Saturday, May 28, 2011


I have not been to Key West in over fifteen years. A twenty four hour stopover a few weeks ago allowed me to get a glimpse at how the city had changed or not changed. We checked into the Westin Hotel and Marina with a great location on the waterfront at Front Street. It's one block from the end of Duval Street and just south of Mallory Square where the ubiquitous Sunset Celebration is held every night. I don't recall the hotel being here on my last visit. I think it was a dusty uneven industrial space with an occasional tug or two tied up and offered a quiet alternative to the carnival like atmosphere of nearby Mallory Square. Back then I recall there was a lot of controversy about cruise ships docking in the city. That controversial issue now seems moot as there is cruise ship pier:

But, the good news is there seems to be additional waterfront dockage now for voyaging sailors who don't like sailing in crowds and judging from the name of this boat a reminder of the old times in Key West.

While the dusty industrial lot is gone. It's been replaced by a paved waterfront with a railing. Perfect to lean on and watch the comings and goings of various boats.

We took a nice shady walk down Whitehead Street and stopped by the Banyan Tree Resort a place I had stayed at many times in the past. The Banyan Tree out front seemed to provide shade for the entire block. We stopped by the Tiki Bar in the back which is a quiet and peaceful place to enjoy a refreshing drink compared to the bedlam of Duval Street just one block away.

We then headed up Eaton Street and turned left on Duval. There were a lot more five dollar Tee Shirt shops lining the street but, some old haunts still survive. Like the Bull Bar. Live music still spilled out of the place and the Bull still emerged from it's wall. I think this piece of bar art was supposed to convey an angry Bull (as evidenced by the red eyes) but, to me the Bull always looked bewildered as it smashed out of the wall.

Then of course Sloppy Joe's Bar is still here:

Captain Tony's Bar still survives too though Capt. Tony is gone. Back near the waterfront there is a glimpse of Key West's notorious past as many here made their living off of the misfortune of others using this replica of the wreckers craft.  The Hollywood version can be seen in the John Wayne movie .

Meanwhile outside the Shell Warehouse this fellow is showing the strain of decades of trying to sell natural sponges to the tourists passing by.

Nearby Sponge Bob Squarepants father stands like some creepy Tom Traubert character here in Key West.

Back at nearby Mallory Square the roosters have expanded from  the residential streets to the waterfront. Not sure if this is an improvement or not for the city.

 But, Mallory Square also seems to be more accommodating these days to all creatures who enjoy the fishing lifestyle.

Another good improvement is that the city now has a great waterfront walk. People can now walk along almost the entire waterfront from Mallory Square to beyond the Half Shell Raw Bar. With lot's of bars, restaurants,shops and benches to stop at along the way.

It was during this walk we came upon the historic ship Western Union.
 The Western Union was a cable laying schooner that was assembled in Key West back in the 1930's and maintained the communications cables from Key West to Cuba. My girlfriend was working for Western Union International years ago when an upstart communications company called MCI bought them. The schooner Western Union was one of the company "assets" that was sold at the time. We were in Key West a few years later when the Western Union was again sold and left Key West despite efforts to keep her in the city. We did a sunset sail on board her around that time too. It's good to see her back in Key West. She looks in much better shape than the last time we sailed her in the 1980's.

All in all it was a great stay in Key West for Captain Mike. Though my greatest fear was that I was going to be hearing Jimmy Buffet's song Margaritaville (a song I am so sick of hearing) pouring out of the bars all over Key West. Happily, I did not hear it once as we walked around the city. By the end of the day I thought I would get through my visit without hearing it at all. Which was fine by me.  Then outside the Westin listening to a solo musician playing some delightful soothing steel drum music on the dock while we enjoyed our dinner. I saw a dyed platinum blond  grandma in a mini skirt go up to the musician. Next thing I knew he was playing Buffet's Margaritaville while I cringed.  Good thing I was leaving Key West in the morning. 

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