This travel gig isn’t so bad, as it turns out. After 30 years on the road (31 in June), I hit the jackpot this month. On New Year’s Eve, I headed for a true vacation in Hawaii with my best friend.
People often ask me, do you ever take vacations of your own? Real vacations, like kicking back and relaxing and all? No, not usually. A man who takes people on vacation for a living, at least this writer, is never quite at ease on vacation. More like “parade rest.” I confess I’m always on the lookout for that special culinary experience, the off-the-beaten-track attraction or the special person who can bring a destination to life. Indeed, while I was in Hawaii, I met with several hotels on Oahu and Kauai, along with a couple of new restaurants we will be including in this fall’s Hawaii tour (more about that in a future post).
But for the most part, I did live the life of leisure for ten days. Then, it was back to Sacramento, and after a few brief days to catch up in the office, it was time to take 25 travelers to Florida, and specifically to Key West.
Just about 150 miles down the Intracoastal Highway from Miami, Key West is one of the truly unique destinations on our continent. Indeed, it is the southernmost spot in the continental US. It is laid back, friendly and definitely unique.
This was my third visit in as many years, and I can’t wait to return with next year’s tour. We flew to Miami and overnighted, then spent a day exploring some of the classic Miami neighborhoods (Coral Gables and South Beach) before taking a short jet boat ride in the Everglades. After an overnight in Key Largo, at the Ramada, right on the marina (“Sailing away to Key Largo,” anyone?) and a glass bottom boat cruise of the only living coral reef off US coastline, we were on to Key West.
For four nights, our headquarters was the historic Crowne Plaza La Concha Hotel. While this isn’t Key West’s most luxurious accommodations, it is by far the best located, clean and comfortable. Right on the middle of famous Duval Street, with shops, restaurants, night clubs and even many island attractions a short walk from your door, it is the best choice for those who love to explore.
A couple of quick recommendations – The Butterfly Conservatory is the finest in the country. Lunch at Sloppy Joe’s is a must. Of course, you have to have the house specialty, the Sloppy Joe. It’s definitely a five-napkin experience. The Little White House, where Harry Truman and other presidents have held important meetings or just escaped from the business of Washington, DC, is a fascinating tour. If you enjoy watching a really authentic (and slightly racy) drag show, I highly recommend dinner and the show at La Te Da. It’s a Key West landmark and you’ll love the headliners in the show.
So, as we hop-scotch our way back across the country this evening, I can’t help but feel like a very lucky man. I’ve spent most of the month in wonderful places with wonderful people, missed the monsoon season at home and discovered some new hidden treasures. Can’t wait to share them all with you. Hawaii, Key West, ah yes, there’s nothing like island living (or even visiting)….and so it goes…