Friends Reunited Tour 2016 – part 1

Mon morning we were up and out early. We went to the local ATM to get drinking vouchers and popped into the Divers Direct store.   We purchased a new small dive tank and fittings and took our regulators in for servicing.   My second stages are cracked so looks like I’ll need to get new mouthpieces – well they are 20+ years old – but Richard’s look fine, so fingers crossed.   We have only purchased the dive tank for doing emergency things like getting an anchor untangled as we have decided to continue renting tanks when we actually go diving. We did a bit of other shopping and, as we were heading back to Morphie, we got the message that Carolyn and Ron had arrived… Woo hoo….so we headed over to the Holiday Inn to say hi. We were pleasantly surprised by their nicely decorated large room – better than we had thought as the outside of the hotel is a bit ‘tired’.

We headed off to Skippers for lunch and a few beverages. Had a nice catch up – then they headed back to unpack. On our way back to Morphie we crept up on a large green iguana that was hanging out on the dock – we caught a photo of him but didn’t manage to get one of him launching himself into the water and swimming off at great speed LOL.

Iguana on the dock

Later on we headed out to the Fish House for dinner. We had a lovely meal and enjoyed the ambience very much.   We had our final pontoonies in Skippers before calling it a day.

Dinner at the Fish House

Tuesday Carolyn and Ron came on board for breakfast. It was a bit chilly and cloudy so we headed out to do some shopping at Publix for wine and beer.   Later on we reconvened at their pool as the sun had decided to pay us a visit and sat around chatting. The boys didn’t venture into the water but Carolyn and I did our first bob of the holiday. The water was actually pretty warm.

Not fancying the water

Bobbing in the pool

Later on we headed out to the Bayside Grill for dinner.   We had planned to eat downstairs in the bar but it was a bit cold so we retreated upstairs to the restaurant.   The meal was OK but it didn’t feel so welcoming so we didn’t really hang around. We headed back to Skippers – and the manager actually gave us a free round woo hoo – before retiring for the night.

Wednesday we were up early and met at 8 am for the 100 mile drive to Key West across the bridges connecting all the islands.

Driving to Key West

First stop was to the Alamo rental car agency so we could add Richard’s name to the paperwork so that they can share the driving.   We got parked up easily and went into Bagatelle for a lovely breakfast in very nice surroundings. Just a shame about the stroppy server who managed to spill stuff over Richard and onto the table, and then mopped it up with a dirty cloth in front of my plate while I’m still eating.   So we repaid him by only leaving a 12% tip – as opposed to the expected customary 20% here in the US – and his face clearly showed us what he thought of that!

Breakfast venue Breakfast selfie

We then headed off to get on the Conch Train to do the Key West tour.

Conch Tour Train

The seating was a bit awkward – especially for Ron and his longer legs – but we enjoyed listening to the history of the Conch Republic.

On the train 2 On the train 1

The history is quite varied with the Indian settlement; Flagler building his railway to connect the Keys to the mainland; a huge fire which wiped out 80% of the housing; hurricanes – one of which actually wrecked the railway before it was formally opened; the wreckers preying on ships; and the Cuban influence and cigar factories…. And, of course, don’t forget Hemingway and the architecture.   Was very interesting and we enjoyed it – but after an hour decided to get off and not get back on.

Key West tour Key West tour 2 Key West tour 3 Key West tour 4 Time to get off

We then wandered the entire length of Duval Street – with Richard getting arty with one of the hotel buildings – and ended up at the iconic milestone and had to queue with the rest of the tourists to get our photos….only 90 miles to Cuba which is our next destination when we leave Florida.

Artistic shot of La Concha hotel At the famous marker Next destination

I chatted to a police horse along the way and made some comment about him being the most photographed in the US – and the policeman said, no, the world!  A little full of himself but as he carries a gun I just laughed with him….

Making new friends in Key West

We stopped in a couple of hostelries on the way – including the Willy T which we assume is no relative of the Willy T in the BVIs – and admired the ceiling adorned with money covered with messages.

Ceiling of Willie T's

Finally back to the car and Richard drove us home.   Carolyn was surprised that we knew when we were half way or even how many miles we were away from our destination – then she realised we were reading the mile markers which actually mark off the miles.   Was a funny moment LOL.   When we got back, pretty weary, we decided to go straight out for an early dinner at the Fish House Encore.   Wow – looks like a shack from the exterior – but opens up to a large outside terrace. We got a table and had a wonderful meal…and the lamb was beautiful.

Dinner at Fish House Encore Fabulous food 1 Fabulous food 2

Thursday morning we headed out to Mrs Macs for breakfast.

At Mrs Macs

Then we continued south on US 1 to the Hilton Hotel.   This is on the bay side of the island and looks pretty nice – so thought this could be a bobbing beach for the future if the weather ever allows.   Well, we posed for photos and enjoyed the scenery, but didn’t actually fancy it.   The hotel seemed completely empty and had very little life.

At the Hilton bayside

So we went back to the Holiday Inn and again we went pool bobbing – followed by Jacuzzi bobbing. But the wind was biting and we all got a bit chilled so ended up in Skippers for a snack lunch.

We then went our separate ways for a few hours and I chilled while Richard fitted the dive tank under the chart table – looks pretty neat there…

Dive tank mounting

Later on Carolyn and Ron came on board for dinner – it was steak night – and it actually warmed up enough for us to spend the evening in the cockpit. We had a lovely evening.

Drinks in the cockpit

Friday morning we went to Bogies for their buffet breakfast – which is the restaurant inside the Holiday Inn.

Bogie's restaurant

Then we wandered off on foot to the local stores…. Was very wet from the overnight rain but had cleared for a little while – and spotted some interesting cars parked in the hotel car park.

Interesting cars Out for a walk

We got back and, of course, the heavens opened so we took shelter down below in Morphie and had a great time playing cards in the warm.

Afternoon on board Time for cards

Later on we went out to Skippers for dinner – as we wanted to listen to Scott play. We got a table and ordered drinks and food – but it got darker and darker and colder and colder as the wind picked up. Freezing actually!  So we headed inside for a couple of drinks before venturing outside again for Scott’s last set.

At Skippers Scott

Saturday morning and the wind picked up but the sky was blue.  There was a storm warning in place with 40+ mph winds forecast so we asked the marina guy to keep an eye on Morphie while we were gone.  We had put out extra lines and fenders anyway – and the slip is so tight she has nowhere to roam….  The marina were taking the warning seriously though as there were men up in the palms cutting down all the coconuts…

Clearing coconuts before the blow

Our destination this morning was the Everglades Alligator Farm. We had a good drive up – grabbed a coffee and snack breakfast – enjoying the sights of the baby alligators and salt-water crocodiles before getting first in line for the air boat ride into the shallow grasslands.

Salt water crocodile Baby alligators

Air boat

We had a fantastic ride on the airboat – did some 360s and got wet – and startled a few egrets along the way.   There were some great iguanas in the trees and we did actually see a wild alligator when we were driving along the shallows.  Oh yes and the hat tree for those that were lost overboard….    Was absolutely fantastic – but all of us would have liked to have gone a bit faster!!!   Oh yes, and the one with the sign is called MIC – “made in china” LOL.

Air boat selfie Into the grass Iguana up the tree Having fun Feet up - getting wet! Hat tree Having fun 2 Churning up the water Heading back On the airboatA wild oneMIC - made in ChinaWhen we got back we went to the alligator show – and hated it!   The alligator was dragged by his tail – hissing and moaning – from his slumber and then manhandled for the wrestling. We really didn’t enjoy it….

Unhappy alligator Alligator wrestling

Walking back to the car we saw emus, a sad panther, and some funny chickens.   Really this was just a sad zoo with some breeding going on – and no animal was harmed in the taking of this photo of Carolyn wrestling an alligator!   But the entry fee was worth it for the airboat ride alone…

Emu No alligator was harmed in the taking of this photo

Moving on we headed to the Winery – but sadly the tour wasn’t available for at least another 90 minutes and we didn’t feel we wanted to hang around.

WinerySo we headed off to the Everglades National Park. Was a really interesting place with loads of information about the ecosystem and watched a 15 minute film…. Loved it – and we didn’t have to pay either which was surprising….

Welcome to the Everglades

Everglades Trolley bus

Back in the car park and Ron fancied trading in the hire car….

Ron wants to trade his hire car

We drove back with the wind continuing to increase and stopped at Snooks for a beer. This is a bayside restaurant and, even with the shutters down, it was absolutely freezing!  So we enjoyed the bracing view and felt a bit sorry for those boats out there that were nodding vigorously in the 35 knot winds….   So we ended up back in Skippers for a late snack lunch.

Driving back to Key Largo Snooks

Later on we reconvened and went back to the Fish House.   It was rammed and we were sat in a table between an old couple who were just plain weird – and a group of girlies out having loud fun, even being too lazy (or drunk!) to crack their crab legs getting the server to do it for them.   Richard ordered a lobster bisque and we were surprised when it turned up first – he had actually finished it when Carolyn and Ron got their oysters.   Then the mains turned up – and they were only half way through their starters. All a bit shambolic – with the girls getting loud and the old woman telling her husband she couldn’t wait to get him home!!!!   We quickly exited left and headed back to Skippers having been out for less than an hour.   It was rammed – Scott had been cancelled because it was too cold outside – so we ended up back in Carolyn and Ron’s room drinking wine.   Later on we headed back to Skippers for our traditional pontoonies before finally giving in to tiredness.  Had been another great day.

This morning – Sunday – and we are doing domestic duties. Richard is tracing and labelling all fuses / cables for future reference. I’m doing laundry and the blog. It’s absolutely freezing so we are currently drinking hot chocolate LOL.   We have an exciting afternoon planned with Carolyn and Ron but I’m not going to spoil the surprise here…you’ll just have to wait until the next instalment. Bye for now.