This past weekend my friend Mamie (a friend from Virginia who also moved to South Florida) and I went to Key West. Neither of us had ever been before, but were just looking to take a fun weekend trip. We were amazed that although it was only a 4 hour drive, it felt like a totally different world.
We stayed at a bed and breakfast on Duval Street. It was really cute, and the staff there couldn't have been any nicer. I also enjoyed the fact that all of the guests talked to each other, the warmness of strangers was so refreshing... even when the old man is cracking jokes at our bike skills. ;) Breakfast on the front porch was delicious and homey.
We ended up renting bikes from a place across the street and used them to get around the whole weekend. It was so fun biking around everywhere. It really made me want to start using my bike back in Fort Lauderdale more regularly.
Mames and I were pretty nonstop - it was awesome to have a friend to travel with that has similar travel preferences. As soon as we checked into the bed and breakfast we were out the door and biking to Fort Zachary Beach, a really beautiful beach within this teeny state park. The water is clearer than South Florida's, and the sand is softer but with more rocks.
We also went to Ernest Hemingway's home. You can either do a self-guided tour or join a group - we joined a group and I'm so glad we did because our guide was really fun and interesting. I actually found that Hemingway's wives were equally, if not more interesting than Hemingway himself. If you ever go - take note on his leading ladies!
As far as cuisine goes it was "a must" to try conch fritters and key lime pie while we were there. Conch fritters basically taste like a savory hush puppy - not really my thing, but was glad I tried them! We had key lime pie at Kermit's which was quite delicious, and I don't normally care for key lime pie. One day we had lunch at Caroline's - I ordered the Boston Lettuce wraps, which were awesome and surprisingly filling! Willie T's served up a great key lime mojito, and semolina gnocchi cakes that were to die for; and the atmosphere was quite vibrant with the live music. But I wouldn't recommend ordering actual dinner food there.
I was pleasantly surprised by the number of little galleries throughout Key West. Mamie and I took a chunk of time while the weather was a little iffy and essentially gallery hopped down Duval Street. There were so many cool pieces of art, ranging from undiscovered local talent to Wyland to Rembrant to Picasso to funky antique shops filled with things you'd catch yourself saying you'd buy if you won the lottery.
One of the other fun things we did was SNUBA! Basically it's like scuba diving except your mask is attached to a long hose that is attached to a tank that floats above the water. You're also not going quite as deep (15-25 feet). But you're going deep enough to see some cool stuff! Due to the weather we ended up having to reschedule our trip from one day to another. The day we went out still wasn't the best of conditions - 62 degrees outside, and windy. When I put on the damp wetsuit I was practically convulsing because I was so cold! Luckily, as soon as I got in the water I was good to go. There wasn't a ton to see that day, and we were actually slowed down a bit due to the other couple people in our group that were struggling (I think out of nerves more than anything). But we both still had a good time and we were excited to have experienced something new - we definitely want to give it another go!
Other random Key West tidbits:
- There are chickens roaming around everywhere, and were hilarious.
- There are pigeons, too, and they are disgusting.
- There is a guy who has this frozen drink bicycle with a crazy loud sound system that blasts oldies music as he peddles up and down Duval enticing people with Fat Tuesday's drinks.
- If you don't bike, you can rent a moped. Just don't drive.
- People in Key West do not consider the keys to be a part of "South Florida".
- If you don't have a slap happy and hysterical laughing episode over words like "foghorn", find a new travel buddy. ;)