The best beginning of a day since yesterday. Breakfast by the palm lined pool at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables. Then …. out the door and off to the beach. South Beach! We are such rookies that we didn’t even know that it was supposed to be tough to find a place to park or a locate a spot on the beach. We only heard about that after we returned from our day frolicking in the waves.
We were just lucky that day – we happened upon a place called Niki Beach Club and a girl appeared to be leaving.
“I’m leaving, take my space.” says she.
“Why thank you!” says we.
“And here, I have three hours left on my parking ticket, so put it in your window.” says she.
” Why thank you!” says we.
“I will be leaving as soon as my family gets here, they are on the way” says she.
“Cool!” says we.
First came Momma. Mamma shook out and folded up her beach towel. Changed into her traveling drawers and stowed the cooler. Then came Auntie who performed the same ritual plus a few more. Then came big sis. Then little sis…..and a few cousins. Little did we know that our benefactress was the captain of a clown car – but it was fun to watch and we still had two hours left on our free parking ticket.
Equipped with Coppertone SPF Please Don’t Let me Burn Oil, a Miami Vice Panama hat, flip-flops, a Spurs tee-shirt and singing Margaritaville in four-part harmony (remember that this is my story and if I say there was harmony it must be true) we beached ourselves til the sun was setting.
After our day on the beach we checked out of our old school gangster style hotel at TCOD the next morning and took off for Hemingway’s paradise, the Florida Keys. But, before leaving Miami we just had to have a Cuban meal. After much studying of the trusty TripAdvisor we selected the Versailles Restaurant “The World’s Most Famous Cuban Restaurant.” I was told that they couldn’t claim that title if it wasn’t true.
After consuming the best (and only) Cuban sandwich he’s ever eaten, our self-proclaimed gastronome checked off another item on his bucket list. Should a 14 year-old have a bucket list?
One more stop before leaving Miami … Lillie’s Laundromat and Internet Cafe. Graham was out of fashion changes and our fancy pink hotel wanted $9.50 to launder a pair of shorts. “$9.50 to wash my shorts? I can buy 3 new pair for $9.50!”
With clean boxers and socks we took Highway 101 toward Key West AKA The Conch Republic and home of the six toed cats.
Highway 101 skips through lots of Keys, villages, and passes by an interesting array of abandoned bridges as well as hundreds of motels and marinas with clever sea themed names (Sun of a Beach Motel, Cap’t Crunch Lodge, Sponge Bob Bungalows) all clear signs that one is surrounded by water.
We learned that three hours to Key West might turn into four hours or even longer, depending on how many people decide to make the trip that day. The “highway” is two lanes – one lane for those going in and one lane for those going out. On our day all the traffic was going into Key West and as luck would have it we got behind someone older than me who decided that if the speed limit was 50 mph he would go 40 mph, if the speed limit dropped to 35 mph while passing through one of the many little towns he would drop to 25 mph. Oddly enough, Gramps (my name for this leader of the pack) would decide to step on the gas whenever he reached one of the very few passing lanes.
By the time we finally reached Key West Gramps was leading a parade of cars with license plates from all over the U.S. and Canada. Where’s Dexter when you need him?
We arrived in Key West with just enough time to check into our hotel and walk down the beach (which was not even close to white sand and turquoise water shown in the hotel photos, in fact one of the nephews remarked, “Man that photographer should get an award” and the other nephew said “that hotel picture was photoshopped.”) where I accidentally wandered into the photographs being taken of a bride and groom after their beach wedding.
After enjoying a glass of bubbly wedding wine at the invitation of said bride and groom we decided to explore the town. We located Mile Marker 0, Hemingway’s house and the concrete marker “90 miles from Cuba.” We meandered down Duval Street and decided to have a locally caught fish dinner and people watch from the patio of Mangoes Restaurant. Great people watching! Some of the best ever. After dinner we continued our stroll back to our hotel under the brightest moon of the year.
That was the best part of Key West and we decided it wouldn’t get any better than this so we bailed out of Key West one day early and returned to Miami where the water really is turquoise and the sand really is white.