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:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Key_West  Facts about Key West


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overseas_Highway  The Overseas Highway

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fort_Jefferson,_Florida Fort Jefferson, current park

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overseas_Railroad  Overseas Railroad, or the Florida East Coast Railway

http://www.hemingwayhome.com/legend/  Hemingway, the Legend

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32 comments:

  1. I'd never heard of Fort Jefferson or the dry Tortugas. Fascinating article. But who was the only prisoner? Dr. Mudd?

    I've always wanted to go to the Keys to see Hemingway's house.

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    1. Exactly right,Anne, and I corrected that sentence to one famous prisoner, Dr. Samuel A. Mudd, who treated John W. Booth after the assassination of Lincoln.

      There were military offenses during and after the civil war when soldiers were detained. Thanks for questioning that, Anne.

      You'll get there one day, Anne. Put in on your list of Things to Do. Just make sure that it's a benign weather month (no hurricane warnings). Thanks for visiting!

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  2. No, I haven't been there, but I have always wanted to visit the Florida Keys. And, yes, I know Hemingway lived there, and I have a post card of his place from a Swedish friend who visited Key West some time ago.

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    1. When we visited, the house looked more exotic with palms close to the house, and the gardens flourishing.(compared to the web shots which show very little lush growth and a clean cut lawn)

      The 'Hemingway' cats were everywhere and friendly. They have their own water fountain in the garden made from a unique object.

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  3. Absolutely gorgeous. Can you believe my older brother lives in Key West, and I've never had the chance to visit him! Must do that. It's so beautiful~ :o) <3

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    1. You really should LTM - one of these days. If only to see your brother and the Hemingway House. (you could tie it in with a trip to NASA or Orlando or one of the beaches on the way down.) It's 4 hours from Daytona to Miami approx. then another 3-4 hours to Key West. It's worth the drive.

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  4. I have had real Key Lime pie when I visited my sister. We're going to travel to Key West next time I visit her. Great picts.

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    1. A great idea. We had the Key Lime Pie twice (just to compare the different restaurants). I made it once after the trip when I was able to get key limes here in Vancouver.

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  5. Sounds awesome! I'd like to visit Fort Jefferson. Those places fascinate me.

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    1. There's a catamaran or a mid-size boat you can take, Alex. It's a day long tour, 70 miles out from Key West early in the day, a few hours there with a guide and on board lunch and then back again.

      It's an interesting place, and I'm glad it's being preserved.

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  6. That looks like a fabulous place to visit. We went to the Caribbean for our honeymoon [Nevis & St. Kitts] and I'd love to go back.

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    1. I don't blame you, M.Pax! Sounds like a nice honeymoon.

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  7. I've always wanted to visit Hemingway's home, but alas, my job as a rare blood courier prevents me. Sigh. I need to sell the movie rights to Victor Standish! :-)

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    1. Sounds like a good plan to me, Roland. Casting one of your books would be an adventure for any director.

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  8. Yes to all of your questions. Love Key West. We stopped off there about five years ago after a mishap on a cruise ship. Best thing we ever did. Wonderful historical buildings, fabulous food and best of all, a laid-back lifestyle. So different from our English countryside.

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    1. Thanks for listing a few of the best things about Key West, Francene!

      There's also a neat shop there called Whitfield Jack's, for custom jewellry with a Key West theme.

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  9. Thanks for the virtual trip! Key West is climbing my list of places I've never been that I must go. The pictures are wonderful.

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    1. Glad you liked the post. Don't miss Mel Fisher's treasure museum. He recovered the Atocha and fought many court battles over the years.

      Don't miss the jewellry store attached to the museum. Some of the items are made with Atocha silver.

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  10. mmmm key lime pie---have you ever had key lime pie ice-cream--the best---this was a lovely post, i enjoyed it immensely :)

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    1. No, I haven't, Lynn. But I tell hubs that some of the best desserts come from the south. I'll try it next time.

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  11. I did not know Hemingway lived in Key West. It sounds like a nice place to visit--I love the pictures you posted.

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    1. Thanks Golden Eagle. I wanted to read Hemingway's books that he had written while living there, after we visited his home in Key West.

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  12. You know, I've only been to Orlando, FL, and I was not a fan, but this looks like an area I would enjoy. Love your pictures!

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    1. Key West is nothing like Orlando, Shannon. This is a walkable place, and low-key in May (when we were there).

      One caution - check the weather before planning. Some months are better than others.

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  13. Never been there, but it looks like a great vacation spot -- and a fabulous setting for a modern-day pirate tale...

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    1. We enjoyed what we did in late May (not storm season).

      Visit Mel Fisher's museum before writing that pirate tale. The artifacts from the Atocha are worth seeing. Thanks for stopping by.

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  14. I've never been to Florida, but Key West sounds awesome. What a wonderful vacation, especially the sailing and the squeeze-box music! Your photos are great!

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    1. Glad you liked the photos, LNK.

      On the sailing ship, a photographer takes the photos of each person as you board, which you can buy for a small fee when you disembark. The ship we rode was the "Western Union", a mail ship from times past, now converted to a new use.

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  15. Well, one virtual tour for another. A good trade, I'd say. I've always dreamed of Key West, as I'm a Hemingway fan and water lover. BUT this girl handles Alaska much more than heat and humidity. Sounds like a lovely time. Growing up on the Chesapeake Bay, anything sailing gets me going. Glad you enjoyed that part of your trip.
    Tina @ Life is Good

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    1. I like it cool, too, Tina. The Key West sailing ship cruise was perfect, the weather was nice and it was a great substitute. The original cruise was an astronomy cruise, but it didn't get enough interest. (not enough nerds like us, I guess)

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  16. We have only visited Key West once, as a stop on a Western Caribbean cruise that sailed out of Port Canaveral. A day in port from a cruise is NOT enough to truly see Key West. I really want to go back and spend some time. I also like the idea of experience the journey to get there by driving. Everything you mention will be on my list to try to do when we visit again! I have had real key lime pie. I will confess: I have not read Hemingway.

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    1. Let me know J. when you're going to drive down, and I'll recommend a book for the trip. (by Hemingway, of course)

      Try conch chowder if you haven't, it's similar to the taste of prawns or shrimp.

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