Thursday, February 16, 2012

Vacation at the Southern Most Point in the USA

America 2
Key West is an amazing place, with a rich seafaring history and an economy originally built a few hundred years ago on the bounty of recovered cargo from countless ship wrecks. Today, the surrounding waters still play an important role, but now fun-loving tourists come for the great weather, clear water, beautiful sunsets and great night life. Crowing roosters wander the streets with the margarita-drinking tourists, and quirky artistic locals keep it interesting.

Southernmost Point
Tuna Tartare
My wife and I took the opportunity to "live it up" for a few days in Key West in February 2012, starting off at the Sunset Pier at the end of Duval Street with ceviche and tuna tartare and a rum drink. We then headed up Front Street to the old harbor area, stopping at a display of Mel Fisher's recovered sunken treasure from the Spanish ship the Atocha. We walked by the pelicans and tarpon swimming alongside the harbor boats and then ducked in at Conch Republic for a sipping rum. We spent an hour or so listening to the guitar player along with a friendly and relaxed crowd, all watching the boats come in and out while drinking cold beers and rum drinks and eating raw-bar seafood. Over at the east side of the harbor were some of the sail boats available for daytime and sunset cruises, like the pirate ship Jolly Rover with its red sails, and the sleek America 2, which is a replica of the 1891 America’s Cup winner. When it was time to walk some more, Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Pie shop supplied me with a chocolate-dipped slice of key lime pie on a stick. Amazing! Later, we were back at the harbor for a great dinner of oysters, smoked fish, tempura conch, and a fish sandwich at a table shared with other friendly tourists.

Jolly Rover
The next day we decided to do some walking and museum visits, including the Shipwreck Museum and the Mel Fisher Treasure museum. Both were excellent. Then a walk down Duval Street to Caroline's for a lunch of peel and eat shrimp and salads. That evening, a sunset walk in Mallory Square included jugglers, artists and the wacky "cat guy" (he's hilarious, and the acrobatic cats are great). By coincidence we came across some friends from “up north” and visited with them briefly. We watched the sun go down, and then headed out for drinks at Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville and then an exotic dessert at a specialty restaurant called Better than Sex.
My King Mackerel

Over the next several days we watched Schooners sail by, sometimes with the sunset as a backdrop. We enjoyed a sunset sail aboard the beautiful America 2, which included wine and fruit. I even got a turn at the ships wheel!  We fished the gulf and landed a Mahi-mahi, a Spadefish, a Cero Mackerel and my main target that day, a King Mackerel. Great fun, and we have pictures of it all. To top it off, we took home some fresh fish filets and had them cooked for us for lunch back at the hotel, and served to us out at the pool. Nothing beats very fresh fish prepared expertly.

That night we stopped in at Pat Croces Rum Barrel for a salad and some exotic rum, then walked down to the gallery area of Duval. We heard an amazing female singer performing at Willie Ts.
On our last day we rented a couple of bikes and headed to Zachary Taylor State Park. We swam and had a lunch of bagels and lox and smoked fish salad, and enjoyed walking and riding bikes through the park and over to the old civil war fort with its huge cannons.

All too soon it was time to pack up, catch a cab to the airport, and head home.

I love Key West and will return soon!

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