Welcome to my backyard--the Florida Keys! I'm a travel writer, blogger and photographer with a passion for all things Florida, especially the Florida Keys. These islands are so much more than Duval Street and Jimmy Buffet. They are rich in history, culture, cuisine, nature and events--all surrounded by pristine waters teeming with wildlife. Whether you're a local or a visitor, the Conch Republic has many surprises in store. Let me be your guide.
Perched atop the Crowne Plaza La Concha Hotelon Duval Street, I experienced the famed Key West sunset from an entirely new perspective. At seven stories, this National Historic Landmark, which opened in 1926, was — and still is — the tallest building in Key West. After finding the elevator tucked away off the lobby, I rode up to the indoor bar where I snagged a rum punch. Out on the quiet rooftop deck, I surveyed the sweeping 365-degree view of Key West and the island’s water borders. I was reminded of how small the vibrant island really is. I could see clearly down bustling Duval Street to the placid Gulf of Mexico at one end and to the Atlantic Ocean on the other.
In the harbor, sunset-cruise boats, their sails backlit by the sun, headed out for tours. I imagined how Ernest Hemingway must have felt when the towering La Concha was his first glimpse of Key West upon arriving by ferry from Cuba in 1928. It must have made an impression; he later included it in his classic work, To Have and Have Not. Across the street, the white façade of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church turned a delicate shade of pink. A gentle breeze caused the tops off the palm trees and the red Poinciana flowers below to sway amidst the conch architecture. I spotted church spires, widow’s walks, patterns of gingerbread millwork and the purple Victorian turret of the Artist House across silver rooftops. Instead of being on the ground looking up, I was looking down at the sunset. As the large fireball dropped into the ocean, a dark swirl of clouds tinged in orange seemed to form a question mark in the sky. What do you suppose it was asking?