Key West – Day 3

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Remaining assumptions regarding Key West to be challenged:

1. Parking would be a problem.

2. It would be an artsy community.

3. The homeless would be abundant and, not to offend, a nuisance.

4. Duval Street would be as seedy and off-smelling as Bourbon St.

5. Key Lime Pie would be good, but not anything special.

I awoke early, ready to make use of the morning light for taking photographs.  As my wife remained in her slumber, I walked.  And walked.  It’s just that kind of town. 

You get a different sense of a place when the hustle and bustle are at low tide.  There is free parking available in the main tourist areas, if you get up early and park for the day.  For people staying in historic area, it’s just made for walking.  Sure, some rent bicycles or scooters, but it’s really not needed.

One of the iconic attractions of Key West is the Conch Tour Train. This is a guided tour of the island showing the sights, history, and local color.  There are many of these trains constantly going  around, but I was surprised to see that they were all full at an early hour.  A fewConch Tour Train blocks this and that a way later, and I found that 2 cruise ships had arrived.

I also found a craft show, an annual affair hosting an assortment of artisans in their white tents along a street.  This was not something I was excited to find, but rather something I felt obligated to report to my wife, a crafter for 10 years.  No surprise, I would later find out that she knew two exhibitors pretty well.

I took a sufficient number of photos to pat myself on the back for actually sticking to an early morning intention.  All the photos can be found HERE (some with commentary), but I’ll just highlight a few here for the fun of it.

Blue Sophia Jewelry, just off Duval St.  The sign indicates Atocha Coins, 14 kt Gold, Diamond, Emerald, Ruby, Sapphire, Jewelry Repair…  Well, okay.  I’m not going to doubt the abilities of anyone who manages to keep a lease, regardless of the size of the space.

But… three gigantic propane tanks?  Christmas lights across the roofline?  Are we expecting evening clients?  And how about those display windows?  Despite the variety of folk who visit the Keys, I didn’t see any that were 8’ tall.  But, hey, perhaps high windows are a wise and overlooked means of preventing theft.  And thank you for the potted plant, it’s very inviting.

And here is a Banyan Tree, appropriately located in front of the Banyan Resort. This is one unusual tree, where a type of fig seed is left by a bird on the branches of a host tree.  The seeds drop roots all the way to the ground, eventually enveloping the host tree as well as providing additional trunk US Hwy 1, MM 0 supports for the limbs, such as the one on the right of the picture (a driveway cuts between).  I’m only surprised I didn’t see this first in Avatar.

Wandering around, I only saw two homeless people.  One was distracted, and the other seemed quite content with his companion dog.  Throughout our stay, none begged, stamped a cane, rattled a cup, or anything.  In Atlanta, I would have been asked, followed, and eventually cursed.  But Key  West is, after all, literally the end of the road for some even as it’s a beginning for others.


One surprise of our trip was the number of chickens running around.  During my walk, more than a few offered their cockle doodle dos, and while I was, of course, amused, I felt sorry for those in B&B’s who had intended to sleep in.  The one at right had just finished his early morning shopping at a retailer. 

As it happens, I also passed a friendly hostess and a tempting menu.  Shortly, I would return with my wife to Two Friends Patio Restaurant.

Now we’re talking.  Eggs, peppers, onions, potatoes, toast and a Coke on the rocks.  A Scrambled Supreme, the breakfast of champions.

We began full tourist mode afterwards, visiting galleries, buying $5 T-shirts, and generally exploring Duval St., presented below in its morning glory.

Duval St., Key West, FL

A consensus recommendation for us was to visit the Hemingway Home.  As the son of a history professor, I naturally rebel against such, but I was actually interested as Hemingway and Key West are inseparably linked.

It was a very worthwhile tour, and we once again were fortunate to have a great guide (as we heard others with groups afterwards).  I have other Hemingway Home pictures on Flickr, but my favorite is one my wife took as we toured the bedroom.

Hemingway’s 6 toed cats are rather famous, but it was completely unexpected that they had the run of the House in addition to the grounds.  The chain discouraging people from touching the bedspread (or, laying on the bed) is, in context, rather hilarious.  A welcome aspect for a historic site that depends on Hemingway Home Tour Guide admissions fees is that visitors were actually encouraged to take pictures.  It was well worth it.

One aspect of visiting Key West, whether kayaking, dining, ghost touring, historical site touring, or anything else are rather prominent reminders that Key West has a service economy.  Translated:  Tips are pleasantly mentioned, but expected.  Our tour guide at Hemingway Home was definitely worth one.

I’m also a sucker for lighthouses.  Located almost across the street from Hemingway’s is the Key West Lighthouse, built in 1847.  For $10, you get to climb the stairs.  Aside from general interest, it had an interesting marker.  #13 indicates Otto House, the original name of Artist House.  In parenthesis it says “Robert lived here.”  For those that doubt Ghost Tours, don’t mess with Robert.

Any trip to Key West requires a visit to the Southernmost point in the U.S.  Been there; done that.

After passing many other restaurants, we opted for lunch at Tony’s Cuban Cafe.  Once again, the service and food were awesome, and after two particularly minty Mojitos, it was once again… nap time.

We would later struggle to find a restaurant to find a dinner restaurant that could seat us, was not particularly thick with smoke, or overly loud with house bands (Sorry, Sloppy Joe’s).  We ultimately ended up at Guy Harvey’s, which was solid.  Our regret was not dining with another couple who seemed eager for dinner companions.  I think.

We once again walked around town, because, you can.  Duval St. was hopping, but not crazily.  I found Bourbon St. to be fairly disgusting and have to rank Duval St. far ahead of it, regardless of reputations for tawdry behavior.  And here’s two photos to illustrate my point:

Well done, drunkards! Street sweeper

And, finally, after so many meals, we searched for the culinary finish to our trip, the ubiquitous Key Lime Pie.  Several shops dedicate their craft to this dessert, and many restaurants claim to have been voted to have the best Key Lime Pie in Key West.  Of course.

Well, the one person we asked on the street said the Blonde Giraffe made the best, so it was to one of their five island locations that we ventured. 

Blonde Giraffe Key Lime Pie

Sure, ours was a limited statistical sampling, but their pie was the best. 

Yeah…the Keys.  We’ll be back.

1 comment :

  1. Pretty nice recap! Perhaps the next time I head down, I should take a wife. That said, I did enjoy Hemingway's bar (one of two that argued regarding their authenticity), the 6-toed cats, the local Hard Rock Cafe on Duval, and the mild cigars. I did, however, regret the drive to and from Miami, especially since my company was paying the freight. Thanks!