Key West – Close to Perfect

Sopers Hole Original 300x243 Key West   Close to PerfectKey West – Far From Normal, Close to Perfect. I love this  commercial! Every year, especially in the dead of  a January winter  I wait for it to show up.  Images of  palm trees, sherbert colored cottages. magnificent sunsets,Key Lime pie and conch fritters are  a balm to my sun-starved soul. As far as I’m concerned, sight unseen, Key West is more than perfect.Fellow travelers who know of my love affair with the tropics insist  that Key West  is as close to the Caribbean as I can get in the continental United States. This spring, thanks to an unexpected invitation (it happens a lot) I’ll find out first hand.
My first visit to the Conch Republic won’t the four or five day vacation I originally dreamed of, planned and even paid for a few years ago. It was to have been a  leisurely drive (a ride, more accurately) beginning in  Miami. Then we’d travel  the Overseas Highway through Key Largo, Islamorada, Marathon and Big Pine down to Key West. This trip, however, will be courtesy of a Carnival cruise,  but I’m not worried. Even if the cruise line has to hire a team of world-class rowers, trail a barge of port-a-potties on one side and a small ship of chefs on the other, this ship will sail through the Gulf of Mexico without incident.
Those few  hours on shore will be a preview, a mini-familiarization trip, and the sightseeing  equivalent of speed-dating.  I’ll pay homage to the master treasure hunter himself  with a quick trip  through the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum. Among its many treasures, the museum houses “The Last Slave Ship” and  artifacts from the Henrietta Marie, a ship that went down off the Florida coast after the sale of 190 Africans on the island of Jamaica. There will be time for picture-taking. Those of you who know me well are nodding right now.  You’ve proven your friendship many times over by pulling over next to cornfields, driving down country roads or stopping dead center of a bridge for me to capture that perfect shot.(I wish the perfect shot I’ve included in this post was authentically Key West, but this is  Soper’s Hole on the British Virgin  island of Tortola. Since I only use my own photos, it was as “close to perfectly” Key West as I could get.:) I’ll find my way over to the Bahama Village and take in a few blocks of Duval Street . No trip to Key West, no matter how brief, would be complete without a meal of conch fritters, key lime pie and .a cold beer, looking out over the water route to the Caribbean.

Next time I’ll stay in one of those uniquely Key West  bed and breakfasts attached to a beautiful garden. I know I’ll walk in and out of shops and galleries the entire length of Duval Street. There might be a boat ride in my future trip to the Keys. Without question my camera and I will witness each sunrise and especially the sunsets from Mallory Square. As far as Key West food, I’ll repeat my performance from every island I’ve visited. That means indulge, explore, enjoy. I do know that there will be conch – every day.  Who knows? By the time the week is over I just might pass the test and take the oath of citizenship in the Conch Republic of Key West.

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