Lastest Train Ride Through Europe News

Crucial West, Feb 2012 – 24
train ride through europe
Image by Ed Yourdon
Yet yet another sunset, another schooner, and an additional seagull …

Note: A big percentage of my &quotlandscape&quot images (which includes the ones in this set) are now copyright-protected, and are not available for downloads and free of charge use. You can view them here in Flickr, but if you would like prints, enlargements, framed copies, and other variations, please check out my SmugMug &quotKey West&quot gallery by clicking &lta href=&quotNote: A big percentage of my &quotlandscape&quot pictures (such as the ones in this set) are now copyright-protected, and are not accessible for downloads and cost-free use. You can view them here in Flickr, but if you would like prints, enlargements, framed copies, and other variations, please go to my SmugMug &quotKey West&quot gallery by clicking here.


Crucial West. It is a familiar phrase to virtually all Americans, and it conjures up images of a warm climate, Crucial West.

It is a familiar phrase to virtually all Americans, and it conjures up pictures of a warm climate, proximity to Cuba, Jimmy Buffett’s “Margaritaville,” and maybe a couple of vague connections to Ernest Hemingway and Tennessee Williams. It is indeed the southernmost city in the continental United States (129 miles southwest of Miami), and is also the southernmost terminus of highway U.S. 1, which originates a couple thousand miles north, up in Maine.

Significantly less effectively recognized is the truth that the island was 1st visited by Europeans in 1521, by none other than Ponce de Leon. Significantly, considerably earlier, the island had previously been inhabited by members of the Calusa tribe, who apparently used the island as a communal graveyard. As a result, when the Spanish arrived, they identified no resident Native Americans, but they did locate a lot of bones and assuming that the island had been the location of a cataclysmic batter between tribal warriors, they named it “Cayo Hueso” — which actually signifies “bone essential.” When Wonderful Britain took control of Florida in 1763, they bastardized the name to “Key West,” which has certainly remained its name ever because.

I’ll skip the rest of the history lessons about Spanish and British domination of the island suffice it to say that the Americans took charge in 1822, when Lt. Commander Matthew Perry sailed his schooner to Key West and claimed all of the Keys as U.S. property – a claim that apparently went uncontested. The Navy has been right here ever given that, and its 1st main job was ending acts of piracy which had previously produced much of that part of the Caribbean a wild and wooly spot indeed.

During the U.S. Civil War, the state of Florida seceded and joined the Confederacy but simply because of the naval base, Important West remained in Union hands. Indeed, Key West served as the beginning point for what became a comparatively profitable work to blockade Confederate shipping along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, severely limiting its capability to trade with England and Europe.

Important West remained fairly isolated from the rest of Florida (not to mention the rest of the U.S.) till 1912, when it was connected to the Florida mainland by means of an incredibly pricey and ambitious railroad created by Henry Flagler. Regrettably, a enormous Labor Day hurricane in 1935 destroyed a lot of the railroad and killed hundreds of regional residents. The U.S. government subsequently rebuilt the rail route as an automobile extension of U.S. Highway 1, which was completed in 1938.

Although all of this was going on, Essential West also became a haven for at least a couple of well-known artists and writers. Ernest Hemingway initially settled in Key West in 1928, exactly where he wrote A Farewell to Arms. And in the course of the 1930s, he wrote or worked on Death in the Afternoon, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and The Snows of Kilimanjaro. He also used the Depression-era Essential West as the setting for To Have and Have Not, which is apparently his only novel set in the United States.

A decade later, Tennessee Williams became a typical visitor to Crucial West, and is stated to have written the very first draft of A Streetcar Named Desire while staying at La Concha Hotel in 1947 he continued to list Essential West as his main residence till his death in 1983.

A single other little piece of history: Key West turns out to be considerably closer to Havana than it is to Miami. In the 1890s, half the residents of Crucial West had been mentioned to be of Cuban origin, and the city routinely had Cuban mayors. Cubans had been actively involved in roughly 200 factories in the city, making one hundred million cigars annually. And the South American revolutionary hero José Martí produced many visits in search of recruits for Cuban independence, and he founded the Cuban Revolutionary Party during visits to Important West. The battleship USS Maine sailed from Essential West on its go to to Havana, where it was blown up in an attack that led to the Spanish-American War. And finally, Pan American Airlines was founded in Important West in 1926, initially to fly guests to Havana.

And therefore endeth our brief history lesson – none of which was of any particular significance to me for the duration of a current week-extended pay a visit to to Crucial West, motivated by a robust desire to escape the cold weather of New York City in the course of the month of February. One other tidbit of trivia had attracted me: I had heard that there was a pier in Essential West where the locals and going to vacationers gathered every evening to drink margaritas, sing raucous renditions of “Margaritaville” at the best of their lungs, and admire the sunsets as the sun sank into the western horizon of the Gulf of Mexico.

That pier, as it turns out, is Sunset Pier – and it was situated just outdoors the hotel which I had chosen as the location to stay for the week. And whilst it turns out that margaritas are certainly consumed there, so are a lot of piña coladas, mojitos, and beers, along with hamburgers, hot dogs and fries: the entire location is a lengthy, crowded, outside bar and grill. The raucous singing comes from an amped-up band at one particular end of the pier, and I’m not certain that anybody truly pays any focus to the sunset.

The sunset-watching, it turns out, is a little additional down the pier: a huge, open, brick-paved spot identified as Mallory Square fronts onto the harbor, and an even bigger crowd does gather each and every night to watch the sun go down … as you will see in many of the photographs in this Flickr set. There is also an wonderful assortment of “performers,” for lack of a better name: sensible-speaking card-sharks down-and-out guitar-playing musicians a preacher determined to save the souls of any person who would listen to him tightrope walkers, sword-swallowers, and gymnasts jugglers with machetes and flaming torches, tossed in the air with excellent abandon while the jugglers balance on 20-foot unicycles and a guy with a banjo and a loyal dog who wanders about gathering dollar-bill contributions from the crowd, to be stuffed into a large bucket.

Meanwhile, schooners and catamarans drift previous the crowd, out in the harbor, crammed with half-drunken tourists determined to get everyone’s focus by howling and yodeling at the leading of their lungs. Ocean liners pull into the harbor at the end of Mallory Square, drop anchor and dock in the middle of the night, and then make a massive noisy ceremony of pulling up the gangplank and pulling away from the dock at five PM, just an hour before sunset.

Somehow, it all functions: if you haven’t noticed the scene before, it is very entertaining — and the sunsets are actually amazing. Of course, if you go back a second time, you’ll start to notice that the exact same performers are there, going by way of the same routine with the identical patter and speech — and you start paying significantly less interest to them, and a little a lot more interest to the more classic vendors lined up a handful of feet away from the edge of the pier: men and women promoting hot dogs, popcorn, conch fritters, drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic), photographs, trinkets, jewelry, paintings, drawings, tarot readings and spiritual advice, and numerous odds and ends carved and woven and hand-created from bits and pieces of wood, metal, and palm fronds.

By the third or fourth evening, the entire issue is totally repetitive – but the sunsets are nevertheless gorgeous. In my case, I escaped the Mallory Square scene a couple evenings to go for a sunset cruise on one of the several schooner docked in the neighborhood I also went out for a ride in a glass-bottom boat to see the regional coral reefs. But I passed up the opportunity to para-sail up in the sky above the complete scene, and I also decided to skip the chance to rent a jet-ski that would let me zoom about the harbor at breakneck speeds.

If you’re feeling energetic, you can also wander down Duval Street to see the gift shops, the tourist attractions, and the bars (e.g., Sloppy Joe’s, where Hemingway allegedly hung out. You can ride the little tourist “conch train” all about town, which provides you the likelihood to see every single famous historic home and tourist spot in a little more than an hour. I’ll confess that I did that, as well, even though it was so bumpy that I was only capable to take a single or two photographs …

I did have my camera with me all through the week, of course, so I took my typical assortment of hundreds (maybe even thousands) of random photos of something that seemed interesting. I’m obtaining better about deleting things, although, so I’ve ended up with a mere 35 images that I’m uploading to Flickr hopefully you will discover them moderately interesting…

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