Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Key West Highlights

Earlier this month two of my girlfriends and I boarded the Carnival Freedom out of Galveston and headed for a weeklong adventure!  The ports included: Key West, Florida and Freeport and Nassau, The Bahamas.  

Here is our adventure in Key West!

Our Key West plan: I took the lead on this port because the excursions offered by Carnival were over priced and I told my friends I was going to go to the Hemingway House regardless of what they wanted to do (solo traveler habits).  I'm glad they joined me, of course!  I also begged them to get a photo of all of us at the Southernmost Point of the USA and then we wanted to hit the main bar/restaurant street (Duval).
The port at Key West was very hip and easy to navigate.  This panoramic picture shows how accessible it was and it took maybe 2 minutes to get from the boat to the shops/restaurants.  Because it was the USA we had access to our phones the whole time and were able to get to our destinations using Maps. 
We woke up pretty on time (but I think the boat was about an hour late) so we had a chance to get our free breakfast on the boat before heading out.  Luckily, my two girlfriends know and accept my nerdy girl ways and as soon as we were docked and full we headed straight to the Hemingway House.  It was about a mile walk but was nice because we could kind of get our feel for the island by the time we got there.  It was humid and sprinkling a bit but nothing that bothered us at the time.

When you arrive at the Hemingway House you pay a flat $13 admission fee in CASH and then you are able to walk the grounds on your own (a few plaques for information but not much) or you can wait for a tour guide on the half hour (which we did).  

The more infamous part of the house are 6-toed cats that are around the area, about 80% of them descendants of the cats that lived here when Ernest did.  The outdoor cats didn't really have anything to do with the people but the inside cats loved the guides who gave them cat treats the whole time.  They did let us pet them, which of course made me happy :)
Just wanted to take a quick shot of our guide, who was hysterical, and one of the cats.  Also to note, the house was a bit small in our standards but is full of pictures of Ernest along with movie posters that featured his books.  I had NO IDEA how many there were!
Hemingway sounded like he had a good sense of humor.  This was what looked like a nice, tiled water pond on his patio that was actually a sideways urinal from Sloppy Joe's Bar (see below).  
My all-time favorite part of the tour was seeing the attached office of Ernest Hemingway...  As you can I love to write and was so inspired by his office.  The guide offered that he was a very disciplined writer and would come here every day with a self-mandated 500 words deadline.  He even had a 2-story catwalk from the house to this upstairs studio.

One thing I love to do while traveling is to read a book that matches the areas I'm exploring.  As the Hemingway House was my most anticipated stop on our cruise I had a copy of The Old Man and the Sea and while touring the house the guide offered that this was a photo that showed the catch that Ernest and his real friend Santiago made that inspired the story.

After the Hemingway House we headed about a 1/2 mile down the street to the Southernmost Tip of the continental USA.  While walking along the path of beautiful, unique homes we found one of these signs in the yards...  Reminds me of one of my Texas Weather Stations I have on my porch...
When we approached the iconic photo opp. there was a very short line but it started to sprinkle harder and harder.  Eventually it went to pouring and everyone ran in all directions.  At first we tried to seek refuge under the two or three trees around but with the wind we were just getting drenched.  After a good 5-10 minutes of just getting completely soaking wet I decided it'd be best to just take the picture in the rain (no lightening was happening) and move on with our day and try to get out of the rain.
So I snapped a few here in the rain...
My friends followed and a nice man in a poncho took a picture for us...  At least it'll be one of those memories we have forever!
Also by the point was this nice mosaic on the group...really represented Key West to me.

So, back to our story...  we ended up trying to seek refuge under more trees but it just started to DOWNPOUR so I ended up running a good 300 feet to a local hotel with a huge outdoor covered porch where we waited out the storm for 1/2 an hour and tried to get dry.
After the storm we turned on Duval (the main street of Key West with many shops, bars, and restaurants) and made our way store by store and bar by bar...  Captured this photo of their Walgreens.
Their free-roaming chickens were everywhere!  I thought they were cute but got a bit skeptical when they got this close as I went to the post office to mail some post cards...
Just took a few shots of the colors and close homes/B&Bs that line the streets of Key West.  
Loved this church as well on a random corner near Duval.
Also LOVED this tree we saw...
Cute feel on the beach at the end of Duval too... where Tennessee Williams came often.
On Duval we also stopped at Kermit's Key West Lime store for some Key Lime Pie... Oh my goodness, they had so many free samples and their key lime pie slices are to DIE FOR!
They even have a few chairs and a cute patio in the front of the store to stop and eat your pie right there!  (My friends got the chocolate dipped key lime pie and loved it too.)
The last intentional stop was Sloppy Joe's Bar (probably the most famous bar on the island).  It was a owned by Ernest Hemingway's friend and a frequent/daily stop for the author.  It's also home of the famous sloppy joe sandwich, which of course I tried (definitely recommend).
(Inside of the bar)
(Menu pictures)
(Had a margarita and a frozen run runner since they were "famous" on the wall LOL 
& a picture of the sloppy joe sandwich - if people offer you cheese you say YES)
After leaving Sloppy Joe's we did a little bit of shopping but couldn't find much...  When coming back to the port we walked through the old customs house building where they had a really interesting sculpture garden.  This one was almost 2 stories high!  After walking through the area we quickly showed our IDs and got back on the boat.  It was smooth sailing!

Other than the rain downpour we had a fabulous time in Key West!  We definitely experienced the unique vibe and felt like we got a good feel for the island.  If you have a cruise stop here I highly recommend a day's visit (as it might be all you need).  My only regret is that we didn't get to see one of those famous Key West time!