A colorful flock greets Florida visitors

PERSONAL JOURNEYS

April 28, 2002|By Marge Stickevers | Marge Stickevers,Special to the Sun

A Memorable Place

A colorful flock greets Florida visitors

In February I anticipated a visit to south Florida by imagining lying on the beach and tranquilizing myself with the sound of the ocean. The scene didn't include parrots.

When I got to Florida, my son persuaded me to spend a day at Parrot Jungle, near Coral Gables and Coconut Grove, off Route 1 in Miami.

"It's unusual," my son said. "You'll love it."

So my sister, brother-in-law and I trekked off to find the parrots.

Although I never have been particularly fond of birds, I became entranced with the beautiful, winding nature trail that had been dug out of coral rock at Parrot Jungle. The world I happened upon was a tangled mass of vegetation with magnificent colored birds in their natural habitat. Gingerly approaching these birds with seed, I couldn't believe they were real until they delicately pecked at the food in my outstretched hand.

Our day included a photo taken with birds sitting on our arms and shoulders and several cockatoos cradled in our hands. I felt privileged that these lovely creatures allowed us to hold them and humored us by perching on us.

It was evident that the birds had done this before, because they preened their handsome feathers of royal blue, blazing red, vibrant green and velvety purple for the camera.

After that, we watched a bird show featuring a cockatoo that rode a bicycle and birds that talked and performed other complicated maneuvers. The ex-star of the show, we learned, had retired at age 63 (in Florida, of course). The new star was a younger look-alike.

In addition to the birds, there was a petting zoo where children fed baby animals out of bottles. There were also monkeys and reptiles.

The jungle was the idea of Austrian Franz Scherr, who came to America in 1911 with a dream involving nature.

In 1936, the park opened with 100 curious people who paid 25 cents admission to listen to Scherr's description of birds, trees and flowers. His concept of cultivating a small jungle out of the dense vegetation in southern Florida left a unique gift for future naturalists.

In stark contrast to amusement parks, noise and glitter, the world Scherr created allowed visitors to touch upon the peaceful existence of jungle inhabitants.

When I left Parrot Jungle, the stately birds' presence remained with me. It was with awe that I remembered their intelligent eyes watching the humans who entered their environment. I have developed a new respect for parrots.

Marge Stickevers lives in Berlin, Md.

My Best Shot

Carla B. Ford, Columbia

Gentle contours of Bali

Our recent trip to Bali, Indonesia, was remarkable. During a tour of the countryside, we visited elaborate temples, enchanting villages and ancient palaces. Terraced rice fields are found throughout rural Bali --this picture of one was taken from a restaurant / hotel on the slopes of Mount Batur. The view was stunning.

Readers Recommend

Negril, Jamaica

Carolyn M. Drye, Ellicott City

"Our trip to the Grand Lido Resort in Negril, Jamaica, was a celebration of our wedding anniversary and a getaway from all the stresses of the past year. The friendly staff made sure that our anniversary was acknowledged with an upgrade, champagne and special dinner arrangements. My husband and I shared fun days watching many new brides and bridegrooms exchanging their vows as we did so many years ago."

Strasbourg, France

Barbara Eitemiller, Churchville

"Strasbourg, France, capital of Alsace, is known as La Petite France -- little France. Strasbourg lies 2 1/2 miles west of the Rhine River on the Franco-German frontier. During our visit, the shops were decorated, and markets dotted the town. The half-timbered 16th-century buildings are reflected in the water of one of the canals that winds through the pedestrian-friendly town. "

Let Us Hear From You

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Readers Recommend: Briefly tell us about places you've recently visited that you'd recommend to other readers. (Photos are welcome.)

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