I thought that for our 3rd trip to the Keys, each one getting more elaborate, that I would post our experience here since I owe alot of our good times and choices to my research on Trip Advisor!
For this time around, we chose the middle of winter as the opportune time to see the keys, as the first 2 visits were made in the summer months. Who wants to leave Chicago in the midwestern summer when we actually have blue skies and (mostly) good weather? I'm a schoolteacher dangit, let's take advantage of the other time of the year when my friends all hate me already, the 2 weeks off Dec-Jan...
Spirit Airlines got us here on Wed. Jan 2nd, with a 5:30am flight direct to FLL. I could go on about how much I dislike Spirit air, but that's another post... suffice it to say, you get what you pay for and right now I'm taking the 4 hour delay back home to type this so I don't go stir crazy here...(nota bene: check your flight status BEFORE you turn in the rental car!) Anyhow, after getting here on time and getting the rental car (gotta have a convertible for the Keys) we took the drive straight to Mrs. Macs on Key Largo for a long awaited lunch. The atmosphere there is good and the food is consistantly good as well. Afterwards, my lovely wife started noticing the early signs of a migraine coming on so we hightailed it the rest of the way to Islamorada where we were borrowing a friends condo for the next 3 nights. She proceeded to get inside into a dark room for a few hours while her meds took effect and I went to Winn Dixie for some provisions. The traffic was really crappy but with the top down on the car and not being in 12 degree winter weather, who cares? (actually we really lucked out with high 70's the entire time!)
Once my wife had a few hours of quiet time, we were ready to hit the town. After a quick dip in the condo hot tub, we jumped in the car to eat at Hog Heaven. Eh... I bet it's more fun when it's more crowded on the Keys...seems like a biker bar that also tries to be a destination for us tourists... I had a nice sized Mahi-mahi Caesar salad and my wife had the buffalo chicken wrap. I'd skip it next time and try something else
The next day we woke up really early..(I tried setting the time on the iphone but it also reset itself and we ended up waking up at 5am instead of our planned 6am) then we headed off to Key West for the day. We had booked Lloyd's bike tour which started at 9:45 and we wanted to be early enough to find parking, etc. After a quick stop to watch the sun rise around the 7 mile bridge and take some photos, we arrived in Key West early enough to get a small bite to eat at Blue Heaven. As others on Trip Advisor have said, the banana bread was GREAT, and we shared a nice cheese omelet (I think it was vermont white cheddar). Then it was time for the bike tour! I had called ahead and Lloyd mentioned that there was a possibility for us to keep the bikes past the end of the tour if we dealt directly with the Moped Hospital (place where Lloyd has us pick up the bikes). It was a deal! They rented us bikes for $6.00/4 hours each and Lloyd gave us the $5.00 each back, so my wife and I ended up paying an extra 2 bucks to keep them for a ride after Lloyd's ride was done. This was nice for us so we could keep the great parking spot I got when we arrived so early in the AM yet still go check out some other great stuff that far away from the Mallory Square area. After our ride, we dropped off the bikes and headed up to Duval for an afternoon of people watching and shopping for our kids' souvenirs. We squished in a drive to Stock Island through a maze of circuitous turns which eventually got us to Hogfish Bar and Grill..thank god for the GPS that we brought along. Following that was back to Key West for half price app's and drinks at Alonzo's. Both restaurants were ones I learned about from researching TA for our last trip down! Alonzo's was still a good deal...and it never gets old seeing the HUGE tarpon in the water right by the docks where we sat with our beers. It's fun watching the charter boats come in and clean their catch, tossing the remains in the water, especially after a few beers makes everything kinda slanty... =0) In January the sun sets early, so by 5:30 we needed to head over to Mallory Sq and get a front row seat for nature's spectacular show happening there... instead we ended up getting sucked in to a juggler kid named Blue. He was maybe 22 years old, and had a good sarcastic sense of humor with a pretty good dose of talent thrown in there too... I will always be amazed by a guy juggling fire on a 10 foot unicycle! My wife volunteered me to be one of the guys holding the uni so he could climb it. He then made a joke about holding it "steady with both hands" while he pretended to pickpocket me...at least I hope it was pretend! We did keep an eye on the sunset while watching his show and I thought surely he'll finish up before it actually sets... but no, he kept his act going for another 5 min's after it set! I wonder if that is a way to make sure he doesn't lose his audience of tippers or something? Speaking of tipping... my wife and I sadly realized (this sounds like an excuse) that we only had twenties on us...we would've gladly given him at least a fiver! So if anyone goes to Mallory and you're the tipping type (both of us have been servers/waiters in the past) DON'T FORGET SMALLER BILLS! I'm gonna pay it forward next time we go since I still feel pretty guilty about this...
After Mallory Sq cleared out, we headed back to the nearest bar (costly mistake) for some fru-fru drinks (Mojito and Straw. Marg) and then proceeded back to the Duval area for more shopping/people watching. I went to a random bar and had a much cheaper drink to keep busy with. It was then that my fairly conservative wife suggested we get dessert at "Better than Sex" which was quite a hike down Duval (actually across the street from where Lloyd's bike tour starts and ends). They do dessert well. Which they had better do, since that's their entire menu. I love how the servers play up the sex theme.."Moan if you need anything," "do you want a rim job on your coffee?" "Don't forget to test the theory behind the restaurant's name"
hahaha! We shared 2 things... peanut butter perversion pie and cookie nookie pie. No rim jobs, thanks for asking... Then it was time for one or two more stores' worth of window shopping before heading back to the car for the drive back to Islamorada. My wife kept checking on my alertness as we drove home... it was a fine ride for someone used to an hour commute through Chicago traffic, enjoyable even, I guess she really wanted to make sure we didn't kill a key deer or take the convertible for a submarine ride.
Next day, we headed over to Bud & Mary's marina (walking distance from our condo) to sign up for an afternoon snorkeling trip. One of the residents in the condo complex works there and recommended it to us while we had our hot tub time.. turns out this mild mannered older gentlemen has not only swum 7 of New York's finger lakes end to end, but also the English Channel in his day! So, we took his suggestion! Then we had a big, wonderful breakfast at the Green Turtle (steak and eggs and California benedict) which we knew would hold us for the day till dinner at Lor-e-lei. After a leisurely drive up the keys to Key Largo for some convertible time, we finished up our shopping for our 3 little ones back home and got ready for the water. It was perfect weather out there! The boat ride was short, the reef was so-so (Florida coral reefs aren't what they were, you have to use your imagination and picture what it must've been like prior to pollution and overfishing) but the water was great, especially for 'winter.' We had a few members of our group get sick since the wind was a whipping up a few waves here and there...luckily we both don't really get sea-sick and we had both eaten much earlier.. coming back in, we decided to head back for some sitting-in-the-sun-by-the-pool time, followed by hot tub time... That just makes the vacation right there, taking the time to slow down and close your eyes...envisioning all of your family and friends back home in the cold, wintery North. =0) Then off to Lor-e-lei for a sunset meal of apps, key lime pie, and beer. Their happy hour prices are good for beer! We decided to have only appetizers since my wife was in the mood for pizza. After the sunset and several beers, it was time for that pizza and our server recommended Boardwalk Pizza. We called ahead and picked it up, with some cookies for dessert, and watched some TV while we stuffed ourselves! One important fact that 9 & 1/2 years of marriage has taught us is that we sometimes need alone time after a few days of straight togetherness... I took advantage of this bit of insight to head to the hot tub with my Kindle to finish my e-book (a Key West story of 2 scottish folks who travelled there intending on staying a week, but instead staying a year illegally). I managed to keep my kindle dry and finished my reading while digesting the inordinately large amount of pepperoni pizza and not falling asleep! This was no small feat. I guess my body understood that we would be leaving in the morning and that I should probably stay awake and enjoy it! Regretfully, it was time to remove myself from the hot tub and get ready for bed.... which then led to an early waking time so we could catch this flight. Which of course was delayed. After we had returned the rental car. At least there was time to write this review while it was still fresh in our heads, on the airport's free wifi.