Back when we were still honestly employed, we spent upwards of a week in a little Islamorada cottage in the middle of the Florida Keys one Spring Break. It was a truly magical experience for us.
During that visit, we devoted one day to driving down to Key West, wandering around and attending the famous sunset ceremony at Mallory Square, the spot where crowds gather to watch one of the most famous sunsets on this continent while various kinds of street entertainers perform for donations.
We've stepped off cruise ships docking at Key West a couple of times since, only to retreat to the ship as quickly as possible, due to the crowds. We've been looking forward to having a better look so here we are.
We picked up our Budget rental yesterday, a Dodge Charger, and drove down a quite busy Highway 1. Driving in Florida more than ever consists of trying to avoid elderly and clearly incompetent drivers driving slowly and changing lanes unexpectedly, while simultaneously trying to stay out of the way of aggressive drivers in a perpetual state of Road Rage.
We finally arrived at our first hotel, the Sheraton Suites, and were checked in with reasonable efficiency. It's somewhat ramshackle in spots, but our room is fine. With only one elevator that sits at the opposite side of the property from our room on the third floor, it's a hike, but we've been long overdue for a walk.
The hotel offers a free shuttle hourly downtown and back, and they don't take reservations over the phone, so we hiked back to the lobby. There we learned that the first shuttle with spaces available was 7:00 p.m. so we simply drove downtown and parked about eight blocks away, just up the street from the monument commemorating the southernmost point in the Continental U.S.
From there we walked and walked, mainly looking for any of the restaurants recommended on the usual Internet sites. There's one thing about rubbing elbows with other tourists in Florida: It makes us feel much younger and much slimmer.
For dinner wee settled on the Trattoria, where we had a reasonable, if somewhat overpriced, meal that featured a couple of pasta and seafood dishes.
From there it was back to the hotel and a night's sleep. This morning we'll give Key West one more try, and also move from the Sheraton to the Doubletree at some point during the day. We face an interesting question. Have the Keys and Key West become more crowded and therefore less attractive since our first visit nearly 15 years ago, or, even worse, have we become jaded travelers? We hope it's more the former than the latter.
If nothing else, this southern sojourn will add us in requalifying for top tier in both hotel programs, and we're glad we came here, even if it doesn't thrill us in the way it did the first time around.
Update: We wandered around this morning - no cruise ships in port - and enjoyed it much more. All we did was have a late breakfast at Harpoon Harry's and walk around but it was much more pleasant experience without all of those other annoying tourists getting in our way.