Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

Regretful in Key West

Thursday November 12, 2015                                                      Most Recent Post:
Curry Hammock State Park                                                          The Stuffed Pig
Marathon, Florida


Today is our first fore into Key West other than the time David was here for his first Cancer Treatment at 21st Century Oncology. Getting Chemotherapy treatments on the road is an amazingly difficult thing to arrange and we have been working on this since last spring. It hasn’t been fine tuned yet but he has many more weekly visits to work the kinks out.

Last week he simply came to the clinic on the outskirts of town and then left.  So rather than cram our first visit to Key West in nearly 30 years into the afternoon remaining from an all morning oncology appointment, we decided to take a separate 100 mile round trip so we could spend the entire day.



At least we’d get an overview of things we might want to do on the afternoons he has to return for treatments.

So luckily after driving around for a while up and down streets marked with 30 minute parking signs or $2 an hour paid parking or $4 an hour parking lots, we were able to find free parking on a side street not too far off the main area. This would not be possible I don’t think later in the winter.

On our walk from the car to the main areas of town we find Key West to be a charming town with beautiful and colorful homes on every street. It seems like a colonial bahamas town in some spots and like a Florida coastal beach town in others. Wonderful doorways, porches and home designs including this octagon one. The town is filled with greenery and flowers, planted and in window boxes or hanging planters. Much of it looks exotic to our normal southern expectations of flora.




What in the world is this? Looks exotic to me. It’s a giant busy sort of cactus looking thing with teeny tiny thorns among the wonderful pink ribbon trim. Just a planting in someone’s front yard.




Beautiful bougainvillea in splashy colors. I had no idea that it is the leaves that are so colorful. The flowers are tiny and white. We see the leaves all over the ground and in the gutters. They look like the town has been sprinkled with confetti.








We come to the more commercial area and find shops selling anything you could want and lots of things you never thought.




There is a cruise ship which has docked here today and that explains the larger number of people than we were expecting at this time of year. They are mainly all over the shops though and since we don’t really shop, they aren’t too much of a bother although I did watch this fella for a while as he was carefully not looking to his right. Too funny.







We decide that like other tourist cities we’ve been in, we’ll try a sightseeing tour to get our bearings and learn something about the town. There appear to be two choices, the Conch Train and the Old Town Trolley. The former only goes around the historic area and includes 4 stops where you can get off and on. The entire route takes 90 minutes. The Old Town Trolley is a longer route with more strops and goes out to the beaches and the hotels area. Nice if you are staying there but we are not so we choose the Conch Train. Hokey but we hope we’ll learn some things.

Turns out you must stay on the train for the first 45 minutes of the tour and then when they go back around to the first two stops you can get off. Had we known this when we bought our tickets, that it wasn’t actually a get on and off at will, we would have changed our minds since the tour was pretty expensive at $26 a piece and after riding by stops 1, 2 and 3, and going back around to them again, we got off at 3 and never did see the rest of the tour or stop #4 since it appeared this would take up too much of our day given that dark comes so early. I’ve decided I’m in favor of DST all year round.




Anyway, this passenger is  happy until two very large people are directed into the seat in front of us by the same conductor who asked us not to sit there but to sit in the middle. To say they blocked the view is an under statement.




I’m not able to take too many pictures with the bumpy ride on the rough streets and the view blockers. Only a very few people appear to be at the beaches on this end of the island.




Love this personalized RV. It has that Key West touch.



We will not be going back to have the “Southernmost Point in the US picture” given the line was down the block and people were swarming all over it.




Down colorful Duval Street, the main drag.





Past Ernest Hemingway’s favorite bar owned by a friend named Joe of course.




Ice cream colored rental houses on the tour route.




Other forms of transportation abound.







Milepost zero, the end of Historic East Coast Highway 1 which starts in Maine and ends right here.



The second time we come to  stop 3 we disembark to walk over to the lighthouse. But, it’s undergoing renovation so all we can do is look at the workmen’s stuff and take a picture of it from a distance. DARN! I really was willing to pay the ridiculous $12 cost to climb the 88 step circular iron stairway up and look out over the city. I do love lighthouses.  Oh well…….










Shut out of the lighthouse tour and unwilling to pay to just go inside to see the keeper’s house, we park ourselves on the picnic table outside the entrance to the gift shop for our lunch.




We take the parting tourist shot, look at the map to decide what else we want to do today since we probably only have time for one other thing that isn’t just walking around the town.



After checking out what is nearby, we decide with some mixed feelings on my part to visit the Key West Butterfly Garden and Nature Conservatory. We take a great many pictures but I am very uncomfortable.  I am ok with the idea of a butterfly garden.  An average butterfly species has an adult life span of 2 weeks or less and this is a lovely little one room indoor garden with various types of food for them including their host plants so that they can live out their natural lives in a way very similar to that of being in the wild.  But I am shocked to find so many exotic birds and particularly two flamingos and the turtle in this small room.  I am regretting that I have voted with my dollars for this business. 

In putting this post together it has taken me days to determine what to do in order to be true to my conscience which has clearly told me I should never go to places where animals are confined in spaces too small to live their lives in the fullness that they deserve.   Therefore, even though we have many lovely photos.  I have not included our afternoon there in this post and hope you will understand. 

I cannot recommend that you visit this place despite the fact and because of the fact that it is filled with exotic butterflies and birds.  It is a zoo in every real sense of the word.  The butterflies are obtained apparently from butterfly farms but there was nothing at all said about the birds regarding their origins or life spans in captivity.  My heart just aches for the two beautiful flamingos confined to the tiny pool by the little bridge.




When we leave the Conservatory we walk back to stop number 3 of the Conch Train intending to take it to stop #4 and visit the Flagler Railroad museum. We see it pull away as we are within less than half a block. We ask when the next one will be and are told 30 minutes. We’re tired and I’m not in the best of spirits so we decide to just walk it off and down Duval Street we go.

Many of the stores along one end of Duval are apparently former homes turned commercial and the lovely pastel colors in a row can’t help but cheer up anyone.


As does the Strand theater.  What a beauty.  I’m sorry it is no longer a theater and has been turned into a Walgreens.  I wonder if there are no longer enough year round residents to support a theater here.




Isn’t it great!  Look at the detail.  Although I could do without the Walgreens marquee.  Wonder if that’s the original marquee.  Perhaps.





David spots Jimmy Buffet’s original Margaritaville sitting incongruently next door to CVS.  Guess that’s handy if you over imbibe.



Of course he has to go in but I persuade him he doesn’t actually need to buy a cheeseburger here.



It’s not 5:00 here yet but of course it’s 5:00 somewhere.



All around town are the famous protected chickens.  This handsome rhode island red rooster couldn’t make up his mind whether he wanted to cross the road or approach his lady fair who is between the bikes and the car tire.  Yes chickens are everywhere.  But amazingly I didn’t see a lot of chicken poop around town.





I can see from the sign in front of the The Freeman Curry House that there is a walking tour of Key West.  That would have been a better use of our time today as the train tour really didn’t provide much history and wasn’t the same sort of off and on tour that we’ve had in other towns.  We’re not practiced tourists but I’m sure there must be a visitor’s center around somewhere that I could get the map of the walking tour for another Wednesday when we are back in Key West.




The information marker tells me that the house was built of heart pine by shipbuilder and merchant Samuel Files in 1865 and moved back 40 feet to its present location in 1920. Boy that must have been a big undertaking.  1920 was the only time it was sold, to the Freeman-Curry family.  So I guess they still own it.  Doesn’t look like it’s open to the public so unfortunately I can’t go in and see the double parlor walls with murals painted in 1925.

I love the hanging baskets and the beautiful doors and woodwork which seems a bit more Victorian than post Civil War



As we drive out along the narrow strip of land, the sun is just about setting when we leave town and I wish we’d realized how close it was and gone over to Mallory Square to see the happenings there but that too will have to wait for another day.




Bye for now Key West, we’ll see you again next week. 



  1. It takes a while to learn how to navigate Key West, but there is a lot to see. There is another theater called the San Carlos. That is where Jimmy Buffet played last winter. We "saw" him next door at Margaritaville simulcast on the huge screen TV. I think it was way more fun than seeing him live. There is also a movie theater, that we've heard is a pretty nice place, small and intimate. We don't go to many movies so we've never been there.

    We went on some sort of KW tour years ago, but I cannot remember which one it was. I do remember we toured the entire island including over to the area by the Eco Discovery center. You might do better to get on one of the busses for about $.50 and you can ride around the island and get a feel for where you are. They have different lines, by color. It takes a little while to figure out their schedules, but the bus drivers are helpful and they have nice schedules on the bus. We just waited for a bus by the Kmart plaza and asked the driver for a map. The online ones aren't as easy to read.

    There are all sorts of visitor info centers outside of Key West. We usually go to one right before you get to Stock Island (which is the last key before KW) They have lots of maps and literature, and you 're not in KW so you can park easily right in front.

    We've never been to the Butterfly exhibit and I guess now we won't be going.

    Key West takes a little getting used to, finding parking and finding the places you like, so keep at it and you'll grow to love the quaint little city.

  2. Almost always free parking available a few blocks north of Duval... we love to bike around town and take in all that we want when we want...

  3. It takes some time to get the hang of KW, that's why we keep going back. Always something new and different to see or do. We do avoid the winter time, usually spring works best for us.

    We've done both the Conch Train and the Trolley, if we were to do it again, we'd take the Trolley for the exact reason you mentioned about being able to get off and on, unlike the Conch.

    Every time I go, I hit the Mel Fisher museum and drool over the Atocha treasure. One of these visits I'm going to pull the trigger on a gold doubloon. It would make a great necklace pendant.

  4. One walk around Key West is all Bill & I needed...just not our cup of tea!! The one place we really enjoyed was the Eco Discovery Center and it is free and the parking is free:o))) We actually took the bus to Key West from Bahia Honda...just $3 per person (old person) round trip so we didn't have to find parking.

  5. I hope on one of your trips you'll do the Discovery Center and tell us about it.

  6. Seems maybe bicycling would be the best way to explore Key West. I am so jealous seeing you in shorts and t-shirt while I shiver in UT. Think I'd stick with plant conservatories. They don't build theaters like that any more. Haven't been to Key West in 50 years, and other than the warm winter weather don't think I'll be back any time soon. Instead I'll enjoy it through your eyes.

  7. Biking is the way to visit. Next time throw your bikes on the back and then you can park further outside town. There is a beautiful path that goes along the water. Too bad David's treatment dates are already set. It is so nice to visit when there aren't any cruise ships. I found it strange that the ships don't come every day but instead two to three come at the same time. We would look at the cruise schedule online and then visit when there weren't any ships. I found it was so much fun riding around and photographing all the different palm varieties. I've never seen so many interesting palms. Loved all the flowers, as well.

  8. Beautiful shots of the city. I have vague memories of visiting there as a child.

  9. That is the most interesting cactus I've ever seen - both ugly and beautiful at the same time. Like things you wish you could "un-see", I know what you mean about wishing you could "un-support" something you regret. With the plethora of review sites for tourists now you can at least warn others :-( I love the ice cream bungalows and the colorful little businesses. The theater-turned-Walgreens is nearly as sad as the conservatory, but at least it has maintained it's charm on the outside. Like old libraries, I am a big fan of old theaters. Glad you could find David's treatments near the beach, and hopefully Key West will provide some fascinating urban hikes during your stay.

  10. I always find it interesting to see the terminus of a US highway. We saw the northern end of US 41 this summer in Copper Harbor, Michigan. That's a long way from the other end in Miami!

  11. We have been there a number of times. I guess it is safe to say it is an acquired taste:) I find watching the people the most fun!

  12. There are some interesting places as shown by your photos, but somehow I think I might have liked it better back in Hemmingway's Day. I've never been there but dislike the touristy shops and such, so I was glad to take your photo tour.

  13. I enjoyed the energy of Key West and look forward to exploring more, seeing a sunset there and the Eco Discovery Museum, and of course there is that Cheeseburger ... ;)

  14. So glad you liked most of what you experienced in Key West -- we stay away from the tourist shops and enjoy the laid-back vibe, the colorful homes, the daily sunset extravaganza, and the interesting people-watching. We also really liked the Eco-Discovery Center, as you know. And we did enjoy the Butterfly Conservatory, but you raise some good questions about the birds there. Good to know that even on a cruise ship day, the town wasn't overly crowded!

  15. We love Key West! You sure covered a lot of ground in one day. Sorry you had a bad experience on the trolley. We took the Old Town Trolley a few times and had a great experience. Looking forward to you next time there and to hear what you see next time!

  16. I concur with your findings. . .I do not enjoy zoos or aquariums either. . .seeing animals in the wild ruins you for anything else. . .

  17. I've been reading and enjoying your blog for a while now but I've never commented before! I decided to today though because you're in my neck of the woods. I live in Key West! The Conch Train Tour isn't so great and I'm so sorry you had a bad experience. The best way to see KW is by bicycle. If you have your own bikes, bring them, park over at Higgs beach (it's free) and pedal around. I recommend the Eco Discovery Center (free), the oldest house (free but on Duval Street) and for SURE Fort Zachary Taylor ($2.00 per person on bikes or $6.00 per car). At Ft. Zach you can tour the fort and then lounge on the beach or under the trees just enjoying the ocean. I also highly recommend the Mel Fisher museum (and not just because my kid interns there) but you do have to pay to tour it. The Audubon House and Hemingway house are nice tours as well, but a little pricey in my opinion. Also, if you like art we have LOADS of galleries. I do however recommend spending as little time as possible on Duval street as there are a lot of cruise ships this time of year and it stays sort of crazy. The bike tours are also a very good way to see the island, there are several companies that run them. If you need anything while you are here, feel free to contact me!

    1. Welcome Sarah and thank you so much for all this information. I'm happy that you've been reading and enjoying the blog and hope that you'll comment more often so that I can enjoy your thoughts and ideas in the same way.

  18. I disagree, I think David REALLY needs that cheeseburger :-).

  19. You saw a lot in one day-well done! I remember being there 8 years ago. Some cute houses and nice rooster. There are definitely a lot of touristy shops there, but a lot of people sure do like it.

  20. We spent half a day in Key West and did the Trolley Tour, not sure if it was the Conch Train Tour. I find KW very colorful /artsy and reminded me a tiny bit of home because of the weather, other than that KW is way ahead.

  21. I always learn so much from you and your readers about places I have yet to see and experience, informative and helpful. It also keeps the dream alive......while I wait for spring and days filled with travel.


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