"Welcome to the Conch Republic"

Trip Start Oct 06, 2006
Trip End Dec 06, 2006

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Flag of United States  , Florida
Monday, November 13, 2006

Kevin very kindly gave me a lift to EZ Car Rental where I collected my car and made my way south. Made a couple of brief stops on the way (including about 6 stops at Toll Plazas!) but generally kept motoring. Got the feel-good factor as the amount of pelicans got to plague numbers.
I was going to write a little about the journey but arriving in Key West has blown it all into insignificance!
Managed to bump into my hotel without really looking very hard, got booked in quickly and am delighted. It's a 19th Century colonial building and the room is basic but a quick walk around told me that I won't be spending very much time in my room.
Headed towards the harbour and wandered along there for a bit before turning inland. The buildings here are beautiful wooden structures that have survived innumerable hurricanes down the generations. Palm trees sprout skywards from front gardens where chickens peck at the ground. Chickens! These houses may be on main thoroughfares but the sight of chickens wandering around is an entertaining sight to behold for sure. I bumped into the Coffee Plantation Internet Café and made queries about their services. "20c a minute or if you bring your own laptop, it's complimentary" said the Dutch guy who served me a great feta salad and OJ. Guess where I'll be having my morning coffee tomorrow!
Duval Street is the main drag and what a delight! Late afternoon and the sound of live bands in the bars spills out on to the street, as the occasional busker takes his position on the street corner. Tat shops for the tourists line the street along with restaurants. It's alive, non-threatening and fun. Oops....nearly tripped over a chicken!
Looked at adding credit to my phone which wouldn't be a problem as it was sorted out some days ago....right? Guess again. The curse of Net10 will follow me until I shuffle off this mortal coil!
About 10pm I wandered down towards Duval and headed left when I got there to see what was there and to see if I could find an ATM. This is evidently the part of the street that hosts the posher shops. Found an ATM, drew out some dosh and headed back towards the more touristy part of the street. Wandered into to one of the bars called the Bear something-or-other, had an over-priced ($4.75) bottle of Bud then wandered down to Sloppy Joe's which I have seen before thanks to the fabulous quality of their webcams. The one that faces the street is fabulous...Just like watching the telly! The place is named after a cohort of Ernest Hemmingway's who used to drink there or owned it or something.....I have no Internet access as I write this so can't Google.
Once inside, I ordered a Bud for a dollar less than the last place, then found you could order a 'pint' of Bud Light for yet another dollar less. This alleged 'pint' would be done under the Trades Description Act in the UK but what the hell...
On stage ambled a band from Pennsylvania who treated us to a comedic set of cover versions which suited the holiday crowd perfectly. They covered everything from Michael Jackson ("Billie Jean"..including idiot Moondances), A more Ska version of "Hotel California" by the Eagles including accurate twin guitar stuff (For a male under 50 in the States to not be able to play Eddie Van Halen's intro to "Hot for Teacher" is a criminal offence which is punishable by being sent to Guantanamo Bay for a jolly good chin-wag by Homeland Security), and all manner of songs that would bring drunk holiday makers onto the dance floor. It was cheesy but didn't seem to be as cheesy as the fare dished out to Brits on holiday in Spain. These guys seemed to be folks who wanted to play 'proper' music but had to do this stuff to make money. I remember being in that situation when I left school! Speaking of music and myself, I used to play with a guy called TV Smith for 5 years or so and had his name come up as I crossed a bridge on the way down that spanned a stretch of water called 'Channel 5'...the name of an album that he recorded not long after the birth of the British TV station Cannel 4 in the early 80s.
In summary, the atmosphere here is fantastic. It's busy, with cars and bikes vying for space (although a lot of cyclists use the sidewalk). People are polite and very friendly and the place may seem all hustle and bustle but the underlying feel is laid back. I love this place! I've been to lots of places where I've thought I could stay for a while but this place grabbed me by the short and curlies immediately. Someone give me a job here!!!

TV Smith
Coffee Plantation
Sloppy Joe's Live Cam
Slideshow Report as Spam
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