children as well as summer camps. Lastly, there is a small cafe that offers beverages, snacks, and other hot meals.

Merrick House

Photo by Alexia Callava

The Merrick House was constructed in 1899 for George Merrick and his family. His father Solomon Merrick had it built as his family’s home for their planation where they were growing oranges, avocados, and grapefruit. The house was built using limestone and rock which is significant as most of the city was built using those same features. The family named the home “Coral Gables” and the surrounding land around it “Coral Gables Plantation.” Now, the house is open to visitors where tours are offered by volunteers. This landmark is very significant and well known due to the fact that it was George Merrick’s home as well as one of the first houses to be built in Coral Gables.

Photo by Alexia Callava

GREEN

The Granada Golf Course

Photo by Alexia Callava

The Granada golf course is a very popular golf course where you can always find people either exercising or playing a round of golf. Anyone can rent golf clubs, and golf carts, as well as visit their restaurant/ diner that locals frequently visit. Golf has been a very popular sport within Coral Gables since the year it was made as well as to this day.

Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

Photo by Alexia Callava

Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden gets its name from renowned botanist David Fairchild. The land is an astonishing 83-acre garden with a lot of greenery, plants, and flowers throughout the property. This garden truly feels like something out of a movie with its rainforest, gardens, and orchids. The site is truly jaw-dropping and a must go in the Gables! There are also tram rides offered to visitors to get a close up look at all the plants. Just when you thought that this garden could not get any better there is also a beautiful waterfall. Because of all the beauty that this cite holds, the garden hosts many events such as galas, festivals, and even weddings.

Photo by Alexia Callava

Matheson Hammock Park

Photo by Alexia Callava

This beautiful and popular park is located in the southern part of Coral Gables and spans 630 acres along the coast of Florida. It first opened in the 1930s and later was donated to the city to be made into a park for all locals to enjoy. The fact that the park is along the coast makes it all the more enjoyable and beautiful. It truly shows what Florida is all about with its mangroves along with all the enormous trees. It is an amazing place to get some photography in as well as going for a walk or run. Even if you just need a quick pick- me- up this is a perfect location to just drive through and take in all the beauty. The park also hosts many outdoor weddings and other special events. You can also go ahead and make a day out of it and have a picnic with your loved ones. There truly is so much to see and do around all the greenery that is Matheson Hammock Park.

Photo by Alexia Callava

TRANSPORTATION

Traveling throughout the Gables at certain times might be difficult due to the high volume of traffic that accumulates from around 8 until 9:30 am and at rush hour traffic. Because there are so many business and corporate offices in the Gables it can be a little congested at times. Also, parking is very limited, and it is nearly impossible to get a spot around lunch time. Due to this a lot of people just use uber or lyft to get to work. Other people do drive if their office offers garage parking instead of regular street parking. Other than that, though Coral Gables does offer two types of transportation methods to get around the city for free. These include the Coral Gables Trolley and Freebee.

Coral Gables Trolley

The trolley offers rides to all major hotspots in Coral Gables such as Miracle Mile, the Hyatt Regency, the Colonnade, Merrick Park, and the Coral Gables Museum. These are just a few of the popular stops the trolley makes of its 30 stops. The trolley runs every 15 minutes and is only available Monday through Friday. It is a great alternative to driving a car because you do not need to deal with finding and paying for parking.

Freebee

Freebee. Photo by Alexia Callava

Freebee is a small vehicle that basically looks like an extended golf-cart with doors. It is a fun form of transportation that many locals love and use often. This vehicle is also much better for the environment than other forms of transportation because it is electronically powered. Using the app, you are able to request a free ride and the driver will drop you off anywhere you want in the Gables. It is also the perfect way to get around the Gables and experience all of its beauty by sight-seeing.

FOOD

Ortanique On the Mile

Photo by Alexia Callava

Ortanique on the Mile is a big hotspot for locals in the Gables. The restaurant has been opened since July 1999 and has been successful ever since. Head chef and owner Cindy Hutson has curated a delicious menu inspired by Caribbean and Jamaican flavors. Their most popular and one of my favorite dishes is the Jerk chicken penne pasta it has the perfect amount of spice combined with its creamy sauce; you cannot go wrong with this dish. Another one of my preferred dishes is the tuna appetizer which is spicy and sweet due to the wasabi spread mixed with a mango spread. The restaurant is also well known for their refreshing and delicious cocktails that are a perfect complement to all of the dishes. The second you walk into the restaurant you feel as though you have been transported to a Caribbean island, it is absolutely incredible.

Hillstone

Photo by Alexia Callava

One of my favorite restaurants on Miracle Mile is Hillstone due to wide variety of menu options. Hillstone is one of the many hot- spots here in the Gables as there is always a wait to get in because of how popular it is. The restaurant is more of an upscale restaurant, but the food definitely will not disappoint. It has been around for over 15 years serving its locals as well as visitors from all over. The most popular appetizer is definitely the mouthwatering spinach and artichoke dip. It sets itself apart from other dips because it is so creamy and flavorful. It also comes with a side of sour cream, salsa, and of course their fresh nacho chips for dipping. Another fan favorite is the tuna tartare which is definitely worth ordering because it brings a boiled egg, pieces of toast, avocado slices, and of course the refreshing tuna. Hillstone truly offers a wide range of foods from salads to cheeseburger and from sushi to baby back ribs, you can never go wrong.

Green Gables Cafe

Photo by Alexia Callava

Green Gables cafe offers its customers delicious and healthy meals while in a cozy environment. What makes this restaurant stand out from the ones around is the fact that it offers amazing meals but a healthier version. For example, on the menu there is a turkey vaca frita bowl that comes with black beans and brown rice. Compared to the traditional Cuban dish that is served with a great amount of oil as well as white rice and tostones. The dish offered at the café is a healthier but delicious alternative. The location of this cafe is also very central in the middle of the business hub of Coral Gables. This restaurant has many amazing fruit and vegetables juices along with wellness shots and much more. So, if you are in the area and want some delicious yet healthy meals make sure to stop at Green Gables Cafe.

Image of Green Gables Cafe menu. Image by Alexia Callava

BUSINESSES

There are many small and large businesses located in Coral Gables. The city offers boutiques, beauty salons, fitness studios, and big corporate offices such as Bacardi offices. There are also a multitude of real estate businesses as well as law and accounting firms. There truly is a little bit of everything here in the Gables.

SEPHORA

Sephora is a beauty and makeup store that offers a wide variety of make-up brands, skincare, and hair care products. It is located in Merrick Park, which is a beautiful outdoor mall with various restaurants, department stores, a movie theater, baby stores, boutiques, and even a pediatrician office. This location draws in many people because you can be strolling down the mall and want to stop in and take a look. The store also has a multitude of beauty experts that help you find just what you are looking for. The store also carries its own line of products aside from the other well-known brands. A unique feature about the store is that it has clean beauty which is made without any harmful ingredients or animal testing.

Daisy Tarsi

Image by Alexia Callava

Daisy Tarsi is one of the many bridal shops along Miracle Mile that offers different styles of wedding dresses and bridesmaid dresses. The store is known for their wide variety of wedding dresses from style to sequence. It even offers prom dresses and any type of formal gown that might be needed for an event. It is the perfect place to shop at to make your visions into a reality for your wedding day.

Orangetheory Fitness

Image by Alexia Callava

Orangetheory Fitness Coral Gables is located one block away from Miracle Mile which is very close to many other businesses. Its location brings in many people to exercise before or after their work shift which might be just around the street. This business offers 50-minute workout classes with state-of-the-art equipment such as weights, a rowing machine, and treadmills. There is never a class that is exactly the same, so you are constantly challenged with many different kinds of exercises. The studio also offers first timers a free class to try it out and after that there are many class packages that you can choose from.

SUMMARY

One of the streets in Coral Gables. Image by Alexia Callava

Coral Gables is definitely worth making a trip to for so many reasons. Specifically, it offers such a wide variety of things to do and places to see for just about anyone and everyone. It is such a beautiful history packed city and still looks as it did back in the 1920s, with more building of course. George Merrick had a vision for this city and his legacy still lives on to this day. Because George Merrick wanted to extend his family’s planation into something more, we have the City Beautiful. His eye for detail and his specifics for the city is what makes it so unique.

Although the Gables is a historic city it is very modernized with many restaurants, stores, and a business district. The city offers a wide selection of stores to shop at from makeup stores to clothing stores and even book shops. The restaurants truly prove how international the city really is, there is just about every type of cuisine you can think of in the city. There are lower end restaurants with reasonable prices and higher end restaurants as well. One of my favorites has to be Ortanique on The Mile, I do not think I have tried something that I did not like there. The restaurant adds such a special touch to the city because you typically do not see many Caribbean restaurants around. It offers wonderful seafood platters as well many other popular ones too. So, anyone can take a stroll down Miracle Mile and have themselves a day filled with a wide array of things to do and see.

The city offers a wide variety of hotels to stay at but of course the one most people want to stay at is the notorious Biltmore Hotel. It dates back so long and has the most beautiful view of a lush golf course. It offers an enormous pool, state of the art spa, and fitness gym. The hotel looks just as it did back when Merrick was creating it, and it is such a must see for anyone that is around the area. Of course, though there are other hotels around the area that are located in the heart of Coral Gables and around Miracle Mile. What makes these hotels so great is the location and how central they really are. They are located near some of the most popular and delicious restaurants in Coral Gables.

There are a multitude of thing that set Coral Gables apart from other cities and I believe that it is the fact that you basically have everything within one city. Like I mentioned there is something for everyone to do and most things are just a few minutes’ walk. I definitely recommend making a stop in the beautiful city of Coral Gables if anyone is in Miami or in the area.

Works Cited

“A History of Coral Gables.” Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce, coralgableschamber.org/a-history-of-coral-gables/.

“About Coral Gables.” City of Coral Gables – About Coral Gables, www.coralgables.com/about-coral-gables.

Duba, Julia. “A History Of The Biltmore, Miami’s Best Known Creepy Hotel.” WLRN, www.wlrn.org/post/history-biltmore-miamis-best-known-creepy-hotel.

Faber, JP. “The Merrick Residence.” Coral Gables, 26 Mar. 2019, coralgablesthemagazine.com/the-merrick-residence/.

“Matheson Hammock Park in Coral Gables, FL.” In Coral Gables, FL, www.miamiandbeaches.com/thing-to-do/parks-recreation/matheson-hammock-park/4704.

“Nationally Recognized Historical Landmarks.” City of Coral Gables – Nationally Recognized Historical Landmarks, www.coralgables.com/departments/HistoricalResourcesCulturalArts/nationally-recognized-historical-landmarks.

Time Out Miami. “Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden: Coral Gables, FL.” Time Out Miami, 30 June 2017, www.timeout.com/miami/things-to-do/fairchild-tropical-botanic-garden-coral-gables-fl.

“THE BILTMORE HOTEL MIAMI CORAL GABLES – Updated 2020 Prices & Reviews (FL).” Tripadvisor, www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g34152-d115176-Reviews-The_Biltmore_Hotel_Miami_Coral_Gables-Coral_Gables_Florida.html.

“U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts: Coral Gables City, Florida.” Census Bureau QuickFacts, www.census.gov/quickfacts/coralgablescityflorida.

“Venetian Pool History.” City of Coral Gables – Nationally Recognized Historical Landmarks, www.coralgables.com/departments/HistoricalResourcesCulturalArts/nationally-recognized-historical-landmarks.

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