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Old 09-02-2012, 01:25 PM   #1
wilma-bride
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Fred and Wilma - 'The Keys' to 'The World' - Day 1

Sunday 12th August - The Upper Keys

As tradition dictates, I was awake bright and early. The clock on the bedside cabinet told me it was just after 4am. I got up and decided to write up my notes. It wasn’t long before I was joined by Daniel, awake but still tired and just a little bit grumpy. We watched TV for a little while, then decided we would get dressed and explore the resort a bit as it was starting to get light. I started trying to find shower gel, shampoo and some clothes for Daniel and I. Meanwhile, Daniel decided to jump in the shower to try and wake himself up a bit. When I went back into the bedroom to find towels, Gary was awake so we all got showered and dressed. We went out on the balcony, to check out our view and were ridiculously pleased (ridiculous since we were just about to leave) to see that we had a sea view.

Room with a view





As long as you use the zoom lens



Below the balcony we also spotted some feral cats and kittens and spent a little while watching them playing.

Cute little kitty



Whilst packing the wash bags back in the cases, I noticed a picture on the wall of the lounge that I hadn’t seen the night before but, in particular, the frame. It was exactly the same as the frame on a mirror we have hanging on our landing at home.

Ocean Pointe Suites frame



Alcock Family Mirror frame



We packed the cases into the car and took a few pictures of the outside of the apartments.

Ocean Pointe Suites Building 2





We drove up to the main reception building to hand in the key and I took a picture of the dock area. It looked very pretty in the early morning sunshine and I wished we’d been staying longer and had more of a chance to explore the resort.

A nice place to dock



We were going to explore some of the Upper Keys this morning but first we needed sustenance. Apparently, Harriette’s has the best breakfast in the Keys.

Harriette’s



A hungry Daniel



Again, Harriette’s was just a small, unassuming place situated by the side of the road but we were welcomed warmly when we went inside and led to a small table for four.

Harriette’s has an extensive breakfast menu and we were all hungry. Daniel decided on two eggs with hash browns, bacon and sausage accompanied by his usual Florida breakfast beverage of choice, a chocolate milk. Gary ordered conservatively, suspecting that Daniel’s eyes were bigger than his belly, and chose the French toast (with plenty of hot tea, of course) I decided to sample Harriette’s famous hotcakes (similar to pancakes) with bacon.

A big breakfast for a little boy



Famous (and delicious) hotcakes



French toast (or Eggy Bread, as we call it)



The food was served up promptly and was fresh and hot. Immediately, I had food envy and wished I’d ordered the French toast. I quickly struck a deal with Gary to swap a hotcake for a piece of French toast. As predicted, Daniel barely managed half of his breakfast – a valiant effort – and Gary had to leap in and help him out. I am ashamed to admit that he also had to finish my hotcakes for me as I just couldn’t manage them all.

We paid the check ($31.29) and left a $6 tip for our waitress. It was a beautiful morning and, since it was still early, we decided to take a drive down the Overseas Highway. We drove as far as Islamorada, stopping a couple of times to take in the scenery. I was a little surprised to see people literally sunbathing at the side of the road. Every so often, there were little pebble-beach areas and several people were in the water and sunbathing on the bank. Some people had even set up a portable grill by the side of the road and were cooking breakfast. It was all very bohemian.

The drive itself was just as I’d imagined, miles of road with water literally on both sides and, at times, within a couple of metres of the road. It was so beautiful.

I can see the sea





It’s not a Dodge Charger but we don’t mind



Pretty



Road…and sea



Our original plan for today had been to visit John Pennekamp State Park but, as we only had one day in the Upper Keys, we decided against it as there were a few other things we wanted to do as well.

Continued in the next post...

Last edited by wilma-bride; 09-02-2012 at 02:52 PM.
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Old 09-02-2012, 01:29 PM   #2
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Our first stop, after breakfast, was Robbie’s of Islamorada.

Welcome to Robbie’s





Robbie’s offers fishing charters, boat rentals and snorkelling trips among other things. However, it is also the home to the Hungry Tarpon restaurant and the opportunity to feed the school of tarpon who visit the dock on a daily basis (presumably for that express purpose). This was the main aim of our visit this morning. We bought a bucket of fish ($2.89) and walked to the end of the dock, where there was already a small crowd of people. Apparently, the ‘trick’ is to dangle a fish just above the water and the tarpon should leap out to get it, however Daniel was too chicken to do that and so just threw each fish into the water and we watched in amazement as the tarpon literally swarmed to the fish, creating a mass of bubbles and white water.

Hungry tarpon (not the restaurant)







As well as the tarpon, there were also several hungry-looking pelicans hanging around. At one point, Daniel crossed to the other side of the dock to feed one of the bigger tarpon and, as he did so, 3 pelicans advanced on him.

Pelican crossing



I’m watching you



After we had disposed of all our fish, we washed our hands and had a look around some of the stalls selling various art pieces, glass, wooden signs and other souvenirs. Our favourite stall was a place selling frames made out of old lobster pots. They were really lovely and I wish we had bought one.

It was almost 10am now and so we reluctantly left Robbie’s and headed back up to Theater of the Sea. We parked up and took a couple of pictures outside.

Mum, they spelt ‘theatre’ wrong



Inside, we paid the entrance fee of $75.64 (we had picked up a coupon in Harriette’s for a free child entry) and made our way through the gift shop. The lady on reception explained that they are also a rescue centre for abandoned and injured cats. They have over 60 and there were quite a few of them roaming around the reception and gift shop area. Daniel, a sucker for cats, had to stroke every single one.

Yes, it’s a cat



Theater of the Sea is a marine mammal ‘park’ featuring a number of shows starring marine mammals and other creatures are held continuously throughout the day. When you arrive, you head to the show which is already in progress and continue from there. The shows are held on a loop so, if you have already missed a couple, you can catch them later. There are five different ‘shows’ and we arrived just in time for the dolphin show. The park is very small and so it is extremely easy to navigate and move between the various show locations. Because of the size, it is much more intimate than places like Sea World and we really felt like we were more part of the shows than just watching. Some of the tricks they perform are different to the crowd pleasers shown at Sea World and are intended to show what the dolphins and other creatures are capable of.

We were lucky enough to end up with front row seats for the dolphins. The show itself was very entertaining but, throughout, there was a strong conservational message. It was fairly obvious that the animals and mammals are well cared for and loved.

Dolphins









During the show, they offered the chance for some of the children to ‘meet’ the dolphins and Daniel was lucky enough to get chosen to rub a dolphin’s belly.

Belly rub



After the dolphins, it was time to meet Wilbur the Californian sealion. While we were waiting for the show to start, some music was playing in the background and one of the younger sealions in the pool behind the stadium was bobbing her head in time to the music. It was very cute.

Wilbur showed us his many talents, including balancing a ball, catching rings around his neck and holding a fish without eating it. It was an extremely entertaining show. The trainer was very knowledgeable and gave us lots of information about Wilbur and the other sealions in the park.

Wilbur



We also met another sealion, Jess, who was a lot younger and not quite so well trained. She was also learning how to hold the fish without eating it – but didn’t quite manage the ‘not eating it’ bit.

Next, it was time for the ‘bottomless’ boat trip. Since it was such a hot day, we stopped to get a drink from a nearby vending machine ($1.75) and, as such, were not able to get on the first boat trip. This didn’t matter too much, though, as it gave us the opportunity to sit in the shade for a little while. While we were waiting, I decided to pop to the snack bar for a bottle of water (we had only been able to buy diet coke from the vending machine) and got talking to a couple while waiting in line. They were asking about our trip and whether we planned to visit Disney World. When I told them we would be, they started giving me all kinds of ‘tips’ about the parks and things to see. I didn’t have the heart to tell them that this would be my tenth visit. I bought a bottle of Dasani ($3) and returned to Gary and Daniel.

Back at the bottomless boat tour, it was our turn and we took our seats. The boat was a large, square boat with a large ‘hole’ in the middle. While the boat was taken down the river, the dolphins swam alongside and into the centre of the boat.

The boat with no bottom



Ooh, a dolphin in our boat



This was probably the only part of the day we wouldn’t necessarily want to do again. It was a bit naff, truth be told, and unnecessary.

Next, it was on to the guided marine life tour. This was a walking tour, around various pools and exhibits. It was very informative and we saw lots of creatures, including turtles, nurse sharks and alligators.

The lesser-spotted tourists



A turtle (wish I could remember what kind)



Hmm, parrots – not sure they are necessarily marine mammals



Plus, I spotted a cute iguana which wasn’t actually part of the tour.

Bet you can’t see me up here



By this time, it was very hot indeed and Daniel was definitely flagging (full marks if you spotted the signs in the picture above) so we made an executive decision to avoid a meltdown and leave. It meant missing the final show (the bird show) but we weren’t too worried about that. We decided we would head back to the Hungry Tarpon for some lunch and a welcome break from the sun.

Hungry Tarpon (not the fish)





We’re somewhere on the A1A, apparently



Continued in the next post...

Last edited by wilma-bride; 09-02-2012 at 02:31 PM.
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Old 09-02-2012, 01:32 PM   #3
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We ordered diet cokes all round and studied the menu. Gary was keen to try conch so decided on the conch fritters. Daniel and I ordered cheese sticks and calamari to share.

Conch fritters



Cheese sticks



Calamari



The food was not great, truth be told. The biggest disappointment was the calamari. It was overcooked (to the point where some pieces were rock hard) and not particularly warm. The cheese sticks were just your regularly frozen mozzarella sticks and, again, were only lukewarm. Having never tried conch fritters, it was hard to tell whether they were good or not. They tasted OK and were hot, at least, but quite doughy. Overall, I don’t think we would rush back here for lunch, although I have since read that they do a great breakfast.

Gary and Daniel decided to try a piece of mango key lime pie and pronounced that delicious so it wasn’t all a disaster. Gary told Daniel to suck on the piece of key lime on top of the pie, which he did – his face was hilarious, I wish I’d got a picture.

Key lime with mango



The check was $36.39 and we left $6 tip.

Back on the road again, we made the short drive to Hawks Cay Resort, on Duck Key, to check into our ‘home’ for the next three nights.

More road and sea







Our very own Key



We checked in but were informed that the room would not be ready until 4pm. It was a really beautiful resort, consisting of hotel rooms and villa-style apartment accommodations. Most of the facilities are situated in the main resort or marina areas. There was nowhere to store our luggage so we decided to leave it in the car for the time being, and handed over the keys to the valet staff. Valet parking is one of the services included at the resort, for which there is a daily resort fee of $29. Other services included are wifi, all tips for guest services and housekeeping, use of the gym facilities, resort-wide tram service and access to the kids club. We caught the tram over to the marina, where we got ice-creams at Emack & Bolios. Caramel Moose Tracks for Gary and Cookie Monster for Daniel and I. We tried to charge it to the room but our room cards hadn’t been made active yet so I paid cash ($11.26).

Marina



We sat at a table in the shade and ate our ice-cream, although very shortly we were forced to move due to some inconsiderate smokers who sat right next to us and all lit up. When we finished our ice-cream, we wandered around the marina. Gary was keen to hire a jetski so we enquired about cost. It was $149 for a 1-hour guided tour. Daniel was a bit reluctant (partly because I had voiced some reservations earlier) and so we decided to think about it. We caught the tram back to the main resort, where our room was ready. We were in building 1, a short walk from reception. Our room, 1204, was a standard room with two queen beds. The immediate view out of the window was of rooftops, however looking beyond that you could definitely see the sea. Gary did point out that there probably weren’t that many places in the Keys where you couldn’t see the sea though. The room itself was huge with two massive beds. Daniel had to take a running jump to be able to get up onto the bed.

Room without a view











Daniel was keen to get in the pool but I desperately wanted to unpack (I had hated not being able to unpack before now) so we quickly unpacked the case containing our clothes and stuff we needed for the first 10 days. Before we left, Gary had insisted it would be a pain to unpack and repack 3 suitcases several times so had packed separate cases for the first and second parts of the holiday – I was reluctant at first but I’ve got to admit, it worked out really well.

Once we’d found our swimming stuff, we changed and headed down to the pool. Daniel and Gary jumped straight in, while I wandered around taking a few photos.

The Saltwater Lagoon





The Resort Pool Bar



The Dolphin Lagoon





I came back to the pool area and found a couple of loungers, then settled down with my book and relaxed.

Key Lime Mojito – an excellent relaxation aid



Daniel takes a dive



It was 6 o’clock before we knew it and so we went back to the room, to shower and change for dinner. There were limited dinner options at the resort – Alma’s, an upscale Italian restaurant, which was not to our taste at all and Tom’s Harbour House. So we opted for the latter, which turned out to be a great choice! Our server was Wayne and he was great, really friendly and happy to make recommendations. We decided to share a portion of pineapple BBQ chicken wings to start. There were more than enough for the three of us. Daniel chose the BBQ burger and fries, Gary opted for the ribs and mashed potatoes. I was really unsure what to have and was leaning toward the citrus-roasted chicken. I asked what the catch of the day was, though, and was told it was margate, which Wayne described as a meaty fish with a mild flavour. On that basis, I decided to have the fish and chips.

The food was absolutely delicious. I am seriously gutted that I had forgotten to bring my camera out with me this evening as it looked just as good as it tasted. Once again, Daniel’s eyes proved to be bigger than his belly and he only managed half of his burger. He still managed to eat the free vanilla ice-cream that Wayne brought him though. Gary and I, although full, decided to share a piece of key lime pie, which was really tasty. We charged the cost of the meal ($95 including tip) to the room, then caught the tram back and were in bed by 9.30, absolutely shattered. Because it was quite early, there was a lot of noise in the corridors and outside but it had quietened down by 10.30 and we were all asleep shortly afterwards (once I had unplugged the extremely noisy fridge in the room).
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Old 09-02-2012, 01:50 PM   #4
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What a great first day Joh. It is at times like this that I wish I would drive in Florida. It is so interesting to see the other 'side' of the state. I can't believe that you drank my mojito though.
Forgetting the camera to take food pics is a punishable offence.
Looking forward to the next instalment.

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Old 09-02-2012, 02:51 PM   #5
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It looks amazing Joh. I've said "wow" and "oooh" several times already! Love the look of the resort and the saltwater lagoon.
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Old 09-02-2012, 03:08 PM   #6
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WOW !!! A fantastic day ....

we visited the Theatre of the Sea when we took our kids there a few years after the honeymoon trip. They had a great time swimming in a water hole with clown fish if I remember correctly.

The Hawks Key Resort looks very nice ( as does that piece of Key Lime pie )
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Old 09-02-2012, 03:35 PM   #7
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As much as I love Orlando, I'm seriously envious of this "real" Florida trip you're taking. Everything seems quite expensive, though. $75 for the park admission for 2 people? And $29 a day resort fee?! Eek! (Although the resort does look lovely).

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She was also learning how to hold the fish without eating it – but didn’t quite manage the ‘not eating it’ bit.
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Old 09-02-2012, 05:02 PM   #8
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Wow, what an amazing day! You certainly packed a lot in. Looking forward to reading more.
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Old 09-07-2012, 07:48 PM   #9
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What a great day Joh
Lovely photos and the resort looks wonderful
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Old 09-08-2012, 06:04 AM   #10
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Lovely day Joh
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