One of the best vacations that I ever took was in Key West, Florida, where you sit on the lowest tip of the United States and can see the sun set in the west out over the ocean. It is a place of dreams, because everything is centered ocean. If I could be any mythical creature, I would probably be a mermaid, because I could spend my life with my toes dipped into the water – or of course if I were a mermaid I would have no toes, but I digress.
Key West is a place of old architecture, new money, and beautiful views. Unlike the slick, wealth infused beaches of Miami, or the warm, industry driven wealth of Los Angeles – are we seeing wealth as a common feature in beach rich regions of the world? – Key West is a place where people appear to be themselves, even when they have wealth and privilege.
I road my first scooter in Key West, rented my first car, and rented my first vacation home that was a condominium with a gigantic jetted tub, that unfortunately didn’t work because apparently the hot water heater was not sufficient to fill this gigantic Roman jetted tub that required a couple of steps up and a nice slide down into what I thought would be a beautiful way to end each glorious beach infused day.
It didn’t matter.
Key West was everything that I could have dreamed of a community of artistic, laid-back, tranquility that made a vacation there feel like the beginning of what could have been a great life. Unfortunately, the cost of housing in Key West can be quite prohibitive, so I had to be satisfied with enjoying every second that I was able to spend on those beaches and in the community. Key West is ranked as the most expensive place in Florida to live.
Duval Street is a popular location where there are bars, historic buildings, unique little shops, and art galleries. This is one of the hubs of Key West, where nostalgia meets hedonistic decadence. Filled with the essence of old world living, this street is a perfection of tourism, where the kitschy meets the divine.
Another place that is a must see is the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum. Located in the Key West Naval Storehouse, the connections between the navy, Key West, and the hunt for treasure come together beautifully to create a unique sense of history. Key West was a prime place for coastal defense during World War I, and the preservation of this building and its now museum treasures helps to remind travelers of the wonder of our history. The neoclassical building, built in 2010, is now used for the conservation of artifacts through restoration and responsible display. Many of the objects in the museum have been transformed by the sea, leaving crossbows as abstract versions of their forms, but with other items in perfect and pristine condition. The artifacts of the slave trade tragedy are on display, as are items from pirate ships and ships filled with treasure. This is definitely a must do when in Key West.
Key Lime Pie was the cornerstone of fun eating in Key West. With places like the Key Lime Pie Factory and Kermit’s Key West Lime Shoppe, not to mention the numerous street vendors and other venues, getting a piece of this tart, sweet desert was easy as – well – pie.
Even better, it was possible to find chocolate dipped frozen key lime pie, that was something I had never seen, and something I will never forget.
We spent every morning we were there at Sarabeth’s Kitchen for lovely breakfast experiences with food that was both comfort and cuisine. Created from an old home that was renovated into a restaurant, this restaurant create a lovely start to each day as we went on our expeditions.
The beaches are a bit rocky, so be prepared to wear some kind of footwear. The ocean is lovely, and riding ski jets through the soft, salty water is a fun way to get out into the ocean. Getting back on one after falling off is a bit tricky, but eventually after falling a few times it becomes easier – must remember to work on that core though, to have abs of – well – less mush?
I fell in love with snorkeling all over, after having spent time in Mexico learning how to navigate under the water with a tube for air – in Key West I perfected my awkward attempts to the point that I was driven to buy my own gear! Sadly, my snorkeling days ended in Key West, but I had the pretty pink flippers, mask, and snorkel ensemble as a memento.
To round this discussion of Key West off, it is critical to mention – chickens. Chickens are a wild beast in Key West, roaming the streets randomly and just as natural as a sparrow or hawk. The locals refer to them as Gypsy Chickens, the descendants of chickens who gained their freedom after killing live chickens became unnecessary for most folks as they turned to grocery stores, and even more when cockfighting was outlawed. After the second time I saw chickens roaming free in the streets, I turned to my friends and suggested I might be having hallucinatory seizures because I was seeing chickens everywhere. After confirming that they too were seeing them, we asked some people about why we were seeing chickens roaming outside of coops, and were told of their history to freedom.
All I can say is good for the chickens!
A visit to Key West is one that you will cherish for a lifetime. Make sure to put it on your bucket list and find time to bask in the heat and the atmosphere – and notice the free, beautiful birds known as chickens.