I want to start this post off by providing the definition of kaleidoscope, to get a better sense of what this post will be about: “A kaleidoscope is an optical instrument with two or more reflecting surfaces tilted to each other in an angle, so that one or more objects on one end of the mirrors are seen as a regular symmetrical pattern when viewed from the other end, due to repeated reflection.” And that’s Key West for you! Thanks for reading!
So no, Key West is nothing like a kaleidoscope, but nothing else seemed fitting that started with “K” so it’ll do. But Key West! What an amazing time we had! I’m sad that it took us that long to visit, but I’m glad that we live so “close” that we’re able to check it out again!
We left Winter Garden at o’dark 6 AM, packed with snacks, water and more snacks. Add a couple stops here and there, and we made it to the Keys around 12ish, which is when we cranked down the windows and flipped on “Steel Drum” radio on Pandora, and followed the road south. Turns out, there’s a lot of steel drum songs out there. It did help being surrounded by blue-green water, and roadside shacks selling shells, key lime pie (more on that later) and other various wants one could use while visiting the Keys.
We pulled up to our hotel, and we're so grateful to take a nap and just be out of the car. We make our way inside to check-in only to hear the words, "You didn't get our call? We overbooked you and had to move you to another hotel." (So. Being in the hospitality industry and having to make these calls ourselves, we took this in stride and went along with it, and I think, played it pretty cool.) We also really tried to keep our cool when the manager said we were moving to a totally refurbished resort, and our stay over there would be totally free. Though we were sleepy, hungry and just wanted to nap, we were still pretty stoked about this.
We made our way to our new hotel, and were truly surprised at how friendly and accommodating the staff was. Our room still had the fresh paint smell, and was quite lovely, with a back door and a perfect view of the water. We settled in and got cozy, and I ventured out for a run. Now. It was hot at this time. I was pretty disappointed, in all honesty. This is Florida, I am aware, but it was December and I wanted halfway coldish weather. But no, it was hot and gross. However, I made it through my run and came back to shower up and start our first night on the town.
We made our way to a waterfront brewery and enjoyed a flight and some food, and toured the waterfront. One of the best parts about having a December birthday is you get to enjoy all the decorations associated with Christmas, and being Key West, of course they have random sea animals made out of Christmas lights. Why not.
After dinner, we ventured down Duvall street and got my first taste of the Key West scene. Turns out, it was a lot of bars, tourist shops and more bars. For some reason, I was a bit thrown off by all of this. I had read a history book about Key West and well, I don't know what I expected but I was thrown off by all of it. Our one and only stop that night was to The Bear and Bull pub, and though we didn't venture into the clothing optional rooftop area, we did enjoy watching everyone parade up and down Duvall that evening. We made our way back home, and geared up for our first big day of exploring!
We woke up early the next morning and realized something. It was rather chilly! Our dreams came true! THIS was the weather we were expecting and looking forward to, and it did not disappoint. After a quick breakfast, we made our way back downtown to catch a trolley to give us a tour of the town, which was incredibly interesting. We drove past all the highlights of the town, and thoroughly enjoyed our tour. It was at this point where I realized that Key West ISN'T just Duvall Street. There was so much more to the key than I realized, and I soaked it all up.
We hopped off a stop that was close to Fort Taylor, and decided it was worth exploring. We walked along the battlements of the fort, saw some incredibly large lizards and took in the sun and surf. The fort was constructed in the early 1900s, when Key West was becoming a larger establishment. Being so close to Cuba, Washington wanted to have a stronger military presence in Florida. Hence, the creation of the fort.
After some more riding around, we made it back to our hotel to shower up and gear up for another night on the town. We found a small pizza joint and loved every bite we could take in.
As we were making our way down Duvall, we noticed the street emptying of cars. We looked down to the end of the street, and noticed the road was filled with folks on their bikes! Every bike, and most people, were decked head to toe with Christmas decorations! It was an annual bike parade through the heart of the city and was a pretty cool sight.
We then proceeded up and down Duvall Street for the rest of the evening, ending up at Captain Tony's, the original location of the infamous Sloppy Joes. Turns out, Sloppy Joes is really just a tourist destination and it's pretty busy. So, Captain Tony's was the complete opposite: dirty, low-lit and full of interesting characters. We spent our night there, listening to a guy play guitar and taking in the evening. It was the perfect way to end a most adventurous day!