Key West Travelogue

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We needed another tropical vacation this year, but not at Caribbean prices. So, we found a good package deal and spent five nights in Key West. Not as exotic as St. John or Curacao, but still beautiful and warm, not to mention with a heck of a lot more to do. Also educational–I had no idea the island was unofficially called “The Conch Republic” and indeed, Key West has conchs-a-plenty (the most delicious being the conch bisque I had at dinner my first night there).

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Duval Street serves as Key West’s major retail strip, teeming with bars, restaurants, gift shops and more bars (or as Steve put it, Provincetown’s Commercial Street on crack). Here’s a typical cross-section, dotted with local shops and national chains (thankfully, more of the former despite Perfumania’s dominance in this shot).

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Not the only tattoo place on Duval Street, but arguably the most aesthetically pleasing.

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Historic buildings pop up here and there along Duval. Not certain of this one’s name, but I do know it was built in 1891 via a gigantic sign over its front doors.

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A random Duval Street balcony.

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Dramatic shot of the San Carlos Institute (also known as “La Casa Cuba”).

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Tropic Cinema, the island’s indie movieplex. Along with my theatre, a participant in the Art House Convergence.  Was screening Life of Pi, Silver Linings Playbook and How To Survive a Plague, among other titles (though I did not get a chance to go inside).

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Housed in what used to be the Strand Theatre, possibly the only Walgreens in the world with its own marquee (not to mention a large craft beer selection).

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Before we move away from Duval Street to explore some of Key West’s critters, you should know that roosters wander around almost everywhere–including Duval Street (although the robust one above was spotted at the Key West Botanical Garden).

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Also at the Botanical Garden (which is more impressive for its critters than any fauna): lots of lizards.

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An impressively long orange and black striped lizard.

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There’s also an indoor Butterfly and Nature Conservatory which consists of a giant dome teeming with the former flying all around you. One even landed on my knee (and I did get a picture of it, but it’s not as interesting visually as the one above).

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In my opinion, the little birds that dart in and out of the terrain at the Butterfly and Nature Conservatory are the secret stars of the show.

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Key West has its share of seabirds as well, like this pelican (I think) floating in the harbor.

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Moving further off Duval, this grand old building on Simonton Street was once home to the Gato Cigar Factory.

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South of the factory, one approaches the Southernmost Point in the continental United States, not to mention a slew of businesses and hotels with “Southernmost” somewhere in their names.

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And at the Southernmost Point itself? A little, unexpected piece of my hometown in the lower right corner.

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I’ve posted pics of palm trees from my other tropical vacations, but this one’s my favorite so far.

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One night, we headed over to Mallory Square for Key West’s nightly sunset celebration, where hundreds gather to watch the sky slowly turn dark and be harassed by street performers. The people on this sunset cruise had the right idea.

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The Key West harbor at sunset. It was the second most fun thing we did in the evening. The first, by the way, was going to a drag show at Aqua – sadly, there are no pictures of that, but perhaps that’s best left to the imagination (or for writing about in another blog post).

For all of my Key West pix, go here. Check back next week for a few pix from another island we stopped at on the way back to Boston.