Saturday, May 17, 2014

Florida 2014

A cold snap right after Christmas put us in a vacation planning mood.  The warmest place in the US in March is Key West, so we decided on a trip to the Florida Keys.  

The kids love to fly!

After a quick flight to Orlando, we picked up our minivan (the kids are pretty fond of minivans!), and we made the drive down to Key Largo, our first destination.  
This is one of my favorite pictures.  Nora's head was bobbing in her sleep, and Audrey could not contain her giggles...and check out William in the back!

After a long winter, the green grass and lush trees were a welcome and glorious sight.

Are you feeling the love in this picture?!?!

We had a few goals for the trip.  Goal #1 was to see Key deer.  (We watched an PBS show last fall about deer in North America, and it was there that we learned about Key deer, miniature deer that only live in the Florida Keys).  

We drove off the main road, and spotted this little guy in the woods. 

He let us get very close.

Goal #1 completed!

Dinner overlooking the water.

Nora and the Husband enjoying a piece of Key lime pie.

This is the beautiful Bahia Honda State Park in Big Pine Key.  

William and Audrey in the butterfly garden.

William wanted to catch a shark....Goal #2.  In order to achieve that, we booked a charter fishing trip.  Unfortunately, the day turned out to be extremely windy, but we braved the wind and set off. 
This picture was taken just after we endured a 15 minute "Death Ride," where the Husband and I held on to the kids for dear life.  Our nearly nonverbal captain didn't warn us just how "adventurous" the ride would be.  Nora loved it.  Audrey did not. 

The sun came out and our spirits came up.

Back to Goal #2...Catching the shark...William was the first one to get anything on the line...and it was a SHARK!  He fought it for a few minutes, and it got close enough to the boat for us all to see, but it broke the line, so we never got it up to the boat.  Bummer, but goal #2 was complete!

We loved being on the boat in the calm water.

This girl was in her glory!

We drove through canals lined with mangroves....what a neat experience.

The kids and I on the ride was much less of a "Death Ride," and we actually got to enjoy the gorgeous water.

Goal #3 was to see sea turtles.  We accomplished this by touring the Turtle Hospital in Marathon.  This was such a cool facility!  It is a working hospital, complete with operating rooms and a rehabilitation facility.

After an injured turtle is medically stable, it is transferred out to the rehab facility.  We loved this sweet little guy, Timmy.

After the tour, we got to feed the turtles.

William and Nora feeding April, a blind 200-pound sea turtle, that has become a permanent resident.  Goal #3 complete!

After touring the hospital, we stopped at Kandio's for ice cream.  A friend recommended this place, and it was quaint and had great ice cream.

The beautiful Sombrero Beach on Marathon.

After spending a few days on the more northern Keys, we headed south to Key West. Our first stop was the famous mile marker.  

Next was the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory.  From the outside, it looked like a beautiful old Victorian house---but inside it was magical!  There were hundreds of butterflies, birds, turtles, and flamingos, among gorgeous tropical plants and flowers.  This was a must-see in Key West!

A Blue Morpho butterfly. 

The girls, being still in hope of a butterfly landing on them.

We visited the Fort Zachary Taylor State Park (we found the the best beaches on the Keys were in state parks).  

We drove by street vendors selling coconuts, and Nora thought it was important to try coconut juice.  She was the first one to take a sip, this photo was pre-sip.  She wasn't a fan!

Nora cautiously eyeing William take a turn....

Key West, what a unique place---we loved it, especially the free-roaming chickens and gorgeous old buildings!!

We had great weather, and were able to spend time in the pools.  

Goal #4...Find shark teeth.  One of my dear friends at the Y told me about a Englewood Beach, a beach known for shark teeth, so we worked that into our trip on our way up the coast up to our final destination.  
Doesn't it look like they are on a mission?!

We got right down to business.

What a beautiful beach!  

We found over 100 shark teeth, without too much effort.  Mission complete!

Our final stop was Siesta Key---near Sarasota.  This is where we ended our vacation last year.  We decided we couldn't go to Florida without spending a few days on this pristine beach.  
We had spent lots of time driving---the girls were getting pretty silly!

We were so happy to be in Siesta Key!  

The kids made their home--each had a room!

We like to try unique ice cream places, and Siesta Key has a new one called Sub Zero.  You place your order, and they create your treat and freeze it with liquid nitrogen, right in front of you.  So cool!

The Husband and children out looking for sand dollars at sunset.

My William.

Audrey the Dancer.  

Our beach-loving baby.

Our happy feet, in the silky sand.

The calm water, beautiful sand, and warm sun was a great way to end our trip.  Until next time!!

A HUGE thank you to Auntie and Grant for being our transportation and to Mimi and Grandpa Bob for caring for Martha for 2 weeks!!  You all made our trip care-free...we LOVE you!