warriorsavant: (Wedding/Romance)
[personal profile] warriorsavant
We were almost too tired to go away but wanted to break up the period of "kids off from day care" and of winter cold. Also we'd already booked the 5 days away, so off we went. Any doubts about that's being the right decision were erased when we got to our hotel and stood on the outside walkway looking at the ocean (well Gulf of Mexico to be precise). In the warmth. Had sudden urge to change careers to "inspect sunsets through bottom of beer stein while sitting on a beach." Unlikely to actually happen anytime soon, but very strong urge. (On the other hand, summers there are unbearably hot and humid, so beginning to understand snow birds.) Since not actually moving anytime soon, do need to make sure the kids know how to skate and ski and other activities that make one enjoy winter (at least until they go to Med School at UBC (or possibly U Hawaii).

Downside was the long traveling (basically first and last day spent in transit) and that we all came down sick and spent most of the last day sitting around the hotel feeling miserable and puking. Upside was warm and relaxing and beautiful.

Impressions:
- People (non-tourists). Half the people look like beach bums. Not sure if retirees who don't care, or really are impoverished. (If you have to be poor and especially homeless, I suggest a warm climate. Still no fun, but at least no dying of exposure.) Reminds me of a few years ago when I visited my Army friend Don and his wife Linda in Miami. He came to pick me up at the airport. As I was looking around trying to spot him, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a bum approaching me: 5-days growth of beard, raggedy clothing. Oh great, a panhandler. I tried to find some US change to give him, while not making eye contact, while looking for squared-away Army buddy Don… who turned out to be said "bum." He had a few days off and decided to look the part. BTW, I think that was the trip right after I'd come back from one of my Afghanistan deployments. Don and Linda took me to South Beach. I had just spent months in the hills with an all-male Infantry unit, and any local women were in burqas. Now I was on a beach-front terrace with women in bikinis. I was like a 14-year old just let out of a seminary. A few times I was literally unable to talk because of looking at the lovelies. Avoided being that crass this trip, what with now being a respectable and happily married man these days.
- Street crossings. The waterfront main street that our hotel was on (a little way out of the downtown) had only recently installed pedestrian crossings. The signs facing the motorists warned them that a pedestrian crossing was ahead and they should yield right of way. The signs facing the pedestrians warned them that motorists didn't always remember to stop.
- Stray animals. There are stray roosters and hens everywhere. For example, the first "person" to greet us at our hotel was a rooster that seemed to live there. Not sure if they belong to people who just let them free range, or they really are feral. In other classes of vertebrates, the grounds of Hemingway's house is home to a herd (flock? passel? pride? purr?) of six-toed cats.
- Food. Everywhere claims to have the "best" key lime pie. (Pro tip: it should be yellow, not green. "Key limes" are not limes grown in the Florida Keys; they are a related, but different - and yellow - fruit.) I did once have what probably was the best key lime pie in the world, possibly where it was invented (like poutine, a subject of much dispute). I think it was in Islamorada(?), with above-mentioned Don and Linda. Again, couldn't talk for 5 minutes, but that was because my taste buds overwhelmed every other neural impulse, that first bite was so good. Conch fritters are sold everywhere. All you can really taste is that it is something fried. (BTW, it's pronounced "konk." Pronouncing it "konch" immediately identifies you as a tourist, and the locals will immediatley try to sell you things.) Otherwise lots of seafood.
- Architecture is what one would expect with the climate. A mixture of wooden houses and semi-"spanish" stucco. Mostly small. A few striking stone buildings, but very few. Even Truman's "Little Whitehouse" is wooden. In it's day, there was no air conditioning, so surrounded on all sides by what were originally screened-in porches. The fairly small downtown is basically bars, tourist stores, and residential.
- The "Duval Crawl." Duval Street is the main drag downtown for bars and the tourists who come here to party. Key West, although small, is a party town, and has many festivals. Fun, but after a bit a bar is a bar. Despite the romance about the “drinking life,” there really isn't much too it, except drinking and possibly talking to people. If I want to do either, I can stay home considering: booze, décor, volume, and women. Which is to say, at home the booze is cheaper, the décor is to my taste, it's much quieter, and has the only woman I'm interested in.

Some specifics:
- The travel itself. Besides the usual annoyances of modern air travel, we had to change planes coming and going. No direct flights Montreal-Key West. Somehow, when I'd googled it initially, got info that it was 6 hour drive from Miami, but when later rechecked (too late) and consulted some locals, found it was only 3 hours if avoid traffic, which would have been faster and easier than changing planes. One of the worst bits of having to change planes, is we also had to change airlines, which meant changing terminals, which meant going throught security again, which meant it took forever even with our Nexus passes/"TSA precheck." Plus almost no one at the airports knows where anything is, there are no signs, and no information booths. Going down, although we planned an almost 2 hour layover, we almost missed our flight. They'd actually closed the doors before we got there, and they generally NEVER open them once that happens, but either because of the two small children, or it's being Christmas Eve, they let us through.
- First day. Our hotel ran a shuttle to Mallory Square (the heart of downtown), which meant didn't need a car, which was good, as parking horribly downtown. We mostly just walked around a bunch. It wasn't crowded what with it's being Christmas Day. It was still hard to find a table for lunch at any good place, but Nom is on "Open Table." We stood outside where we wanted to go (La Bagatelle), used the App to book a table for 10 minutes later, whereas people just showing up at the door had an hour wait. Coming back, we stopped at local supermarket and got stuff for breakfast to keep in the room. We're thinking maybe some other vacation we'll rent a condo/appartment so can relax more. At some point, it just isn't relaxing to always eat out. Our hotel was a little way out of town, so not much around it (especially if no car) and had only a very limited restaurant. Quieter to be away from downtown, which was good, but if walking around downtown, can't easily go back to hotel midday to relax/nap.
- Truman's "Little Whitehouse." Small and more plainly furnished than one is expecting, but a delight for the history buff.
- Aquarium. Got there at the end of the first day, but tix good for 2 days so went back next day also. Small but very nice, with lots of discussions, programs, and activities. First day, Hedgefund & I fed the sharks (no did not feed her to the sharks). Nom did also, but Wallstreet sensibly refused having noted that sharks are bigger than he is, mcuh faster than he is, and have much bigger teeth.
- Butterfly Conservatory. Again small, but nice. Ones in Montreal and NYC are much bigger and better, but this one is permanently open. Bought a stained glass butterfly now hanging in our living room window.

L'envoi. “Goodbye ocean, goodbye palm trees, goodbye warm weather"
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