March 8, 2010 – This morning we got up early and headed out in search of the sunrise. Tony found a great state park… unfortunately, it didn’t open until sunrise. Louisa did not think they would open early, so we left and drove in a different direction; that direction led us to a power plant, which was closed to the public. (Some power plants have viewing stations for visitors set up along the water.) It was not yet sunrise, so we drove back to the park; it was open and we found a parking lot with an overlook , and some palm trees, along the Atlantic. We enjoyed watching the sun rise, it was a perfect morning.
Our next destination was Key West. The road through the Keys is mostly 2 lanes, which means you’re along for the drive with all the slow-moving traffic. As we were driving through a work zone, we saw a nesting bald eagle. We also stopped for a nice breakfast at Doc’s Diner near Key Largo. Another highlight of the drive was finding a little beach on the left (Gulf) side of the road. There were only about 12 parking spaces, but several were open… it was sunny, warm, and we needed a break from the traffic. There was a board walk with individual picnic tables, shelters, and beach access built into the boardwalk; it would have been a nice spot to picnic, had that been our goal. However, we wanted to play in the water. Another guy wading through the water showed us a mini crab he caught; it was about the size of a thumb nail. He carried it around before releasing it again.
The water itself was very clear, warm, and the area was sandy – perfect for wading. We also saw some tadpoles swim by. Louisa decided to try to catch some. A reddish egret flying by swooped in and landed about 15 feet away. The bird proceeded to fish for the tadpoles, in much the same fashion that Louisa was. Tony managed to catch the bird on video, before it flew off.
After those adventures, we continued on our way along the keys. We drove over a lot of smaller, less populated keys. We also did a U-turn to go look at some osprey nesting about 1/4 mile off the road.
Once we reached Key West, we parked in a parking garage near the edge of town, and went in search of lunch. We walked down the main tourist street; most people were not Spring breakers, but after lunch we did see two tour trolleys, full of Spring breakers, including one guy go running to catch his trolley.
For lunch we went to Blue Heaven. The food was great; Tony had a lobster sandwich, and Louisa had a shrimp sandwich with Gulf shrimp. Louisa also greatly enjoyed the potato salad. We ate outside, under large trees. On a side note, chickens roam around Key West, including inside the courtyard where we were eating. It was quite interesting. One of the roosters was talkative. For dessert we split a slice of Key Lime pie. The meringue topping was literally 3″ high, and the filling was tart and good.
After lunch we wandered around downtown; we found the rundown section, and decided to go get coffee rather than being in that area. In our defense, we were attempting to get to the water, but decided that coffee sounded good. We walked by some historic buildings, some “interesting” buildings (nudist bar, anyone?) and arrived at Coffee Plantation, a really cool little coffee place with some great coffee. We got a coffee and a mocha, relaxed for awhile, and then continued on our exploration of Key West.
By now it was getting closer to sunset, so we walked over to the pier by the waterfront. We were less than thrilled to see three huge cruise ships blocking our view. However, they eventually chugged out of port before the (slightly cloudy) sunset began. There were a few other people, including some Spring breakers, by the pier with us. Two were playing with a soccer ball – it bounced off the pier and under a boat. We greatly enjoyed watching one of the guys use a mooring line to lasso the ball and safely retrieve it.
The sunset itself was cloudy but very pretty. We really enjoyed getting to watch the sun sink behind the clouds. After watching the sun set, we walked a few blocks over to the Rooftop Cafe. We were given a table on the outside balcony, overlooking the hustle and bustle of the street below. There was also a large tree that appeared to have grown around the restaurant; it had been decorated with white lights. The food was excellent. They served some great crusty french bread with butter, and we began with some drinks – a coco-mango mojito (good) and a key lime colada (great). Tony ordered the scallops special, and Louisa had mahi with chutney, seasoned rice, and other good things. We split a key lime pie for dessert – it was wonderful, with a slightly tart interior, a thick and buttery crumb crust, and a light and fluffy meringue topping.
After dinner, we walked back to our car via the pier, and watched the boats’ reflections in the still water. The drive back to the hotel was not too crowded by this time, and we enjoyed our drive back through the keys under the black sky.