Key West and the ugly highway

The Journey to Key West

After we departed from Everglades City we headed down to Key West. It was a long drive and took several hours especially as we were avoiding the toll roads. I was a bit surprised about the 100 mile highway out to Key West and its ugliness, having heard it is a beautiful drive. In parts it is gorgeous. There are parks and driving over seven mile bridge was nice. However, in parts the Keys are over developed. Especially around the towns like Marathon where the word ugly springs to mind with the miles of commercial development with no thought gone in to how it looks. I am glad we did the drive and were rewarded when we reached the old part of Key West with the beautiful buildings. After a walk along the waterfront in the evening we returned to our Bed and Breakfast along Duval street stopping for a beverage or two. On the return leg we decided to turn off the main highway at Key Largo on the way back and pay the dollar for the toll road, this route was much prettier and you drive through forest and how the keys may have looked hundreds of years ago.

Key West is the southern most tip of the Florida Keys and as the crow flies 90 miles from Cuba. Key means island in Spanish. The island is 4 miles (6.4km) long and 1 mile (1.6 km) wide. Duval Street is a mile long and the main street. The most famous personality who lived in Key West was Ernest Hemingway. The house is privately owned by a family who bought it in the 60s and it is open to the public. We gave it a miss as the house was full of people taking pictures of the cats and the garden. I would have hated to have seen it if a cruise ship had been in the port. If you ever visit I would suggest staying in the old part of town as the newer part of the town is ugly and full of malls and commercial areas. If we did it again I would like to fly in to Key West airport and hire a car to drive along the Keys at a slower pace. We also had limited time and only spent a couple of days on the Keys.

Accommodation

We stayed at the Grand Guesthouse. It cost $167 a night, had free parking, excellent free wifi, continental breakfast, no pool, room was clean and the bed comfortable. It was also only a 10 or so minute walk to Duval Street and the heart of Key West. My tripadvisor review is below:

http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Hotel_Review-g34345-d144496-Reviews-The_Grand_Guesthouse-Key_West_Florida_Keys_Florida.html

Meals

We ate at a Cuban restaurant near our accommodation which was only $35 for the two of us. A lot of the sailors from the navy base were eating there as well and locals. The name of the restaurant was El Siboney.

Florida 024

All in all it was an interesting trip and worth doing once.

Everglades City visit

Everglades City

We left Peace River where we were staying at a campground for Everglades City. About 500 people live in Everglades City so by no stretch of the imagination is it a city. The location is ideal on Chokoloskee Bay with nearby Ten Thousand Islands. We were lucky as the area has a tropical savannah climate which means warm dry winters and hot humid summers. In the summer mosquito’s would definitely be around and we managed to avoid that pleasure. The Tamiami Trail, Highway 41 or better known as the original alligator alley passes just five miles north of Everglades City. The city has several restaurants and a couple of motels and Bed and Breakfasts as well as the location of the Everglades National Park Visitor Centre and several air boat tour companies.

The Everglades National Park is 1.5 million acres so it plays to make some plans. Below is the National Park website which gives more detailed information about what to see, where to go and activities.

http://www.nps.gov/ever/index.htm

Where we stayed?

We stayed at Ivey House located off the main road. It was a great place, our room was large with two Queen beds, clean and the beds were very comfortable. There also was a pool outside our room. Breakfast was continental with a wide varity and ample to set you up for a busy day in the Everglades. It cost us US$109 a night. Below is a link to the Ivey House on Tripadvisor with several reviews, ours is titled ‘Great spot in the Everglades’.

http://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g34210-d75073-Reviews-Ivey_House-Everglades_City_Florida.html

What we did?

We spent three days around Everglades City and did an air boat tour with Captain Jack, did several walks at Big Cypress Park and a boat trip out to 10000 islands where we lucky to see dolphins. We also saw a lot of bird life, a snake and many alligators. We chose Captain Jack’s air boat ride and did an hour-long trip in the mangroves which was a lot of fun. There are several air boat operators in the city and they all charge the same in a beautifully designed oligopoly. It cost us $39 each for the hour air boat ride. We also did a morning boat tour for an hour and half which cost $33 each. It was a nice boat trip taking you out to the islands and Gulf of Mexico. The highlight was dolphins and for me the bird life in seeing several species I had not seen before in Florida including cormorants.

We ate at several restaurants and my favourite was the Havana which is just down the road from Everglades City at a place called Chokoloskee. I had a great meal there enjoying the local delicacy stone crabs with a pina colada. Below is my review of the Havana restaurant.

http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g34133-d1017244-r242684506-Havana_Cafe-Chokoloskee_Florida.html#REVIEWS

I also enjoyed Clarissa’s restaurant which was a few minutes walk from our hotel. I tried a mullet entrée which was tasty. I asked the chef about why it tasted so good. In New Zealand we use mullet as a bait fish. He told me it was because they feed above oyster beds which gives the flesh a distinctive flavour. Avoid the Oysterhouse restaurant we ate their the first day and were unimpressed. It also is where tour buses stop so the food is made quickly and I did not how they avoided putting prices on the menu for stone crabs and other fish quoting market price.

Verdict

I would love come back to the Everglades and spend some more time. There are several kayak trips you can do including one down to the town of Flamingo on the coast which takes around nine days. You also can hire kayaks for the day and go out to 10000 Islands but need to go out on the low tide and come back on the high tide otherwise you could get stuck out there because of the strong currents. My advice is to plan in advance and come around this time of year if you can or even a bit later as the temperature was lovely and it was not too humid.

Florida 021

110 days on the road in North America/110 dagen op de weg in Noord-Amerika

It has been 110 days since we started our trip in August in Vancouver. 33 campgrounds, several motels and 10,000 miles later we are now in Florida in a place called Wachulua. The blog has not gone as I expected with many problems of weak wi-fi but I have managed a few stories along the way. On average we are spending US$100 a day which is due to the generosity of Debbie’s folks and their 40 foot RV as our accommodation and restaurant. Along the way there have been a few mechanical hiccups with a manifold, alternator being replaced and lastly the water pump. On the plus side the price of fuel has plummeted which has reduced our costs.

We had a great time in Canada spending a few weeks in and around Kelowna, visiting Banff again and the Columbian Icefield and Jasper. Before heading to the USA via Calary and Leithbridge.

Highlights of the trip have been the wide open spaces of Montana, Yellowstone and seeing Old Faithful and being caught up in a buffalo jam. I enjoyed visiting Cody and the Buffalo Bill museum, hearing the history at Custer’s last stand and some beautiful scenery. South Dakota is still my favourite state where we visited Crazy Horse monument, Mount Rushmore and saw a buffalo round-up. From there we drove across to Ontario and managed to visit Mackinac Island and tandem cycle around it and along the way and enjoy the occasional campfire. Cape Pele in Ontario was a lovely small park and we got to do a bit of kayaking. We then had a Canadian thanksgiving with Debbie’s relatives which we really enjoyed. I also managed to visit Niagara Falls and catch up with a friend I had not seen in 25 years who lives their now.

Then we travelled to Quebec City and around the Gaspe Peninsula and into the Maritimes. A dream of Debbie’s to visit for a long time. I would like to go back when the weather is a tad warmer although aside from a few rainy days in Nova Scotia we were lucky with the weather. Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick were great to visit and sample the lobsters. We then reentered the USA and drove through Maine down to where we are now in Florida. Along the way we visited Salem, Boston, Yorktown, Jamestown and in South Carolina Charleston and Savannah. I have enjoyed our trip so far and have now a wealth of memories to look back upon and more to come with our trip down to Key West and then the long trip over to LA.

Dutch Translation

Het heeft 110 dagen geleden dat we begonnen onze reis in augustus in Vancouver . 33 campings, diverse motels en 10.000 mijl later zijn we nu in Florida in een plaats genaamd Wachulua . De blog is niet gegaan zoals ik had verwacht met tal van problemen van zwakke wifi, maar ik heb een paar verhalen langs de weg wist . Gemiddeld zijn we US uitgaven 100 dollar per dag en dat is te wijten aan de generousity van Debbie’s mensen en hun 40 voet RV als onze accommodatie en een restaurant. Onderweg zijn er een paar mechanische hik met een spruitstuk , dynamo vervangen en ten slotte de waterpomp zijn geweest . Aan de positieve kant van de prijs van brandstof is gedaald waardoor onze kosten heeft verminderd .

We hadden een geweldige tijd in Canada om een ​​paar weken in en rond Kelowna , een bezoek aan Banff weer en de Colombiaanse Icefield en Jasper . Voordat u naar de VS via Calary en Leithbridge.

Hoogtepunten van de reis zijn de grote open ruimten van Montana , Yellowstone en het zien van Old Faithful geweest en wordt gevangen in een buffel jam . Ik heb genoten van een bezoek aan Cody en de Buffalo Bill museum, het horen van de geschiedenis aan Custers laatste stand en een prachtig landschap . South Dakota is nog steeds mijn favoriet staat waar we bezochten Crazy Horse monument , Mount Rushmore en zag een buffel round up . Vanaf daar reden we over naar Ontario en slaagde erin om Mackinac Island en tandem fietsen bezoeken eromheen langs de weg en geniet van de occasionele kampvuur . Cape Pele in Ontario was een prachtig klein park en we kregen een beetje kajakken doen . Vervolgens hadden we een Canadese dankzegging met Debbie’s familieleden waarvan we echt genoten . Ik wist ook te bezoeken Niagara Falls en bijpraten met een vriend die ik niet had gezien in 25 jaar die woont nu hun .

Vervolgens reisden we naar Quebec City en rond de Gaspe Peninusla en in de Maritimes . Een droom van Debbie’s te bezoeken voor een lange tijd. Ik zou graag terug te gaan als het weer is een beetje warmer maar afgezien van een paar dagen in Nova Scotia we hadden geluk met het weer . Prince Edward Island en New Brunswick waren geweldig om te bezoeken en proeven van de kreeften . Vervolgens hebben we reentered de VS en reed door Maine naar beneden waar we nu in Florida. Onderweg bezochten we Salem , Boston , Yorktown , Jamestown en in Zuid-Carolina Charleston en Savannah . Ik heb genoten van onze reis zo ver en hebben nu een schat aan herinneringen aan over en meer terug te kijken om te komen met onze reis naar Key West en dan lange reis naar LA .

A visit to Jamestown the first English colony in the US established in Virginia

Virginia

We arrived at the Gloucester Chesapeake Thousand Trails Campground on November 10. It is a lovely campground with hardly anyone there. Little did we know that we would be spending 11 nights here when we arrived. Due to the RV water pump deciding to commit hari-kari and delay as a further six days. Happily we managed to visit a couple of interesting historical sites. The first one was Jamestown.

Our Campground

Jamestown

Jamestown was the site of the first English colony established in 1607 and called Virginia. The site of the town was a swamp and it took its toll on the colonists with only 60 of the 300 colonists surviving the winter of 1609-1610. There is a lot of interesting history in Jamestown with executions, the story of Pocahontas, Indian wars and establishment of the first legislative assembly. It is now called the Colonial National Historical Park. The park is shared with the National Park and Preservation Virginia who own the historical site where the fort, church tower and remains of the old colonial buildings. We had a great National Park Guide called Jerome who took us around the site and told us its turbulent history.

If you decide to visit, I would suggest first viewing the short 15 minute film at the Visitors centre and then to join a guided tour of around an hour. Leaving the visitor centre the first thing that strikes you is the Tercentenary monument erected in 1907 to commemorate the 300 year anniversary of Jamestown.

007

The park ranger tour takes you through the site visiting the James Fort, Church Tower and the excavated foundations of the settlement. There is also an archeology museum we visited after the tour and had a nice lunch at the cafe. We gave a miss to the Jamestown Settlement down the road with replica ships, Powhatan village and English Fort. The Colonial Parkway between Jamestown and Yorktown is a lovely 23 mile drive. Below are some photos of the site

Week 20 – Eastern States cont… Mainly Virginia

Week 20 – Eastern States cont… Mainly Virginia

John:

Hard to believe we have been on the road this long as the time is flying by!

Originally posted on 52 Weeks:

‘Everything you need is already inside. Just do it.’ – Bill Bowerman

[So,how this works is each week I will write to someone on my list, picked randomly and I will post it online on this blog – just in case the letter doesn’t reach it’s destination.  The letter includes a card with a random quote, which I hope you will enjoy (at the top of this blog page.)]

Manassas, Virginia

Manassas, Virginia where the civil war really kicked off!

This week started with us on the move to meet back up with Mom and Dad in Gloucester, Virginia. First, we had a stop at the Manassas National Park where the first serious battle of the American Civil War was held. I’m really impressed by the talks by the US rangers, definitely worth going on. This battle is what set the US up for 4 years of war and has lost more…

View original 235 more words

Quebec City

After a few weeks in Ontario visiting relatives and seeing Niagara Falls we headed for Quebec via Brighton.

Quebec is the largest province in Canada with around 8 million people. It is a french speaking province with Quebec City the capital. The British and French fought a seven war which the British won with the capture of Quebec City in 1759. Quebec City is the only walled city north of Mexico thanks to the foresight of a Governor in the 1800s. We stayed a couple of days outside of Quebec city at a campground which was about to close for the season.

An interesting historical fact about Quebec City is that the English General Wolfe only just won the battle. After a two month-long siege Wolfe he went downstream with his army and came up behind the French to defeat them. The battle lasted only 15 minutes and both the french general Montcalm and Wolfe were mortally wounded. As a result of the victory the British took control of Quebec. Quebec has retained its french heritage and culture.

Quebec City was brilliant and we did a city tour with a guide learning a bit more about the history of Quebec. The walls and fortifications of the city are still intact with the citadel overlooking the Lawrence River a great spot for views of the city and river. We also visited a food market and bought some lovely cheese, sausages and port.