Thursday, 7 June 2012
They say a lot of places in one's memory can seem smaller if one returns, but I'm finding the opposite with Key West.
Take Duval Street, which runs from the Atlantic to the Gulf of Mexico. It's always done that but somehow it seems longer and with more restaurants and shops than I remember. It's also changed a gear or two in some parts.
There was a bohemian edge to most of the properties and not so many well-know chains.
Now there's a prominent Hard Rock Cafe and even a Starbucks, which suggests a certain adjustment. I can remember some of the other places still present, which were sort of 'one-offs' but the extra harborside area seems to have grown beyond my recognition.
Step a few feet from the beaten track and there's still plenty of people wearing sandals instead of trainers, if you know what I mean.
I guess that's part of the fun of Key West. It's the area of Florida that seceded to the US, where others failed and it proudly wears the message on its Conch Republic flag.
There's the whole story about how it declared war on the USA, fought the Naval Base with stale Cuban breadsticks and then surrendered requesting $2 billion reparations. Of course, what they really wanted (and got) was that the tourist route remained open and not subject to a US Border blockade. And all of that happened in the last thirty or so years - in fact they've just celebrated the anniversary.
Today I've been out to the reefs, looking at the stripy fish and the enchanting coral. It's a long, long way from the mainland.