Amy and I had a wonderful vacation in Key West, and this is the diary of our trip.  We went on this trip as a way to relax and to enjoy each other before Amy started working nights.  To look at all of our photos (or at least the good ones), click here.

Monday, 1 Oct 12

John and Amy at the Southernmost Point in the US.

Today we began our Key West adventure.  It started out a very rainy morning and we were lucky that our flights weren’t canceled.  We dropped Nadia off for boarding one our way to Pensacola airport.  From Pensacola we took the short hop to Atlanta, and then from Atlanta to Key West.

The airport reminded us of Belize, where we had our honeymoon. You got off the plane on the tarmac and walked into the terminal.  The outside of the terminal had a large sign saying “Welcome to the Conch Republic”.  From the airport we took a taxi to our hotel, the Marquesa.  We have a lovely room facing the pool.  It really is a nice hotel, but it is pricey.

For dinner we went to The Cafe (yes, that is its entire name, The Cafe).  It is a vegetarian and vegan restaurant, but it does serve a wide range of non-vegatarian food as well.  I had the vegetarian burger and sweet potato fries, and it was very good.  Amy had a squash dish that she loved. We will be going back there during this week.

After dinner we walked along the major street in Key West.  We found some cool stores and I’m sure there is at least one that Amy will be shopping at before we leave.  Since we are both tired, we decided to come back to our room fairly early and to get some sleep.

Tuesday, 2 Oct 12

Today we woke to thunderstorms.  As it was the day we were going to go flying around in a sea plane, we decided to reschedule.  The storms did blow through but even then, we had more storms come through during the day as well.  So, instead of flying today, we hopped on the tourist “train” and took a tour of the city.

Overall, Key West has a short but rich history.  We got to see all the places that Hemingway stayed at, and where President Truman like to hang out.  After the tour, we took a tour of the “little white house”, the Navy house that was adopted by President Truman as his retreat, and of Hemingway’s house.  Truman really loved it down here and it was his place to retreat to from the hectic life in DC.  I did find it funny that he and his wife kept separate bedrooms in the house.  Not sure how their child was conceived if they kept separate beds, but maybe that was a decision they made after having their daughter.  On the other hand, Hemingway had four wives and most of the time cheated on the current wife with the future wife.  I guess that is one way to be inspired to write.

Amy spent most of this afternoon at the spa getting herself all beautified.  A little scrubbing here, a little scrubbing there, some oil here and there… and don’t forget, the head massage.  She’s much more relaxed now, although she wasn’t really stressed out before she got to the spa.
For dinner we ate at a Mexican dive.  The food was the best Mexican we’ve had since moving to Florida.  It was a nice change from what passes for Mexican food up north.  Tomorrow we are going to the Dry Tortugas for a day trip.  It should be fun.

Wednesday, 3 Oct 12

The Beaches of Dry Tortugas

Today was out day trip to the Dry Tortugas, an island fortress west of Key West.  It was a two and one half hour ferry each way, so we got a chance to enjoy the rough seas.  By the time we got there in the morning, most people were ready to kiss the sand when we landed.  The Dry Tortugas was set up by the US Gov’t in the late 1800’s to protect against pirates.  It is also a strategic location between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic.  I guess it was the then Guam from a military perspective.  Fort Jefferson itself is made out of brick and remained in Union hands during the Civil War, which resulted in bricks needed to be shipped in all the way from Maine.  It was never completed and was abandoned by the US Gov’t in the 1880’s.  For its location and the hurricanes it suffers, it is in remarkably good shape.  It is also a good place for snorkeling, although the water around the beach we choose was pretty muddy, which didn’t result in many good pictures.

On the way out and back we chatted with a Brain and Christina, traveling companions originally from New Jersey.  Brian still works there but Christina works in Boca Raton, Florida.  It was a good conversation and after we got back we met up for a show.

We left around 8am and got back around 5pm.  After a good shower we went to a Cuban restaurant.  You would think that Key West would be filled with Cuban restaurants, and you would be wrong.  There is only one Cuban restaurant on the main tourist street, and we went to a place off the main street, but still in walking distance.  We both had shrimp dishes and were underwhelmed.  Tasted pretty much like any other shrimp dishes.  We aren’t sure if that is just what Cuban food is, or if we are missing something.  It was good food, but not much to write about.  However, the dinner did pay off when Amy noticed a man wearing a t-shirt from Muccu Pico.  She being the extrovert in the family struck up a conversation and learned about their trip to Peru.  It was a “trip of a lifetime”, and it further solidified our desires for a similar trip next year.

We met up with Brian and Christine at Aqua, a local gay bar to watch a drag show.  For a show in the middle of the week at 9pm, it was really quite good.  There were plenty of good jokes, funny costumes, and outrageous behavior to go around.  After the show we headed back to the hotel to get some needed sleep for our long day on Thursday.

Thursday, 4 Oct 12

Today was the big day.  Amy got me a seaplane ride.  So, in the morning we took off from the airport and headed out to the Dry Tortugas.  While we flew the airplane towards the island, we got the chance to look at a couple of shipwrecks, and to see dolphins swimming.  I even saw some sea turtles swimming.  Most of the time we were about 500 feet above the water.  When we got to the Dry Tortugas, we circled the island several times allowing me to take way too many photographs, and then we circled the other islands.

Dry Tortugas from the Air

After the Dry Tortugas, we headed back to the airport where we stopped for some more gas, and took a short break.  Then it was back on the plane to go look at some lighthouses.  There is a coral reef near Key West that is where several lighthouses are located.  From the looks of of, it is some wonderful snorkeling.  We circled three lighthouses before heading back.  On our way back we did a couple of water landings in the bay.  It would have been nice to land near the lighthouses, but the water was too rough.  It is better to avoid crashing the plane, even if it is a sea plane.  It is an interesting landing procedure in a Cessna 172 float plane.  You basically drop like a rock to the surface and then level out for the landing.  Taking off is also interesting.  The poor plane has to overcome all of the drag caused by water, so it is just pulling itself through the water.  Seaplanes have larger wingspans, propellers, and engines to allow for takeoffs.

Finally, our time was done and we landed at the airport.  We finished paying our bill (not cheap to charter a seaplane), and headed to our favorite local restaurant, The Cafe.  It is a wonderful vegetarian restaurant with some wonderful food.

John and Amy on the Sunset CruiseIn the late afternoon, we took a sunset cruise in the harbor.  While not as exciting as a seaplane, it was probably one of our favorite activities in Key West.  We had wine and food while sailing on a schooner.  The staff was great and our glasses were always full.  It was a pretty sunset.  Not quite as spectacular as other Key West nights, but beautiful in its own right.  I drank too much and was pretty much drunk by the time we got back to the dock.

After the sunset cruise, we met up with a couple we met for the Haunted Key West tour.  Luckily I wasn’t so drunk that I couldn’t walk with the tour, but I will tell you that my mind wasn’t really on the tour as I was too focused to just avoid falling.  The guide of this tour was pretty good.  I don’t know if he was acting or if he really believes what he was saying, but he certainly sounded convinced that Key “Weird” was haunted by ghosts.  Finally, the tour was over and Amy guided me back to the hotel so I could sleep it off.

Friday, 5 Oct 12

This morning we out just relaxing.  We didn’t have anything planned until about noon, so it was a nice morning to relax, read the paper, and sip coffee.  We did go to breakfast at this bar and grill that has eggs benedict.  It was a dive, but the eggs benedict was good according to Amy.  My omelet was okay, but nothing to write home about.

The view from our waverunner.

After breakfast we took a jet ski tour.  I steered and Amy hanged on for dear life.  These things don’t drive like my motorcycle until you get to high speed.  It took a while but I did managed to figure out how to maintain control of the jet ski.  We had one driver that never overcame his fear of the jet ski.  These things are pretty powerful (and ours were wimps compared to what you can buy) and I felt like I was constantly on the edge of loosing control.  So, this poor rider couldn’t overcome that and had to fall out to go back to where he could ride without holding up the tour.

Everything was fine until we hit the rough water.  At that point it went from fun to hanging off for dear life.  Most experienced riders will stand up and use their elbows and knees as shock absorbers.  That isn’t possible with Amy sitting behind me hanging onto me.  So we bounced from wave to wave slapping the jet ski when we hit a larger wave.  We managed to stay on the jet ski and to not look like a complete novice, but not by much.

More importantly, we did see some really pretty scenery as we went around the island.  It is amazing how clear the water is here, and so much warmer than the ocean I grew up with.  It was a good trip, but both Amy and I were thankful to get back onto solid ground.  We decided that we’d do this again if we were on a lake or somewhere with smaller waves.  It really is a lot of fun when you can relax and look around as you are skirting over the water.  It just isn’t nearly as much fun when you hanging on the handlebars while your body (and your wife) is bouncing off the jet ski.

Fire Dancer at the Sunset Celebration

After the jet ski, we headed back to the hotel and relaxed a bit.  Then we headed up to Mallory Square to watch the sunset.  It wasn’t a great sunset, but we did enjoy it.  They do a street fair each night there, so we enjoyed the different shows, and it gave me a chance to practice handheld night photography.  Hopefully those pictures will come out well.

After the sunset we walked around the main drag for a while.  We made reservations at a dessert restaurant named “Better than Sex”.  It was very good, although I’ll leave it to each individual diner to decide if the name fits or not.  After that, it was time to come back to the room to sleep and to call our trip almost over.  Only one more day and then a flight home.

Saturday, 6 Oct 12

Today was our last day.  Instead of rushing around like some crazy tourist, we decided to sleep in and take it easy in the morning.  We ended up going to breakfast down the street from our hotel which we really nice.  Then we went to the Butterfly Conservatory, and did our final walk up Duval to the Shipwreck Museum.  We had hoped to catch one of the bicycle cabs up Duval, but it was hot and there was none to be found.  I think they try to stay on the bar end of Duval where they can have shorter trips for more money.  But, despite it being hot, it is a nice walk and we made our way to the Shipwreck Museum.

The Butterfly Conservatory is very nice, a bit smaller than some of the other butterfly conservatories we’ve visited.  They offered  a nice selection of butterflies and birds, along with at least one turtle.  The best part was that they piped in cool air, so you could stay somewhat cool inside.  It would have been a furnase otherwise, and maybe the butterflies would have been happier.

Key West’s primary industry in the late 1800’s was ship wrecking.  As ships crashed on the Keys, they would salvage the ships and collect the salvage fees.  It was a very dangerous profession and only a few became millionaires in their time.  However, it kept the city employed and Key West was the only city in the US at that time with a major salvage industry.  The museum also has a tower, and from the tower you can overlook all of Key West.

Finally, we walked back to the Marquesa and relaxed prior to heading to the airport.  Got in the taxi, caught our planes, and finally drove home from Pensacola.  Overall, it was a great trip.