Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Florida Keys {Day 7: The African Queen (!) and Coming Home}

The last morning of our trip was really bittersweet. I guess it's always like that when you're coming home from a trip. For me it is, anyway.

Loading up our luggage, turning in our keys, and taking our last pictures...

But we had one last stop to make at Key Largo, on the way out. A stop that I was especially excited about. Because we were going to see...

The African Queen! :)

Yes, the original boat from the film starring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn can be found at the Holiday Inn Marina in Key Largo.

{You can supposedly even book reservations to ride it. But by the looks of the sign and the boat itself, I don't think the poor little thing gets many interested parties. :) }

This is my oh-my-goodness-Humphrey-Bogart-and-Katharine-Hepburn-rode-in-this-boat-but-I'm-feeling-a-little-anxious-about-being-so-close-to-the-edge-of-the-dock nervous smile.

Anyway, as a classic movie fanatic, it was a very exciting moment for me. :)

Here is the sign when you leave the Keys.

Back to reality.

My dad drove us all the way home that day. Somewhere around 17 hours? It was a lot of riding. We stopped a few times for fuel and to eat (my first- that I really remember- experience with a Steak'n'Shake. The mint milkshake was good). We got home around 2:00 a.m.

Mom took some candid photos on the drive home...

Me, feeling camera shy. Showing off my single wrist warmer.
{Not making an obscene gesture as it may appear at first glance.}

So...that's it for vacation posts! We really did have a wonderful week in the Florida Keys. I'm so thankful that we were able to go back. I can't believe we've been back for over a month! If you ever get the urge to visit a quirky, tropical place without leaving the US, go to the Keys. :)

Previous posts: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Days 4 and 5-1, Day 5-2, Day 6-1, Day 6-2.

Until next time,

Monday, November 28, 2011

Florida Keys {Day 6: Pigeon Key- Part 2}

Here are some more pictures of Pigeon Key, the lovely island where we spent our last day in the Keys.

Looking down from the old bridge:

After it was the railroad, this became the highway into the Keys until the 80s. It was called the glass highway because if you didn't fold your side mirrors in, they would get broken by passing traffic. Tractor trailers and campers and cars flying past each other and passing each other on this narrow little road? Sounds pretty scary to me. :)

See this house? You can rent it by the week. That would be the coolest thing, I think- like being on your own private island (only about three other people live on the island permanently, directors of the programs and such).

The rocky beach area had shelled sea creatures everywhere. Including what I guess are dried up ones. Ew. :)

A cat and a duck (named Ducky) live on Pigeon Key. Nobody knows exactly how they got there (either someone brought them or they walked on the 2 mile bridge to get there). Our guide said the duck appeared after a hurricane several years ago.

And this is what the island life is all about. :)

After going on the tour with the guide, you can spend as long as you want on the island. The last boat leaves at 4:00, but you can stay later than that, you just have to walk back. :) We stayed a couple of hours, eating our picnic lunch and wandering around and just relaxing. Then the boat was making its last trip earlier than usual, because the wind was really bad.

On the way back to the hotel, we stopped at Bahia Honda State Park. We went there on our last trip, and my favorite pictures from last time were of the beach and palm trees with the old bridge in the background. They have beaches and trails there. This time it was just as beautiful, though the storm had pulled a lot of seaweed and stuff up on the beach.

On the trail up the hill to the observation area on the old bridge:

Looking down from the bridge:

We spent our last evening on our beach and then walked over to Sunset Park to see our last Keys sunset. :(

{I think this is the first time I've ever used a sad face on my blog. And it feels weird. But our last evening of vacation was sad and deserves a sad face.}

I took about twenty photos of the sun as it disappeared.

It was beautiful.

Coming up: Day 7, coming home and the African Queen. :)

Until next time,

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Florida Keys {Day 6: Pigeon Key}

On Friday, our last real day in the Keys, we decided to go to Pigeon Key. It's this really neat, historical little island where the railroad workers for the Overseas Railroad lived during the early 1900s. Sometimes there were as many as 400 men living on this little island!

Here's the key as seen from the new bridge.

This little island reminds me of Gilligan's Island. You're welcome for the fact that you now have the theme song stuck in your head. :)

You can only get to Pigeon Key in two ways:
-Take the ferry ride there (which is actually just a small boat), or
-Walk two miles on the old bridge to the key.

For the boat ride, you leave from the Visitor's Center.

Marmee does not like boat rides. So she was pretty nervous about getting there while we were waiting for the first boat to depart. :)

This is the boat we rode:

It's about a fifteen minute ride by boat. The only people who went out on this boat for the tour were the four of us and then two other people. Our guide also rode along with us.

When we got there and climbed off onto the dock, our tour guide led us to some chairs under shady trees. And then she told us all about the history of the island and Henry Flagler's railroad. This was so fascinating! Maybe it's just me and I'm a history nerd, but our guide was so informed and she explained everything in a really interesting way. :) I absolutely loved hearing about what life was like in this area in the 1910s and in the years after that.

{I promised myself I would remember some of the really amazing stuff she told us, so I could write about it here. But it's been a month and some things are fuzzy. But you can read more about the history on the website here. Also, Pigeon Key was the finish line for season 18 of the Amazing Race!}

Here is the original bridge coming over the island.

See the blue metal line on the right and in the center? That was the original width of the train track. Can you imagine riding a train across water on a track that narrow? The extra part on the left was added on later when the old bridge became a two lane highway.

I adored the yellow buildings. :)

The inside of one of the old bunkhouses.

The new bridge, on the left, and the old one, on the right. They don't actually meet, like they appear to.

This has been several things, including a swimming pool and a shark tank.

Here's what the island looked like when the railroad workers lived here. They made good wages, but the work was hard and dangerous. They were made to believe that it would be like working in a tropical paradise. That's what the island looks like now, but it sure didn't look like that then. :) No trees or anything!

The building that houses the museum:

They don't sell any food or anything on the island, so we bought a picnic lunch and ate at a picnic table. It was so beautiful, even though the wind was really crazy. This was our view from where we ate:

This is the ramp that leads from the old bridge (the section that's now a walking/biking path) down onto the island.

Coming up next: the rest of Day 6 and Day 7.

Previous posts: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Days 4 & 5 (Part 1), Day 5 (Part 2).

Until next time,