As the car crossed over from the tropical farmfields of Homestead, Florida onto the Overseas Hwy. 1, I sat up much higher in my seat. My head was held high in anticipation. I have wanted to see turquoise ocean water all my life. I have even had colorful reoccurring dreams of finding that water.
I didn't know what lay ahead, but I was reeling with excitement for what I would see.
Overseas Hwy. 1 is the highway that runs over the Atlantic Ocean. It is the only route to the keys, and it is majestic. Two hours from Key Largo to Key West on that route.
We were on our way to a destination beach wedding in Key West.
Such a blessing to be a part of. I am so thankful.
As we headed south, I caught a glimpse of stunning aqua marine green blue water through the foliage. "I saw it! Aqua marine water!" I shouted out to my husband, who indeed confirmed I was not mistaken.
The energy I felt was exhilarating, and we rolled down the windows to let in the fresh salty ocean breezes.
Bahia Honda beach in the lower Keys
We stopped at a restaurant in the middle keys for fresh caught fish sandwiches. The island vibe set in with its airiness and ceiling fans whirling around us.
We were all exhausted, but eager to see our Key West hotel; we stayed at the Double Tree. The next morning we were to get together for a wedding breakfast at the Sheraton.
After meeting up with family, it was time to do some site seeing!
The first place I just had to see was Ernest Hemingway's home. I had read about the 40 plus six-toed cats that live on the property, and knew the kids would have so much fun.
The Hemingway house has beautiful, lush gardens, a long pool, and sleepy cats flopped out in various parts of the property. One was even sleeping on Ernest Hemingway's bed.
Tropical prettiness everywhere. My camera got a lot of action.
I think this ginger cat was my most favorite. He slept so peacefully on a garden bench, undisturbed by the tourists searching out the cats and petting them.
Everywhere I looked was color, color, color.
And the unexpected fruit growing here and there. People were asking each other "is that really a pineapple?" "Yes, it sure is," I replied to one passerby while taking a photo. And it was so lovely in its growing state.
We went to South Beach in Key West, where I watched my two stick their feet in the ocean for the first time. They were all about the beach and the pools.
At the butterfly conservatory, I got so many ideas on what I want to do for my garden as I watched giant blue butterflies flutter about the walking path. "They like really ripe fruit," the nice butterfly lab caretaker told me.
We wandered the Duvall Street strip and side streets where chickens walked down sidewalks with their chicks, roosters crowed, and colorful bicycles were the main way of getting around.
River had some key lime ice cream - so proud of having his first double scoop. Olivia took the standard vanilla.
So much to see around Key West... but we had to get back for a 7:00 wedding ceremony - on the beach!
Trying out key lime ice cream
At 6:30, the rain poured down as we sat in the car dressed in our super casual wedding attire. F waited for the call from his cousin on what to do as it seemed the beach ceremony plans were to be moved. As soon as the wedding proceeded to be moved into the hotel's hall, we were all whisked to the beach as the sun came out..What luck!
The skies cleared on Smather's Beach and we saw a light rainbow as River and Olivia were completely involved in burying their dad's feet in white sand.
The wedding was so relaxed and charming. A island musician gently played on his steel drum. River was mesmerized. "The best part is coming up, the kiss!" said F.
Heart I drew in the sand
I took full opportunity and ate as many local fish dishes as I could. Lots of yellow tail snapper. And the key lime pie was creamy and sharp - absolute perfection to my palate.
I kind of wish I had brought home some key limes.
My in-laws took the kids to the house near Orlando that they had rented, and me and F had a couple days to explore the rest of the keys on our own.
We did a boat ride in Key Largo that took us 45 minutes out to the bluest turquoise waters I have ever seen over a coral reef.
I had a little trouble with the swaying of the waves on the boat, but it was well worth it.
Persistent seagulls flew over the boat for bites to eat.
Bahia Honda beach
A beautiful Key Largo sunset - photo just does not do it justice
My view from the boat ride to the coral reef - turquoise!
It was a trip we will never forget. Full of color and life.
But mostly, it was about family, and the kids, and seeing them take it all in.
Very special to me.
By the end of the trip, we were happy to get home and back to reality - leaving island paradise. Happy memories now.