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Trip Report Short hop to Florida Keys

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A last minute decision led us to the Florida Keys in the middle of cold midwest winter weather. We had a free flight that was to expire and were able to secure a second ticket on Southwest using miles and cash for only $50. On top of that, we took a bump mid-route and each got another free flight, only arriving an hour later than originally planned! That sure started the trip off right.

Southwest doesn't fly into Miami, so we landed in Lauderdale. Rented a car on Hotwire for $57 for four days. It was a bit cumbersome getting to Ace, but worth it, considering the cheap $11 a day rate. Their office is about 10 minutes from the airport and they do send a shuttle for you. I was thrown for a little while by the new toll road regulations. Florida doesn't have toll booths anymore, they just photograph your license plate and send you a bill or charge it to the credit card you used for your rental car. The rental car company tried to sell us a pass for a flat $6.95 a day, but we opted to take our chances. It hasn't shown up on our charge yet, so I don't know how much the bottom line will be. The man at the car rental counter said it should be about $11 one way from Lauderdale to the Keys.

It took us about two hours to get to our accomodations on Islamorada, Pines and Palms Resort. We couldn't have been happier. The reviews I read were all positive and I could see why. It was the cleanest, best maintained property I have seen. It wasn't glitzy or fancy, but reminded me of old Florida with its little cottages and furnishings. The white bed was very comfortable and made up with pristine linens and lots of fluffy pillows. There was a "beach" (not too many white sand beaches in the Keys) with plenty of beach chairs, a hammock and an oceanside pool heated to the perfect temperature. There is a Tiki bar on weekends. The grounds also were beautifully maintained with flowers, orchids tied to the palm trees and the sand evenly raked. The staff was extremely friendly and helpful. There were even bike rentals, but I didn't use that feature.

It was a great jumping off point to explore some of the other Keys. Because our time was limited, mainly we took our time driving all the way down to Key West. We had lunch at the Southernmost Bar and Grill and had a ringside seat at the open window, sipping mojitos and people watching. We visited the Butterfly House, an experience that enchants me every time, no matter how often I do it. Stopped at the Key West Lime Pie Company to pick up a pie to take back to the cottage and at Cuba Cuba for some fun souvenirs. It was a long stop and go drive back to Islamorada but we made it just in time for a Valentine's Day sunset dinner at the Islamorada Fish Company. We weren't the only ones with that same idea but the wait wasn't long, especially because the brilliant sunset kept us and everyone else entertained.

The next morning we took a short 5 minute drive to Robbies to have breakfast at the Hungry Tarpon. Little did I know I'd have the best breakfast of my life in this little waterfront shack! Lobster frittata with hollandaise and grits. Oh my. As we ate, our view was to die for, overlooking one of the long bridges and the marina with egrets and pelicans as visitors. I could have hung out there all day. The restaurant is named for a small pool of huge tarpons which they charge money for, for people to feed them.

We rounded off our day by having dinner at the Islamorada Grill, which advertised "Ahi Tuna Nachos". Another fantastic dish, which I am longing for even as I write this. A huge amount of seared, raw ahi tuna atop a bed of seaweed salad on large fried wontons, with a drizzle of wasabi mayo. Once again, we ate sitting next to open windows looking out onto the canal and mangroves. Toward sunset, there was entertainment in the form of a woman singer.

The next day's weather was so nice we spent it just hanging around the pool and the water. All too soon, it was time to get back to the airport. This is a trip I would gladly repeat yearly. The Keys' laid-back style makes for a very pleasant and relaxing vacation.

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