My one-day trip to Key West began as soon as I boarded the bus in search of a window seat, somehow expecting the view to entertain me for the upcoming three-hour ride. I made myself comfortable and started to scan the changing scenery from Miami skyscrapers to a vast expanse of tropical savanna fenced in fear that some alligators might walk out and say hi to us.
As our tour guide kept nurturing us with her well-versed commentary on the features and history of the location we drove through, her voice began to slowly fade away… Until the boundless green land turned to open teal waters, we were driving literally between the Gulf of Mexico and the Florida Strait. The Overseas Highway—the Highway that Goes to Sea—stretches 205 km. long, surrounded by pristine waters. It was quite a serene experience.
Hello, Key West! The colonial architecture in glaring colors and the American flags flying atop the buildings were a warm welcoming gesture to all of us hopping off the bus. The tour guide left us at the crossroads after sternly reminding the rendezvous for our way back home. I had 6 hours on the soil of Key West. Standing at the crossroads I had no idea where to begin. Will my time be enough?
To begin with, my new friend and I headed toward the Glassbottom Boat Discovery Tour we both booked on the bus prior to arriving. (Had I mentioned I was on a solo trip?) During the three-hour bus ride, pamphlets were distributed to check which activities we would like to endorse; more precisely, how wisely and productively we would like to spend our afternoon in Key West. None of us brought our swimsuits for water activities and neither of us were thinking on flying on a helicopter, aside from the hop-on, hop-off Old Town Trolley Tour, we took the Glassbottom Boat Discovery Tour. Girl was I wrong.
A picture is worth a thousand words. And with two pictures…
…boring as they tell. We were excited when the boat left the dock ready to embrace wondrous blue waters. We went above deck for some ocean breeze and soon came down again to find Nemo. However, the happy moment lasted only 20 minutes followed by 100 minutes of disappointment. The tour narrator was professional and knowleadgeable in his area of expertise. But the problem lay on the boat per se. We thought it provided a 360-degree panoramic view of the coral reef with all the colorful coral fish swimming around, rather than just awkwardly staring down the bottom glass waiting for fish to swim by, when most of the time there was nothing to see. Hence, even for marine life lovers, I would recommend to plan yourself a trip to the aquarium. The tour wasn’t yet a total waste, but I would have chosen to spend the time and money on other activities. For more reviews, check out here with TripAdvisor.
After 2 hours of the Glassbottom Boat Discovery Tour, we gave vent to our dissatisfaction by stuffing ourselves with a decent lunch followed by a buy-1-get-1-free Häagen-Dazs ice creams. We hopped on the Old Town Trolley and started our journey to explore what Key West had in store for us.
Key West is a quaint village of pastel-colored cottages, distinguished by its typical conch house style dated from the late 80s to early 90s. These houses were built of wood, encompassed one or two floors with porch(es) across the front of the houses. Buildings were all well-lined along the streets. For once I thought I was in the Truman Show.
One of Key West’s gems is the house of Ernest Hemingway, where he lived for 8 years (1931—1939) before moving to Cuba. In a two-story, pale white-yellow Spanish colonial house, he wrote many of his most-famous short stories, but the only work of his I have read, The Old Man and The Sea (1952) was not written in this house but in Cuba. Today, the house is well preserved as the author left it. I was fascinated by how ornate the furniture was. Especially attracted to his studio, if the tour narrator hadn’t moved on to the other room, I would have steadily observed the head of the deer hung on the wall (which I believe might be a trophy from his hunting expedition), the well-worn books placed on the standing white shelves, as well as the old typewriter laid on the wooden table for a long, long while.
For one thing, Hemingway’s house also hosts more than 40 six-toed cats. It is said that some of them are direct decedents from what Hemingway owned, and you can see them roaming around without giving respect to the velvet rope. I don’t like cats.
As the time went tick-tocking, I decided not to stroll down the town anymore. I hopped on the Old Town Trolley again to at least have a quick glance of the entire Key West. Below are some of the beautiful sceneries I encountered.
And there I was, at the southernmost point of continental U.S.A.!
But… with only some 15 minutes left, I had no time to queue for a selfie. I started to get irritated. My impatience urged me to ask the driver how long the loop needed to take to drive back where I initially started. More than I could bear. He advised me to get off the Trolley and walk as I was near from where I should be. But, oh God! I am terrible with directions, and my new friend didn’t feel for Hemingway’s so she left a long while ago. I was ALONE. I jumped off the Trolley and asked a passer-by for more accurate directions. But God wasn’t kind to me. I was even more lost. I was panicking. Until I met this guy…
I didn’t care how many Washingtons were needed to ride on a rickshaw, just take me THERE! And yup, it turned out to be just few blocks away. My crazy Key West maze-running.
At sunset I boarded the bus on time on my way back to Miami.
All in all, I had a rushed 6 hours in Key West. Please! If you intend to visit, plan your trip ahead. Key West has more to offer than a cursory glance.