How Long Does It Take To Paddleboard From Cuba To Florida?

Ben Friberg is a 35 year old musician from Chattanooga, Tennessee who recently became the first person to paddleboard from Cuba to Florida. According to a Reuters interview, Friberg’s almost entirely stand-up feat last week was an endeavor to “promote peace and understanding between Cuba and the United States and to promote a healthy lifestyle.” The journey between Cuba and Key West, Florida is 110 miles. Friberg completed the trip in 28 hours, sitting only for snacks. He was followed by a support boat that included a navigator as well as a medic.

The Best Island Photos From Instagram

Instagram frequently leaves me with a serious case of travel envy, particularly when my dashboard is filled with photos of islands. There they are: fringed with palms, festooned with colorful fishing fleets and bathed in the gold-pink light of sunset. Then come the rocky, overgrown and uninhabited islands, which poke out of the sea just for a photo op. Do they go back to sleep underwater when no humans are around? Perhaps my favorite island photo porn is the aerial shot so you can see every line, curve and undulation of the isle or isles below.

Following are some of the most awesome photos of islands that have popped up on Instagram recently. For more island inspiration, explore the #islands hashtag within the app or browse, which makes use of Instagram’s API so that users can browse photos on their computer.

Kauai, Hawaii

Koh Phi Phi, Thailand

Zakynthos, Greece

Whitsunday Islands, Australia


Key West, Florida

Vanilla Ice appears on Travel Channel’s Man v. Food Nation tonight

On the Travel Channel’s Man v Food Nation, host Adam Richman explores the “big food” offerings of a different American city each week before facing off against a pre-existing eating challenge at a local restaurant. On tonight’s episode, Richman visits Key West and the Florida Keys and got a surprise visit from host of DIY Network’s The Vanilla Ice Project, Rob Van Winkle (aka Vanilla Ice).

In each episode of Man vs Food Nation, food challenges may involve hot and spicy, unusual, famous or large quantities of food. Richman finds places in each city to indulge his appetite and visits local landmark, interacting with local restaurateurs and giving a brief insight to the local community.

Tonight Richman heads over to Key West’s Hogfish Bar & Grill to taste a local favorite sandwich dubbed ‘The Killer Hogfish.’ To top it off, a slice of Key Lime Pie is in order so Richman heads to the Blue Heaven restaurant, thought to be the best Key Lime Pie in town.

Rapper/Home Remodeling expert Vanilla Ice, a Florida resident and host of DIY Network’s The Vanilla Ice Project, surprises Adam at Blue Heaven and explains why the Florida Keys is home to the best Key Lime Pie.

Then it’s time for the challenge and Richman heads to the Key Largo Conch House for the Conch Republic Fritter Contest: eat the most Conch fritters in 15 minutes and be crowned the king or queen of the Conch.

This episode airs tonight, July 6th at 9:00p e/p on the Travel Channel and would make great homework for anyone planning a visit to Key West any time soon.

Flickr photo by wonker

Key West gem: the Hemingway House

Key West, Florida may be a tropical paradise surrounded by some of the most spectacularly clear blue waters that you’ll ever see, but that doesn’t mean that it is completely devoid of history and culture. In fact, the city is steeped in history ranging from the pre-Civil War era Fort Zachery Taylor to the mid-19th century lighthouse that is now a museum. But perhaps the most interesting historical attraction of them all is the Hemingway House, where the legendary Ernest Hemingway once lived and wrote many of his great works.

Hemingway moved to Key West, from Paris, in 1929, bringing his second wife Pauline along with him. He allegedly wrote A Farewell to Arms while living over a Ford dealership and awaiting the arrival of a new roadster that Pauline’s rich uncle purchased for them. In 1931, that same uncle bought them the now famous house, and the happy couple moved in and settled down to raise a family. The lived there together until 1939, when the not-so-happy couple divorced, and Hemingway moved to Cuba with wife number three.

Hemingway’s decade of Key West living was the most prolific period of his career in terms of cranking out manuscripts. Aside from A Farewell to Arms, he also wrote Death in the Afternoon, Green Hills of Africa, To Have and Have Not, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and a number of his famous short stories as well. Something about the warm ocean breezes and beautiful surf seemed to inspire his creative side. He was also introduced to deep sea fishing while living there, which became one of his passions and was obviously an inspiration for The Old Man and the Sea, which is perhaps his most famous book.

Strolling on to the grounds of the Hemingway House will make you feel like you’ve stepped back to a different era. The place looks almost exactly the same as it did when Papa, Pauline, and their two sons, Patrick and Gregory, lived there, right down to the furnishings inside. The circa-1930’s photos, books, art, and furniture all add to the ambiance of the place, and at times you can almost feel the spirit of Hemingway still walking the halls. This is especially true in his old writing studio, which is on the second floor of the carriage house out back. The old typewriter sitting on the writing table, amidst a host of treasures and trophies, gives visitors a hint of the magic that once inhabited those walls.
Of course, many of those visitors come not just to examine the artifacts of the house’s famous former resident, but to catch a glimpse of its famous current ones. The grounds of the Hemingway House are patrolled by an array of cats, each one a descendant of Hemingway’s original feline pets that lived with him and his family more than seven decades ago. There are nearly fifty cats living there and about half of them are polydactyl, that is to say they have six toes on their front paws. Sailors once believed that six-toed cats brought them luck, and the superstitious Hemingway agreed, adopting a number in his lifetime. The offspring of those cats are easily spotted lounging, pouncing, and parading about their lovely tropical home.

If you get the chance, be sure to take one of the guided tours of the the house as the guides are funny, engaging, and have a great grasp of the legends and lore of the place. For instance, they’ll point out the lovely water fountain made out of urinal that Papa dragged home from his favorite bar, Sloppy Joe’s, one night, or they’ll show you the replica of a cat sculpture given to Hemingway by Pablo Picasso. The priceless original was stolen from the house a few years back and smashed beyond repair by the thief who swiped it.

But perhaps the best story you’ll hear is about the beautiful 65-foot long swimming pool that dominates the backyard. As the story goes, in the late 1930’s, when Papa was away in Spain covering that country’s civil war, the boys convinced Pauline to put in the massive pool, claiming their father had always wanted one. Ten months, and $20,000 later, the pool was complete, much to the chagrin of the author who returned not long after it was finished. Needless to say, Hemingway was not happy, after all the entire house cost just $8000.

The legend has it that Hemingway then pulled a penny from his pocket and tossed it to Pauline, telling her she might as well have his last cent too. Pauline pressed that penny into the still wet cement, where it remains, under glass, to this day. A week later she divorced Papa, sending him packing to Havana.

Located at 907 Whitehead Street, right in the heart of Key West, the Hemingway House is a fun and interesting look at life on the island when Hemingway wrote, drank, and caroused his way through the streets. Admission is just $12 for adults and $6 for kids, and even if you hated your high school English teacher for making you read Hemingway’s work, you’ll probably still enjoy this enchanting place.

Beat the heat at the Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center

Sitting at the southernmost tip of Florida, the Keys are a chain of islands that mark the border between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. The waters that surround the more than 1700 islands are famous for their warm temperatures, stunningly blue colors, and diversity of wildlife. It is because of all those things, and more, that the waters are protected, making up the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Last week we told you how you could explore that sanctuary aboard a personal watercraft, but for those looking for a less adventurous, not to mention less expensive, option, you can simply drop by the Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center, located in Key West.

The Discovery Center is operated by NOAA and offers up three things that are often in short supply in Key West, namely free parking, free admission, and plenty of air conditioning. The Center has plenty of other things to offer beyond that however, giving visitors a chance to see what life is like in the Keys both above and below the water. The numerous displays on hand show the diversity of both the flora and fauna throughout the region and describe in detail how those natural elements co-exist to create such an amazing environment.

One of the most prominent of these displays is the Mote Marine Laboratory’s 2400 gallon “Living Reef” aquarium, which gives us a glimpse of the brightly colored and energetic marine life that thrives in the waters just off the coast of the Keys islands. These fish go about their lives just as they would in the open ocean, while we get to watch on from the other side of glass.
Not far from the Living Reef display is a much smaller, but more sobering one that comes in the form of a tiny aquarium that contains the beautiful, yet destructive lionfish. Native to the Pacific, the lionfish has become an increasingly troublesome invasive species in the Keys and throughout the Caribbean, as it eats everything it encounters and has no natural predators to quell its advance. Marine biologists at the Sanctuary have been studying the fish for some time and are formulating plans on how to manage these invaders, but they fear that it could become a major threat to the Keys ecosystem in the years ahead.

Another popular display at the Eco-Discovery Center is its mock-up of the Aquarius underwater ocean laboratory. The real Aquarius Lab is one of the few underwater research stations in the world and is located in the Keys as well, but the Center’s simulated one is as close as most people will ever get. Looking through the lab’s portholes makes it seem that you really are far beneath the surface of the ocean, complete with divers drifting by the windows as they go about their work.

If you drop by the Discovery Center, be sure to check out their 17 minute long film entitled Reflections. The movie, which was shot completely in High Definition, chronicles life in the Keys through the eyes of a young girl who grows up with a unique appreciation for the place she lives in. The underwater scenes are breathtaking and will delight and captivate visitors of all ages.

Located at the end of Southard Street in the Truman Waterfront, in Key West, the Eco-Discovery Center is easy to find and a great way to beat the tropical heat. It also happens to be very close to Fort Zachery Taylor, a popular Florida State Park. While you’re in the area, it may be worth swinging by that historic site as well.