Monday, 6 August 2007

Falling in love with Key West all over again

I've always loved Key West.

From visits as a child growing up here in Florida, to sunrises on the beach after late night drives down during college, it's always been a place apart from the rest of Florida. Margaritaville.

But recently, I had heard from friends that the place was no longer worth a visit. Run down, no fun, not worth the long drive.

I am happy to report they were wrong. I just got back from my first visit to Key West in years. And although the approach to island was far more cluttered with fast food restaurants and seedy looking auto repair shops (are there really THAT many broken cars in the Keys?), once we got to Duval Street and the Old Town, the magic was still alive and well.

We stayed in a beuatiful bed and breakfast right on Duval. For two and half days, we walked shops, to restaurants, to the pier for the nightly sunset celebration, complete with music, performance art and craftspeople of all types. We swam in the pool and waded in the Gulf. And for nearly three days, did not have to drive.

Yes, Key West was more crowded than before. And chain stores like Bath and Body Works had popped up along Duval. But there were still far more wonderful places to explore like a gallery named "A Boy and his Dog", or a restaurant that listed the latitude and longitude and declared it to be the location of Paradise. As I sat there on that warm tropical night, enjoying a great dinner with someone special, I could not disagree.

It truly was paradise.

Next year, my older daughter will graduate from high school and head off to college, leaving my little one and I free to go wherever we wish. I spent an hour of my visit to Key West checking out the local job market (not bad) and the local real estate (very high.) And I contemplated the possibility of completing my return to Florida of a year and half ago by moving as far south as one could go.

I already live in Florida, surrounded by beaches and palm trees and music and art. But there is something about the concentration of all that creativity into such a small space that made all the difference. I imagined life without a daily commute, and the wonder of raising my daughter on a island filled with art and music. And I found that I really liked the idea.

Watch this space as the year goes this time next year, maybe I'll have my own bit of Paradise too.

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