"" Writer's Wanderings: Hemingway's Town - Key West, Florida

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Hemingway's Town - Key West, Florida

A trip to the Florida Keys is not complete without at least one day spent in the eclectic town of Key West. We have visited many times by cruise ship and by driving there. It is about a four hour trip from Miami. The drive itself is interesting as you cross 42 bridges from Key Largo to Key West that connect over 100 islands to the mainland. The most spectacular bridge of course is the Seven Mile Bridge that connects Knight's Key with Little Duck Key. At the time it was originally built, it was among one of the world's largest.

We checked the cruise ship schedule to see which day there were no ships in port so the town wouldn't be packed with tourists and chose a ship-free Thursday. Arriving in the historic part of town, we circled a bit to find a parking lot. They are not terribly evident and our map didn't show any. We found one by Mallory Square, the area in Key West that comes alive with sunset worshippers each night. In the past, we have caught the festivity and thoroughly enjoyed it. Entertainers and craftsmen provide diversion while the crowd waits for the last moments of the day to produce a glorious sunset that is promptly applauded by all those present before they go on to celebrate some more.

Having found discount coupons for the hop-on hop-off City View Trolley, one of three that follow a route through the town with stops near the main attractions, we opted to ride that rather than the famous Conch Train we had taken before. Their ticket booth was a little difficult to locate as it sits in the doorway of a souvenir shop but the open air trolley was comfortable and our City View drivers gave great commentary as we went from stop to stop.

In the past we visited the Hemingway house where Papa lived with his cats that have extra toes and of course Sloppy Joe's, the bar he supposedly bought for his friend and frequented often. There are actually two Sloppy Joe's. The smaller is said to be the original.

This time we got off and visited a new Eco-Discovery Center. There were lots of displays, a few aquariums, and a video that we skipped since we needed to move on quickly to see everything we wanted to before our parking time expired.

I snapped a few shots of Sloppy Joe's bars as we passed them and got a great shot of the Strand which used to be a movie theater but is now a Walgreen's. The art deco theater first opened in 1920 then became a Ripley's Believe It Or Not in 1993 before being sold in 2001 and then occupied by the drugstore.

Our next stop was at Higgs Beach where we caught lunch at a little restaurant on the beach called Salute! Then toured the Historic West Martello Tower which is actually a garden built and maintained by the Garden Club of Key West on the foundation of a Civil War fort. Next to the garden is a memorial marking the site where a graveyard was discovered of African slaves.

On our way back around the loop, we passed the southern most of everything--beach, hotel, house, etc., and the marker which declares the spot to be the southern most spot of the USA only 90 miles from Cuba.

As we continued on to our starting point, we passed a bakery that specializes in key lime pie. This fellow dressed as the baker, was posted outside the door waving to each tour trolley that passed by. Our driver said they actually perfected a way to dip the key lime pie in chocolate. We tried to find the place again when we got off the trolley but didn't have enough time. The clock was ticking on our rather expensive parking spot ($4/hour).

Taking one more drive through town in our own car, we found a small lot off of a side street that was only $10 I believe for the day. Our spot had cost us $16 for four hours. Ah well. Next time.

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