13 May 2010

Keys Vacation, Day by Day

Day 1

Miami's airport has a bad reputation.  A recent Travel+Leisure magazine article listed it as one of the 4 worst in the country.  On the first day of our Florida Keys vacation, we learned why.  It's cramped, crowded, and horribly signed; we had to ask a TSA agent how to get to ground transportation because while there was copious signage pointing to departure gates, toilets, and baggage claim, there was none pointing to ground transportation.  We eventually made it to our Mustang convertible and were off to Islamorada, the Village of Islands.  (Thanks be to Debbi for enabling this fantastic trip!)

According to Google Maps, the trip from MIA (the airport) to Debbi's condo in Islamorada is "about 1 hour 25 minutes".  That's a bunch of hooey.  With Miami's chronic traffic congestion and road construction, that is physically impossible.  Once we finally made it to the upper Keys, we had been in the car almost 2 hours.  We stopped in Key Largo for a nice, slow lunch, and then were back on the "1" (Highway 1, that is) to count the mile markers.

If you've ever driven the Keys, then you know that everything is based on the "MM" (mile marker) system.  Locations to any venue on any key are given by MM.  The MMs are something akin to The Big Chicken in Marietta, Georgia.  All locations in Marietta are given in distance and direction from The Big Chicken.

Debbi's condo is at MM 88, so we had about 20 miles to go.  We arrived, got settled, relaxed, and then headed to the Winn Dixie for provisions.

We were fortunate to have arrived on the weekend following a full moon.  Pierre's and Morada Bay Beach Club (sister restaurants that share a beach at MM 81) host the Full Moon Party from 10:00 PM to 6:00 AM every full moon Saturday/Sunday.  We had made dinner reservations at Pierre's before leaving Dallas, so that was our first dinner of the trip.  We dined on the upstairs veranda (a porch, for those of you not fortunate enough to have grown up in the South) on seafood and fois gras.  (See pictures at www.gregtaylor.com.)  The restaurant is plantation beautiful and the mood is Florida Keys relaxed -- no hurry, no worry.  The beach party followed dinner.  It's sort of Medieval festival meets Florida Bay.  We lasted until close to midnight, and then headed back to the condo.

Day 2

Sunday brunch took us to Island Grill, an indoor/outdoor spot that hugs an inland waterway and the mangrove trees growing along the shore.  We ambled out to the waterfront patio and right into the local bikers club election meeting.  The patio was filled with bikers running for various offices.  (That explains the parking lot full of Hogs that greeted us upon arrival.)  I wanted to run for sergeant-at-arms, but Tom wouldn't let me.  I can't imagine why a biker club in the Keys needs a sergeant-at-arms, but it sounds impressive.  The brunch buffet was impeccably stocked with lobster bits, crab legs, eggs of all varieties, meats, and fruits.  Once the club meeting adjourned, a hula dancer entertained us on the patio.  (Again, see pics at www.gregtaylor.com.)  Unlike much of the crowd, hula lady had all of her teeth.  What an eclectic afternoon!

We had dinner at Green Turtle Inn.  Yet more stellar seafood awaited us there.  As you will read in days to come, we had no disappointing meal the entire trip (except the beef fajita salad served by American on the flight home, but that's much later).  We opted to eat at the bar, because that gave me a full-on view of the swarming activity in the open kitchen.  I love watching a well-run kitchen at work.  The bartender befriended us, but I really think she just liked my iPad.  Either way, we got a good dinner recommendation for Monday night.  Stay tuned for that...