Food, Travel, Uncategorized

This Is Key West

I kept referring to (and still refer to) Key West as “Cuba” every time I mention it.  I’ve never been to Cuba, so I’m not sure how far away from the truth I am when comparing the two, but the Cuba of my imagination is similar to Key West for one reason or another.  I do, however, have some minor experience with the Caribbean which Key West strongly resembles, appropriately, so maybe it balances out.  Key West is a strange mix of tourism and not, the island broken into what feels like districts catering to either locals or visitors.  This is most apparent as you first cross over the bridge and see the familiar hotels, chain restaurants, chain stores and markets.  Nearer the opposite side of Key West where the United State’s Southern Most Point marker can be found seems to be the other large tourist chunk, this area defined more by the coast and series of road arteries with higher priced boutiques and bars.

We didn’t do much I’d consider touristy, though it wasn’t completely for lack of trying.  The Ernest Hemingway Home was a little expensive for our taste ($13), so my wife took a picture at the entrance being careful to block out the wall and ticket booth to make it look more like we went.  I’ve only recently gotten okay with Hemingway again so it would have been neat to make a visit as a part of that reconnect, but I figured I could just as easily look up pictures online and spend the saved money seeking the best Cuban coffee in Key West.  Place called 5 Brothers Grocery and Sandwich Shop won out.  We checked out the southern most point.  Saw a number of roosters.  Key West has roosters the way large cities have pigeons.  At the Six-Toed Cat – right by The Hemingway Home and a spot where you can get some great french toast – the birds just walk around beneath the outside tables which made for a strange (and strangely welcome) experience.  Lunch was eaten at a place a little off the beaten called Firefly which my wife said seemed like “us”, a result of the music, the food, and the overall atmosphere.  Casual would be a good way of describing it, though casual steeped in late 90s, early 2000s rock.  Though the food didn’t knock our socks off – BLTs and Fish Tacos – it was far from bad with a price more tourist than local friendly.  Recommended still.

Overall Key West wasn’t the most amazing place I’ve been to, and if I had to do it again, I’d personally say fly in rather than drive in.  The Time Spent to Interesting ratio isn’t skewed favorably enough to warrant the extra hours.  I think Key West would be an excellent spot to go to if you’re planning to sit for a week where you can hang out on the beach or the pool in between visits to the hotel or trips “downtown”.  Though I’m sure it’s an obvious conclusion, Key West doesn’t feel right when experienced quickly as there’s little to hold the attention for too long.  Dolling out time is the better way I’ll bet, and as that’s something we didn’t do.

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Food, Nature, Travel

This Is Bahia Honda State Park

Bahia Honda is (about) the halfway point of the Keys.  The island of Marathon is about ten to fifteen minutes north with Key West around forty minutes south, which wasn’t too bad a place to be.  Admission is eight bucks per car, but if you’re staying overnight (which was something like thirty, maybe), admission is included, and staying at Bahia was easily one of the best decisions of the trip for my wife and I.  There are two beaches, one on the Gulf side which was mostly lame since it’s sectioned off making a bit of an impromptu lagoon and facing both the original bridge and the current bridge, so the view itself wasn’t all that spectacular, and one on the Atlantic side which was really a series of beaches broken up along the coast.  Though the beach(es) on the Atlantic side were narrow, seaweed and rock infested things without a place to lay out comfortably, the swimming was pretty great.  No real waves to speak of.  Clear waters.  A bunch of aquatic life I both recognized and didn’t.  My wife saw a barracuda.  I saw a stingray.  We were “caught” in a school of fish, tiny and in the (seeming) thousands, them inciting a brief moment of panic where I wondered what they might be swimming from.  Saw sea urchins.  Other stuff.

The Florida Keys Astronomy Club meets in one of the parking lots there.  It’s billed as a “come and learn” type of event, though it was more the Club is allowed to come as they please to stargaze as long as they entertain the questions of campers who might wander by.  Just my wife and I showed which made it a little awkward and difficult to escape when the time came as we both felt the need to be overly invested/interested regardless of what they showed.  I personally thought it was awesome getting to see Jupiter and Venus and hearing the mythology behind a number of the constellations, though I think my wife went in expect NASA images not realizing how the process works, so she was understandably disappointed.  A good time in spite of, and the two guys we met were a pair of sixty-year-old kids.  Giddy to the point of infectious.

My wife and I are not nightlife people.  I mean, I’ll be up late, but we don’t go out doing what I would assume someone correlates with a “nightlife thing”.  In fact, I had my first real “club” experience this past weekend at the tender age of thirty-four.  Still, there is little to do on Marathon after hours.  You can go to the grocery store.  There’s that.  An IHOP is open twenty-four hours, which turned out way better than it should have been.  And this is not me saying I wanted something “touristy”, but one you option is grocery store, IHOP, or bar after 7 p.m., that’s a little sad.  Par for the course in experience, though, with reality not quite living up to expectation.  At least give me some Go Karts.  Go Karts between the islands.

Lastly, the nature center at Bahia Honda is depressing.  Not so much a nature center as a nature room, and one filled with equally depressing models of wildlife and a video playing on loop.  However, we were able to identify the barracuda I was initially convinced was not a barracuda after the story was first related to me.

 

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