Hey guys! Happy new year, and welcome to my first blog post of 2016
As you’ve probably noticed, Rene and I kind of have the hots for road trips. When the time came to decide where we’d like to spend our holiday break, we knew it would have to be somewhere warm and sunny with gorgeous views and good food options (duh). We decided to fly to Charleston, which we fell completely in love with last winter, drive down the coast all the way to Key West, and back up to South Carolina. With nine full days, a rental car, and a functioning podcast app at our disposal (we are obsessed with TED Radio Hour), I’m happy to report that we had ourselves a blast. Per usual, I’ll be sharing a handful of road trip recaps – starting with this one, focusing on Key West.
Key West is a small island located at the southernmost point of the continental US (some even say you can see Cuba from there!). It’s a tropical beach town with perfect weather year round, and sun-deprived people from the world over travel there to bask in its beauty. It has its signature quirks – like free-roaming roosters in the streets who shamelessly awake the hungover masses at 5am – but my favorite thing about Key West was visiting Ernest Hemingway’s house.
A little background: when I got to college, I had no idea what I wanted to major in, but after taking a class on 20th century modernist lit, I knew that was what I wanted to spend my college years studying. I found Hemingway’s writing honest, beautiful, addictive and slightly depressing; but most importantly, Hemingway and I shared an obsession with Paris – whose beauty he captured so well, in fact, that I was inspired to study abroad there in 2010. Since my college years, I’ve felt a strong connection to his books and being able to actually walk through the Hemingway home (the one he shared with his second wife, Pauline) was certainly an eerie experience. Should you find yourself there one day, be sure to follow a tour with one of their amazing guides who are full of fascinating stories.
Hanging out on the gorgeous wraparound balcony
Fun fact: the house is currently home to more than 50 cats, many of whom are six-toed (!!!) descendants of Hemingway’s own cat, Snowball.
When it comes to restaurants, Key West is no New York or San Francisco, but we did find a handful of places I would highly recommend. For a dreamy daytime setting, head over to Southernmost Beach Cafe. While it is technically an open-air oceanfront restaurant, there is a roof to protect you from the Sun’s beaming rays, so you can enjoy your breakfast or lunch in the great outdoors without sustaining a heatstroke. The menu is pretty standard but the food is prepared with care; the prices are definitely doable, especially considering the amazing view you get to enjoy.
Next up, La Crêperie French Café, one of the city’s most popular breakfast destinations. The cafe is owned by French ex-pats, and the extensive menu features traditional sweet and savory options. I highly recommend the galette de sarrasin (buckwheat crepe pictured above), a speciality of the Breton region in France. The flavor of the crepe itself is nuttier than its white flour counterpart, which pairs really well with savory fillings like salty lardons, roasted potatoes, frisee and eggs, as in this Campagnarde version. Beware: this place gets packed immediately after opening so be sure to arrive early, or after the initial breakfast rush. (Another popular breakfast destination is Blue Heaven, located right across the street.)
The sweet “Amour de Baies” crepe served with chilled creme anglaise
Duval Street is Key West’s main street that features all the touristy shopping and rowdy bars, but one place that stands out among the rest is Nine One Five. Situated in a Victorian-style home, the slightly upscale restaurant features a vegetable-heavy menu with plates that are meant to be shared. We tried a handful of the dishes and each was better than the one before. My favorites were the grilled octopus with a spicy chickpea stew, and the rainbow cauliflower with roasted capers. Their key lime pie bar dessert is a must-have – it’s a thin bar consisting of a crunchy graham cracker crust with the traditional lime custard, which gets brûléed on top so really it’s a key lime crème brûlée. The dessert is served with blood orange sorbet and slices of grapefruit, which is the best way to end a gorgeous meal in the tropics. This place is also a popular destination so be sure to make reservations well in advance.
Photo courtesy of Nine One Five
Key West travel tip: One of the best ways to get around is on scooter, due to the narrow streets and difficult car parking situation. They are available for rental for about $90 per day.
If you’re ever driving to or from Key West, make sure to stop at the Bahia Honda State Park. It features a strip of to-die-for blue water beach with stunning views, as well as an area to hike.
Stay tuned for more road trip recaps!