Key west is a tropical paradise… You can get lost in its vibrant hues only to re invent yourself! Every day is a different day in here. I love coming back to this place again and again for its wildly eccentric and yet benignly beautiful charm. Every place breathes a fresh new story… and nothing like walking through them all over again!! 🙂
The charm of Key West is not explicitly visible. It creeps onto you slowly as you walk through its streets and let the pungent mix of the various cultures reach out to you. There are a lot of places from where you can embark upon this journey.
- Duval Street:
We began our journey at the famous Duval Street. The night had just set in and we had loads of plan up our sleeves and what better place to begin it with!
It is the famous commercial downtown area of Key West which is known for its lively atmosphere and chic ambiance. The street is packed with small bars, shops and varieties of restaurants.
As you walk through it you can sense the crisp aroma of the Cuban cigars around you. There are many Cuban cigar shops out there making it a Tobacco puffer’s paradise! 😛 I stopped by a small shop as I watched a skilled Man roll out the cigars at ease. The place exuded an authentic charm and reminded me of the Winston Churchill era! Stacks of Cigars were piled all round the place and were categorized as Regular/ Premium. Frankly speaking, the place stenched of Tobacco and I had no idea why anyone would like puffing such bad smelling stuffs…but then who am I to judge! 😉
A little distance away, we could hear live bands playing Cuban/ Salsa or Jazz music. I spotted the famous Sloppy Joe’s at the corner of Duval and Greene street. The place was humming with people. It’s history dates back to the Ernest Hemingway’s time, when he used to come here. It is even said that he was the man behind encouraging the Bar owner to name it as Sloppy Joe’s!! 🙂
Cigar and Bars apart, Duval has much more to it as you walk further south…There are lovely galleries and beautiful shops, cafe’s and restaurants donning the street. Walk into the variety of shops and you will be mesmerized by the rich culture this place holds!!
The next morning we walked into a beautiful lime colored shop – Key lime Factory, which was said to be the birthplace of the famous Key Lime Pie, dating back to 1856!! wow! That’s a long time ago!! The pie was delicious, creamy and had the perfect amount of richness. No trip to Key West is ever complete without tasting the pie and we had made a hell of a start!!!
On an off note, I would like to tell you about the offbeat charm of Key West – the chickens and the colorful Roosters. You can see them everywhere…either you can hear them crowing or see them strutting on the roads!! 🙂 It felt like a Rooster menace initially but I started to like them as I spent my days!! 😉
2. Little White House
A little distance away from the Duval street is this major attraction. The President of USA, Harry S Truman, who was known for his love for Key West, used to vacation with his family here. Initially this house served as the naval station’s command headquarters during the Spanish-American War, World War I and World War II. Now this beautiful little house has been turned into a Museum dedicated to Truman and to the history of US presidency.
We discovered all about the history of this beautiful house on the guided tour. There is a funky gift shop as well at the entrance of the house wherein you can buy lovely as well as cheesy trinkets.
3. Ernest Hemingway House
I love his books. I still remember the first time I read his famous book – the Old man and the Sea and I had been so enamored by his way of writing that I finished reading all of his work by that summer!! 🙂
I literally got goosebumps while touring the house. It felt completely out of the world to see his reading room, his house, the old book shelves with his snakeskin bound books and its sprawling grounds. After all he is one of my favorite authors and it was a dream come true for me to take the tour of this beautiful place.
I spotted a lot of six toed cats all around the place. It is said that Ernest Hemingway was given a white six-toed cat by a ship’s captain and some of the cats who live on the museum are actually descendants of that original cat, named Snow White. Most of the cats there are named after famous personalities which I found pretty unusual.
4. The Light House
A visit to a coastal place is never complete without checking out the Light House!! Just across the street from the Hemingway House is this beautiful light house. The Key West Lighthouse was built in 1847 to guide ships through the waters, off the port of Key West, Florida.
The fascinating feature about this Light house is that it is the only Light House in USA which is located away from the sea and well within the city limits!! 😉 😉
We climbed up the spiral staircase and were greeted with a beautiful view of the Ocean and the gigantic cruise ship. Although coming down through that spiral staircase was one of the most challenging tasks I experienced in the whole trip. The stair case is really narrow and a bit rickety at the edges, so while coming down when you have to make way for up going visitors…it can induce Acrophobia !!😛 I held onto the thin railings for my dear life and thanked God a million times after stepping on the ground!! 😛
5. Fort Zacchary Beach
This is a hidden gem of Key West. It is tucked at the end of the road and has a huge fort at one side and a long stretch of rocky coral beach on the other side.
We walked through the Fort first. It was built in 1845, shortly after Florida became a state and named after U.S. President Zachary Taylor.The reason this Fort was built War was to serve as headquarters for the U.S. Navy’s East Gulf Coast blockade squadron.
It was disheartening to see that the place was not only devoid of visitors but also of historical artifacts. Except for few canons and canon balls, there was nothing much to see. The only interesting thing guarding the Fort was a beautiful Iguana perched on the window. Probably they are the only creatures who call it a home now!! 🙂
The walk away from the Fort and towards the beach was rocky but relaxing. The pine tress guarded the parking lot area and as we walked through it, we could see the Pristine beauty of the Atlantic. It is said to be a coral beach, and we could feel its hardness through our shoes. 😉
It’s a nice place for a picnic or barbecue with shaded benches and grills all over the place. The view from the bench was soothing and the atmosphere lively. We ended up clicking a lot of pictures just for the fun of it!! 😛
- Southernmost Point
To be completely honest…there isn’t much to this place. There is a huge anchored buoy marking not only the Southernmost point of Florida but also the fact that Cuba is just 90 miles away from there!!
On the top of the buoy is painted the logo of The Conch Republic. I came to know that twenty years ago, Key West, wanted to enhance its reputation as a fun-loving, free-wheeling kind of town, seceded from the United States, declaring itself The Conch Republic.
There was a long queue to take a picture at this gigantic marker. Since the afternoon sun was beating down upon us… we tried to cool ourselves with a fresh green coconut milk. It was really nice. You should give it a try if you ever go to this place! 😉 Don’t forget to carry your selfie stick!! 😛
- Mallory Square Sunset
Everyone told us that it is a must see place for sunset celebration and guess what…we were not the only ones there!! 😛 The place was teeming with people who had just come to watch the sunset. All the best places to watch sunset from had been taken away almost an hour before the sunset.
We walked a lot around the square and finally found a place to watch the much awaited sunset!!
The sunset was beautiful and no words can exactly describe its glory. We stood there awestruck as we saw the huge orange ball sink in the Gulf of Mexico leaving a hue of different colors spread across the sky!I heard the crowd clapping as the sun went down…now that was a little dramatic! 😛
In addition to watching sunset, we found that Mallory square had a lot of street performers doing quirky things to entertain the people. It was fun to spend some time watching them perform different acts ranging from juggling fire to walking on tight ropes. The shows were pretty engaging and entertaining. I could see why it was given the name sunset celebration! 🙂
This was my bucket – list of Key West and I believe that I still haven’t seen it all . There is so much to do and so much to explore in Key West that three days was too less. This 5.27 sq miles island has a lot of splendor intricately woven in its streets!! Its rich culture and vibrant beauty are truly deep and enigmatic.
What we liked the best was its laid back lifestyle. We spent most of our time walking in its streets, soaking the sun, glimpsing something charismatic, and breathing in its freshness!! Everything was slow and nice here and the carefree aura of the place had engulfed me completely!! After all I was on Island time!! 🙂 Everything felt soothing…even the sound of the rooster crowing was a music to the ears!! 🙂 Sure will miss the warmth of the place as I step back into Minnesota chill!!😈