Thursday, July 23, 2015

Travelogue: Driving the Overseas Highway and Day 1 in Key West

Last time I filled you in on Key Largo. Now, the drive. Many travel sites call the Overseas Highway one of the "must do" drives in America. Parts of it were very beautiful...but overall I wasn't blown away. It took a few hours to get out of the areas that felt kind of industrial. Once you reach the Lower Keys, it's beautiful. The Seven Mile Bridge is an experience in and of itself, but shortly thereafter I found myself ready to be at our final destination. There are plenty of places you can stop along the way for beautiful photo ops or to visit interesting shops, but at this point we drove on through.

We drove straight to the Casa Marina where we would spend the next two nights, dropped off our luggage to be stored until the room was ready and then headed to return the rental car. After that we took a taxi into downtown Key West and wandered around. Our first stop was the Ernest Hemingway house. We paid the admission and wandered the grounds until a guided tour began.

After our tour, and my many failed attempts to pet the polydactyl cats, we walked in search of lunch, ending up at the Southernmost Beach Cafe. There was a wait, but we pulled up to the bar and got a few drinks to pass the time. We arrived on the last day of the annual Key West Songwriters Festival, so there was a huge crowd and live music going on at the Southernmost beach that day.

After lunch we were exhausted, so we made our way to the hotel to check in and cool off.

We had checked in and picked our room the day before with a new-ish (or new to me) Hilton feature that allows you to check in 24 hours beforehand. We picked a room with a balcony overlooking the ocean, and were really pleased with our choice when we arrived. After a few minutes blasting the air conditioning, we headed down to the beach for a bit. Like Key Largo, the beach was rocky, with big pieces of sand (not fine like lots of other tropical destinations)

After an hour or so on the beach, we got dressed and ready for our sunset sail. There are plenty of companies in Key West who offer sunset sails, but we opted for convenience and booked through the Casa Marina's on-site water sports company. The group met at the bottom of the staircase closest to our room. Also, there were only 16 or so people on our cruise, whereas some of the other boats we passed were packed to the gills and more of a party atmosphere. Once we were aboard, were treated to unlimited drinks (limited beer, wine, and a passion fruit mimosa) as well as peel and eat shrimp, smoked fish dip, cheese and crackers and fruit. It was a cloudy evening, but it was still pretty. I love the pictures of the schooner ships with the sun behind them, much more dramatic than the catamaran that we were aboard. I learned the hard way that white pants and riding at the front of the boat was not a good plan - I got soaked!

When we arrived back at the Casa Marina, we decided to cash in the free conch fritter appetizer voucher at the beach bar. We'd received the voucher as a thank you for A's Hilton Honors Diamond status. We decided once and for all that we just don't like conch fritters. We ordered a few drinks and the paella dish off the bar menu, which was fantastic. After a while we headed up to the room and to bed...ready for a day of relaxing the next day.