October 12, 2008

Key West - The Magical Land In Florida

More than 3 friends of mine highly recommended Key West. Apparently, it’s one of the must-go places if you’re anywhere remotely close to Miami. The development manager I work with said the best part of visiting Key West is the drive along the coast. So, anxious for the magic place to unveil its beauty, I embarked on the 4 hour drive down to Key West in the early morning.

The first 2 hours were spent fighting the traffic to get out of the Miami downtown, so there was nothing interesting to see except urban areas and other cars. With the beach views on both sides of the road, the drive of the next 2 hours was more endurable but awfully slow.

The route offers absolutely stunning beach views that can be found in the “paradise” screen savers. However, after 2 hours of looking at the perfect ocean with hardly any changes, it gets old and much less exciting.

Yes, you will ride through the famous 7-mile-bridge in “True Lies” where Swartzenegger heroically saved his wife. However, it looks much smaller than in the movie and not much different from the “San Mateo” bridge in the Bay Area.

The road stretched on and on.

Finally, I arrived. It’s a typical beach town. Flip-flops are a part of the official uniform. Bikinis and shorts are considered formal wear, and there are no short of cheesy shops up and down the street. However, there are some regional differences. For example, if you ‘re looking for a Cuban cigar or a tattoo or a yoga place, Key West has a shop on every corner.

The travel guide claimed that the nightlife and interesting bars were on the famous Duval Street. It’s half of the truth. There are bars on the street, but not that great. Don’t imagine that Key West has see-and-be-seen bars like those in Santana Row or San Francisco downtown. They are more like the bars for a bunch of beach boys and girls to hang out, drink beers, eat pizza, and listen to rock-and-roll or country music.

Please note I am kind of from California, full of sunshine and a couple of the most dynamic and exciting beach towns in the country, so that we are a bit skeptical of the experience of Key West. I mean, if you have never been to a beach town, it is interesting and might be really fun, depending on what you like. But, you might as well skip it if you have been to San Diego or Laguna Beach in Southern California.

Another option to enjoy the town better is to stay in one of the bed-and-breakfast inns so that you don’t feel pressured or exhausted by the 8-hour drive to enjoy some water activities, such as a boat ride at the harbor or snorkeling. However, I think Maui is a better place for this kind of activities.

There is one restaurant, Louie’s, is worth going for the view over the ocean, but reservations are needed, because that might be the only decent restaurant in the island.

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