When I last left you, we were heading for the water in Key Largo. Let’s pick up there….
We dropped our suitcases on the floor, grabbed our suits, and headed out to the water. I wanted to get at least a little time in the water before sunset. However, we got incredibly lost trying to get to the beach, we found the boating area, but no sand and no private beach like advertised. Finally we asked someone, and they pointed us the right direction.
I was in such a hurry to get in, I forgot to stow my coverup. In a “we’ve come too far” moment, I just wrapped it around my head instead of putting it back on shore.
I had wanted my toes in the sand for months. Ahhhh….
Yep, this scene pretty much describes my happy place.
Once the sun went down, we went back to the condo and explored. It was slightly more expensive than a hotel room, but it was so worth it. This place had a decked out kitchen with anything you’d need to cook up a meal, a patio with a grill, sink, and fridge, THREE other patios, a super nice king sized bed (such a relief after sleeping on two kinda lumpy queens).
We decided that Key Largo meant fish, and having a grill meant fish tacos. We headed to the grocery store and picked up the essentials for a fanastic first dinner there.
We also found out that Key Largo meant Dottie the dog, and gatos everywhere!
Our next door neighbor was incredibly nice – she worked for Outward Bound and lived here full time. It was really cool to have vacation pets and someone to say hi to and tell about our adventures for the day.
We spent the rest of the evening drinking corona lights, reading our books, and chatting on the gorgeous patio in front and then when it got later, the one off the bedroom. I remember feeling like all my stress was melting away, and while I’d really enjoyed running the marathon and NASA and the drive, THIS really felt like vacation.
I woke up around 9 and felt pretty rested and awake, so I spent the morning reading and stretching out all the marathon soreness in bed while Zliten slept. He fiiiiinally woke up so we headed down and I made myself brunch (half a sandwich and a greek yogurt with berries) and shortly after we got out to explore the multitude of water around the area via snorkel.
Instead of walking, we took our other trusty steed to get there. Hey, we had to lug our gear, plus it was vacation and provided and would have been a CRIME not to use, right?
At first, upon putting on my gear, I was disappointed. There was only about 2-3 feet of water. What possibly could we see around here? I was pretty sure we were going to have to take a boat to get any fun water time.
I was wrong. Around the rocks, there were TONS of fishies, ready to hang out and look pretty for pictures.
And, because it was in such shallow water, the sun rays looked GORGEOUS filtering through.
Zliten played with a lobster for a while.
I hung out with an octopus for a while. At first I was a little nervous, but the fish swimming around him showed me at the very least he was not hungry, if not friendly.
I couldn’t stop snapping pictures of his gorgeous color and seemingly fluid skin.
After two hours, I was finally pulled away by THIS fish, because he was hungry. So, I said goodbye to our beach, reluctantly.
I had figured that food would wait until the sun went down (and if it’s ME saying this, I must be really into what I’m doing), but he doth protest, so back we went and I had the other half of my sammich and a big salad.
After letting it settle a bit, we tried out the saltwater lagoon.
After the fishie cavalcade in the ocean, it was not quite as impressive, but after getting over that, it had some really gorgeous, subtle moments. There were all of these blue fish all over – they looked like the neon tetras we used to have in our aquarium as a kid. I thought maybe enough people in condos had abandoned their aquariums here and that’s why the population got out of control, but it’s probably very unlikely that was the case.
In a few cases, the light made for gorgeous pictures. Most of the lake, however, was shaded by the trees, so after about 40 mins of exploring, we gave up and decided to hit it around noon time on Friday.
I may be smiling here, but it was all forced. I was sad to get out of the water. The only condolence was that I had two more days to play.
We went to the condo and got cleaned up, and decided to get souvenir shopping done with early. I got myself a diving shirt and Zliten got a fish book at the diving shop, and we were rewarded with a gorgeous sunset as soon as we stepped out of the store.
However, indecision grabbed us on the rest of the presents for friends, and we got hungry, so we ended up at a place called the Fish House because it was close. It was a good decision, even if it was by proxy.
We got a fabulous crab dip for an appetizer (3 hours of water time makes me swim-gry) and then both went for the super gluttony platter. That is not what it’s called but it’s an accurate description. What arrived was a piece of blackened mahi that would make a fine meal in and of itself, but also 8 huge blackened scallops, a handful of huge shrimp, and half a whole lobster.
I am not ashamed to say I ate the whole damn thing. They served a side of potatoes, coleslaw, and corn, which I barely touched, but you’re not here for the sides, you’re here for the fish.
After a day like that, all you can do is read and then go to bed. And maybe have a piece of key lime pie and some tea, but that’s it.
Another reason for the early to bed was we had to be up at the crack of dawn (literally) for scuba diving. We splurged and drank some cappuccinos from the welcome basket and enjoyed the sunrise from balcony #3 (upstairs guest bedroom).
Bad decision, as caffeine, sugar, and nothing else (none of which I am used to) in the morning wreaked havoc on my stomach, but it all turned out ok. We started the morning getting all the paperwork signed at the dive shop, then drove to the docks and got on the boat and headed out.
I got a little nauseous on the boat on the way out. It was super pretty but also super choppy. I held it together without feeding the fish over the side of the boat though, which was nice.
We were the first one to sign up for the charter, so we got to pick the dive sites! Our first dive was the Benwood Wreck. There are tons of wrecks in the area, but we picked this one because my husband is an air hog, and that means his deep dives are very short. This one was particularly shallow, so we could get much more bubble time.
We both got down with ease (I was worried since it had been 8 months but it is sort of like riding a bike).
It was not quite as crysal clear and blue as diving in Aruba and Bonaire, but it was still gorgeous to explore the wreck and all the fishies living there.
The highlight of this dive was getting to touch a jellyfish, after the guide explained which side to touch.
Jelly action shot!
Extreme Jelly Closeup (scha-wing?)
The only bad thing (gross alert) was halfway through the dive, I burped some major acid (fuck you, cappuccino) and threw up a little bit in my mouth. I freaked out for a moment, but realized I was 40 feet underwater and the only solution with a regulator in my mouth was just to swallow it. It was gross for about 30 seconds, and then I realized I was scuba diving and got happy again. I did get a little queasy again on the boat but it passed quickly and I felt fine the rest of the day.
We motored to the next spot, which was French Reef, and the particular spot we dove at was called 5 caves. Guess how many caves there were?
No problems descending the second time, and we got to play with more fish, swim through (read: get stuck in – I am still not great at remembering my ass is fat with an air tank on it) caves, and see some cool stuff.
Zliten gets all the lobsters. Apparently, they really, really like playing with the go pro. However, the camera died before the highlight of the trip – we got to see a small sleeping nurse shark!!! up close. Someone made the shark motion at me, which my first instinct was to back the fuck up, but then he motioned at me to come over, so I did. And I got to see something cool.
Way too quickly, diving time was over. Thanks to the cool cats at Scuba Do. They were a little pricer than some of the other charters in the area, but they had tip top service, really clean and nice gear to rent, and the charters are really small, instead of squeezing as many people on the dive boat as possible.
Scuba diving is weird. You feel like you’re not doing much of anything, but then you get done for the day and you’re FAMISHED in a way only matched by long run-gries. So, we went home, quickly cleaned up and washed off our diving gear, and headed back to the docks to the Pilot House.
We rehydrated with some cornona-ritas. Sounds kinda weird, but they were kinda delicious. We had some wings as an appetizer, and then I had some crab bisque and a greek salad (yep, still on the salad thing, cocoa beach fries broke me, I think). I ordered mahi on the salad, and she forgot to bring it, but it was totally ok because I was stuffed anyway. I had a piece of Zliten’s fish and chips and a mojito and called it an afternoon.
These birds had some major attitude and we enjoyed watching them play on the boats. Probably a lot more than the boat owners trying to keep their boats tidy and free of bird poo, but whatevs.
This is how Key Largo does Christmas. I approve.
We then went to the grocery store to get provisions for dinner (Zliten was getting grumpy about all the trips there so I promised him this was the last time).
Then, we had a few more beers on the patio, and headed to the jetty to take in the sunset.
It did not disappoint.
Some days, you do get to live in a postcard, indeed.
But, as much as Zliten tried to force the sun to stay in the sky, it was over too soon. We took the shrimp and pasta and brocoli and alfredo sauce we had obtained from the grocery store and made some delicious dinner, enjoyed a few more beers, and watched Charlie Brown Christmas Specials from the patio.
The morning was for napping and reading, per usual, but we had been putting off the shakeout run we had planned for Wednesday for too long, so off we went.
15 mins easy ended up being 15 mins at marathon pace, which was nice, but I was definitely ready to be done when we finished. So, recovery was happening nicely, but it wasn’t quite there yet.
If only all runs could be so gorgeous!
We had some lunch (trying to eat all the food in the fridge) and then headed out to the saltwater lagoon for try #2.
The light was much better closer to noon.
The lagoon was SATURATED with these itty bitty fishies, and they weren’t shy. I knew I was still enough to take a good picture when they swarmed my camera to look at my screen.
Still more subtle than the ocean, but stunning.
This one fish kept following me.
We spent an hour in the lagoon, then went back to the ocean. Sadly, it was a REALLY rough day and visibilty sucked, so we tried for about half an hour, but it was a bust. HOWEVER, on our way out, I saw a NURSE SHARK under a rock, in about 2 feet of water. CRAZY! Again, no pictures because I am lame.
We also found some beached jellies. Glad we didn’t step on them. They are MUCH heavier than they look, but they are JUST as slimy as you’d expect. We threw them back in the ocean so they could be fish food.
Sad we didn’t see any moray eels, we had to do our best impression for the camera instead.
We headed back to the lagoon, got a bit more water time, and then decided to spend the last few minutes of sun we had on our last day in the one body of water we hadn’t hit yet – the pool. I left my goggles in the condo, so I just sort of paddled around for half an hour and it felt wonderful. Definitely inspired me to get back in the water once I got home.
We hit up a fish market (Zliten approved this, totally different than a grocery store), and the souvenir store and got home in time to take the cruiser bikes to the jetty for one more sunset, thus completing our key largo triathlon – 15 min run, 3 hour swim, 10 min bike. We made one more round of killer fish tacos on the grill and *sniff* got our bags packed and readied the condo for it’s next tenants and got to bed early.
Woke up early, packed up the car, drove an hour and a half to Ft Lauderdale.
This summed up my thoughts about leaving my ocean paradise, waiting in a long security line, and exchanging 70s and 80s for 20s and 30s. We caught our flight just fine (Ft Lauderdale is much more efficient about lines than Austin, apparently), and it was uneventful. We got our luggage in Austin, and met my parents for the ride home.
And this is how I felt about it once I got there. Really, I love home. I’m usually a-ok to leave vacation when it’s time to go, but I really, really didn’t want to go home this time. It was too awesome.
And thus, ends my picture orgy. I would be in the depths of depression, but I get more bubble time in March, so I don’t have too, too long to wait.