Once back from Naples, I took my son on his raincheck over to one of my childhood favorites: Venetian Pool in Coral Gables on De Soto Road. Now, granted it has changed over the years – the hole in the cave that we swam through is holed up and the wonderful coral diving stand is condemned and forbidden to divers – it is still one of the most gorgeous pools I have ever been too. Set in an old coral quarry and opened as a pool in the 50s (my grandpa was one of the first midnight skinny-dippers!), it is lush in landscape (palms, mangroves, and airplants abound), it maintains a Venice-inspired look with the little bridge over the kiddie pool and the various painted gondola posts around and about. The aforementioned kiddie pool is a fantastic area that is rather narrow (probably about 4 m across) long in front of a tiled step (probably 10m long) and only 2 feet deep. This is where I first learned to not be afraid of water. Perfect for 3-5 year olds. Unfortunately, the rather paranoid management has banned kids under 3, which explains why my 2-year old daughter was not with us. It is separated from the “deep end” (5-8 feet deep) in front of the old diving platform by a island (plastered with a few tanning girls) and from a huge 5 foot pool which must be about 25m x 40m in size roughly. This is where I learned to swim (and my dad before me). The highlight of this part is the cave I mentioned earlier complete with stalactites and a small waterfall. Above this to the left, is a cascading fountain with a little 1 foot circular bath spilling then into the main pool. There is also a beautiful waterfall by the old diving area which is the widest part of the pool (maybe 60m across). All told, it is a small tropical paradise just a stone’s throw from the Biltmore Hotel that I reviewed last summer. Entry is a steep $11 for adults and $6.50 for kids over 3. The lockers need to be paid for at the ticket counter and are a whopping $10 for which you get $5 back as you leave and hand in the token. There is also a sunny café in the back courtyard (with a wonderful coral fountain) but it seems to only be open on weekends. There is even a sandy beach area. It is a nice place for an afternoon and when we went on w Wednesday, there was almost no one there which was great as well. My son said afterwards that it was his favorite pool. I couldn’t agree more!
While in the neighborhood, we headed to Allen’s Drugstore and in particular the amazing S&S Diner. I grew up three blocks from here and used to eat a quick breakfast on the way to 2nd and 3rd grade here. It is an authentic diner serving eggs, bacon, super burgers, milkshakes and – not kidding – ice cream floats. It is a wonderful trip back to the 50s and somehow hanging on to business despite the general Miami trend of ubiquitous chain restaurants. It is located on the intersection of Red and Bird (SW 57th Ave SW 40 St). If you are in the vicinity, please head by there and keep them alive. It is a truly rare gem.