key largo, montego, baby why don’t we go

this morning in minnesota, when i left the house, the temperature was right around -10°. we’ve warmed to almost 20°. key largo is in the lower 70°s today. it’s time to relive some of that warmth.

IMG_2058

when i booked airfare, i apparently decided to really maximize the time that jason and i would get out of this trip. we woke up around 2am to leave the house around 3am to get to the park’n’fly by 3:30am to make it to the airport by 4am to get through security and find our gate by 5am for a 5:30am departure to miami. and we did make it on this rough schedule! but it was so early in the morning. i got something like four or five hours of sleep; jason’s sleep is a different story.

IMG_8174

IMG_8175

we were totally running on adrenaline by the time we got to miami, which is fine. i was pretty excited about all of these crazy deep sea fish sculptures at that airport. i don’t even care if they were real or not. i kinda want one for my house.

10 hours after "waking up" for the day, finally getting some coffee.

IMG_8178

first order of business: finally getting some coffee at dunkin’ donuts. jason also had to get a boston creme. we got lost trying to find this dunkin’ but it was an adventure. i think it’s safe to say that driving in miami totally sucks. also: i didn’t do enough research to learn ahead of time about the toll roads, so… surprise! (in the middle of the city?!)

after we got lost but found coffee, we got lost again and ended up finding a little area i had read about but hadn’t actually figured into our rough itinerary: key biscayne. and ocean! i pretty much instantly took off my shoes to wade into the freezing waves.

IMG_8180

IMG_2067

(when jason took that photo, i thought i looked happier than i actually do. i blame lack of sleep.)

IMG_8184

we found a nice little peruvian restaurant for lunch: el gran inka. they served peruvian corn as an appetizer, salted and buttery. good snack! j also ordered an inca kola, which apparently is a big deal (hard to find). it was like if mountain dew and cream soda were mixed together.

IMG_8186

IMG_8189

this place was definitely in winter-home-retirement-community-land, though. it looked like a giant mall and the area sort of lacked any personality.

IMG_2069

except it still had exotic-to-us birds, which is exciting for the girl that likes to point out every bird.

IMG_2075

we also found a small nature center, that i probably wouldn’t have stopped at if i had known what it was and that it cost $7 to check out. maybe if there had been more to do or see. or if we had packed a picnic for the beach (but maybe you can’t eat on public beaches). it was nice enough, though, and we got a couple wildlife stories from the naturalist working that day. he told us that, annually, more people are killed by falling coconuts than sharks. true? whether it is or not, i was covering my head underneath every coconut tree for the rest of the trip.

IMG_2078

IMG_2079

IMG_2080

IMG_2082

the lobster was totally photobombed by a manta ray.

IMG_2085

that crab was also prepared to snap jason’s phone in half. very menacing! if jason ever uploaded his photos, i would share his point of view. unfortunately…

IMG_2093

south beach in miami, on our way back onto the correct highway so we could get ourselves to key largo.

IMG_2101

i don’t remember where this photo is from. it must be just as we were getting into the keys.

so, on the map, as a minnesotan, the drive from miami to key largo looks like it will take an hour and a half, maybe two hours. it took us upwards of four hours (detours excluded). nuts! and it was because of the stone crab festival that it took so long: it was a two-lane highway for most of the drive. we passed a lot of fresh orchid green houses and vegetable stands. i’m jealous that there are people living in this country that can have fresh things like this year-round. i’m |-thisclose-| to calling it quits with minnesota.

anyway, we had been thinking going to check out the festival but as we passed and saw the insane crowds, we decided we weren’t up for it. we were getting really tired and ready to just be still and pass out somewhere. as dusk set in, we found our hotel for the night (and our room was huge — basically a two-queen bed studio apartment) then found the nearest okay-sounding place for dinner.

IMG_8190

IMG_8193

we found the conch house, which had apparently been on man vs food. we ate a bunch more seafood and got a slice of key lime pie to bring back to the hotel. all very tasty! it felt like it was kind of private, too, even though it was set right on a major road. i would visit again.

IMG_2103

the next morning, i finally got to enjoy a little bit of the view from our second floor deck on the hotel.

IMG_2110

IMG_2112

IMG_2117

IMG_8199

IMG_8200

it was a little too chilly for the pool, but if i’m ever in key largo again i’m looking this place up! they were in progress with building their own restaurant, too. wouldn’t have to drive anywhere!

IMG_8202

for breakfast we went across the road to the waffle house. jason said we just had to. okay: i had never been. i was pleasantly surprised! pecan waffle was very tasty. (and reminded me of much younger me that would get pecan waffles at mickey’s, the greasy spoon in st. paul, after bars closed)

IMG_8203

coming up: tourist-y pit stops along the highway towards key west, key west adventures, dolphin cruising, and some last moments on south beach in miami. i’m feeling a little warmer remembering everything…