February 18, 2014

tropical Key West

We were blessed with sunny skies and perfect weather as we headed to Key West, our next destination. I've read so much about it and have seen it in many travel shows so I was quite excited to finally get a chance to visit. The panoramic view driving across the 7-mile bridge on a lovely day was truly memorable. I have to say it was one of the most impressive bridges I've seen.

It felt good to get a break from the cold weather and spend a few days in a tropical environment. Our hotel was right along Duval Street. The location was ideal and very convenient. It was an easy stroll to many attractions and landmarks. Colorful roosters freely roam around, sometimes frantically crossing the busy streets. In Key West, they always have the right of way :-) It was best to just ride a bike or walk rather than drive around. We enjoyed strolling along the less busy streets, avoiding busy Duval Street as much we can.

Shown above, clockwise, lush palm trees greeted us as we entered the city, the view from the roof deck of our hotel, a typical home with ornate balconies, lovely bougainvillea flowers, just one of the many roosters roaming around and the most photographed Southernmost Point landmark in Key West.

Thanks to helpful websites like Yelp and Urbanspoon :-) we found a few off the beaten path restaurants which were very good. Starting off with breakfast, we discovered and tried a couple of  small French cafes, Frenchie's and La Creperie. At Frenchie's, my husband chose the Croque Madame, basically a hot sandwich with ham, melted gruyere, bechamel sauce and fried egg on top. Fresh fruits, made-to-order sweet crepe with whipped cream and sliced almonds, cheese and pate platter at the La Creperie were superb. We met the friendly French lady owner of La Creperie when she came to our table and suggested that the cheese and pate would be so much better with red wine. She was right :-)

The first restaurant we tried for lunch was El Siboney. We have a weakness for Cuban food and we were quite happy and satisfied with our authentic Cuban meal there. Shown above, El Siboney menu, tostones (fried green plantains), grilled Cuban bread appetizers and one of our favorites, picadillo served with yellow rice and maduros (sweet plantains).

Another tasty discovery was Inca's Peruvian Restaurant. We love trying different cuisines and this was our first Peruvian food experience. A combination of Latin ingredients and a complex blend of seasonings make up the distinctive fusion of flavors. Shown above (1) Inca's corner building on White Street (2) bean soup with cilantro (3) Seco con Frijoles - canary beans with beef, cilantro and rice (4) Lomo Saltado - sauteed beef with onions, tomatoes, cilantro and French fries served with rice. Peruvian corn variety with bigger kernels (as shown below) were served as a crunchy appetizer. A spicy sauce for the entrees was served on the side.

At Mallory Square, we found Falafel King which wasn't just off the beaten path but almost out of sight and tucked in a quiet space. Orders were placed at their small counter and service area. We shared a platter of falafels, hummus and sides with pita bread (shown below). Everything was very fresh and flavorful and it was just right for a quick afternoon snack.

It was fun walking around and hunting for our restaurants. Every turn, every corner was a new interesting discovery. It was easy to navigate the parallel streets of Key West even with my below average navigating skills :-) I will share our most memorable Key West excursion next time.

(1) a row of bikes parked at Mallory Square (2) Key Lime Factory shop (3) mango and key lime gelato was light and a perfect afternoon snack (4) the must-try key lime pie at Key Lime Factory

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