Throwback Thursday – Travel Style

So, I don’t always jump on the #TBT bandwagon, but this morning Facebook served up such a fun memory, I couldn’t help it. It’s no secret that I love traveling. Even if it’s just in my proverbial backyard.

It’s also not a secret that many Miamians like to get out of town on Memorial Day. Long story short, Miami Beach throws a hip hop party every year, and it gets crazy packed. Parking and traffic are even worse than normal and it’s virtually impossible to find a good spot on the sand. I always planned my vacations around that weekend for these reasons (plus an extra day that I don’t have to take PTO on? No brainer).

Back in 2009, El Hombre and I headed down to Key West for our first Memorial Day weekend trip, and it still ranks as one of my favorites of our trips together. Our friend had just moved back in town, and we spent the weekend on bikes, exploring side beaches, boating and listening to music. I’m pretty sure our uniforms were flip flops, bathing suits, shorts and sunscreen. I fell hard for Key West that weekend. I can still smell the coconut sunscreen and taste the saltwater.

Here are a few pics of that weekend:

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The Barnacle: A hidden Miami gem

Yesterday I woke up with the urge to explore. I’ve never been good at sitting still and I swear I am driven by wanderlust. Being 7 months pregnant, hopping on a plane isn’t exactly an option for me. So instead of moping around the house, I decided to get out and explore Miami.

When I first moved here, I was never inside. I was intent on discovering all the nooks and crannies of this city. I used to blog pretty heavily about my adventures until I started commuting crazy hours for work.

One of the places I’d never been is the Barnacle State Park and I’ve always been curious about it. So off I went!

The Barnacle was built in 1891, when much of Miami was still covered in hammocks (the tropical forests, not the woven swings.) As you wander back in to the park, you walk through what remains of the Miami Hammocks in Coconut Grove. The live oaks, strangler figs, palms and other native growth intertwines above the path, creating a shady walkway with Spanish Moss gently flowing above you. The hustle and bustle of Coconut Grove quickly melts away and is replaced by the sounds of wind through the trees.

Barnacle State Park Hammocks walkway

The walkway to the Barnacle State Park in Coconut Grove

As the path drew to an end, I found myself approaching Ralph Munroe’s home, built in 1891. There are several other historic homes in Miami, but this one is the oldest home in the county that still stands in its original location. Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to go in, as you can only go inside as part of a tour, but I did take the opportunity to sit out on the porch and appreciate the bay view and the cool breeze.

House at the Barnacle State Park

The view of the Barnacle House from the park entrance.

View from the Barnacle House

My view from the Barnacle House Porch. Look at that perfect sky and bay view!

Barnacle House from the bay

The view of the Barnacle House from the bay end of the property. There’s obviously a bit of renovation going on.

Once I caught my breath (lugging around an extra 30 pounds of babies and placentas is exhausting), I meandered down through that green yard towards the bay. Along the way I passed families playing and couples picnicking. At the end of the property is the old boathouse and a dock that’s referred to as the “Railway to Nowhere.”  The name came from the fact that Munroe used marine railways to bring boats out of the water so he could work on them. Otherwise there was no other way to transport boats.

You see, Munroe was a yacht designer, so he needed access to the bay. The boathouse was actually his first home on the property – built in 1886.  He lived upstairs and worked downstairs. This is actually not the original building – it was rebuilt after a hurricane destroyed the original boat house in 1925.

Barnacle Boat House

The replica of the original boat house.

Railway to Nowhere

The Railway to Nowhere – Ralph Munroe’s mechanism for pulling boats out of the water. AKA the original boat ramp!

Barnacle State Park dock.

The dock, jutting out in to Biscayne Bay, is closed to foot traffic. More than likely to keep people from jumping in for a swim on hot days.

 

I definitely enjoyed this park. It’s not especially big – which is perfect for me at this point – but it’s pretty, calm and not too far off the beaten path. Admission is only $2 and totally worth it. My only caveat is it’s probably easier to go on a week day, or early on weekends so you don’t have to fight for parking in the grove.

Time for a girls trip!

It seems that the first quarter let-down has hit some of my friends pretty hard. Now that I’m not stuck in a cubicle or traffic for 10-11 hours a day, I’ve taken advantage of talking with my friends more often. And sadly, it seems a lot of them had a rough start to this year.

Since I’m a transplant in a largely transient city, I often lament that all my friends have moved. (Yes, I know I’m being melodramatic in these moments). But I do still have people here. So in my texts, chats, etc. with one of my friends, I came up with an idea. Why not take a vacation day from work, drop the kids at school and then head to Miami with me? The ultimate goal: Islamorada. Since I can’t drink for awhile, I volunteered to be designated.

It didn’t take a lot of persuasion.

So a few weeks ago, two of my friends and I hopped in my car and headed south. We picked up some Cuban coffee and pastelitos for some fuel and then headed straight down toOverseas Highway.

If you’ve never driven through the Florida Keys before, I highly recommend it. As you are passing through narrow strips of road, with endless blue water on either side of your car, it’s virtually impossible to retain any level of stress. It’s often ranked as one of the most scenic drives in America and there’s truly nothing like it.

I’m pregnant so that means I am hungry and thirsty all the time. Our first stop? The Key Largo Conch House. All I have to say is Conch Fritters. Get them. While this place isn’t on the water, it is tucked away so you aren’t right on the highway. It’s in a quintassential Florida Keys house and you can sit inside or outside on the porch. We grabbed an outside table and split a bunch of food. Service was great and the food was on point.

After that, we headed south. The girls wanted to stop at Tiki Bar so we made a pit stop for rum drinks and water. Since we couldn’t hang on the beach, we headed off to the marina dock, where we dragged chairs in to the sun. As we lazily sipped our drinks we watched boats coming in and going out to the Sandbar. Admittedly I’m not a huge fan of this place because it’s a little too “Spring Break” for me, but it was a good first spot for some sun.

After we got too hot, we hopped back in the car to cool off with some A/C and headed to our next spot: Anne’s Beach. This beach is one of the more popular beaches in the middle keys – partially because there are not many public beaches in Islamorada but mainly because it’s beautiful. But parking is minimal so if you go on the weekend you have to get there early… even on weekdays it can be tough – we got lucky with a spot in the second lot.  We found a cozy little nook of beach where we spread out our towels and immediately waded in to the ocean. The water can still be a little cool (by Floridian standards) but because it’s so shallow the temperature was perfect.

We took selfies, laid out for some much-needed sun and chatted to our hearts’ content. And Instagrammed it all for our people to admire from their cubes and offices.

Once again, it got a bit toasty so we hopped back in to the car to head to the bar at the Islander. I love this place and El Hombre and I will often stop to get food and drinks at the bar on our various trips to the Keys.  It’s beautiful, laid back, great service and a pretty view. It’s also a great place to stay because unlike Tiki Bar it’s not full of annoying Spring Breakers.

The girls sipped on more rum drinks while I drank my soda and we all dried out. One of my friends started surfing Islamorada Real Estate listings for investment properties while my other friend and I split a dessert (it’s for the babies.)

As the day came to a close, we decided to go for dinner before getting on the road. I originally wanted to go to the Lorelei, but it was packed with no parking. So we ended up at the Green Turtle Inn. Again, amazing food. My favorite? Lobster Mac & Cheese. I ended up with a salad for my main course, while the girls split a bunch of plates that I nibbled off of. While a tad pricy, this restaurant is worth every penny.

After we finished dinner, we had one last stop. The Blond Giraffe in Tavernier. Normally El Hombre and I never stop at these places because he’s not a key lime kind of guy. But one of the girls wanted to pick up some treats for her family. While she picked those out, my other friend and I split a piece of pie. All I can say is, “Yes”. Have you ever taken a bite of something so good that you half close your eyes in sheer bliss? That was me at that moment. It was also the sugar burst that got me home.

All in all, it was a good day trip. When life starts to give you lemons, it’s time to gather your girls (or guys) and head out for a day of beach hopping and good food.

The Conch House.

The Conch House. Get the Fritters I tell ya!

Key Largo Conch House

Key Largo Conch House sign. These signs are all over the Florida Keys

Tiki Bar Marina Islamorada

The view from our spot at the Tiki Bar. Clear blue water for miles.

Anne's beach, Islamorada Florida

Anne’s beach – so peaceful

Beach selfie in Islamorada

Selfie time at the beach!

The beach at the Islander Resort.

The beach at the Islander Resort.

Islander Bar Islamorada

The view from the Bar at the Islander. Nice and shady after a day in the sun.

Cannoli

Cannoli. I’m all about that toffee.

Pool time

A bit of pool time before our day was done.

Day tripping to Jupiter

Sometimes you just need a change of pace.

Yes it’s true. I live where many vacation… but since I do things like work for a living I need a break too.

Miami is great and there’s no place like it. But you are always on the go. People are hustling all day, every day. Traffic can be a nightmare and things can get expensive. Fortunately, Miami is a good hopping off point for day trips around South Florida. Typically when we feel like we need to slow down, we head to the keys, but I have been hearing good things about the Treasure Coast from my friend, so we decided to drive to Jupiter today instead.

Jupiter is about an hour and a half from Miami. In a lot of ways it reminds me of the keys, only more based in Reality. It’s definitely a slower pace, and everything is really close to each other. People are nice and the whole town is beachy but not overrun with tourists.

We hit a few parks – Jupiter Inlet Beach Park where you can swim in natural tide pools or the beach, and the Blowing Rocks Natural Preserve. Guys, both are beautiful, but Blowing Rock Natural Preserve is awesome. It reminded me of Costa Rica, with the rocks jutting in to the ocean. We climbed and crawled all throughout the mini caverns that have been carved out by the tides. We studied shells that have been embedded in to the rocks, and we watched kids run and shriek with the excitement of “discovering” a new crevice where they could hide and play.

It was totally worth the drive. I can’t wait to go back and see what else the Treasure Coast has in store.

 

Roll your sleeves up

Sometimes there’s nothing more relaxing than throwing on my most scruffy clothes and spending an afternoon in the garden.

We’ve had a lot of work done on our condo, and as a result my back patio turned in to a bit of a disaster. So today we rolled out of bed late, fired up the grill to make lunch and something sparked.

Hours later, my nails, hands and lower legs were black from dirt and I’m feeling so buoyant. They say that gardening lifts the spirits, and I swear it’s true. Creating small pockets of beauty where I can sit and read while sipping Pimms Cups gives such a feeling of accomplishment.

We still have a ways to go, but here are some progress shots:

   

 

Coming Home

I spend a lot of time talking about the places I want to go. I admittedly have an absurd amount of wanderlust, and am often swept away staring at maps. I daydream about finding new adventures, and I sometimes drive my husband up the wall when I start dreaming big.

But there’s one part of travel that I think is often overlooked. Coming home. Last week, when we came back from Costa Rica, we did something different. We came home on a Saturday instead of Sunday. This small change made me appreciate the art of coming home that much more. We had a whole day to unwind, unpack and do absurd amounts of laundry. As I sat outside in my little back patio with my cup of coffee and the sun on my shoulders, I closed my eyes and just enjoyed that small moment of bliss.

Whenever I return home, I appreciate the comforts of my life and my routine that much more. But within that, I’m almost always inspired to add a little morsel that I picked up from my travels. For example, we ate Tico-style breakfast all week (eggs, fruit and fried white cheese.) We hung our new masks that we found in a small shop, and we shared our stories.  We cook more (there’s nothing like returning to my kitchen after a week of not having my own pots, pans and knives.)

But the thing I like the most about being back home? My quiet moments in the midst of my crazy routine. Coffee in the morning with my husband, snuggling with my cats and listening to my music in my car before starting the day.

 

Freshness

While most of the country is drudging through the remnants of slush and snow, it’s absolutely delightful in South Florida right now. Gone is the sticky mugginess, at least for now. With nights in the high 50s and days in the low 70s, I can barely stand to be inside. This is our winter and it’s my only opportunity to wear my “winter” clothes.

It’s funny how something simple, like a change in weather, triggers certain feelings. But every year that I have lived here, I always proclaim that this feels like a North Carolina spring. It feels like a fresh start.

Growing up, I had seasons. I couldn’t help the twinge of excitement when the days started to get a little brighter and the weather a little warmer. Coats and scarves were cast away and we felt like we could move without the restraint of so many layers. Colors started popping out with the blooming of spring. It was like the world woke up and some new adventure was on it’s way. Spring breaks, trips to the mountains or the beach, or simply being outside building tree forts. Who knew what my parents had planned for us?

Even now, crisp mornings with a slow-warming of the day it brings back that sense of optimism, the eager anticipation of what’s to come. When I go outside and get a lung full of this fresh, crisp air, I feel almost bowled over with excitement. After what seems like months of worrying and stress, I feel regenerated.