Heading South for the Winter …

Well technically i did not head south of the Bahamas but i did adventure from Miami to the southern most point of the USA.

Some things in life are a necessity…. love, food, coffee, and girls trips! Nothing clears your head and takes your mind off of the twists and turns of real life like a impromptu road trip with your BFF with minimal planning, even if it’s just for the day.

From Coral Gables, Miami to Key West – 154 miles…………. and we’re off!

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The adventure began with counting down the mile marker signs, the sites were pretty consistent with typical South Florida views until we got to the bridges that take you from Key to Key. As we only had a day to do the 154 mile drive twice and see the sites we couldn’t make every stop along the way but i think we picked some good ones. We started out in the early morning so of course our first stop had to be Starbucks to get a jumbo roadie cup of coffee to start our journey to get us through the first 74 miles to our breakfast stop at Lorelei’s Restaurant and Bar in Islamorada. Lorelei’s was the perfect stop for us. I’m not sure if it was due to our binge watching of The Gilmore Girls, my life long dream of being a Mermaid, or my love of shrimp and grits but we knew this had to be a stop. But first just up the street we could not miss a photo op with the GIANT LOBSTER!

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The giant lobster affectionately known as “Big Betsy” is a massive crawfish located outside The Rain Barrel in Islamorada reportedly the largest lobster in the world. We didn’t get to adventure through the Artist Village but it looked super cool from the outside lots of bright colored art and decor. Starvation started to set in at this point so on our way to the big mermaid we went.

You know you have found Lorelei when you spot the huge mermaid out front, the excitement was overwhelming. It could have been the giant mermaid or knowing that we were about to fill our bellies with delicious shrimp and grits. We had no idea there would be cool sites to see on the way in or such friendly patrons that would join us for breakfast.

We were really enjoyed the food and the company and of course had to visit the gift shop, but it wasn’t long before we were on the road again. From there the journey continued to our next stop at the blue hole at Big Pine Key. We hoped to see deer on the slow drive (deer zone speed limit) to the blue hole but had no such luck, unless in Florida deer are actually iguana. We were lucky enough to see a turtle sunning himself and an alligator skulking around in the murky blue hole. It was a nice little nature walk and break from the drive but soon enough we were on our way…….. next stop Key West and the end of the road. The view from the seven mile bridge was breath taking and we could not help but to enjoy the seven mile drive with ocean surrounding us blasting the sounds of the Beach Boys singing Kokomo and Surfin USA, cheese balls i know.

We were so excited when we finally arrived in Key West we quickly found a street side parking spot closest to the Southern Most point and we were off on foot to find food. Our first stop was the Southermost Beach Cafe, we figured we should definitely enjoy our lunch with a view of the ocean after such a long drive. While the beach was gorgeous the water could not compare to the gorgeous blues we are used to in the Bahamas. We had real hard time deciding on what to have, i was torn between the Burger and the Reuben Cuban but our waitress simply said “you can get a burger anywhere” so we went with two Reuban Cubans. THE BEST Cuban sandwich i have ever had! It was gorgeously toasted and pressed, beautiful crunchy yet soft on the inside bread, juicy pulled pork, perfect corned beef, creamy and oozie melted swiss cheese, with the perfect pop of pickles and mustard and served with delicious well seasoned and crispy french fries. We ooo’d and ahhhh’d all the way through, it was impossible to leave even a fry crumb behind. It would be a real crime if we came all the way to Key West and did not have a piece of key lime pie so even though we were stuffed to the gills we felt obligated to order a slice to share. Our waitress pointed out that their pie was in no way your traditional take on the local delicacy but a VERY pleasant surprise, we were sold and anxiously awaited the treat. The twist was in the crust and topping, the pie’s crust was a rich and chocolaty oreo crust, with the traditional tart yet sweet key lime custard filling, topped with a sultry raspberry coulis. ABSOLUTELY AMAZING to say the least, i had my doubts about the lime and chocolate combo but they were blown out of the water. The three flavors married sensationally for a not overly tart or sweet smooth bite of heaven.

After lunch we made our way to the southern most point marker for another necessary photo op and visited with the conch blower statue. As we knew we had a long drive home we knew we needed to see as much as we could in a limited amount of time so that we could be on our way before dark. The is no better way to achieve that in Key West than to “come on ride the train” the Conch Train. We sat back and relaxed and took in all the sites while Bob conducted our train Sponge Bob and narrated the entire journey with great detail on all the historical filled with witty banter. We loved the stories of the bootlegging and wrecking days and the Bahamian architecture which reminded us so much of the smaller family islands of the Bahamas. There is a huge amount of Bahamian influence in the Keys.

It was an absolute great day filled with yummy bites, interesting history, cool architecture, animals and sites. Before we knew it was time to start our 154 mile journey back to Coral Gables so off we went. We originally planned to stop off for early dinner at The Square Grouper Bar and Grill, named after the nickname given to bales of marijuana thrown overboard or out of airplanes in South Florida in the 1970s and 1980s, unfortunately we were still pretty full from our lunch. The menu looks really cool and a must do on our next adventure to the keys. It was a beautiful drive home with gorgeous views of the ocean and sunset.

Thank you for joining us on our adventure.

For the love of food and life.

J.

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