Monday, 18 November 2013

still got stuff to write

I still have so much to write about in memory of our wonderful trip - the day I was in the sea with a baby shark, the huge barracudas off our beach, our firepit, our trip to the Dolphin Research Centre and the Turtle Hospital, the eating out and the wonderful days at our Keys rental home.

I have been so busy though that I am now behind and I can only write this on my lunch break at work - its raining! Its horrible!

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Florida 2013 - our rental home and a sunrise

We made new memories in the Keys and we also went back down memory lane. I cant write in detail about each and every day because there was just too much, like in Orlando but the points that stand out for me are:

The House We Rented
Was bliss, plain and simple. It was a typical Keys home in that it was tropical and fresh and rustic all at once.

(You can click on the photos if you want to see bigger ones)

It had its own beach and that made it perfect, for most of the days it was breezy there which meant mosquitos were minimal, the breeze made the climate comfortable and the sound of the waves was pure heaven.

When we arrived, in the dark, we could hear the waves but couldnt see them. We all unpacked and then settled down in the Lanai which ran the entire width of the rear of the house. We sat and listened and took it all in and breathed. We simply couldnt believe our luck.

We quickly got into a routine. I got up first and made coffee and had precious time out on the dock, then I went for my morning walk in the neighbourhood

and when I got back we all made breakfast which we ate around the big table out in the Lanai. Then we did something in the day and came back for the evening, where we sat and chatted and listened to the Ocean.
Some days we did nothing at all, I was at peace and totally in the present.
The girls played in their room alot with their monster high dolls when we were home and we just plain relaxed.

My Sunrise
One morning I got up at the 6am and got the coffee on, it was dark outside but all the time the coffee was brewing I could see the sky starting to lighten.
I got the camera ready and took my coffee and went out to the end of the dock.
I was a little freaked in all honesty, the sea was black and the waves noisy, the dock is fairly long and I felt a little vulnerable but I wanted to do this and it was an irrational fear to be afraid at that point.
I sat on that dock, sipped my coffee and photographed the sunrise. It was amazing.

I got a chance to play with the camera settings to try to capture the real sunrise that I was looking at. Unfortunately I couldnt capture the ambience,the feelings or the wonder of it. It was on my bucket list and I do have the memory (and these pictures)

This house Windswept Keys is amazing and I would recommend it in a heartbeat.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Florida 2013 - Don and Liz arrive

This page should have been written before the Drive Down Post, but I messed up abit and cant figure out how to change the order....

On the Thursday evening Don and Liz arrived from Edmonton and we met up with them at the Bahama Bay. It was wonderful to see them, its been a long year since we last said goodbye.
We dragged them, jetlag and all, out to Bahama Breeze for dinner:

We had the Friday chilling out, all together in the pool and in Super Target where we sorted out some Christmas presents and then went out to the Longhorn Steakhouse (I highly recommend this restaurant chain) for an extremely good meal. We talked through the next days drive down to the Keys and went to bed early.

Florida 2013 - The drive from Orlando to the Keys

If you havent read the post where Don and Liz arrive in Orlando please read that first and then come back to this.....

On the Saturday morning we drove in convoy down to the Keys. We were sad to leave Bahama Bay behind but ready for a change of scenery. We chose the scenic route on Highway 27 instead of the Turnpike. Google maps said that it would take at 6 hours and 23 mins a whole 11 minutes longer to go this way instead. I was dubious at the accuracy of that, but hey we were in no rush and who doesnt want to see more of Florida anyway.

We of course had to first go to IHOP for breakfast. This breakfast for the drive down had been planned for weeks. We packed and left Bahama Bay at 9am and went up the 192 to the nearest IHOP, which was packed but we were seated straight away. I had a kids breakfast of eggs and toast with a coffee and the girls had a chocolate chip pancake each, yes I know, absolutely NOT Healthy.
Paul had a big breakfast and Don and Liz had a seniors choice. It was all rather nice, I am glad we went.

We left at almost 10am when the queue was out of the door, that place is very popular and started on our drive down.
Well Highway 27 has a LOT of stop lights and intersections for the section nearest to Orlando so that took awhile but we stopped for gas and coffee for the drive and the restroom (just in case) and then carried on. We went through Orange Juice country,

the rather lovely looking town of Sebring (Chrylser Sebring sprung to mind!) and then a section of rather poor towns around the Southern point of Lake Okeechobee. This lake was enormous on the map but we didnt see it even once as the landscape stopped the view.
We stopped at one of these poor little towns to use the washroom in the grottiest little Wendys ever. I am not sure how it was even allowed to be open and we decided not to get anything to eat there at all judging by the state of the place. The rest of that town and the next looked just as run down and we passed on through. At this point Lily was telling me how starving she was but she declined the raisins and apples I had on the basis that she "didnt like them", (she liked them again the next day, of course!) and so we carried on. The roads barely bent, they were so straight and I was able to tell with a high degree of accuracy exactly where we were due to a bend in the road.

So we drove down a long 38 mile straight that went on forever until we saw with great excitement the signs for Miami and the Turnpike. We stayed on route 27 (bad choice) until we hit a gas station seemingly ages later.
We all piled out into amazing heat, bliss, and went in, it was clear that we were in Indian country due to the decor inside the gas station and what they were selling. They had a Subway! So we got some rather lovely subway cookies and some hideously strong coffee. We then carried on through Homestead which was full of stop lights, and I got bored and started taking more pics:

Just as I was about to lose the will to live we were on the US1 ~ at last!!!

I had forgotten but the first stretch of US1 into the Keys is very boring  long, straight and nothing to see. I was already bored so wasnt very good at dealing with this, they had built a new wall in the median which provided interest for oh 5 seconds whilst we discussed its existence.

Then suddenly we were in the Keys, with bridges and water views and milemarkers and my bad mood vanished - I was back in my very happy place!

We stopped at a restaurant in Key Largo called Sundowners. The last time we were here was in October 2003 when I was pregnant with Chloe and at the time I said that I wanted to return when my baby was old enough not to worry about near the waters edge. I had well and truly made sure of that given that she is now 9 and baby number 2 (Lily) is now 6.
We had a lovely meal and watched some wild dolphins swim by. I have never seen wild dolphins before so that was tres exciting! The girls wandered around and I was happy.

We then got back on the road for another stop at Robbies of Islamorada
This place is awesome!
You can pay a couple of bucks and feed the tarpon that hang around on the end of the dock. They also have a pretty happening looking little bar that one day I would like to hang out at.

The fish are big and plentiful and I have just literally read that this place has a gourmet menu as per Inflight magazine and a couple of Miami newspapers, definately need to return!

We got back on the road and went over the 7 Mile Bridge as the sun was setting:

We arrived at Sugarloaf Key as the sun finally set and found Windswept, our home for the week. We had been travelling (and stopping) for 11 hours! It wasnt that bad and the girls had been amazing.

On reflection of this day of travelling we can now see how do-able it would be to drive down as a family and this would definitely mean we could be back sooner rather than later which has cheered me up immensely!