Thinking we should scout Key West prior to my brother's visit, we headed off to the Seven-Mile Bridge this morning. Turns out Key West is about an hour away from here over the tourist-clogged US 1 South, a two-laner. Happily we stopped at the Tourist Information bureau en-route and picked up a city map that guided us to a parking lot. Clogged islands don't have much parking.
Key West in the late 19th century was the largest city in Florida and the only way to get there was by sea. At that time Miami had a population of 5,000 while Key West boasted 20,000 people. A Mr. Flagler saw an opportunity to capture the eastbound trade emanating from the newly opened Panama Canal, by building his railroad to the southernmost US city that possessed a deep water port; Key West. Later, Harry Truman installed a military base on the Key, thus ensuring that a supply highway to the Key would be built and maintained for the foreseeable future.
Key West is now divided into the Old Town and the New Town, with the former drawing all the tourists. Some of the 19th century mansions are still standing sandwiched in between bars (like Hemingway's favourite, Sloppy Joe's) jewellery stores, souvenir stores and art galleries. Hemingway's house, on a back street not far from his favourite bar, and Jimmy Buffet's original Margaritaville are probably the highlights.
First stop; the Grand Restaurant on Duval Street for lunch. On the shady balcony we enjoyed delicious crab-cake sandwiches with a light Arugula salad and of course, Key Lime Pie. First made here, the local version has a custard-like consistency. Key limes are grown in the Keys and are smaller and tarter than their larger cousins. We sipped a Cafe Americano while watching the parade of visitors and the feral, free-range, Keys chickens.
All too soon, lunch was over and we joined the throngs surging up and down Duval Street for a few hours. Shopped out, we headed back to the car, only detouring briefly to visit Sunset Pier, the westernmost tip of Key West and home to the Hot Tin Roof Cafe, glass-bottomed boat tours and hop-on, hop-off tour buses.
Sated, we headed home.
Original Key Lime Pie Company
Ernest Hemingway's favourite bar on Duval Street
Jimmy Buffets Margaritaville
Crab cake sandwiches
And of course, PIE!
Key West chickens
Glorious old movie theatre
Stately home, now a woman's club
Common local transportation