Monday, July 29, 2013

Sweet Dreams - Key West

Sunset over the Ocean at Key West is a tradition. Every day of the year! Go figure.
Plenty of sunset cruises
These two guys were awesome. Lit cigars and Frank Sinatra music blasting as they pushed off to enjoy the dipping sun
Such a perfect quiet moment at the end of the day...nature's miracle
along with the thousands of other people at Mallory Square taking pictures and enjoying the "quiet" moment where day meets evening
along with the dog shows
fire breathing jugglers
and fortune tellers

because what would a sunset be without accoutrements such as these??
Sweet Dreams

Afternoon Pick Me Up - Key West

When it's 92 degrees on a Key West summer afternoon, you really don't want to find yourself walking down a concrete street in the implacable sunshine. My suggestions: shop in a delightful air-conditioned Carribean art store, eat a salad at a delightful air-conditioned restaurant, immerse yourself in the ocean, or find the joy in the present moment and try one of these refreshers...

chocolate-covered frozen key lime pie on a stick from one of the many key lime factory shops

Have a drink. (It's basically Happy Hour 24/7 in Key West). This is my favorite at Sloppy Joe's - the Papa Dobles. Grapefruity and rum-my. Very refreshing.

Lunch Break - Key West Style

We had to go back to the ever popular Sloppy Joe's Bar upon arrival in Key West. Casual, comfortable, great crab cake sandwiches, Sloppy Joes, and drinks.
Here is the establishment on Duval and Greene streets. The original owner was Ernest Hemmingway's friend and fishing companion, Joe Russel. He bought the building here in 1937 and moved the bar (which had been renamed Sloppy's from Russel's by Hemmingway, so the story goes) from across the street. Reportedly, the rent became too high for Joe at the original location, and this location was for sale. On moving day patrons simply gathered their drinks and chairs and all the other furniture and walked up to their new location without even closing up shop. That pretty much describes the Key West lifestyle.

Here was the location of the original bar down the street. Hemmingway was a frequent customer at the old and new locations, imbibing and philosophizing with fellow literary aquaintances.

There is usually live music to be enjoyed, it's opened 365 long days a year, and, thanks to modern technology, they have web cams, so my daughter back in Colorado, and husband in Miami saw what we were eating for lunch real time. That's just not right if you ask me. 

With open doors surrounding the restaurant there's always something interesting to regard on the streets of Key West.

ps. Your guess is as good as mine as to the origins of sloppy joe sandwiches. I think they're more of a description than have any link to this bar. I don't think the bar has any claim to the famous sandwich. But they do make a tasty one!

Morning Wake Up Call

Good Monday morning from the Six-Toed Cat Cafe in Key West. We took a road trip last week to the Keys. One morning we had breakfast at this little cafe next to Hemmingway's house. You know about the Polydactyl kitties right?? Tune back in and I'll tell you about them. This little cafe pays homage to the six-toed cats that inhabit Hemmingways today. The little guy above is Richard. He's the resident Rooster at the cafe. He pretty much stood next to me staring up at me the majority of the time, which, I have to say, made me a little uncomfortable due to the fact I was eating eggs benedict.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Notes From The Beach - Weekend Wrap Up

 I love staying in Miami for a month. I enjoy staying for extended periods of time whenever we travel because I love assimilating the local culture. And that takes time. The same is true for local weather. And down here, this time of year, it is a fickle climate - within the context of hot that is. The first two weeks were very balmy, if not on the cool side of tropical. Then the rain came. We had some grey, sullen days, days where the skies opened up and where the thunder and lightening persisted from mid day into nightfall, afternoons where bracing winds almost caused a chill, and still moments where you hesitantly ventured out to meander keeping an eye on the ever changeable cloud formations. Yesterday the weather changed again. The rain disappeared, the sun shone, and along with the humidity reminded me, along with the ocean here, that mother nature is dispassionate and unconcerned with us and our daily lives. 

The street below post rain squall
Basically every time I step outside here it becomes a bad hair day for me

During a morning break in the weather we went for a long, early morning walk - yes I was actually up at 6 - so I was able to watch the sun rise into the clouds

See the cruise ships sneak in, and take pictures of lifeguard stands

We also strolled along Ocean Drive and took photos of some of the art deco buildings in the morning light

World famous Ocean Drive in the morning is like sneaking behind the scenes of a stage show. The Ocean climate takes it's toll on buildings something fierce, and to maintain facades there must be steady upkeep. I think this is why the view of Ocean Drive is best at night, with the colorful lights aglow and highlighting the best features. Come back for a tour soon

We stopped at our go to breakfast spot on Ocean Drive - the News Cafe. 

We also had dinner there under the twinkling lights of the nighttime shade trees

I also did some cooking - spinach quiche

along with homemade cocktails

We also had a beach day with some calm surf and pleasant skies

And the Ice Water Man was out. Ice Water Man has been a regular here on Miami Beach for several years now. He simply walks up and down the beach calling "Water, Ice Cold Water" "Agua, Agua Fria"...over and over. Bits of the story I've pieces together - he frequents Walgreens to buy his water. I've seen him there. He was? a drug addict and has been in jail more than once and doesn't want to go back. This was derived from his conversations with some people right next to us on the beach. He charges 2.00 for one bottle of water, three for 5.00. I know that because I've bought water from him. And yes. They are sealed. 

I also finally tried Stone Crab legs. No, they're not currently in season, but I don't know when I'll be here in season, so bird in the hand and all that. They were still delicious. Although they freak me out a little. With the black claw tips they reminded me a little too much of a bug. I hate bugs.

This decadent, scrumptious chocolate lava cake followed the claws for dessert.

Remember these Coast Guard vessels? Well here they were all decked out for Independence Day. The one on the left left port about five days ago and returned Saturday, where they proceeded to unload over 35 million dollars worth of confiscated cocaine on to the docks after handing over the drug dealers to Tampa police. The war on drugs is alive and well down here just in case you were wondering...

Hopefully road trip tomorrow. Headed South. As far South as you can go here.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Sweet Dreams

Sweet Dreams. Have a restful weekend.

Notes From The Beach - Happy Hour

It's Friday! And sometimes that means casual cocktail time. 
Our favorite casual Happy Hour here is less than a five minute walk, is right on the marina so you can enjoy the sunset over the water, has a large, lively bar filled with mostly locals, and has inexpensive mojitos (compared to the 20.00 ginger - vodka concoction at the Delano last week!)

I always get a sampler from the seafood bar. Fresh and tasty.

And occasionally listen to some laid back live jammin. In this case - kind of a French Reggae vibe.

This is the view at night  of the outdoor bar - complete with thatched roof, and the neighboring pool so you can take a dip. Although why you would deliberately put a pool next to a bar full of people drinking is beyond me. Ha.        

Afternoon Pick Me Up

This is my idea of an afternoon rush

As opposed to this. I'm kind of boring that way.

Lunch Break

There is a little French cafe at the end of Espanola Way here in Miami Beach that serves many types of crepes as well as this light and delicious little melange of country pate, cheeses, meats and vegetables.

This simple dessert crepe with caramel sauce was so wonderful...I want to go back for more

Morning Wake Up Call

 Early morning exercise anyone?
There's yoga on the beach every morning at sun up

You've got to have some good balance to hold this position as long as he did...

Portable exercise bands for the park

Or perhaps a personal trainer to yell...I mean to encourage you on

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Notes From The Beach - South Point Walk, Miami

Here is the view of South Point. This area down at the very end of Miami Beach was created as a public park.
Back in the day it used to house horse stables, a police intelligence unit, and the Harbor Pilots from the Port of Miami. The story goes that the Government donated the land in 1979, all the buildings were leveled in 1984 and it was opened as a public park in 1985. In 1995 there were bigger and better plans for the South Beach area which included South Point, because as much as we love those "Scarface" days represented in 1983 - (seriously??!!), this place is infinitely improved, and safer, and, in the case of South Point between 1995 and 2009, 22 plus million dollars better. We have witnessed first hand the year to year incredible changes here, block by block. South Beach has an interesting history, however, I'll save that for another post. Back to the map...On the left side you see a water way. That is called Government Cut. It is a man made shipping channel that was created between 1903 and 1905. Ships use to have to go around Key Biscayne in a round about way to get to the Port of Miami. So they literally dredged tons of sand et al in between to create this channel, and in the process created Fisher Island. (More on that at a later date.) So now, cruise ships, tankers, cargo ships, yachts, fishing boats, jet skis, etc. can breeze through. Uh, a word of warning, should you happen to be down here and rent your own boat. I think this is a very tricky area because the channels and deep water areas are narrow and random at times. If you don't follow those little red and green floaty things in the water, and who the hell can figure those out anyway from a map!!!, you will be cruising along one minute and the next find yourself nearly trapped in two feet of seaweed tangled water threatening to mangle your propeller, while a colossus oil tanker stealthily glides perilously nearby. Please don't ask how I know this. Back to the map. On the right is, of course, Miami Beach - the actual beach. And the Ocean. The Atlantic Ocean. (More on that at a later date as well. Not the ocean, but Miami Beach) In between, for us, is this...

The best time to walk here, is ideally, at sun up. It is not hot and humid yet, it is quiet, the ocean is usually calm, the beach is pristine (due to the diligence of daily crews), there are early morning photo shoots going on with models, the very fit people are out exercising, (yes, more on that at a later date - it's amazing how good! people smell down here when they're jogging by), oh, and you are privileged to see the sunrise. The only problem with that is you have to be an early riser.  My husband is. I am not. I just appreciate it all the more when I do accomplish it. At whatever time of day it is, however, we step out the back of our condo which borders the marina and Government Cut and looks like this. We walk along the marina, always keeping a look out for a wayward dolphin or jumping fish, or whatever activity is going on in the channel.

Fisher Island is right across the way, and the path is decorated with palms, pillar lights for lovely evening strolls, benches, and the daily tug boat pulling in a tanker...

Then you turn the corner and encounter this latest Art in Public Places modern lighthouse sculpture by Tobias Rehberger, a German artist, which, I happen to thoroughly enjoy, and, it of course, has a top that lights up at night

Then there is the walk past Smith and Wollensky...and my favorite part of the walk, as always, the wild yet serene and friendly cats that inhabit South Point. The waiters at S and W are not enamored by them however. I don't know why...

Once past the restaurant which has tables right on the water for a gorgeous sunset view, this is the view and walk to the beach. "Here kitty kitty!"

At one point we cut over at the very end, through the lovely planted landscape - and more cats :

At the end of that path you emerge on to the beach. And, if you arrive just before sunrise on a cloudy day, it may look like this.

Then depending on the day...and each day is variable (especially this time of year as we traditionally come during off season. We have done that because we have children and their summer vacation starts at the beginning of June and that's when we vacation (holiday ;) ) . I must say, we have had such a variety of weather during the Junes' and Julys' we have been here. And none of it unbearable. This year has been extremely pleasant, in fact, at times, a touch cool for me for here, and today, as I write, it is grey and rainy and in the 70's out!)

My first view opposite the ocean on the beach portion of our walk are my favorite high rises. You'll notice them in a variety of tv shows and movies that are filmed on South Beach.

Most early morning runners and walkers walk up here where the sand is packed. Miami Beach is also famous for it's lifeguard stands. Each one unique and different, they stand at fully functional attention all the way up Miami Beach. This is the Southernmost one. (yes, more on these later)

Here is the view starting out looking north up the coast of Miami Beach.

From this point it's just a matter of how many life guard stands we want to tackle and how energetic we feel. Let's just say I'm only really familiar with the first four.

The route back is usually walked at a slower pace for part of the way as we stroll down by the water.

It's also the optimal time of day to spot a special sea shell (not that I have thousands of them already stored back at home still awaiting metamorphosis into a table top or mirror edge or candle border or some such crafty thing)

It's like I Spy....I spy seashells(you could be more specific). I spy coral. I spy seaweed. I spy tire tracks. I spy a footprint.....But I digress.

In recent years, there is one place on the beach where we come upon this. Any guesses?

You're right! Sea Turtle nests!! Some conservationists are doing their darnedest to protect these little creatures. After reading this article I even got a little lump in my throat. I mean really it's just a little itty bitty piece of a HUGE beach that you have to stay away from !!! :(

Back to the end of the beach and ready to head back up bay side.

Occasionally you see these behemoths "cruising" silently into port.

Sometimes we detour up to the main park where you can get a little elevation, rinse your feet, get some water...

and sit and observe

Then it's back along the marina to the condo

And this. What?? I'm on vacation for goodness sake. And there's a little grocery nearby that has croissants fresh daily. And I have some delicious blueberry jam to go with it.

ps. On those rare days when I don't get up for this walk - ok maybe not so rare - one of these is waiting for me on the counter - occasionally along with a new seashell. Life can be sweet.