Christmas in the Keys


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December 24th 2012
Published: December 28th 2012
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After our Miami stay we had planned two or more nights in the Florida Keys. We had booked hotels for one night in Marathon and one (Christmas Eve) in Key West. For Christmas we didn't want to take any chances, after that we have no bookings and have planned go where we feel like that particular day!

So we set out towards the Keys in our Volkswagen, and after some driving we realized we were already out on the islands. To begin with it was a little hard to see, there were woods all around us and nothing had really changed since we left Miami, but once we got to the Middle keys the landscape started to look more like the archipelago outside of Turku, spiced with an occasional palm. And a little before Marathon the landscape started to look more like we thought it would, with palms, pelicans and lots of open blue water.

Marathon didn't really resemble a city; it was more of like a higher density of shops and motels around the highway. Our own motel was in the middle of this, directly next to the road. It was however also by the sea, and had a small harbor where the pelicans liked to hang out. They were sitting on poles just a few meters away from us while we drank our morning coffee the next morning. But now I'm getting ahead of myself, we did have some time to spend in Marathon the previous day also!

When we arrived we installed ourselves in our room and then set out to explore our surroundings. We started by going to the local beach where we enjoyed the sun and some food we had brought with us. After a while we got bored, and drove to the Curry Hammock State Park for a nature walk in the mangrove forest. We had some struggle finding the correct place and by mistake paid an unnecessary entrance fee as the walk was not where the signs showed us, but one mile away on the other side of the highway. Despite the difficulties we had a very nice walk through the palm and mangrove jungle, even though the sun went down halfway through the walk and we almost didn't make it out in time before it got completely dark.

The next day we continued towards Key West. The lower Keys looked much more exotic than the middle Keys, more palms, more birds, more (and bluer) water. First stop on the way was Big Pine Key where the Key Deer Refuge lies. We met some helpful local people at a bagel café who told where to go to see the Key deer, a local variant of the white tail deer that is the size of a dog due to the scarcity of food in the Keys. After some driving around we started to find a lot of key deer, mostly in the gardens of people living on the Key but one actually in the nature park. In the nature park we instead saw snail kites and black vultures, and lots of them!

Eventually we ended up in Key West. As we had been on the road for some time we were quite hungry and the only advice we were able to get out of the hotel reception was to head for Duval Street, the same advice all other tourists in this part of the Keys had received. Duval Street was therefore crowded, and as most places also seemed to aim at getting as much pesos from the tourists as possible we didn't really find any nice places there. Some streets away we found a decent fish restaurant, and after adding some Key Lime pie on top on the fish we decided that it was surely time for the Christmas presents, so we headed back to the hotel to look what was under our 18" Christmas tree!

The main event of any night in Key West is apparently to see the sun set even further west that the town, so we headed there for mojitos and a pretty nice sunset. After that we went as south as you can in mainland USA and found a bar close by for some beers to round of Christmas Eve. The next morning we still went for some sightseeing, but almost everything was closed due to Christmas day, so after seeing the local burial ground we decided to head north again. On our way to the Everglades we still stopped on Big Pine Key to try out our new binoculars, and as it was getting quite late decided to not drive through the Everglades in the night but instead stay in Homestead for the night, a decision we didn't need to regret! But more on that in the next exciting episode of "Tutkimusmatkailijat Goes West"!

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