Thursday, January 12, 2012

Day One in Key West, FL

Tuesday, 1/10/12 - Finally, our trip to Key West is here. We went with another couple the last time we were in Florida in 2005 but only for the day....this time, by ourselves and spending the night. We left about 8:30 am this morning and I must say the drive down through the Keys is pretty spectacular. The first major town is Key Largo, where the original African Queen boat lives that was used in the movie. We saw it the last time through so didn't stop on this trip. The weather was beautiful and the water is so close on each side and again....that Hawaii blue. I believe it's 130 miles out to Key West and they have a "mile marker" at each mile along the way. That is also how people ID their locations, "I'm at mile marker 25." We arrived just outside Key West close to 12 noon so of course stopped at a Burger King for lunch. I was promised a fish dinner that evening.

When I wanted to find a cheap hotel in Key West, sometime back, I turned to my travel agent, Nancy Willis and she did great. She found us The Palms Hotel, located on White Street, in charming Old Town District. Actually, White Street is one of the few streets that goes straight thru from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf. This place was a combination of 2 old houses that had been converted into a bed and breakfast/hotel. We were in room 12, on the ground floor, which the breakfast bar and swimming pool were right outside our door. Parking is very scarce but we were so lucky to find a parking spot right in front our hotel and we knew we would NOT move the car until it was time to go it was perfect. Driving in Key West Old Town is a challenge, most people use, scooters, bicycle's, and walking....we choose walking and the trolley. After checking in we purchased 2 City View Trolley Tour tickets at our hotel and immediately walked to stop 6 to catch the trolley which was our m.o. for the 2 days.

The walk to the trolley is approx 7 blocks, where you pass by the old local cemetery. Now this cemetery is like the one in New Orleans, the graves are above ground because because after digging 6 inches down you hit solid coral rock. So of course the graves sites are very close and very ornate. The walk is very pleasant with so many old great houses to see along the way. Stop 6 is also the stop for Ernest Hemingway's house. We toured the home the last time we were here but always love seeing the 50 or so 6 towed cats walking the grounds.

We caught our Silver Trolley and headed out for our tour. The actual city tour takes about 1 hour with the drivers telling lots of KW history and interesting stories. All of the drivers we had in the 2 days of rides were locals and wonderful tour guides, we learned so much in that time. Some of the places we saw on the trolley ride included the Historic Seaport of Key West where they have a turtle museum (we toured that!) the Southernmost Point of Key West where they have a marker and the tourist form a line (up to a block or more long) waiting to take their picture in front of the marker. This is the Southernmost Point of the USA and is 90 miles from Cuba (we did the picture taking last trip.) All around this area they have the Southernmost Hotel, Southernmost Motel, Southern-Southernmost Bed & Breakfast and on and on. We passed Key West Butterfly Conservatory (didn't go in), the Truman White House (we toured on last of my favorite places on the Island.

After taking the full ride we decided to get off at the seaport and have our fish dinner at Conch Seafood Restaurant, which we got a table right on the water. Now Will who is definitely not an experiment eater decided to try Conch....a local favorite. The waiter recommend the Conch appetizer (his favorite) and I had the fish of the day, Mahi, Mahi and we ordered a bowl of Conch soup. Well, the soup was a red base with a slight "kick" to it and to hot for Will however I loved it. When our dinner came the Conch tastes like Calamari or as Will put it, "like rubber." I offered to trade him dinners but he wouldn't as I knew I would love his and he would like mine. As it was - I got all the soup, and I traded some of my Mahi Mahi for his Conch - dinner was good, but the view was great, we were able to watch boats and catamarans come and go. We had an early dinner as you want to be in Mallory Square by 4:30 pm for the entertainment on the docks and wait for the fabulous sunset at about 5:45 pm.

After dinner we caught the trolley to head down to Mallory Square to walk around and see the entertainment, such as some guy with trick cats.....go figure, a sword swallower and more. Also lots of people selling crafts, food and drinks......PLUS my favorite - fabulous people watching. What I was unaware of is that Key West is a favorite port for the cruise ships to dock and flood the town with people. It was so great as there was a Carnival Cruise ship in Port for the day and at this time the people were going back on board, stay to watch the sunset and the cruise ship would leave right after that. Of course there is "jockeying for position" to have a great view of the sunset and I might add there are hundreds of people out there. When we were there in 2005 it was a cloudy day and there was NO sunset and tonight looked like it would be clear and I was excited. Finally, we were in count down mode, cameras clicking everywhere.....including me and it was beautiful, a big, bright ball just disappearing into the ocean. After Will and I went to an out door bar so we could sit, have a drink and watch the cruise ship take off... which I must say was a spectacular sight also. This thing is huge and is like a floating city. After that we boarded the trolley to head back to our room, dead tired after a wonderful but long day. The room was quiet and very clean and we were able to watch some TV and read and then fell asleep with no trouble. A wonderful first day!

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