Friday, May 9, 2014

Tropical Paradise - Key West, FL

Key West, FL--Notorious as being a haven for adventurous scuba divers, amazing sunsets, a serene location for writers and artists, and a place where the colorful characters emerge at sundown. I have always been intrigued with the idea of visiting Key West. Many years ago, my husband and I were trying to coordinate a vacation to that destination without success. The problem was that we were trying to arrange Marriott points with frequent flyer points, and it just wasn't happening.

We opted for a different Florida location for that particular vacation, but I knew I would someday try again regardless of how long it might take to arrange. The opportunity arose this spring when we were staying at the Sanibel Harbour Resort. As I scanned through brochures featuring local activities, I spotted an advertisement for the Key West Express There it was right before my eyes--the opportunity to take a day trip to Key West from Fort Myers Beach and just check it out. No need to find a hotel there, as we would only be in Key West for a few hours. It would offer me a little taste of this popular destination, and I would then know if I would ever want to return for a longer stay. Perfect.  It would be just like sampling different ports when cruising and deciding where you might return to spend more time in the future.

So off we drove to Fort Myers Beach in the early morning hours to climb aboard the Key West Express, a large catamaran that transports passengers to Key West's vacationland in just three and a half hours. There is only one problem. The boat leaves Fort Myers by 8:30 a.m. (last call at 8:00 a.m.) and arrives at the terminal in Key West at approximately 12 noon. You spend a few hours sightseeing, and before you know it, you are boarding for the sailing that returns you to Fort Myers. This boat departs Key West at 6:00 p.m., with last call being 5:30 p.m. You do the math: 3.5 + 3.5 = 7. With 7 hours total travel time, you are on a boat longer than you are in port. We had to make the most of our exploration time.

How to maximize our short stay? We bought tickets for the Conch Tour Train, which took us to all of the highlights that we needed to see and offered a great deal of local historical information. We decided to hope off at Hemingway House for a fascinating tour. See  A guided tour provided much history and insight about the author, Ernest Hemingway, the home, the lush gardens and the approximately 40 cats that roam the property. This tour immediately inspired me to choose some of Hemingways books for my Kindle, and I intend to read a biography of this very interesting and talented personality. It would seem that he had a short attention span relative to his love life, and being there in the room where he did much of his writing was incredibly inspiring. Im not a person who thinks much about ghosts, but I have to say that being in that house gives you the feeling that his spirit is very much alive.
Hemingway's Writing Room

Another View of Hemingway's Writing Room
Pool in Hemingway's Lush Back Yard
Lazy Days in Key West-Cat Sleeping in a Plant
Artwork in the Living Room
We were hungry after all of our touring, but didnt want to venture too far off the beaten path from the terminal, where we would catch the return sailing of the Key West Express. We stopped in an Irish pub called Finnegans Wake Irish Pub & Eatery. Strangely, we ordered pizza, which turned out to be absolutely delicious. With tummies full, we headed back to the terminal to prepare for the voyage to Fort Myers.
Fred & Mary at Finnegan's Wake Irish Pub-Key West
Caution: Three and a half hours is a long time to sit and do nothing. On the sailing to Key West, I had a very nice chat with a sweet lady seated beside me, which made the time go quickly. My husband dozed and watched a movie that was offered for public viewing. As soon as we boarded for the return, I desperately wished I had either brought my Kindle or a paperback or had purchased a book at the Hemingway House Bookstore. I ventured into the snack bar area and discovered that on their posted list of menu items was Playing Cards. That would do the trick! So I talked my husband into playing Crazy 8s and Around the World until he just couldnt stand it any longer. Lesson learned. Always have access to something to read!

In spite of the quick turnaround, we loved having a few hours to explore Key West.  Without question, I will return to this tropical paradise in the future for a longer visit. And do you know what they say about those Key West sunsets? Just take a peek and swoon...

Stop by for more visits to amazing places!

Mary Anne Benedetto
Author of Eyelash, 7 Easy Steps to Memoir Writing: Build a Priceless Legacy One Story at a Time!, Never Say Perfect, From Italy with Love & Limoncello and Write Your Pet's Life Story in 7 Easy Steps!