Friday, December 6, 2013

Florida Keys with Grandpa and Grandma

Let's be honest with ourselves, the ONLY reason Daxton and I survived 6 weeks with daddy gone was because of my parents!  Even though my mom had just recently returned from her trip to help us move in, when they found out we were going to be on our own for so long they decided to fly south for a few fun adventures.  I can't even begin to say how much this meant to Dallas and I.  Dallas felt horrible for having to be gone for so long, especially since we were so new to the area.  Finding out my parents were coming for most of the time he would be gone was extremely comforting to both of us.  We spent an amazing couple weeks exploring north and south Florida, the keys, and the Bahamas.  We had an incredible time and Daxton and I were thoroughly spoiled!

We started our journey by making a road trip down through the Florida keys to Key West.  My mom came up with the adorable idea of bringing along our little angels, Mara and Liam.  I love that our family has such faith and knowledge in the gospel, specifically Eternal Families.  What an incredible comfort to know that we will be reunited with our loved ones after this life.
I also love that each Mara and Liam have little symbols that help us remember and keep them close to our hearts; Mara's butterfly and Liam's pinwheel.

Dad decided to rent a minivan, which I thought was silly at first, but turned out to be a very wise decision.  We crammed that van full of every possible thing we might need, including swim toys for out little man.
We live about 45 minutes north of the entrance to the Florida keys, but it took us about 3.5 hours to get down to Key west.  There is only one two lane highway which made for a slower drive than we would have liked with the additional traffic.  But the views were absolutely stunning! 

It was pretty amazing to drive through so many different islands and especially cool to see ocean on both sides of the car.

Daxton loved how high his car seat was in the minivan.  The windows were also very large so he had the best views of all the water, trees, and cars we passed along the way.  He mostly enjoyed watching different movies on mom's iPad, though...

So many gorgeous islands along the way!

We stayed at the Marriott in Key West and since Dad is a Marriott Goldmember they upgraded us to a two bedroom suit at no extra cost!  It was pretty amazing with a full size kitchen, dining, living rooms, two bedrooms and bathrooms, washer and dryer, and our own private balcony that had a spiral staircase that led to the gorgeous pool and beach.
Simply put...Daxton and I were VERY spoiled!

The thing I loved most about all of our travels, was getting to watch Daxton interact with his grandma and grandpa.  He became instant best friends with grandpa.  He followed him around everywhere wanting to be held, listen to music, and dance.  It was pretty cute to see him get so excited every time Grandpa would walk into the room!

(Can you find Mara and Liam in the pictures :)
Such a happy boy!

The Florida Keys are pretty interesting in the fact that there are very few natural sandy beaches.  Most of the coast is a rocky shoreline, so any sandy beach that you find in key west is more than likely man made.  The Marriott was positioned right on the water and had built it's own private beach and pier out into the water.  Daxton had a blast exploring everything and playing in the sand. 

Grandma and Grandpa were a bit nervous to let a walking toddler out on the pier, but Daxton was pretty good about holding my hand.  He loved looking over the side for fish.
My best little beach bum buddy!

Having fun relaxing on the pier...

It's always fun with grandma and grandpa!

Just some of the beautiful scenery surrounding our hotel...

They next day we decided to take a trolley tour of key west.  We should have done a bit more research about when the best time would be.  We ended up hitting our tour the exact same time as a cruise boat and all it's thousands of occupants.  Needless to say we were hot, sweaty, and squished into the trolley, with a guide that was more concerned in entertaining the cruise passengers than giving actual history of key west.  We did however take a free shuttle from the Marriott to downtown key west where our driver was AMAZING and told us all sorts of history and interesting facts.  Daxton was pretty uninterested on the tour and very tired so my arms were exhausted from wrestling with him for over an hour.  We ended up going back to the hotel where he crashed for over two hours.  Great nap!
The only pictures I got from our tour of key west...the famous Key West Lime shoppe.

After everyone woke from their afternoon naps we decided to venture back down to some of the tourist sights we saw along our tour.  It was amazing how different everything was once the cruise boat had left!  Things were calm, quiet, laid back, and empty.  We loved every minute of it!
We stopped at Higgs Beach, where the African cemetery was located.  Several African slaves were rescued from a ship off the coast of Key west, but later many died due to their conditions aboard the ship.  Higgs beach has a beautiful memorial and cemetery dedicated to them.

There is also a very long and large cement pier off Higgs Beach that juts out into the ocean and several locals use for fishing.  It was interesting to see a pier built of cement and not wood, but made sense with Key West's experiences with hurricanes.

Below you can see a couple fisherman using nets.  The water was absolutely stunning, warm, and crystal clear.

Daxton had so much fun walking along the pier with grandpa, especially when he got to meet several of the local dogs.  He has become quite the dog lover taking after his daddy!

After Higgs beach we drove around and explored several other spots within Key west.  It was great with all the other tourists gone.  We ended our day by stopping by the southernmost point.  Crazy that Cuba was only 90 miles away!

On our drive home we made an impromptu stop (due to Daxton's overflowing diaper) and discovered the COOLEST secluded beach and boardwalk.  We later found out that it was called Anne's Beach and I totally intend on bringing Dallas back there soon.  The only bummer was that none of us were dressed in our bathing suits!  Which didn't stop Daxton from getting soaked from his head to toes.

Walking along the boardwalk through the gorgeous mangrove trees.
A cool thing we learned from our Marriott shuttle driver was that the mangrove tree is the only tree that can coexist in both salt and fresh water.  In order for it to survive it has "sacrificial" leaves.  It soaks up the nutrients from the salt water and then sends all of the salt and other elements it can't use to these sacrificial leaves.  These leaves turn yellow over time and die, but is the only way for the whole tree to survive.  We loved spotting the yellow leaves among the green mangroves after hearing the story.

Anne's beach is one of the few natural sandy beaches along the keys.  It was about an hour north of key west, hardly an people, and super warm.  I love how there are no waves along the keys due to a large coral reef about a mile out in the Atlantic.  It was absolutely perfect for Daxton to run around and play.  He could have stayed there all day if we would have let him!

Within a few minutes Daxton had sat right down in the ocean, fully clothed, without a swim diaper, without a care in the world...
He is so my child!

He loved to run from the sand out into the ocean and kept doing it over and over again.

My amazingly loving and generous parents

Daxton wanted to join grandma and grandpa for pictures.
Daxton was so excited to be holding Mara and Liam's butterfly and pinwheel.  He kept trying to "help" them swim.

I was so sad to not be in my swim suit, but we still had fun playing in the shallows and splashing around.  I have been blessed with the most amazing family.  Daxton's such a sweet little buddy!

Ending with my favorite picture from our Florida Keys adventure...

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