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A side trip to Key West Part 1 - Orlando / Florida Guide

Florida Guide > Other Florida

We have been coming to Florida for almost 20 years now, and whilst we have explored both the East and West coasts extensively, we have never traveled to The Florida Keys.

Having friends with us who were keen to visit Key West, this trip we were going to make the journey.

One of the benefits of staying in a villa; there is no need to pack everything up and check out, simply grab what you want and shut the place up for a few days! (If you are renting, don’ t forget to let your management company know you will be going away. )

So, on a warm November morning we headed for the Florida Turnpike with four of us to share the driving.

It’ s a long way! It took us the best part of seven hours with a couple of stops along the way and the journey until you leave the mainland is not particularly exciting. The last 90 miles, however, across the bridges which span the Straits of Florida, affords some amazing views and opportunities to view the local wildlife.

We arrived in Key West around 4pm and checked into our centrally located accommodation. Sadly there is no short term rental available in the area, but we were happy enough with our choice and set out to explore.

We knew the sunset was to be at about 5. 20pm, so we gravitated, with others, towards Mallory Square. . . . the place to be at sunset!

The area was very lively, with little stalls selling locally, handmade jewelry, paintings, conch shells and other souvenirs. I managed to sneak away and buy my friend a lovely black and white photograph of Key West, set in an unusually shaped frame - this would make a lovely Christmas present for her. I also purchased a Christmas tree ornament for myself, something of a tradition of mine. I like to take a tree decoration home from everywhere I visit, preferably with the place and year of travel on it. I bought a lovely bauble with Santa sunning himself on a deckchair and wearing a Hawaiian shirt, " Key West 2007 " featured prominently so I was satisfied. Outlets selling beer, wine and brightly colored cocktails were doing brisk trade in the area, in fact, alcohol seemed in abundance everywhere in Key West!

Mallory Square, apart from being famous for it’ s sunsets is the best place in Key West for free entertainment! Jugglers, flame throwers, magicians and musicians all plied their trade and for the odd few dollars, given voluntarily, they kept us entertained until well after sunset.

Premium spots in Mallory Square are occupied early and I would have liked a front row view! Nevertheless, we managed to get some great photos as the sun descended and were particularly lucky to get a shot of a ship in full sail silhouetted against the setting sun. One of the sunset cruises returning.

As the sun dipped down below the horizon, everyone clapped and cheered and Mallory Square took on a real party atmosphere.

We strolled back through the covered market, checking out souvenirs on the way and made our way up Duval St in search of something to eat.

Duval St is the main street in Key West and is a hotch potch of bars, restaurants and tacky souvenir shops. T shirt shops abound, 2 for $10 with slogans reading anything from " Grandmas little Princess" to far more adult themes which make me blush just to think of them! Fake designer sunglasses, fake designer bags, conch shells of all shapes and sizes, fridge magnets and gimmicky cocktail glasses, you will find them all here in Duval St! !

Our choice of restaurant this first evening was not the best, tiredness and hunger got the better of us and we chose the first half decent looking place we came across. We sat in a cramped courtyard that bordered the street, on cheap, plastic chairs at a wobbly plastic table and were treated to indifferent service. The food was good though and reasonably priced and we promised ourselves that tomorrow evening we would be more discerning with our choice of restaurant.

We wandered up Duval St and the further away from the harbor we went, the better the quality of shops and restaurants became. The tacky t shirt shops were now only one in four! !

We finished the evening with a drink at Jimmy Buffets Margarita Ville before heading home to bed.

To be continued. . . . . .

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