Print Story Vacation
By ana (Fri Jun 05, 2009 at 04:22:07 PM EST) vacation (all tags)
Go to Key West. Go directly to Key West. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.

Saturday, 5/30/09

Took the puppies to "camp". Rocky knows where he's going. Rusti's just excited to get to ride in the car. I guess she's only been there twice before. I remember ad hoc kept her when we went to Provincetown in May '08 for our third anniversary.

Anyway, the house is very quiet without dogs around, and the cats came out somewhat more than they usually do.

Sunday, 5/31/09

Traveling day. We left home about 8:45, walking to Oak Grove, a mile away, and the subway. A transfer downtown, and a shuttle bus, and we were at the terminal two hours before game time. Security was no problem, and we had a second breakfast in the terminal. American made us check our carryon bags at the gate; we've had them on countless 757s before, but whatever. They made it to Key West on the same airplane we did, so it's all good.

There was a bit of weather coming in to Miami, so we were re-routed out over the Bahamas around it. The American Eagle gate is like a bus terminal, and they took us out to the little ATR 2-engine prop plane. While we were waiting to board (and the Captain was doing a walkaround and having a heated discussion with somebody from security), toxicfur saw them load our suitcases.

We taxied out to the runway where we were #2 for takeoff, when it began to pour. There was a sheet of water on each of the airplane windows, and we could hear the thunder outside. So we ended up being delayed about half an hour on the ground, and a bit more in flight, flying between thunderstorms. So we landed perhaps 45 minutes behind schedule, and we were hoping for a timely arrival before the Bed and Breakfast office closed. I called as soon as we got into the tiny little terminal, and it turns out the office closes early on Sundays anyway, but it was all good; he'd left the key and some info in an envelope with our name on it.

Bed and Breakfast is a wonderful thing. The notion of a personal guide who knows the area and chats it up (and gets a cut if you buy tickets or make reservations through him)... Not to mention not having to go out to breakfast every day.

Monday, 6/1/09 through sometime later in the week (the days run together).

On vacation, we try not to make plans, but rather discuss options. Here are some of the ones we exercised.

We did a trolley tour the first day; it's the same Old Town Trolley tour company we chartered a bus from for our wedding rehearsal dinner in Boston. This gave us a clue about what-all we wanted to do while we're here. We also trudged up and down Duvall St., which is packed with restaurants, tourist traps, museums, bars, and all manner of wonderful shops.

The island itself is 2 by 4 miles, having been expanded greatly in the former half of the 1900s by extensive dredging. There's a deep-water port on the Gulf side, which figured in several wars in the area, including serving as a Union Navy port for the blockade of Confederate ports during the Civil War.

We bought a little coupon book from the B&B dude, which included admission to the trolley and a bunch of museums and things. There's a butterfly conservation place that's magical; we spent an hour or two chasing butterflies with our cameras. They also had birds, including a bunch of quail that walk around on the ground. The next generation hatched just a couple days ago, so they were gathered up and put in a terrarium for their protection. They're little inch-sized birds, and one row of about 6 of them had their little heads stuffed under the edge of a towel, taking a nap.

There are chickens running loose in the streets, including families of them. The rooster looking big and fierce, the hen trying to keep her chicks all going the same direction (away from curious passersby). The chicks range in size from ping-pong ball to half grown (or maybe more; they tend to wander away by themselves at about that size, I think).

What else? There was, for a long time, a wrecking industry here. Ships ran aground on the nearby reefs with frightening regularity, and many of the locals made a living salvaging stuff from sunken ships. A recent example was the Nuestra Señora de Atocha, which was lost with a sister ship in a hurricane in 1622, carrying literally tons of silver bars and coins from Peru back to Spain. It was found a few years ago, and they're still bringing stuff up from it. There's a museum dedicated to showing off artifacts just from that wreck.

Harry Truman spent a lot of time here while he was President. We toured the house where he vacationed; at the time it was on the Navy base, which is, nowadays, much smaller than it was then.

US Highway 1 ends here; it goes all the way up the east coast. In town, it's called Truman Street. The cross street next to our B&B is called Margaret Street. On the corner there's a Margaret-Truman Laundrette, which has been here since the early 50s; the Truman Little White House had a picture of Harry S in a limousine in front of it.

Ernest Hemingway bought the house built by one of the original wrecking captains, and lived here for about 5 years in the 1940s. He had dozens of six-toed cats, and many of their descendants still live on the property.

The beaches are wonderful. The city has several on the Atlantic side; they truck in sand every year and keep them in decent shape. There's not much surf on that side, perhaps because of all the breakwaters, and the remains of old piers just offshore. There's also a state park surrounding the Civil War era Fort Zachary Taylor, which includes natural beaches facing Cuba and a rocky shoreline facing the Gulf. We went out there to watch the sunset Wednesday night. The beach is a bit gravelly, so you have to be careful coming and going, but the bottom is sandy further out.

The B&B also rents bicycles, so once we figured out what's where, we got us some bikes. It's been over 30 years since I rode a bike (and I didn't wear glasses then, let alone bifocals). I'm a bit shaky, but you really don't forget. And it's nice, having your very own breeze.

The weather forecast is the same, every day: highs in the upper 80s, lows around 75, 30% chance of rain. We made a reservation for a massage on Tuesday morning, after checking the weather radar. An hour before time to be there (anticipating a half-hour walk across town), it began to spit. And then to rain a bit. So we put on our rain shells and started hiking. Through a deluge. I think somebody told us they got 2.5 inches of rain in an hour and a half. There was considerable street flooding, and in places we had to ford knee-deep streams to cross streets.

The massages were wonderful. Putting on soggy clothes again afterwards, not so much. But there's a Ron Jon's Surf Shop next door, and I kind of needed another pair of shorts, so I got some dry clothes, and toxicfur got a gift and some flip-flops to wear around town.

The food is amazing. One evening (they all blur together) we had Cobia (locally caught fish) that was melt in your mouth deliciousness. Another night, tapas, which is a Spanish innovation where you can order small portions of lots of different things. Right around the corner from the B&B is a Cuban greasy spoon kind of a place; we had their roast pork one night (and brought home leftovers for the next day). And we bought sandwiches there to take to Fort Zach on Wednesday (and ate the second half for lunch on Thursday). There's a kitchenette in our room at the B&B, with a refrigerator and a microwave and a small stove, so we don't absolutely have to eat out every meal if we don't feel like it.

There's a rum bar on Duval Street. Last year in Provincetown we were introduced to a tasty spiced rum from the Dominican Republic, Ron Zacapo. We've bought a bottle or two of that since, but otherwise, neither of us really knows much about what's likely to be tasty. So we told that story to the barkeeper at the rum bar, and he recommended several others. I think we'll be going back there to try another sample. Good rum is like good Scotch: it's out there if you know what you want. Quoting Colonel Potter (from M*A*S*H), "There are not enough O's in smoooooooooth."

Thursday was a lazy day; the one outing was to a little museum in honor of Henry Flagler's "oversea railroad" which was built in 1913. Freight (and passengers) could come to Key West on the train, for shipment through the (then new) Panama Canal (for the freight) or to Cuba (for the people). The track and a train were destroyed in a hurricane in the 1930s. In the late 1930s it was replaced by a highway, using some of the same bridges. Flagler made his millions with John D. Rockefeller in the oil business.

We took a detour through an above-ground cemetery; I guess it's like the ones in New Orleans in that respect. There's a monument to the USS Maine, whose explosion in Havana harbor in 1898 started the Spanish-American War. We also found a plot with a William H. and a William L. $mylastname, their wives, and one infant daughter. I don't know if they're relatives, though certainly William is a common enough name in our part of the family.

Friday the plan is to take an "eco-tour" out to some of the reefs, do some snorkeling and some kayaking in the wilds.

Friday 6/5/09

... And now, we're back from the boat trip. The weather was perfect. There's a bunch of shallow water north west of Key West. Our captain's boat had just been re-fit, and this was the shakedown cruise, after being out of the water for six weeks. She knows the neat places to go. We anchored near a mangrove island, where the water's shallow enough to allow the roots of the mangroves to reach the bottom, and they trap more silt, and eventually build an island. There were cormorants sitting in the treetops, wings open, drying. There were sea ducks, taking off from little hidden coves when we paddled by in our kayaks. There were rays and sharks and a turtle, snacking on the other sea life.

And then we moved to a place with about eight feet of water, and went snorkeling. Last time I tried that, I didn't have a mustache, so there was a bit of trouble getting the mask to seal to my face. They say salt-water rinses are good for sinuses, and I hope that's right. There were rock lobsters and barrel sponges and a juvenile moray eel. toxicfur took some pictures with a cheap, single-use, waterproof camera.

Some of the pictures will be posted soon.

< Sporting reporting | Hurry, More Bullets! >
Vacation | 10 comments (10 topical, 0 hidden)
Food by ad hoc (2.00 / 0) #1 Fri Jun 05, 2009 at 05:53:27 PM EST
How can you be in the Conch Republic and not mention conch chowder!

MMmmm. Conch chowder.

That is a great euphemism. by ni (4.00 / 4) #2 Fri Jun 05, 2009 at 06:26:26 PM EST
I'm just not sure for what.

"These days it seems like sometimes dreams of Italian hyper-gonadism are all a man's got to keep him going." -- CRwM
[ Parent ]
Heh. by ana (2.00 / 0) #5 Fri Jun 05, 2009 at 08:48:23 PM EST
We had conch chowdah (they call it chowder here), and conch fritters.

"And this ... is a piece of Synergy." --Kellnerin

[ Parent ]
Don't forget by notafurry (2.00 / 0) #3 Fri Jun 05, 2009 at 07:08:01 PM EST
Get a Conch Republic passport while you're there. And study up on the history of the Conch Republic's fight for freedom.

Interesting by ana (2.00 / 0) #4 Fri Jun 05, 2009 at 08:47:20 PM EST
history, yes.

"And this ... is a piece of Synergy." --Kellnerin

[ Parent ]
that all sounds awesome! by clock (2.00 / 0) #6 Fri Jun 05, 2009 at 08:50:51 PM EST
can't wait to see the pix!

I agree with clock entirely --Kellnerin

That's pretty much... by iGrrrl (4.00 / 1) #7 Fri Jun 05, 2009 at 09:57:52 PM EST
My favorite part of my home state. I'm glad you're enjoying it.  

"Beautiful wine, talking of scattered everythings"
(and thanks to Scrymarch)

We thought of you... by ana (2.00 / 0) #10 Sun Jun 07, 2009 at 08:48:06 PM EST
when we turned in the B&B coupon at the Hot Tin Roof restaurant, entitling us each to a free Hot Tin Tini... pineapple-infused vodka, pineapple puree, dunno what all else. Yummy. Makes the sunset even more wonderful.

"And this ... is a piece of Synergy." --Kellnerin

[ Parent ]
I LOVE UYO ALL AND CAN I GO ON VACATION by yankeehack (2.00 / 0) #8 Fri Jun 05, 2009 at 09:58:45 PM EST
"...she dares to indulge in the secret sport. You can't be a MILF with the F, at least in part because the M is predicated upon it."-CBB
tapas by Kellnerin (4.00 / 1) #9 Sat Jun 06, 2009 at 09:18:27 AM EST
I prefer to think of it as dim sum without the constantly rotating service and usually with smaller portions :) (There's a nice place for it in Waltham, though, that I quite like.)

Glad you had a good time -- and a well-deserved break.

"Late to the party" is the new "ahead of the curve" -- CRwM

Vacation | 10 comments (10 topical, 0 hidden)