US Hwy 1 begins in Key West.

It may have been Carl Hiassen, or if not then another Florida writer, who wrote something like: “People come to Florida to reinvent themselves–people from Florida go to Key West.”

Key West is definitely one of our happy places. It never fails that we discover something new each time we visit. Perhaps we are not reinventing but rather finding our carefree selves of old that encourages new experiences while retaining our love of the known ones.

Roosters abound in Key West

Years ago when we had first moved to the Hammock, Damian, the original owner of the Hammock Wine and Cheese Shoppe, said that she had to go to Key West to get new sandals. I wondered why on earth she needed to go all that way. And so began my own unremitting love of Key West Kino Sandals. My colleagues at work will confirm that I am not making that up. Every time they see me I seem to be sporting a different color of my beloved Kinos.

Kino Sandals

Our krawl, therefore, had to begin at Kino Plaza. What a tragedy! Their machine had broken down and they didn’t have my favorite style in the 2 colors I wanted. I wasn’t even able to cajole them into custom making them when it was due to be up and running the next day. Time to try a different style in the one color. I vowed to check back each day of our visit to see if they might have made the other color that I wanted in my size.

Oh, oh, not my size or color
I bought the green ones, not my customary style

Just in time for the sunset at Mallory Square.

After a predawn rain, we were able to see that our top floor hotel room actually had a pretty decent view.

Crowne Plaza La Concha

We also discovered that our hotel, the Crowne Plaza La Concha,had the best happy hour food in town, no kidding. Dishes delicious at 3 times the price with free hotel drink coupons for 2 brought our dinner bill to $13!

Hemingway Rum Company

Time for another discovery–of the alcoholic type. Hemingway Rum Company’s charming tasting room and divine sipping rum. Of course, we bought a bottle. I finally have a use for our brandy snifters as I only use brandy to cook. Anecdotally, I investigated their bathrooms when I overheard a customer come back to the hostess and remark on how nice and clean they were! You can also take a distillery tour here. We had been on the tour at the St. Augustine Distillery numerous times so we didn’t partake.

Hemingway Rum Company Bar
Rum Pilar named after Hem’s boat

I was reminded of Florida Distillery laws when purchasing a bottle to take home. You are required to give your phone number as you are only allowed 12 bottles per person per year of a given type. You may only purchase 6 at a time. Don’t worry, you can buy as many as you like at the liquor store. Total Wine in Palm Daytona Beach carries it.

Petronia Street

Across from Mam’s Best Food

Krawling on, we made our way to the Bahama Village. We found handsome ladies shops and you will also find the Blue Heaven Restaurant a few blocks off Duval on Petronia Street. We had eaten there before and enjoyed it, but we were looking for somewhere a little out of the Key West ordinary of fancy cocktails and brunch items.

Mam’s Best Food

We certainly found a different sort of place. If I had an Israeli mother or grandmother I can only imagine she would be like the proprietor of Mam’s Best Food. Pinching our cheeks, feigning misunderstanding, alternately scolding us while squeezing our shoulders she delivered delicious middle eastern cuisine in an open-air family setting complete with fabric patterned tablecloths and plastic utensils. We agreed it was one of our favorite Key West experiences.

Cuban Coffee–It is Cayo Hueso after all.

Cafe Cubano also called Colada

Key West, originally named Cayo Hueso by the Spanish, is only 90 miles from Cuba. It was named for the bones of the Calusa Indians found there and Key West is what it sounded like to English ears. Our visit to Key West is never complete without our favorite “colada” that we always get at the Floridita Bar of El Meson de Pepe just off Mallory Square.

La Floridita
El Meson de Pepe

Back at our hotel happy hour, we met the man who makes most of the ubiquitous t-shirts and caps that we all buy in Key West. He let us in on a local Cuban coffee favorite called 5 Brothers. It is about 9 blocks up Southard Street from Duval. One good thing is that it opens at 6:30 am as we are usually up with the roosters. The price is also right at $1.70 for a perfect cup of cafe con leche.

5 Brothers Grocery and Sandwich Shop

The bench outside was complete with Conchs (locals) who had sat there most mornings for the last 30 years. A fellow visitor posed the question about the old homes and whether they were built to withstand hurricanes. From my realtor’s perspective, the response was especially interesting. Since the wooden frame homes were all built without insulation, the homes can breathe. Therefore when the pressure changes the houses do not blow off their roofs, but rather they let the air pass through.

Talk of work made me realize that it was time for our krawl to end. It also meant going back to the beginning with a return to Kino’s. Success! They had managed to make the light brown sandals in my size!

Kinos at home and ready to krawl

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