(Isn't that exactly the sundown you would expect finding in Florida? This one was taken in Naples)
Hi there, I am back from my two week vacation. We had a great time in Florida, the weather was pretty good on most of the days. When we arrived in Orlando (we stayed there for two nights) I had to wear a scarf, jacket and boots, it was quite chily. But through the next days it cleared up and we even had like four really sunny warm days.
But let me give you a little insight of our trip. The plan was to get an affordable two week vacation with nice weather and not having to stay at the same hotel all the time. So we found this quite good flight deal by Air France from Frankfurt to Orlando and also booked a rental car for two weeks. As we landed in Orlando we planned on staying there for two nights, to get over the jetlag and maybe have some time to get an impression of the city. Maybe even see Disney World from the outside (not a big amusement park fan, so the outside would would just be fine). Turnes out, Disney World is build lower than the ground, so if you drive with your car through "Downtown Disney World" you won't even see one single Mickey Mouse. I have to say I was a little dissapointed by that.
(... driving through "Downtown Disney World")
When we left Orlando our plan basically was just to drive as far every day as we want and stay whereever we find a nice affordable hotel. While Orlando is really trourist-friendly priced it gets more and more expensive the further you get down to the Keys of course. We found a magazine with special coupon deals at the beginning of our trip which really helped us finding nice locations. So our next few steps have been Melbourne for one night (if you ever drive by there, you find a very nice breakfast location near the ocean. I think it's called "Bikini Bar" - awesome food and nice stuff, plus a wonderful ocean few). On our way to Stuart we stopped on many nice beaches. Whereever we found a parking spot we jumped out of the car and enjoyed the view and saw the first pelicans flying by. What an experience!
Stuart seems to be a nice little town for people who would like to go fishing. Very cute, but the next day we left early as we wanted to get all the way down to the Keys and back up to Tampa and Orlando in just two weeks. So no time to waist here :)
The next day we managed to get down to Boca Raton. Not sure if we have been swimming in the ocean already on that day or the day after ... but the further we got down to Miami, the warmer it was. In Boca Raton we arrived tired and late and left in the morning, planning to drive through Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and finally down to Miami. For Miami we booked a hotel for two nights in advance, as we have been touring without GPS (imagine, being a stranger without GPS in a big city like Miami and looking for a hotel ;) ).
The houses we have seen on our way to Miami have been outstanding! If you ever drove down there you know how it looks and that there is no big street where you could stop to take photos. Also the people who live there wouldn't like to have tourists like me taking pictures of their properties, so I can't show you anything here. But I just couldn't stop looking out of the window. Simply awesome!
Driving down to Miami, the hotels got bigger and bigger, more population than on the little island roads before, way more traffic, way more aggressive driving (whoo, thanks god I didn't have to deal with that myself, what a challenge!). Our hotel was cute and small, more like a hostel and located next to Little Haiti. We used our time there to take a short trip to Miami Beach - of course we took a walk on Ocean Drive (it's a perfect place for party people; passing all the restaurants and bars where they seem to have non-stop 20% discount or Happy Hour), passed the house where Versace got shot (the entrace is decorated with huge white burning candles) and after just one hour we had seen enough to decide to rather go back to Miami.
As we planned on staying two nights, we had one complete day to discover this city. We started with a little drive through our Little Haiti neigbourhood, drove through the Design District and landed by accident in Wynwood. What an exciting place! Wow - so much to discover! I'm sure it's not everybody's cup of tea, but we fell in love with it immediatly.
Very artsy there, I even discovered the studio of a glass blower (Rob Stern). After a way to short walk we continued our way to Key Biscayne. Next to Miami this little paradise island offers a great beach. Around 5 pm the sun was to cold for swimming so we went out for dinner in a nice place called Pride & Joy, also in the Wynwood area (down on Miami Ave). If you like meet and are in that area you need to go there. I'm a vegetrarian myself but once in a while I allow myself to have meet when I'm on vacation. So that was my BBQ ribs day!
We didn't really want to leave Miami, that's how much we liked it there. Though we expected to see even better beaches on the Keys. Hotel-wise we took the low-budget solution and booked a room for two nights on the mainland, as close to Key Largo as possible (which is Florida City). So the next morning we started really early and took a drive down to Key West (a 130 mile ride). We had a list with puplic beaches printed out and stopped on our way down as often as we could - but the weather was quite windy and cloudy that day, so we could as well just keep on driving. In Key West we took short walks here and there, enjoyed watching the wild chicken on the street but basically didn't like it as much as we thought. The people have been quite stressed out, a lot of shopping options everywhere (if you find the Butterfly shop in the mall, make sure to bring some money - lucky me, I forgot mine in the car, otherwise I would have spend a fortune on shiny and blinking pink or purple junk). But just no lonesome beaches we had hoped for (ok, maybe just a naive thought, I'm sure if you book the right hotel they have a nice private beach for you), but if you are on a budget, there is not much to do for you on the Keys.
So after 130 more miles we got back to Florida City (oh no, of course we stopped to see the sundown on the Keys as suggested in the magazines - but as it was a cloudy day it was just basically a very regular sundown; I'm sure it can be wonderful most of the time) and left the next day to Naples. We took "Alligator Ally" and hoped to see one but we didn't get lucky. Due to our coupon book we found a spectecular hotel (no pictures here, but we asumed it used to be something else before - lot of red leather and mirrors there ;) ) and finally had the caribean sundown that we have been looking for on the Keys. Also, we ran into a beach wedding. If you look closly you might even see the bride in the picture.
After Naples we made it to Fort Myers and as we planned to go to the Manatee Park we stayed for two nights, which I wouldn't recommend doing again. Don't get me wrong, the manatees are nice and we've seen a lot. But two nights in Fort Myers (if you just have two weeks for your vacation) is just too much. Stopping to see the manatees would have been enough. Fort Myers beach is sure very nice - though somehow very expensive parking (10 - 15$ per car). If you find a beach entrance without parking fee you can be sure that there's no restroom. Also, it seems to be more like a party beach for much younger people. On our way up to Tampa we ran into so many nicer places we didn't expect to find. Key Siesta for expample is very cute.
You all know how it is to return back home from a vacation and try to get back into your daily routine. I still feel the jetlag, but try not to give in and also the suitcases should arrive soon hopefully. Thank you Florida for your amazing sky, the birds, the shiny water and the beautiful beaches. I'm coming back!