So we went to Florida! This was the vacation Josh has been wanting to take for years with the kiddos. We all know his first choice for every vacation is always, always, always the beach, but this one was sentimental. Josh's grandmother took him on many vacations to the gulf side of Florida growing up and those vacations to the beach with her are some of his favorite childhood memories. So, this was the year our own little family got to have that experience. We stayed in a condo in Naples right on the beach and Oren and Ever got to ride on an airplane and see the ocean for the very first time. Lake Michigan is great, but it's just not quite the same as the real deal - salt water - warm waves lapping at your feet - ocean. Plus Wes was so young the last time we took him to the ocean that he doesn't really remember it, so it was kind of like the first time for all of them.
All three of them loved the beach and pool, but Oren was especially fond of the hot tub. And when he wasn't in the hot tub he was out karate chopping the waves as they rolled in. Like legitimately trying to bare knuckle brawl with the ocean the entire time.
Having a condo instead of a hotel room was perfect for this kind of family trip. The in-unit washer and dryer were a highlight for me. (And coming home with two suitcases full of clean clothes was the true cherry on top). Naples was nice, lots of snow birds and big money in that city. But they also have a really cute zoo that the kids all loved. We fed giraffes and boys got to take a camel ride. I won't name names but one of them was having the time of his life and the other was mostly terrified of falling off.
We spent most of our week without much of a plan, just lots of swimming and naps and hanging out by the pool. But we did take a couple of day trips, and one was a day in Everglades National Park. We started the day with a private boat tour through the thousand islands. I think this was the highlight of the whole trip for Wes and Oren. They loved the boat ride and we got to see a dolphin feeding near the coastline and we even had a sighting of the elusive manatee! Then we stopped off at Marco Island and we got to get out and go shelling. The boys brought back buckets of shells and sand dollars and our guide was super sweet about helping them identify shells and find the good ones.
^^^ that's a manatee nose! ^^^
We continued our adventures into the Everglades but first we had to make sure to stop for smoothies at Robert Is Here which is an amazing fruit stand on the outskirts of the park that Josh and I first discovered thirteen years ago the last time we visited this area. It's still standing and as delicious as ever.
Then we got into the park and our camera promptly died. Please enjoy these three iPhone photos I was able to scrounge up. But hey, at least we got a photo of a crocodile.
The other day trip we did was a day in Miami, which I absolutely LOVED. We squeezed in as many sights as we could handle before we landed at the beach and let the kids run wild. We had a delicious seafood lunch in Little Havana at La Camaronera before we made our way over to Calle Ocho and got to glimpse the tables of first generation cuban immigrants playing dominoes. Wandering around the park and sipping sweet cuban coladas was a highlight for me. I could have stayed all day.
We also drove around Wynwood Walls a bit and stopped for some photo ops in front of just a few of the gorgeous murals. There was so much to take in, that I feel like we barely scratched the surface in the time we had there.
Finally, we headed out to Miami beach for a dip in the Atlantic and believe me when I say, we took in allll the sights along the way ;) Miami would be so fun sans kids. Josh and I can't wait to go back on our own some day. I did force the kids to walk along Ocean Drive and Collins Avenue for an Emily directed architectural walking tour. They were thrilled by the experience as you can imagine, but I couldn't get enough of all the art deco hotels and neon signage. This city is SO good. I needed way more than a day. We finished the night off with an amazing cuban dinner at Puerto Sagua --- fried pork chunks and oxtail stew y'all. MIND BLOWN. What a way to end the week.
Thanks for having us, beautiful Florida. We sure hope to be back soon.