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Jane Goodall is one of my heroes, so when I found out that a documentary about her was being released, I knew I had to see it immediately. The only problem was that there wasn’t a showing scheduled in Orlando. Since I was overdue for my yearly trip to South Florida, I decided to plan a trip to Coral Gables so that I could see this.

The journey started on a Friday night, when I stopped at home after work to pack my bags, and then my travel buddy and I were on our way south. We stopped for the night in Boca Raton, and we were up early the next morning to finish the drive to the Miami area.

We ended up skipping breakfast (I thought there’d be vegan places that did breakfast, but Choices Cafe down in Miami was pretty expensive and out of the way), and we stopped at the Chinese village to take pictures. I always enjoy gawking at the architecture and enjoying the tranquility of walking around the neighborhood here.

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Then it was time to get to another favorite spot in Coral Gables, the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens.

At Fairchild, we brandished our American Horticultural Society membership cards. The woman at the register said that AHS members got half-off admission–or so she thought–but then she couldn’t find the button for that option, so she gave us admission stickers and let us go on into the gardens for free! (I had thought we’d be able to get in free anyway, so this was lucky.)

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I’d visited these gardens two years previously and had been wanting to return ever since. A local guide who had given me a butterfly garden tour on my first visit really made a lasting impression. When our small tour group was speculating on whether Florida had a state fossil or rock, and what it might be, she pointed to my phone and said, “We don’t have to wonder.” We googled it and had our answer instantly.

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On this second trip, we hadn’t done any planning in advance, so we weren’t able to join any special tours. However, the tram tour around the extensive grounds runs every hour, and we planned to ride along for that after some explorations on our own.

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Right after walking onto the entry path to the rainbow eucalyptus tree, a volunteer came up to describe some of the plants to us. He told us about a nearby tree, which was in the poinsettia family. Then he said if we kept walking down that path, we’d find some fragrant leaves, and if we walked further, there was an overlook that would be “a great place for you” (he pointed at my companion) “to take a nice photo of her” (he pointed at me). We thanked him and continued walking up to the Eucalyptus to take pictures of it. Then he came up a few minutes later with leaves for us to smell before he ran off to give a tram tour.

For over 2 hours, we wandered and appreciated the garden that was just as good as we’d remembered.

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We joined the noon tram tour with our friendly volunteer from earlier, Tom, with the tram driven by his wife. On both my trips to Fairchild, I’ve been blown away by how friendly and enthusiastic and knowledgeable the volunteers are.

Tom told us about how the gardens have been impacted by the hurricane. Some of the trees are blooming out of season because the storm caused them to go into survival mode, which is when they try to put out their seeds one last time before they die. Luckily, most of the trees survived and are now just covered in colorful flowers.

He showed us one tree where you could see the muddy mark on the trunk 2 feet above the ground where the flood had gone up to. Many of the trees that had been damaged were propped up so that their roots could take hold again (or something like that). In their rainforest section, the entire canopy had blown off, which was bad news for the plants on the rainforest floor that thrive in the shade.

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Eventually, we were getting hungry, and since the skies were looking ominous, we decided to leave the gardens and head into downtown Coral Gables to get some food.

But first, a nap. We were both really tired, so we parked in the shade of a tree at the library and slept in the car for a bit while it rained.

When we were awake and ready for food, we drove further into the downtown area and parked near the Miracle Mile shopping and dining strip. Because I had a gift card that was good for certain restaurants, we decided to treat ourselves to a nice vegan meal at Seasons 52. We’d been to the location in Orlando once before and enjoyed the vegan menu then, and this time was no different. We ordered butternut squash soup, broccoli, vegan paella, roasted potatoes, and kohlrabi steak (I’d never had kohlrabi, and it was AMAZING!).

Since there was a little time before the 4:30 showing of Jane, we went across the street from Coral Gables Art Cinema to browse the shelves of Books&Books for a bit, and then it was time to go in and get seated for the movie.

As we watched Jane, I was surprised at how little I’d known about her personal life. I knew a lot about her early work with the chimps and her more recent work in conservation, but I never knew she’d been married and had a son! It was also interesting that she said that it’s been years since she has spent more than 3 weeks in any one place. I loved seeing how her life was dictated by her passion for knowledge rather than any interest in material possessions. More than ever, it made me excited that I’m moving toward minimalism in my own life.

After the movie, we walked back to the car and put one more location in our GPS; I’d been wanting to visit Parlour vegan bakery for a year, and the one in Plantation was still going to be open for a little bit. (Fun fact: Jane Goodall follows a veg diet too! It’s the obvious choice for the environment!)

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We spent more money than I’d care to admit on baked goods to eat in the car and to save for the next day. The pizza roll was one of the most delicious vegan things I’ve ever eaten. It made its way onto the short list of foods that I crave on a regular basis (along with Chef TJ’s vegan nachos!).

We made it back to my apartment just after midnight, absolutely thrilled at how much fun we’d managed to cram into our short little road trip. I was so excited that I’d gotten back to one of my favorite cities in the world, especially since the main focus of the day had been nature and conservation! I was already planning my next garden getaway by the time our drive home was over.

Love, Elizabeth

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