Here’s our hotel in the daytime! I made the mistake of opening the curtains before I was dressed, so it’s possible my butt ended up in several tourists’ photos.
We decided to do some walking and see the city, so we stopped at the corner to wait in line for a photo of the southernmost marker, then headed up Whitehead Street toward Mallory Square.
We found Kelly’s Caribbean Bar and Grill along the way, so we stopped for brunch. We got a table in the courtyard, a couple of beers, and food. As we were finishing our meal, it started to rain a little. We were sitting under a tree, though, so it wasn’t too bad. Then it started to rain more, and we decided maybe we should head for shelter. Right as we sat down at the bar, it started pouring like crazy, and kept doing so for a long time.
We didn’t mind hanging out at the bar too much. The bartender and our server were awesome, and they kept bringing us free things… extra key lime pie, and the chef’s fresh-made halvah.
When the rain started to let up, we headed down toward Mallory Square again. We got there just in time to see a cruise ship leaving, so we hung out and watched that for a while.
Then we did some shopping, which was partly spurred on by the on-and-off rain. I got a new purse, and Matt got a couple cigars.
We walked back up Duval Street, looking for a place to rent bikes. We found Sunshine Rentals just a few blocks up. The bikes were beat to hell and the seat on Matt’s wouldn’t stay clipped in place on the post, so you had to ride with it in the lowest position. We decided to trade, since I’m shorter.
We rode back to the hotel, put our bathing suits on, and rode our bikes down to Fort Zachary Taylor Beach. We quickly realized how perfect bikes are for transportation in Key West: there are barely any hills, and there are so many bikes and scooters around that the cars are pretty used to being careful around them. I preferred to avoid the major streets because I have such bad balance, but that was easy to accomplish too.
It was overcast at the beach, but still warm out. The beach was nowhere near as nice as those perfect Caribbean beaches we’ve been spoiled by, but that was fine. You just had to swim over some rocks to get to the sandy area.
We floated around for a while, watching a storm roll in over the ocean. It started raining a bit, so obviously the right thing to do was wait it out in the water. It wasn’t really raining hard enough to soak our stuff on the beach, and it had the added bonus of clearing a lot of the people out as well.
We got out of the water around five, and went to the building to dry off and change clothes. By that time it was done raining, too. We rode back to the hotel, showered off, and got on our bikes again to head to Mallory Square for the sunset celebration. We locked them up a block from the square, intending to leave them there for the night because I didn’t want to try to ride after drinking. We were a little nervous about that, but figured there were so many bikes around that they would be fine. Also, they were incredibly crappy bikes!
We went to Sunset Pier for a drink, then took them to go shortly before sunset, so we could see it without an island blocking our view. We went to the middle of Mallory Square, and found our new favorite buskers: it was an older couple playing banjo and castanets, and an old dog wearing purple boxer-briefs. He walked around the circle, taking dollars out of people’s hands and putting them in a bucket. PEOPLE MAKE MONEY THIS WAY!
After sunset, we went to have dinner at El Meson de Pepe. Being vegetarian at a Cuban restaurant is usually pretty tricky, but I did well there. The mojitos didn’t hurt, either. While we were sitting there, we noticed a little chicken hanging out under the tables. She was running around looking for food, totally oblivious to the people nearby. Then a cat showed up, and she just backed off a few feet. I really wanted to take her home in my carry-on.
We then went over to the Rum Barrel, and browsed their insanely extensive rum list. We ordered a flight, and sat there being amused by the guys from Wisconsin near us at the bar. While they had a great rum list, the bartender didn’t seem all that knowledgeable about it, so we decided to move on. There was another rum bar (called Rum Bar, conveniently) at the other end of Duval near our hotel, so we headed that direction.
Rum Bar is located in the front of a hotel in an old house. It was very small, but there were only a few people in there hanging out. We got seats and started eyeing the massive collection of rums they had. The bartender set us up with a flight, made up of things we picked based on not having seen them before, and his recommendations. It was pretty amazing.
We hung out there for a while, talking to the other people at the bar, who positively insisted that our rental bikes were going to get stolen from Mallory Square. We still refused to believe that, because they were so very crappy. Plus there wasn’t much we could do about it at that point! When we finished our flight, I asked the bartender what his preferred cocktail was, and was overjoyed to learn it was an Old Fashioned. Even in the land of rum, people still like the classics.
Conveniently, it was only a couple-block walk from there to our hotel. It may have been the middle of the night again, but we were not going to miss a chance to swim in the infinity pool. Why they didn’t kick us out for doing cannonballs into the deep end at 2am, I will never understand.