Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Have you seen my Keys?

One of my lifelong passions is live theater. I think about plays all the time, finding new plays for Darrell and me to see, searching for good ones for Clague Playhouse, looking for audition pieces for myself, hoping for my next role. There's a ton of good theater in Cleveland and I will gab about that separately, but I bring up the topic here due to its impact on our winter getaway plans. You see, I had the good fortune to be cast in a play at Dobama Theatre. The play is called Middletown and I played the Librarian. Good for me - really, really good for me, because it was a blast - but not so good for our usual February trip due to those pesky rehearsals. We prefer vacationing in February for its strategic placement between the Christmas/New Years binge and the glory of pond season, aka "Pondemonium." But we sucked it up and started planning for a mid-January trip. It was either go then or just stay put.

Fantastic beach beds in Tulum.
We noodled around the idea of going back to Tulum but decided instead to go to Key West. Neither of us had ever been there. It has that Put-in-Bay-every-day's-a-party bar scene on steroids image that, believe it or not, is a turn-off for me. And I like to drink. Also, it's Flaahrida. How ordinary can you get? (I have absolutely no business asking that question, having just run the vacuum while baking a batch of whole wheat muffins, and wearing sweat pants.) Friends that we trust told us what fun they had there and we did a little research and decided to go for a warm-weather experience that didn't involve those fantastic beach beds in Tulum. A moment of silence, please, for those fantastic beach beds in Tulum.

If we couldn't stay in a cabana on the beach, we were going to search out the coolest bed and breakfast we could find, and find it we did at The Mermaid and The Alligator: http://www.kwmermaid.com/.
Rated super-duper in TripAdvisor, we decided to give it a shot. Our hosts, Dean and Paul, were unable to provide the same room for all five nights of our stay. Rather, they offered two nights in their primo room, Caribbean Queen, one night in Royal Poinciana and two nights in the Papaya Room. They said they'd handle all the lugging of the luggage and we said OK. It turned out great and enabled us to experience their most expensive room which included a private veranda.

Our Caribbean Queen veranda.
Even their least expensive room was very, very nice. Breakfast every morning on the patio was divine and we enjoyed sharing a table and chatting it up with other guests.  The concierge services were top-notch, too. I cannot remember her name, but the concierge lady pointed us to some excellent restaurants and other points of interest.

We enjoyed tapas at Santiago's Bodega and, at the recommendation of a (very drunk) guy whom we befriended at the bar, tried the beef tenderloin. He was right (and very drunk) - it was to die for and it did melt in our mouths. The other noteworthy restaurant was Blue Heaven. Live music, fun atmosphere and delicious scallops.

Imagine the passengers of this behemoth on Duval Street.
So, here's the thing about Key West. The place is full of bars and Duval Street is packed with tourists, t-shirt shops, cigars, drunks and drag queens. Actually, the drag queens were pretty cool. But the other stuff?...meh.

And "Warning! Booze Alert!": if you want to catch a buzz in Key West, do not get a mixed drink. We had a margarita at one place and Darrell, who is not a big drinker, noticed that he didn't feel much of anything and we were cocktailing on empty stomachs! One other night we tried a local rum concoction and the same thing. Where's the booze? Just an observation. Also, the only place to get really good craft beer is a place called The Porch, otherwise the beer pickins are pretty slim.

The Hemingway House
We pretty much avoided a lot of Duval Street doings and spent our time riding bikes, snooping around art galleries, touring the Truman White House and the Hemingway House.                                                                      

Heeere, five-toed kitty kitty kitty.
If you enjoy the smell of cat piss you will LOVE the Hemingway House.  Five-toed feline descendants of Hemingway cats have the run of the place. It was a good stop, 'tho. Highly recommended, albeit a bit fragrant. 

Sample snorkler. Nice suit, Darrell.
                                                                                                     We  took a half-day sailing tour which was very nice.  Danger Tours was the name of the company, which is not a good name in my opinion, but it was a good tour. They offered snorkeling and bird watching and kayaking. Darrell snorkled. I did not snorkel. We both watched birds while paddling around in a kayak. Snorkel is a funny word, right up there with my personal favorite: pickle.

Cranes are very good at hanging out.
The beautiful patio at our B&B.
The rest of the time we hung around the dock area, walked around the parks by the beach and read books patio-side at The Mermaid and The Alligator. We even saw a play: Red. Terrific play about Mark Rothko. Two-person show with only one good actor. Dang. But fun, nonetheless.
We had the best weather, too. It was sunny every day, mid-upper 70s. All in all, we had a very nice stay in Key West.

Getting home was another story. We flew out of the Key West Rinky-Dink Airport. Sort of.  Long story short, our flight was delayed all day for reasons unknown but we're pretty sure it had little or nothing to do with our personal safety. We spent the entire day waiting for a flight to get us to Tampa and from there to Cleveland. Eventually we got out of Key West, but not in time to make our connection. United/Continental put us up at the Tampa Airport Marriott, lost my reservation, found my reservation, pointed the finger at their uncommunicative systems and blahdy-blah-blah-blah. But we made friends at the airport T.G.I. Friday's...where it's always Friday. Always. And the margaritas aren't too shabby.

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