Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Livin' it up in the Florida Keys

I'm sure I've said it before, but my favorite traveling companions are my two sisters. This time around, I journeyed all the way to the southernmost point of the United States with my older sister. It was her last big hurrah before moving overseas to Germany, so we made a day of it, and it was fun and special. 

We made an early start -- before dawn -- and made it to Key Largo just as the sun began to rise. The sky was a dusky pink-purple-blue and the weather was perfect.

We stopped at Bahia Honda State Park on Big Pine Key to dip our toes in the Gulf and Atlantic waters. It's funny to think about that now, and it reminds me of when I was walking the jetty in Washington state, looking at the wide Columbia River spilling into the Pacific Ocean. 

I digress.

We started on the Atlantic Ocean side, where we were greeted by dozens of seagulls and pelicans haunting a shoal of bait fish that was swimming just offshore... and also by a vast, smelly swath of dead sea grass. 

Walking along that decaying carpet of sea grass is not for the faint of heart, let me assure you. But, for the steadfast explorer, curious treasures can be found among the... fragrant vegetation. 

Once we'd had enough of the sights, sounds, and smells of the oceanic side of the park, we took a short hike over to the idyllic Gulf side of Bahia Honda. Much better!

We settled down on the beach and went snorkeling in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. There we witnessed a number of the ubiquitous tropical fish that inhabit Florida's coastline. Periodically, we pointed out strange findings to one another -- a dead crab or lobster here, a piece of washed-up coral there. It was fun.

That's my sister in the photo above, posing artfully in front of the Bahia Honda Rail Bridge - a relic from the Keys's railroad past. Look at that gorgeous Florida sky!

And here's an obligatory shot of yours truly -- or at least my feet and my Chacos.

After one more blissful glance over our shoulders, my sister and I headed back to the car and headed south once more. Destination: Key West.

After we arrived, we stopped at a little cafe called Croissants de France for some cheap, yummy breakfast cuisine. It was good - the atmosphere was nice, and it wasn't too hot in the outdoor seating area. A resident anole lizard kept a watchful eye on me as I ate my meal.

After our "brunch," we wandered around Key West, taking in the sights and sounds, and poking our heads into shops here and there. We also visited the Hemingway House -- home of Ernest Hemingway during his Key West days, and also home to a gang of his famous polydactyl cats.

I loved walking around the airy home, with its creaky floorboards and antique furnishings. My sister and I started pointing out all of the cats to each other. It seemed that every room in the house had a snoozing feline in it.

We walked around the perimeter of the house, where we played with an adorable six-toed kitten on the walkway, and finally exited the grounds through the front gate. It was a lot of fun. There is a bookshop on premises if you find yourself in need of a copy of any of his books (they carry his full writing catalogue -- or a gaudy, touristy rendering of one of the cats.

We stopped at a nearby, hole-in-the-wall cafe called The Six-Toed Cat, where I had the single most amazing piece of Key Lime Pie I've ever had in my life. It was so good, I ordered a second slice. Literally nothing compares. Find that cafe, go inside, and order a whole pie. It's so delicious. 

After that culinary experience, we wandered around some more, heading down Duval Street and its little tributaries until we arrived at the southernmost point. There was a queue of people waiting to pose by the colorful concrete buoy, so we joined the queue, and I took a photo of my sister in front of it, then took one more photo of the buoy itself. 

After that, we decided to visit the Pirate Museum, which is staffed by a silly, jovial, boisterous group of people. We took the last tour of the day, so the staff was in a more relaxed, easy mood. It was a lot of fun and a surprising learning experience, as well. You can climb to the top of the museum's tower and take in a nice view of the nearby Maritime museum, with its big coast guard ship at the dock.

Oh! How could I forget? There is a thriving population of feral chickens in Key West. This particular rooster decided that he hated my sister, and began following her around, jumping into the air, and clawing at her as she ran away. Hahaha! I was literally no help to her; I could only stand and laugh as she was victimized by this ridiculous bird.

The keys are a lot of fun at any time of year -- there's always something going on. I encourage you to visit if you ever make your way to Florida. Forget the theme parks. You don't need packaged entertainment shoved down your throat to have a good time. Create your own experience. Learn a few things. Eat cheap, delicious, locally-sourced foods. Have fun.

1 comment:

  1. Looks and sounds like you 2 had a blast, love the beautiful photo's and blog as well. Thank you so much for sharing my friend.

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