As so much of Broward and Palm Beach counties becomes strip-malled, sanitized, faceless, and boring, this part of town is weird. The strips of stores here are old and crumbling, signs are in English, Spanish, and sometimes Creole, and the area pulses with a chaotic feel that's more downtown Miami than the Venice of America. Davie Boulevard, which cuts through the neighborhood, is where you can find papusas and empanadas, birthday cakes with Spanish lettering, media noche sandwiches, ancient pawn shops, even a botanica or two. But a drive just a half-mile down Riverland Road delivers a whole new perspective -- a private, hidden network of dead-end trails and finger canals with some of the most magnificent and varied architecture around. Doctors, lawyers, and college professors live back there in modern-looking glass/concrete/steel mini-mansions, which are almost invisible because of the impenetrable jungle of vines, palmettos, and trees that have obviously never been cut. It's an odd juxtaposition of stuff you don't find anywhere else and, unlike the rest of this place, isn't in any hurry to change.

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