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Published: June 15th 2011
Wednesday 8th June 2011 – Friday 10th 2011
Wednesday morning started at about 3.30am as we had to be on our way by 4.15am to leave the car in the long-term parking area and then book in for our flight. We did have enough time to go to the United Lounge, Ed being a member. Here, we were able to have a cereal breakfast and take some fruit for the 4 hour flight to Fort Lauderdale.
The flight was quite comfortable, we having seats with extra legroom thanks to Ed's frequent flyer status, and some sleep was caught up. We had a quick lunch before going to claim our baggage, only to find our bags were lying abandoned on the now still conveyer. There was a slight delay in picking up the hire car but when this was resolved we set off to Key West.
Key West is the end island of a string of islands, starting at Key Largo (which we visited in 2002), linked by 42 bridges over a distance of about 180kms including one over 10kms long. There are mangroves at the sides of the road, with breaks every now and then giving glimpses of
the ocean beyond.
It took nearly 4 hours to reach the condo (after an unplanned detour in Miami after a wrong turn) and we gratefully exited the car. The condo is set on a golf-course in a gated community backing onto one of the greens. It is on 2 levels with 3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, kitchen and living area with a large enclosed verandah. It didn't take long to make ourselves comfortable and at home!
Key West is one of the world's most intriguing cities. It was America's richest city per capita in 1869 and it was declared bankrupt in the 1930s. It was a haven for writers such as Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams and Robert Frost. It is closer to Havana, Cuba, (140kms) than to Miami (210kms). Because of its position its history of shipwrecks and piracy is reflected in the historical displays and in the architecture of the buildings.
Bisecting Old Town is Duval St, affectionately called the longest street in world because it goes from coast to coast from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico. Ed bought us lunch at one of his favourite places on the waterfront. Judy had a conch
ceviche and Rags a shrimp poboy, some of the local specialties. We then left Ed and Cathy to walk along Duval Street for about 3 hours, detouring several times into interesting side streets. There were tourists everywhere even though it is not the high season because there was a cruise ship in for the day. Luckily by the time we were starting to get tired a car pulled up beside us and we gratefully piled in with Ed and Cathy.
They took us to meet their artist friend, Alberto and while there Alberto pulled out 2 paintings with our names on them. Ed had prearranged this, much to our delight and surprise! We then stood around with Alberto drinking wine he'd pulled out of a cupboard.
We had prepared breakfast on the first morning, consisting of baked beans or left-over chilli on toast with tea or coffee, finishing with fruit, to be rewarded by Ed and Cathy preparing Wednesday breakfast of juice,fried shredded potato and onion, scrambled egg, fruit and pastries, with coffee or tea. If this becomes a habit seems as if we'll have to think a bit about tomorrow's breakfast.
After breakfast Judy and Rags
went to photograph an iguana on the fairway which Ed had pointed out to them during breakfast. It didn't stay put for long, running off and diving into the lake. On exploring a little further we found several of these ferocious looking reptiles and took many photos.
Today was voted a 'take it easy' day so we read the local papers, Judy and Ed were busy on their laptops and later we went for a swim in the community club pool just across the road. This large pool is surrounded by palms and vegetation so thick you can't see the houses around it. The water wasn't too cool but still refreshing. We stayed here for some time, reading on the lolabouts after our swim.
Lunch was at a nearby Mexican cafe, Chico's Cantina, obviously one where Ed and Cathy go to often as they were welcomed like friends and knew what Ed enjoyed eating. After eating 2 enchiladas and some of the local Key Lime pie, Rags was more than satiated, Judy similarly so after her meal of a beef and bean burrito, plus dessert.
The ladies felt they still had some shopping to do, (they don't
buy much but do look at almost everything for sale in every shop!) so Ed & Rags were dropped off back at the house. Both had a snooze (which was unusual for Ed) although his was very short.
Mallory Square, on the docks, was our destination for the evening and here we watched several performances such as a Tightrope artist, a juggler, and most interestingly a performance with cats.
Ed knows the trainer, and had introduced us to him earlier. He is known as the Catman. He was most entertaining with his act, the cats doing things you would never expect such as jumping through hoops of fire, over each other on a tightrope, and generally doing things not expected of a cat. He had a saying “Hurry up, take your time” all the way through the show, this being a favourite of Ed's and now in our holiday vocabulary. While we were waiting for the show Ed bought us one of their local drinks known as Mojito:vodka, lime and mint. Yumm!
As we had such a good lunch none of us were hungry, so we returned to the condo for a few drinks and nibbles before calling
it a day. Saturday 11th June 2011
Ed dropped us off at the beach on the east side of the island about 2kms from the most southern point of mainland USA. Our intention was to have a swim in the Atlantic Ocean to follow through a request from one of our Queensland friends. This didn't eventuate here as the water was a little shallow/murky, and it was too cold in Rags' opinion.
A pleasant walk through a suburb of Key West followed, we enjoying seeing the local houses and surrounds. When we reached the most southern point of USA there was a large group of tourists milling around the beacon and a line awaiting their turn to take photographs with it. We joined this line, talking to the Canadian couple in front of us, arranging to take each others photographs.
As Duval Street, which stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico, started nearby, we commenced along it. This is 'the' street in Key West, with most of the shops, bars and entertainment being on it. One section was blocked off from vehicles as stalls were being set up for the Gay Pride celebrations
to be held this weekend.
After another tasty Mexican lunch and more shop browsing we had our swim in the ocean, the water here being clearer and we needing to cool off by this stage. By this time we felt it was time to make our way back to the condo.
There were no taxis in sight so we started walking the 12kms or so back, intending to hail a taxi when we had enough. About half way we reached a shopping centre where we bought some drinks, the temperature at this time being in the mid 30s. No taxis in sight, so we continued, actually enjoying walking and discussing trips in the past when we also walked distances like this regularly.
It was 5pm by the time we arrived at the condo, much to our surprise as we thought it was about 3pm, Ed and Cathy astonished that we had walked this far. Ed commented that no-one he knew had done this before. The cooling dip we had in the pool and shower following were very much appreciated. Sunday 12th June
After breakfast today we took our cameras and wandered around the estate trying to
get some photo graphs of the local wildlife. We were quite pleased with our efforts so hope you like them.
After an errand to the stores, we tried to eat up as much of the perishables as we could from the fridge as whatever is left will have to be thrown out when we leave in the morning.
After an easy afternoon we drove downtown there being a "Pride' parade for the gay community. As we had an hour to spare before this commenced there was the usual window shopping and as usual a few items were purchased.
Duval St didn't seem much different to usual as we walked along although there did seem to be a few more same-sex couples than previously. We ended up in a bar overlooking the street by about 5pm but nothing seemed to be happening. When we asked the waiter whether the parade was still on he affirmed it was, just that it started "Key West time".
Sure enough, at about 5.15pm things started to happen. Led by the local police, by car and horseback, the procession began. There were about 20 floats, some more spectacular than others, all with a
fun theme with people laughing and smiling, the participants throwing out sweets for the kids, 'Tootsie Suckers" for Rags ;-), and condoms for those that need them! It was fun while it lasted.
Pizza and sweet potato fries were on our dinner menu tonight, these we enjoyed just off Duval on a side street. From there we adjourned to the "Better than Sex" restaurant, one which specialised in different types of after-dinner drinks and dessert. An interesting concept which we hadn't come across before! None of us was really hungry but Rags did try their Cab-sav with chocolate, a glass of wine with the rim dipped in chocolate, and we tasted a chocolate and cherry concoction. Both interesting and tasty.
The early evening concluded with the ladies preparing for the trip home, the gents savouring the scotch and the cointreau! An early night as we need to be on the road by 7am tomorrow morning to catch the plane in Fort Lauderdale 189 miles (304 kms) away. Monday 13th June 2010
We had a restless night, knowing we had to get up early for our trip to the airport. By 6am we were both showered and nearly
had our bags packed. Breakfast at 6.30am and we said our farewells to Key West just after 7am.
The enormity of the amount of work which was done to connect all the Keys hit home, with us crossing bridge after bridge before reaching the Key Largo, the last before the mainland, this taking over 2.5 hours. Here we stopped at a convenient Maccas for a "restroom" break, and to grab a snack and coffee.
We had over 2 hours to kill at Fort Lauderdale Airport, the time spent reading and talking near our departure gate. Once again we had Priority boarding, and seats with extra legroom, thanks to Ed's flight status with United. Very civilised!
Denver Airport is a very new one, one of the biggest in the USA, and everything sparkles and runs like clockwork. We had our bags very quickly, transported by bus to where the car had been stored, observed Ed very diplomatically challenge and win, the cost of parking as they charged for undercover and this was not requested, and in no time we were on our way back to Englewood.
By now it was close to dinnertime so before reaching the
house, we stopped and picked up dinner at the Chipotle franchise cafe. We chose a Burrito bowl, which consisted of a base of brown rice, a choice of black or pinto beans, corn, cheese, a choice of chicken, beef or pork, covered in a hot sauce, plus guacamole and lettuce. Absolutely delicious and one we will try to duplicate when we get home.
After dinner and a couple of drinks,the rest of the evening was spent reorganising our bags and preparing for tomorrow. It will be sad to say goodbye to Ed & Cathy, for they have really spoiled us and given us an experience we will remember for years to come. We really hope they come to Australia to give us a chance to reciprocate their hospitality.
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