KEY WEST, Fla. --- I love Key West . Blogging right now from a funky Internet Cafe just off Duval Street, which is the main drag of Old Town. Think shopping and bars.
Actually there is one sacred space along this strip of madness --- St. Paul Episcopal Church. Built in the 1800s, the church has magnificent stained-glass windows. There are daily concerts at noon, but the church is open just to look at the windows, or sit and meditate. It's as if the rest of the world disappears when you walk in the door.
Weather has been perfect --- maybe a little too hot, but I swore I would not complain. So I'm not complaining. 80s and pretty humid today. We started out with our usual breakfast spot, then I tanned on the balcony of the hotel for an hour while Ken shopped for Hawaiian shirts. We rented a couple of bikes for the afternoon and rode out to one of the beaches, to a small nature preserve we'd seen yesterday. Bikes and scooters are THE way to get around the island. A car is virtually an impediment to getting around.
So I'm ready to sell all that I have and move down here to write my book. I never thought I needed to write a book myself, but Key West is amazingly inspirational. Get a little house, buy a couple of scooters and we'd have it made. I've been to other parts of Florida, but no place has been as laid-back as Key West. No wonder so many writers and artists have made their homes here over the years. OK, so it's the 4th most expensive U.S. city, but hey ... maybe Ken and I could afford a little house trailer in the poor section of town.
Ernest Hemingway's house is probably the biggest tourist attraction. It's a gracious two-story Island style home on Whitehead Street, not far from the action on Duval. Lush gardens and grounds, populated by descendants of his famed 6-toed cat Snowball. Reportedly Hemingway had 50 cats, so that is how many they keep at the home today. It is paradise for a cat to live there --- lots of food, attention, sunny sleeping spots, regular veterinary care ... no wonder their cats live into their 20s. Hemingway's studio, or writing space is in a guest cottage next to the main home, on the second floor. You look out through the trees from his work table. Could I work there? Just try me. The proximity of Duval Street and its attractions wouldn't be much of a distraction ... put in my 8-9 hours and then go have some fun. Which is what Hem usually did.
We sampled Cuban cuisine last night and at today's lunch. (You are constantly reminded here that Cuba is only 90 miles away. Castro needs to get busy and die.) Probably fattening, but GOOD stuff. We've tried ropa vieja (literally old clothes, it's beef brisket simmered with tomatoes, peppers, onions and wine until it's fork-tender and falling apart), fried cubes of pork, picadillo, Cuban bread, fried plaintain, black beans and rice ... yum.
I haven't done nearly as much shopping as Ken and the girls have. I'm bringing home a couple bottles of Key lime juice and a cookbook (surprise!) Picked up one of those little sarongs for something like $5 or $6, which is just fine for sying over my bathing suit and going to lunch. Yes, it really is that casual here -- and it really is that hot.
Plans are to head back to Miami Friday afternoon and fly back to Michigan on Saturday. Probably will stop at Bahia Honda State Park on the drive back --- supposedly one of the most beautiful beaches in Florida, if not the entire country. At least that's the plan. Unless Amy and Cody get eaten by sharks or decide to abandon us and live in a tiki hut on the beach.