Key West: if it's so not-dressy, why is my suitcase so heavy?

Key West is a collection of little contradictions, the temperature's generally balmy, but it can suddenly turn cold and damp; the sunshine is beautiful, but it's rained every morning; when it's too hot for anything but a tank outside, the place you enter to grab a sandwich is so air conditioned that you can get whiplash from shivering. Add to that the need for hats to keep the rays from making my carefully faked lowlights disappear, plus which we'll be heading to Miami for another couple of days, then on Naples to see old friends, and suddenly you're talking covered wagon. Without the weapons and crockery.

and of course, with shoes. Not photographed: green jelly flip-flops.
so the KW part of the expedition required:
knee-length shorts, 1 white, 2 chino
jeans, 1 dark(-ish, they've been washed a lot), 1 white
tanks, bright, 5 (hot enough for a tank, hot enough to want a fresh one every day, and besides they don't take up any room)
short-sleeve tees, 4 (look, I did not come here to do laundry)
long-sleeve tees, 2
pale gray cotton sleeveless vest thing with hood (A/C, remember?)
dark gray cotton jacket (I believe it was called "foxtrot")
jean jacket, 1 dark
beige poncho-raincape thing, also with hood
ugly but practical dark green water-resistant rain hat
striped linen sweater
chambray beach cover-up
belts, leather, 1, braided white rope, 1
cotton scarves, 2
Add to that, one restaurant dress (Naples), one shawl (Naples), and one pair of silk-linen tweed pants (beige, Miami) with blue/gray/beige linen sweater...
and hats, cosmetics, mini flashlight, bandaids, hair dryer, hair stuff, chargers and small extension cord for same, and my coffepot, and Westward Ho! I mean, Southward!
KW cherishes its rugged individuality, possibly more than it cherishes its rugged individuals. There's a Hemingway look-alike contest every summer, so after Christmas the seasonally unemployed Santas start south to get to work on their perma-tans.

There's also a Hemingway write-alike contest, of which the least said the better, but in short declarative sentences. There are well-known deliberately shabby bars, where you can buy the same watery drinks your parents bought. Fancy cocktail mixing is making inroads here, but slowly and so far just where there are tablecloths. Every winter, the local government considers proposals to alleviate congestion, "deal with" the homeless, protect the environment, and make tourism more profitable without risking overcrowding. We used to see proposed regulations aimed at stopping the proliferation of tacky tee-shirt shops downtown, but the economy has solved that problem.

Another Hemingway-related activity is the tour of the great man's house. It's a terrific house, and worth seeing, especially if you're about to renovate a bathroom in your own home. That man liked his creature comforts, and he sure knew plumbing. It doesn't look like the home of a writer/journalist. Another guy who dropped his starter wife for an heiress...

In the course of the house tour, you will also learn about the Hemingway cats, who all descend from Ernest's original 3.

These cats all have 6 toes, well, 24 really, 6 to a paw. They have distinctive colorations of fur and eyes, and are colorblind. I don't know how the Hemingway House tour leaders know that, but they were most positive and seemed annoyed that I asked.
As to food in Key West, we eat excellent spicy conch chowder and fresh Florida pink shrimp at the Half Shell,

top-quality Mexican food and great sangria at Chico's Cantina,

Cuban sandwiches at El Siboney (sangria here tastes like diluted Hawaiian punch and is not recommended),

and that's about it.
Oh, right, the obligatory breakfast at Blue Heaven, which has gotten very civilized and expensive of late, but is still good.

We also still like the restaurant now known as Pisces, very high standard of cooking, but we go there as a treat rather than a casual meal.

Every so often people urge us to try something different, the last time was to go to Seven Fish for the meatloaf. Don't bother, is the kindest thing I can say. Someone should start a charitable foundation for Drunks Born Without Tastebuds, motto "oh please don't sit here!"

A marching band concert tonight, and on to Miami tomorrow. I hear there'll be snow in New York.


  1. I can't wait to go to Florida, I'll be there next week, just missing your wagon as it heads back to NY! I did not know this about the Hemingway contests, well I've not been to Key West, we stick to Saint Petersburg where we laze around like Lazy Champions.
    You did bring loads of shoes, it is always a problem. I've got mine down to 3 pairs and I will not weaken! I've left out the "exercise sneakers" this year because who am I kidding, I do NOT want to exercise.
    I am also leaving room in my suitcase for a new item from Le Creuset, there is an outlet that we go to and I could really use a new dutch oven. Might put me over the wretched bag-weight limit however!
    Have fun in Miami and Naples!

  2. See, the shoes are the issue. Always. Pretty shoes and comfortable for walking all day shoes are never the same shoes. Maybe I will design a beautiful, comfortable shoe and get rich.

  3. Hi, Dani, lazing around is an Olympic sport for us! I always laugh when people ask us if we go to KW for the diving or the fishing or the sailing.

    Enjoy St Pete!

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  5. Hi, Gold Digger, sounds like the quest to find the Universal Solvent!

  6. Thanks for the photos. Seems like a great place to see. I will be in FL in April, but wish I were there NOW.

    Yes, the shoes are always the problem when packing. That's why I stick to 2, maximum 3.

  7. hi, Rose, I gave up on limiting shoes a long time ago - really, there was a foot injury in 6th grade. Now I can't wear the same pair 2 days in a row or my feet protest. it's tough to be forced to buy shoes....

  8. Southern Belle Ph.D.February 11, 2012 at 9:29 AM

    Good Morning, Thanks for posting about your packing and Key West. I can force myself to pack fewer shoes usually but clothes are another matter. I always take enough so that I do not have to do laundry, if at all possible. Don't forget to enjoy your new JC find...the denim skirt. Mine arrives tomorrow.

    Hope you have time to share more about your trip. I always enjoy reading and seeing the pictures.

  9. It's tricky with the heat and air conditioning. I never understand why it has to be so cold in some places, even a few degrees cooler than outdoors would be refreshing. I am a shoe freak so find it very difficult to pare down. I like to have options and change it up. Enjoy the vacation.

  10. Hi, SouthernBelle! With you 100% on laundry. Not fun.

  11. Hi, xoxo, re: shoes, me too. And as for the a/c, I look at these women in short strapless frocks, not a tremble, not a shiver, and can't decide if they were trained from birth to sit like ladies, or if they just had 3 or 4 drinks before dinner. Local color.

  12. I grew up in the South where it can be ridiculously hot in the summer. I couldn't stand the frigid AC and always had a silk scarf or pashmina with me to help avoid the goosebumps and PNs that go with the frozen territory. I suppose some are just naturally warmer than others.

  13. hi, xoxo, I've reinvented the layered look, it goes tank - tee - sweater - other sweater - jacket - scarf....


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