We have a family tradition for vacations where we get up before the sun on the very last day and head to somewhere east to watch the sunrise. We started this tradition 7 years ago in Nassau, Bahamas on a small peninsula we dubbed Tortuga Island. I’ve watched the sunrise on most vacations since then from mountains in California to New York City Harbor. My sisters have done it as well in places like Riviera Maya and places in Europe. Therefore, this morning my mom and I set out for the southeastern side of the island for our last sunrise on Key West. It was spectacular, it resulted in my favorite picture of the entire trip. We headed back for breakfast at our B&B, Albury Court-a historic Key West hotel. I definitely suggest this bed & breakfast to anyone. We had a great room with our own private balcony, the staff was phenomenal, they provided breakfast poolside with muffins and bagels from local bakeries and the B&B was secluded yet within walking distance for those who think a mile or less isn’t far. We were able to walk to bum beach, Higgs beach, Duval Street, Truman Annex, the southernmost point and Hemingway’s house all in a short time.
Hemingway’s house was our last tourist stop of the trip. It was a marvelous house with a Great Gatsby feel. Some of the rooms were decorated while others were displays of Hemingway’s old books, pictures and family’s possessions. The house itself was a gift from Hemingway’s wife’s uncle and he purchased the house for only $8,000, you could never buy a house like this with that kind of money. His wife put in a pool one year that replaced his boxing ring, the tour guide said it caused quite the uproar between the two of them because the pool cost over twice as much as the house at $20,000. She also built it during the Great Depression and it was salt water which was a little ironic since the entire island is surrounded by salt water. One of the coolest things was the cats with thumbs. The cats were descendants of Hemingway’s wife’s cat which also had thumbs. Many of the cats were named after old film stars like Charlie Chaplin, Audrey Hepburn, Cary Grant and Marilyn Monroe. I’ve decided after this visit to his house I need to read more than The Old Man and the Sea which was required reading in high school. We spent an hour or two at Higg’s beach and left to seek out some food. We didn’t really know where to go, so I relied on foursquare which led us to Sandy’s Cafe. It was by far my favorite food that we’ve had on the trip. Better than the key lime pie, better than custard, better than my sloppy joe. It’s a small walk up stand with a breakfast bar type seating out front, an open kitchen and chickens running around outside. We loved it. We got a Cuban sandwich to split, with my favorite Cuban bread, and some fries on the side. It was excellent and well worth all the calories. Sadly our trip had to end and I am writing this from the airport, but it was magnificent. I have to give myself a pat on the back for all the planning and a huge thanks to my parents for funding it. My mom was a real trooper for spending 6 days with me and trying all the things I wanted to try. I hope I can travel again soon maybe even back to The Keys. I would love to live in a place of paradise like this even if only for a few years. Maybe someday, I’ll even be a freshwater conch myself.
After my brooding about the poor weather yesterday morning we went to the beach for a failed attempt to soak up the sun since it was so cold and windy. Instead, we got some lunch at Old Town Bakery, which was delicious, and set out for Hurricane Hole Marina to go paddleboarding at Lazy Dog. Now since my luck was not all that great yesterday, the shuttle bus that was supposed to pick us up never showed so Lazy Dog put us in a cab to the marina. Now my luck really wasn’t going well, so the cab took us to Island Dog until I called and asked what marina Lazy Dog was located in. We got there about 15 minutes late, but set out on our Eco tour with the rest of the group.
At first, I was nervous to stand up, but I got the hang of it and so did my mom. We had a fairly easy time on the way out of the marina since the wind was to our backs. We got to see sea stars, upside down jellyfish, sea hairs, sponges, iguanas, herons and pelicans. This was the most animals I’ve seen on the island since we arrived. We had debated on going paddleboarding on our own, but Lazy Dog did an excellent job showing us around Key West’s ecosystem and giving us a little background of the island. Now the way back into the marina was a completely different story. We had to deal with boat wakes that would knock you right into the water and a harsh wind pushing us in the opposite direction. We did get to go through these little creeks of mangroves that was probably the coolest part. The last stretch back to the marina was the hardest, I made it with a little struggle on my knees along with the three other paddle boarders. However, my mom was not so lucky. I had turned around to go back to where she was because she had fallen behind quite a bit and then a big boat wave came by. I quickly got down and yelled to my mom to do the same, but she didn’t and sure enough, plop right in the water. Of course I was hysterically laughing just because it was one of those I told you so moments. The only thing about the paddleboarding I did not like is I have no photos to share. It was a great experience and I can’t wait to do it again.
Once we got back to the hotel, I took a nice nap and then got ready for dinner. A colleague of my dad’s suggested Harpoon Harry’s so that became our destination. It was delicious, I had pot roast over mash potatoes and my mom had a Cuban sandwich. The waitress was very attentive and friendly. I also now am in love with Cuban bread. After diner we headed back to Mallory Square for another sunset and some more street performances. This sunset was as beautiful as the last and less cloudy, but we didn’t have as good of seats. There was a new performance called the Red Trouser Show, put on by two boys about my age. I was very impressed and they said they even travel all around the world to make their living (pictures below).
We ended our night with a walk up Duval Street to Kohr’s custard for some peanut butter custard and it was delicious. After stopping in a few more stores, trying out some sea salt scrub we headed home ending our night by the pool in the warm Florida Keys air.
We woke up in Islamorada yesterday with partly cloudy skies, packed the car and headed out on our way to Key West. Our hotel in Islamorada, Creekside inn, the one features on hotel impossible was delightful. I really enjoyed it. The deck out back by the creek or channel was very peaceful, the pool was nice, the rooms were clean and updated and the staff was friendly. I would recommend Creekside Inn to people looking for a quiet place that is budget friendly.
So, on our way down to Key West we debated on stopping at Curry Hammock State Park, but decided against it since it was only I quick stop on our way and was still costly to get in. That’s one thing we’re not used to, being from Ohio, all of our state parks are free to enter. So we were on our way to Key West again and I named every island as we passed over it. It was fun seeing the names of all the keys. There was even an Ohio Key, which despite my best efforts I never found out why it was called that.
We arrived at our hotel shortly before noon, to see that our room was already ready, took our bags up and returned the rental car. The traffic was a little crazy in Key West, with the mix of pedestrians, drivers, and bikers so we were more than happy to get rid of the car. We started to walk back to the hotel, but diverted to the visitor center. There the lady convinced us to do a hop on hop off train ride around the city. While the information was informative and interesting, the train was not hop on hop off. We were stuck on that thing for over a half hour and it was a waste of our money. We had done a hop on hop off before in Halifax, but this was far from the same.
After the awful train, we walked through some of the Duval Street shops and ate at Sloppy Joe’s. Sloppy Joe’s Sloppy Joe was very good and so was my Key West Sunrise Ale. The bar wasn’t exactly what I expected. This was supposedly the bar Hemingway hung out at so when I heard Katy Perry and Pitbull blaring thought the speakers I was surprised. None the less the food was good and the people watching even better.
For more people watching we went over to Mallory Square. Now that was some good people watching. There were fire dancers, stilt walkers, guys jumping through hoops and riding on unicycles. My favorite was an old man singing reggae music very close to where we sat to watch the sun go down. It was extremely peaceful listening to him and he had a very calming voice. Although we are on vacation, our day was long and tiring so we stopped by the Key Lime Pie Factory for some pie and headed back to the hotel. I’m very excited for today’s plan after my run to the southern most point we get to relax and then Paddleboard this afternoon!