Saturday, September 3, 2011

Day 25, 26 & 27 - Key West

The drive from Sanibel Island to Key west was a six hour adventure that could have ended in disaster. For the first leg of the trip which is an almost 3 hour drive from Florida's western coast to it's east coast you must drive through the big national parks Big Cypress National Preserve & Everglades. The reason it could have ended in disaster is that after driving for almost a month, and being used to see a gas station every other mile or so we left Sanibel with almost no gas in the car thinking we'll just stop for gas and food around lunch time. Turns out there are not too many gas stops in national park areas. In fact we found none. We were probably riding on fumes when we finally found a gas station and I remember trying to figure out how long it was between the road side assistance phones if the car would stop. You don't really want to be caught in a car with no AC and no water, in the blistering florida sun right next to an alligator filled swamp. So after finally filling up on gas we went on with the trip now taking us from the vicinity of Miami and down through all the keys until finally arriving on our destination Key West.

The first thing we did was to locate our hotel. Turns out we were living right off Duval street which is the famous party street in Key West. The hotel Olivia by Duval was super cozy and also had a sun deck with a large pool we made good use of. Key West being the southernmost point of the continental USA is actually closer to Cuba then to Miami and the heat down there is immense. A dip in the pool was the perfect remedy whenever we felt overheated. The first night we went to explore Duval and the surrounding area. First we hit a few of the gay bars. We've always found out that the gay areas in most American cities are the friendliest areas and so it seemed even here! After working our way down Duval street we ended up on a small bar on the seafront where we met a couple from Germany and an American guy we drank the night away with on local hotspot Rick's. An awesome start on our adventure  on the keys.

Early next day we were booked on a snorkel cruise so two rather exhausted and slightly drunk Swedes were seen running up and down the streets of Key West trying to find their way to Sebago watersports. We eventually made it aboard the catamaran that took us out to the reef. The weather was perfect for snorkling. Not a cloud in the sky and the water lay really still so the visibility was great. We got a short instruction and in we went. It was my first time snorkeling a reef so I don't have anything to compare with but I thought it was an absolutely amazing experience, right up there with swimming with manatees in Crystal River. There was an abundance of fish in all shapes and colors and we even got to see a barracuda. We were so caught up in the moment that we took almost no photos at all but sometimes memories are best kept the way we remember them and not represented by a photo. On the way back in they opened a free bar on the boat. It seemed like all activities around Key West included a free bar in some way. So a few margaritas in the sun later we made landfall and headed for the hotel after making plans to return the day after for a sunset cruise. 

After a much needed sobering up at the hotel and a swim in the pool we headed to a restaurant simply called The Cafe, renowned for it's vegetarian food. This place turned out to be a gem! Food was absolutely fantastic, another one of those bars where you wanna eat through the entire menu. With a meal in our belly it was time to hit the bars again. We had a pub crawl planned for the evening. We started out with frozen margaritas on Duval and then worked our way down to the cult restaurant called Blue Heaven. An huge outdoor courtyard styled in a hippie slash beachcomber style with wild roosters running around all over the place. A band was on that was playing some kinda Caribbean lounge music. They did a pretty good cover on Free Falling by Tom Petty. We had a few mojitos and just kicked back to the island experience. After Blue Heaven we walked a few blocks to The Green Parrot, a dive bar that the crew on our snorkeling cruise told us of. Probably the most genuine Key West bar we went to. A typical locals place I imagine, however we didn't have to much time to stay in one bar only so we kept moving.

We ended up back on Duval Street and went for one of the many drag queen shows you can find in Key West. It was good fun but it felt a little like the artist were more into collecting tips from the audience then actually performing.  We then proceeded to the original Sloppy Joe's, the famous hotspot where a certain Mr. Hemmingway would spend his nights with his drinking buddies. It's not the one on Duval street as they would have you think but just off Duval a place now called Captain Tony's. You'll recognize it from the women lingerie hanging off the ceiling. Neither the original or the new Sloppy Joe's is that much off an experience though. It's a complete tourist trap today and if you want to feel the Hemmingway vibe head to the Green Parrot instead or any other dive bar away from the main tourist area. Anyways the rest of the night is a bit blurry but it did involve M trying to teach me to dance salsa back at the Green Parrot. Some time in the morning hours we returned to our hotel.

So next morning we woke up a bit later then planned but did a remarkable effort to do the most of our last day in the keys. We started out with brunch at Blue Heaven. I had vegetarian eggs benedict which were to die for! Place was packed so the food took awhile to get which meant we had a few breakfast cocktails too many maybe, but this was one of the last days of our vacation so it felt like it was ok. After brunch we headed to the aquarium. It was small but it had some nice features. We got to see some amazing sea turtles and even though I prefer wildlife in the wild it was still a pretty neat experience. We went on to visit a wrecking museum which was really interesting. Something that might be good to know is that they still have the same salvage laws today meaning that if you get stuck on a reef with your boat and accept someones help to get off they are entitled to everything on board. 

After some museum and gift shopping we went back to The Cafe for lunch. Food was just as amazing this time. We went to the hotel for some relaxation by the pool before our sunset cruise. Around six at night we boarded the catamaran again for our cruise. This time they started serving drinks right away and pretty soon we were in conversations with all these nice people from all over the states while we cruised the beautiful seas surrounding Key West. We met a couple from Tampa that we really hit it off with. It's interesting in the states and it's one of the things I love most about America, how nice everyone is and how they are genuinely interested in getting to know you. We talked away with our new found friends from Tampa and after awhile it felt like we had been friends for a long time. The sunset itself was absolutely gorgeous. M got some great photos but even them cant bring justice to how beautiful it really was. It's one of those things you have to see first hand I guess. After the cruise was over we ended up chatting away with our Tampa friends at the dock and decided to continue the night together at a bar nearby. After some pints and pizza they already invited us back to visit them in Tampa next year which we really hope will be the case. This is kind of the quintessential thing about traveling. To learn about different cultures and making new friends so we can learn from each other and make the world a better place. A cliche I know but nevertheless true. R & M, thank you so much for your kindness to strangers. Hope to see you soon again! This marked the end of our stay in Key West and next up I'll tell you about the last stop, Miami. I'm really ashamed that writing has taken so long time but I have had so much to do after returning to Sweden with university and all. Looking forward to finish the last big entry of this road trip soon so I can start updating this blog more frequently with shorter posts as well. Thank you all for reading!


  1. Kul att du har skrivit mer i dagboken! Intressant att läsa om era äventyr. Jag kan förstå att ni gillar att vara i USA.

  2. Vilken kanonbild som inleder den här rapporten!!! Helt overkligt vackert...