Spring Break Vacation

Both Tom’s and Sam’s Spring breaks were the same week this year, so we took a family vacation to southern Florida to see the Everglades and the Keys.  We began our trip with half a day in the “Little Havana” portion of Miami, where we indulged in some terrific food.  We also purchased some Cuban sandwiches to take with us to have later for dinner.  During the walking tour the guide talked a lot about the Cuban community and the Bay of Pigs invasion.  We also passed a relatively famous park where the old timers play dominoes.

After leaving Miami, we headed for Everglades National Park.

The Everglades were worth seeing, but frankly, they were the least impressive of all the national parks we have visited.  There is not much variation from one stopping point to the next.  After you’ve seen a few gators and birds, not much changes.  Again, it was worth seeing, but I think we’ve checked that box.

From the Everglades we headed down into the Keys, stopping for the night on Key Largo, staying as we usually do at a mom and pop motel.

The Seafarer is on the “bay side” of the keys, pointing north and west toward the coast of Florida.  From here we could see a terrific sunset.

We also enjoyed our Cuban sandwiches on the deck next to our room.  The Seafarer was low on ambiance on the outside of the rooms, but the insides were very nice, and they provided a nice continental breakfast that included egg frittatas,

Cuban sandwiches made by Cubans in Little Havana. Oh, how cultural of us!

The next morning we had planned to take a boat out the reef and snorkel for an hour or so.  The surf was too rough, with three-foot waves, so they weren’t taking folks out to the reefs who weren’t very experienced snorkels.  It wouldn’t have been much fun under those conditions, so instead we took a glass-bottom boat tour out to the reef.

While waiting for our glass-bottom boat tour, we enjoyed the small aquarium at the state park.

After about a 40 minute boat ride out to the reef, the boat slowed and loitered over the reef for about an hour while a guide pointed out different fish and coral.

The number of fish wasn’t as high as I had expected, so after about 30 minutes, I had seen what I needed to see.  If the tour had been planned for just 30 minutes, however, it might have seen too short for the amount of money we paid.  This was definitely worth doing, but I think it would have been better in calmer weather.

From Key Largo we headed to Marathon Key.  We had a terrific dinner at a local (but sort of expensive) seafood restaurant.  The local fish is yellow tail, and I had a lot of it during the trip.  It is a nice white fish that doesn’t smell or taste to seaweedy.

We had an upstairs room with a nice view of sunrise, since we were on the “ocean side” of the Keys.

Sunrise at Marathon Key

Our second night at this hotel, Tom decided he wanted to sleep outside in a hammock.  It got a little chilly, but he said it was very nice.

Morning on the beach...

Marathon Key turned out to be the highlight of our vacation.  We visited the Dolphin Research center and paid an insane amount of money to swim with the dolphins.  As the weather was a little chilly, we rented some wet suits from a local dive shop.

Suiting up...

Each of us had a chance to get pulled around the tank by a pair of dolphins.

Then we each had a chance to perform some other tricks with dolphins, such as…

… shaking hands…

… and getting a smooch.

In this picture we’re not telling them to wait a minute or count to one.  We are preparing to tell them to swim fast across the pool.  They were so fast that if you blinked you might actually miss them swimming across the tank.

From Marathon Key we headed to Key West.  Along the way we saw an electrician working on some power lines from a helicopter.

Here we stood on the southern most part of the continental US and found the beginning of highway one, which runs up the coast to Maine.

Frankly, Key West didn’t do much for any of us.  The place seems to really be about nightlife, partying, and drunk people behaving badly.  We had some very good food, and had a good time, but it is a place I am not in a hurry to visit again.

A view of Key West from the tower at the shipwreck museum.

We visited Ernest Hemingway’s house on Key West, which was interesting.  We also saw the 50+ cats, a large percentage of which have six toes.

 It wouldn’t be a vacation without miniature golf.  There is only one miniature golf course on the Keys.  Being the only one, it could have been bad and still been crowded, but it was one of the better courses we’ve played.  So we played it again on our way back to the mainland for our flight home.  The first time we played, three of us had 49s and one had a 50.  The second time the spread was about four points between first and last place.  The miniature golf has become quite fun as everyone has come close in skill.