My husband and I are part of a group of four couples that go on a vacation together every year. It can be hard to find something everyone agrees on, and some people are pretty insistent that we go back to the same place year after year. Thankfully, that doesn’t happen, but it doesn’t make the decision process any less awkward. This year was especially tense when somebody brought up Key West, Florida.
The loudest votes of dissent came from those who only knew of the island through the song “Margaritaville.” They had no interest in spending seven days on a bar crawl, which was how they described it. My husband was interested in the island, however, so he did some research and put together a five minute presentation that he emailed to everyone. When they all watched it, the decision became unanimous.
There was a day spent for golfing for some and shopping for others (and it didn’t break down the way you might think). For those who didn’t want to go fishing, sleeping in and a spa was on the agenda. We had a chance to visit art galleries, even see live theater and dine at several exceptional Key West restaurants.
I wouldn’t necessarily call it the highlight of the trip, but certainly a big layer of icing on the cake – or merengue on the key lime pie – was when we actually participated in a bar crawl, visiting several of the famous bars and hearing stories about their history. What made it especially gratifying was seeing how much fun the original dissenters had meeting other people on the crawl and having a blast.
My wife and I knew we wanted a wedding that was equal parts fun and simple, something that everyone could enjoy. The more we talked about it though, the less simple it seemed to be. We could feel it starting to overwhelm us, so we put a moratorium on discussing it for a week while we regrouped. Sometime during that week she saw an ad for Key West, Florida and thought that might be the solution.
When she brought it up to me, we looked into everything the island had to offer. We realized that it was easy to get to in a variety of different ways, and there were plenty of different types of hotels and inns to choose from. With July being the slower season, rates would be lower and availability would be greater. Since we were having this discussion in January, we decided that gave everyone, including us, enough time to make plans.
The only thing we did before we chose the date and sent out the invitations was look through the Key West restaurants and decide which one we’d have the reception at. Once the day was picked, we were just like everyone else: looking for a great deal on hotel and airfare. Since there was almost no planning involved, it kind of felt like we were eloping. Even a couple of days before we left it almost hadn’t hit us that we were getting married. But when we showed up at the beach with the justice of the peace and one hundred invited guests, we knew we’d made the right decision.
My company is pretty laid back when it comes to summertime. We typically slow down, so as a bonus, the boss splits shifts each week, meaning every other workweek is only four days long. We don’t get paid for the day off, but it doesn’t count against our vacation time, so it works out okay. As soon as the schedule came out, my girlfriend and I put circles around all of my three day weekends so we could make plans. Most were local festivals or just getting away for a night, but the big one was a trip to Key West, Florida.
He had been once a couple years earlier, but that was only on a cruise and we knew we needed to see more of it. Granted, we didn’t think we’d see enough of Key West on a three day weekend, but we knew we could get the most out of our time. We actually left Thursday night, spending the night in Miami, so we could catch the first flight in the next morning. That meant by nine am on Friday we were debating which of the Key West restaurants we should be having breakfast at.
We spent the next three days loving our tropical island vacation. We made sure not to try and rush anything, but rather enjoy all that we were doing. That meant plenty of time spent at the beach, many hours listening to live original music, and visiting as many Key West restaurants as we could to get our fill of fresh seafood before we had to leave Monday evening. It was easily the best weekend of our summer.
My wife and I, our idea of a fun vacation sounds a little dull to most people we know. We like to explore important locations in the country’s history. We still go out to nice restaurants and nightclubs while on vacation, but the original destination is chosen by wanting to learn more about its place in our country’s growth.
A few years ago, two items came to our attention that made us consider Key West as a possible destination vacation. One was the centennial celebration of Henry Flagler’s railroad across the ocean (now the Overseas Highway) and the second was the upcoming 500 year celebration of Ponce de Leon first discovering the Florida Keys. Neither my wife nor I knew much about Key West outside of its reputation as a party town, but the more research we did, the more we learned about its unique place in history.
For instance, even though Florida was a Confederate State, Key West managed to remain supportive of the Union. We also learned that at different times in its history, it was both the richest city in the country and one of the first to declare bankruptcy. It was home to some of the most influential artists and writers, and was one of the pioneering cities when it came to gay rights.
Seven days was not nearly enough to explore all of the history Key West had to offer. Part of that problem stemmed from all the great Key West restaurants we had to choose from, and their leisurely lunches and decadent dinners. In fact, much to the surprise of our friends, we’ve already booked a vacation back next year.
My husband always wanted to get married in Key West. I always wanted a traditional church wedding in June. Much to the shock and surprise of our friends and family, we each got we wanted, and it turned out to be a magical time.
We had been on vacation to Key West a couple of times while dating when he brought up the idea of a tropical island destination wedding. We had started talking about marriage but not about our plans. Needless to say, this caught me off guard. I had imagined a big wedding in a church, followed by fun relaxed reception. I couldn’t possibly see myself abandoning all of that, but I didn’t think there would be much of a way to compromise. Instead of letting it blow up into something big, he proposed a compromise. Since it included a vacation, I was game.
We returned to Key West that June. We certainly did all the fun things we loved to do down there, but we also took the time to explore the life of the island. We even found our denomination’s church and talked to the pastor about having a wedding there. Discovering how easy it would be to arrange it was like the first domino falling. Soon everything else started falling into place.
The following summer we returned with 120 of our closest friends. The wedding was everything I had always pictured in my head with one stunning difference: a beautiful beachside tropical sunset that we took our pictures in front of before going off to the reception.
I think I’m the only girl who didn’t have a dream wedding planned out in her mind. I knew I would like to be married someday, but the marriage itself seemed far more important than the wedding day itself. That was when my fiancé suggested Key West as a tropical island wedding, I said “Sure, why not?” We’d both been there on vacation, separately as well as when we were dating, we both liked it, and it would be a nice change of atmosphere for us and our friends.
I was definitely excited about getting married, and as we went around the island with our wedding planner, I certainly had opinions of what I wanted and didn’t want, but maybe because I had never built it up in my head, it never became super overwhelming. That all changed on the morning of the wedding.
If I had scripted the day, it could not have been more perfect. The weather was warm, but the breezes were blowing all day so it felt relaxing. The ceremony on the beach was perfect, with the sun setting behind several sailboats. The reception, on an outdoor dining patio under the stars with fresh seafood and key lime pie, went off without a hitch, and afterwards, a few of us were even up for a little karaoke on the Duval crawl.
It wasn’t until I went to bed that night, my first as a married woman, that I realized how perfect my Key West dream wedding had been. Certainly, some of it had to do with everything that beautiful island has to offer, but a lot of what made it perfect was the guy snoring in bed next to me.
For years I have always been taking the same summer vacation. Problem is, so has apparently everyone else, and they all want to be there at the same time. The moments of relaxation have become so few and far between as the crowds have grown that it just hasn’t been worth it the last few years. This year I decided to do something radically different. Instead of heading north into the mountains, I decided to go south to Key West. I so made the right decision.
From the moment I switched planes and saw only a dozen other people flying to the southernmost island I knew I was in for a treat. Sure enough, when I checked in, the hotel clerk told me they were only at about half capacity. That meant I got to sit by the pool and not be bothered, have my choice of any of the Key West restaurants and not have to wait for a table, and got to know all of my bartenders on a first name basis in about two days’ time.
Naturally, when I got back to work and people asked where I went, they all said I must be crazy to go to Key West in the summertime. That was when I pointed out the average temperature down there had actually been less than what it was the same week at the resort I used to visit every year. Of course, now I wonder if I shouldn’t have told them that. I don’t want them crowding up Key West next year.