It’s December, which means two things:

One – Christmas is just around the corner. This year, my sisters voted to have James and I host the family Christmas Eve get-together. And no, we didn’t get a vote.

Two – our annual trek to Key West is almost here. This year’s is Friday to Friday, so when we come home, we’ll at least have a weekend to recover.

I’m not sure which one I look more forward to. Although after hosting family this year, the quiet of the resort on Fleming is going to be quite welcome.

One thing I do look forward to each year – and this year in Key West will be no different – is finding the places off the beaten path. No matter the location or the time of year – or even the number of times we’ve gone – there’s always a place we find by accident or at the recommendation of others.

A couple of years ago, that was a courtyard in New Orleans tucked behind Bevolo Gas & Electric Light’s lamp store on Royal. “Oh, there are more lamps in back.” led to that discovery. Although the lighting was wonderful (and Bevolo a company I recommend), I was far more interested in the courtyard than the lamps.

And during our first (and so far only) trip to San Francisco we were lucky to experience both a recommendation and a happy accident.

One day while walking around Coit Tower, we came across steps leading down through a garden. Little did we know these were the Filbert Steps. ( We just knew we wanted to get down the hill. What we didn’t know was just how high up we were, how many steps, or just how long it was going to take us to get down. However, the discovery was worth it just for the gardens. The view wasn’t bad either.

Which led to a recommendation we received came from a local we spent the evening hanging with in one of the clubs on Castro. “Have you guys gone up to Twin Peaks?” Of course we hadn’t, and the next night found us in his car driving up into the hills above SF. Did I mention we just met the night before? And didn’t our moms tell us not to get in cars with strangers?

Except the trip was well worth it. Standing there looking at San Francisco lit up at night was breathtaking. Especially seeing Market Street stretching to the Bay, knowing this was the street filled with people marching from The Castro to City Hall in memory of Harvey Milk and George Moscone.

Apparently the view during the day is great as well, but I don’t know that I would bother after seeing San Francisco at night.

I’m not sure what we’ll find in Key West in a few weeks. Sometimes it’s just finding the houses over-the-top-decorated for Christmas. But most likely someone will ask us if we’ve been to see “X” and we’ll find ourselves wandering off the beaten path, seeing a part of Key West most tourists never see.

Spotted Dog Architecture