Saturday, May 09, 2009

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner

Today (Saturday the 9th) has been totally restful. I have caught up on my blogging and Sweety has been sleeping and drawing pictures of flowers. We only left the property to eat lunch. But then I remembered that I have failed to tell you about the local chickens.

We were walking down the main drag somewhere near Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville when what should we hear but a rooster crowing from a tree. Sure enough, chickens roam free throughout the city. This is locally controversial because the chickens are nasty and loud. At one time, the city hired a chicken wrangler to trap the little buggers, but today they are protected as part of a county-wide bird sanctuary.

Going to eat Cuban food tonight.

Good night, Ricky. Good night, Lucy.

The Beginning of the End

Well today (Friday the 8th) was much more laid back as will be the rest of our trip. We wanted a hot breakfast so we went to Camille's which was recommended for breakfast. Very tasty, simple, expensive. Then we set out to revisit Hemingway's home so Sweety could pick up some stuff at the gift shop. We then walked several blocks back toward the marina area to buy some more gifts.

We purposely took a route that brought us by one of KW's famous landmarks: the beginning/end of the famous US 1 highway that runs for KW to Fort Kent, Maine at the Canadian border a distance of over 2,000 miles. We drove on it looking for lobster restaurants while we were with D & S in Maine a few years ago. We had to have a picture. I wish I had known when we were in Maine that I would be here and I would have taken a picture of the other end of US 1. Who knew?

We stopped in a fabric store to get some fabric to make a quilt. I sat in a chair and read the local newspaper. Key West (really all of south Florida) is in a drought, so water is rationed. And the school superintendent's wife has been charged with stealing $180,000 while she was in charge of adult education in the district. Same old same old.

By then it was hot so we stopped at a bar for colas and to cool off. Then went to find lunch. Unfortunately I lead us to a spot that had a good recommendation, but it was hot and fishy smelling so we left and went to the closest place we could find that had chairs and food. It turned out to be the Schooner Wharf Bar. It had all the requirements we were looking for including live music from a guy named Mike McCloud with a cute little dog in his guitar case. This was great fun.

After about an hour, we headed back to the B&B, but it was hotter so we had to stop about half way there for ice cream. We made it back just in time for naps.

We forgot to take the camera with us to supper, but we ate at a funky place named Blue Heaven which has chickens and cats running around all over the place. S, you could eat and launch little chickens into the air with your feet at the same time. The history of the place is very interesting including having Ernest Hemingway referee boxing matches in the area that is now the open air dining location. You can read the history here. You'll have to go the the "ABOUT US" link on their home page to get the full history.

Then home to get some rest from all the hot walking. Good night, John Boy.

Sunset Cruise, Aaarrrrrrggghhh!

After our naps we took a taxi to the marina area of KW to board the schooner Liberty Clipper for a sunset dinner cruise in the harbor area. We were fortunate to catch the ship before she is moved to Boston for the summer. This is her last week in KW.

As you can see, there were quite a few passengers, about 60, on board. Do you notice the bricks piled up to make a grill in the background of this picture? Let me see----wooden ship, open charcoal grill---what could go wrong?

The huge sails (the mainsail weighs a ton) were raised by volunteers from the passengers and we were underway! Dinner could not be far away. This is all they could scrape together for food.

Mojo & Sour Orange Slow Roasted Pork
with Caramelized Bermuda Onion Relish

Jamaica Citrus Rubbed Whole Chicken,
served HOT off the Grill, cut & quartered
with Mango Curry Relish

Costa Rican Red Beans and Rice
Rum Glazed Sweet Plantains

Caribbean Fritters
with Conch, Shrimp and White Corn
Served with Havana Cocktail Sauce
& Habanera Key Lime Mustard

Mojito Tropical Fruit Salad
with Fresh Mint, Lime and Bacardi Rum

Southernmost Caesar Salad
with Pineapple, Plum Tomato, Grated
Parmesan & Avocado Citrus Vinaigrette

Basket of Assorted Breads
with Sweet Butter and Olive Tapenade

Delightful Desserts
Ice Tea, Cold Beverages & Coffee
Champagne, Wine & Beer

Sunset at Key West. Very nice.

There is a very brief instant of green flash just as the last edge of the sun disappears behind the ocean. Never saw that before.

Back to port and a long day is over. Goodnight, John Boy.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Six-toed Cats and Other Oddballs

Thursday we devoted the morning to intellectual pursuits such as studying the six-toed cats that roam freely at Ernest Hemingway's old home and playing "Real or Fake" at the Southernmost Beach while we ate lunch. I have lots of pictures of the six-toed cats, but Sweety wouldn't let me take pictures of the beach contest. I can report that there were no losers, but I think it was more of an exhibition than a real contest as there was no wagering.

Hemingway and a buddy built the brick fence to keep tourists from coming onto his property after he became a famous literary icon. The bricks were taken from Duval Street in KW which is now the main drag through town. I do not know if they just helped themselves to the bricks or he bought them, but the fence is only slightly more attractive than the proverbial "ugly mud fence" folks in our neck of the woods are always referring to. It leans about six inches from top to bottom toward the street. You can see the quality of the mortar work in the picture.

The six-toed cats came about when Hemingway's two boys befriended a visiting sea captain who had a six-toed cat on board because sailors thought the cats brought good luck. Today, there are 46 cats on the property, all descendants of the original named Snowball. Some kind of genetic abnormality causes the extra toes. Some have even had seven toes. About one out of three cats has the extra toes.

It is hard to get the cats to show their feet to you, but perhaps you can see how wide this guy's front feet are.

Our guide told wonderful stories about Hemingway's life. Hemingway was quite a rascal, to put it gently. One of the best stories involves the beautiful swimming pool in the back yard. His wife at the time wanted a swimming pool, but when Ernest got the bid it was over $20,000 at the height of the Great Depression. The island of Key West is built on solid limestone and the pool would have to be hand dug. He told the contractor to forget it. Hemingway soon went to Europe and took a young female writer with him. When is wife found out about the situation, she called the pool contractor and ordered the pool to be built. Later, when Hemingway's longtime fishing buddy and bar owner, "Sloppy" Joe Russell was moving his bar, Hemingway asked if he could have the urinal from the mens' restroom. He placed it in the back yard next to the swimming pool and filled it with water for the cats to drink from. His wife was appalled and told him to get that thing out of the yard. He told her he would get rid of his pool when she got rid of hers. She had the gardener put spanish tiles around the edge, put a large urn in it and plumb it as a fountain. The cats still drink from the urinal.

I hope you get a chance to learn more about him by visiting his home when you are in Key West. He was always fighting depression, but when Castro took over Cuba in 1959, Hemingway could not deal with the fact that he could no longer fish off the coast of Havana. He also agreed to electro-shock therapy for his depression. This erased a good deal of his memory. He would sit for hours in his office staring at a blank sheet of paper, unable to think of anything to write. He took his own life with a shotgun in 1961.

We then hit the road south to the famous Southernmost Point in the continental United States. This giant marker that looks like some kind of concrete atom bomb is the very distinctive indicator of this location.

We then went to lunch a couple of blocks away at the Southernmost Beach Cafe where Sweety took control of the picture taking machinery so I can't show you the contestants in the "Real of Fake" competition. We do have this picture of the beach taken from our table.

This is the winner of the most decadent key lime pie contest.

After a little shopping, it was back to the B&B for some R&R.

History of the Conch Republic

I told you I would give you a report on the history of the Conch Republic. I did the linking, you do the reading.

It will be especially interesting to Texans who know the history of our founders' fight against the tyranny of an oppressive government.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Fish Day

Our first full day out in the Conch Republic turned out to be fish day. Fortunately, we didn't have to do the catching, we just saw and ate fish all day long.

After the FREE breakfast at the lovely Wicker Guest House, we hopped the Old Town Trolley.......

..... for a tour of, well, Old Town Key West. That's as opposed to new town Key West. Duh.

For a mere $58 US, we could ride all day and get on and off at any of the 12 stops along the trolley route. You get a narrated tour of some the historic sites, homes, and public places in KW. Think river ride at Six Flags. For example, arriving at the local cemetery, the tour guide announces, "We are now at the dead center of town!" You get my drift.

When we arrived at the trolley's home base, there is the giant Carnival Cruise Line's ship Holiday parked beside the wharf were we find the usual t-shirt shops and crappy gift stores. So naturally we had to have some cheepo t-shirts and crappy gifts. If you are lucky, you may be the beneficiary of some of this when we get home.

There is also an aquarium which was built during the depression as part of the plan to revitalize the local economy.

Key West has had more than its fair share of disasters over its history, but it was really in bad shape at this time. I would recommend the aquarium if you happen to come here as you get to get peed on by a sea cucumber and touch a real, live shark. Notice how this unknown tourista is enjoying his SHARK!!!! experience.

BTW, you do not come away from the shark experience with smelly fish hands because sharks have skin (think boots), not scales and therefore no stinky fish slime is necessary to protect the shark. FYI, fewer people are killed by shark attacks each year than are killed by falling coconuts. NEVER EVER go near coconut infested waters!

After the aquarium, it was lunch time so we went to the Conch Republic Seafood Restaurant where I had a Cuban Sandwich and Sweety had Crab Cake. Very tasty. On the way back to the trolley stop, we had key lime pie. This makes two days in a row. Key lime pie is to Key West as lobster is to Maine. Keep this word association in mind as it may show up on the SAT Reasoning Test.

After completing the rest of the trolley tour of KW, we climbed the stairs of our little cottage in the palms for a nice nap.

Then it was time to plan the evening's adventure which pretty much meant finding a place to have supper and getting back to watch American Idol. After much walking we wound up right next door to our B&B where we once again found fish. Sweety had hog-nosed trout (aka pork kabobs) and I had the Sizzling Thai Whole Fish. With a free glass of wine. Very tasty.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Welcome to the Conch Republic

We arrived in Key West about 5 p.m. local time. This is definitely a free spirited place. They actually declared their independence from the U.S. sometime ago. I'll have to get back to you with details.
We walked up the main drag doing a little window shopping and getting the lay of the land.

We had nachos and refreshments at Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville. Pretty tasty, and a recorded video concert by the Parrot Head himself was showing on a giant screen. Fun!

Home in time to see Idol and Dancing with the Stars.

That's it. Goodnight, John Boy.

I persuaded Jay to let me add some sometimes. It will surprise no one that I went shopping at Chico's. I had a birthday discount card and the shirt was also on sale. Really cute sunglasses that have reading correction in them were my other purchase. LOTS of tourist stuff
We prowled Duval Street which is like Main street. More tomorrow.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Off to Margaritaville

Heading to Key West, FL via the Kid and George's place in Houston tomorrow. Looking forward to seeing this .................... hot hockey action.

Don't mess with Texas or Miss Conduct (or is that MRS Conduct?)!