A light wind blew air heavy with the scent of salt into my nose as I ran into the roadside gas station with my mom holding my hand. She had pulled me out of the way of a reversing truck, tugging on my arm so hard it hurt. “We came to Key West to have fun, not to end up in the E.R.,” she said. I nodded my head in agreement.
I told my family we would leave Miami for Key West at 9 am, knowing that to them that meant 10am (the time I wanted us to leave). Not wanting to contribute to the tardiness, I woke up at 7:30am, showered, rented a car, got back home and made everyone breakfast, all while screaming the time at them like a cuckoo clock. My screaming was in vain because we weren’t on our way until 15 mins after 10am. One of the best and worst things about going to Key West is the drive. As you drive through the different keys to get to the last one (Key West), there’s a view of the water on each side. It helps you focus less on the fact that you cannot drive faster than 50-55 miles per hour and you get to drive in one lane for ~100 miles. Ideally, a trip to Keywest should take 2hrs+ but for this reason, it’s almost 4hrs long.Fun fact: The water in Higgs Beach in Key West comes from the Atlantic Ocean but has no wave activity because of the coral reef that acts as a natural barrier.
On the way, we listened to a compilation of music from various African artists, laughed at stories my mom shared from our childhood and made a few stops for snacks and photos.Fun fact: Despite being an island, Key West is not famous for its beaches. There aren’t many of them on the island.
4 hrs later, we pulled into the parking garage in Key West’s old town, paid for 3hrs worth of parking and started our walk through the city’s quaint, picturesque streets. Almost every building is painted in beautiful bright yellows, pinks, and blues and stand in stark contrast to the ones painted in all white. There looked to be a mix of buildings in 80’s art deco style as well as Spanish style.I have been to Key West twice, but each time I stayed on the beach, content to relax on the sand and go either parasailing or kayaking. This time, I wanted to get out on the streets and learn a bit of Key West history.
Fun fact – Conch is a type of seafood but also what people from Key West are called. Go to see the city, stay for the Conch.So at about 4pm, after a quick stop for ice cream, we took a ride on the Conch Train; one of two trolley rides that cover the entire island in about 1hr and a half while a guide shares the history of the city. If you’re lucky -and we were- you’ll get a guide that is both knowledgeable and funny. Our guide Kenny was born and raised in Key West and had a wealth of information to share in between well-placed jokes.Fun fact – Before Fidel Castro’s rule, you could go by boat from Key West to Cuba. It’s only about 90 miles away.An hour into the tour, we stopped for ten minutes for everyone to get a stretch and a quick snack. I wasn’t going to come off at first but I spotted a sky blue wall that I thought would contrast beautifully with my skirt, so I jumped down to have my brother snap some shots. When Kenny called us back from the break, I walked away from the wall and left my purse on the floor next to it. I wouldn’t realize until ten minutes later that I no longer had my purse.Inside the purse was the only key to the rental vehicle, wallets containing bank cards, cash and drivers licenses. The severity of the situation dawned on me when I realized the car keys were gone. I needed to return the car the following morning. I tried not to burst into tears and started walking into stores to ask if anyone had brought in a bag. By the third or fourth store, it was getting difficult to hold in my tears.With shaky fingers, I dialed the Key West police department to file a report, hoping that they would find the bag by that evening but knowing my chances were slim. They took my information and gave me the authorization to drive without a license which prompted me to call the rental car company for a solution to the lost key. In my panicked state, I forgot that keys could be replaced. Luckily I had paid for insurance which covered roadside assistance, so a locksmith arrived, and within a half hour, we were ready to be back on the road. I had planned for us to end the day eating Key Lime Pie (named for the key limes found in the Florida Keys) and Conch Fritters while watching the sunset at Mallory Square, but the universe had different plans. Instead, we had a quick dinner at Red Fish Blue Fish (I packed mine to go since I no longer had an appetite) before leaving.
Thankfully, the situation with my bag happened late enough that we had already enjoyed the better part of our day. While it did put a damper on the evening, I know that things could have been worse.
The next afternoon, I received a call saying my bag had been found, with the wallets and keys intact. Considering the chances, I had given up any hope of my bag being found. I remembered the policeman who wrote my report saying “I like to think people here are decent, we usually get a lot of lost items returned”. I couldn’t help but smile to myself.
Have you been to Key West or any of Florida’s Keys? How did you find it? Leave me a comment to let me know + If you haven’t, is it on your to-visit list?.
thank you for reading.
All photos shot on iPhone 8+
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Same Footprints, Different Sands