Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Key West, Florida - A Vacation to Remember

Just head straight south from Miami. . .

A few years ago, we visited Key West, at the southernmost tip of Florida.  The Old Flagler bridge is off to the side as you travel from the mainland to the tip of the eastern US.  Originally a rail bridge, it's now a reminder of times past.

Taking the Overseas Highway (US Route 1) through Key Largo, Islamorada, the Seven mile bridge, Marathon Key, and the Lower Keys, we arrived after three hours or so of driving.  We were staying in 'Old Town' in Key West.

Key West Residence in Old Town by DG Hudson

Imagine an island getaway with warm breezes, situated between the Gulf of Mexico and the Straits of Florida.  That's Key West.  John James Audubon, Ernest Hemingway, Mel Fisher (sunken treasure), and others have visited here or have made this city their home. We went on a self-guided walk down Duval street, with side trips through the Audubon house and the Hemingway House (see below).  We were there in late May, so it wasn't crowded.  There's Sloppy Joe's - a Hemingway hangout, usually full, Capt'n Ted's, Hog's Breath Saloon and others, along with many restaurants in renovated heritage houses.  We tried some of the local food at the Schooner Cove Bar as we listened to music and watched the charter boats bob in the water near the wharf. 

Tour and cruise boats in Schooner Cove, Key West by DG Hudson

Sailing off Key West

We had booked a midnight sailing cruise which was cancelled, but we were able to transfer our booking to a dinner cruise on a tall-masted ship.  A musician sang sailing songs accompanied by a squeeze-box.  Once we were on the open water, with the wind in the sails, the music seemed to fit in perfectly.  One couple had booked their wedding to be performed by the captain during the cruise, after which everyone was offered champagne or beer and conch chowder.  We sailed until sunset, then headed back, waving at those on the pier hoisting their glasses to another day's end.

Key West Sunset over the pier by DG Hudson

The Dry Tortugas:  a former Prison and a Park

Our next day dawned rainy, but the catamaran trip we booked was rain-or-shine to the Dry Tortugas, an old pirate hangout.  'Dry' was added to the name to advise that no fresh water was available.  It was a choppy day on the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.  We took gravol to counter the side effects and were grateful we did.  This is called an adventure cruise for a reason. 

Arches of Fort Jefferson, the Dry Tortugas by DG Hudson

During the trip, we talked to a lady in her sixties who swims with manatees as part of her job, writes articles on Florida and kept us amused with her tales.  No momentos (from prison or beach) can be taken from the Dry Tortugas National Park.  There's a history attached to Fort Jefferson, a prison which had only one famous prisoner.  I'll include the links below.  The fort was undergoing restoration on damage due to age and weather when we visited.

Fort Jefferson lighthouse on top of restored section, by DG Hudson

New foods we tried:

Conch chowder, Conch salad,  (Conch = conk, hard c), wild boar back ribs, key lime pie and gator bites.  Check the web site calendar of events to see what's planned.  Key West is home to many unique contests, so do your research beforehand if you want to catch one.  A colorful city with a colorful past, Key West has an updated 'Old Town' with many  boutique hotels.  Our renovated hotel, the Key Lime Inn, situated on one of the main residential streets of Old Town, offered a free buffet breakfast by the pool, and a second floor porch with rocking chairs (for sitting and sipping). Bicycles and scooters are widely used and available for rent.

About Hemingway. . .

Ernest Hemingway lived here during part of his life, penning novels in a picturesque, airy two-story house showcasing some of his special belongings and period furniture used by the family.  See my post, Hemingway's Hideaway, for details about the house, the man, and the polydactyl cats.


Have you visited Key West, Florida?  Did you know Hemingway lived here during the time he wrote several novels?  Has anyone visited the Dry Tortugas, 70 miles off Key West?  Ever had real key lime pie?


References:  Facts about Key West  The Overseas Highway,_Florida Fort Jefferson, current park  Overseas Railroad, or the Florida East Coast Railway  Hemingway, the Legend