The next day I took the hire car for petrol,the original idea had been to get a small SUV but due to there not being one available we ended up with a huge 8 seater beast, a Ford Explorer! Back to getting the petrol, in the USA it turns out that the green pump is diesel and the black unleaded and you pay for your petrol before you put it in, so you have to know how much you want! After the fun filling up it was off down U.S. Route 1 to the Florida Keys and our destination at Key West. Once out of Miami and onto U.S. Route 1, it was a very straight forward drive one road all the way, with some great views of the Atlantic on one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other.
In Key West we were staying at The Artist House on Fleming, upon arrival we were greeted by Cindy who checked us in, gave us some local info and showed us to our room, this was a large room on the ground floor at the front. Out front there was a porch with some outdoor sofas and a swing seat, out the back a lovely shaded seating area with a dip pool and waterfall.
We asked Cindy to recommend somewhere for a quick lunch and she suggested Bien, a short walk away this is a Caribbean-Latino takeaway with some seats outside, Alison had a Pork Steak sandwich (shear slices of marinated pork flash and piled high) and I had a Smokin Thighs sandwich (marinated, skinless, boneless, chicken thighs grilled & basted with Bien marinade) it was excellent, very tasty indeed. We then went back to the B&B to unpack and then we joined in with the free happy hour and had our drinks sat on the porch swing.
After getting changed it was off to Malory Square for the sunset celerbration, this takes place every evening and is one of the things Key West is famous for. Malory Square was buzzing, full of people, jugglers, singers, stalls selling all sorts food, jewellery and nik nacs and even a wedding! After some people watching we decided to get a drink, we found a stall doing cocktails and ordered a couple of mojitos, the mint and lime was already in the plastic cup so I was not expecting too much, but it was the best mojito I have ever had! We then went to find somewhere to watch the sunset and enjoy the mojitos, at the moment the sun went down there was applause! But then everybody left, so we had the place to ourselves to watch the colours and the stars come out whilst enjoying our mojitos.
We then went back through Malory Square, where we stopped for some guacamole, that was made fresh as we watched and very nice it was too, then it was off down Duval Street, stopping of at Caroline’s Other Side, which had been recommended by Cindy, for a cocktail! This is a bar in the historic Porter Mansion on the other side from The Porch, Alison had a Proper Dark & Stormy (Cruzan Blackstrap Rum, ginger beer, lime juice sugar fire) and I had a Hemingway Daiquiri (Papa’s Pilar 3yr blonde rum, grapefruit and lime juices, sugar, Luxardo Maraschino liqueur), the decor is beer hall on the Porch side and quirky on Caroline’s Other Side.
After this we carried on down Duval Street saw some interesting sights and made our way home.
Day two started with breakfast at the B&B and very nice it was too, it was a buffet continental and there was lots of choice plenty of hot coffee and even champagne so you could make yourself a Buck Fizz! After breakfast we made our way to closest stop for the trolly tour, as we got there we could see one just leaving! So we had a look at he boats in the harbor, a few little shops and Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Shoppe which sells much more than Key Lime Pie, in fact if you ever go you will be amazed at what they get Key Lime into! We boarded the trolly bus when it came and after a quick change at the next stop we were off with our driver Zack, who is a Key West native and member of one of their oldest families. It was fun and informative with lots of local knowledge.
After the tour we were a little bit thirsty so thought we would nip into the Rum Barrel for a quick drink! As the name suggests, the Rum Barrel specialises in rum and has more than 150 rums, we had a Marooned (Cruzan Coconut, Cruzan Vanilla, Creme de Coconut, pineapple, orange juice and Cruzan Black Strap) a Island Barrel (Cruzan Coconut, Cruzan Pineapple, Cruzan Mango, pineapple, cranberry and orange juices with a splash of grenadine) and a sipping rum from Guatemala, Zacapa Centenario 23 Year, which was very nice. While we where there talking to the barman he told us about the six bar challenge, a cocktail in six separate bars and and the end you win a t-shirt! There’s no time limit he told us, well that’s fine we said but this is our last day here, even with only one day to complete, we knew we were up to the challenge! From the Rum Barrel we went across the road to look at Key West’s first legal rum distillery, where you can taste the rums and have a walk around the distillery, the rums are great on of my favourites was Key West Devil’s Rum, which is flavoured with cinnamon.
Next we went to another bar on the challenge circuit, Island Dog Bar, where we had a Key Lime Colada (Don Q coconut rum, pina colada mix, fresh pineapple, a key lime floater, rimmed with Graham cracker crumble) and a Rum Runner (Meyers dark rum, Don Q light rum, blackberry brandy, banana liquor, pineapple juice. We also decided it might be a good idea to eat,
so we had Island Tenders (fried chicken, shoestring fries and a honey mustard dipping sauce) and Island Dogs Cobb Salad (Grilled pineapple, avocado, red onion, cucumber, bacon, queso fresco, egg and croutons served on a bed of baby spinach with a citrus vinaigrette). We eat and drank sat on the front porch watching the people from the cruise ships wandering about. From here it was some sight seeing on our way to Charlie Mac’s where we had two Charlie’s Lemon Mint T (Deep Eddy lemon Vodka mixed with sweet iced tea and mint sprigs).
This time we sat inside and watched the chickens wandering about thought the open sides (there are lots of chickens wondering around Key West).
The it was off the Green Parrot, which in near the end and therefore the beginning of US Route 1, where we had two of their signature drink, the Root Beer Barrel (a shot of root beer schnapps nestled inside a glass of ice cold lager).
The Green Parrot is the bar most used by locals and has a great atmosphere and is the one recommenced by Zack our guide on the trolly as the bar to see the real Key West in.
We then went back to the B&B for a wash and brush up, oh and happy hour and time on the porch swing!
The evening started off with a pleasant walk to the next bar Turtle Kraals where we sat on the roof drinking Key Lime Margaritas (Margaritaville coconut tequila, local key lime juice, triple sec and a dash of Kele Key Line liqueur, eating pretzel balls with honey mustard dip and watching the sun go down over the boats.
Then it was off to the last bar the Half Shell Raw Bar where we had a couple of Texas Teas (Tito’s American Handmade premium vodka, ice tea and lemonade) and also get our t-shirts, you may see us wearing them at sometime! I can say that a bar crawl is a very good way to see Key West. From there it was a walk round the harbor and coast back to front street where we has a celebratory cocktail at the Rooftop Cafe, Alison had Jimmy’s Boat Drink (Cruzan banana, mango pineapple rums with a splash of orange juice and pineapple juice) and I had a Perfect Gentleman (Gentleman Jack with a dash of sweet and dry vermouth on the rocks) we watched to quite streets for a bit before heading up Duval Street calling in a few shops and heading back to the B&B. In the morning it was up for breakfast, a farewell walk round calling in a shop selling local salt, honey and crafts and going back to the distillery to get some of the Key West Devil’s Rum, before getting back in the beast and heading back to along the Ocean Highway to Miami.