Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Key West, Florida!

Sorry for the long silence!
We've been in Key West and spending time updating the blog wasn't exactly our highest priority...
That said, we'll try to make up for it by doing a big Key West mega-blog entry.  Tons of photos so go to the bathroom first and have a drink nearby!

We've been to Key West once before and flew in.  I'm glad we drove this time as it really illustrates how remote it is.  Florida is a long state and Key West is at the very end of a 100-mile highway where the speed limit is about 45 mph!

My dad and step-mother (Herb and Gayle) have a time-share at the Hyatt, which was awesome!
We really owe them a big thanks as Key West wouldn't have been possible on our meager budget.

Sunset #1
Key West is famous for it's sunsets and there's a celebration every night at Mallory Square.

Wherever I go I like to bring along my tomahawk and threaten uni-cyclists with it...
Not really, but what does happen almost everywhere I go is I get picked out of crowds to take part in street performances.

I was chosen to hold the performer's uni-cycle, while another gentleman steadied the ladder so the juggler could get onto the uni-cycle and then I tossed up his various props to juggle: the tomahawk, a big knife, and a torch.

During and after the sunset there're dozens of street performers that entertain the crowd in return for tips.  This duo was pretty amazing.  Not only did they do all kinds of crazy juggling and acrobatic stunts...

They also did a handstand on a 20-foot extension ladder, trusting people they'd chosen from the crowd to hold it!  (I was not a part of this team)

Next day we went to check out some of the local history.  Dad in front of President Truman's "Little White House."  Harry Truman loved Key West and spent quite a bit of time there.  So much so, that he's credited with some of the success Key West enjoys as a tourist destination.  The"Little White House" was converted from a Navy officer's quarters and there is still a Navy presence in the area.

Nearby is Fort Zachary Taylor.
Gayle, Dad, and myself.  There just happened to be a Civil War re-enactment there that weekend.  The Fort was actually a Union stronghold during the Civil War, despite the fact that Key West and the rest of Florida were Confederate.

One of the large 10 inch guns with some participants in the re-enactment explaining it's use to  visitors.

The fort has served many purposes and was extensively modified over the years.  At one point they used the obsolete guns and armaments as reinforcement inside the thick concrete walls!  As a result, the cannons were actually preserved and many have been excavated for display along with cannon balls and other items.

Onto the food!  Which was a major component of our visit.  Herb and Gayle really spoiled us with some great meals.  Travelling on our usual $75 a day does not leave much room for things like "lobster melts with bacon".  This was at Blue Heaven. 
So good.

I should also mention that we saw a really unique musician performing at Blue Heaven named Ben Pegg (MySpace)  (facebook)  He plays a one-of-a-kind 7-string guitar that he made himself!

One of the local residents.
Chickens are roaming everywhere in Key West.

As are cats...

There were quite a few sculptures in public spaces downtown and this was definitely the largest!  The statue is called "Time for Fun" and is based on a Renoir painting.  The sculptor is J. Seward Johnson.

There was also a really interesting bust garden of all the influential residents of early Key West.  Angie and I are posing with William Curry, a prominent businessman and one of the forefathers of the city.  Remember Michelle and Sean from the Disney entry?  This is Sean's Great Great Grandfather!

Probably the most famous former resident is Ernest Hemingway.

The most influential would have to be Henry Flagler.  He owned the Florida East Coast Railway and quite literally opened up the Florida Keys by building a railway all the way to Key West.  The "overseas railway" was heavily damaged in 1935 by a hurricane and sold to the state of Florida which used what was left of the infrastructure to build the "overseas highway."

Harry S. Truman
Nicknamed: "Key West's #1 Tourist" 

The Southernmost Point in the continental U.S.
Wave to Cuba, it's only 90 miles away!  It's actually closer to Key West than Miami!

One of our favorite night spots was this little bar called "Shots and Giggles."
Steve and his wife Hania were really friendly and their customers were mostly locals that didn't mind us being there, a couple even bought us drinks!

While at Shots and Giggles the first time, we heard about a band playing at the historic Green Parrot.

The Green Parrot was really cool.  The band was stuffed on to this tiny stage with a bar across the front of it so the audience was up close and personal.  This is The Revivalists from New Orleans

The Green Parrot was packed!  It's popular with tourists, but the locals love it too.

We went to the back of the room to get a little air and met Joe and Lisa from Massachusetts who just happened to be staying at the same place as us.  They've been coming to Key West for 20 years!  What a fun couple, we ended up hanging out with them quite a bit.

My Aunt Kitty and Uncle Paul have a place in Key West too, so we got in a visit with them.  Uncle Paul, my dad, and me.  Paul, by the way, is an average sized person but that rattan chair seems to be gobbling him up!

Key West is very bike friendly.  And we knew this so we brought ours and got quite a bit of use out of them.

More food!
Mussels in a garlic wine sauce, mmmmm...

...and, of course, Key Lime pie!
We probably ate our weight in Key Lime pie.

A visit to Key West wouldn't be complete without spending some time on a boat.  We kept seeing these classic schooners sailing around so we tracked them down...

...and stole one!
Just kidding, but we did go out for a day sail on America 2.0 ,
which is an absolutely beautiful recreation of the first America's Cup winner in 1851, Schooner America.  Why they let Dad take the helm I have no idea. 

It was certainly a thrill for all of us and it was Valentine's Day to boot...all the ladies got roses.

Sailing works up an appetite even if you're not doing the work, so we headed for some oysters afterwards.

Valentines Day part deux with Joe and Lisa at "The Bull". 
Another great bar with some history.  There were murals adorning the walls of Hemingway and Tennessee Williams.

Next day we went about 30 miles north to Bahia Honda State Park.  Check out that water!

The park runs up to an old section of the original railway that was later converted to the original highway to Key West.  Each section of the road was a little different depending on what Flagler needed to build the railroad.  In this case there're trestles with the highway added on top, barely wide enough for vehicles to pass.  

There's a protected coral reef near the park so we went snorkeling with a group of 20 or so.  The reef is the 3rd biggest reef in the world, behind the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and one in Belize.  It was very nice, but if you decide to do this, go on a day when the water is calm.  There were some pretty decent waves the day we went and a few snorkelers got ill.

Angie in her snorkel duds.

Me, swimming with the...

Just one thankfully, and it didn't seem remotely interested in us.  It was about 5-6 feet long!

My dad won a 2-for-1 deal with another snorkel outfit called Danger Charters and generously gave it to us.   We arranged to go the day before we left and are very happy we did because it was a great trip!

No starfish were injured in the making of this blog.
Actually, our guide handed it to Angie to look at and then returned it safely to the sea.

Wheeeee...underwater fun!
No sharks this time.

Not only did Danger take us out to snorkel but they also took us on a guided kayak paddle thru some mangroves!  There were lots of birds; we saw a bald eagle, and a bunch of egrets and cormorants (who totally sounded like the velociraptors from "Jurassic Park").

We headed back to the Danger sailboat which was another really cool boat, this time modeled after the style that was used for "wrecking" back in Key West's early days.  Wreckers were men that made their living salvaging ships that met their doom on the shallow reefs surrounding the Keys.  It was due to all the shipwrecks in the area that made Key West the richest city per capita in the country in the 1800s.

We even got in a sunset before the day was over!

But it didn't end there because we met up with Joe and Lisa at the Hog's Breath Saloon.  Sorry for the blurred photo but they were actually grooving that fast!

Aaaannndd, another food shot.  My last meal: shrimp, calamari, and mussel salad, mmmmm.

No trip to the Keys would be complete without a photo with the giant lobster!

And we could not have taken this trip if it weren't for my dad and Gayle, a very heartfelt thanks to you both!  We had a wonderful time!


  1. OMG it looks so super fun!! So wish we could have joined y'all there, it looks right up our alley - seafood, boats, and unicycling flame throwers!

  2. My first time on your blog....so freaking awesome! I'm smiling...the food, the sunsets, the adventure! How fun!