Key West - Home of the Sunset

Key West is a small town in Southern Florida located on one of the islands called 'Keys'. Key West was the first stop of our Cruise...

Key West is a small town in Southern Florida located on one of the islands called 'Keys'. Key West was the first stop of our Cruise Ship. We had more than 6 hours to explore it. Ready to see what the southernmost town of the continental United States looks like? 

To be precise, Key West is not located on one single island, but instead on a group of islands. Despite the fact that the North American continent is more than 120 miles (200 km) away, Key West is connected to it via the Overseas Highway, a series of bridges and viaducts that link a chain of islands to the mainland.  
Key West is a very nice and neat town. Life here is calm and slow, and its people do not rush. And, to be honest with you, the weather here is too hot and unforgiving for those in a hurry. 
Key West is only 90 miles away from Cuba, and you can see the Cuban influence everywhere - from architecture to cuisine. In 1890, Key West was the richest town in Florida with over 50% of its population being originally from Cuba. 
Where, if not in Key West, should a shipwreck museum be located? 
Key West is an amazingly green town with a lot of trees and canopies... 
... and old beautiful wooden houses from the Victorian era. And, yes, a real orchid growing on a tree looks amazing.
I could not resist but to take a picture of this cozy porch.
Giant trees are normal for Key West.
There are lots of roosters roaming on streets, yet we've seen only a few hens. 
According to the signs, the legendary US Highway 1 starts here. The second sign from the bottom says "America's Byways". Currently, only 151 roads in the US have this honourable title. In order to receive it, a road has to have one or more of six "intrinsic qualities": archaeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational, and scenic. This stretch of US Highway 1 called 'Florida Keys Scenic Highway', has at least two intrinsic qualities as it was designated a title 'All-American Roads' (only 31 exist in the US). According to Wikipedia, 'this designation means that the road has features that do not exist elsewhere in the United States and are unique and important enough to be tourist destinations unto themselves'.
The Kapok Tree (right) is the sacred tree for the Maya. 
Key West wants you to feel at home. It even has pictures in frames with parking signs.
Key West is the home of Ernest Hemingway, a famous American novelist. 
Between April and October 1982, over 125,000 illegal immigrants from Cuba fled to Florida via Key West. Florida authorities closed the Overseas Highway and started to inspect every vehicle to find illegal immigrants. As a result, thousands of cars got stuck in a huge traffic jam that paralyzed the highway, so tourists started to avoid going to the Florida Keys. People living there who historically depended on tourists came up with a very creative idea of how to protest against the blockade - they declared independence. The new country was named 'The Conch Republic' after the conchs who fled to the Florida Keys from the Bahamas in the 1830s. Although this historical fact (i.e. Conch Republic) has never been treated seriously, people living in Key West celebrate their Independence Day every year on April 23rd. And you can find 'Conch Republic' on many of the souvenirs from Key West. 
St. Paul's Episcopal Church on Duval St. (the main street in Key West).
Souvenir shops and art galleries on Duval Street.
You can even find souvenirs with roosters. 
Key West is famous for its key lime pies. Yummy!
Key West has a beautiful tropical white sand beach with a small coral reef by the coast. It's located in Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park. 
It's only 20 20-minute walk from the cruise pier, however, you can take a trolley there, too.
Park is located next to the US Naval Air Station, so I have never felt safer on the beach.
Disney Cruises ship is arriving in Key West.
Great place to try snorkelling for newbies like us. I didn't even have to swim to be afloat. 
We really liked this park and will definitely come back should the opportunity come. 
Fort Zachary Taylor is named after the 12th President of the United States. It was used several times: during the Civil War of 1861-1865, the Spanish-American War of 1898, World War I, World War II and the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.  
A few words about the Cuban or Caribbean Missile Crisis of 1962 that lasted for 13 days - from 16 to 28 October 1962. The Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union was at its peak and could have escalated to a full-blown nuclear war. Nikita Khrushchev negotiated with Fidel Castro to deploy a number of missile launch facilities in Cuba as a result of the deployment of American Jupiter ballistic missiles in Italy and Turkey. 'The United States established a military blockade to prevent further missiles from entering Cuba. It announced that it would not permit offensive weapons to be delivered to Cuba and demanded that the weapons already in Cuba be dismantled and returned to the USSR. After a long period of tense negotiations, an agreement was reached between Kennedy and Khrushchev. Publicly, the Soviets would dismantle their offensive weapons in Cuba and return them to the Soviet Union, subject to United Nations verification, in exchange for a U.S. public declaration and agreement never to invade Cuba without direct provocation. Secretly, the US also agreed that it would dismantle all U.S.-built Jupiter ballistic missiles, which were deployed in Turkey and Italy against the Soviet Union but were not known to the public.' (Wikipedia). 
Today this fort is just a historical park and I hope will always be. 
Almost aerial view of the park that we have visited.
Thanks a lot, Key West, for your hospitality. The Cayman Islands are waiting for us!

My other posts about the Caribbean Cruise:

Cruising the Caribbean Sea
Cayman Islands - Financial Offshore With White-Sand Beaches
Chankanaab Park In Cozumel

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