You know you’re in Key West when….

Key West beauty shot on carpool

Hello from sunny Florida! Sorry I’ve been out of commission for a bit but I’m on vacation and couldn’t get my act together to blog. It took several days just to de-ice after all the crappy Northeast weather.

We’re in West Palm Beach now, staying with my mother and step-father, but just returned from Key West where Wilson’s dad and step-mother live. We’ve made the trek down to the Keys for many years and love it so much, it’s difficult to leave.

I’ll blog in more detail about it soon but for now wanted to give you an idea of  why Key West is one of the most unique towns in the U.S. It’s surrounded by water and the spectacular Gulf views and water sports are a draw for tourists from around the world. The food is amazing and the people watching can keep you entertained for hours, especially if aided by a local beer or Key Lime colada.

There’s no place like Key West and here are some reasons why.

You know you’re in Key West when…

Key West chickens on street on carpool

Traffic stops for chickens. Everywhere you turn, there are roosters and chickens trotting down the street. Often crowing loudly, they gather on front lawns, crowd sidewalks, and frequent local restaurants, completely unimpressed by the presence of humans. My kids loved watching them crossing the street. I was always relieved when they actually got to the other side.

You ask for seconds of raw oysters. The local seafood is terrific in the Keys, because it’s so fresh. It’s not uncommon to eat fish caught only hours before your dinner. I usually find oysters– even from some of the finest New York restaurants– slimy and fishy. But the icy cold ones Wilson ordered at the Half Shell Raw Bar were delectable.

Key West oysters on carpool

All gone!

Crowds of rubberneckers in Hawaiian shirts choke the sidewalks. Key West is a big cruise ship destination so you can always tell when a ship has recently docked and the main drag, Duval Street, is inundated with tourists clicking cameras, buying t-shirts and ordering umbrella cocktails.

It’s only 7pm but people are already plastered. My kids got an interesting life lesson from walking around at night. It took them a while to realize the extremely loud 20-somethings dancing on street corners and yelling out electric car taxi windows were wasted. There’s a bar every 20 feet in Key West and happy hour starts at brunch. Once my boys did get the picture, they thought it was hilarious and started to pick out their favorite drunks. What a delightful game.

Key West Key Lime pie on carpool

Key Lime Pie is on every dessert menu. You can’t believe how many ways you can infuse Key Lime into sweets. We had the afore-mentioned Key Lime colada, and also a tangy glazed Key Lime donut, candy, and cookies. There are also a range of beauty and house products featuring Key Limes.

Everything stops when the sun sets. Much like a big 10 college town during football season, instead of the big game, people plan their activities around the sunset. Key West is the southern most point of the U.S. so when the sun sinks slowly into the Gulf, spreading pink and orange streaks across the sky, you don’t want to miss it.  There’s something really nice about the moment when everyone (from tourists to locals, kids to the elderly) stops what they’re doing to take in nature’s wonder.

Key West sunset on carpool

You slow down. When we checked into our hotel, I bombarded the desk clerk with questions until he paused and said, “I’ll get to that. This isn’t New Jersey. You’re on Key West time now.” Your food takes longer to get to the table, but you linger over a meal. People shuffle down the street and pause on the corners to chat and look around. The town is up all night and sleeps in when the sun rises. The locals speak slowly. It takes a while for a wound up Yankee like me to decelerate but it feels right when I do.

Unfortunately I’ll be back up North next week, all tense and stressed again. See you then!

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