Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Our first port of call on Sunday (3/22/09) was Key West. Though Douglas lives in Florida and I went to college in Florida neither of us had ever visited the Keys. We decided not to book a shore excursion here because we wanted to just go exploring. From the dock it was an easy couple of blocks to downtown (one would assume that is why they put the dock where they did) where we passed the large obvious red building in the pic above, which is the art museum with an awesome statue of King Lear out front. There is so much to do and see packed onto this little island that it seemed prudent to get an overview by taking a tour. Like all tourist destinations there were several tours to choose from and we went with the Conch Tour Train cause 1) it was convenient and 2) it is shaped like a train for goodness sakes. The tour was 90 minutes long with a short stop at the one hour mark ostensibly as a rest break, but really to shop. You'd think that i'd have a ton of pics, but there was so much to see that i couldn't begin to shoot fast enough and enjoy the tour at the same time. There is a TON of stuff on that bitty island : history, art, museums, architecture and more. It was really interesting and though i wasn't able to get a pic of the southernmost point buoy, i did snap the beginning and end of US Rt 1 which runs all the way up the East Coast, including right through Baltimore. The tour didn't actually make deciding how to spend the afternoon any easier; in fact, it made it harder by highlighting just how much there is to do. It started and ended in Mallory Square - a pedestrian plaza flanked by cool shops street vendors, museums, fountains, restaurants and the Key West Memorial Sculpture Garden which houses busts of important people that have called the island home over the years. Also there was a fabulous sculpture call The Wreckers by James Mastin depicting residents saving property and lives after a ship wrecked on the reef [At one point the island was actually quite wealthy because of shipwrecks, but more on that in a post about the Shipwreck Museum] There were several unusual things about Key West. The first thing is the chickens There are chickens just wandering around in the yards, streets and in the plaza. Where most cities have pigeons, Key West has chickens. I mostly saw roosters, but you know the hens are somewhere. These chicken don't belong to anyone; they are wild, or as wild as mostly-flightless, domesticated fowl can be. Apparently sometime in the past someone's chickens got lose, started to roam and procreate and now just live on the island, which is a bird sanctuary so they can't be captured or killed. It was on Key West that i learned that chickens can roost in trees it was surreal. The other interesting thing i noticed was the omnipresence of conchs : I mean where else do you find a food cart selling conch fritters instead of pretzels? In 1982 Key West actually seceded from the US and is considered part of the Conch Republic, hence the conchs. It is a crazy, funny, odd place that deserves a week of exploration instead of an afternoon - it goes on the list of places i want to go on vacation. And, yes, even though we didn't go to the Hemingway House, we did see a 6-toed cat.