Since it was drizzling when we got up, we took off fairly early from Fort Myers Beach (where the nice German motel owner/manager was actually flying not just one of the German flags we’ve seen here, to signal to the many German tourists that German IS spoken, but actually a Lower Saxony flag, since he is from Braunschweig), and after a stop at a McDonald’s since there was no Starbucks to be found, drove pretty much straight across Florida on the Tamiami Trail. We stopped at a visitor center about halfway through Great Cypress National Forest to look at the alligators that were swimming around there, and we had a very nice, simple Mexican meal in Homestead, on the way South to Highway 1, which leads across the Keys to Key West. It does take quite a bit of time to get there, but of course it is a beautiful drive, and we actually had no more precip after about noon, even though it stayed overcast. The most interesting parts of the trip were of course the bridges from one key to the next, and it was nice to see less urban blight / fast food and big trashy stores like Home Depot etc. as we went along. The seven-mile-bridge was fun, and seeing the old bridges on its side was also interesting—some of the old Seven-Mile bridge to Pigeon Island, and some of the even older railway bridge on the other side were clearly decaying pretty rapidly. We found our hotel, the Albury Court hotel, without much of a problem, and because it’s been gray and rainy (par for the course for the rainy season in June, I guess), we even found a street parking spot right in front of our entry way. We were thrilled. The hotel is nice and the room just right and pretty nicely renovated; the hotel is really a small group of homes on two opposite street corners that I suspect were once vacation rentals.
We dropped of our stuff and went exploring—we really did pick pretty well (pickings were a bit slim even at $ 150 / night; the reviews for cheaper hotels sounded abysmal, so we’re spending a bit more than we’d normally spend), because within five minutes, we were at the board/pier walk and walked along a long line of boats of all kinds on the right and bars and restaurants on the right. We curved all the way around until we got to the start of Duval street, and then walked down it—it’s just the kind of tourist-trap shop-next-to-shop you would expect, but many of them are in cute old Victorians which apparently all survived the big Hurricane of 1935 as well as the couple of more recent ones that did a little damage here. Some of the more palatial Victorians with lots of balconies and gingerbread trim are very pretty, some are very over the top, with pink shutters and the works. Lots of shops, restaurants and B&Bs fly the rainbow flag to signal that they are either GLBT-friendly or GLBT-only, which is fun to see. There was even a GLBT-only boat rental, the Blue Q.
We had a good time walking down Duval street—it helped that it wasn’t super crowded, and although it was overcast, it never rained and was very pleasant, at 82 degrees, the humidity brought down by a nice breeze, while we were walking around for about 3 hours. Then we found ourselves a nice restaurant at the pier, looking out on the boats from an open, covered deck, and I had lovely ceviche with yellowtail snapper and onions and sweet corn, while Mark had a chicken salad sandwich that looked really tasty as well. But after dinner, we were tired and it started spitting again, so we went back to the hotel and turned in for the night. We’ll get heavy rain as part of a storm system (Andrea) that will probably pass to the northwest of us.