Young and old converge on Key West’s Mallory Square every evening just before sundown. The main attraction here is watching the sun slowly sink below the horizon. As it lowers into the ocean, passing boats offer photographers amazing opportunities for memorable photos.
If you have patience, you can snap a shot of a two-masted sailboat silhouetted against the setting sun. Party boats sometimes block the horizon, but if you find a good location, it won’t matter.
The square is filled with a variety of entertainers from jugglers to some crazy guy flipping burning torches in the air. Take a slow stroll and enjoy what there is.
In the morning many hotels and guest houses offer a fairly substantial breakfast negating the need to go spend extra money. We stayed at Chelsea House, a bit of a walk from all the action, but still within a reasonable distance.
Chelsea House has 33 rooms ranging in size and amenities. Our stay was in a good-sized room with kitchenette. There is a self-parking area adjacent. If you have a car, park it and leave it. If you try to move around the Key in your car expect to crawl. And when you get to where you are going, if you find a parking spot you’ve just won the Mega Millions Lottery.
Chelsea House rents bicycles. If you’re fit enough, get one. If your balance is OK, try one of the local scooter rental places. The little motorized vehicles will get you through traffic faster than any other method and they are far easier to park.
Sites within a few minutes’ walk include the Ernest Hemingway House and Museum. Writers flock to see where the Great One lived and worked. Unfortunately it is less than inspiring. The house and grounds are beautiful and well-kept, but you just don’t get the feeling or any connection to Hemingway.
The Audubon House and Tropical Gardens are beautiful and offer much of the local foliage. But, arguably the most interesting destinations on Key West are the Little White House/Harry Truman House and the Mel Fisher Museum.
The Little White House was a favored place for President Truman both to wind down and meet important leaders, both foreign and domestic. Interestingly, due to the fact that it is still in use and available for the president, photos are not permitted inside. While it is a beautiful building, it would fit into the living room of Donald Trump’s digs so it is not anticipated that the president will be using it.
The poker table President Truman enjoyed is still there. He liked a sip of the “Hair of the Dog” and the bar sits ready and waiting. Of note is the fact that President Truman did not have a middle name. His name is Harry S Truman. Note there is no period after the “S” because he only had an initial. Guess his family was too poor to provide a full middle name and only gave him an initial. Interestingly, the plaque on the outside of the house has a period after his name. Even those deep into history make mistakes. The Little White House should be on your list.
Arguably, one of the more interesting stops is the Mel Fisher Museum. Fisher was the treasure hunter who spent a goodly portion of his life looking for the wreck of the Spanish treasure galleon, La Nuestra Señora de la Atocha.
The galleon sank in a hurricane on Sept. 6, 1622 and lay undisturbed until Fisher, who had hunted for it for 16 years, found the wreck in 1985. He would start every day with the comment “Today is the day.” It finally came. He then had to contend with lawsuits from both our government and the Spanish who had centuries ago given up on the ship but now wanted a piece of the millions of dollars in gold, silver, jewels and other previous cargo.
The museum holds the original artifacts: gold and silver bars, amazing jewels and precious metals and stones. At the entrance is a gift shop with reproductions sold at an affordable price. But if you walk only a few steps into the adjacent shop you’ll find scores of silver and gold coins and other treasure brought up from the wreck. Leave your cash behind because you’ll need a credit card. These items are not cheap…but what a souvenir they make.
There are affordable items in the shop, but it’s hard to pull yourself away from the bigger and better items. They cost thousands of dollars. If you can afford one, go for it. It will never decrease in value and, imaging wearing a coin that was under water for 363 years. That’s a terrific conversation piece.
As an example, a Grade 3 coin with a decent image on the obverse but little detail on the reverse, will sell for about $2,000. Don’t ask what the Grade 1 or 2 sells for.
The display of the Spanish booty and other artifacts from the ship — cannon, anchor, pottery, dishes and more — could take the better part of the day to go through.
Security is top notch here since a robbery some time back. If you are wearing a baseball-style cap, you’ll be required to turn the peak to the back of your head, and they watch to make sure. It seems that a visitor from Eastern Europe managed to open a case and leave with a gold bar. The peak of his hat obscured his face and although they know who he is, his country will not extradite him.