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Sep 17, 201210:43 AMFood & Dining

Tasty Tidbits and Food For Thought

Key To Paradise: Part II

Sep 17, 2012 - 10:43 AM
Key To Paradise: Part II

Photography by Jane Adams

(page 1 of 2)

Summer is over. It's 8:00 a.m. and I am at work. Here I sit at my desk, under the pale white office lights, sipping coffee, and typing memos. 

At the office, all traces of summer, including my dayglo-orange painted toenails and brief golden tan are gone. 

Driving into work, I got a fleeting glimpse of the rising September sun peeking over the mountain, its spiky rays illuminating corn stalks as they fade from vibrant green to yellow and then a flat brown. Pretty soon the scenery will be devoid of color and it will be dark driving into work. I will put away the sundresses and don clothing heavy like metal armor. 

Driving into work, I feel regret. Regret that time is slipping away, that I didn’t enjoy the summer, that I didn’t take enough time off. That I didn’t live life to its fullest, spend enough time with family; that I didn’t slow down enough.

It didn't start that way. The sunny summer days of June started with promise.  

I had hopeful but overly ambitious dreams of endless summer days, vacations to exotic places, long picnics with family, and a day trip sightseeing here or there. 

I dreamt about completing my work everyday by lunch and spending the rest of the day by the pool. Taking lots of time off with my daughter, so we could check out a few new restaurants. Dreams unfortunately dashed by the crushing task of work and adult responsibilities. When August came, I surrendered to the reality that Summer, and my ambitious dreams for it, were dead. 

As we progressed along our trip, the city, and the familiar sights of civilization faded. The road became a thin long bar balanced between rainbows of beautiful blues.

But there was one thing I accomplished this summer. I made it to Key West.

At the end of June, I went on a family vacation with about 12 in-laws to Fort Lauderdale. I don't remember exactly who came up with the idea, but my husband and daughter started tossing around the idea of a few of us driving to Key West. 

On Wednesday of the vacation week, the plans for our mutiny were complete and we packed up the mini rental car along with luggage and three teenagers and started heading down the highway towards the Keys.

After getting on the highway, the first scene was the looming impressive skyscrapers of Miami.

Past the city, the buildings became shorter and the highway narrower. Palm trees and colorful pink and orange buildings lined the streets. 

Over an hour into the trip, we left the Florida peninsula and entered Route 1 to traverse the delicate string of islands or “keys” on our way to Key West. 

As we progressed along our trip, the city, and the familiar sights of civilization faded. The road became a thin long bar balanced between rainbows of beautiful blues. Blue sky, blue ocean, light and varied blues in the reefs and the shallows. Although we were driving, I almost felt like we were sailing on at ship, as at times the ocean and sky surrounded us so completely.

After over four hours, we approached our destination and pulled onto the island of Key West. 

It was late afternoon, and heavy with anticipation, we straight to Duval Street, the well-known center of activity. We had about 24 hours until we had to return to the rest of the relatives. The teens headed directly for the tourist shops, but I chose to take a more leisurely course. 

I bypassed the touristy Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville and found a stool at the outdoor establishment Willie T’s. Dollar bills were stapled over every inch of wall for decoration. There was a moderate sized crowd and a long acoustic guitar player was finishing up his set and begging for tips. I ordered a mojito. 

The Mojito arrived and it was large and cold and contained a large stick of real sugar cane as a stirrer. I settled in to sip it as the stress from the long drive faded. 

Ahh....I was starting to relax.

After about an hour, we headed back to our hotel. As I walked to our room I spied a shirtless guest playing a guitar, on a chair perched in the threshold of his hotel room. People were friendly and I poured another beverage into a plastic cup and went out to relax in the pool before dinner.

For dinner, our teenage niece, who knows our foodie style, picked out Havana 1. We took the shuttle downtown, which entailed a long walk to the restaurant. I was at first annoyed, until I slowed down and took time to look at my surroundings.

I took in the Carribean style neatly maintained houses on the back streets and their pink and pastel paint jobs. A lot of the little houses had cute white shutters and palm plants and live orchids decorating their porches.

Once and a while I would see a cat or one of the famous wild chickens walk by. 

Part of the walk took us by the historic cemmetary. Through the iron bars we could see creepy above-ground, neglected graves as we quickly walked by. It reminded me a bit of New Orleans.  

We arrived at the restaurant which was tucked back in the residential neighborhood. 

The waitress was friendly and perky. She spoke mainly Spanish, but could dish it out in English too. 

We ordered a variety of Cuban dishes which satisfied our rampant hunger. Hubby got a pork steak which he proclaimed as the best and the kids got cuban sandwiches. The star of the show was the bright-green garlicy homemade salsa which was placed at every table. 


Sep 19, 2012 11:24 am
 Posted by  LenB

I've been to Key West on several occassions and love it! I could spend a day crawling from pub to pub to pub in the footsteps of Ernest Hemingway - Hog's Breath Saloon, Captain Tony's, Sloppy Joe's - just love the place!
PS - enjoyed reading your experiences!

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