Décembre 2021: Ending the Year on a High Note + Our Florida Keys Itinerary

Nothing can make one feel like a superior parent than watching another parent losing it in action. I was glad to be on the good side of that equation as I bid goodbye to 2021 in the Florida Keys.

While enjoying a breathtaking sunrise with a hot cup of coffee in my hand and my early riser Arjun by my side, I was contemplating life and feeling thankful, lucky, warm, and fuzzy, when I heard a very loud yelling from the parking lot.

The morning commotion which seemed so out of place, was from a parent (fellow guest at the hotel) who was barking at his young kids about 4 and 2 years old respectively. The kids wanted to go to the hotel game room and the parents wanted breakfast. The ensuing disagreement was so brutal and heartbreaking that I wanted to jump from my 5th floor balcony and hug those kids and let them know that their father might be an A** but it’s still going to be okay; that they will one day grow up and escape his foolishness.

I hugged my 6-year-old Arjun a little tighter and told him how much I love all my kids, and how I am thankful to never ever be that parent.

If kids are resilient, then I’m sure that their parents are forgetful. Together we chug along.

For someone who suffers pretty badly with wanderlust, the last two years have been rather hard. Like being underwater and gasping for air. Sure it’s a little dramatic, but not too far from the truth for me.

When D. presented the idea of going to Florida in December, I said yes with the lowest of expectations. I also didn’t do much in terms of planning because I had started working full-time again. Nevertheless, the trip was a success on every level, and not just because I was desperate.

D. had planned everything so thoughtfully and perfectly that I felt like I was bouncing from one adventure to the next. In other words, it was a great way to end 2021. I now understand why people go to Florida in the winter. The beaches are wonderfully warm without the heat and humidity of the summer. There is also something to be said about seeing Christmas decorations on palm trees. An airboat tour through the Everglades National Park should be on everyone’s bucket list. While I didn’t care too much about the basic and abundant strip malls and shopping centers that make up most of the urban sprawl, there were several downtown areas that were more charming and cozy.

Antibland Guide to Florida Keys

Here is our itinerary in brief should you feel the urge to explore this fine state:

We flew into Tampa airport, rented a car via National, and spent out first night at Embassy Suites in downtown Tampa. The hotel is basic but updated, with breakfast included in the cost. The location is ideal for exploring the area. The next morning we made our way to Saint Pete Beach and rented a cabana for a few hours of play on the shore. We basically showed up with bathing suits and towels and had a blast. This made me chuckle at the amount of stuff we usually pack for a trip to the beach.

From Saint Pete, we drove on to see the holiday decorations and sunset in Captiva Island. I highly highly recommend making this drive. Our dinner which was wonderfully delicious yet unassuming Sunset Grill. We drove some more after dinner to our hotel, Naples Grande Beach Resort in Naples where we planned to stay for the next two nights. It’s huge with a pool that has a slide – need I say more? While in Naples, we took short trips to Marco Island, the downtown area (eat at The French Brasserie if you can) and the Everglades National Park (Captain Jack’s Airboat Tours where we also meet Charlie the alligator).

From Naples we drove on to Islamorada and stayed at Amara Cay Resort for two nights – rooms here are okay, coffee needs some strength, and the ocean needs a shore, but the pool and cocktails are nice. We took trips around town including fish feeding at Robbie’s, good beer at Islamorada Brewery & Distillery, and super tasty pizza, desserts, and old school arcade games at Bayside Gourmet.

From Islamorada we made way to our final hotel called The Perry Hotel and Marina on Stock Island right around the corner from Key West. On our drive over, we had reservations at the Turtle Hospital and Rescue to learn more about the efforts in helping Turtles who are hurt by boats, ships, and garbage. All of us learned something new and enjoyed meeting the turtles and hatchlings.

Our two nights at The Perry Hotel and Marina were very relaxing. The hotel is fancy and removed from the crowds of Key West. We tried all their onsite eateries and especially enjoyed hanging out by the fire pit at night. The marina during the early hours was so peaceful. Our short drive to Key West included a delicious meal at Garbo’s Grill, Butterfly & Nature Conservatory, and coffee and crepes at the very French Banana Cafe.

Just when you think that was all, on our final day to fly out from Miami, we stopped in the Wynwood Arts District neighborhood to check out the coolest murals I have ever seen. It was an outburst of colors and patterns everywhere and I highly recommend making this stop if you can.

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