What can I possibly tell you about our wonderful visit to Key West? Should I talk about the colors of the waters past the shoreline, the colorful history of this beautiful city, the lush foliage we saw embracing so many beautiful homes, the many notables who graced the city with their presence or the fun one could have stopping in one of the many restaurants and bars along Duval Street? I will try to share some of my memories and hope they will paint a picture in your mind of what we saw and heard.
As soon as I stepped out onto the balcony this morning I knew it was going to be a wonderful day. The sun had already risen painting the sky with little puffy clouds highlighted with tinges of yellow from the rays of the sun and the air was nice and warm.
We were in no hurry today because the ship would not be arriving in port until late morning. We ordered room service so we could enjoy the morning on our balcony. We enjoyed a light breakfast of cold cereal, fresh fruit, orange juice and coffee.
After we ate breakfast, we made our way up to meet our friends Ron and Connie in the Windjammer Cafe and had a wonderful time catching up and talking about getting together during the cruise.
Our only plans on shore was find a bar we had enjoyed a raucous afternoon in fifteen years ago, stop by the southernmost point in the continental US and take a walk down Duval Street.
With that in mind and map in hand we started our walk into town. The first sight that caught our eyes was a 25’ bronze sculpture called “Embracing Peace” by Seward Johnson. We did not need an explanation of what we were looking at. The sculpture depicts a famous scene in New York’s Time Square captured by photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt in 1945 after the Japanese surrender in WW II. It was hard to get a photo of the sculpture as everyone who entered the area wanted to be photographed under this impressive piece of artwork.
As we walked along we spotted a tiny lime-colored building boasting to be the ‘Original’ Key Lime Bakery. We made a note to return and sample the pie.
While walking along we realized that there was so much to see and we had a limited time in port so we decided to catch the Conch Tour Train that would drive us around town with while giving a running commentary from one of their expert ‘engineers’. We walked over to Mallory Square and bought a ticket.
The tour lasted 90 minutes and I was amazed at the knowledge of the engineer as she regaled us with a running history of the “Conch Republic”, the many notables like Ernest Hemingway, Harry Truman, Tennessee Williams, John James Audubon, Robert Frost and others who have lived here contributing to the cities long and sometimes troubled history.
We drove by Harry Truman’s Little White House, the Audubon house, Sloppy Joe’s, the Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Society, St. Peter’s Church, City Cemetery, Hemingway’s house, Lighthouse Museum, Flagler Station, Casa Marina Hotel, the Southernmost Point and so much more. It was a little hard to capture all these wonderful sites as the train had to keep up with traffic but they are emblazoned on our memories.
Our guide made the tour interesting playing snippets of songs and speeches to enhance our ride. As we passed Harry Truman’s Little White House she played ‘Hail to the Chief’. As we passed Caroline Street she played a Jimmy Buffet song called, “Woman going crazy on Caroline Street” and more. It was very entertaining.
The tour was to include several stops on the tour; however, we only stopped once for a short restroom and snack break. We were a little disappointed as we hoped to stop at the Southernmost Point to take a quick photograph. But to be honest, there were so many people in line to do just that that we would not have had the time.
The tour ended back at Mallory Square where Randy spotted a small, old and weathered boat called “Mary”. Well, of course, we had to stop for a photo opportunity. Very funny!
We then made our way to Duval Street in search of a place to have lunch. We actually passed by the bar/restaurant we had spent many fun hours in 15 years ago but decided to try a new place. After hearing the little snippet of Jimmy Buffet’s song we decided to go to Caroline’s Café. The restaurant is mostly an open-air restaurant with a bar in the front, a courtyard with an umbrella ceiling, small wooden tables and chairs and pigeons freely walking around looking for scraps of food.
We spent the entire lunch time talking about how much we enjoyed the tour and how impossible it was going to be to remember all the information we had learned. There was a wonderful variety of dishes to choose from. There were fish sandwiches, quesadillas, Buffalo style chicken wings, a variety of burgers, Spicy Cajun Jambalaya and, of course, Key Lime Pie.
We ordered Rev. Joe’s Burger listed as the BIGGEST & THE BEST. The burger was served with lettuce, tomato, onions and pickles. We added strips of very crisp bacon and cheddar cheese and loved every bite!
After lunch we walked back down Duval Street stopping in at Kevin’s Irish Bar to see if brought back any memories and Sloppy Joe’s. Sloppy Joe’s was a favorite of Ernest Hemingway. Either Irish Kevin’s had changed a bit or our memories were faulty either way it was fun to stop and listen for a while as the entertainer and patrons were singing “American Pie”.
It was getting late so we started our walk back to the pier. We took the same streets so we could find the little lime green building again and stop for a piece of Key Lime Pie. The bakery was tiny with only two tables and 4 chairs. We looked into the refrigerated cabinet and saw a variety of pies but we stood fast and chose a slice of the original Key Lime Pie. It was very tasty! I asked Randy what he thought and he replied, “It was good, but I prefer the Cozumel Pie at Ernesto’s in Cozumel!!!”
By the time we got back on the ship it was time to prepare for evening cocktails and dinner. We had another great night at dinner all of us sharing our experiences in Key West. We left the dining room and made our way to the cinema to see the movie, “Masterminds”. I had mixed feelings about this movie. Randy thought it was funny.
We returned to our cabin just in time to see the sun setting and stood leaning over the railing until the moon was high in the night sky casting a long line of light across the sea.
I asked Randy what he thought of our day in Key West.
“I remember the last time we were here walking down Duval Street to the wharf and watching the jugglers, dancers, vendors and the drink creators. I remember that there was a rule that all of the cruise ships had to be gone by 1 hour prior to sunset. When they were gone, then the party really began,” he said wistfully.
He went on to say, “Key West has changed, but also stayed the same. Sloppy Joe’s is there, the old Irish bar is there although changed a little, the Southernmost Point still attracts people, as does the lighthouse and Hemingway’s home with the famous 6-toed cats. Now there are modern buildings, and old buildings have been rehabbed into museums, art galleries and restaurants. The one thing I really noticed is how clean the city is. Back when we visited years ago, it was not the cleanest place to be”.
He looked out at the water and said with a smile, “It was good to come back and good to see that the city is beautiful, alive and vibrant. We will definitely come back and spend some time”. I agree!
Tomorrow we are at sea.