Location: Key West, Florida
After driving for what seemed like half a day, my friend and I finally got to Key West.
To be fair, we’d been stopping every few miles to take pictures in places of interest. The sun was low in the sky when I pulled into the hostel parking lot, exhausted. I couldn’t wait to get my key, drop myself face down on the bed, and sleep for an eternity and a half.
I did precisely that, until a loud cock-a-doodle-doo woke me from my pleasantly dreamless slumber. I sat up with a start and wondered why it was so dark. Was it morning? Had I really slept through the entire night with my dress, shoes, and makeup still on?
I carefully climbed down from my top bunk (which would become the scene of a future crime) and opened the door a crack. It was definitely not the morning; from the looks of the sky, the sun had just set. One of these fellows stood right outside of my door:
He looked me in the eye, jerked his neck back, and let out one of the most obnoxious rooster crows I’d ever heard. Inside, one of my new roommates groaned loudly.
I had gotten my official Key West welcome.
Later, I would learn that roosters crowed at all hours of the day, not just in the morning. The island has thousands of chickens that are mostly descended from Cuban settlers in the 1800s. Hens were used for their eggs, and cockfighting amongst roosters was a form of entertainment until it was outlawed in the 1970s. Key West is a no-kill zone for chickens, so they roam free everywhere on the island. 
Here they are in a casual CVS parking lot (there were a lot of them behind and around me, too!):
As my friend and I explored Key West over the next few days, we’d hear these birds every few seconds. I can’t say that I miss them, but they definitely made our stay memorable.
Surprisingly, the chickens weren’t the most interesting thing about the place. Key West is divided into two parts, Old Town and New Town — Old Town is the historic part of the city that usually comes to mind when you think of Key West, and New Town is the part of the city that’s … well, new, and similar to other Floridian towns.
I spent all of my time in Old Town, walking until I thought my feet would fall off. Here are some of the cool things I saw:
This “Free Air” sign was one of my favorite things I saw on my trip back. It was at the side of a restaurant and I thought it was a hilarious piece of art: you turn the crank on the right and get some — you guessed it — free air. I almost wanted to inquire about purchasing one, but I already have too much stuff in my San Francisco house. Maybe I’ll buy one in the future, when I’m grown-up enough to have Real Art™ in my house.
This is one of the wine places my friend and I visited — not only did they have $5 fresh homemade sangria, but their decorations were legitimately interesting. They had chandeliers made of wine glasses at the bar, and the entire ceiling was decorated with bottle corks.
The waterfront was a long trek from the hostel where we were staying, but we came here at least twice a day. It’s worth the walk; there’s a ton of seafood restaurants, drink spots, and good people-watching to be had here!
Catching the sunset at Mallory Square was an experience. There was a ton to see: the sunset itself, the old-fashioned ships gliding across the water, drunken people on cruises waving at the shore, and lots of street performers. My favorite was the lady in white, who posed like a statue and would change positions every few minutes.
I actually didn’t drink too much here, but the drinks that I did have were hella strong and definitely made it more fun to walk around.
Who saw another Little Free Library and had to take a book from it? I did. ?
Don’t feel like walking, biking, or driving your own car? Some alternative ways to get around the island include renting these cute little cars complete with back-facing seats, calling a pink taxi (which may or may not actually be cheaper than Uber), or getting on the Trolley Tour, which gives you cool Key West info while also driving you to where you need to be. You can get on and off any time!
While we were shooting photos of one another, my friend and I went inside an old mansion that was turned into an inn. We weren’t technically supposed to be there, so I snapped these two pics quickly before we had to leave. Next time I stay in Key West, I’m definitely saving up to go the fancy-inn route.
As you well know by now, I love finding cool, unique things everywhere I go. Key West was full of them; I could go on for hours about the place. My one regret? Not taking the tour! It’s going to be first on my list for next time. ♚
Note: This article is part of my January 2019 One Month Project, where I will be traveling around coastal Florida and publishing an essay a day about my experiences there. I’m excited to bring you along on this adventure!