Spring Break 2015: Key West (Day 2)

Last time on Spring Break 2015, we spent a day in Fort Lauderdale and then spent 4 hours driving to Key West. Upon arrival, we had a taste of night life and curled up on a beach to recuperate before another full day of fun.

I wish I could say that I awoke peacefully to the gentle warmth and glow of the sun, peeking over the sea as I slept with the smell of salt and sea in my hair.

Sunrise on the beach
Beach sunrise…
Sunrise on the beach with waves on the rocks
Breathe in the serenity… it doesn’t last

In reality, we had barely settled into our sleeping positions on the beach and in the car when I learned something the hard way:

Key West has feral chickens. I found out when, at 3 AM, I heard a rooster crowing its lungs out. And then no fewer than 2 roosters joined that one. There was a proud rooster, with a confident crow, and a very sad rooster with a depressingly dejected one. I wish I knew why 3 AM was when they decided to start crowing, because cartoons and movies have told me that roosters crow when the sun rises. Clearly, these roosters didn’t get that memo.


I was under the impression that these roosters belonged to one of the houses nearby, but when I woke up, I saw them wandering around. A cocky rooster strutting around and still crowing, a few hens, even some chicks! I was very excited to see those adorable chicks but I do with I was less cranky at this point in time. I can sleep through almost anything. I’ve fallen asleep standing up, I routinely sleep in any and all public transportation, I have even nodded off on the stairs. But there are 2 things that will keep me from falling asleep no matter how sleepy I am and that will wake me up no matter how deeply I’m sleeping: (1) Snoring and (2) ROOSTERS CROWING. I discovered the power of the rooster crow when I was in China over a decade ago and first successfully stayed up all night thanks to the roosters next door.

Chick next to chicken
Chick + chicken = almost forgiven BUT NOT REALLY

Let’s move on from the roosters, as we kept seeing them throughout the day (they’re everywhere). Just know that every time I saw them, I tried to give them the most menacing glare I could.

I did get to enjoy a really serene ocean sunrise when I was done staring down these roosters and their families. From there, we went to breakfast at Southernmost Beach Cafe. (Since this is Key West, “southernmost” was a recurring theme in the naming of local establishments.) I filled my belly with chicken and waffles because we already had two smoked salmon omelettes at the table.

Chicken and waffles with candied pecans and cayenne maple syrup
Chicken and waffles with candied pecans and cayenne maple syrup
Eggs benedict
More eggs benny!

We had a big day ahead of us in Key West! First, we set up at a proper campsite at Boyd’s Campground, which provided a nice spot for us to rest our heads next to the water.

View from our campsite
View from our campsite
Our tent and our rental hatchback
Our tent and our rental hatchback

We walked around for a bit, getting our bearings and seeing what this town looked like in daylight. (I was so surprised by how many people were sunburned that early in the day. Did these folks not know how the sun works by now?)

A romantic and somewhat unsettling statue
A romantic and somewhat unsettling statue
Pelican? at the docks
A friend we made while walking

Our biggest adventure was: snorkeling! I’ve never been snorkeling before and I was so excited because, I mean, I’ve been obsessed with The Little Mermaid for so long and with marine life in general for so long now. The idea of us being out there, swimming with the fishies LITERALLY was so exciting to me. The weather was perfect for a day out on the sea and the Floridays crew was so nice to us! They were friendly but not too friendly because they understand you’re out here to get to know the fish, not the captain of the boat. I felt really safe and at ease, even when I started feeling nauseous and watched half of the other passengers throw up over the side of the boat. (For those interested, going snorkeling with Floridays includes beverages. I just had myself a ginger ale because of my belly, but you could have something with more of an edge to it if you wanted, as well.)

View from the boat
The only photo I have is from our boat ride out to the reef…

Being my first time snorkeling, I had a bit of trouble with the breathing. (So much for those mermaid dreams.) I got water in my goggles and in my snorkel pretty often, and at one point, I had floated to a really shallow part of the reef. I was too scared to move for fear of kicking at the coral with my flippers, but the waves were really rough in that area to the point where I was worried the water itself would slam me into the reefs. But wow was it amazing. The fish weren’t afraid of me — even though I was covered in a lot of SPF 90 — and I saw so many different kinds of fish and coral out there. It was seriously one of the most magical experiences I’ve ever had an it was easily the highlight of Key West for me and one of the high points of the entire trip. I wish I had photos to share but I will seriously cherish the memory of being as close to a mermaid as I will ever be. Also, I cannot recommend snorkeling in Key West enough, especially with Floridays.

Of course, since we were in Key West, I was told by friends that it was mandatory that I get key lime pie on a stick dipped in chocolate. So I did!

The classic - key lime pie, frozen, put on a stick, dipped in chocolate
The classic – key lime pie, frozen, put on a stick, dipped in chocolate

Since we had some time before sunset, we had dinner. Kind of. First, we stopped by The Conch Shack because, when in Key West and not eating key lime pie, you gotta try some conch.  Between the 4 of us, we split a conch sampler (conch fritters, conch ceviche, cracked conch, and fries) and a seafood sampler (conch fritters, fried fish, fried shrimp, and fries). This was literally a little shack with amazing fried seafood and — the highlight of this shack — misters that would spray a fine mist of cool water on you as you walked round to the seating area. Delicious food, refreshing mist… stop by here when you want to get some conch in Key West. As it turns out, we wanted to balance out our meal more, which is why we split our orders at The Conch Shack. We stopped by Hogfish Bar & Grill for a more traditional dining experience. (We didn’t have hogfish but yo, hogfish are terrifying looking.) I wanted to balance out all that fried goodness I had earlier, so I ordered a ceviche with the waitress’s promise that it had lots of veggies. We had okay food there, but we really just wanted to wait for sunset with ice water in a cool restaurant, to be totally honest. (It was open air, so there was no AC, but being out of the sun and in front of a fan really helped.)

Sign denoting Conch Shack

Food from Conch Shack

We rounded out the evening by going to Mallory Square for the Sunset Celebration. Talented street performers come out and put on some amazing shows while vendors provide food and handmade crafts. It was super cool in that it highlighted these local talents in this beautiful place. The performers themselves! I mean they should be on America’s Got Talent, they were incredible. I wish nothing but the best for them.

Man in top hap doing a hand stand on chairs
Not pictured: the 8 (!!!) chairs that were stacked below his hands/feet

It also didn’t hurt at all that Mallory Square is gorgeous at sunset. This is definitely another must-do Key West activity.

2015-04-19 19.56.44 IMG_1511

The evening ended with us returning to our campsite — a proper one this time! — and settling down with cold drinks in front of a small bonfire we made. The bonfire was short-lived, as the gravel that comprised the artificial “beach” we camped on had a tendency to POP. A lot. It was pretty dangerous actually, but the fire felt nice because it was that toasty, cozy, dry heat and not the gross humidity that we had been dealing with since touchdown. We all bundled up in our tent (which got a little too warm because there wasn’t much airflow through it) and had a pretty good night’s sleep.


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