When I told a friend I was cruising to the Conch Republic, he looked a bit puzzled. “Is it in the Bahamas?” he asked. “Or maybe Hawaii?”
Good guesses. But wrong on both. The Conch Republic is located in the good old USA, in Florida, in fact. Conch Republic is the nickname for Key West.
How did the far tip of Florida get that moniker? From what might have been the shortest the shortest naval battle in history.
“We declared war on the United States and threw stale Cuban bread at a Navy officer,” Key West guide Robert said. “It lasted for about a minute. Then we surrendered and asked for $1 billion in foreign aid to rebuild. We’re still waiting for that $1 billion.”
A popular stop for cruise ships, Key West knows how to make cruisers feel welcome. When my ship docked for the day in Key West, many of us climbed aboard a Conch Train open tram to tour around the unusual community. Driver Robert pointed out sites of interest and told us stories of Key West’s past and how it got its nickname of the Conch Republic.
“You are in the Conch Republic,” he said, gesturing to a Conch Republic flag on a porch. “We are proud to be Americans and we are proud to be Conchs. Our local high school sports team is the Fighting Conchs.”
The problem began in 1982 when U.S. Border Patrol set up a checkpoint at the entrance to the Florida Keys so agents could search cars for contraband. Since the checkpoint was on the only road into and out of the island chain, traffic was brought to a standstill. A 17-mile-long traffic jam resulted.
The roadblock angered residents, visitors and Keys officials who complained that the Keys were being treated as a foreign country. Citizens should be able to come and go more freely, they argued.
When their protests were ignored, Keys residents decided to secede from the Union. On April 23, 1982, the southernmost point in the continental United States did just that. They seceded from the United States of America and formed the Conch Republic.
“The roadblock was quickly removed,” Robert said. “That is why our motto is ‘We seceded where others failed.’ We celebrate that.”
In fact, a 10-day Conch Republic Independence Celebration is held every April. In a town known for its parties, the annual celebration is legendary. That is one thing I quickly learned to like about Key West.
In addition to its colorful characters, laidback atmosphere, renowned Key Lime Pie, balmy weather, many museums, fishing fun and fascinating history, Key West is the only place I know that publicly celebrates the end of every day. Folks gather in Mallory Square to salute the sinking of the sun and to watch for the famed green flash – a special glint of light in the water at sunset.
I think I could get used to that. Celebrate every day and live life to the fullest. Good philosophy to have no matter where you are.
Story and Photo by Jackie Sheckler Finch
What if there was a way to take a vacation without ever reaching for your wallet, or even a room key? What if you could visit a theme park and never have to get tickets, or wait in line for a ride? What if you could plan your day with just a smartphone handy? Fewer lines, less fumbling. Seems like a pipe dream for most, but at Walt Disney World, they’ve found a way to make that happen with the new “My Magic+” program.
Walt Disney World and innovation go hand in hand. The complex of parks and resorts in Orlando have revolutionized the way people travel and the way people experience theme parks, and coming this year Disney is taking the experience one step further with the My Magic+ program. This is part of an 800 million dollar initiative to modernize and improve the time people spend in their parks and resorts.
The way it works is pretty simple. It all starts with wristbands. These rubber wristbands, called “Magic Bands” will make turnstiles a thing of the past, and it should shorten lines as well, by sending texts when a turn on a ride comes along, making paper tickets unnecessary and allowing guests to pay for snacks and souvenirs without having to reach for the wallet. It will also act as a room key for people staying on property.
There are some trade offs, Disney does get to learn a lot more about likes and dislikes, as well as spending habits. Some people may find this a bit creepy, but the truth is – in an environment like Walt Disney World, it can help make an experience a bit more custom, and a bit more shaped to the individual’s taste, instead of something more mass market. It’s like getting a bit more exclusive without excluding.
We think that this is a pretty nice enhancement to the Disney experience, and we’re pretty excited to try them out.
Start your Disney Vacation plan today, just head to our Disney only website, http://www.worldofmickey.com to learn more!
Let’s be honest, Disney offers magical experiences for every age and every person. They do this through a number of different venues, Disneyland in California – the original Disney destination, Aulani resort in Hawaii, a state which is also on our must-see list for 2013 to name just a couple. But it’s Walt Disney World, in Orlando, Florida that is really the item that every Disney fan needs to see. And for those who have been there before, so much has changed in the last twelve months that a new visit would be like visiting a brand new destination.
I was a bit skeptical of it at first. Definitely something I wouldn’t like, I thought when the idea was presented to me at lunch. But as I pondered over my pasta, I decided to take the plunge. After all, we aren’t talking about Trapeze School here, one of those Club Med activities that gives me agita at the mere thought of. No, we were talking paddleboarding on Sandpiper Bay.
As the Magic Kingdom starts opening more and more of the New Fantasyland portion of the park, one huge standout is the “Be Our Guest” restaurant which offers both quick service and table dining service in a setting modeled after the Beast’s castle from the movie “Beauty and the Beast.”