Sunny Key West continued to bless me with rain on Monday. Fortunately, the island offers a plethora of indoor activities in the form of Tourist Traps. I have mixed feelings about such places. I have no problem being a shameless tourist, especially when visiting entertaining and/or tropical locales. At the same time, I don’t want to waste precious vacation time or money. My usual approach is to pick one or two cheesy tourist activities, and ignore the brochures and recommendations for the hundreds of other available options.
For my long weekend in Key West, my chosen cheesy tourist activity was the Pirate Soul Museum. Between my love of Buffett music & pirate movies, my interest in Caribbean history and my general (admittedly romanticized) fascination with pirates and sailors, I just had to check it out. The story is that the museum, located at 524 Front Street, started as a way to display Entrepreneur Pat Croce’s collection of pirate artifacts. Unfortunately, they don’t allow you to take pictures of these artifacts. I was a little disappointed about that; but I do understand that camera flashes can damage artifacts, and that this is a fairly common restriction in museums.
Lack of photo-ops aside, I enjoyed the Pirate Museum. There are displays of the weapons, medical equipment and navigational tools that were used by pirates. The museum also houses one of the two remaining Jolly Roger pirate flags and the only known surviving pirate treasure chest. There are interactive exhibits and a number of Blackbeard- centric displays. Everything is displayed with signs explaining what the artifacts are, mixed in with general anecdotes and blurbs about pirate life both on and offshore. Having recently read James Michener’s Caribbean, I found the descriptions of life in Port Royal particularly fascinating.
Post-museum, it was time for shopping and lunch. I have a silver charm bracelet that I add to when I travel. I still hadn’t located the right charm from Key West. I was looking for a margarita glass. I never found one that I liked. But every time I looked, I was drawn to the skull & crossbones charms. On our way to lunch, I found a silver one at a little shop on Duval. The owner was even nice enough to weld it to my bracelet immediately.
I’m not sure really sure how we found Blue Heaven, located at 729 Thomas Street. Honestly, we probably just wandered off Duval Street until we found a promising restaurant. Like many Key West restaurants, it is located behind a tall garden wall in a courtyard with limited indoor seating. In the past, Blue Heaven has been home to a billiard hall, bordello, dance hall and gambling arena. Though it is currently a restaurant and bar, Blue Heaven pays tribute to its shady past. For instance, several of the tables have been decoupaged with cutouts revolving around jazz musicians and pinup girls. They also have live jazz in the evenings and a signature cocktail that is, of course, blue.
Blue Heaven’s menu is similar to many of the other Floribbean-styled menus in Key West. This means it’s heavy on seafood, jerk chicken, black beans and fruits and vegetables. They’re open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We were there around 2:00pm; and they were steady but not overwhelmingly busy. While looking over the meal selections, I ordered the Blue Heaven martini (it’s 5:00 somewhere, right?) which had blue curacao, vodka and fruity mixers. While it was a pretty blue color, the drink itself wasn’t all that great. It was too heavy on the curacao, making it more bitter than sweet or tart.
For lunch, Jared ordered the Jerk Chicken Plate while I chose the Luncheon Tortilla. His meal consisted of boneless jerk chicken breasts with black beans, rice and cornbread. My meal had the same jerk chicken (or tofu, if I had chosen that). It was served on a tortilla and topped it with black beans, rice, melted cheese, avocado and cilantro salsa. Jared found his meal bland. I thoroughly enjoyed mine. It was not as spicy or as salty as some jerk, but it was well-seasoned and went especially well with the tortilla and toppings. I also loved how cozy the restaurant was. We wound up conversing and laughing with other patrons while waiting for our meals, and lingering over our drinks after we had eaten. To me, this is the mark of a really good vacation meal – good food and drink, punctuated by fun conversation.