The Vibe of Key West

1890 Key West icon, a "place for travelers to rendezvous".

1890 Key West icon, a “place for travelers to rendezvous”.

We weren’t sure how we would feel about Key West prior to our visit.  Would we love her quirky, laid-back vibe or be turned off by her tawdry, overly done commercialism?  After having visited, we give it a big two-thumbs up and decided we would love to come back for a longer visit, as a day just scratches the surface.

The city’s official motto of “One Human Family” drew me in immediately.   The belief that “all people everywhere are entitled at birth to equal rights, dignity and respect; and lives that are free from prejudice, discrimination, harassment, or violence” is one that all cities would do well to embrace.

Since we arrived early to get ahead of the crowds, the first order of the day was to sample the local coffee and we found just the right spot at the Old Town Bakery, where one of the local residents rushed up to make our acquaintance.

Not everyone in town is excited to see these colorful characters roaming the streets.

Not everyone in town is excited to see these colorful characters roaming the streets.

We opted to enjoy our few hours here on foot, taking in the sights and sounds at our leisure.  We wandered along the Historic Seaport Harbor Walk, where people were already lining up to take a cruise on a sailboat or catamaran.  From there it was on to Mallory Square, the place to be at sunset and for the show that accompanies the sun’s final rays of the day, flame-tossing jugglers, tight-rope walkers, and sword swallowers.   It is also here where you can sit, enjoy a meal, and watch the cruise ships dock.

Near Mallory Square is the Key West Art and Historical Museum, with its many life-size bronze statues scattered about and is where Terry decided to be the perfect gentleman and help an elderly lady.

With lunchtime nearing, I don’t know about you but I think it looks more like Terry is trying to steal her groceries.  We’d better get this boy some food fast!

Since there is a large Cuban influence here (and we love Cuban food) we decided to wander into an Old Town residential neighborhood and check out El Siboney for lunch, the place we were told where the local Cubans dine and is the “epicenter for good Cuban food”.   We were not disappointed as we dined on the best roasted garlic chicken and plantains we had ever eaten, and the homemade sangria was pretty tasty too.

Pleasantly full and recharged for the rest of our visit, we headed south to get a picture taken where everyone who visits Key West does, at the point furthest south, and the line was already growing.

Can we go to Cuba honey?

Can we go to Cuba honey?

I recently read that this buoy does not stand on the southernmost point of Key West but rather land west of here on the Truman Annex, where the “Winter White House” for Harry S. Truman stands, claims that right.  No marker exists there as it is U.S. Navy land and cannot be accessed by civilians.

The brightest spot of our day was visiting the Butterfly and Nature Conservatory.  The magic begins as you enter, where  hundreds of butterflies swirl around you, dancing to the relaxing music, as you stroll paths lined with flowering plants, colorful birds and gurgling waterfalls.   Fifty to sixty different species of butterflies from around the world can be found here, all beautiful, all guaranteed to put a smile on your face.

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A day in Key West would not be complete without a stroll down Historic Duval Street, running from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean, and in many ways the heartbeat of the city.  Any manner of shop or eating and drinking establishment can be found here, like a continuous happy hour.  I read somewhere that Key West is the place to “find yourself, lose yourself, be yourself, or re-invent yourself” and this just might be the street where those discoveries are made.  At the least it is probably the hottest place in town to people-watch.

The end or just the beginning?

The end or just the beginning?

Well, it looks like the end of the road for us, at least for this day.

There is no end to the activities in Key West to delight your senses, and food and drink aplenty to dazzle your taste buds.  Galleries, museums, historic buildings, and beaches await our next visit to eclectic Key West, city with an effervescent magic all her own!

Our time in the Keys has flown by and we leave dragging our feet but with fond memories we carry along.  It is back to the Everglades for us, land of gators, crocodiles, exotic birds, and raw, wild beauty.  Hopefully the mosquitoes will have had their fill before our arrival. We will most likely be out of cell phone and internet range for several days.  Have a wonderful week! :)

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75 thoughts on “The Vibe of Key West

  1. The butterflies must be true magic… and Terry looks as though he is stealing food from the queen… this certainly sound the place to return to… wonderful post…

    • I believe Terry has a tapeworm, the man is always hungry! When he resorts to stealing food from little old ladies, it is time for lunch. ;)

    • It’s not the gators you have to be careful of, it’s the crocodiles, which we learned about in the Everglades. The Butterfly Conservancy was fabulous. :)

  2. We were there years ago, the only place in Florida that Stan fell in love with, he wanted to buy a place!! I think it was that Truman’s winter home was there and he identified with the soft spoken, down to earth president.

    • We walked into some of the neighborhoods to get a feel for the “true Key West” and we really liked it. Hope to still see you both later this month.

  3. Great post with wonderful photos and fun story. We have been debating (for several years) about whether we want to take a boat to Key West. I think you may have convinced me – maybe next October before the tourist rush. I hope you enjoy the Everglades as much as I have.

  4. Thanks for the interesting, and informative post. I think the part of Key West I would enjoy the most, would be the butterfly and nature conservancy. I love butterflies! Please don’t go to Cuba.

    • The butterfly conservancy was fabulous Joan. As for Cuba, I would love to be able to visit. Of course, there aren’t too many places in the world I’m not game to check out. ;)

  5. Oh, so happy you visited the Butterfly Conservancy — your photos are gorgeous! Your meal at El Siboney sounds delicious — we were thinking to go there but even after six miles of walking were too full from our breakfast at Blue Heaven (lobster Benedict with Key lime hollandaise — oh my!). El Siboney goes on our list for next time!

  6. We visited Miami a couple of times in the winter, but didn’t make an effort to drive through Key West, maybe that’s why I haven’t found myself, re-invent myself… :) Gorgeous slides, wow! How did you capture them?

    • I was in Key West and I’m still not sure I’ve found myself! ;) As to how I captured the butterflies, very carefully. You had to sneak up on them and they were flying everywhere. It was quite an experience.

  7. So pleased you enjoyed El Siboney as much as Mike and I did! Not sure if you enjoyed a half carafe of their sangria, but make a mental note to do so if you make it back there someday.

    Your post made us both pine to return to the keys for a nice long stay next time we’re in Florida. May you continue to enjoy your stay there. :-)

  8. Another place I ‘d like to go now. Such beautiful pictures all around. …and those butterflies, wow! You are very lucky to see all these beautiful sites!

  9. Looks like you had a wonderful with lots of sunshine. Key West is something everyone should experience at least once. It is amazing the difference in the place when there are cruise ships docking and when there aren’t. We watched the cruise ship schedule and visited on off days.

    The butterflies were beautiful! Some of them were so colorful that they looked more like a page our of a coloring book. I love the one on your pocketbook:) Super photo of that group in flight. I would have loved this experience, John not so much.

    • I agree with you Pam, everyone should experience Key West once. I loved the Butterfly Conservancy and was surprised how much Terry enjoyed it.

  10. Love those butterflies,too bad Steve does not share my excitement of those lovely critters. You have captivated the spirit of Key West. Was that a flamingo? Have fun at the Everglades, i think the pesky skeeters are alive after that rain a few days ago.

    • I was surprised that Terry enjoyed the Butterfly Conservancy and yes, there were two flamingos sharing the space with all those colorful critters.

      We enjoyed Flamingo in the Everglades as well. Some of the mosquitoes were still there but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.

  11. So nice to read about your visit to Key West. We visited for a week a few years ago and had to go back. I just wrote about our recent visit on the blog. The second visit was different. I think you did it just right. We wouldn’t go back in the MoHo again, and highly recommend the delightful little town for all the things you mentioned. Great spot to walk and hang loose.

  12. We have never been there but on our list for the future. Several people have posted photos of the statues. They looks so cool.

    Cuban food is another never-experienced events. Everyone we know that has tasted it says it is great. On our list as well….our list is growing.

    Looks like you hit the end of the line. Cute photo. The butterflies are awesome.

  13. Once again,loved this post. The butterflies were stunning, their colors beyond belief. We haven’t been to Key West for many years, thanks for refreshing our memories. I wish you a mosquito free time in the everglades…good luck
    Sue

  14. Your visit brought back memories of my visit there years ago. Did go see Hemingway’s House? There were also the famous12 toed cats roaming around the square. Went to a place for rock lobster and found the Navy officers had taken over the place!

    • We didn’t get a chance to see Hemingway’s house. The line was just too long. The only thing (other than people) roaming the square were roosters. Glad to have provided some memories for you Gale.

  15. We were just there a week ago yet your post makes me want to return tomorrow! When we were walking the side streets looking at the smaller cottages lining the streets, I found myself dreaming of a winter life there. Maybe it would get old, but I am drawn to to the charm of the architecture, the wharfs, and the colorful characters who call this place home.

    The butterfly slide show was a real treat!

    • I felt the same way as you Pam as we walked the residential streets. It might get old but it would be fun to spend enough time there to really get to know Key West at a deeper level. Even Terry found the butterflies to be fascinating. They were everywhere! :)

  16. I spent many summers in Key West as my grandparents retired there back in the seventies. They built a home on Plantation, but with a boat and many friends scattered about the Keys we visited many locations along the chain of islands. Our plan now is to return to The Keys with our RV so I can share the sights, smells, and tastes with my hubby. It was great reading about your visit and I have put the Cuban restaurant on our Key West list. Thanks!

    • I can’t believe it has taken us this long to get to the Keys. What a wonderful experience it is, like another world. Hope and hubby can get back there soon. Thanks for stopping by!

  17. LuAnn, what a perfect look at Key West. It’s truly a place unto its own. Ones of my favorite sights is all the old Key West cottages – many of them with their honey-tone cypress interiors – so inviting on a hot day. And I love your slideshow of the butterflies :) ~Terri

  18. What a super post Lu Ann I really enjoyed the vibe of Key West ! Thsoe butterflies are amazing I am so looking forward to spotting my first one out and about here in the Spring sunshine soon .
    Great photos all round :-)

  19. Tawdry commercialism, I have never come across such a thing!

    I love the butterfly photos, they really are true beauties of nature, although the sign for The Land of Ugly Cats runs it close. Perhaps the wondrous nature of the east coast can rival that of the west…

    • No tawdry commercialism in the UK?

      I really should have taken the time to learn more about The Land of Ugly Cats. Many people have asked about where it is.

      As for the nature of the east coast, I’m not sure that it rivals that of the west. A piece of my spirit resides in the west, so my heart will always lead me back there. :)

      • The Uk has no commercialism, we exchange wool for turnips and if a man has a groat he is a king!

        I think a drunken quest to find The Land of Ugly Cats is on the cards…

        It is a curvaceous part of the land which I like…Either coast or in between I’m happy to go explore it.

      • I really must visit the UK someday…sounds fascinating. Perhaps you could introduce me to some of the local pubs.

        You have now peeked my curiosity about this Land of Ugly Cats. I’m not sure a drunken quest would find me any answers however. ;)

      • Drunken quests solve everything. Although i do forget what they solve but I have left myself a note before reassuring myself that yes they do.

        You best come over quick then, a lot of good local pubs have shut down due to the stupid syndicates that price their own land lords out of business. The oldest pub in England is handily located about 14 miles from where I love though which is always handy.

      • I love dark beer, which I am certain you could accommodate over there. To have the oldest pub in England so close would be awesome.

        Now, back to the drunken quest. As soon as I came out of my drunken fog I realized I do know what the “Land of the Ugly Cats” represents…Hemingway’s cats. Ernest Hemingway had a house on Key West, which we did not tour as the lines were around the block. He loved his cats, all who had 6 toes, and they roamed Key West back in the day, but have been tossed aside for roosters roaming the streets instead. They are actually cute cats and there is someone I met last year who has a Hemingway cat. Note to self: cut back on the alcohol! ;)

  20. How I wish I had been blogging when I was located near Florida. Key West really sounds very inviting coming from you and Mona Liza. Looks like someone is gonna have a good time this week! Have fun!

  21. The butterflies are gorgeous!! Tawdry or not, your wonderful account of the Keys make me want to experience its delights in person. A wonderful week to you too Luann, whatever is left of it :-)

  22. What a wonderful and whimsy post. Love, love, love your butterfly photos! Gorgeous creatures and you captured them beautifully. It appears as if you guys really enjoyed your time there, all smiles. I enjoy Cuban food, especially Black Beans and Yellow Rice! We were there years ago, but I think a return visit is in order.
    It’s five o’clock somewhere!

    Enjoy your return visit to the Everglades!!

  23. Fantastic post LuAnn, makes everyone wish they were with you guys – hey wait, I’ve said that before, actually a whole bunch of times, now that I think about it, lol! Get a great tan, enjoy yourselves, don’t get eaten up by mosquitoes and keep writing these great posts – makes everyone feel better! :) xo

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