KEY WEST - I really need to give myself more time in this town.
It was pretty much a 24-hour blitz this time around; just enough time to see a decent but slightly unsatisfying sunset and grab a meal on Sunday, and then a little biking about and a VERY satisfying 90-minute sail on Monday.
Sunday night we wanted to check out the sunset; a de rigeur activity down at Mallory Square. Rather than join the hordes standing on the square,we opted to belly up at the Sunset Pier, where you can get a $5 pint and a chair to sit on at the railing, or at a table, and watch the sun do its thing.
The conch fritters aren’t worth $9 as it’s almost entirely fried dough, but the beer was cold. It was one of those sunsets obscured a bit by clouds on the horizon, so we didn’t get the applause factor and no green flash. But a partly cloudy sunset is almost always more dramatic and the orange and deep grey clouds we got made up for the lack of a single sunset moment.
They had a guy singing blues and rock tunes on the pier, apparently a regular. He’s got a good voice but his ability to remember lyrics borders on the hilariously ridiculous. I think he sang eight or nine words to “Let’s Get It On” by Marvin Gaye, but that one’s mostly about groove and rhythm and, really, other than saying “Let’s Get It On” in a smooth, sexy voice there isn’t a lot you need to do with that tune.
More amusing was his take on “Love Train,” where the poor guy could only sing the verse about all the people over in Africa and then mixing in “tell all the people in China and Israel, too.”
Anyway, he had a nice voice and he implored everyone on the dance floor to mix it up and to make sure they went home and got it on because otherwise he didn’t want us on his dance floor.
I’ll give Sevenfish another mention today as I thought it was an extraordinary place for dinner. It’s on Elizabeth St. just north of Truman; maybe two blocks from Duval. It’s plain white on the outside and has just one small sign on the door. Inside, it’s also extremely plain.
But the seafood was simply stunning; a grouper with mango chutney and a snapper in yellow curry sauce with perfect veggies and delicious, meaty crab cake. I’m told the banana chicken and the meat loaf are to die for, and they also have a decent wine list.
The place was packed with what looked mostly like locals on Sunday night, so it’s clearly not a tourist trap.
Monday I rented a bike so I could see a bit more of everyday life on the island. It’s an expensive place to live, and a lot of folks don’t exactly live in palatial surroundings.
The colours are lovely; soft pastels and whites with big porches and colourful murals and doo-dads on the porch. It’s a great town for simply strolling, even if you don’t like the gross and utterly stupid t-shirts they sell on Duval or the come-ons for the drag shows or dancing girls at Coyote Ugly Saloon.
Looking for something a little different, we opted for a 90-minute sail on the schooner Adirondack III. Captained by John Sweeney, originally from Syracuse, N.Y., we learned how a guy tried to grow Christmas trees on a small island just off Key West and about their crazy Fantasy Fest, which is coming up soon and promises a great deal of drinking and nakedness on Duval.
The ship is a beauty, with four large sails. I volunteered to help raise one of them and got a free beer for my efforts. Lest that sound too amazing, the drinks are, remarkably, just a buck on board. That goes for French champagne as well as Corona, Bud or Heineken or Ginger Ale or wine; a great deal.
The crew was helpful and instructive and we got in some great weather. It was hotter than blazes in town but out on the boat even being in the sun felt refreshing with the breeze we had. The water is a beautiful shade of green in the channel outside Key West and only gets about 25 feet deep. On the way back, we spotted a group of four dolphins, just to end it on a high note.
It’s just $35 for the mid-day ride. They also do a mimosa morning trip for $35 and a sunset trip for $75.
I highly recommend it as an antidote to the doings on Duval. Unless, of course, that’s what you want out of a trip to Key West.
Off today to the U.S. Virgin Islands. First stop, St. Thomas.
You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow me on Twitter @jimbyerstravel