Last day in the Keys

05 Feb 2014

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Bad quality picture but captures a beautiful memory. The place we rented included several bikes and was near a bike path. Ben watched the kids while my parents and I cycled out to the closest beach.

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My parents flight was delayed and we were lucky to get a couple more hours with them on the island. We ate cuban sandwiches this the beach then fed our stale popcorn to the seagulls.

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We queued up with dozens of other tourists for our turn with this landmark.

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We got an awesome last minute deal through Priceline on a Westin hotel in Hollywood. Our stay there was very short but memorable. We arrived at the hotel way after bedtime but we let the kids stay up late and enjoy the incredible pools. The hotel had one pool over another with a transparent window on the bottom of the top pool. We were all transfixed watching the swimmers above us. In our room, the wall by the bathtub slid away so Violet could watch TV while she soaked. That morning, Violet and I slipped down to the shore to hunt for shells before we had to load back up for the airport. All in all we had a most marvelous vacation.

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Our second full day in the Keys were largely spent outdoors. We spent the morning at Higgs Beach, which is man made, like all of the other beaches in Key West. The kids made sand angels, snacked, and chased after birds. We searched the shore for shells and sharks teeth but instead found a lot of chunks of clear and blue gelatinous material. When my parents came back from a walk we learned from them it was pieces of Portuguese man-of-war. Fortunately we managed not to get stung. During a walk along the pier, a kind local fisherman pointed out some live Man-of-War that were floating nearby.


Mom and Dad leaving for a stroll along the beach. Dad came back with a handkerchief full of Portugese man-of-war bits to show us.


Searching for treasures


Sand angel


Violet plucked this styrofoam floaty ball from the sea


Checking out the Man-of-Wars


Can you see the two that are in this photo?


Violet “snuck up” behind this pelican and all three of us managed to get startled.

After enjoying two playgrounds within walking distance, we trekked over to West Martillo Tower, a civil war era fort converted into a tropical garden paradise.

From there we walked to the Key West Wildlife Rescue Center and met another very nice local. The lady who was working there welcomed us enthusiastically and gave the kids pellets to feed the turtles. Violet especially enjoyed the aviaries and we all were excited to see our first wild iguana.

That night the kids hung out with their grandparents at the pool while Ben and I went into town to attend a wedding. Ben was a groomsman for his friends and coworkers, John and Brooke.

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By far the most unique part of the celebration was when this tribe of rabble-rousers arrived. The ringleader (center of picture in red) was at least 80 years old and wearing boots that were higher heeled than I’d ever dared. The raucous group lead us all, sparklers in hand, from the resort where the service and reception were held, down Duval street to another venue, where the party continued. It was a beautiful and very memorable night.

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First Day in Key West

28 Dec 2013

The drive in from Miami down through the keys was long and beautiful. Besides the gorgeous views, the highlights of the drive were a couple of fantastic and cheap cuban cafe con leches and our little drive through the key deer refuge area. Ben has called me “key deer” for most of our marriage. This came about after I told him about the little creatures and he doubted their existence thinking they were just another jackalope-type folkloric creature. We can both now fully attest that they are indeed real! Most we saw just looked like baby deer we see in our Austin neighborhood. However we were lucky to catch a glimpse of a tiny little buck with a large (for him) rack of antlers. Sadly, the kids were both napping during this sighting.

We eventually made it to Key West!


One of the first things we spotted was a coconut palm. A man on a bucket truck was working in the area and caught us admiring the palm. He cut a couple of down for the kids and even sliced the top of of one and provided a straw. We were all touched by his thoughtfulness. He was actually one of several interactions we had like this with the locals.


Violet enjoying fresh coconut milk.


From there we jumped aboard a trolly and took a tour of the island. Archer snoozed.

We got off the trolly and all (but Archer) enjoyed a slice of key lime pie.

Then we visited the lighthouse. Look really closely and you might be able to spot the kids at the top. Grandma and Ben escorted them to the top while Dad stayed with me, my nerves preventing me from climbing. The lighthouse didn’t exactly appear to be “built to code”. I was glad when everyone was safe and sound back on the ground.


Leaving the lighthouse Violet found what may or may not have been a six toed cat. The lighthouse is across from the Hemingway house, famous for the six toed cats that roam the premises.

When I think of Key West I think of this aquarium. It was probably my favorite experience of the whole trip. We got there right in time for almost a private tour of the facility. Violet and Archer got to feed sharks and fish Violet and Archer played for at least an hour in the touch tank, Archer finally braving picking up the sea urchins and Violet going back and forth from urchin to conch.


After the aquarium, Dad and I snuck around the back of a hotel to see the “pink” statues that our trolley tour guide had mentioned earlier in the day. Here are some non-pink statues that were also behind the hotel, and are safe to post.

Then we were all off to Mallory Square to watch the sunset. My favorite sighting here was the chickens roosting for the night. Violet loved watching for the wild chickens of the island. We learned they are the progeny of chickens freed years in the 70s from cock fighting circles. Violet would squawk at every chicken she saw.

On the way back to our condo that night we had front row seats to a car accident. A motorcycle driver leapt off his bike just in time to avoid the car that eventually ran over the bike, slamming into a taxi, which was carrying two old ladies. Dad jumped out of our car and served as a witness to the accident. The motorcycle guy was all smiles realizing how blessed he was to be well and whole. The poor old ladies seem to have gotten the worst of it but no ambulances were needed.

“Home” at last after a long day, both kids enjoyed the jaccuzi tub and then slept long and hard until morning. What a great first day in Key West!

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One Response to “First Day in Key West”

  1. jill says:

    what fun! I’ve never been to key west, but now I may have to go one day. oh, and jackalopes are totally real ;)

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Last time we were in the Everglades we drove in on Alligator Alley. This time we chose the smaller Tamiami Trail. I mistakenly told Ben it was called Tamiami because it was the road “ta Miami”. Actually it is named because it connects Tampa to Miami. I dressed Violet in her Seminole skirt and Archer in an FSU shirt for the big day.

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In Ochopee, we had our picture taken at the smallest post office (7X8-ft) in the country. The post office was temporarily closed as the post master had to leave the premises for a bathroom break.

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Our favorite part of the day was visiting the Big Cypress National Preserve. There were at least 20 alligators hanging out in the canal in front of the visitor’s center. The alligators, which pretty much just lazed around, held our attention for all of two minutes. We were all captivated watching the anhingas trying to catch fish, balancing fish in their beaks, then playing keep away from all the other birds in the vicinity.

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We celebrated the return to civilization by eating at a Cuban restaurant in Miami. Heaven!

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The first thing Violet always wants to do when visiting her grandparents in Florida is pick fruit. This visit the carambola (starfruit) was ripe for the picking so Violet went happily to work.

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Mason and my sister picked some oranges.

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Violet also harvested a bowlful of greens from grandaddy’s new garden.

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Archer helped water. He used the phrases “grandma and grandma” and “grandpa and grandpa” several times during the trip. Next time he’ll have it down.

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Grandma and Grandaddy have a friend that lives next to a modern day menagerie. Violet collected this bouquet of feathers while touring the grounds.

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We stopped by “the locks” on the way back home.

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One morning in Ft. Myers we visited Manatee Park and saw dozens of the sea cows. During our visit there was big ruckus in the water with lots of sloshing afterwards. Ben thought a manatee leapt up and did a belly flop when we weren’t looking but I think it was the herd being startled. Lots of interesting educational posters like the one above peppered the park.

The kids favorite memory of the Alva portion of our trip was roasting marshmallows and making s’mores. The spent lots of time playing in the sand. I enjoyed chatting with family. My sister’s baby is talking now! My brother announced he and his wife are expecting a BOY and we are all so very excited about that. Here’s a video they made of their parents finding out about the pregnancy.

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