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Touring the US East Coast - Day 4

Written By:
Alain Kasteleyn
February 5, 2014

Today we are making our way to Miami and then on to The Florida Keys, hopefully to find sunshine and warmth! We are feeling a little sad to be leaving Washington DC as we’ve had such a good time here, and realise there’s so much more to see and discover.

We left the Palomar Hotel at 8am for the short drive to Washington National (or Ronald Reagan Airport), also known as ‘DCA’. It took around 20 minutes by taxi to get there. It’s possible to use the Metro and get directly to DCA Airport, but with the bags we felt a taxi was the best option.

The airport was small and very conveniently situated for national flights. We were flying with American Airlines to Miami. The check-in staff were friendly, the process was very smooth and we were soon through security and heading for the Admirals Lounge (we were booked to fly first class, so got the use of the airport lounge). The lounge was fairly small but had so many windows that it was great to just sit there and watch planes coming and going. We decided a bloody Mary was in order, so used the two drinks coupons given to us for two very nicely made drinks!

We went down to the gate on time for boarding and we were surprised to find everybody else on-board already. We were flying on a 737-800 aircraft. After making ourselves comfortable, we were handed a pre-take off drink of orange juice or water. If you wanted to access your e-mails you could do this using American Airlines’ Internet - Wi-Fi, which was available on-board for $20 per flight, or $40 for a month (quite good if you take lots of flights and have business to attend to - Otherwise a book is always a good option!) You could even stream movies on to your own device from 99 cents. I decided to try this and downloaded an episode of ‘Chicago Fire’. It was easy to access the library, pay and get streaming. Plus if you don’t finish watching you have 24 hours after the flight to do this.

The service started with an aperitif, followed by a choice of chicken salad or turkey sandwich and a glass of wine. About 45 minutes before landing, we were handed warm cookies and coffee. The arrival in Miami was very smooth and our bags were waiting as we got to the baggage claim.

We had not been to Miami Airport for a few years and were surprised to see that the place had changed quite a bit; You could now get to the Car Rental offices by using the ‘People Mover’, which was basically a shuttle train straight from the Airport to the Car Rental Offices themselves. Here you could either pick up your car or jump onto the Metro and head into the city. All new and different, and very convenient!

We had reserved an SUV (larger than a saloon car, but not as big as something like a Range Rover), which would be solid and comfortable to drive, and we used the automatic machines to confirm the reservation. We then headed to the car park and chose the car we wanted; we picked a white Jeep, checked round it and loaded the bags into the back. Then it was time to get Betsy working. Who’s Betsy you may ask? Well she’s the pet name for our Sat-nav, and she’s pretty good on the directions front! We planned to head to the Dolphin Mall and do a bit of shopping en route to The Keys.

Dolphin Mall is very large and contains all the brands and factory stores you could ever need, and you basically go from shop to shop by car, just driving round huge car parks! After some retail therapy we were ready to head to The Florida Keys and our destination, Islamorada. Betsy calculated the route, told us it would take about one hour thirty. She was on the ball! And we set off.

Islamorada is very well known as the fishing paradise within the Keys, slightly more upscale than Key Largo and Marathon, and well worth a stop-over on the way to Key West, as it’s at the halfway point. We soon arrived at our destination, Cheeca Lodge, and we were blown away! The place was one huge resort. Calm, lots of trees, space and stunning buildings. We checked in and were offered a suite overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. The staff were super-friendly and we were made to feel really welcome.

The room we had was massive, and had a balcony, with an outdoor bath, looking out to sea. Amazing! The bathroom had a large walk-in shower, lots of storage space, two sinks and double sliding doors that opened into the main room. We caught the sunset, which was stunning, and then headed to one of the on-site restaurants for dinner. We chose the Italian one and had some nice pasta and a good glass of red wine. After that it was getting pretty late, so we hit our beds so that we’d be ready for the following day!

**Alain’s top tips**

  1. Consider renting or buying your own sat-nav. This has proved invaluable on all trips we’ve made.
  2. For a few dollars extra you can hire a larger car. Fuel is a third of the price compared to home, and you can drive more comfortably and safely.
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