Thursday, December 6, 2012

Key West

It's still raining in Key West so alas, no sunset for us. Given that I've seen some pretty spectacular sunsets in my time; no 1 on the beach at Fremantle WA, no 2 just last week at Sanibel and 3, from our lounge room window at home in Mortlake, I guess we'll just imagine how gorgeous this one might be.

Key West is a paradox. Wander the back streets on foot and be overwhelmed by the beauty of the architecture and fascinated by the eccentricity of the locals, the chickens and the cats. Walk on Duval St and surrounds and be overwhelmed and annoyed by the hawkers, the drunks and the scammers.

It's impossible (for me anyway) to capture the magnificence of the houses here in words or pictures. There's such a huge range of architecture and each style is intriguing and makes you want to live there. You can almost feel yourself swinging on the porch seats of the more modest dwellings, swanning down the stair cases of the extravagant four story mansions.

It's hot and humid in Key West. Even in early Winter the air is languid and the feeling is laid back. I can see that Hemingway would have found inspiration here but I'm surprised perspiration didn't smudge all his writing. The sea is calm because the coral reef prevents wave build up. On a grey day like this the horizon is seamless. The chickens cross the road at will. We found out today that they are the descendants of Cuban cock fighting birds, let loose on the island when cock fighting was banned and protected under the wildlife laws. Likewise the cats, some of whom can prove Hemingway's cat Snowball as an ancestor with their extra toes. The cats are everywhere, well kept but not at all tame, arrogantly peering out at you from behind fences or trees. Traffic rules appear to be non existent but there's very little of the road rage arrogance that we've seen in other places. Lots of people ride bicycles or scooters, none with helmets and many of them in various states of intoxication. At night time the place shines like a Christmas tree, the gabled roof lines lending themselves perfectly to the seasonal light displays.

And then you step onto Duval St. Every doorway has a spruiker. If you step into a shop you're pounced on. Want a picture with the parrot or the man dressed as a pirate? $10. It's more overt than Bourbon St and in our opinion, more annoying and confronting.

Taine talked us into the conch (that's pronounce 'conk' ) train rather than the trolley tour. We were told we could get on and off as many times as we liked. What we weren't told was that the stops were all back at the terminal! The commentary was informative and kind of interesting but we wanted to be able to get off and take photos and that wasn't possible. Our day was brightened considerably by excellent Mexican food at a street side bar, complemented by the chance to people watch while we ate. You see all kinds of people in Key West. The local women's group were meeting outside a very auspicious looking house across the road, straight out of 'The Help' or 'The Stepford Wives'. There are buck's parties and senior's groups and hippies and foreigners like us. People in all states of dress and undress! We've even seen two brides in their wedding dresses in Duval St.

For dinner we had ribs and wings at Daddy Bones BBQ across the road. It was delicious. Like everything else here, food prices are also a conundrum. I paid $10 for Taine to have a reheated pretzel and a lemonade from a fast food vendor down the street this morning but tonight we feasted on 3 types of BBQ, collared greens (this is a delicious discovery), sweet potato chips, corn bread, root beer, budweiser and key lime pie for $35. Go figure!

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