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Wonderful Florida

April 11, 2009

Wow, what a busy couple of weeks!  We got back from our Florida trip on Monday evening and had such a great time, but it’s never fun coming back to work the next day and a not so clean house from scrambling to pack for a 5-month old!?!  And of course even after talking about it multiple times, even on the drive to the airport, we left the base of Bailey’s car seat IN OUR VEHICLE as Gus drove off.  For those of you not “in the know”, the base is the part that is connected to the car via a seat belt and then Bailey’s actual seat just clicks into the base.  So needless to say, without the base her car seat is worthless.  I immediately reached for my cell phone to call Gus as he couldn’t have been more than a mile away, but that wouldn’t help as he doesn’t have a cell phone!  Oh well, we called Bryn’s cousin Annika in Miami to research where we could buy a new base close to the airport which proved to be the best solution… thanks Target.

The flight itself was long with a stop in Houston, but we couldn’t have asked for a more well behaved baby as Bailey did so great.  She was happy for the entire trip with just a couple small cry outs which only lasted a few seconds.  We got into Fort Lauderdale on Saturday night at 7:30pm and I was off to Target for the carseat base while Bryn and Bailey wandered the airport.  We finally were on the road to Annika and Lee’s for a 10pm arrival at their Coconut Grove house and they were nice enough to get us some cuban food which consisted of a good spiced chicken and rice & beans which hit the spot.

With Annika & Lee Grever at Bill Baggs State Park

With Annika & Lee Grever at Bill Baggs State Park

Since Sunday was the only full day with the Grever’s, I wanted to hit up some well known cigar factories in Little Havana and watch how they hand roll the cigars.  But after looking online, I quickly realized all of the good spots were closed on Sunday… I should’ve known!?!  So we were all off to Key Biscayne and Bill Baggs State Park at the tip of Biscayne.  Some clouds were in along with some wind, but we had a great afternoon of walking the paths along the water and got some beach time and some football throwing with Lee… just what the Dr ordered!  With good timing on our part, we hit up the beach cafe for some good cuban seafood dishes.  I say luckily because not more than 10 minutes into our stop the heavens opened up with a quick downpoor and the locals scattered off the beaches into the cafe.  Bryn and I both shared a couple good seafood dishes that had some great spice, rice and sweet plantains.  A couple cervezas happened to show up on the table too…

Bryn and Bailey under the palm tree at Matheson Park

Bryn and Bailey under the palm tree at Matheson Park

Monday came and both Annika and Lee somehow had to work… what, on vacation???  Okay, okay, it was the Burge vacation and someone had to face reality.  So Bryn and I ventured off to Matheson Hammock Park in southern Coral Gables and since Bailey just finally fell asleep for her first nap, we decided to drive around the neighborhoods and give her some sleep time.  We drove past the Biltmore Hotel which was an amazing building with great architecture.  The homes in the area were all just quaint or luxurious with tropical landscaping… very nice areas.  We drove past the U of Miami but like a lot of universities, you can’t see much by driving past, you have to walk around.  So we didn’t see much but got a glimpse of the location at least.  We then made it to the beach park which is actually a man-made atol pool at the very end of the road and marina.  It was a perfect day, not so hot and no clouds and we relaxed under the palms trees while Bailey played in her new tent.

Cigar roller at El Credito Cigar Factory in Little Havana

Cigar roller at El Credito Cigar Factory in Little Havana

Lee planned on taking a half day and we ended up meeting him at home around 2pm and we were off to grab a quick cuban sandwich lunch and coffee to bring back home.  Lee and I then made the quick drive to Little Havana (Calle Ocho) to hit up the cigar factories that I couldn’t wait to visit while Bryn and Bailey stayed back for naps.  This was one of the highlights of the trip for me as we visited El Credito Cigar Factory which is the maker of the well known La Gloria cigars.  There are about 8 tables in their “factory” where expert cigar rollers hand roll each cigar the company makes.  After looking through the retail section where they sell the cigars, we walked into their “factory” to watch them make cigars.  Lee and I were the only visitors watching at this point and it was very interested to watch.  I only wish I could speak Spanish!?!  Luckily Lee is pretty fluent as both Lee and Annika worked in the Peace Corps in the Domincan Republic.  So I asked Lee to spark up a conversation with the closest guy to us thinking he looked the nicest of the bunch.  He looked to be in his late 60’s and didn’t even look up to Lee as he started asking questions, but a few questions later he opened up to Lee and really told us all about how to make the cigars and his life story of living in Cuba and moving to the USA in 1998.  He has been rolling cigars for over 50 years and pulled out his wallet to show us 2 ID cards stamped with the Cuban government seal which were his permits to roll cigars.  He started rolling cigars in the factories of Cuba at age 17 and he still had his very first ID card on him with his younger picture.  It was amazing history to hear and see!  Lee asked how he came to America expecting some amazing story of bravery and escape, but he said he came to the US on vacation in 1998 and simply stayed!  🙂

We had a great time hanging out with Annika and Lee and enjoyed some quality time making meals at their house and catching up with stories but it was time for us to head off to Key West!  Tuesday morning we headed back into Little Havana for some cuban coffee at the famous Verseille and we were off heading south.  We stopped off at the Islamorada Fish Co for a great lunch and a great view.  That is the picture of Bryn in the post below…  We got into Key West at 4:30pm and went right to our hotel which was The Southernmost on the Beach hotel.  They recently completed a new section of their hotel which we had a reserved room but when I was checking in, I was able to upgrade us to a beachfront room which was amazing!  The picture of me in the post below is off our deck overlooking the ocean.  Rooms in Key West are not cheap but this was well worth a mini-vacation for some much needed relaxation.  With Bailey being so tired, we ended up just walking down the major street in town and grabbed some good pizza (per Lee’s recommendation) and relaxed on our deck eating pizza, sipping wine and eating our great key lime pie while Bailey slept.

Relaxing morning on the deck of our hotel room in Key West.

Relaxing morning on the deck of our hotel room in Key West.

The next morning we woke up to a perfect sunrise and Bailey had the perfect breakfast outside on our deck of the hotel room.  Our deck is only feet from the ocean and we could stare off to Cuba which is only 90 miles away!  What a relaxing morning it was.  We were able to get a good breakfast of our own at the hotel’s beach cafe and then made a beach and pool day.  What a day it was!  It was Bailey’s first time in the ocean and a pool!  She was pretty tired by the time we went into the ocean so I don’t think she enjoyed it as much as mom and dad did though…  The waves were coming in pretty fast so that might have had something to do with it as well.

Bryn & Bailey in our hotel pool in Key West

Bryn & Bailey in our hotel pool in Key West

When we were getting hungry, we simply packed up our beach stuff and moved over to our hotel pool which was directly next door which was great!  It wasn’t normal pool food, it came directly from the beach cafe that the hotel owns which served great seafood and other dishes.  The best was the seared ahi salad which we ordered 2 days in a row.  Bailey loved the pool as you can see to the right and was the most popular person around as a few people had to come say hi…

Key West Sunset

Key West Sunset

We walked down Duval St again and headed over to the Marina for dinner and sunset.  We enjoyed some more good seafood at Alonzo’s Oyster Bar and then off to the Ocean Key Resort Sunset Pier to watch the sun go down.  This was a relaxing place to watch the beautiful Key West sunset with good live music playing in the background.  What a great first day in Key West this was as we got plenty of relaxation, sun, play time and sightseeing.

Bailey waking up in her tent all happy!

Bailey waking up in her tent all happy!

One of the funny parts of our entire trip was how Bailey would wake up each morning!  We ordered the KidCo Peapod from Amazon before we left for the trip which was a simple pop-up tent which could be used outdoors or indoors for bed.  We would pop up the tent on our hotel room floor and would lay her inside without zipping the door closed.  But by the time morning came around and she would starting “talking”, we would look down and she would be in a totally different position from which we layed her down.  The picture to the right was one of the funnier poses we saw her in as she rotated sideways with her head by the door entrance and her arm was up under her head just like an adult would look.  She had a funny smile and would just keep posing without moving her arm.  She was always in such a happy, talking mood in the mornings which made for some good family time!  We didn’t get a picture unfortunately, but the funniest morning pose from Bailey was at Curt & Alicia’s place where half of her body and legs were laying outside the tent with her back and head inside… From now on, we will be zipping the door shut for her safety!

Southernmost Point in continental USA

Southernmost Point in continental USA

Of course we had to take the obligatory tourist picture a couple blocks from our hotel which is the Southernmost Point in the continental USA.  90 miles to Cuba!

Bailey loved our hotel bed in Key West...

Bailey loved our hotel bed in Key West...

Bailey just loved our hotel bed in Key West!  She got her longest nap as we just closed the shades and she got to sleep in our bed.  You could tell she loved the soft pillows!

We had such a great time in Key West eating plenty of good seafood, getting lots of pool/beach time in the sun and seeing the sights.  We would highly recommend Key West to anyone but wow, talk about traveling corner to corner of the country!

The group on Hollywood Beach

The group on Hollywood Beach

Friday we headed back to mainland Florida to head to Curt and Alica Wagner’s house, my cousin.  We got to their house early evening and was tired from the day’s drive, so we just stayed at their house for dinner and caught up with stories.  The next day our good friend Matt Boutros drove down from Jacksonville and we all met at Hollywood Beach to hang out for the day.  The Grever’s met us as well which was a good chance for them to get to know the Wagner’s as they are “neighbors”…  The guys got some good football throwing time while the ladies relaxed and Bailey got some more ocean fun time which was great!  She had some more laughs in the ocean as she wasn’t as tired as she was in Key West.  This night was the start of the Final Four so when 6pm came around, we all packed up and headed into a good mexican restaurant right off the beach to watch some basketball and eat some good grub!

Bailey loving Boutros!

Bailey loving Boutros!

Even with the burly beard, Boutros is great with kids and they are drawn to him.  This was Bailey’s first chance at meeting Boutros and they had a great time all day.  This shot was taken in the mexican restaurant…

South Beach lunch with Curt & Alicia

South Beach lunch with Curt & Alicia

Sunday was a day of hangin out with Curt and Alicia.  We started off with a nice walk to the local Starbucks with Bailey in her stroller.  We then headed for South Beach as Bryn has never been but wow, was it crowded!  We enjoyed some good lunch on Lincoln Rd Mall which is a nice walking street of shops and restaurants.  As the picture shows, Curt & Alicia got some good baby practice time for when their own time comes… when will that be???  Then it was off to head into the main South Beach area where all the Ocean Dr restaurants and hotels are… but wow, WAY TOO CROWDED!  We couldn’t even find a parking spot to get out and walk around so we resorted to just driving through.  Oh well, at least Bryn got to see the area.  We thought about heading to Curt & Alicia’s friend’s restaurant called Michy’s, but with Bailey we needed to be back home for her 7:30pm or so bedtime.  Their friend Michelle Bernstein has received rave reviews of her cooking which would’ve been fun to go see and eat at her restaurant, but we ended up using one of her recipes to make a good chimmi churri sauce to go along with our skirt steak and a good pasta salad that Alicia made.  It was another good night of conversation and relaxation.

The next day we were off for home… Bailey didn’t do so well on the return flight as I’m sure the entire week of a crazy schedule got to her and the pressure to the ears.  The final stretch to Seattle was a little rough on Bailey, but it could’ve been worse.

Thanks to the Grevers and Wagners for hosting us, we had a great time… We are looking forward to the next time we see each other!

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