A Trip to Key West, (nov ’12)

After Thanksgiving, Mangala and I headed off to Key West for a short vacation. The idea was to get there, relax, dive, relax, eat, dive, relax, eat and drink, and come home. Of course the plan was loosely put together and subject to change and, of course, it did as great plans usually do.

I Like To Eat Key Lime Pie

Mangala and I at Hemingway House
Mangala and I at the Hemingway House, Key West, Florida.

It is not often enough that I get to spend a long weekend in Key West. When I do, I want to live in comfort. That’s what we did this trip picking a historic Inn right on Truman Ave. just a few blocks from Duval St. This put us in the heart of Key West. Unfortunately, the heart is located due south of everywhere we wanted to be. If you have been to Key West you know the fun part is Duval St (for non-locals) and the best part runs north of Truman.

Now, I’m not complaining. The distance to the very north end of Duval Street was probably a little less than a mile from where we stayed. Not bad, eh. But by the end of our short trip we figured we had walked more than 10 miles. Which leads me to:

Tip #1: When staying in Key West bring very comfortable shoes to get around in.

Our location was good for us because we both like to exercise and being at the crossroads of Truman and Duval placed us centrally to other touristy places like Hemingway House and the Historic Key West Lighthouse. This location allowed us to park the car and walk everywhere we wanted to go.

Make Sure To Smell The Roses

Historic Key West Lighthouse
View from the top of the Historic Key West Lighthouse.

We left Orlando a little later than what I like. When I drive to Key West from Orlando I like to leave around 3am. This puts me entering the keys right at about 7 to 7:30am. Missing all the traffic and seeing the keys in the early morning makes the early rise all worth it.

This trip we left around 5:30am. This allowed us to make some stops along the way. We entered the Keys around 10am and our first stop was Gilbert’s Resort. It was too early to partake in any entertainment but in the afternoon and evenings they have a huge outdoor Tiki Bar that is beautifully located and a lot of fun. My one time there in the evening was during a sailing school I took. It is even better to arrive there by boat!

A short ride into Key Largo is a place I always go to. It is called Denny’s cafe and I think it is awesome! Food is generous for the price and the coffee and lemonade are the best bar none. I’m partial to authentic Cuban cafe – this is authentic! Look for the Divers Direct store on the left as you drive south. Once you see it, turn right – Denny’s Cafe is directly across the street. We stopped here so I could grab a coffee for the rest of the drive (besides I won’t pass it without stopping).

We then continued our drive south when shortly thereafter Mangala saw the History of Diving Museum and wanted to stop. I had drove past this place many times but this would be the first time I went in. Let me just say this – if you are an avid diver do not pass this place by. It is an amazing place, full of history and actual artifacts. The gift store is not too shabby either.

The Most Beautiful Drive

Museum of Diving
History of Diving Museum

Time was a wasting and we still had to get down to Key West, unpack, and hit the town. We were still pretty far north when we pulled out from the museum so I settled in. So did Mangala and soon she was asleep.

There is a peace that comes from driving the overseas highway as many times as I have. It is a familiar road surrounded by beauty and peace. Passing small Keys with clusters of houses next to the water you can only imagine the life that must exist there. The peaceful splash of the un-ending waves upon the shore, the lights flicker on as the sun slowly sets, the soft chatter of people talking and laughing on a porch.

We soon arrived in Marathon and Mangala awoke from her nap. We tried to find the place we were looking to stay at here but could not find it. Marathon is like a real small town. It has some really nice places to stay but just driving through is nothing special except for one thing. When heading south the first thing you must do when leaving Marathon is drive over Seven Mile Bridge. This is a joy for two reasons. First, it signals the passing of the halfway point to Key West. Second, it is beautiful. Putting it behind you is like shedding the last vestiges of your daily life – you are now in the land where work is forgotten.

Arrival Means The End Of A Long Drive But Not The End Of The Day

We arrived at our home away from home right at check-in time – 3pm. We parked, checked-in, unpacked, took a short nap, then headed out. First stop was a place to eat. Not hard to find walking up Duval, just hard to choose. After we ate we made haste to Mallory Square to see the sunset. This is not just for tourists. It is an event. No matter how many times I stand there and watch, it is always memorable.

Mallory Square
View from Mallory Square.

We had made it. We now had three days to enjoy. We left Mallory Square and wandered back south. This brings me to tip number two:

TIP #2: When in the Florida Keys, Wander.

Wandering brings you to where you are suppose to go. This night we wandered into Capt. Tony’s. Here we met some people who were leaving the next day. Everyone seems friendly, especially when drinking in a bar like this. We drank, we talked, we listened to the single man band singing and playing his guitar. The people drank their last and left. We followed shortly after with the duration of the day weighing on our backs. We made the long walk and fell into the bed for a very restful, peaceful, sleep.

It’s Not Diving Unless You Are Breathing Under Water

Mangala is a scientist because of one fact. She is smart. She decided to schedule our Saturday dive in the afternoon rather than in the morning. Thank the heavens! We wanted to dive a wreck and we initially planned on diving the Vandenberg again. However, we both wanted to do something different so we decided on the Adolphus Busch.

We woke up relaxed and had some breakfast offered by the place where we stayed. We decided to walk to Divers Direct because I had forgotten a yoke adaptor for my regulator. Divers Direct was 7/10ths of a mile away and the day was beautiful for the walk. I got the yoke adapter and we made it back in time to load the car and head out of Key West, back north to Big Pine Key. We were diving with Innerspace Dive Center. It is a small dive shop but the people are great. Small means comfortable and friendly. By the end of the dive Brian (divemaster) and Ryan (captain) were like long time friends.

We dove twice on the Adolphus Busch and both dives had fantastic conditions. The only hitch in the entire day was the boat running out of gas. Actually, it just ran one tank dry. We had plenty of fuel but nothing to prime the fuel line with. No matter, both Brian and Ryan were able to prime it the hard way after about 15 minutes. The delay did put us behind on our time schedule.

If You Are This Far South – Eat Cuban!

Sloppy Joes
Sloppy Joe’s, Key West, Florida.

That, by the way, is TIP #3. When we arrived back to the resort we got ready and put our gear into the shower area so it could drip down into the drain. We were heading back to Mallory Square but not for the view this time, for the food. Right next to the Square is a place called El Meson de Pepe. It is fantastic! Great food, great atmosphere and most of all great people. There is never a bad time at this place. If you go always ask for an outdoor table.
Mangala and I ordered without thought and enjoyed every moment including the full carafe of Sangria! The idea was to hit a few bars on the walk back down Duval but the Sangria did us in. That and the long day.

A Day Of Relaxation

We planned on Sunday just being a day to wander, sight-see, and buy holiday gifts. And so it was. We visited the Hemingway House, the Lighthouse, and Mel Fisher’s Maritime Museum. We shopped in many stores and had a few drinks along the way including one in Sloppy Joe’s. We missed hitting the Green Parrot or, rather, we held off this trip until we can return with friends. The night ended with another walk to the north side for sushi. On the way back we decided to try a dessert bar called Better Than Sex. It must be awesome because there was a line and a list of reservations so we headed back to our temporary home to sleep.

A Dive And A Drive Back Home

Monday came faster than we liked, the same way every vacation ends. We got up before dawn and headed north. We were going home to Orlando but on the way we had reserved a spot with Conch Republic Divers. These guys are by far the best dive charter in the Keys that I have used so far. We were diving the wreck of the Eagle and a reef.
It was another beautiful day and the Eagle had more of a current on it than usual. The reef was outside the Gulf Stream and a bit colder for it. It was a perfect end to our vacation. We cleaned up and showered (a great amenity at CRD) and headed out. We ate lunch at Denny’s with two of the divers we dove with that day. Saying our goodbyes we took to the road for the long drive home. Life is just beautiful.


One thought on “A Trip to Key West, (nov ’12)

  1. I enjoyed reading about your wonderful trip to the Key West. Although it would be a bit far away for a weekend trip, it warmed me up for my next SCUBA season. Thanks for your post!

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