Key West

This blog is about our adventures in Key West and I apologize in advance for its length. Key West, for those who are unfamiliar with it, is a unique place. It is a tourist town that is like St. Augustine, only wilder and less classy. The general mind set here is party with a capital P. You will see the ghost tours, art galleries, and trolley tours typical of St. Augustine, but you will also see strip joints and clothing optional bars.

The main drag is Duvall Street. It is lined with bars, restaurants, strip joints, and little booths offering everything from body paint to wind chimes. There is a major tourist hub called Mallory Square where every night people gather to watch the sun set. The vendors set up their wares prior to the sunset and after the sunset entertainers provide shows of every kind in the square. performer1.jpg performer2.jpgBill even participated in one of the shows one night. performer3.jpg The sunsets here are spectacular and it is tradition here to applaud as the last of the sun sinks into the ocean. thecrowd.jpg You will often see sailboats sail across the sun much to the delight of the camera wielding tourists. We even deigned to give the tourists the pleasure of our beautiful boat’s profile across the sun one evening. mallorysquareus.jpg This was a very cool experience, but also a bit frightening. Key West has several chartering boats that make the Mallory Square run every night. This makes the run crowded and competitive.

Another important aspect of Key West is the boating community. The marinas play an important part in the economy here. There are many marinas to choose from and the docks are lined with restaurants, shops, and water sports booths. Some of the marinas are also major hotels. The prices to dock here are outrageous, but the people are pretty friendly. Just about everything you could want is in walking distance from many of the marinas and for those places that are not in walking distance you can rent bikes or scooters. For a more affordable stay on a boat you can chose to anchor for free and pay to tie up your dinghy or you can tie up to a mooring ball for 15 dollars a day. These options provide less easy access to town, but much more peace and quiet in the evenings. We tried all of the above while we stayed in Key West.

Key West also has some historical value. In 1982 the Florida Keys separated from the U.S. in reaction to the border patrol’s decision to blockade off the Keys in an attempt to curb drug traffic. The Keys became the Conch Republic. It was a short succession, but it embarrassed the border control terribly. Today there are still remnants of the Conch Republic. For instance, you can go into the immigration building and get a Conch Republic stamp in your passport or buy the courtesy flag for your boat. For history you can also visit one of the small marine museums, Hemingway’s home complete with 6-toed cats, the Little White House where Truman spent some of his time during his presidency, and a very cool Caribbean pirate museum called Pirate Soul. By the way, that store next to Pirate Soul is not the gift shop. The pirate-costumed manikins may throw you off, but it is indeed a porn store. We discovered that one night on a mission to get me a pirate bikini. This was a highly entertaining mistake. Bill marched through the door and, before we could note the store’s genre, announced that I needed a pirate bikini. I spent most of our time in the store fending off the salesman’s determined attempts to get me to buy various scandalous bits of cloth decorated with the jolly roger. At one point we walked by a stuffed parrot that yelled things that might kill your grandmother if she heard them.

St. Patrick’s day occurred during our time here. The city does not miss out on a chance to party and the holiday was celebrated with vigor. It also helped that it is spring break. For days prior to St. Patty’s you could see green clad barely-twenty-somethings bar hopping til the wee hours of every night. Unfortunately, Jeremy had to work on an upgrade on St. Patrick’s day. Bill and I wandered out alone to drink, eat, and be merry. stpattys.jpg We started the evening at Pirate Soul and later its adjoining restaurant, The Rum Barrel. The museum ticket gets you free samples of 4 of their rum drinks when you buy dinner. After dinner we wandered Duvall Street sampling the various forms of live music and drink that could be had there. All in all, it was not bad way to spend St. Patty’s day.

mallorysquareus.jpg1.42 MB
thecrowd.jpg1.07 MB
performer1.jpg1.65 MB
performer2.jpg1.16 MB
performer3.jpg1.5 MB
stpattys.jpg183.2 KB

1 comments on Key West

  1. captain ron's picture
    captain ron
    Fri, 03/20/2009 - 04:03

    I worked in New Orleans last year and the cab driver told me he tells visitors "You just can't drink this place dry. We bring it in my plane, train, boat, truck, and horse-drawn carriage." I wonder if they know that here as well? Jamie hit it right on the head, this is party central. They have an official "open bar" policy, and almost everyone walking the street day or night has a drink in their hand. Oddly enough, I didn't see one fight and almost no difference in behavior from 'normal' places where thousands of people jam into one spot.

    This is definitely a good place to go out and play, though, if you are of a mind. I was fortunate to have a 'date' for my St. Patrick's day adventures so I didn't have to fend off all of those 17-year olds that ALL looked like my daughter. :) I got the impression that each and every one was looking for a pirate captain to sweep them off their feet and back to the frigid waters of the great wet north!