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.

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  • Perched high on a hill in Tuscany is the medieval village of Montepulciano. In the center of town is the piazza grande paved with bricks laid in a herringbone pattern in the 14th century. ⁣
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Standing in the piazza, looking at the bricks, we were filled with a sense of awe at the history these bricks have seen. They've been there for 700 years so have seen times of war and peace, celebration and sorrow. Generation after generation of townsfolk were born, lived and died, and all have walked on these bricks. ⁣
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This is one of the things we love most about traveling. It gives us an authentic feel for history, one we wouldn't have if we just stayed at home.
  • We were so tickled when @thechefandthedish reached out and asked us if we'd like to take a complimentary cooking class with them. They offer private cooking classes with chefs from all over the world that you can take right in your own kitchen. ⁣
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For this class, we Skyped with chef Paola who taught us to make strawberry risotto, traditional bruschetta, and a delicious poached pear dessert that blew our minds. ⁣
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Risotto always seemed like a difficult dish to make, but Chef Paola explained it so well that it wound up being pretty easy. We spent a great afternoon with friends, learned something new, and enjoyed a great meal after. A class with The Chef & The Dish is a great gift idea, as well. Follow the link in our bio, and you can read more about our class on our blog.
  • The world is a big place, and there's so much to discover. Go places, and see things. It doesn't matter if you don't have a detailed itinerary, either. Sometimes, it's more about the journey and what you see and experience along the way, than it is about the destination.
  • During our trip in Tuscany with @italyunfiltered, we stopped at a small family winery. After learning about the organic methods they use to produce high quality Chianti Clasico wines, we had a tasting. ⁣
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Wine tastings in Italy are nothing like those in the US. They are glorious affairs complete with delicious foods paired with the incredible wines. This particular winery brought us samples of homemade, organic jams made from fruits grown in the family's garden. We dabbed these on locally produced pecorino cheese. Yum!⁣
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We're so glad that we had a local driver and guide. Stopping here was a highlight of our Italian adventure, and we never would have found it on our own.
  • The village of Marsaxlokk, Malta, is famous for these brightly painted fishing boats. The design is rather ancient, possibly dating back to Phoenician times, though it's still used today because it is very strong and holds up well in rough weather. One feature of each boat's decorations, are eyes painted on the bow of the boat. These eyes are said to protect the people fishing while they are at sea.
  • The blue cobblestones of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, are actually part of a recycling project which started 500 years ago. Iron foundries in Spain produced huge piles of waste, called slag. Rather than throw these piles away, the slag was made into blocks which was placed into ships as ballast. The ballast was offloaded in Puerto Rico when they loaded products bound for Spain. The blocks were then used to pave the streets. ⁣
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Pretty good idea, and 500 years later, they are holding up well!
  • The Overseas Highway connects Key West and the Florida Keys to the mainland U.S. While the entire road is a marvel of engineering, the centerpiece is the Seven Mile Bridge, which runs over water for, well, seven miles.⁣
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The next time you're driving, reset your trip odometer and wait until it gets to seven miles. You'll see that's a pretty long distance. And then think about the fact that people built a bridge over water with no land to support them for that distance. Pretty incredible-especially since the first one was built in 1912.
  • We'd never heard of cannonball rocks before we drove past them at North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park and asked each other, "did you see that?" We'd never seen anything quite like these natural "concretions" created when water leaked into pockets of minerals in the ground. Now, as a hill erodes, these formations are exposed.⁣
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Seeing these rocks was such a cool experience because it reminded us of why we travel. We never know when we'll find something new, something that we never knew existed. We got along fine not knowing about cannonball rocks, yet now that we've seen them, our lives are a little richer. ⁣
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The world is a pretty cool place. Check it out.⁣
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@ndlegendary

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