After a year of planning, my friend Kelly and I set off for our inaugural girls trip to the tiny island of Key West, Florida. We were hoping for big adventure in 7.4 square miles, of which 5.9 square miles is land and 1.5 square miles is water. And after that adventure we planned to park it by the pool for relaxation. We ended up exploring every mile of the island and stumbling on some pretty interesting finds along the way.
Our first adventure was something new to both of us: paddleboard yoga. Basically, paddleboarding consists of a surfboard, with rubber padding for better foot grip, and a scoop-shaped paddle.
In retrospect, learning to paddleboard would have been challenging enough. Still, Kelly and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to practice yoga on the open water. So, we nervously sat on our boards, as the instructor pushed is into the lagoon. Standing proved to be a bit difficult, but we managed it and then slowly paddled out into the water.
The water was beautiful, surrounded by mangroves, with a rich aquatic life below the clear surface. We saw purple sea anemones, starfish, crabs and possibly a nurse shark. And hey, looking in the water was a great excuse for being the last to arrive at our docking point for the yoga class. When we joined the mix of beginner and expert yogis, we slid our paddle into the silty ocean bottom and tied our board to the paddle. Well, I thought I did, but during relaxation pose, I came untied and started drifting away. While the rest of the class was practicing their oms, I was splashing around trying to get back to my paddle. Doing yoga on a surfboard requires more balance than doing yoga on land. It’s quite a core workout, despite the relatively easy poses we did. As I was moving from lunge to standing forward bend, something went wrong. I didn’t realize what until I screamed and fell in the water. It was quite refreshing, and I was the first of several to fall into the water, although Kelly managed to stay pristine all the way through. Yoga on a paddleboard is not as relaxing as yoga in a studio, but watching the sun set before paddling back sure beats awakening in a sweaty room. This is an adventure we’d both love to repeat.
Because Key West is so tiny, driving is difficult. Kelly and I chose to rent beach cruisers rather than walk or pay expensive taxi fares. Cycling is quite popular in Key West, and several roads have dedicated bike lanes. Also, bike racks abound in the happening areas, although sometimes Kelly and I had difficulty finding a place on the bike racks and had to make do with light posts and trees.
I loved the convenience of pedaling where we needed to go (although there’s only one hill on the island and it happened to be on our route). I loved it so much in fact that I’m in the market for my own beach cruiser with a basket!
The most exciting part of the entire trip was an adventure at sea. I had never been snorkeling, so I was extremely nervous as we boarded the catamaran that would take us to the reef.
We learned that Florida is home to the third largest living reef in the world, and it is quite beautiful. Once I figured out my snorkeling mask (that whole thing at the bottom goes in your mouth; duh!) and grabbed a noodle, I scooted down the stairs in the bottom of the boat and plunged into the salty water.
The water was beautifully green and clear and inhabited by thousands of tiny jellyfish that did not sting. Kelly and I held several before setting off for the reef. I felt like I was swimming in a giant aquarium. I ran into a school of zebra fish and followed them around for a while and then swam over a tarpon that was quite large. Later in the catamaran with an ice cold beer, we saw nurse sharks swimming around. I could snorkel all day. It was a blast! Also, thanks to the fins I found muscles in my feet I didn’t know existed.
So, sightseeing at Hemingway house wasn’t a huge adventure, but how cool to explore this famous writer’s stomping grounds.
I loved the house which showcases art deco elements and a second-story wrap-around porch.
However, what impressed me most was the garden. In fact, all of Key West has the most beautiful plants and trees. I think I spent more time wandering around the garden than I did inside the house.
Recommended as the spot to watch the sunset, Mallory Square is at the tip of the island. While the area was beautiful, Kelly and I were somewhat disappointed by the number of vendors/street performers dotting the boardwalk. It felt very much like a tourist trap. We did enjoy the bagpiper playing “Amazing Grace” who was echoed by a man playing the song on a conch shell. That was pretty awesome.
Cemetery and St. Mary’s Star of the Sea
One of our bicycle trips took us to the beautiful St. Mary’s Star of the Sea Catholic Church. Although we weren’t able to go inside, we did tour the grounds and stumbled upon this beautiful garden dedicated to the crucifixion. It was surprisingly peaceful.
Later we pedaled over to the cemetery, which reminded me of New Orleans. I have never been able to enter a New Orleans cemetery (I always seem to miss the open times), so I was excited to look around this one.
Nancy Forrester’s Secret Garden
Although the garden wasn’t much to look at, the array of
parakeets parrots and cockatoos in the center of the garden was interesting. Kelly had a great time with Molly.
When I ran off to chase a butterfly, I was sure Kelly was going to stuff Molly in her bag. The price for this little garden is $10. I wouldn’t recommend going though. It’s a hefty price to pay unless you are really into
parakeet parrot and cockatoo preservation.