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Trip Report Trip Report to the Florida Keys

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At the end of March, my husband and I took a trip to the Florida Keys. We usually go to Key Biscayne for a tennis oriented trip, but a torn hamstring meant no tennis for my husband. We had nonrefundable, nonchangeable flights into Miami so we decided to drive down to the Keys. If I had been planning the trip from scratch, I would have added a few days but we had to work with what we had.

We flew into Miami from NYC and, although our plane landed 40 minutes early, that time was more than eaten up by the long wait for our bags and for our rental car at Avis. We drove south heading for our first night's lodging at Casa Morada in Islamorada. When I was researching hotels for this trip, the rate I got at Casa Morada was just $10/night more than the Hampton Inn was quoting me. I never called the Hampton Inn to see if they would offer a better rate than their website had. The Casa Morada was lovely. It is a boutique hotel one block off US 1 but feeling like you are in another world. They do not allow young children so the property is quiet and relaxing. Our accomodations had a bedroom, bathroom and separate sitting room. My only complaint is that there was almost no counter space near the sink making it difficult to find room for all the various tubes and bottles we use. The staff couldn't have been nicer or more helpful. The room came with a lovely breakfast buffet served on an outdoor terrace down by the water. Bottled water and snacks in the refrigerator in the suite were complimentary. The bed was large and comfortable.

The next day turned out to be sunny and humid and very warm. That was going to describe our weather for the whole trip. Everywhere we went, we were told that the weather was more like July or August. Now I know first-hand why people don't go to southern Florida in July and August. Before leaving home, I had made reservations at Pennekamp Coral Reef Park in Key Largo. My husband was going snorkeling and I was going on the glass bottom boat. The two trips left within a short time of each other and we both arrived back at about the same time. Before our trips, we walked the Mangrove Trail which had good views and information about the three types of mangroves but a large part of the trail was closed for reconstruction after being hit by a boater. My husband enjoyed the snorkeling especially for all the different types of coral he saw. I enjoyed the glass bottom boat ride since it was the only way I was going to see below the water. We walked a bit of the Wild Tamarind Trail but it began to get repetitive and hot so we heading back to the hotel. We relaxed on the lounges outside our room and then went to dinner at the Morada Bay Beach Cafe which was a bit south on US 1. They don't take reservations but we were able to get a table and watched the beautiful sunset out over the water. The food was delicious. My husband ordered one of their special drinks which was tasty but very mild and pretty expensive.

On Wednesday, we checked out of the hotel and headed south on our way to Key West. We stopped at the Hurricane Monument in Islamorada, Robbie's Marina (we watched others feel the tarpons and the pelicans), pull off by the Long Key Bridge for an interesting view, pull off before Old 7 Mile Bridge and took a bit of a walk on the bridge. We stopped at the Key Deer Refuge headquarters in the Big Pine Shopping Center on Big Pine Key. We picked up a brochure, used their clean bathrooms and filled up our water bottles. We never saw any Key Deer. I know that it is more likely to see them near dawn and dusk but we just couldn't be there at those times. Following the map in the brochure we picked up at the headquarters, we stopped first at Blue Hole. We didn't seen anything. I don't know whether you can ever walk all the way around the pond but, when we were there, a large part of the path was closed off. We drove a bit further north and walked Watson's Nature Trail which was very interesting for the variety of plants and birds. When we got back to the car, we had a scare that my husband had lost his Blackberry somewhere along the trail. Thank goodness we found it in his camera bag before we went back and did the whole trail again. We drove out to No Name Key to the end of the road and then got back on US 1 to continue towards Key West. We stopped at the Hogfish Bar & Grill for two of their delicious sandwiches. We had their famous hogfish sandwich and their lobster and shrimp BLT. Very tasty although the fries weren't too good. But we shouldn't have been eating fries anyway.

We arrived at our hotel in Key West, the Ocean Key Resort. I had been deciding among a few hotels but picked this one because of its location and the fact that we got a junior suite for 1/2 the regular price. The room was lovely and very large. The bathroom alone was larger than our first apartment in NYC! The concierge and the entire staff were wonderful and very helpful. Originally we were going to take the Conch Tour Train or the trolley but then I read a number of negative reviews and decided to skip it. In a sense, since we didn't have a lot of time in Key West, if we had to do it over again, I would take one of these tours to get the overview. We spent some time at the hotel pool which was very refreshing considering how hot and humid the weather was. We walked to the sunset celebration at Mallory Square which was just next to our resort. I guess you have to do it once but that was enough for us. We watched the sunset from in front of the Hyatt. It gets very crowded along the water but we managed to get places where we didn't have heads in our way. The sunset into the water was glorious. We then walked to Cafe Sole where we had dinner reservations. It was a lovely walk and we got to see some of the beautiful architecture and tropical foliage Key West is famous for. Dinner was delicious especially the hogfish entree and the key lime pie and unbelievable chocolate pecan pie. Our concierge gave us a coupon for a free bottle of house wine which was very good. We walked back to the hotel along Duval Street which was filled with bars, restaurants, shops and drinkers. Once was enough and the rest of our stay we tried to avoid Duval when we could.

Thursday we ate breakfast at the restaurant in the Ocean Key. The restaurant overlooks the Gulf and was a lovely setting. Unfortunately, they were out of their specialty, Hot Tin Toast, which my husband really wanted. If you eat breakfast here be careful. They kept offering us more orange juice and, when the bill came, they charged us for each glass separately! No free refills. Most places just refill your juice without extra charge. The breakfast was very tasty. We had picked up the brochure for the Pelican Path walking tour from the Chamber of Commerce in Mallory Square and began to follow the tour. We visited the Audubon House which was very interesting especially for the gardens which were filled with orchids and other interesting plants and for the Audubon prints in the house. Just sitting on the back porch rocking in the rocking chairs and taking in the garden was very relaxing. We continued toward the Little White House and took the tour which we enjoyed. The guide was very knowledgeable and interesting. After the tour we walked down Whitehead with the aim of going to the Southernmost Point. We detoured for a walk through Bahama Village and then continued to the Lighthouse. We decided not to pay to go in since it was too hot and humid to think of climbing all those stairs. We also decided that it was too hot to continue all the way to the Southernmost Point and turned around and headed back to our hotel. Just walking the streets of Key West is a joy because the architecture is wonderful and the Pelican Path brochure described a lot of the houses we passed. We spent the rest of the afternoon at the pool. We walked down to the marina and took the sunset cruise on the Appledore. This was really enjoyable. The weather was perfect and there was a good breeze. They served drinks, cheese, fruit and crackers. The crew was really friendly and shared a lot of information about the boat and their life on it. The sunset was gorgeous. We walked to 7 Fishes for dinner. The restaurant is not large and the tables are close together but not uncomfortably so. The food was good.

Friday we had a reservation to do Lloyd's Bike Tour which had been recommended in many places. We were running a bit late so we grabbed some muffins, took a taxi to the meeting place and sat there to wait. We were told to be there by 9:30am to check in. We arrived by 9:25. We were the only ones there. At about 9:50, Lloyd showed up and said he was canceling the tour because not enough people had signed up. I should have asked why he didn't call our hotel to let us know and we could have saved the time, effort and money to get to the meeting place. I should have asked why he couldn't do it with just the two of us since he would have been paid at least $70 rather than the $0 he was getting by canceling since it doesn't cost anything to run the bike tour. We were really disappointed but this is laid-back Key West. So, we got out our Pelican Path brochure and went walking. We walked around the famous Key West Cemetery using materials I had printed out from their website which pointed out the more interesting epitaphs and tombs. We then continued following the Pelican Path. We walked down to the Heritage House Museum and Robert Frost Cottage. We had a very nice guide and it was a very interesting tour. We then walked back toward the marina and stopped at Kermit's Key Lime Store on Elizabeth for a delicious and refreshingly cold key limeade and a bag of key lime white chocolate chip cookies (which made a delicious, if unhealthy, lunch). I bought some products at the Key West Aloe store (they are great). Back to the hotel pool (the temperature had reached record highs) and then dinner again at Cafe Sole (delicious again).

Saturday morning we had to leave heading back north to visit with friends and relatives before flying back to NY. We had a great time despite the heat and humidity. There were things we wanted to see and do but just ran out of time. We'll have to go back sometime.

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