The Conch Republic

From Dynamic Duval Street to the splendid Victorian architecture of Old Town and the azure waters, Key West has something for everyone. It offers the visitor a mix of tropical paradise, history and culture. Not just a party town!

The Conch Republic

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Girlphoenix on February 1, 2002

Key West is the southernmost island in a string of islands off the coast of southern Florida. The islands, or keys, are connected to one another by the Overseas Highway - Route 1 - which replaced Flagler's Railroad in the late 1930's. Known as the Conch (that's pronounced CONK) Republic, this island community seceded from the union in 1982 as a publicity stunt. You can read more about this and other historic points on the Key West History pages. ${QuickSuggestions} Key West is known for its diverse population and laid back "live and let live" attitude. Rich in history and tradition, this is not just a party town.

There are a number of good museums, shops, restaurants and off-island excursions. Every night there's a Sunset Celebration in Mallory Square to bid adieu to the day and say hello to the night. I've never been able to participate in one of these celebrations, but hope to do so soon, as I hear it's quite a good time.${BestWay} Lots of folks rent scooters, but I think the best mode of transportation is your feet. They don't add unnecessary noise pollution and they can get you anywhere you want to go. Best of all, they come at no cost!

I'm a big fan of walking tours, and you can either pay a guide, or take your own by grabbing a map at the Tourist Welcome Center. Walking around gets you among the people, allowing you to feel the community, and see things you may otherwise miss.

The Coffee & Tea House of Key West

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Girlphoenix on February 2, 2002

The Coffee and Tea House is where to go for the best coffee in town. About halfway between the Hemingway Home and Museum and the ocean, this is where Boyphoenix and I sit back with an iced coffee. This is also where the locals go, and they have a box full of frequent drinkers cards to prove it. The staff is friendly, courteous and take pride in what they do.

Iced coffee goes for around $1.50, with iced cappucinos being a tad more - about $2.50 each. They also offer muffins and other baked goods for 1.50 a piece. The shop has two small rooms, one with goods for sale and in the other local art is hung on the walls and guests sit in comfortable chairs, resting their coffee or tea on tables. We prefer to sit out on the porch furnished with wicker furniture, enjoying the breeze and watching the world go by on Duvall St. Either place you choose to sit, the resident cat will come by to say hello.

The Coffee & Tea House of Key West
1218 Duval Street
Key West, Florida
(305) 295-0788

Hog's Breath Saloon

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by Girlphoenix on February 1, 2002

It was a sweltering day in late May, and Boyphoenix and I had been kicking around taking in the sights. Come lunchtime, we both needed a break from the sun and heat. We landed in Hog's Breath because they had oysters on the half shell and the temperature inside was less than 90 degrees.

Hog's Breath is a local hangout, with both indoor and outdoor bars, live music, casual atmosphere and friendly service. You also get good food at a good price - in addition to our oysters, we had caesar salad, conch fritters, and stone crab all for just about $35 including one beer. True, they're all appetizers but still a good price. Also, you get free refills on your fountain beverages.

Hog's Breath also has a gift shop where you can buy a T shirt proclaiming that "Hog's Breath is better than no breath at all," which is their slogan.

We continue to head to Hog's Breath every time we're in Key West.

Hogs Breath Saloon
400 Front Street
Key West, Florida, 33040
(305) 296-4222

The Chicken Store

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by Girlphoenix on February 2, 2002

Contrary to its name, you will not find chicken for eating here. In Key West, chickens are protected, meaning they frolick in the streets and in people's yards. Opinion on the protection is divided and debate lively.

The Chicken Store has caged as well as free ranging chickens thoughout the store, and you can learn about their history, like Handsome Devil, a former fighter. You can adopt one of these guys if you qualify. I didn't find out how one qualifies, but I'm sure they'll let ou know if you ask. For sale, they offer arts and crafts inspired by these wild Gypsy chickens you're bound to see and hear during your visit to Key West.

A great way to learn about chickens in Key West!

Chicken Store
1229 Duval St
Key West, Florida, 33040
(305) 294-0070

Mel Fisher Museum

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Girlphoenix on February 2, 2002

We had no idea who Mel Fisher was but figured we might learn something. Turns out Mel Fisher was quite a guy. He had a dive shop and enjoyed diving the wrecks in the Caribbean and South America. There are a number of wrecks in these areas because of the dangerous passage caused in part by the reefs. Spanish galleons, among others, would often sink in these parts, bringing unimaginable fortunes with them to the bottom of the sea. Mel was very interested in finding some of this treasure, and in the 1970's through the 1980's he and his team of divers found and salvaged the treasure and artifacts from the sunken Nuestra Se├▒ora de Atocha, a Spanish galleon sunk in the fifteenth century.

The museum displays gold and silver coins, magnificent jewelry, crucifixes, navigational instruments, the gold plate and the gold cup used to detect poisoned wine, and scores of emeralds.

Also on display here are artifacts salvaged from the English merchant slaver Henrietta Marie. One of the few slave shipwrecks ever discovered in this hemisphere, the display includes the shackles used to bind slaves during their nightmarish passage. This was the first time I'd ever seen authentic slave artifacts, and was chilled by their shameful history.

I recommend a visit to the Mel Fisher Museum for a shot of history and an eyeful of beautiful and rare objects.

Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Museum
200 Greene St
Key West, Florida, 33040
(305) 294-2633

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