Diversion, Uncategorized

Diversion: Key West – a warm winter weekend

KeysPoles (1) A recent trip is proof that good advertising works.   A series of attractive and funny poster-sized ads promoting the Florida Keys splattered throughout one of the Washington Metro system’s busiest stations caught Greg’s eye as the weather turned frigid.  With headlines like “Strong response to the latest poles” while showing fishermen casting their lines in azure seas, the campaign mocked DC in winter. We’re big fans of Key West and try to get down once a year, but when we spotted the posters, we realized it had been 14 months since we were there last – getting married. We took the bait – hook, line, and sinker.

blizzard

To say we were “jones-ing for some down-island time” is something of an understatement. We were still reeling from almost two feet of snow from a recent blizzard; the forecast was calling for single digits over the weekend.  I got home, popped online and checked to see if it was possible to get any deals for the looming three-day weekend. “Deals” is such a subjective word. Two round-trip tickets at the last-minute on a holiday weekend … let’s just say with patience and hard work, it is possible to find “deals” online. A quick e-mail to Susie at the world’s BEST travel agency, Key West Key Inc,  secured us a room for two nights.

two drinks on the bar

One of the best things about Key West is the laid-back vibe. You really don’t NEED to do anything other than eat … and there are plenty of places to do that.
We landed about noon, checked in to our room and checked out of our stress.airplane bar - long shot.jpg First stop – a nice, icy, tropical adult beverage.

After all … this is Jimmy Buffet country and “It’s 5 o’clock somewhere” is a state of mind.  We wandered to Kelly’s Caribbean Bar & Grill Brewery where I’d found out the bar was made to resemble an airplane wing.

IMG_5596.JPG

 

I wanted to take in the daily tradition of watching the sunset on Mallory Square.  So we followed the crowds to the edge of the pier where we caught the act of a unicycling, comedian named Juggling Jase just as the day faded.

A hundred-or-so steps away and we bellied up to the bar at the iconic Sloppy Joes for a frosty chilled beer as we toasted the warmth and posted a status update on Facebook to tease our friends back home who were bundled against temps in the low teens while we were wearing shorts and short sleeves.

Carols Art purchase Our only full day included a must-see exhibit at a local art gallery, KEPart,  where a friend (and our wedding photographer) had a showing of some special, layered photographs. We fell in love with one and managed to get the first printing of a limited run.

Next it was time for a little more destination-free wandering before the laziness of the day took hold of us and we plopped onto lounge chairs by the hotel pool to soak up some sun and read books borrowed from a lending library with a view of a perfect blue sky through the trees.  view through the trees

A laugh-filled dinner with friends inspired great conversation to cap off a perfect day.

The next morning the bright, tropical sun blasted through the palm trees outside our room. It was time to slip on the flip flops and see the sights. Despite repeated visits here, we’d never taken the “Conch Train” tour and since everyone seems to recommend it, we figured now was as good a time as any. I grabbed my camera and we snagged the back seats on the open-air “train” for an hour-and-a-half narrated tour of the southernmost city in the US.

We passed gorgeous little houses, funky little sights and a couple of historic attractions before hopping off the train for a slow walk down iconic Duval Street. IMG_5702.JPGTummies rumbling, we came upon a hidden gem of an Italian place we had been before. Wood-fired pizzas are a specialty at Onlywood, but we opted for pasta and savored the flavors as we watched a tiny lizard sunning itself on a nearby leaf.

The day began to wind down as we headed for the airport for our flight home – rested, relaxed, rejuvenated. Visits to the Keys always seem to take away all your stress and leave you wanting more. If you get a chance … you should find a way to go there. After all, there’s a whole world out there just waiting to be explored.

Diversion

Diversion — “M” is for Matrimony and Motels

By Greg aka fedflack

Kiss on the Blue Ice
Ready to set sail on our life together. (Photo: Carol Tedesco)

We did it. Judy and I tied the knot on 12/13/14, meaning that we’ll be travel partners forever. We were married on a 47-foot sailboat just off Key West as the sun was setting on a most perfect day.

More about that in a later post; this one is about the honeymoon; and specifically, our plan to “not plan.”

Huh?

Let me explain.  When we got engaged and decided that our wedding would be in Key West, we originally planned to take our car – a two-seat Pontiac Solstice roadster -down island so that we could enjoy some top-down motoring in what we hoped would be a weather-perfect setting, even for December. Judy booked us a premium sleeper on the Amtrak Auto Train from Lorton, Virginia, right near our Alexandria home, to Sanford, Florida, (just outside Orlando) with the expectation that would drive down to Key West when we arrived and then meander our way – topless whenever possible –back up U.S. Route 1 for our honeymoon. Thus, staying true to our desire to stay off the Interstates and take the road less traveled whenever possible.

Alas, a bit of practicality set in. While South Florida and Keys weather is darn near perfect in December, there was no guarantee that the rest of the south would cooperate. Furthermore, we realized that we simply had to take too much stuff for the Key West house we had rented for us and our small (four people) wedding party than we could reasonably ask others to bring. (With the top down, the Solstice has room in the trunk for just two small hand bags).

On the Auto Train. Take this if you want to meet snowbirds.

As one-car owners, we did what we often do in cases like these – rent for the mission – in this case, a full-size sedan. Turns out, we pretty much filled the trunk and half of the back seat with clothes for nearly every occasion, a box of booze, party favors and decorations for the house, and more. It felt weird to both of us; if you’ve read this blog from the beginning, you KNOW how much we like to travel light. But this was a special event, after all. We loaded some overnight clothes into an small bag for the train (along with a bottle of wine and some snacks) and let the Amtrak folks load the car and its complement into the back of the train consist. On a cold, dreary day, we headed south.

In doing our research, we also realized that the bulk of Route 1 in this part of the country was so rural that we worried about being bored…or that we might hear dueling banjos. We went “foodie” instead and booked four nights at the chic Andaz Hotel in Savannah, characterized as a “Concept by Hyatt.”

But we still knew that we had to spend one of our honeymoon nights in Florida, somewhere between Key West and Savannah.  For this, we decided that we wanted to stay somewhere that screamed Route 1 tacky – a classic cheesy motel…the cheesier the better. We couldn’t plan this; we would know it when we saw it.

With this “plan” in mind, we bade goodbye to Key West, and headed north.

(Stay tuned for the next installment where we answer the question, what’s fire have to do with it?)