Day #18 - The Long and not so Winding Road!

Today was the first long drive of our trip. We were relocating from Captiva Island on the west coast of Florida to Key West, which is the furthest island from the mainland in the Florida Keys island chain. As the crow flies this is a distance of 108 miles. However, the driving route is a little less direct and is 320 miles and takes about six hours. The route crosses the state to the eastern side and we skirted Miami before heading south for a bit and then finally west again. 

The Florida Keys are a chain of subtropical islands that stretch southwest from the southern tip of the Florida peninsula,. The Keys are home to the third-largest coral reef system in the world, as well as a diverse range of marine life, including dolphins, manatees, sea turtles, and over 600 species of fish.

We are staying in Key West which is the southernmost city in the United States and it is known for its vibrant nightlife, eclectic shops, and historic sites. So you can see why we're visiting. Oh yes, we are staying in our first gay hotel - La te Da, a fabulously friendly and beautifully appointed hotel right in the heart of the historic centre. 
Before we got to the hotel however, we had to drive from the mainland across the 42 connecting bridges that link the Keys together - the longest one is seven miles long! We totally underestimated the length of this leg of the journey. We knew it was an impressive route, with its dramatic scenery and huge bridges but we didn't expect that it takes over two hours to get to the furthest point!
As went from island to island along the Overseas Highway (or US-1) we did run into a sudden changes in weather. At one point you could see a wall of rain ahead - literally a sheet of water ahead where it was dry one metre in front of it and total downpour once you crossed into it. Wiper blades were on full speed, headlights on etc. And just as quickly as it started, it stopped and it was sunny again. 
We finally arrived at the marvelous hotel and were given the warmest of welcomes, not only by the receptionist, but the hotel manager, the barmaid, the entertainer... They all made us feel right at home straight away. 
After settling in, we headed to the bar (well, you would wouldn't you?!) and started to introduce ourselves before enjoying a wonderful evening meal in the hotel's restaurant. We dined outside beside the pool and were treated not only to a delicious meal but a longtime internet friend of James' who recommended the hotel to us, arranged for a surprise bottle of bubbly for us. A most generous and delightful surprise that really made the evening so special. As did the birthday candle I was brought since it had slipped out that I have a birthday coming up!