Carnival Valor Western Caribbean Cruise, Key West.

Carnival Valor Western Caribbean Cruise, Key West.

Key West is a city I’ve always wanted to visit and now that I have, I can’t wait to go back!

One of the disadvantages to cruising is the very limited time you get in any given port. I could have easily spent days roaming around and exploring Key West, but we only had between the hours of 8am and 4pm in this port. There was a lot to see and do and, with only 8 hours to do it, we were going to have to prioritize.

Thankfully, we agreed Hemingway Home was the priority. We spent a lot of time there and that’s where we took the bulk of our pictures. To make life easier, I’ll add a photo gallery below with all of those pictures.

Next we decided if we were going to see the rest of the island, we’d probably need to take a train tour. We decided to do the hop on/hop off tour with Old Town Trolly Tours since that would give us the freedom to get off and spend some time at any particular spot. The downside to that is you don’t get great pics from a moving trolly.

Custom House Museum 

 

The front of Custom House Museum

The front of Custom House Museum

 

View of the back of Custom House Museum

View of the back of Custom House Museum

 

The Custom House Museum is an incredibly beautiful old building with a great history. It was built in 1891 and was used as the customs office, post office, and courthouse before being transferred to the Navy in 1932. When it was no longer needed by the Navy, it sat unused for over 20 years before it was acquired by the State of Florida’s Land Acquisition Advisory Council in 1991.

Although it took over 9 years and 9 million dollars, the Key West Art Historical Society has restored the Richardsonian Romanesque architectural beauty back to it’s original glory.

Key West Shipwreck Treasures Museum

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We didn’t take this tour, but we couldn’t help getting some goofy pics with the pirate. And it wasn’t until I viewed this picture that I realized just how pasty white my husband’s legs were. I know you can’t tell, but I swear he’s wearing shorts in this picture! Clearly the poor man’s legs don’t get enough exposure to the outside world!

 Curry Mansion Inn

Curry Mansion

Curry Mansion Inn

 

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There are so many great Inn’s in Key West and this is just one on my long list of places I’d like to stay. Like most places in Key West, this old mansion has a great history.

The story goes that a poor Bahamian immigrant, called William Curry, made his name as Key West’s first millionaire by preying on the shipwrecked in the dangerous and pirate-infested Florida waters.

But that’s just part of the story.

William went into the merchant business with G.L Bowne in 1845 and became quite successful. In 1861, when Mr. Bowne became ill, he sold all of his interests to William. Over the next 30 years, William amassed a great fortune as a merchant and by investing in the stock market.

When Willaim Curry died in 1896, his son Milton completed the Mansion in 1899.

 

Sloppy Joe’s Bar

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The jalousie doors opening to Greene Street.

 

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The jalousie doors open to a Duval Street

 

One of Hemmingway’s favorite haunts, Sloppy Joe’s Bar, known first as The Blind Pig, then Silver Slipper, was opened on Dec 5, 1933, the day Prohibition was repealed.

In May of 1935, Joe Russell, refusing to pay a $1/month rent hike in the original location, paid $2500 for it’s current location on the corners of Duval and Greene streets. According to Sloppy Joe’s website, “the bar never actually closed during the transition–customers simply picked up their drinks and carried them, along with every piece of furniture in the place, down the block to 201 Duval Street. Service resumed with barely a blink”.

Today, Sloppy Joe’s is still a favorite hangout of locals and tourists alike! And they make a mean Pina Colada, too!

B.O.’S Fish Wagon

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B.O.’s Fish Wagon

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B.O.’s Fish Wagon

We’ve heard mixed reviews about the food and service at B.O.’s so we just stayed on the trolley and opted to eat somewhere else.

Apparently the place is just a lunch truck with decks built around it. The owner, Buddy Owen, started his fish lunch wagon over 25 years ago and most say he hasn’t upgraded anything since.

Sunday-Go-To-Meetin’

St. Pauls Episcopal Church

St. Pauls Episcopal Church

For the life of me, I can’t remember the name of the church below. Old age is hell, guys.

If anyone knows the name of this beautiful old church, please leave a comment below!

 

The Strand Theater 

 

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The old Strand Theater.

 

The Strand Theater

The old Strand Theater on Duval Street, Key West, Florida

The majestic Strand Theater opened on Duval Street in the mid-1920’s as a single screen movie house, capable of seating about 800 people.  

Sixty years later, in the mid-1980’s, the Strand Theater closed it’s doors.

The beautiful old building changed hands several times over the years, mostly opening as nightclubs, before Ripley’s Believe! It or Not bought it in 1993. In 2001, Ripley’s moved to a new location on Duval Street, and the old theater was sold again.

After sitting empty for a couple years, Walgreens finally bought the old theater and restored the badly damaged marquee to it’s original glory, except, of course, for adding their own logo and advertising.

It’s my understanding that Walgreens has said they will save many of the old theater’s historic elements, including its facade, marquee, the lobby tile, marble stairs, wood floors, as well as other various parts of the interior, but it appeared to us that all of the interior had been removed or covered over, with the exception of the balcony.

**Fun fact about the Strand Theater- More than 10 years after the theater closed, it appeared in the John Goodman movie “Matinee” about a small-time film promoter who releases a horror film during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Key West Lighthouse and Keeper’s Quarters Museum

 

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Key West Lighthouse and Keeper’s Quarters Museum

 

Because we were quickly running out of time in port, we didn’t tour the old lighthouse and we have regretted it ever since. Just down the street from Hemingway Home, we probably could have done a quick tour but we opted instead to head back to the ship.

It is definitely one of our first stops when we get back to Key West.

Below is an excerpt from the Key West Art and Historical Society detailing the old Lighthouses’ history.

“Almost immediately after the U.S. Navy established a base in Key West in 1823, the need for a lighthouse became evident.  Erecting a lighthouse was essential in assuring the safe arrival of both military and commercial vessels navigating the shallow, reef-laden waters off the Florida Keys.

The current lighthouse opened in 1848 with a woman as its Keeper; nearly unheard of during the 19th century.  In the years following, the Key West Lighthouse underwent a number of upgrades including the installation of a Third Order Fresnel Lens, an extension to the tower which allowed the light to be seen from a greater distance, the addition of Keeper’s Quarters, and finally the electrification of the light.

In 1969, the U.S. Coast Guard decommissioned the Key West Lighthouse since there was no longer a need for a full-time Keeper due to technological advancements.  Today, this sentinel of the sea stands as a museum dedicated to Key West’s maritime heritage and to the men and women who bravely kept the light burning through the threats of war and weather.

Today, visitors can walk up the 88 steps to the top of the light as well as explore the belongings, photographs, and words of the Lighthouse Keepers and their families who lived a now obsolete, yet never forgotten, way of life.”

 

The Bull 

 

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The Bull

 

The Bull and Whistle bar sits on the corner of Duval and Caroline Streets and is the last of the old open-air bars.  

 

Hard Rock Cafe

 

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Hard Rock Cafe

The only reason the Hard Rock is getting a mention in my blog is because I love the building.

 

Key West Gypsy Chickens

 

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Key West gypsy chicken and her chicks.

 

One of the things KeyWest is known for is their roaming gypsy chickens. And they are everywhere. They have a long history, reaching all the way back to the mid-1800’s in Cuba.

In the 1860’s, when Cubans were leaving their homeland after the Ten Year’s War and coming to Key West, they brought with them their chickens and their love of cockfighting. They created a breed, specifically for size and aggression called the Cubalaya. When cockfighting was outlawed in 1970, the Cubalaya were left without a job and to roam the streets of Key West.

Left to their own devices, the crafty Cubalaya took a liking to the backyard hen, and, well, they did what came naturally. Now, over 40 years later, the gypsy chickens roam freely adding to the quirky atmosphere of Key West, much to the chagrin of many of its human residents.

Ernest Hemingway House Museum

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Ernest Hemingway Home Museum

As a Hemingway fan, this was by far my favorite tour. Walking through the house you are transported back in time. It’s a beautiful home and the life of the Nobel Prize-winning author is well documented within it’s walls.

And, because I am a cat fan, I loved seeing all of the polydactyl cats running around the house and grounds!

Hemingway became a fan of the “mitten cat” when he was given one by a ship’s captain. Today, there are still descendants of that original cat running around the grounds.

We took many, many pictures of the house and grounds and I’ve added several of them in the gallery below for you to peruse.

Earnest Hemingway Home Museum gallery

Read the rest of The Carnival Valor Western Caribbean series.

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