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  • Writer's pictureMaanasi Sridhar

Getaway to Key West, Florida

In the dead of winter a quick getaway to the tropical island of Key West is just what I needed to rejuvenate.

The Florida Keys captured my imagination from the get-go. As the southernmost point of the continental United States, Key West is just 90 miles from Cuba (Cuba: So Close You Could Almost Swim There). Cuban culture and the Cuban-American history of this region is one of the most important and interesting aspects of the 'Sunshine State'.

Key West beckoned us to “Come as you are"... and so we did! After sitting through weeks of dreadful winter weather, my husband and I packed up for a few days of blissful tropical sunshine in the Keys. Surrounded by palm trees, the ocean's salty breeze, it was just what we needed to beat the winter blues. We flew into Miami from New York and collected our rental car at the airport, and without a doubt the scenic drive from Miami to Key West via US Route 1 aka Overseas Highway is one of our best drives yet. En route we stopped over at Islamorada (approximately 1hr 45mins from Key West).

Aside from its distinguished heritage, Key West is also famed for its association with the literary world. Its most celebrated former resident is none other the literary giant Earnest Hemingway, fondly known as 'Papa' by the locals. “It’s the best place I’ve been any time, anywhere,” he wrote of the Florida island. “Flowers, tamarind trees, guava trees, coconut palms… Got tight last night on absinth and did knife tricks.”

It's not difficult to see why Key West evokes a sense of curiosity among writers who wish to see and experience the place where Hemingway lived for so many years. The Nobel Prize winning author produced some of his best works while he lived in Key West between 1928-1939. The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum, the author’s former stately colonial home turned museum is a concrete reminder of his life and legacy in the Keys.

It felt so good to just walk the streets (minus the layers of heavy winter wears), loved the tropical weather, and the sights and sounds of Duval Street. We realized soon enough that people here were gastronomically blessed with delectable Cuban cuisine and seafood, which is available everywhere on the island, complimented by celebrations of music and arts that is prominently visible in the Keys.

One cannot leave the island without taking a bite of its famous Key lime pie and the popular island snack Conch fritters. And there are plenty of outdoor activities, especially water sports to pick and choose from. Daytime cruises are popular among tourists. Personally, we can vouch for Fury Cat Adventure tours. We got to spend an entire day out in the sea – snorkeling, jet skiing and sun bathing. As for the Key lime pie, there were way too many places claiming to be the best in the business, but we were more than happy to indulge them.

Sunset Celebration, a daily celebration at dusk that takes place on the island in Mallory Square (a waterfront square that many consider to be synonymous with Key West), was fun and interesting. We found ourselves amidst fire blowers, musicians, psychics, tightrope walkers, singers and dancers as we enjoyed a beautiful Florida Keys sunset.

Our experience in the Keys were filled with new tastes and sounds, and stunning azure skies and turquoise waters! We experienced first hand the confluence of cultures and traditions in the lives of islanders who call this place home. The laid-back island lifestyle enthralled us from the very beginning. Just wish we could've stayed longer.

Quick Facts:

- Key West is the Southernmost point in the U.S.

- Distance from Miami: 160 miles

- Distance from Cuba: 90 miles

- Dry Tortugas National Park and Fort Jefferson: approximately 70 miles from Key West.

Location: Key West, Florida

Photos: Maanasi & Sri

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