Posts Tagged ‘#floridakeys’


Major Places Visited  
Miami, Roatan Honduras, Harvest Key Belize, Costa Maya and Cozumel Mexico, Everglades, Florida Keys, Dry Tortugas, Marco Island, Naples, little Hickory Island, Fort Myers, South Beach.

Summary

Overall great experience. People were friendly everywhere. Greatest challenges were bugs and crowds. The places we visited greatly expanded our experience of these areas. Weather was warm and sunny whole trip. Food was excellent. Cruise was smooth and comfortable. SCUBA in Honduras and Mexico was excellent. Keyes were hot and crowded. Many biting midges in Keyes. Key west is toxic with tourist. Naples was less crowded but filled with McMansions. Marco Island was bubbleland incarnate. Loved being with Heidi and visiting with family.

Travel Companions

Travelled with Heidi for entire trip. Travel on Cruise also included Mary Ellen Fruehan (mom), and Wendy (sister), Bill (brother in law), and Brett (nephew) Schobert.

March 16 – 18 Miami

Summary

Big city. Many beaches. Shopping everywhere. Boats everywhere. Crowded. Near perfect weather. Mostly bug free. Clean. High rise apartments looking like huge hospitals everywhere. No slums.

Air Travel

5 star

United. Left Bakersfield at 6h -> San Francisco (1hr) -> Miami (5hr). Arrive Miami 3h. Flights full. Econo-Sea at comfortable. On-time. Uneventful.

Accommodations

Intercontinental Miami. 3 Stars. Good location. Close to Miami River, shopping (cvs, Whole Foods, bayside), cruise port, and Miami Beach. Good service. Clean. decent pool. Restaurant over priced, food so-so. Beer selection sucked. Starbucks inside. Breakfast and happy hour Room included. Crowded. 30 min + wait for elevator. @$300/night so-so value.

Transportation 

Uber to Bako airport $10

Uber from MIA to hotel, $15

Rental Car in Miami, 24hr, $50

Paid parking everywhere.
Food

Dinner at Jaguar in Coconut Grove for Ceviche. 5 stars. Great selection of Ceviche and excellent taste. Arrived during happy hour. Mango margarita was really good.

Dinner at Hotel. Americano. 2 stars. Taste so-so. Calamari was soaked in oil. Yuk. Little portions. Noisy. Next to bar. Service was brain dead.

Dinner at Bondings. Seafood. 3 stars. Tight seating. food ok. Too costly for performance. As was the case at all meals, loved being with family. Mary Ellen’s cousin Carlos and wife Merrie joined us as they live in Miami (and NYC).

Breakfasts in Hotel. Americano. 5 stars. In special room for special guest. Good selection. Included endless lattes. Great view of Miami.

Touring

South Beach

Long, wide, white sand beach. Busy, people and traffic. Ran on boardwalk (1hr), Heidi and I ocean swam. Excellent. Beautiful day. Beautiful people. Warm, clear azure water. Safe. Lucked out and found Street parking. Parking is $2/hr. Extreme crowds, peak of spring break. Street vendors and entertainment. Art Deco architecture – colorful, pretty. Eye candy galore.

Miami River

Next to Hotel. Many boats including med sized freighters. Ran for 1 hour. Long paved walk way. Quiet. Peaceful. Many marinas. A few homeless. Safe. Heidi really liked the public art in the area.

Key Biscayne

Driving tour. Clean. Long bridge gives excellent view of Miami Harbor and skyline. Bubble town.

Coconut Grove

Shopping, food. Decent walking. Bought Pilipino linen shirt. Roads in and out are crowded.

March 18 – 26 Norwegian Cruise Lines Cruise

Miami, Roatan Honduras, Harvest Key Belize, Costa Maya and Cozumel Mexico, end in Miami

Summary

5 star Cruise. Enjoyed being with Heidi and Family most. Ocean was mostly calm. Excellent weather. SCUBA was excellent. Shore visits excellent. Accommodations and service was perfect. English spoken well in all ports. Safe.

Ship – The Getaway

The boat is 1000+ feet long. Huge. 4800 people. Newer. Check in and out was fast. Food was excellent. Ran each day on deck 6. Lounged in room enjoying visiting and the ocean views. Heidi and I stayed with mom in two bedroom luxury suite #16114 with balcony – very comfortable. Loved being together. Service was a 10. We had our own butler. We stayed in a luxury exclusive area of the ship called the Haven. The Haven Restaurant was excellent and was Heidi’s favorite restaurant on the ship. Seafood, steak, veggies, drink. Outside the Haven, somewhat crowded, but still very pleasant. We enjoyed watching outdoor movies on the back of the ship. We saw a magic and comedy show – enjoyable. Went to an art auction – fun but cheeses and a bit discreditable. . The wind outside the ship was constant. The ship rarely rocked.

Miami to Honduras March 19 – 21

Left on Sunday at 16h. Cruised out of port of Miami. Beautiful views of South Beach from Balcony. Sunny. Calm seas. Passed along Cuba before sunset. Had dinners and breakfasts at Heaven restaurant- seafood, meat, eggs, bacon – all good, all americano. Toured ship. Pools, saunas, basketball, rope course, climbing wall, bars, buffets, restaurants, casino, theaters, and saw tons-o people. This Cruise was mostly about visiting with family, respite, and food and entertainment as needed. I enjoyed the solitude and quiet while running on deck 6.

Roatan, Honduras March 21

Sleepy island off Honduras. SCUBA was excellent. Two forty minute dives. 100’ visibility. Tropical Fish of all colors everywhere. Barracudas. Eels and turtles. Aquarium like. Colorful coral. Dove along wall 110’. The dive center service was excellent. The resort at the dive center had a small island with several cabanas on stilts in the water. Stunning.(NOTE for possible future stay) The drive to/from the dive center through town revealed the laid back life style of the locals with little money. Fairly clean. Picked up some tasty local dark chocolate. Everyone loved it. Safe.

Harvest Key, Belize March 22

Shore Visit. It’s a bubbleland island exclusive to the cruise line. Large pool. Long and large Beach and lounging. Good seafood. Almost zero visibility for snorkeling. Heidi, Wendy, Brett, and I rented little electric boats. Felt like a kiddie ride in Disneyland. Decent view of the Belize mountains on mainland Belize. Extra safe. Very relaxing.

Costa Maya, Mexico March 23

SCUBA. See dive part of Roatan. Very similar. Super nice. Max depth was 65’. Dive shop was excellent. Little town where shop was located could be a decent future destination. Obvious tourist zone. Safe.

Cozumel, Mexico March 24

Shore Visit. Went in Van with everyone except Mary-Ellen to Ventana Del Mar and restaurant next door. Decent food and drink. Fantastic views of caribe. Waiters revealed their infamous donkey dongs. This place is xxx after dark. Picked up old Cozumel license plate at Junk yard. Toured beautiful town square. Clean and Safe place. Very friendly people.

Cruise final leg – Cozumel to Miami March 24 – 26

See Miami to Honduras March 19 – 21. Same thing

Everglades National Park, Florida City, March 26 – 28

   After debarking ship, picked up rental pickup truck, then picked up camping gear at Goodwill and Walmart and headed away from Miami.

   Stayed in Florida City in hotel for first two nights near entrance to Everglades National park. Plenty of decent budget hotels.

   Beautiful drive through park. Day trip. Very few people. Tall grasses, many Forrest, great beaches on gulf coast. Ospreys, Gators, lizards, iguanas, and birds abound. Decent hikes. There’s a 70 mile long Kayaking route that looked awesome. Bring bug spray – mosquitos and midges can get thick. Overall excellent experience.

Florida Keys and Dry Tortugas National Park, March 28 to April 1

   Ah, the Keyes. Biological masses of coral as far as the eye can see in all directions. Mangroves abound. Ship wrecks, underwater, everywhere. A boaters nightmare without proper charts and knowledge. The air temperature was in the mid 80’s and low 70’s at night. Comfortable.

   Tent Camped at KOA on Sugarloaf key. Close to hwy 1. Somewhat noisy from highway. Wore ear plugs and a blind fold each night to make sleeping tolerable. Decent spot for camping and lounging on beach. Good pool and hot tub. Excellent showers and restrooms. Excellent staff. Our tent was too small for our huge sleeping pad and our feet stuck out the door. Big mistakes. Woke up next morning with at least fifty bug bites. Tons of midges at dusk and dawn. Excellent hiking trail along key. Fairly muggy after 10am. Never rained – lucky.

   Fort Jefferson, Dry Tortugas. Went on Fast ferry, northwest, 60 miles in 2.5 hours. Visited fort/prison camp constructed in the 1800’s. fairly intact 3 story brick fort. Seemed like an odd place to build a fort. 3 miles away is another island, loggerhead key, with a super tall light house. This is the key where Heidi would like to do an artist retreat. I say, very beautiful. High Light for me was the snorkeling. Good fish counts and huge barracuda. Sea planes and boats at Anchorage. Beautiful sunny day. Ocean views were vast. On the boat ride over on the Yankee Freedom, we met a like minded adventure loving couple from Alberta, Canada; Doris and Sean Scott. Would love to keep in touch with them.

Key West

   Even blown out with tourist, still worth the visit. 100 years ago, in the Hemmingway days, the place was certainly a paradise. Now it’s gentrified, and packed with people. Noisy. The old architecture, beaches, and eateries is worthy of a tour.

 

   There’s many great places to eat – we greatly enjoyed Conch Republic Seafood, the Blue Heaven, and Garbo’s Grill eateries. Key lime pie everywhere – the absolute best is at Blue Heaven. Beware of over priced crappy places that appear to be worthy on yelp. Key west brew is so-so.

   

   The state park beach is the best on the key. Swimming, lounging abound. Higgs beach is a another great option – we watched our last sunset in Key West there – beautiful. There’s also a decent restaurant there. We listened to live blue-grass music from afar at Higgs.

   

   Duvall street is a party hole similar to Bourbon Street New Orleans – slobbering drunks, loud, obnoxious, dirty, rude, AND the homeless like this place. Sloppy Joes is a Joke – packed and smells like piss. Old, dead, live and recorded 70’s music plays seemingly everywhere and makes me want to vomit. Jimmy Buffet sucks.

   

   Oh yes, the Key West Public Library. Beautiful on the outside – old, restored quaint, but on the inside, its run down, small, noisy, and smelly. Half filled with throw away books, and the other half filled with homeless and poor at internet stations. There was a person using the toilet to bath in. I gave up trying to find a quiet place to write and just sit smiling watching the farce. And the staff – they were loudly counting down the minutes to closing time- yuk.

   

   One of the highlights was seeing a potential art/writing residency at The Studios at Key West. Bree Anne Buckley gave us a tour of the facility and residency cottages. We enjoyed visiting with Bree and hearing about much of the local Key West culture. I was particularly interested in his experience with the Key West homeless. May have residency potential.

   

   After 5 days and four nights in the bloated, busy keys, we were so ready to leave. Plus, as the wind died down, the air was heating up. That said, I’m certain there’s a way to get more enjoyment in the Keyes – just didn’t happen on this visit. Fishing, sailing? Fishing looks really good. Overall great experience.

   On return to mainland across the bay of Florida, we found a quiet place to reflect on life, on our trip, our love for each other. We set on an exposed coral reef at the end of an anonymous road on the north end of Key Largo below a beautiful cloud filled ominous sky. A man from Virginia, fly fishing using flies he tied himself, waded just outside the mangroves trying to catch Tarpon. He passed by us, removed his waders and clothe protecting him from bugs, talked a little about fishing, then disappeared down the road in his new luxury car. Heidi and I admired the houses built on stilts to help protect them when a hurricane arrives with the furious storm surge, then we too disappeared to the mainland.

   Next night, stayed in eco hotel in Florida City before heading to Naples.

  One option in Florida City is to stay at a hostel. Jungle like, looked fairly nice. $ 20/ night/person for tent site. We opted out.

Naples, Fl. April 2 – 4

   Reached 90f. Stayed in small cabin at KOA, Naples. Excellent cabin stay. Clean. Pool, hot tub. Excellent staff.

   Many decent places to eat. Recommend Grouper and Chips in Naples.

   Visited Marco Island. Sterile bubble-land loaded with many high rise condo’s. Given the

Ack of people on the streets, it’s a place we’re boring cave dwellers go to stay inside and watch CNN. I’m surprised the whole island is not gated. May be illegal to own a car here <2 years old 😉 most of the patios are enclosed in screens – bugs are the reason. Maybe this place with morph into the ultimate assisted living community. I wonder what happens to the homeless who wonder into this prison.

   Visited Little Hickory Island, Naples. Nice. Powdery white sand beach. Loaded with seashells. Took long walk on beach with Heidi. Beach is not very wide like in Miami. Many people, including us, enjoying themselves.

Went to Royal Scoop for ice cream – yummy.

Many walkways for running.

  Generally, saw many Country Club like private gated, bubble-hoods everywhere. Many newer sterile communities. I’m thinking this place is kind of a natural fit for the cave dwellers from the NE US cooped up in their houses by winter weather to travel here and stay cooped up in their winter homes to avoid getting eaten by bugs and not have to see the little people in Fort Myers.  

   On return to Miami, Hwy 41, we went on Air boat ride at Safari Company. Slow boating through willows, then wham! Full speed ahead. We loved this. Many Gator, bird, and turtle sightings. Tour guide was fun and informative.

Miami April 4 – 5

   Stayed at Extended Stay in Doral near MIA. Really nice value hotel. Clean, spacious, comfortable, full kitchen. Great value. Excellent staff.

   Went to South Beach for swim and run at South Point Park. OK, we finally found a quiet, somewhat less populated place in south Beach to chill.. Lovely walking along boardwalk. Great view of Miami skyline and harbor. On run North along the beach – thick with, mostly kids, strutting their stuff.

   For dinner, went to Brazilian restaurant near hotel. Gourmet food. The different meats just kept on coming – all you could eat. The lamb sucked and confirmed the best lamb I’ve ever had is in good ole Bako. Overall, one of the best meals on this trip. Excellent service.

   Next morning, up at 9, to Starbucks, had watermelon juice, then packed and off to airport.

   Be very attentive on the labyrinth of roads needed to get to the car rental center or you’ll drive in circles. With Heidi’s help, we made it on the first try.


Return to Bakersfield

United Airlines to Chicago, Denver, then Bako. Wrote this log, mostly, on return trip. Uneventful. Rainy and cool in Chicago. Sunny and cool in Denver. Awesome views of Heartland and snow packed Rockies. Happy to have ear plugs on first leg – caused screaming babies to diminish to a whimper.

Conclusion

Great trip. Great experience. Love traveling with Heidi – so loving, helpful. Loved so much visiting with family. What a marvelous, privileged life I live. So alive, awake, aware.