I have a travel “bucket list,” (of sorts). One of the places on that bucket list has been the Florida Keys, and particularly, Key West. In January, we traveled to Key West for a long weekend. As can happen, it turned out to be a bit of an adventure.
From Fort Myers Beach, you can take a Ferry (The Key West Express) which will land you in Key West in about 4 hours. I have always thought of Key West as being south of Miami. It is more accurate to say it is southwest of Miami, and it is really further west than south (sounds like the beginning of a Jimmy Buffet song). And it is actually straight south from Ft. Myers Beach, so the ferry ride is a pretty straight shot right down the gulf. From Ft. Myer’s the drive is substantially longer and were were interested in getting there and back as quickly as possible. Personally, I don’t mind driving — especially when it is to new places. But my traveling companions; well, not so much. “Be careful what you wish for,” it turns out, applied here. More on that later.
The Ferry pulled away from the dock early in the morning, and we were aboard to see the sun rise over Ft. Myers Beach. As we left the harbor, we were able to see some of the popular “beach” hangouts from the deck of the ship in early morning light.
As promised, just under 4 hours later, we landed at the Key West Harbor terminal, where the main boating activity, including cruise ships, fishing boats, ferries and pleasure craft, occurs. A short jaunt from the ferry terminal, Key West’s main tourist attraction, Duval Street, begins just southeast of Mallory Square, on the harbor. While the island itself is oriented primarily west to east, most of the streets run diagonal from either the Northwest to Southeast, or North East to Southwest.
As soon as you set foot onto Duval Street, you are confronted with bars and restaurants and shops. While there are a number of “tourist” and “family” activities available, the main event (for adults anyway — in it definitely is an “adult” kind of place) seems to be the bar/restaurant scene. We visited several bars while there, including the famous Sloppy Joe’s. We were interested to see the substantial influence from the military — particularly the Navy. Since my father-in-law was a career Naval Officer, we enjoyed seeing some of the paraphernalia left by military personnel over the years.
It was also fun to visit a restaurant and learn a bit about Key West history. Blue Heaven was such a place with a singular history of cockfighting (100 years ago), gambling, and Friday night boxing matches purported refereed by Hemingway himself.
Notwithstanding its “quirky nature, one of the draws it its very unique, partially covered, outdoor area. In Key West, it is a restaurant/bar of some repute, with live music and good food.
Our B&B was at the southeastern end of Duval Street, near the furthest south beach in the U.S. Not surprisingly, there is also a resort next door, aptly named, “The Southernmost Beach Resort.” After our arrival in Key West, we first took our luggage to the B&B and found a restaurant (equally aptly named), in the resort: The Southernmost Beach Cafe.
A stroll down the approximately 1 mile long Duval Street from the B&B back to Mallory Square, gave us a bit of the “lay of the land” and a precursor of the chaotic night life that Duval Street is known for. Among other famous figures, Key West was a favorite haunt of Hemingway and of President Truman (both of whom had substantial homes on this island). But for me the personal favorite “famous” person is Jimmy Buffet. :-). So I couldn’t walk by the original Margaritaville without stopping (and I couldn’t walk out with out buying a T-shirt) :-).
I recently noted here that the Florida Gulf is known for its sunsets. Key West is certainly no exception. We sat at an outdoor bar listening to a local live band in Mallory Square at the end of our first day and watched the sun set as “our” Key West Express departed with its passengers for Fort Myers Beach. We thought we would be on that same boat 2 days hence.
I neglected to say, the occasion of our visit to Key West was a birthday present from my wife. For the actual birthday, she found, and booked a restaurant on the water, called Louie’s Backyard. For anyone visiting Key West and looking for a nicer restaurant with wonderful food in a great venue, I highly recommend Louie’s Backyard. As we sipped a Martini and watched the sunset, I captured this image with my wife’s smartphone, of an adjacent pier which must have been yet another bar or restaurant. Not too shabby a birthday night. Certainly one to remember.
Also, all good things must come to an end. Sometimes abruptly. I had carried a cigar around in my shirt pocket for two days, waiting for the right opportunity to enjoy it. It turned out to be after we returned from the restaurant and up on the 2nd floor balcony of our B&B. And as I sat there enjoying the night time activity and pleasant weather, and wondering what we would do the next day, my wife received a text from Key West Express. Due to predicted, near-40mph wind gusts and thunderstorms over the gulf, they would not be there to pick us up at our appointed time at 5:00 p.m. the following day. I am fond of saying that if things don’t work out as planned, it is always important to have a “plan B.” When asked what “plan B” is, I usually say that the reason it is “plan B” is because I have no idea what it is. :-). It is another way of saying sometimes you just need to roll with the punches. We (actually my wife and brother in law, as I sat back and watched them in action) rented a car on line and the next morning we left the B&B at 8:00 and picked up a rental car at the Key West airport. So, I did get my chance to drive through the keys! It was a very long day, but an enjoyable weekend.
Filed under: MUSINGS, PHOTOGRAPHY, TRAVEL | Tagged: Andy Richards, Blue Heaven, color, Duval Street, fall color, Florida, Florida Keys, Ft. Myers Beach, Key West, Key West Express, Light, LightCentric Photography, Louies's backyard, Musings, PHOTOGRAPHY, Princess Cruises, Sloppy Joe's, Southernmost Beach, sunrise, sunset, travel | Leave a comment »