Monday, December 16, 2013

December in Key West, Florida

The timing of our arrival in Key West was off. We managed to hit the Seven Mile Bridge during daylight, but our stop at No Name Pub for dinner meant the arrival at our final destination was after darkness had fallen. Construction on the main artery meant a traffic jam and slow going to get to our rental cottage, located close to the southernmost point. After getting keys, parking and unpacking sorted out, it took some effort to get back out, and we found the entire island out watching the Christmas Parade. Wouldn’t you know it we got situated just in time to catch the last two floats pass by – and then the street sweepers. This put me in a funk, as I was already sad about missing the Greenville Christmas parade that we had enjoyed so much last year. I should have taken my cue from the kids who were wide-eyed and open-mouthed at the sounds, lights and street cleaning equipment of the portion of the parade we did see. We wound up sampling some ice cream at the corner place that makes their own, and I made a classic rookie-mom mistake, ordering Lauris the flavor he wanted (in this case papaya); let me just say it wasn’t as delightful as the “Cuban coffee” or the caramel were (as we found out over the next few days). Things got better.

Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park beach
So, the highlights… The Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory. A path winds through a giant greenhouse filled with butterflies of all species, fluttering and swirling around our heads in the magic morning sun. A couple even alighted on Lauris and me, and between the butterflies, turtles, flamingos and other birds, we spent a good hour in the conservatory.

Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park and Beach. After time in the sun on the rocky beach, we headed to check out the fort. Even knowing the Caribbean was infamous for piracy in the 1800s, we hardly expected to get caught up in a Pyrate Invasion… but this is exactly what happened. The fort was overrun with pirates; after watching a skirmish between the “Red Coats” and the invaders we strolled through tent city in the courtyard, where entire pigs were roasting on spits and merchants were hawking their wares.

From left to right: tent city within the fort, posing with "Papa Ratsey," and the battle wages on
The sunset at Mallory Square. The tourist book touted the daily celebration as something all the locals and tourists do, and this might have been partly true – there were dozens of inventive panhandlers working the crowds with everything from unicycle/fire juggling acts to comedy routines. However, the crowds don’t change the fact that the sunset was marvelous.

Dinner at D.J.’s Clam Shack. We had the lobster roll, but the kids’ fish and chips was melt-in-your-mouth delicious.

The Endpoint of Route 1. Marking the spot is a magnificent Ceiba tree (also known as Kapok), which I first saw during a fire-fighting trip to Puerto Rico. With fantastic buttresses at the base these trees are something out of a fairy tale – like Jack’s beanstalk they grow up to 10 feet a year in height.

Simonton Street Beach. A mini-beach, although a sandy one. Shade for mom, sand castles for the boys.

The Southernmost Point USA. Although technically not the southernmost point of the USA (Hawaii), it is not the southernmost point in the continental US (Florida's official southernmost point is Ballast Key, a privately owned island south and west of Key West) nor is it the southernmost point of the Island. The actual southernmost point is U.S. Navy property and cannot be visited by civilians, and although the beach area of Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park is 500 feet further south than the marker, this old sewer junction is one of the most visited and photographed attractions on Key West.

Although I hesitate to cross Key West off of my travel list since I wasn’t able to visit Dry Tortugas National Park, Roberts and I both agree that if we return, we’ll do it differently. I think the Keys are best seen by water, and would look into renting a boat to visit the various islands and towns at will. Roberts suggested staying on one of the Middle Keys, and only venturing into Key West for a day. In any case it was a unique experience, and 90˚ temperatures in December possibly make up for being late with our Christmas cards this year…

1 comment:

  1. Your plans for your return trip sound great! I love the obligatory picture with the southernmost point. I love mine!


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