Normally, I'm somewhat like Switzerland. I like to stay neutral on most subjects. But, for this upcoming holiday, I'm going to make a stand. I'm officially declaring the Florida Keys as one of the best places in the world to spend Valentine's Day.
Whether you're in a relationship that has lasted longer than Donald Trump's hairstyle or in a brand new relationship that seems as perfect as a puppy -- before it pees on the floor -- Valentine's Day is always better if you spend it in the Florida Keys.
The most obvious reason for my argument is because it's technically a paradise. We have all the required ingredients for a paradise... flowing palm trees, turquoise water, warm weather, exotic birds and animals, happy people, abundant food like fish, fruit, etc. -- all right at our fingertips. Paradise.
Another big argument in my favor is our casual dress code. Picture a couple in a big city going to dinner for Valentine's Day. The man wears tight shoes, a business suit and a tie. The woman wears spiked heels, nylons and, more than likely, Spanx. Now picture a couple in the Keys, dressed in island wear (i.e. mostly breathable cotton) such as shorts or a sundress and, of course, comfortable footwear. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out which couple would have a more relaxed, romantic experience before and AFTER their Valentine's dinner. Casual clothing is easier to get off, if nothing else.
And, while we're on the subject of relaxation... nothing can beat the Keys. There is no real traffic or traffic lights that can cause underlying stress on the way to that ultimate Valentine's dinner. Of course, the atmosphere gets even better out of the car. Our music is mostly island upbeat and the air carries a salty Plumeria scent infused with some Jasmine and star fruit. Heavenly.
Okay, I know I'm sounding like I'm pitching a travel brochure. Let's move on to the grittier side of reality. Impressing a loved one requires the fine art of "attraction." In other words, you have to look good. Again, problem solved. First, find a pelican. Standing next to a dorky looking pelican makes anyone look better. Or, keep an eye out for a manatee because, aside from the thrill of spotting one, most of us are skinnier than manatees. Win/win.
If you can't find a pelican or a manatee, go for the sunset angle. NO ONE LOOKS BAD IN A FLORIDA KEYS SUNSET. It's a law. And, while you're enjoying the sunset, watch for a dolphin. Not to get back to the corny brochure pitch, but any moment becomes magical when you see one.
Traditionally, Valentine's Day requires chocolates and flowers. Don't get me started on my favorite Key Largo Chocolates. It can't be beat. And flowers surround us everywhere here, which means our local flower shops, like Petals With Pizzazz, have a major edge over the 1-800-Boringbuds out there.
Another expected Valentine tradition is the obligatory romantic dinner. It's hard NOT to find a great restaurant here. My 50-pound weight gain proves this point. But, if you prefer your Valentine dinners a little more low-key, it's just as easy to catch a fish, pick some fruit and have a picnic on any boat you can find... even a kayak. Again, make sure it's during sunset though. Any floating vessel will work during sunset. (Key word here to my husband - FLOATING.)
Of course, there are a lot of proposals on Valentine's Day, and water is the perfect setting to make this once-in-a-lifetime (we hope) unforgettable. Again, a floating vessel is great for proposals <\#209> though I'd personally upgrade from a kayak for this particular event. Presenting a ring with the sun glistening on the sparkly waves is the perfect background for any proposal.
Or, better yet, propose underwater because everything looks bigger underwater and your engagement ring will look ginormous. An underwater proposal is a great story to pass on to future kids or judgmental in-laws-to-be.
Finally, because the Keys are so small, if your "honey" does anything special, the entire town knows about it. It makes it all very sweet, and again, beats out big cities where even grand gestures are missed. For example, my friend put a loving message on a rented billboard for his wife. Unfortunately, it was in a big city where most people drove by it wondering what idiot would pay for something like that when no one really knew him and thus, it didn't hold much of an impact.
This is where it gets sticky because, if you put your wife's face on a billboard here in the Keys, it would definitely cause a reaction (just ask The Naked Carpet Guy.) Particularly from your wife.
But that's the beauty. Here in the Keys, you don't need to go billboard big. It's almost enough to be here in paradise surrounded by pelicans and manatees and fruit trees. (Key word here to my husband - ALMOST! Um, honey, hit Florida Keys Jewelry. Joel knows what I want.)
Which brings us to the ultimate argument as to why celebrating Valentine's in the Keys is superior. All of the local storeowners know what your wives want <\#209> wink, wink.
Have a very special weekend everyone.
Jana Vandelaar has worked as a freelance writer in the Keys with a loving family, fun friends and smelly pups for more than 20 years. Check out her website at www.janavandelaar.com for more books available online or 'Like' her Facebook page at JanabananaINK for daily smiles about life as she sees and lives it. If you enjoy her articles, Jana has a book titled, "ONLY IN THE KEYS, Snort-Laughing Stories About Life In The Florida Keys." This is a fun book full of Jana's most popular articles written for The Reporter since 2008. It's available at Randy's Florida Keys Gifts, MM 102.4 or at Hooked On Books, MM 81.9.