by Lucy Ahl

It was when I was visiting my best friend of 48 years this past August that she asked if I wanted to take a winter vacation with her.  You see, I have never taken a winter vacation because I used to live in San Diego, CA and frankly, there was no need to take winter vacations, it was like I was always on vacation.  But when I married my husband and he moved us to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, the winters have been way too long for this beach loving, sun worshiping gal.  At first, I wasn’t going to go.  I didn’t want to leave my husband alone for a week with the four dogs.  However, he heard us talking on the phone one day and when I didn’t bring it up, he did.

He asked, “So, when are you going to discuss Key West with me?”  I said, “I wasn’t cause I don’t think I’m going to go.”

“Why not?”

“I’d like to experience it with you.”

“Well, I think you should go.  You’ve never gotten to travel and I think you need to do this.”

“Okay, since you put it that way.”

And so the plans began.

Sharon, my BFF, sent me info on a beautiful condo in Marathon with a private beach.  The plan was we were going to split everything.  We wanted to get a few other people to go but for some reason, no one was able to go.  I invited my daughter as she is turning 40 in March of this year and thought it would be a nice gift for her landmark birth year.  I would pay for her portion of the condo and her airplane ticket.

We booked our condo and airline tickets and then waited for February.  It came up quicker than I had anticipated but now that I’m older, these things tend to do that.

The flight took a good portion of the day and my plane landed in the late afternoon.  Sharon was already at the airport waiting for us as her flight got in earlier.  I met my daughter in Miami and flew into Key West together.  As you get into the Key West airport, there is a bar where you can order a drink and walk around.  I thought I was in another country.  We had a problem with our rental car (Alamo).  They may be cheap but they are not reliable.  We kept trying to call them to get a shuttle to our rental car but they never answered the phone.  So we walked over to Budget which was right there and we ended up with an SUV for twice the amount but it was worth it.  And the guy behind the counter was so friendly and helpful, I would definitely rent a car from them again.

It was an hour and 10 minutes from the airport in Key West to Marathon (which does have its own airport but we booked the wrong one and ended up south of Marathon).  It was a nice drive though and we stopped to pick up some groceries and alcohol before heading to the condo.

By the time we arrived, it was dark.  We put some music on, unpacked, and then sat in the living room drinking a bottle of wine discussing what we wanted to do while we were there for the week.  Exhausted, we went to bed.

The next day was Super Bowl Sunday and we decided to watch the game at Sparky’s, a hopping bar/restaurant right next to the Marina.  My daughter is a Pat’s fan, so she was pumped for the game to begin.  And what a game it was.  There was a local radio doing a live show before the game, mostly trivia questions and of course Jaime got asked to go up and answer some questions.  She ended up with a T shirt.  The guys were nice and came over to our table after their show to talk to Sharon, who was wearing a Giants shirt!  Everyone was so nice.  For happy hour, they had .10 cents a piece gulf shrimp and wings and of course pitchers of beer.  We walked there and then back to the condo as we had been drinking and knew we didn’t want to drive afterwards.  We plopped into bed at around 1:30 that night.

The next day, we drove back down to Key West and walked Duvul Street.  The best part for me was we went to Hemingway’s House and took the guided tour.  I got to see where he wrote in his studio, (I was surprised to learn he only wrote between 6 am and 12 pm every day and would write anywhere from 500 to 700 words per day) along with lots of photos of him and his wives and friends all throughout the house.  He is also famous for his many 6 toed cats (I had one years ago and I remember someone telling me it was most likely a descendant of Hemingway’s cats).  Today there are still many cats that live at his house.  He and his wife Mary loved to swim and when they moved to the US from Cuba after Castro took over, she had a pool built in their back yard which cost them over $20,000!  Lots of money back then.  It was also a little sad for me as it made me think about his death.  He committed suicide in 1961 or 1962 by shooting himself with a rifle no less.  Such a talented man who suffered from depression and alcoholism.  At the time of his death, he was impotent (sex was always important to him) and he was unable to write.  I’m sure he felt he had nothing to live for since all his pleasures had been taken from him.

We ate at Sloppy Joe’s and then watched the Sunset Celebration where there were musicians, mime’s, bars and street vendors galore!  We did not go to the 0 mile marker (I didn’t know it was there until my daughter told me about it).  For dinner we had Cuban food and listened to a great Cuban band playing while we dined outside under the stars.

The next day we rented bikes so we could bike around town.  We did 15 + miles in one day.  We pedaled our asses to the Sunset Grill and I wish we had brought our swimsuits because they had a pool!!  Food was awesome and of course the view was spectacular.

Kayaking from 3-6 where our guide, Dave, took us through the mangroves.  We saw jelly fish, spider crabs, and some of us got bitten by no seeums.  That night we sat out on the beach where we were the only ones there and just talked.  Jaime went skinny dipping and Sharon swam out in her bathing suit.  I sat on the beach and just watched them.  It was relaxing and peaceful.

We did something different each day and on the last day there, we went back to Key West.  It was a Friday night and it was packed.  We parked by the 0 mile marker because Sharon mistakenly paid for 24 hour parking before she realized it, but it all turned out good.  There was a line to take your picture and everyone was helping everyone take pictures with their loved ones.  The sun was almost setting so some of our pictures didn’t come out well however, since we were parked there, we ended up taking pictures at night when no one else was around.  We went back to Sloppy Joe’s for some live music and then walked around visiting all the shops one last time.

I am so glad I went but I have found myself missing Key West!  A week just isn’t long enough to see everything that Key West has to offer.  The atmosphere is laid back, the people are friendly, and the weather was perfect.  I would love to go back but there are other places I do want to see, so for now, I can cross Key West off my bucket list!

Key West, I Miss You!

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