April 26, 2014:
You might think the ferry ride back from the Dry Tortugas was a little disheartening, having to leave those idyllic islands behind, knowing we had kind of hit the mid-point of our trip, geographically, at least, but it really didn’t have that effect. “So, we’ve got to take this ferry back to Key West where our sailboat and more adventures are waiting?” Yeah, not really a downer in our opinion. We returned invigorated, excited to get back to our boat and tell her how beautiful it was on Garden Key and how much she was going to love sailing there when we come back to the Dry Tortugas. We were excited to see Key West coming up in the distance.
Phillip and I could both feel it, like a steady stream of electricity buzzing through us. There were still so many places on the island to explore! There was still so much to see and eat and do! We were itching to get off that ferry to grab our next adventure by the collar and shake it! This was our time! And, we still had plenty of time that day. The ferry returned from the Dry Tortugas around 4:00 p.m. Uhhh-huhhh. I know what you’re thinking. Happy Hour. That’s right. We’ve still got time!
We jumped in the shower quick to make it to Alonzo’s for the 50-cent oysters. I brought The Paris Wife with me to the showers so I could make my tribute to the marina book swap on the way. I finished The Paris Wife on the way to the Dry Tortugas, which was perfect, because it is a sad, poignant book. The kind that sinks into your chest and begins to swell into an ache. I found myself mad at Hemingway, hating him, but understanding him at the same time. It certainly resonated. So, it was good to shut that book and step off the ferry into crystal-green waters filled with shimmery fish clouds. The feeling the book invokes is something you want to feel, but it’s also a feeling you want to balance with fresh air and beauty. It was a day of closure it seemed, as Phillip finished In Our Time on the ferry-ride back. He said it was really interesting reading it after The Paris Wife, where you saw Hemingway create it from his wife, Hadley’s, perspective, and he liked watching the evolution of Hemingway’s writing style from In Our Time, his first book, to his later masterpieces. That one’s definitely on my list (as are many!) But, since Phillip was reading it on the way back, I dug into my back-up book swap book – a juicy little Lee Childs thriller – 61 Hours. I made it one third of the way through by the time we docked at Key West – certainly a fun, quick suspense read.
When we returned, I told Phillip I wanted to keep The Paris Wife and give it to a friend of mine back home who is an author, knowing she would appreciate the Hemingway haunt it had left me with, but he was quick to scold me. “You can’t,” he said. “You’ll ruin your book swap mojo.”
Yes, mojo, the Captain explained, in his infinite marina wisdom. Apparently, there is some unspoken rule in the land of marina book swaps, that if you get a good book from a marina book swap, you’ve got to give it back at another marina to ensure your continued good book karma. “Oh, alright!” I supposed I could just tell my friend about The Paris Wife and she could get her own copy. If that’s what it takes to nurture my mojo!
So, I put it back, but, I think the marina sensed my flirt with thoughts of infidelity, because I was left with the Fabio, ripped abs romance novels, and this hot little western number:
Clearly my mojo was tainted. I’m glad I had a Jack Reacher number and a few other alternatives to get me to the next marina, where I hoped to find less whips and abs. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that).
Once showered, we headed to Alonzo’s Oyster Bar to enjoy another dozen 50-cent oysters and some crisp white wine in the shade. The perfect treat after a long day in the sun.
I love building the perfect bite on each cracker. A fresh oyster, just the right amount of cocktail sauce, with a little horseradish mixed in, and a squeeze of lemon on top. Follow that with a sip of chilled sauvignon blanc, repeat five times and that makes for a pretty darn happy hour for me! While I was still mad at the man for his heartbreaking treatment of Hadley, I have to say, Hemingway certainly knew how to describe the taste:
After oysters, we headed back out on the street and found ourselves once again, drawn to the breath of the Hog! Cliff Cody was belting out another Lady Gaga number at the Saloon, so we decided to stop in for a bit to check out the locals and let Cody serenade us through our first cold one(s).
Love the people-watching at Hog’s. We knocked back one or two and then made our way over to the La Trattoria for a big, Italian dinner. I mean, we’d been to the Dry Tortugas and back today. We had snorkeled with sharks! We had required first aid! Certainly, we were entitled to a decadent, four course Italian meal? We decided we were, and breezed right in.
“Table for two, please,” said the Captain.
We ordered up a great bottle of Montepulciano and the escargot.
The wine had a great pepper finish that really cut through the richness of the escargot. While it took me a couple of tries and several reiterations by the Captain for me to get the pronunciation of the wine right (had nothing to do with the alcohol intake I assure you), I finally nailed it! Mon tae pul chee ahh noh. And, I proudly showed off my Italian skills when I ordered our second bottle. Teach me to pronounce wines, and you’re just asking for trouble …
It came just in time for our salad course – a homemade caeser with whole anchovies, fresh-grated parmesan and big crunchy, spiced croutons. Superb!
But, the dish that really stole the show was the canneloni. Fresh canneloni, made in house, stuffed with ground veal and spinach and smothered in a baked tomato sauce.
Press fingers to lips and “muah!” Our big, Italian dinner was the perfect treat after a long, adventurous day. We had been to the Dry Tortugas and back – a definite milestone on our trip. But, we still had so much ahead. We still had to sail our boat all the way back to Pensacola from the Keys. If the trip back was anything as exciting as the trip down, we were in for an incredible adventure. We had one more day in the Keys, then we would set off again, back out into the open Gulf, back on night shifts, back OUT THERE!