Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Key West

Last week Mike and I took a little getaway trip down to Key West with our good friends and neighbors, Brad and Molly. Zach, Drew, and the dogs stayed with Mike's mom and step-dad. We left very early Thursday morning and had a long day of travel. Thanks to the very casual atmosphere of Key West, we were all able to fit our clothes into carry-on suitcases, which was very convenient. After 3 flights (here to O'hare, O'hare to Miami, Miami to Key West) we finally arrived in beautiful and humid Key West. None of us had ever been there before, so we were all anxious to check the place out. We stayed at the Parrot Key Resort, which is an awesome resort. Instead of hotel rooms, this place is all townhouses. So the four of us stayed in a two bedroom townhouse, which actually had 3 levels and what I would call 3 bedrooms (the top floor was a room with a pull-out couch, bathroom, and closet). Each bedroom had it's own bathroom, plus another half-bath down on the main level. We neglected to get a picture of the front of our townhouse, but it was absolutely adorable. And the landscaping all around the resort was just gorgeous. Here are a few pictures of the inside, though these were taken the last day of the trip, after we had successfully dirtied the place up.

Living room looking towards kitchen and front door:

Living Room:


View from our bedroom balcony (that's the Gulf of Mexico behind the palm trees):

So after checking out the place and getting our stuff set up, we decided to head out to one of the four swimming pools at the resort. But first we needed a refreshing drink. Here we are- Brad, Mike, Molly, and me.

After a few drinks and a couple of hours of swimming, we decided to get cleaned up and head downtown to Duval street to see what was going on. We had heard that the weekend we were there was both Womenfest, a lesbian celebration, and Couples Fest, a swingers gathering, so we knew we could be in for an interesting night (for a bunch of Iowans, anyway). We knew about Womenfest about a week before we went, but we hadn't heard about Couples Fest until we got there.

Anyway, here are Brad and Molly out back of our townhouse before we left to go downtown.

And here Mike and I are. I'm not sure what was so funny. And no, we didn't plan the green.

We ate dinner at a delicious (but pricey!) restaurant called A & B. We all had absolutely scrumptious seafood. Then we just walked around town a little bit and headed home.

We were up fairly early on Friday so we could catch our dolphin watching cruise. We weren't sure about the weather, as it looked as though it could storm at any time. We were all wanting two main things- to get some sun and to see some wild dolphins. For a while it was looking like we weren't going to get either, so we took some pictures, asked the captain some questions, etc.

Here Mike and I are waiting to see those elusive dolphins.

And Brad and Molly were waiting patiently, too.

I think we were all sort of starting to give up hope (well, everyone but me, as I kept telling myself that this was a four hour tour and it had only been one hour), when all of a sudden, somebody (Molly, I think) spotted something in the distance a little ways. We had stumbled upon a pod of 7-12 dolphins, though it was hard to tell just how many there were. There was definitely one young one that was smaller than the others.

You can see the dolphins between Brad and Molly's shoulders in this picture.

Here's a good shot of the dorsal fin of one dolphin.

And this dolphin came up for a facial shot.

The dolphins were so close to us- it was amazing. At one point one was right next to the boat, and it turned over and smacked its tail on the water, then it swam a few feet and smacked it again. It seemed like it was telling us to leave it alone. It was so cool.

After following the dolphins for awhile, we decided to do the second half of the tour, which was snorkeling. The sky, however, looked like this.

As we headed around towards the other side of the island, we ran smack into pouring rain. We thought we could snorkel through it, but then it started lightning and thundering, and astonishingly, the captain seemed like he would still have us go snorkel, but we were a little uncomfortable with snorkeling in the lightning, so we headed back to the dock. We were disappointed that our trip was cut short and that we didn't get to snorkel, but what can you do?

So we went back to our resort and had some lunch, and when the rain passed, we went back to the pool. Later that night we headed back down to Duval Street. We had dinner at the oldest restaurant in Key West. My blueberry margarita was pretty good, and my dinner was delicious, but I think I enjoyed the food more than the rest of the group. After dinner we went to check out some of the other places on Duval, which seems like an area that never shuts down.

Here Molly and I are enjoying a Hawaiian Sunset at a restaurant called Cheeseburgers. We chose this place to have a drink or two because we could sit at a little counter facing Duval Street and people-watch. That was very interesting, to say the least!

On Saturday we found a great breakfast cafe right across the street from our resort. The guys were very happy to find that the Iowa/Iowa State game was being broadcast on a channel we got in our townhouse, so they then settled in for the afternoon while Molly and I headed back across the street for massages. We were both a little unsettled the second we walked into the salon where we were to receive our massages, as it was not at all busy on a Saturday (not a good sign for a salon), kind of weirdly decorated, and the masseuses weren't especially professionally dressed (which we later realized is just the Key West lifestyle- as I noted before, it's very casual). However, we both had outstanding massages- some of the best we've both received, which just goes to show you can't judge a book by its cover! After our massages and the big Iowa win, Molly and I headed downtown for some shopping, and the guys hung out by the pool again. Molly and I had our picture taken with a pirate (that picture is on Molly's camera), and when I told Zach that, he was so excited. "A real pirate?" he asked. When I told him yes, a real pirate, he said, "Was he alive?" It was cute. After Molly and I got home that evening, we ordered some pizza and just relaxed.

On Sunday morning we went out for a little kayaking trip. We saw lots of interesting wildlife and learned a lot about the mangrove trees, which basically formed the Keys. Our guide was really knowledgeable and fun to talk to. We didn't get any pictures of the kayaking because we didn't want to take our camera and have it get wet.

I know this will be hard to believe, but after the kayaking, we headed back to the resort and hung out by the pool. We really took advantage of having four pools to use on this trip.

We really saved the best for last on this trip. Sunday night we went on a sunset dinner cruise with Dream Chaser Charters. If you ever go to Key West, book a dinner cruise with these them. The company is just two people- Ken and Kathy- and they are so much fun. Somehow there was some sort of miscommunication, and we thought we were supposed to be there at 6:00, but really it was 5:00 or 5:30 (I'm still not sure which). Ken and Kathy were really awesome and never made us feel bad about being late, and assured us that the cruise would not be cut short at all, and the other couple on the cruise was great, too. They were an older (he was in his 60's and she was probably in her mid to late 40's, so they weren't old; just older than us) couple from Poland (him) and France (her). They were very fun and interesting to talk to.

Here are Brad, me, Molly, and Mike as the cruise set sail.

Molly and I laid on the ship's bow (the front of the boat- is that the bow?), enjoying the sun and some Pinot Grigio.

A little while into the cruise, we were lucky enough to spot a small pod of dolphins. This was even better than the dolphin watching cruise, because we could lay on the netting in the front of the boat and watch as we went right over the dolphins. It was so awesome.

Here you can see Brad lying on said netting, with the dolphins in the water beneath him. They're a little hard to see with the ship's reflection there, but if you enlarge the picture, I think you'll be able to tell where the dolphins are.

Here you can see how we're all totally engrossed in watching the dolphins. Arianna (the French lady) and I are in the background, with Kathy, the hostess, standing, and Brad and Molly are in the foreground.

Shortly after this our Captain Ken and Kathy came out with their silly dolphin hats on. They were so fun. It felt like we were sailing with old friends from the get-go, not strangers we had never met.

As the sun set, we made sure to get a few more pictures. Here are Brad and Molly in a picture Mike took. Is that Christmas card worthy or what?

And the four friends- we had such a fun time. I may need to print and frame this one!

And one of Mike and me. I don't know if it's Mike's shirt or what, but my normally gray-green eyes look very blue in this picture. Maybe my new Facebook profile picture?

Then Kathy talked us into leaning out over the edge of the boat, so here I am saying, "I'm the king of the world!" (If you haven't seen Titanic, see it, and you'll know what I'm talking about.)

After an really tasty dinner (shrimp cocktail and conch fritters for an appetizer, salad with mango poppyseed dressing, grilled shrimp and lobster, carrots, and delicious bread) prepared by Ken and Kathy, we headed back outside to enjoy the evening. Then Kathy brought us some homemade key lime pie (a signature dessert in Key West), which was the best I've ever had. Even Mike liked it, and he's not a key lime fan.

On the trip back to shore we saw this cool ship and had to take a picture for Zach since it looked like a real pirate ship. It was impossible to get a clear picture because of our speed, but I still thought this looked pretty cool, like a ghost pirate ship or something.

We left Ken, Kathy, Arianna, and Richard (the Polish man) with big tips (for Ken and Kathy), hugs, and well-wishes and headed back to our townhouse. The four of us have a running joke about "wife-beaters" (the white tank-style undershirts), and so Brad and Mike broke out their black "wife-beaters" and we took this silly picture. They're holding a fish sculpture, pretending they caught it.

We all stayed up way too late, and as a result, this is how we felt the next day at the Key West (and Miami, and Chicago) airport.

The trip was awesome. It went quickly but was so fun. It was just the right amount of activity and inactivity for me, with lots of time to read (especially on all those plane rides), relax, and see new things. Thanks, Brad and Molly, for going with us. And thanks, Curt and Linda, for keeping our kids and dogs safe and happy while we were gone. If you are thinking about a trip somewhere fun and in the U.S.- Key West is a great place!

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