Back To The Florida Keys? (In 4 Parts)

When I was a kid growing up in the Northeast more than a few years ago, I thought Florida was the promised land, paradise and the most exotic place I could imagine – all rolled up in one. I was in my twenties before I ever made it there but I had long dreamed of turquoise water, coral reefs, palm trees and warm tropical weather. Later I visited Florida a few times on business and on a vacation and my dreams remained intact. About forty years ago we relocated to Ft. Lauderdale with a job. While there are more than a few people who don’t care for Florida, we loved it.

At the time we moved to Florida, Ft. Lauderdale airport was a single, one-story cinderblock building with twelve parking meters out front. The movie “Where the Boys Are” was still inspiring spring-break college students to the degree that we wouldn’t even try to get to the beach during spring-break because of the traffic and mobs. By late June each year many neighborhoods were all but abandoned and restaurants, if they were open, had few customers. Jump ahead a couple of decades and things have really changed. More business meant more employees. More employees meant more families and that meant more children and all that meant a growing year-round economy. Things were changing and not all for the better.

When I was in the Navy I was a diver and fell in love with coral reefs. In all the forty-eight mainland states only Florida offers coral reefs. If you’ve never glided over or thru a coral reef you have missed one of life’s great experiences and you should try it as quickly as you can. Many people plan trips to tropical places for the beaches and warm water but for very little extra money and effort a coral reef is only a short swim away.

The main attractions in Florida are fishing, boating, beach-combing and diving. Everything is focused on the water. After we moved to Florida, for a number of years every Sunday morning would find us at the beach. It started with breakfast and the Sunday paper, progressed to beach combing and sunbathing and ended with an onshore dive at a nearby reef. It just didn’t get any better than that.

Soon we discovered the Florida Keys and now we had a get-away place for weekends. In those days summer was the best time to go to “the Keys”. Like the rest of Florida, summer was off-season and hotels were cheap. As Florida residents we could frequently find deals at four star hotels that included breakfast and dinner for two for less than a hundred dollars a day! The Keys were everything we loved about Florida and more.

Just recently we spent a week in the Florida Keys. With the exception of Key West it has been over ten years since we’ve been in the Keys and that was way too long. Last September hurricane Irma rolled over the southern Keys as a category four storm. That explains the question mark in this title. Category four hurricanes are incredibly destructive and it always takes time to recover. Part of this trip was to see what progress has been made. This post is presented in four parts:

  1. An Introduction To The Florida Keys
  2. Key West, A Different Sort of Place 
  3. Where to Dine In The Keys (coming soon)
  4. Is It Time To Visit The Keys Again? (coming soon)

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Seattle’s Pike Place Market

 

 

Seattle’s Pike Place Market

Many cities have farmers markets and open-air venues where growers and craftsmen sell their goods. Over the years many have become local institutions and some boast regional reputations but there is only one Pike Place Market.

When you come to Seattle some time at the market is a must. On our first family visit to this city we spent an afternoon at Pike’s Place Market. We visited the aquarium, my wife bought flowers and we left with a bundle of steamed Dungeness crab for a feast back at our hotel. We’ve been to Seattle a number of times since and have always made time for a visit to Pike’s Place.

Pike Place Market has been a part of Seattle’ story for a long time. Leading up to the summer of 1907 the rapid growth of the city had produced a system of wholesalers who had taken control of the buying and selling of fisherman’s catches, farm produce, dairy products and dozens of other commodities. They had over the previous years driven retail prices up in the boom-town while reducing their wholesale costs. The situation was growing out of control when Seattle City Councilman, Thomas Revelle put forward a proposal where the city would create a public market where fisherman, farmers and citizens could come to sell and buy goods directly in an open market.

Beginning on August 17, 1907, crowds of shoppers seeking fish, produce and hard goods flocked to the new marketplace. In just weeks, dozens of sellers were gathering daily to sell along the created road named Pike Place.

Frank Goodwin, who had made a fortune in the Klondike Gold Rush, began building the permanent structures that make up the Market and it continues today as a thriving and exciting place to visit and shop along the Seattle waterfront.

 

The Port of Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam

 

General Information – Ho Chi Minh City, as it is officially called, is a sprawling city located on the delta of the Dong Nai River but even locals still call it by its original name, Saigon. With the rapid industrialization recently of Vietnam a number of port facilities have been built along the channels of the Dong Nai River and usually they are referred to by the name the name of the nearest town Phu My. Currently there are a number of locations where cruise ships can dock. These are all working industrial ports where cruise terminals are generally not available but Vietnam is planning expansion to meet this demand.

Ho Chi Minh Skyline
Ho Chi Minh Skyline

The SPCT Port is one of the locations where cruise ships have docked and is about fifteen to twenty miles from Saigon. More recently ships are using the SP-PSA Saigon International Terminal which, by road, is over thirty miles from Saigon.

In either case there is virtually little within five miles of the dock area to accommodate visitors and getting into Saigon will require either a tour or a taxi. Most cruise ships offer tours into Saigon as well as down to the Mekong River and more.

Transportation – Most cruise passengers take advantage of buses arranged by their ships. Usually taxis are available and a one-way trip into Ho Chi Minh will cost about 700,000 Dong or about US$30 (be sure and confirm the price before starting out). Additionally Uber is becoming popular in Vietnam so if you are inclined refer to your app. We have heard that Uber drivers are somewhat scarce near the port though but common in town.

Showroom on Dong Khoi St.
Showroom on Đồng Khởi St.

Currency – Currently the US Dollar is worth about 23,000 Vietnamese Dong but the good news is the Vietnamese gladly accept American Dollars.

Attractions – The primary destination is Saigon where you will find the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Central Post Office, the War Remnants Museum, Independence Palace and many cultural centers. Saigon is a shopper’s paradise with bargains at every turn. The city has a number of major markets with An Đông Market being the most popular for general merchandise. There is also Đồng Khởi Street and surrounds for upscale shopping and restaurants.

Be sure and see more at Visiting Saigon.

Cruise Ports of Call

Often novice cruisers never give much thought to the details of ports they will be visiting. Even experienced cruisers are often so involved with the overall planning of a trip they overlook those important port details.

On our next cruise are there any tender ports? Are there ports that don’t allow walking out? Are there facilities on the pier? Is a port wheelchair accessible? Often cruise ships are not that free with information on upcoming ports of call and it would be helpful if you knew ahead of time if there are going to be challenges.

We’ve begun going thru our trip notes to build a section devoted just to port information and highlights. We hope you find it useful.

Also, If you would like to contribute please email us at TheIntentionalTraveler@gmx.com

North America
Caribbean
Latin America

Guatamala

Europe
The Pacific & Down Under

 

Asia

Cruise Port Quebec City

Old Quebec City is on a number of fall cruise itineraries. Starting in New York or Boston these cruises visit a number of New England and Canadian Maritime ports, go up the St. Lawrence Seaway, usually with fall leaves in full glory, and spend a day or two in Quebec City. The old city is full of historic sites, art galleries, good restaurants and beautiful scenery.

Where the Ships Dock – There is a modern cruise ship terminal on the riverfront along with a good length of docking space right in front of the Old Quebec neighborhood.

Transportation – Since Old Quebec is not that large an area and cruise ships will usually dock right in town, walking is the usual way to see the sights. The town does have a geography that rises steeply from the river so be prepared for a little climb. The city does have an alternative to the steepest climb though. The Old Quebec Funicular is a funicular railway in Old Quebec. It links the Haute-Ville to the Basse-Ville, climbing at a 45-degree angle, it covers a total distance of 64 meters.

Taxis – There are a number of taxi companies and generally they do not cruise for fares. They usually are available at the cruise ships or you call and they will send a car:

  • Taxi Coop Québec 418-525-5191
  • Taxi Coop Sainte-Foy-Sillery 418-653-7777
  • Taxi Laurier 418-651-2727

Uber – As of this writing you can make use of Uber from the cell phone app.

Rentals Cars – Readily available and a practical way to visit areas farther out from downtown.

Public Transit (local buses) – Réseau de transport de la capitale (RTC) serves Québec City. The Parcours 11 route serves Upper Town and the Old Port area and the ferry terminal.

Ferry – The ferry links Québec City and Lévis and runs 7 days a week, 365 days a year. It sails on the hour and half-hour during the day and every hour at night.

Money – Quebec uses the Canadian Dollar currently worth about 76¢ U.S. Also, do not count being able to use U.S. Dollars but credit cards are welcome.

 

 

Attractions –

  • Notre Dame des Victoires Church – a small Roman Catholic stone church in the Lower Town of Quebec City. Construction was started in 1687 on the site of Champlain’s habitation and was completed in 1723
  • The Historic Petit Champlain District – a neighbourhood in Quebec City, Canada. It is located in the district of Vieux-Québec–Cap-Blanc–colline Parlementaire in the borough La Cité-Limoilou – located near Place Royale. Its main street is the Rue du Petit-Champlain at the foot of Cap Diamant. It is the oldest commercial district in North America
  • The Port, Marina and City Market Area
  • The Musée de la Civilisation. – A modern Museum of Civilization located near the port.

The Port of Palma de Mallorca

Mallorca is the largest of Spains Balearic Islands and a major vacation destination for many western and northern Europeans attracted to its beautiful beaches.

Cathedral of St. Mary

Palma is an ancient port with architecture showing the influence of Christians and Moors in its castles, fortifications, cathedrals and in the winding streets of the old town. If you like to walk this is a great place to spend time exploring. The city is also famous for its many excellent tapas bars and restaurants.

Where You Will Dock – Palma de Mallorca has two areas where cruise ships dock. Most cruise ships will dock at Estacio Maritime which has a modern terminal and is about four miles from the old historic district. If that port is full your ship will dock in the industrial area at Porto Pi which is six miles from the old city. While the Porto pi facility doesn’t have the modern terminal it does have a major shopping mall just a short walk outside the port entrance. Both ports will allow passengers to walk out but in either case it is a good hike into town.

Palma Marina and waterfront

Transportation – Most ships provide shuttle service into the town center for about $15 round trip.

Public transportation is provided by a number of private bus lines that cover the island. Information about schedules and routes can be found at the TIB website . One popular destination is the beach resort area of Palmanova with regular bus service provided from the port areas on bus numbers 105 and 106 for around three Euros each way.

Taxis – In the city and around the port taxis are readily available. A taxi to Palmanova or the airport would cost about twenty five Euros.

Castell de Bellver

Money – The Euro is the local currency and credit cards are generally accepted.

Attractions

Castell de Bellver is a fourteenth century circular castle set on a wooded hilltop overlooking Palma, home to the city’s history museum.

Cathedral of St. Mary of Palma is a Gothic cathedral overlooking the sea, with a vast rose window & wrought-iron canopy by Gaudí. It was built on the site of a Moorish Mosque and was begun by King James I of Aragon in 1229 and is one of the tallest cathedrals in Europe.

Miro Museum and Workshops where Miro painted and sculpted from the 1950s to the 1980s and houses a number of permanent and visiting exhibits.

Beach Resorts. Six to eight miles down the coast from the port are the beach resorts of Palmanova. The resorts are located around three beautiful bays, Playa Son Matias, Playa de Palmanova and Playa Es Carregador.