Thursday, December 19, 2013

An afternoon in Key West

Our destination for the afternoon and evening, after fishing for an hour or so yesterday morning, was Key West.

Although it is only 39 miles, because of speed restrictions, especially through the Big Pine area, it takes about an hour to get the there. (Big Pine Key restricts speed to 45 during the day and 35 at night, as a way to protect the Key Deer, a species of deer that stand only about two feet tall.)

Key West is a zoo—at least this time of year. Traffic was as bad as in a big city; people were crammed into grocery store aisles. Our destination was the Truman Museum, the place where Harry Truman vacationed, I believe, 175 times while he was in office.

Our faith GPS Garmina led us near the museum, but where was it? A sign said, “Truman Annex.” There was a gate, houses, a guardhouse, a brochure describing a walking tour of the community, and a sales office. This looked like a housing development, not a museum property. A map showed we were in the vicinity, so we walked. And walked. Finally we came upon the building, right in the middle of the Truman Annex.

It turns out that this area had originally been a Naval Base. After Truman died, it was renamed the Truman Annex. When the base was closed, the land and buildings were sold. A developer traded the Little White House and several other buildings to the State in return for some permits, and the Museum eventually opened.

The house, originally built as a duplex in the late 1890s, was turned into a single-family home and furnished for the Trumans after his election. Today it is furnished in original pieces as well as period pieces. The furnishings reminded me of my grandmother’s furniture as well as of the furniture in a condo I rented for a couple of months in Palm Beach Gardens. It was an interesting tour.
Harry Truman was an unpretentious man, and the house was a reflection of him. Incidentally, he refused to let the Navy build a house especially for him.

Our tour ended just in time for us to meander toward Mallory Square, which, to me, is like Jackson Square in New Orleans. Street entertainers, from folk singers to fire jugglers, draw in crowds, entertain, and pass the hat. Shoulder-to-shoulder crowds jam the waterfront, buying vendors’ wares, drinking beer (almost a Key West mandate, it would seem), and waiting for the sunset.

Street entertainer with his pig
No, these aren't real women! Key West has an Art Museum. Outside are full-size sculptures of these nudes, an artist, two lovers. Very realistic.

We strolled away from the main crowd and found an open spot along a rail farther down the waterfront. The sunset didn’t disappoint us. What disappointed us was the fact that Jim had forgotten the camera in the car—and my phone camera (which had about 1% of battery left) does not take very good pictures.

So, as you look at this posted photo, picture in your mind, the glowing yellow sun, slowly descending toward the sea, and with its descent, turning more pink and red as it approaches the blue water. Just as the last sliver of the sun was disappearing, a thin veil of clouds stained themselves as they covered the remaining bit of sun.

I said that Key West reminded me of New Orleans. Mallory Square is like Jackson Square, and Duval Street (at least the section closest to Mallory Square) is like Bourbon Street. The main theme: bars. It was early, so we didn’t see a lot of drunks, but I’m sure they abound later in the night.
We walked past shops, and decided to eat closer to home, instead of fighting the crowds at dinner time in Key West.

Our dinner was at a seafood restaurant/bar and grill, which also sold organic cheese, milk, and eggs. The waitress knew what gluten-free was and the restaurant actually had a choice of GF beers for Jim! He had one we had never heard of before—a Spanish beer made with a process that removes the gluten to 3 ppm, well within the legal definition of gluten-free. Because the bottle was not labeled gluten-free, we took it home for research. It turns out that this particular beer has won awards for its taste and process. It is not labeled gluten-free because it extracts the gluten rather than using gluten-free ingredients.

So there you have it. Another day in what some would call paradise. I don’t go that far. I wouldn’t want to live down here. Everything is too far away; you are too vulnerable to hurricanes; and it is very expensive. But the weather is great, and for a relaxing time of doing nothing and fishing, it can’t be beat.

Until next time,

Your Reluctant RoVer,


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