Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Travelogue: Key West, Florida (a.k.a. The Conch Republic)

To plan our spring vacation I searched the interwebs for "best North American vacation for couples" and came up with Key West, because it offers great snorkeling, a relaxed atmosphere and might stay within budget. Chad loved the idea so much, that we booked flight and hotel within a few days of me suggesting Key West.

I did a bit of research before our trip, and learned that in 1982 U.S. border patrol roadblocks along the only road into Key West put a damper on the island's tourism. This prompted the mayor of Key West to announce secession from the United States of America to become The Conch Republic. The secession was short-lived, but successfully ended the border patrol roadblocks. Watch a video about it *here on*. Happy Conch Republic Day on April 23! (Timely!)

Luckily, these days flights to Key West are abundant. The Key West airport is small compared to most tourist town airports, and the runway is short. The pilot warned us that we would feel a rapid deceleration upon landing with the implication being "don't be scared/no screaming or crying back there". Disembarking from the airplane down wobbly stairs to the tarmac, we were greeted by a retro-looking sculpture of a buoy and some families pointing at the buoy, or maybe reaching for each other's hands. Um... does anyone else find this sculpture a little creepy?

As we left the airport in a taxi bound for the hotel, I saw a big rooster sporting impressively colored plumage walking around near some picnic tables. When we arrived at our hotel another (or was it the same?!) big rooster sporting impressively colored plumage greeted us in the parking lot. There are many free roaming hens and roosters on Key West. More on that later.

Chad and I often turn to tripadvisor for help deciding where to stay, dine and play, which is how we found the Almond Tree Inn for our stay in Key West. Located near the quiet end of Duval Street on Truman Avenue, we easily walked to all the things we wanted to see on Key West. (The island is only 1.8 miles by 4 miles in area, so most things are walkable.) The rooms are thoughtfully appointed with Jonathan Adler-esque style. (Our room had cute cat ceramics on a feature shelf. It's like they knew me!) The hotel courtyard features a pool, a hot tub (no thanks, germs) and a man made waterfall with koi pond. An impressive continental style breakfast is served each morning on the lovely covered porch area. Happy Hour nibbles and drinks are served each evening.

Our first evening in Key West we walked around Duval Street a bit to get acclimated, stopping for dinner at the downtown location of Cuban Coffee Queen. I liked my black bean veggie burger from Cuban Coffee Queen served with plantain chips and a blue dumdum lollipop for dessert. Chad loves all things breakfast/egg and had Havana rice and beans with eggs. He liked it, but did not get a lollipop. I tried to convince Chad that the staff wasn't playing favorites with the unequal lollipop distribution, but I was clearly their favorite. Or possibly the lollipops only come with sandwiches.

Many of the restaurants in Key West, including the downtown location of Cuban Coffee Queen, have shaded or covered open air dining. It's hot and humid in Key West. If one holds still and there is a breeze, outdoor dining is semi-pleasant/semi-sweaty-making.

After dinner, Chad and I had a lazy swim in the hotel pool to cool ourselves before bedtime.

One of Austin's mottoes to promote local businesses "Keep Austin Weird", seems a little vanilla in comparison to bumper stickers/unofficial city mottoes I saw in Key West which read "Key West: a work free drug place" and "Key West: We do more in a week than most people do all day". Chillaxin' seems to be the name of the game down there. (Don't worry, law abiding citizens. We did not partake of any illegal drugs in Key West. We didn't even have to "just say no", because no one offered any.)

Tune in tomorrow for more Key West travel adventure tales.