I am on the airport on my approach to Miami, nonetheless in my wedding ceremony costume.
Married for lower than 24 hours, we’re about to depart for our honeymoon to the tropical islands of the Florida Keys.
This isn’t a dream.
However waltzing within the Dublin departure lounge as a bride and groom is surreal as such.
The plan is for per week of newly wed bliss, touring by the sequence of coral cays that stretch 200km alongside the southern tip of the state.
It is going to be a touring honeymoon; our first trip as husband and spouse.
Truly, our first vacation, ever – contemplating we solely noticed one another six months earlier – however that is one other story.
We’ll keep in three islands of the archipelago: Key West, Key Largo and Islamorada.
The time period “key” comes from the Spanish phrase “cayo” which interprets as “small island”.
It is all palm timber and tiki huts and cocktails and sunsets and sandy seashores.
Even the Abroad Freeway – the US 1 that connects all of the islands – is a marvel; crossing the teal waters of the Atlantic Ocean to the east and the Gulf of Mexico to the west.
The 2 foremost islands – Key Largo and Key West – have seeped into the cultural consciousness.
They’re 100 miles (160 km) aside, with the gorgeous bays of Islamorada and Marathon in between.
Key Largo – made well-known by the Bogart and Bacall movie of the identical title – is smaller, extra regional.
Key West is the place America’s richest go: Ernest Hemingway lived right here; his home and his museum are actually an attraction. Comedy legend Billy Connolly presently lives right here.
The Keys’ location provides them an American mix of Western and Caribbean tradition, whereas their proximity to Cuba – 90 miles (145km) – provides to the mix.
We realized all of this after we arrived at Heathrow and linked to our British Airways flight to Miami.
We arrived at Miami Worldwide Airport, with the longest queue I’ve ever seen. If you’re touring from Eire, you have to undergo US pre-clearance in Dublin. However from Heathrow, you face immigration from the opposite facet.
I am certain this expertise was an unlucky aberration. Plus, as soon as we had been there, it was value it.
We had left freezing Eire – it was minus 2 the day we obtained married – and arrived to a balmy Miami evening. March temperatures listed below are within the 20s.
We grabbed the Hertz rental automotive – a handy guide a rough Hyundai Kona with “Sunshine State” plates – and headed to our first cease, the Baker’s Cay resort in Key Largo.
Baker’s Cay is a dream: a chic 200-room oceanfront resort excellent for honeymooners.
It is all excessive ceilings, low large beds, sliding wood doorways, and balconies overlooking the plush gardens and Florida Bay.
Exterior, the seaside is heavenly, the water heat sufficient to stroll in. It was like being within the Bahamas, just some hundred miles away.
A winding nature path dotted with timber and hammocks is ideal for privateness, whereas the waterfall grotto pool is romantic. There’s a seaside bar for cocktails because the solar goes down.
We ate on the resort’s Calusa, an indoor-outdoor restaurant with a menu that places a Creole-Caribbean twist on American fare.
Unsurprisingly, seafood dominates the Keys, and Calusa has native favorites of lobster, pink snapper, and mahi.
We each had Angus steak fillets with chimichurri, which had been soften within the mouth tender.
The waiter advised us that the rum hen was the home specialty and that we must always come again subsequent time. I am nonetheless fascinated by it now.
It is costly within the Keys, even by Irish requirements, with – for instance – steaks averaging about $50 (€45), earlier than service fees and suggestions.
Key Largo is a lazy uncontrolled expanse, and it was enjoyable cruising across the enormous American highways, marveling on the super-truck automobiles everyone seems to be driving, and popping into Walmart or the ever-present Sandal Manufacturing unit
Nation music performs in each retailer and there is a fierce patriotism in proof.
The subsequent day we boarded the African Queen, the unique boat from the John Huston movie starring Katherine Hepburn.
Traverse the coastal waters and canals of Key Largo, passing storm-tolerant stilted houses, with marinas as a substitute of driveways.
On our final day right here, we take the glass backside boat trip on the Key Largo Princess the place passengers can get a glimpse of the underwater world of the reef.
Then it was lunch on the upscale Key Largo Fisheries, a waterfront restaurant that includes regionally sourced seafood, soups and salads.
Right here we had the most effective meal of the vacation: blackened mahi fish with candy potato fries, fish ceviche and tropical salad with mango and almonds. Contemporary, tasty and unforgettable.
We arrived in Key West in a really totally different a part of the Florida Keys. It is a busy metropolis, a glittering social gathering city, a playground for the wealthy. It is distinctive and impartial – and has the relaxed perspective of the world. It’s referred to as the Republic of Shells – after the massive sea snail that lives in its waters, with its inhabitants often known as “shells”. They’re pleasant, humorous, and dismissive concerning the climate.
The Perry Lodge and Marina is an upscale boutique, each fashionable and basic with an previous Key West affect.
Useful host Hannah ensures that we wish for nothing throughout our keep. The bedrooms are massive and ethereal, with outsized ceiling followers and views of the pool under – with umbrellas and personal cabanas – and the marina past.
The Salty Oyster Dockside Bar and Grill which is positioned poolside serves coastal consolation meals like tenderloin sliders and tuna bowls and affords handcrafted cocktails.
Everybody was impressed with our dinner reservation at Latitudes restaurant on the unique island of Sundown Key, accessible by ferry. Apparently, there is a lengthy ready record for this elegant seaside restaurant, overlooking the Gulf of Mexico.
The pan-seared yellowtail snapper is scrumptious, as is the steak with cauliflower gratin, however the positive eating is barely a part of the palm magic at Latitudes, which is sort of a restaurant out of a romantic novel, with its all-white ‘open. dressed tables, by candlelight and heat breezes.
Lunch the next day is at Blue Heaven, a real Key West favourite.
That is al fresco eating, within the fashion of The Keys, with canopies of tropical foliage and cats roaming round, and a sail strung between the timber for shade.
A Sunday brunch of avocado omelet with ginger and black bean salsa was one thing I’ve by no means tasted earlier than.
Later, wind and wine crusing with Hazard Charters was an indulgence – two hours on a schooner served positive wines and hors d’oeuvres.
It is for lovebirds, honeymooners, and new boyfriends, judging by our fellow vacationers, who all regarded pumped up, good-looking, and younger.
For extra of our scene, we went bar hopping one night on Duval Avenue, house of the well-known Sloppy Joe’s, the place Hemingway frequented. There are a lot of “clothes elective” bars, just like the Backyard of Eden, that caught my eye sufficient to enter.
We hit the Inexperienced Parrot, Celtic Conch Irish bar and the wonderful Bull music bar, with a dwell band taking part in a mixture of American rock classics and originals. You may see why this place is a favourite with spring faculty college students seeking to social gathering. It is kitschy, subtropical metropolis enjoyable.
We left Key West for an additional resort, in Islamorada – Amara Cay. Not like the opposite lodges, it suited the final leg of the journey. It’s perfect for these touring with older youngsters or younger youngsters.
It was thrilling and vigorous, with tiki bars and ping-pong, open fireplaces, shallow swimming pools, and all-night seashores. Subsequent time I would take my 13 yr olds, the place they could possibly be free vary, whereas we adults may take pleasure in some alone time.
We went to Chef Michaels, a roadside restaurant, about ten minutes away. Right here we lastly tasted the area’s well-known Key Lime Pie, which is a lightweight and scrumptious dessert made with custard, lime juice and meringue.
Too quickly, it is time for the return journey. On our approach again to Miami, we stopped on the eclectic Robbie’s Marina, a mixture of out of doors outlets, eating places, and water actions, like feeding tarpon, a fish native to the Keys.
The Mahi salad right here was glorious, in Robbie’s restaurant The Hungry Tarpon, a easy place with the partitions coated in greenback payments – an previous custom – and the place you’ll be able to cook dinner your personal catch.
The latest cocktail on the menu was the Trailer Trash Bloody Mary, a drink for the thickset, with blue cheese, pickles, a strip of crispy bacon and a straw of meat.
We felt the presence of crocodiles and alligators as we traveled previous swamps and rivers. A hoped-for last-minute snorkel was scuppered by their attainable look, as we approached Miami.
The separation was made simpler by the candy American Airways employees, who up to date us on the flight house, after they heard we had been getting back from our honeymoon.
This was a once-in-a-lifetime trip, the right post-wedding getaway for these with an adventurous streak. Driving on five-lane highways out and in of city and throughout the Keys’ famed Seven-Mile-Bridge was a roller-coaster thrill in itself.
Already planning a return journey, for our one yr anniversary.
I’m returning to the Conch Republic.
7 evening street journey to the Florida Keys
Journey September 2023
• Return flights from Dublin to Miami with BA
• Automobile rental included for 7 days
• 2 at Baker’s Cay in Key Largo,
• 3 on the Perry Lodge in Key West
• 2 at Amara Cay Resort in Islamorada
• All airport taxes
• 24/7 emergency quantity in the course of the keep
From €1995 per particular person
Go to www.platinumtravel.ie or name +353 1853 5000 for extra data and to e-book.
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