Day 1 in Florida
Jeff and I flew out Saturday morning at 10:00am and got to Florida as it was getting dark. That 3 hour difference gets us every time! We flew Virgin America which was wonderful because it was a direct flight. If you can get past the haughty check in counter the individual TV's were a big plus. When we got there we rented a car for the week instead of using the New York Life transportation and being stuck at the hotel all week...we didn't realize the full cost of the rental however. The cost to park the car at the hotel was more than the cost to rent the car and the time it took to get the car cost us our Premier PC special dinner on a yacht.
We missed the boat by 1/2 hour.
Sad but not too sad because when we checked in New York Life gave us a voucher to go to dinner anywhere in the hotel up to $100.00. Sweet!
We went to the nice hotel on the roof and enjoyed just eating dinner by ourselves, we weren't too sad we missed it. (Well maybe a little when we saw the size of the yacht ;)
This soup was a lobster bisque that cost about $10.00. When they brought it out it just had the tortelini in the middle and no soup and we were thinking "We are paying $10.00 for this!?" Then he poured the soup in.
Here is the view from our hotel room. We could see all the yacht on the water below us and the other hotels across the water. We made it to our hotel about the time the sun was going down.
We had a free day today until the New York Life dinner in the evening so we thought we'd go and do some exploring.
We were pretty near Hollywood....Hollywood Florida that is. They had these water towers in pretty much every city.
We drove about an hour and 1/2 to Key Largo so we could say that we went to "the Keys". As soon as we got away from the bigger cities we saw the everglades and water everywhere amidst sawgrass and clumps of trees.
Here is us driving over the bridge getting us to the first key.
Once we got to Key Largo we realized there wasn't too much to see. It looked like it might have seen better days. We put what was supposed to be a park in our navigation and it took us here...which was nowhere. We found out later that it would be another 40 minute drive before it started getting prettier (It's more than a 2 hour drive from Key Largo to Key West which is the last key!)
We had a lot more Florida to see so we thought we'd call it good on the keys and turn around.
On the way out of town we thought we'd stop at this gift shop because we had seen billboards every couple of miles advertising T-shirts 3 for $10.00. We loved our cheap Hawaii and Mexico t-shirts so we were pretty happy that we would be able to get the T-shirt shopping out of the way on the first day.
We walk in and it was a Birkenstock outlet with racks and racks of $30.00 t-shirts. Why would they advertise 3 for $10? Well there was a "clearance rack" in the back. We looked through shirts that all had something wrong with them from holes in them to being sun bleached to the screen printing peeling off.
What a joke.
On our way back north we realized that there was an entrance to the National Everglades Park so we thought we'd check it out.
We drove into the main visitor's center and learned about the Everglades!
Alligators were more interesting than I imagined! We talked to the Park Ranger and asked how we could have a concise Everglades experience (since we didn't have all day). We started by seeing an 18 minute video about the Everglades.
The first thing they teach you is that the everglade is not a swamp. Its a really wide river...like 50 miles wide. The water moves slow, about 1/4 mile in 24 hours, but it's enough to keep the water clear. The difference from the highest elevation to the ocean is about 4 feet though the water travels for miles and miles.
The visitor's center was the only place in Florida that I saw the moss on the trees.
We also got a warning about the vultures???
We asked the ranger about it and he said it was because the vultures like to come and eat the rubber around the windows and the windshield wipers...they don't eat them really they just used them like a chew toy. Crazy.
On the recomendation of the Park Ranger we went to the start of the Anhinga trial and took the 1/2 hour guided tour. Well worth it. He pointed out things we wouldn't have seen on our own, like Aligators and baby alligators hiding just underneath the bushes off the side of the trail.
Some things were easier to spot than others.
The water was so clear that you could easily see right to the bottom. The places that had trees growing in them might only be a few inches deeper.
This guy didn't seem to mind us at all.
He let us get pretty close to him and at this point he was doing something weird with his neck...looked like he was trying to imitate a snack before he struck and ate a bug.
We met a really nice german couple that was on the hike with us. We were talking so much we didn't see this guy until we were close to him.
This alligator was right on the edge of the trial...there are no fences and he was right there watching us!
By this time the ranger wasn't with us but he had let us know that since humans are not allowed to feed them in the park they don't see us as a source of food and will leave us alone.
Good thing he told us that but it was still a little freaky.
We got a picture with him...way in the background...:)
We offered to take a picture for the Germans but the girl was really nervous to turn her back on him.
Pretty unsettling to watch him watchin you...
On the way back to Boca Raton we drove into Miami to try and take a peak at South Beach. Everyone said that was THE place to go (that is except the clerk in Key Largo who said she NEVER goes to Miami because she lives in paradise.
We got close to south beach...and enjoyed checking out the huge cruise ships filled with passengers in the dock as we drove by...but it was so crazy crowded that we turned aorund and decided to try and come back another day.
We didn't want to miss dinner again! :)
Back to the hotel in Boca. We ended up finding out that this used to be an exclusive club in the 1920's where only the elite went...then fast forward to competition and needing to use sound buisiness practices and it's open to whoever is willing to pay to stay there.
It was still a country club though...and we saw lots of the members, usually older patrons playing chess, taking dance classes, painting classes, and walking around looking irritated that we were taking "their" pool chairs.
That night we went to the kick off dinner and got to hang out with some New York Life friends.
We were excited for a nice start to a week of meetings mixed with Florida sightseeing squeezed in between.