This day was completely awesome! All the rain that was forecast actually happened overnight, and by 8 am, when we got up, there was just a bit of wet and some puddles, but it was dry and light. We had breakfast at the hotel pool, where they put together quite a nice continental breakfast with croissants and cereal and so on, and then we went off on our day of exploring Key West on foot. We didn’t have the GPS on Mark’s phone on, so it’s anyone’s guess how much we walked, but I’m sure it was around 10 miles total in the course of the day! This will be a long entry because we packed so much into the day!
We started by walking to the Hemingway house, and took the tour. It was a nice little refresher (I’m not much of an aficionado when it comes to Hemingway) and despite the truly awful Hemingway portrait paintings on various walls, the house itself and the little writer’s annex where he did his writing in the morning before he started drinking at “Sloppy Joe’s” (a bar which still exists in some form) was really nice. There were some very cool Spanish majolica tiles in the anteroom to the kitchen, and some nice tile designs in the bathrooms as well. The garden was fun to walk around in, too, as are all the green spaces here, since everything just grows without much help from anyone. But of course the best part were the “Hemingway Cats” – who cares whether they are all descendants of the original polydactyl cat that Hemingway owned? They were just fun to watch since they really were all over, and very friendly. One sat on my lap when I was sitting on a bench, and others were very pettable. Those cats actually get the treatment all cats expect; they own the place and have full-time staff feeding them and grooming them around the clock. They look fat and happy and like they are enjoying all the attention.
After the Hemingway house, we went across the street to the Key West Light House, and climbed up there for the fabulous all-around view of the whole island. By this time, it was actually sunny, and the water was doing all the aqua/light green / bright blue stuff you would expect from the tropics. We could see the buildings we’d been walking by and the huge cruise ship that had anchored to dump its cruise guests for the day, as well as some of the tiny Keys further off of Key West.
We then hit Tourist Spot # 3, walking to Fort Zachary State park at the end of the island. We checked out the fort, and it was interesting, but given that it actually never saw much action of any sort in any of the wars and given that I’m not much into military history, it didn’t hold our attention long; the view from the older parapet (I’m sure that’s not the right term) onto the ocean was very pretty, though. We also briefly checked out the state park’s beach, with the idea that we might come back to swim for a little.
By the time we left the area, we were getting hungry and walked back to Duval Street. We settled for “cubano” style paninis at a gelateria (they were so-so) because we really wanted gelato for dessert—and that was really delicious. We then walked back to the hotel, since the sun made it rather hot and humid and we were ready for a break from walking in an air-conditioned room! We took about an hour to rest our feet and cool down a bit, and then put our swimsuits on and took off again, although it was getting overcast (still none of the forecast precipitation).
We did take a brief look at the “Southernmost Point” where all the tourists take pictures, but we already knew from the Internet that it was neither the most Southern point in the continental US NOR 90 miles from Cuba (it’s 94 miles or something), so we were not sad to be without a camera. Since the public beach in the vicinity was basically postage-stamp size, squeezed in between two big resorts, we did walk back to Fort Zach and spent some time on that beach, swimming and walking despite a rather rocky, pebbly surface and quite a bit of seaweed and shredded palm leaves in the water that got stuck on us. It wasn’t the greatest swimming experience, but I could not NOT go swimming in tropical waters, and Mark was a good sport about it.
We were pretty damp when we got out, but walked back to Duval Street and then to the Marina on the gulf side. The clouds were getting rather dark now on the gulf side, and a storm was clearly coming, but we had spotted a little diner (Harpoon Harry’s) a little bit off the Marina and about 3 blocks from the hotel, and went in there about 5 minutes before it started to pour buckets. It turned out to be a really fun place with a super friendly owner who called us “baby” and “honey,” and mostly local customers; we had simple but lovely specials (grouper with rice and spinach for me, chicken quesadillas for Mark) and shared a piece of chocolate cake with icecream while watching sheets of rain pelt the streets. It felt like the perfect end to a day without a drop of rain that had been forecast to be rain all day! When it lightened up a little bit, we walked back to the hotel (we did have an umbrella), past a power line that was down because of a tree coming down in the storm. We took lovely hot showers, hung up our clothes to dry, and were determined to stay indoors for the rest of the night, with more stormy weather moving through the area. A perfect one-day Key West visit!