Another Voice: Chickens, Conchs and Sunsets … Key West

I met my friend Gerry a few months ago and since then we’ve become friends. He’s a Chicago boy relocated to Memphis and is doing a stellar job of building community in the midst of a heavy travel lifestyle. He took a trip over Memorial Day with a friend, and I asked him if he’d be willing to give a shot at writing a travel blog for my readers. Enjoy the pics and the story! Thanks, Gerry!

Click on the pics to see the captions…

When I deplaned at EYW, the first thing to catch my eye was the banner over the terminal: Welcome to the Conch Republic. Curious, I  thought, but, hey, it’s Key West, no biggie…
And upon walking into the third world sized baggage claim area, the First Call cocktail kiosk set any worries immediately to rest; this was going to be a pleasant sojourn.

The shuttle to The Reach was short and cheap, 10 minutes or less and only $8 bucks a head.  Champagne flutes and a large bowl of apples and oranges greet entrants to the lobby and I availed myself of both after checking in.


Courtyard view of the pool is pleasant ( decided to save $30 or so per night for the ocean view in a fit of false economy) and the room amenities are classic Hilton: mini frig, mini safe, Nescafé coffee machine, ice bucket (sad story about the ice machines!) , wine glasses, coffee cups but strangely, no dresser. I’ve lived out of a suitcase for most of the last six years, so I guess another three nights won’t kill me.

Friends from Knoxville had given me their “must go to list” of things to see and places to eat so my traveling companion (names and faces have been omitted to spare the innocent !) and I  wasted no time in strolling down Duval Street, the main drag (more on drag shows later). Our concierge tipped us on the best place to catch our first sunset: The Top bar at the Crowne Plaza Hotel.  Rightly described as having the best views of the entire island, The Top offered 360 degree views of Key West and the skyline.  Friday night that included both a blazing ball of a nuclear setting sun to the west and a glorious full moon to the east and the most amazing thunderheads I’ve seen I quite a while.

Sunset at the top of the Crowne Plaza

Sunset at the top of the Crowne Plaza

Just as the sun-kissed the horizon, we made a hasty retreat to the elevators to beat the rush to street level.  Out the doors and to the left, we proceeded down the last few blocks of Duval and made a right turn towards the A&B Lobster House.  This haven on the harbor had been recommended not only by my Knoxville friends, but also by my companion’s local Floridian pals.  It was not at all hard to see why immediately upon entering the dark wood-paneled bar on the second floor.  Moving into the white table clothed dining room and out onto the balcony overlooking the marina, it wasn’t difficult to imagine that this full moon graced dinner was going to be a highlight of the trip!

The food did not disappoint – the service we’ll leave for a more critical analysis.  Two perfectly seared scallops with an  outstanding complimentary sauce started the meal with a classic Caesar salad wrapped in an Asiago cheese taco (!).  Grilled grouper topped with crab meat graced my companion’s plate while I greedily picked Florida lobster meat and sausage chunks from the tomato cream and goat pasta  sauce in front of me.  I shared, but not very much.  And since we were in Key West, after all, we shared a luscious slice of their eponymous Key Lime pie topped high with meringue.  A lazy cab ride back to The Reach and deep sleep followed.

Saturday morning saw us at the hotel’s private strip of sand for a salt water dip and a leisurely perusal of the paper.  We walked next store for an outstanding lunch of sashimi and ton katsu and unashamedly napped til dinner time – this is a vacation after all!!

This video really captures the moment…

Ashley, the ever resourceful concierge, suggested that if we were planning to take in La Te Da, the Famous drag show on Duval, we should dine at 9:15.  Good call on her part!  We sampled three appetizers and quaffed a couple of cocktails and a bottle of wine, then stumbled down to the show…quite a performance and I won’t spoil the ending for anyone who cares to check it out for themselves…

I had planned to pen this travelogue on the plane ride home, but my editor called BS on me and told me she wasn’t incline to extend my deadline…that means you have to wait to hear about how snorkeling is going to go and dinner on the beach tonight…stay tuned!

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