Jonna and Alan's Holiday trip to Key Largo, FL

The Fleming family started talking about doing a tropical Christmas this year and were originally looking at a trip to the Caribbean but COVID restrictions complicated that idea so we ultimately settled on the Florida Keys as a back-up plan. Brenda and Harvey drove down from the panhandle, Jonna and Alan flew in from Colorado and Aunt Gail flew down from the panhandle to join us. We had a relaxed week in a condo in Key Largo. We ventured out for some excellent meals, walked around the condo complex, did some sea kayaking around Point Charles and even took a private guided snorkeling trip into John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. 70 degree weather was a welcome break from the Colorado winter and we thankfully managed to avoid catching COVID despite the lack of mask wearing and social distancing by nearly everyone we encountered. (We were all very dilligent with our COVID risk management!)

Here are some of our favorite photos from the trip (each photo is a thumbnail linked to a higher quality picture.):

1) Kawama Yacht Club Condominiums, Key Largo, FL, December 20, 2021 - Brenda found a rental condo on AirBnB on the 4th floor of the tower at Kawama Yacht Club Condominiums which worked out great. We had our own safe COVID bubble which had nice views to the southwest so we could watch sunset from the little deck. It was far enough away from US-1 to avoid traffic noise and was surrounded by mangroves so it felt relatively isolated while still offering convenient access to Key Largo restaurants, grocery stores and activities. This breakwater had a nice viewpoint at the end which provided a beautiful spot to watch the sunrise and sunset.

2) Lazy Days Restaurant, Islamorada, FL, December 22, 2021 - The warm weather allowed for outdoor dining and one of our best was a delicious oceanside lunch down on Islamorada.

3) Kawama Yacht Club Condominiums, Key Largo, FL, December 22, 2021 - Drinks, snacks and a colorful sunset out on the condo's breakwater!

4) John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Key Largo, FL, December 23, 2021 - Jonna and Alan had reserved a snorkeling trip with a tour company out of Key Largo. We spent half an hour travling out to the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park on the dive boat and were suiting up as the boat neared the first dive spot when one of the boat's two motors suffered a catastrophic failure. The captain did a quick inspection before cancelling the trip and limping all the way back to harbor on the remaining motor. We were refunded for the cancelled trip but were very disappointed that we were going to miss out on snorkeling this reef.

5) John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Key Largo, FL, December 24, 2021 - After getting back from our cancelled snorkeling trip Jonna jumped online and found Quiescence Diving Services who were available to do a private, small party the next day. We jumped on it and also convinced Gail, Brenda and Harvey to join us. So we spent Christmas Eve day doing four different snorkeling dives in John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. The water was calm at the first dive spot (The Grecian Rocks) and got progressively more choppy as we moved further northeast for the next three dive spots (Christ Of The Abyss, North Dry Rocks and Elbow Reef) along the reef. By the fourth and final dive the waves were pushing us strongly to the west which meant determined swimming was required to make progress against the wind. We saw plenty of coral, a wide variety of fish and the site of the 1917 City Of Washington ship wreck.

6) Kawama Yacht Club Condominiums, Key Largo, FL, December 25, 2021 - Brenda and Alan took the rental unit's sea kayaks out on Christmas morning to explore the mangroves at Point Charles. We spent a couple of hours paddling over to Point Charles and then did a little exploration of a streambed that went up into mangroves. An offshore breeze started to pick up which meant we had to paddle against the wind to get back to the condo's marina. It was slow going but we had two wildlife encounters that made it well worth it. The first was a sea turtle that surfaced near us and the second washad two wildlife encounters that made it well worth it. The first was a sea turtle that surfaced near us as we were working our way back to the marina entrance. The second was even more exciting because there was a family of manatees hanging out inside the marina so we got to float next to these gentle giants in the calm water next to the boat ramp. Fantastic!

7) Calusa, Hilton Baker's Cay Resort, Key Largo, FL, December 25, 2021 - After an exciting sea-kayaking trip in the morning we topped that with an excellent Christmas day meal at the Key Largo Hilton. Their restaurant, Calusa, had a special Christmas Day brunch menu and offered outdoor dining on their patio which provided a scenic view out over Florida Bay. A fine way to celebrate the holiday.

8) Little Havana, Miami, FL, December 26, 2021 - The day after Christmas we checked out of the condo and started driving north to drop Gail, Jonna and Alan off at the Miami airport. On the way we drove out to Key Biscayne to enjoy the view of the Miami skyline and then made a stop in Little Havana where we took a two hour walking tour to learn about the unique culture that has developed here over the past 70 years. Our guide was definitely a local - He was strong on authenticity but a little weak as a guide. Still, we did get to see some interesting sights and learned some about the Cuban exile culture. Cigars are definitely the trademark of the neighborhood and we visited a couple of different shops with impressive humidors full of handrolled cigars.

9) Little Havana, Miami, FL, December 26, 2021 - One of the highlights of the walking tour was a little side alley off W 8th St (Calle Ocho) that was covered with murals, mosaics and photos. It was colorful, artistic and a strong statement about the sense of Cuban identity the locals have in this neighborhood.

10) Little Havana, Miami, FL, December 26, 2021 - Our final stop on the walking tour was at a cigar factory. It wasn't in operation due to the holidays but it did make for a visually interesting place for a family photograph to end our Christmas hoilday vacation.

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Alan Fleming