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Published: June 25th 2019
Buoy marking the Southernmost Point in the United States.
In our cabin mailbox arrived a warning notice: our port call at Key West would be during the annual Fantasy Fest. Passengers were cautioned they might see some outrageous things ashore!
Carnival Paradise docked at the Key West Naval Pier. It is the pier of the former Key West Naval Station and still remains on Naval property. In the basin, special operations forces were swimming in full combat gear getting ready for their 24-hour endurance swim. Shuttle busses were required to transport passengers from the ship through the Naval installation and to downtown Key West. There are a number of attractions at key West. Of course, I wanted to see the Southernmost Point marker. But there are also the Truman White House and Ernest Hemingway house.
The bus left us off at Mallory Square. There we were able to buy tickets for the Old Town Trolley Tours hop-on, hop-off motorized trolley. We had used them before in Saint Augustine and Savannah. It was a good deal. We didn't hop off until the Southernmost Point stop and it gave us an efficient overview of Key West. Old Town Trolley Tours took us around the entire island, and we were able
Arriving at Key West
to see items we would not have been able to visit otherwise during the port call: the lighthouse, East Martello, West Martello, Henry Flagler's hotel, Old City Hall and the Southernmost House among them.
The Southernmost Point of the United States buoy was mobbed! A long queue had formed for those who wished to have a photo taken in front of the colorful buoy. Instead, I took a photo of the buoy in between selfie-seekers. In the vicinity were the Southernmost House, now a boutique hotel, and the statue of Bishop Albert Key. The statue shows him blowing a conch shell, as he and his family were well-known for welcoming visitors to Key West with conch shells and fish.
We took the trolley back to Mallory Square. It was once the industrial and maritime center of Key West but is now a pleasant promenade. It is the location of the daily sunset celebration. (Cruise ships must sail by 6:00 p.m. so as not to block the view.) Next we set out for the Truman White House. The walk to the Little White House took us past the old Customs House, now a museum, a huge banyan tree dating
Sponge diving was an important industry in Key West in the 19th century.
to the 19th century and the Truman Annex.
The Little White House or Truman White House was a retreat for President Harry S. Truman. For security, it was on the grounds of the Key West Naval Station. The former Key west Naval Station became known as the Truman Annex after Truman's visits. The two-story building was constructed in 1890 as naval officers housing. It was used as the winter White House of Harry S. Truman who spent 175 days of his presidency here during 11 visits from 1946 through 1952. John F. Kennedy made two visits to the Key West White House in 1961 and 1962. The house continues to host occasional official functions. (For that reason photography is not permitted inside.) The tour takes visitors though the front room, with its bar and poker table. Truman enjoyed playing poker with officers from the base and members of his administration. It was made in the base shops, attested to by the brass bullet casings used as cigar holders! The table had a top, so as not to offend Truman's wife, Bess, during the day. Other rooms are the President and First Lady's bedrooms and Truman's office. On the desk
is the famous saying "The Buck Stop Here". (We learned that the "buck", as in "passing the buck" is a poker term.) The house also includes a small museum display on Truman's Key West visits and a gift shop. On display is one of Truman' sports shirts he wore at Key West. He referred to these as his Key West Uniform. Aides quickly adopted the style.
On the way to lunch, we passed Captain Tony's Saloon on Greene Street. This is the original Sloppy Joe's Bar where Ernest Hemingway could be found in the 1930s. Sloppy Joe's moved to its present location, half a block away, in 1938. Lunch was at Bagatelle, a restaurant in a former house. In the airy upstairs seating area I enjoyed their Key West Fish Tacos with black beans and island rice. Dessert was a slice of Key Lime Pie on a stick at the Original Key Like Pie Bakery.
Carnival Paradise sailed for Havana at 5:30 p.m. On the way out, Fort Zachary Taylor, built in 1845 and in use as a coastal defense fort to 1947, could be seen.
Where were the Fantasy Fest revelers? Probably sleeping the previous night
Mallory Square shelter.
off, I imagine! We did see a few participants in costume, or lack thereof. (Toplessness, covered by body paint, is permitted in the downtown area during Fantasy Fest.) A pirate ship float paraded down Duvall Street during lunch (participants were fully clothed).
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