Florida Keys – Cudjoe Key and Key West

Although the most well-known of the Florida Keys is Key West, there are many (many) more islands that string off the southern tip of Florida. A recent trip involved stops at several different keys and accommodations on Cudjoe Key (just 20 miles north of Key West). We stayed in a rental home called Gregily Key. Newly renovated and redecorated, the three bedroom stilt structure was more than enough space for us.

Gregily Key house canal

Sitting on a canal, the home has everything you could possibly need, including a custom-made fish cleaning station. A wrap-around balcony on the first floor and massive balcony off the master bedroom on the second provide ample outdoor space to enjoy a tropical breeze.

Gregily Key Master Balcony

Gregily-Key-view-from-balcony

From Cudjoe Key we took several trips to Key West. Along with the initial visit, we spent another full day wandering the streets and enjoying the atmosphere. For Day 2, we started at Caroline’s Cafe on Duval Street. Peel & eat shrimp cooked in Caribbean spices – the best we had in the Keys – as a starter, and fresh salads for entrees. The Yellowfin & Greens salad included perfectly seared fresh tuna filet, baby lettuces and a balsamic vinaigrette that didn’t overpower. The Southwestern Chicken Salad had a generous portion of chicken and featured a tangy lime cilantro dressing.

Key West Caroline's Cafe salads

First stop after lunch was the oldest house in Key West. Built by a merchant in 1829, it was home to a Captain’s family for decades and still contains many of their belongings. I would provide photos but it was at this point that I realized the camera’s memory card was still in a computer back at Gregily Key. Since spending the day without a camera wasn’t an option we went in search of a new card. We found one at a Walgreen’s housed inside The Duval Street Strand. The 1920s movie theater still retains its (restored) facade, marquee and interior balcony.

Key-West-Strand-Theater-Duval-Street

Although we’d already visited the Southernmost Point, I insisted we go back. The first photos were taken with the wrong lens and didn’t capture the whole buoy. So after standing in line again (it moves rather quickly), photo number two was taken.

Key-West-Southermost-Point-full

We followed the (second) obligatory buoy photos with the previously posted Butterfly & Nature Conservatory visit. We wandered lazily, enjoying the weather and all the little things that make Key West so special. Like the roosters, still strolling freely on nearly every street.

Key-West-RoosterAfter a full afternoon of butterflies, shopping and sightseeing we stopped for a snack at Keyviche. The Keyviche Signature Trilogy is a trifecta of ceviches. White fish, yellow tail or a mix of either with shrimp, calamari, mussels and octopus, is served in yellow pepper, Rocoto red pepper aioli and Aji limo pepper sauces.

Keyviche Signature Trilogy Ceviche

Keyviche Signature Trilogy Ceviche Aji Limo

Served with a small amount of Peruvian corns and sweet potato, each of the ceviches was tangy and delicious. However, with such generous portions, the acidity can become overwhelming. The sauces quickly begin to taste the same and you’ll find yourself longing for something else to provide a contrasting note. I’d recommend either sharing the trilogy with a large group, or trying a single ceviche, instead.

From Keyviche, we weaved on and off Duval Street, through an arts and crafts fair, and finally took a turn down Wall Street where we came across this massive mosaic, complete with a light on in the lighthouse.

Key-West-Wall-Street-mosaic

We continued on to Mallory Square for the Key West Sunset Celebration. Every evening, beginning two hours before sundown, the square begins to fill with people. There are the tourists, of course, who are hoping to get a seat right on the water’s edge to watch the sun sink below the waves. There are also performers, artists and street vendors.

Key-West-Mallory-Square-Guitarist

We wandered through carts of handcrafted trinkets, peeking through circles to see jugglers, balancing acts and dancing pigs.

Key-West-Mallory-Square-Snorkel-the-Pig

Actually, there’s just one pig, as far as I know. And that pig’s name is Snorkel. After grabbing freshly fried conch fritters, it was time to find a prime sunset watching spot. Too far to the left and you may end up with a cruise ship in your view.

Key-West-Mallory-Square-cruise-ship

Some spots may include concrete pilings or docks but, weathered and worn, they tend to have a beauty of their own.

Key-West-Mallory-Square-dock

After perching waterside between two very drunk women and an amateur photographer, I watched a pelican preen and stretch in the orange rays of a sinking sun.

Key-West-Mallory-Square-pelican

The sun sets both slowly and quickly. The colors change dramatically and subtly. A low, but still hovering sun casts the world in a golden glow.

Key-West-Mallory-Square-sunset-horizon

Later, as the sun kisses the sea, the world becomes a pastel paradise.

Key-West-Mallory-Square-Sunset-vertical

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