Coral Gables, The City Beautiful

A Fashionable walk on the City of Dreams

The city of Coral Gables was developed by George Merrick with the conception of “The Beautiful City” an architectural movement from the late 1800’s and early 1900’s that includes the “Beaux-Arts” style characteristic to many buildings not only in Coral Gables but also can be seen in Downtown Miami.

Merrick a visioner himself created unique villages in to the City, on a plan that only Walt Disney could conceive; Merrick was determined to make this town beautiful.

FullSizeRender 9
One of the typical scenes in Coral Gables, a fountain built on the coral rock (limestone) bringing reminiscences of an ancient Spanish village.

The Villages

I invite you to take a closer look to the villages and admire the architecture, the gardens, the arched gates and feel like you have travelled around the globe in less than a day.

The Italian Village: Stroll on Montserrat, Palmarito and Altara Avenues, the homes here will transport you to the Villas of the 17th century in Italy. Frank Wyatt Woods designed them in 1926.

The French Villages: Conceived after 18th century French country farm houses and chateaux; these villages are located on the 500 to 1000 block of Hardee Road.

French Normandy Village: Did you notice when driving on traffic on LeJeune Road the particular houses by the 400 block of Vizcaya Ave? These are the 15th century homes found in England and France; constructed here in the 1930’s.

Pioneer Village: When driving or walking around Santa Maria Street by the Golf Course of The Biltmore Hotel; take a look at the Colonial Village with tall pillars, white picket fences, two story porticoes.

Chinese Village: The colorful Chinese compound style residences were designed in 1926 and you can see them on the 5100 blocks of Riviera Drive, Menendez, Castania, Maggiore and Sansovino Avenues.

Dutch South African Village: Designed by Palm Beach Architect Marion Syms Wyeth, these L and U shaped farmhouses resemble the homes of the wealthy Dutch colonists and you can see them on LeJeune Road and Riviera Drive, Maya Street.

The predominant architectural lines in Coral Gables are the 1920’s Mediterranean Revival Style and The Spanish Renaissance often confused with the 1930’s Art Deco because of the timeline between styles.

Montserrat Franco in Coral Gables, wearing a dress from the Dolce Gabbana Teatro dei Pupi (Theatre of marionettes) collection 

The Gates of Coral Gables

George Merrick also envisioned eight different entrances to Coral Gables inspired in Spanish hill towns; only four were completed. You may drive by almost everyday around these gates but take a pause and look around a piece of history on your very own town.

The Douglas entrance (on Douglas and 8th Street) also called “La Puerta del Sol” is one of the most elaborated built between 1925 and 1927. It is registered on the National Registry of Historic Places.

A view of the building connected to the gate “Puerta del Sol”
Montserrat Franco in Coral Gables (Puerta del Sol entrance) wearing a Dolce Gabbana dress and sunglasses from the Sicilian Baroque collection 

The Granada Entrance: Located at Granada Blvd and SW 8th st built on coral rock (limestone). The arch spans Granada Blvd which is a historic roadway.

The Granada entrance 
Byzantine dress
Montserrat Franco at the Granada walls in a Dolce Gabbana dress from the Byzantine collection 

The Prado entrance: Located at the NW corner of the City of Coral Gables at S.W. 8th Street and S.W. 57th Avenue (Red Road). For years the Country Club Prado Arch has been a setting for photography, specially wedding, engagement, etc.

The Alhambra Entrance: Located at S.W. 37 Avenue (Douglas Road), Majorca Avenue and Alhambra Circle.  The Alhambra entry arch is also known as the commercial entry to Coral Gables, as Alhambra Circle leads to the central business district and Miracle Mile.

So much to explore in Coral Gables that you may want to come back for more, a long walk around charming homes with clustered buganvilias on limestone walls; unexpected fountains; spanish coats of arms on pillars and immense banyan trees to get the feeling of that Mediterranean getaway not so far away from home.


FullSizeRender 10

FullSizeRender 4

All outfits by Dolce & Gabbana

Bal Harbour Shops

9700 Collins Ave. Miami Beach, FL 33154

Phone # 305 866 0503

As seen on SFL Style Magazine

Beauty and Fashion Faves at The Shops at Merrick Park

Montserrat’s favorite picks

Christian Dior Beauté: 
Located at Level 1 inside Neiman Marcus; Christian Dior is the timeless French House of Beauty; choosing the right foundation, brushes and highlighters to enhance is not an easy task so we got expert advice from Yolanda Ayala who kindly guided us in the search for the perfect tones; loved the Dior Show in 2 steps: maximizer and dramatic mascara.  Another favorite is the Forever foundation with 35 SPF and shine control;  this makeup feels great on the skin leaving a sun kissed look.
For the perfect eyebrows I recommend the Dior Show brow styler, with a few touches following the arch of the eye brows to create a natural and filled look.

Christian Dior’s picks from Neiman Marcus Merrick Park

Dolce & Gabbana : The Sicilian Bronzer – Limited Edition 

When I first saw this beautiful bronzer I said: “I must have it” and I did, thanks again to Yolanda who made it happen.  The limited edition “Sicilian carretto” designs on this beautiful coffret will make envy any other ladies at the powder room.
The Sicilian bronzer will give you that natural glow needed to complete your makeup.  I tried the Dolce Matte lipstick in Flirt; a long lasting color that can stay intact for hours.

The Dolce Gabbana Sicilian Carretto Bronzer Limited Edition is inspired on the vivid and colorful art of the carriages in Sicily

L’Occitane en Provence: 

Located on Level 2 of the Shops at Merrick Park;   I became a big fan of L’Occitane and the Divine Collection; creams and serums made with essential oils extracted from the “Immortelle flowers” that grow in the wild island of Corsica and can live forever.
Try also the restorative hand creams and lotions made with original resources from the South of France; almond, lavender, roses and get all the steps to make your own spa indulgence at home.
Did I mention L’Occitane gives back? Not only a promise to the environment, all organic made, never tested on animals but also a support to charities all over the world.

L’Occitane en Provence selections to make your own spa at home

Island Girl: 
Always on the second level and next door to L’Occitane we are at Island Girl and Sandra (Sandy) Saavedra gives us some insights on resort style.  Fashion that is eco friendly and supports fair trade.  Just take a quick look at this boutique and you will find everything you need for that weekend or exotic getaway; from limited edition handmade espadrilles to pom pom greek sandals to charms and ethnic bijoux by Indieluu. Sandy is the designer behind Indieluu, her own brand.
I can’t get enough of the very unique pieces found on this store; Indian accessories and Colombian guayuu bags; there is something for everyone.
Indian bajaraas; native American beaded jewelry and mini Wajuu bags made by the Wajuu people of Colombia at Island Girl in Merrick Park.

Some resort selections from Island Girl Miami

Lilly Pulitzer:
When entering the Lilly Pulitzer store at Merrick Park we can’t be more happy; because Lilly’s designs are just all about a Floridian dream lifestyle, a scape to the tropics.
The iconic prints on the shift dress that made it to our first ladies and socialites closets are here to stay; find one for every occasion at Shops of Merrick Park’s first level.
Bright neons, turquoise hippocamps, pink flamingos, green palm leaves, yellow pineapples and all in between mosaics combined with tassels and charms; Lilly’s artistry is still alive on every dress.
The native of NY who settled in Palm Beach and opened a lemonade stand with her husband never thought how brilliant could be to start her own shift dress business after everyone loved the designs, sooner she sold more dressed than lemonade cups.
When packing for a vacation never miss a statement piece and a Lilly dress, after all… life is better at the beach.

The Town of Coral Gables and City Hall depicted on a hand painted wall at the dressing room of the Lilly Pulitzer boutique at Merrick Park


Neiman Marcus:

390 San Lorenzo Ave. Coral Gables, FL 33146

Phone: 786 999 1000

L’Occitane en Provence:

330 San Lorenzo Ave. #2325 Coral Gables, FL 33146

Phone: 305 445 1040

Island Girl Miami:

330 San Lorenzo Ave. Coral Gables, FL 33146

Phone: 305 648 3333

Lilly Pulitzer:

358 San Lorenzo Ave. #1525 Coral Gables, FL 33146

Phone: 305 4419837

St Barths: An island like no other


“Some people look for a beautiful place, others make the place beautiful”

St Barth; an almost unreachable destination in the French West Indies is the perfect hideaway for the jet setter. Surrounded by pristine white sand beaches, unspoiled nature; mountains and the turquoise clear waters of the Atlantic Ocean this associated Island of France had a long history before becoming the top destination for celebrities in search for privacy.

I thought this was also one of the cutest signs: Caution: Duck crossing
The airport in St Jean – St Barth is actually one of the most difficult landings in the history of aviation

The Beginnings: In 1493 Columbus landed in St Barth and named the Island after his brother Bartolomeo; the first inhabitants of the Island were the Arawak Indians; hostile conditions and the lack of gold were crucial for the Spanish Crown and St Barth remained forgotten for centuries; later ruled by the French; then sold to the Dutch to be returned to the French; St Barth started to be noticed by luxury resort developers just in the 1950’s when Rockefeller built his private home in the top of the mountains in Colombier; West side of the Island.

The discovery of St Barthelemy.  Columbus gave to the Island the name of his brother Bartolomeo.
The discovery of St Barthelemy. Columbus gave to the Island the name of his brother Bartolomeo.
A view from the cliff at Colombier.
A view from the cliff at Colombier.

Today; the most expensive yachts in the world are no strangers to St Barth and every day is almost a competition on size and style.

The Eclipse
The Eclipse mega yacht owned by Russian Billionaire Roman Abramovich, I spotted from my balcony at the Beach House in Corossol.
Hotel Cheval Blanc LVMH Flamandes Beach
Hotel Cheval Blanc LVMH Flamandes Beach

Shopping: For luxury shopping the Quai de la Republique; Le Carre D’Or; a Caribbean version of Beverly Hills with the most desirable designers and limited edition collections made exclusively for St Barth. I spent many hours at the Dolce & Gabanna flagship store opened just a few months ago with its own Martini Bar for D & G collaboration. The colorful collection reflects the spirit of the Island; floral scarfs; bejeweled mules, oversized sunglasses, embellished straw baskets and wedges and the 1950’s inspired cocktail dresses just makes us want to wear them all and go for a stroll in a Moke (the ultimate transportation in the Island) around Gustavia.

The Dolce & Gabanna loves St Barth collection at the DG flagship store in Gustavia
The Dolce & Gabanna loves St Barth collection at the DG flagship store in Gustavia
The Moke
The Moke is the best transportation in St Barth. Wearing a hand embroidered dress and Mayan necklace.

St Barth is the culinary capital of the Caribbean; suddenly we see people walking with baguettes on the streets and freshly made pastries can be found at any of the Boulangeries and Patisseries; at supermarkets all of them carry French brands and is like going to Paris in the middle of a tropical setting.

Desserts served at Cheval Blanc. Flamandes Beach
Desserts served at Cheval Blanc. Flamandes Beach

Flamandes: The lifestyle of the Island is resort chic with impeccable service and attention to details, the French touch is notorious; For lunch I truly enjoyed The Cheval Blanc in Flamandes; it was also the best beach for swim and great cuisine by Chef Yann Vinsont. The Cheval Blanc is part of the LVMH Luxury Resort collection.

Flamandes Beach
Flamandes Beach


Lunch at Case de L'Isle Hotel Cheval Blanc LVMH
Lunch at Case de L’Isle Hotel Cheval Blanc LVMH

Grand Cul de Sac: Lunch at Le Sereno in Grand Cul de Sac is another must on my list; from its sister 5 star hotel “Il Sereno” in Laco di Cuomo; Le Sereno exudes style; designed by renowned Parisian designer Christian Liaigre.

The lagoon at Sereno Beach is also perfect for paddle boarding or canoeing in the afternoon. Great place to spot the turtles swimming on the water or picking up giant conch between the rocks.

Next to Le Sereno; Le Guanahani is another impressive luxury resort with a Spa by Clarins and its distinctive tiki bars by the beach; Le Guanahani offers true island feeling.

Le Guanahani St Barts
Wearing an embroidered vintage Manila shawl at the beach of Le Guanahani – Grand Cul de Sac, St Barth

St Jean: Dining in St Barth: a must is the Eden Rock at the “In” Beach of St Jean just next to the airport; with two signature restaurants: “On the Rocks” at the top of the cliff or “The Sand Bar” both headed by Michelin starred Chef Jean-Georges.

Eden Rock St Barts
Eden Rock St Barth by night

St Barth preserve its Colonial charm from the Dutch era; the Creole and the French; signs on the streets are both in Dutch and French.

Creole Village St Barts
At the Comca-Comca Creole Village in St Jean wearing a custom embroidered Otomi dress

Shell Beach: Walking distance from the lively port of Gustavia and just steps from divine dining spots like Bagatelle and Bonito; we are in Shell Beach; a small portion of the Island covered with shells of all types and colors; you never know when you’ll find a unique one in the middle of all these shells.

Shell Beach
Shell Beach and Flamingo espadrilles by Soludos @soludos weaved basket with Oaxacan accesories

St Barth has it all; from hiking thru the mountains and spotting baby turtles on the way to incredible views of the secluded Island in Colombier to infinite white sandy beaches in Saline or the freshest catch of the day to your table.

Shell Beach St Barts
Shell Beach

“Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer” – Anonymous.

Until the next destination.

Dolce & Gabbana, Visions of Sicily

For the fashionable pair Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, their beloved Sicily is an endless font of inspiration. With several collections on a row from New York to Milan Fashion Weeks they take us on a tour to rediscover Sicilian traditions, architecture, and history through Fashion.

The sumptuous gold-thread embroidery, religious and devotional hand work as seen on the Monreale Cathedral in Palermo with the most stupendous  Byzantine mosaics.
The sumptuous gold-thread embroidery, religious and devotional hand work as seen on the Monreale Cathedral in Palermo with the most stupendous Byzantine mosaics.
Montserrat Franco in Dolce & Gabbana's Byzantine dress
Montserrat Franco wearing the Byzantine dress


Detail of 12-13th century mosaic of Christ Pantocrator at the Monreale Cathedral
Detail of 12-13th century mosaic of Christ Pantocrator at the Monreale Cathedral
The Cathedral of Monreale is the pinnacle achievement of Arab-Norman art.  Founded in 1172 by William II.  A Benedictine Monastery was built next to it.
The Cathedral of Monreale is the pinnacle achievement of Arab-Norman art. Founded in 1172 by William II. A Benedictine Monastery was built next to it.
An add from the Fall/Winter 2013 campaign by Dolce & Gabbana featuring Monica Bellucci
An add from the Fall/Winter 2013 campaign by Dolce & Gabbana featuring Monica Bellucci
Details from the runway at the Milan Fashion Week 2013. The sumptuous gold, the Cardinal red, the Sicilian widow black and the pure white. This collection is a romantic view of the Sicilian women going to Church, wearing their lace veils and rosaries, the accessories are exaggerated with bejeweled crowns that makes them part Saint and part principessa.
Montserrat Franco wearing Dolce & Gabbana sunglasses, bag and dress from the Sicilian Baroque collection
Montserrat Franco wearing Dolce & Gabbana sunglasses from the Sicilian Baroque collection
In Dolce & Gabbana tailored suit during one of my visits to Southern Italy.
In Dolce & Gabbana tailored suit during one of my visits to Southern Italy.

The 2013 Fall/Winter Collection is all about Domenico Dolce’s homeland, honoring the materials of homespun craft (needlepoint, tapestry) the faded baroque splendor in the palaces and basilicas of Southern Italy, an invitation to look deep in to our lost traditions and beliefs, no matter what they are.

(c) 2013 Montserrat Franco