Sunday, April 19, 2009

Port Call - Key West, Day 2

KEY WEST, FLORIDA - This is day two of a seven day travel report from the Disney Cruise Line Magic.

After a great night of feeling the gentile movement of the Disney Cruise ship Magic we arrive at our first port of call, Key West. Known as "The Conch Republic" Key West is the southernmost island of the Florida Keys and is also the most southern point of the United States.

There were over twenty different shore excursions from the more reserved Conch Train Tours and Old Town Trolley to the more adventurous "White Knuckle" boat ride and the popular Snorkel, Kayak and Dolphin Watch tour. We decided to start our touring out easy and opted for our own walking tour of Key West. The ship docks in downtown Key West and is only a couple of minutes walk from the gangplank.

My first stop was just outside the big red building that I could see as we approached Key West on the ship. Over the years this historical building has served many functions to include a post office, court house, the custom house, and now the home of the Museum of Art & History at The Custom House. Approaching the building you can't help but notice there are five large nudes dancing in a circle around a man lying on the ground. The large nudes are a bronze sculpture called "The Daydream" ,reportedly by sculpture Mortimer Blake, and serve as a tribute to Henry Matisse's 1909 painting "La Danse." Upon closer look the man lying on the ground between the dancers is also a sculpture of a man enjoying the dance, by artist Seward Johnson. The two artists are said to have met in New York and each contributed to this piece. The more I looked around the more I saw life like statues intermingled with the off loading tourists who stopped to look at the various works of art. The artist Johnson has at least ten other "Man in the Street" lifelike statues in and around the museum. There were two people looking through binoculars from the porch, a man sweeping the sidewalk with a cigarette butt in his mouth and even Henri Matisse standing next to his easel composing his famous painting "The Dance". As a side note, while I was doing some research on the web, I found many instances where the nudes identified on the plaque next to the piece as those of reclusive artist Blake, were attributed to Johnson. I couldn't find a lot of info on Blake and am curious if he is a pseudonym for Johnson. Anyone have any ideas on this?

Reluctantly we moved on to Duval street to do some shopping and people watching. Cruise ship day is a big day in Key West and it seemed to be a rush for transportation. I cannot recall when I have seen so many people on so many different modes of transportation, in such a small area, as downtown Key West. There were people loading into the Trolley and Conch Trains for tours, people piled into electric cars, stacked on scooters, motorcycles, pink taxi's and even rickshaws pulled by bicycles. I was waiting for the big crash as all of these modes seemed to be in motion going every direction imaginable. I was waiting to see a guy on a unicycle twirling a baton. The most interesting part was watching the people on the motorcycles. Some looked as though they were a bit over the weight limit for the smaller scooters and others must have skipped the safety briefing, riding with flip flops.

The architecture and colorful shops of Key West were enlightening as were the historic bars we passed. There was of course Sloppy Joes, the Whistler Bar, Ricks, and around the corner Capt. Tony's Saloon, which claims to be the first Sloopy Joes. We tried the Mel Fisher's Maritime Museum and while interesting to see the treasures I would recommend using the money you would spend for admission on one of the books in the gift shop, or better yet, spending your money on admission across the street at the Museum of Art & History at The Custom House. Shopping was excellent with really good sales for souvenirs, t-shirts and Hawaiian style shirts. There were a few of the popular stores where everything is $5. Just looking at the architecture and colors around Key West puts this place in a class by itself.

We only had seven hours to tour the city then it was back on board to watch the ever popular sunsets. From our stateroom balcony we watched the sailing boats and catamarans taking boatloads of people out to watch the sun set. At the end of Duval street hundreds gathered for this daily ritual, and I thought they were coming out to wave good bye to us as we pulled out just as the sun was setting.

Back on board we had a night of entertainment with more juggling and balancing acts from Jeff Civillico. After dinner we took in Confessions of a Shopaholic in the Buena Vista Theater. Tomorrow we have a day at sea and according to the Personal Navigator a full day of activities.

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