I’m one of the lucky ones. My grandparents spent winters in the Florida Keys so I’ve been to Key West many times. I have seen the drag queen lowered in her giant shoe at midnight on New Year’s Eve. I’ve sipped beers in Sloppy Joe’s, Captain Tony’s and even the Hog’s Breath Saloon. I know which museums are good (Hemingway’s Home, and the Little White House to name two), and which to avoid. On a recent cruise when our first port of call was Key West, I had a certain “been there, done that” feeling and didn’t really want to go ashore. I was happy to stay on the ship sipping cocktails while soaking up the sun, which is why I was so surprised by what I saw as we slid into port.

 

Standing on the balcony of our stateroom as we docked, I saw Key West in a completely new way. If you’ve ever been to Key West when a ship is in port, you know that the ship is the tallest structure in town by far. From my balcony on Deck 11, I could see across the island and enjoy a birds-eye view–a unique perspective that made me excited to step off the ship and into the familiar streets of Key West.

Ann and I were traveling with our daughter, Meghan, and Ann’s mom, Carol and it was my mother-in-law’s first visit to Key West. Because Carol had never been to Key West, I followed a longtime Teget family tradition, and took her for a ride on the Conch Train.

I admit that the Conch Train is very touristy–but it’s worth it because the ride gives a great overview of the island, it’s history, architecture, vegetation, people, industries. It also answers the question as to why there are chickens running free everywhere!!

I’ve ridden the Conch Train more times than I can count, but learn something new each time I ride. One time, I learned that England has one queen, but Key West has 56! On another ride, I learned about how the sponging industry changed the history of the town. If you go there, check out the sponge market where you get off the Conch Train; natural sponges can make great gifts!

Meghan checking out the basket sponge at the Key West Sponge Market.

Meghan checking out the basket sponge at the Key West Sponge Market.

Key West (and all the Florida Keys, for that matter) is a place where nothing is too important or taken too seriously. The pace of life is just a little slower, and people there are more relaxed. They don’t get caught up in the minutiae of every day life. Maybe it’s the sun, maybe the ocean breeze. Maybe it’s a cold beer available every ten feet as you walk down the street and a lack of open-container laws. Whatever it is, it counters that deep-down tiredness you feel after living the rat race for too long. It’s a feeling that is hard to describe; it has to be felt to be known.

By the time the ship’s horn sounded and we glided out of port, I was glad to have made another visit to Key West. I felt like I’d visited an old friend, one who is always there to rejuvenate me. One who helps me forget the trivial distractions of everyday life and  focus on the important things — like spending more quality time with the ones I love.

SaveSave

  • One of our favorite stops on our hosted food tour of @visitkansascityks was the @403club. Sure, they offer a great selection of locally crafted and larger production domestic beers. But they also have pinball machines. In fact, they even have a pinball league.⁣
⁣
We spent about an hour in this fun spot, sipping, playing, and enjoying the relaxed atmosphere. It will definitely be on our list of places to go again, someday. Beer and pinball are a pretty good mix.
  • On our visit to Italy, we visited the Prosecco region. While we toured a number of wineries, we actually stayed at an inn run by the Roccat winery. ⁣
⁣
Prosecco is a sparkling wine, and people often see it as intergangeable with champagne. This isn't the case at all. Champagne is made from the Chardonnay grape, while Prosecco comes from Glara. Because of this, the two wines are completely different.⁣
⁣
We enjoyed a tasting at Roccat, where they served us glasses of crisp, clear, delicious wine alongside some crunchy breadsticks that were just the right thing to enjoy with the wine.⁣
⁣
If you ever have the opportunity to go to Italy, make sure you include time to head to Valdobbiandene and try some Prosecco.
  • Located in @clearlakeiowa, the historic Surf Ballroom has hosted some of the biggest names in music. It was on this stage that Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and JP "The Big Bopper" Richardson performed their final show on February 3, 1959. After the concert, they boarded a plane for their next town on their tour. That plane crashed shortly after takeoff, and the date has been remembered ever since as "the day the music died."⁣
⁣
@traveliowa
  • Set in Millennium Park in Chicago is one of the city's most iconic art installations. It's a giant, shiny bean which reflects everything in sight. It's fun to walk around (and under) the bean and see how the shape distorts what it reflects.⁣
⁣
Folks come from all over to see this art installation and take it in. Children love running around it and gazing into it, not realizing they are learning about convex and concave shapes. ⁣
⁣
Standing here you'll hear a multitude of languages and see people from all walks of life there to enjoy the art. And that's why we love public art so much--it brings people together.
  • On our cruise from Italy to Greece, we made a stop in Mykonos. There, we had the chance to take part in a Greek cooking class in a woman's home learning from her.⁣
⁣
We spent an afternoon with lessons about Greek cuisine, and how they waste nothing, not even excess juice from a cucumber. We also saw how to make incredible dishes like this spanakopita, or spinach pie. Sitting in her dining room, enjoying the light, flaky crust and delicious filling is an experience we won't soon forget. ⁣
⁣
While traveling, we try to find opportunities to experience local culture. It's amazing how similar people in the world really are if you just take some time to see what life is like.
  • Do you remember that song from "The Music Man" about trouble? You know the one about the kids in the knickerbockers, shirt-tail young ones, peekin' in the pool hall window after school. ⁣
⁣
Well, we got to peek in a replica of that pool hall on a recent visit to The Music Man Square on our hosted to Mason City, Iowa. It's the town where "The Music Man" creator Meredith Willson was born and raised and his legacy lives on. ⁣
⁣
Before you go see @thehughjackman and @suttonlenore in this Broadway favorite, consider a visit to the real River City.⁣
⁣
Click on the link in our bio to see our latest blog post about why fans of "The Music Man" need to visit Mason City, Iowa. ⁣
⁣
@themusicmanbway
  • When we heard that there was a community garden in Clear Lake, Iowa, we figured we'd stop and check it out. We've seen small town community gardens before, and were expecting a few flower patches, some paving stones, and maybe a bench or two. After all, it was built and is maintained by volunteers in a small Iowa town. ⁣
⁣
What we found, though, was simply astounding! First, the entire garden had been designed beautifully; a small stream even meandered through the gardens, pausing in small lily-filled pools before continuing on its path. But the flowers took the cake. So many varieties, each more beautiful than the last. And the entire space had been planned out to take advantage of the spring, summer, and autumn species. ⁣
⁣
if you enjoy gardens, put the Central Gardens of North Iowa on your list of places to visit.
  • Calmar, Iowa, near Decorah, is home to Pivo Brewery and Blepta Studios. There you'll find high quality craft beers, in a relaxed, fun environment. Upstairs from the taproom are the studios, where you can try your hand at art while sipping your beer.

Second most popular blog in Pawhuska