Our initial plans of fine dining by night, and snorkeling by day were ruined by a series of events beyond our control – flight delay, a busy airport, sketchy neighborhood around our Miami hotel, and a late-night-earlier-than-planned drive into Key West.
Little did we know that our previous night’s chaos would actually transform into a blessing in disguise! Here’s how our February Florida getaway became a trip extraordinaire!
Not having an agenda in mind, we set out on a ride in our (rental) open top Mustang GT in the laid back Key West alleys flanked by pastel hues of conch architecture (thanks to the early immigrants from the Bahamas). We share the road with plenty bikes and convertibles. The generous sun and the sparkling ocean overlooking Mallory pier are pleasantly muted as we put on our hats and shades (a must!). We then treat our eyes to pelicans intently gazing at people with fishing hooks, while roosters (referred to as Gypsy Chickens by the Key West locals) strut all around us crowing out loud. The Cuban flavor and the birds around us elevate our souls!
No birds were consumed – Part I
We head towards the southernmost tip of historic Duval Street to the Southernmost Beach Cafe. The oh-so-refreshing mojitos, fresh tuna atop avocado, and a creamy smoky fish dip constitute our perfect brunch.
A social butterfly and a curious flamingo
A couple steps later, we find ourselves at this gem of a place called the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory. Not able to contain our child-like excitement, we stare with awe at the playful butterflies. The Blue Morpho, fluttering its wing merrily and fearlessly is a literal social butterfly. Our attention diverts towards a curious flamingo peering through the bushes around. There were other birds we catch sight of, and these creatures, harmless to the butterflies, prey on pests such as mosquitoes and aphids in lieu of resorting to chemicals. This has to be the best place of our getaway, and it filled us with much glee!
A (bird-less) house and its house cats
The rest of the afternoon, we pedal our (rented) bikes along the streets of Key West. Our first stop was the Ernest Hemingway house. An eccentric house that once belonged to an eccentric writer, this is a must visit for the people that revere the classic writer and his writing.
No birds were to be found, may be because of the 54 house cats! Some were fast asleep and unperturbed, and some roaming about while we tour the house. Some have six claws, having originally descended from Hemingway’s six clawed cat named Snow White!
No birds were consumed – Part II
We stop for a late lunch at a home-style Peruvian restaurant called the Incas Restaurant. The ceviche was utterly fresh and scrumptious, and the Peruvian Paella vibrant and rich! Satiated, we pedal back and return our rental bikes.
As the crow flies, Key West to Cuba is 106 miles
The southernmost tip of the continental United States is only 90 miles away from the Cuban border. And we could not help but submerge deep in the laid back vibe that the Cuban influence lends to this city. There are myriad places that have generous sunlight on their land, and a mighty blue ocean around them, but none has the vibe that Keywest does.
The “Florida” way
The only Floridian component of our trip was a two hour sail aboard the quaint schooner named When and If. We indulge in the views of the sunset sky and the ocean, in the sharpness of variety gourmet cheese, and in the smoothness of wine aboard the beautiful craft. Not to mention, our chance acquaintance with a fellow passenger, Captain Bob (who narrated stories from his 5 year long circumnavigation around the world) provided a perfect end to our evening.
No birds were consumed – Part III
The next morning we depart Key West with a sense of fulfillment and joy, after treating ourselves to delightful and delectable crepes and mimosa at a charming French place called La Creperie French Cafe.
Memories – Bird by Bird, Pixel by Pixel
On our drive back to Miami on the US 1 N, flanked by the sparkling sea on both sides for the most part, we stop at some vista points for capturing breathtaking views through our eyes, and click a few shots of the same to treasure memories.
My aim is to put down on paper what I see and what I feel in the best and simplest way.
~ Ernest Hemingway
Photo credits – The husband and I.