At 24 years old, I had never been to Florida. I never went to Disney World, I didn’t have any grandparents retired in the community, and I never participated in Spring Break festivities in Fort Lauderdale. This trip also marked my first real vacation with my boyfriend. We had just celebrated our one year anniversary, and we would be there for Valentine’s Day. Sean’s sister and her family (consisting of her husband and two kids) live in Key Largo so we decided we should give them a visit, and then go down to Key West for a couple of nights. Flights to Miami were cheapest, so we decided to spend a night there to start out the trip.
(February 9 2011) Day 1. Flying out from Boston, Landing in Miami, Entering Miami Beach.
We landed in Miami in the late afternoon. We picked up our rental car and then drove over to South Beach. After checking into our hotel on Collins Ave we promptly walked two blocks over to check out the famous beach. It was too late to go swimming, but we could still appreciate the beautiful view. We then spent the early evening wandering around, admiring the art deco architecture, fancy cars, and diverse population.
We ate a delicious dinner at a Cuban restaurant before hitting Ocean Drive to check out the equally infamous nightlife. But we quickly discovered that it was not really our scene. Not only do the locals start their parties way past the time we’re usually fast asleep, but we’re also not huge clubbers. The house music gets a little too loud and intense for us after an hour or so. Instead we found a place with a pool table, which occupied us for a while. We then made a (longer than anticipated) walk to a bar that Sean remembered going to when he was in Miami years ago. The bar turned out to be very run down, but we still enjoyed each other’s company and played some darts. We ended the night back at our hotel, enjoying some drinks on the building’s roof.
(February 10 2011) Day 2. Leaving Miami Beach, Entering Key Largo.
February 10 was a beautiful day in Miami. After sleeping in and checking out of the hotel we decided to forgo tanning on the beach so that we could instead spend our morning and afternoon exploring some more of the city. We walked along Lincoln Ave and visited the 1111 garage, whose top level gave beautiful 360 degree views of the city as well as a bird’s eye view of the shops and shoppers along Lincoln Ave. We also wandered around the grounds of the New World Symphony, Espanola Way (where we ate delicious crepes), and south point.
After lunch we hit the road heading south for the Keys. We decided to stop in Homestead to visit the Everglades. I was immediately impressed (read: terrified) of the number of alligators lining the pathways with virtually no fencing or boundaries of any kind between us and them. By the end of the visit I faced my fears and took a picture mere feet away from a gator, otherwise I definitely walked on the opposite side of the path from the animals. It was a fun, unique experience. We also got to see a ton of vultures, cranes, and vegetation native to the area.
Our last pit stop before arriving in Key Largo was at a farm stand for fruit smoothies. The farm had a motley of animals on site: pigs, sheep, goats, chickens, emus, and even a turtle! We finally arrived in Key Largo around dinnertime, and spent the evening with Sean’s sister and her family. We played LCR with the kids and watched movies with the adults until we fell asleep.
(February 11 2011) Day 3. Leaving Kay Largo, Entering Key West.
Before leaving Key West Sean and I took a bike ride over to a local restaurant for some coffee and breakfast/brunch before hitting the road. Full and a little tired, we then started our journey down the awesome Route 1. Although I love the idea of road trips, I get car sick way too easily, so I wasn’t super excited about the hours of driving ahead of us. Luckily the weather was just warm enough to keep the windows down, allowing fresh air to keep me level-headed. The weather was drizzly all day but never developed into a true rain storm. And the scenery kept my mind off of how long the trip was.
We arrived in Key Largo in the late afternoon, checked into our motel, and headed out to explore. After dinner we discovered that Key Largo’s nightlife more suited our style than Miami’s did; it was low key, involved portable drinks and live music, and the patrons included a more mature audience. However, there were lots of adults partying like spring breakers…but we quickly got over it and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
(February 12 2011) Day 4. Key West.
The next day we have the luxury of staying in Key West for the entire day. We don’t have to pack up and get in a car like we have been doing every other day of our vacation so far. However, our one day of relaxation is a rainy one so we can’t spend it on the beach or in the ocean as planned. In fact, not once during this entire vacation was I able to put on a bathing suit (I had packed three), which was kind of sad. Oh, well.
Instead we spent the day walking around the island. We visited the southernmost point of the continental U.S.A., found Julia Street, visited the markets and did some shopping, wandered around a graveyard, and took pictures at the beginning and end signs of Route 1. We also went to Fort Taylor, which was a gorgeous setting right on the water. It had an interesting mix of forest, beach, and old military buildings.
We spent the early part of the night watching the incredible sunset on a dock bar while sipping delicious beers. We had arrived early, so we got perfect seats and took some lovely pictures. After dinner and some aimless wandering we found a cute wine and beer bar, which was small and very busy, but also very awesome.
(February 13 2011) Day 5. Leaving Key West, Entering Key Largo.
The next was a beautiful sunny day in Key West. I mean, of course it was, because we were leaving that day. But before we hit the road for our return trip to Key Largo we went back to the beach to dip our toes in water. So at least I can say I experienced the Florida ocean to some extent during this vacation!
On this leg of the road trip we stopped in Islamorada to watch people feed the tarpons. I personally chose not to participate because, frankly, the huge scary fish terrified me. But it was fun to watch other people, especially children, do it!
We finally arrived back in Key Largo just in time for another lovely sunset, this time with a wide array of pastel colors. Then the night was filled with more family bonding, but this time the kids recognized me and were willing to interact with me a little more versus being as shy as they were around me a couple of days prior.
(February 14 2011) Day 6. Leaving Key Largo, Flying out from Miami, Heading Home.
Day 6 is Valentine’s Day, and our last day in Florida. We decided to make a stop at the Miami Zoo on the way to the airport. Sean had been there before and kept telling me about the part where you can feed giraffes (my favorite animal). I was super pumped, but after walking around for an hour or so and making our way to the giraffe section, we found out that the giraffe feeding station was closed! I guess they were cleaning the grounds and needed to pen the giraffes inside shortly, so the zookeepers were cutting short the feeding hours. I was devastated, and it didn’t help that my camera also decided to stop working just minutes before finding out the news. So I couldn’t even take pictures of the giraffes! I still had fun seeing all of the other animals, but I was definitely disappointed. I’ll have to try again some other time.
Well, Sean and I passed the test. We had a pleasant vacation without any fights and were not yet sick of seeing each other so much over six days. (We weren’t living together yet, so this was by far the longest amount of time we have spent together.) In fact, this vacation went so well that it would be only the first of many amazing vacations together. I’m so very lucky. Oh yeah – Florida was pretty cool, too. As you’ll find out, this was also just the first of many trips to the southern state.