Celebrating July 4th in Key West 6.30.18 – 7.7.18

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It was only 3 months ago that we said good bye to Key West, however it seemed like so long ago. I couldn’t wait to get back to my happy place for our 19th time!

Saturday, June 30th – Arrival DayIMG_2933We woke up to a beautiful morning. Ironically a heat wave was headed to the tri-state area while we were traveling to Key West with cooler temperatures. We arrived at Newark Liberty International Airport and breezed through security with TSA Pre. It is definitely worth doing since you don’t have to remove your shoes and whatnot, even though lines are long they move so quickly.

Our flight was scheduled to take off at 8:40am, so we had time to check in the United Club Lounge for some coffee. Unfortunately where our gate was located, there was no lounge. The nearest one was a make shift pop up one. It wasn’t the most luxurious of lounges, but it was fine for us. The airport itself was bustling. I read that the day before was supposed to be the most traveled day so far this year, but this day it seemed just as busy probably due to the July 4th holiday coming up.

This was our second time going to Key West during the 4th of July. I really enjoy going during this time of year. It can be a bit hot, but the ocean breezes keep you cool. Plus it is low season, so you don’t need any reservations to any restaurants, making it a “do what you want” to type of vacation. The only thing I had booked was the sunset and firework sail on the Sebago for the 4th of July – which we did last time and really enjoyed it.

Again we were staying at our second home, The Gardens Hotel. People say we should try other places, but after looking at other B&B’s to stay at, nothing compares to the Gardens. It is just the perfect place for us that we never get tired of. IMG_2938

Our flight took off on time and before we knew it we were landing in Key West. The direct flight from Newark to Key West was one of the best things United ever did. It is just 2 and a half hours. We were the first ones off the plane so we were able to grab one of the first taxis that were lined up. IMG_2939When we got to the Gardens I saw Jim (the general manager) and he welcomed us back. Check in was quick and easy. IMG_2943We unpacked our things and made our way onto Duval. It is always such a great feeling making that turn onto the street. Last time we were in Key West back in April I wanted to capture the walk on my camera but unfortunately the battery died. I replaced the battery for this trip and was able to capture it finally! https://youtu.be/O4njtGHC5BQ

We weren’t sure where to stop for our first drink, but as we were walking, First Flight came to mind. I still miss the old Kelly’s but it still has the same atmosphere. We walked in and ordered a couple of drinks. IMG_2946My first drink of choice was a Moscow Mule. It definitely hit the spot since it was so cold. We just sat there for a while just taking it all in that we were back again in Key West. No matter how many times we come back, I still just get so happy. IMG_2949I remembered that our friend Gabriel Wright plays at Captain Tony’s. So after our drinks, we walked down to Captain Tony’s. He was on break so we were able to chat with him before he went back to play. We ordered a couple of beers and sat there for a while. https://youtu.be/MpiUXq9pU6sIMG_2950I kept checking my watch because I wanted to be sure we would have enough time to see Zack Seemiller at Rick’s. (As a side note, I have been doing graphic design work for Zack for the past several years). It was about 2:30 and we said good by to Gabriel and made the short walk to Rick’s. It was funny because again I wanted to surprise Zack that we were back in town, so I walked in behind a group of girls that were making their way in the same time. I then just stood there for a second until he recognized it was me. I had pulled off another surprise! It was great to see him again. IMG_2951We grabbed a couple of seats at the outside bar and listened to him play until his set was done. Unfortunately Zack was playing up the Keys later that evening so we didn’t have much time to talk to him before he had to leave. Luckily he was still going to be in town so we would see him again at Hog’s Breath on Monday. IMG_2960

Our dinner reservation at Deuce’s Off the Hook was not until 7:00pm, so we had some time to spare. The next stop we made was the Smokin’ Tuna. It wasn’t crowded at all so we were able to find a couple of seats at the end of the bar. My husband started talking to another couple there, Lisa and Rick who were from upstate New York. We talked to them for a little bit before getting back to the hotel. IMG_2944

It was time to make it back to the Gardens and get ready for dinner, but not before having another drink at the bar at the Gardens. Once we freshened it up, it was a short walk around the Gardens Hotel to Deuce’s. We always enjoy having dinner there our first night because it is so close by.

We reserved two seats at the bar. It was a good thing we did because it was full. I had the grouper ceviche and my husband had the tuna tartare.

 

 

For dinner I had their fish special. I can’t remember what type of fish it was, but it was really good and similar to snapper. My husband had their beef with some sort of hash. Both of our meals were delicious. We never have had a bad meal at Deuce’s. https://tinyurl.com/y9e3yaht After dinner I probably should have told myself, it was a long day and get some rest, however I wanted to see Caffeine Carl at the Smokin’ Tuna. IMG_2977

Before we went to the Tuna, we wound up walking all the way to Mallory Square to catch the sunset. However by the time we got there, we just missed it and everyone was leaving so that didn’t work out the way I wanted it to, but still saw Jimmy working hard. IMG_2979IMG_2978

Then we made our way to the Smokin’ Tuna. I remember walking in and seeing Erin (Carl’s wife) and giving her a big hug. I also saw Carl and George getting ready to start. I was able to talk to Carl for a few minutes and get a picture with him. He is such a nice guy. IMG_2981

It was definitely more crowded at the Tuna then earlier in the day, but we were able to find a couple seats at the bar. IMG_2982We stayed for a while listening to Carl play. It was a lot of fun. It was getting late and I definitely reached my limit. Luckily there was a cab right outside the Tuna that my husband grabbed. It wasn’t that long of a walk back but it probably wouldn’t be a pretty walk back. Once we got to the Gardens it was time to get some sleep after a long first day.

Sunday, July 1st – First Full Day in Key West IMG_2984

I woke up feeling a little rough from the day and night before, but after a shower I was starting to feel better. We walked downed to the Cuban Coffee Queen. I noticed they had a new turmeric con leche that sounded intriguing. IMG_2987I decided to give it a try and my husband had the regular Cuban American. It was surprisingly very good and in a way calmed my stomach. With our coffees in our hand, we walked down to Blue Heaven. It was just around 9:00 am so we didn’t have to wait for a table. IMG_2991

We were seated towards the back in a nice shaded spot. We both ordered the regular breakfast of a couple of eggs bacon and toast. Neither of us felt like the eggs benedict because they can be very rich and of course delicious. Our server was very efficient so we didn’t have to wait too long for our order. The eggs came out nice and hot, however a little under done to my liking. Nevertheless it was a nice way to start our first full day in Key West.

I didn’t have anything planned so we figured that we would just wing it for the day. The one thing we didn’t get to do last time was stop in at Peppers. IMG_2985After a quick stop at the Gardens we walked down to Peppers. They weren’t open yet, so we walked on over to the Schooner Wharf for something to drink. IMG_2996It was a little early for a drink, but at this point why not? You’re in Key West! It was tougher then I thought to get the first drink down, but I managed. I looked at my watch and saw that Peppers should be open at that point. We paid our tab and walked back down to Peppers. IMG_2995

The doors were open and we walked in. There was a cruise ship in town as well, so we weren’t the only ones in there. We were able to sample a few new sauces that they had and grabbed the regular ones we really enjoy. If you get 12 different items you get 10% off. So we wound up getting 12 items and having them ship it back home for us. It is so worth it so you don’t have to worry about getting it through security or even having a bottle break. And it usually ships quickly so most likely you will have your order waiting for you when you get home, like we did. IMG_3472

Once Peppers was accomplished I wanted to go to the Conch Republic Seafood Restaurant gift shop and find another dri-fit long sleeve tee for our boating trip that we had in a couple days with our friend Billy. They didn’t have many shirts that I liked, but I did find one that would do the trick. IMG_3001

Then we decided to have a drink inside since we hadn’t been there in a long time. It used to be one of our go to places to have dinner when we first visited Key West, but now there are so many places to try that we never made it back.

We ordered a couple of beers and watched some of the World Cup that was on all of the TVs. I looked at one of their menus to see what they had and nothing really jumped out at me. After we finished our drinks we walked down towards the Galleon and to the Sunset Tiki Bar. IMG_3008This is another one of our go to places to just sit down and enjoy the views of the water. Plus the people that work there are very friendly. We sat down for a bit wound up catching the end of the World Cup came and I believe Russia won. After we caught the ending of the game, we made our way to Hog’s Breath to see Gabriel Wright again. IMG_3009When we walked in he was a break again, so we found a couple of seats before he went back on. Once he started, we made a few requests and enjoyed listening to him play. IMG_3011His parents came by, along with his fiancé. So we all were talking and having a great time. We wound up staying for a while.

It was time for us to motivate and make our way back towards the Gardens. On our way though, we made a detour back to the Smokin’ Tuna where we ran into Lisa and Rick again. We sat down and talked for a bit. IMG_3013I asked the bartender Jerry to change the one channel so we could catch the end of the Nascar race. My driver, Harvick didn’t win, but it was still fun to be able to see it.

IMG_3024A new musician by the name of Ike Kanakanu, who was scheduled to play at 5:00 pm walked up to me and asked me if I was from St. John, since I was wearing my High Tide shirt from there (it’s a well know restaurant in St. John). I told him that we go there all the time and we started chatting. He used to live there for a couple of years, he was originally from Hawaii. He was a really nice guy. I also gave him my business card in case he was looking for any graphics work that I could do for him. It was time for him to start and we stayed a bit longer listening to him play. He was really good. Again, we probably stayed too long but we were having fun. https://youtu.be/0VpvI88u_XQ

IMG_2993At this point we were getting pretty hungry and I knew my husband wanted to go back to Berlin’s for dinner. It was time for us to get back and freshened up for dinner.

Once we were ready we walked back on to Duval. As we were passing Willie T’s I noticed it was John LaMere playing. I saw on Facebook he was leaving the following day to head back to Long Island for a bit so I wanted to catch him before we left. It was so funny because as soon as we walked in, he recognized us and played two Pearl Jam songs for me (since they are my favorite band).IMG_3029 We couldn’t stay too long because we needed to refuel ourselves with much needed food. We said our good byes to him and wished a safe trip.

It seemed like a long walk, but we managed to make it to Berlin’s. We walked up the red dark stairs into A&B Lobster house and into Berlin’s. IMG_3031It was perfect – we were the only ones in there. The bartender Gage remembered us from last time. I ordered the Oysters Rockefeller and my husband had the Tuna Tartar. For our entrees I had the yellowtail snapper and my husband had the prime rib. I actually had a couple bites of the prime rib, even though I normally don’t eat red meat and it was delicious. Everything we had was perfect. It is a pricey place to eat, but the food is always really good.

 

With our bellies full, it was time to make it back to the Gardens. We were both pretty tired at this point and could not drink anymore.

Monday, July 2nd – La Te Da, Hog’s Breath and Back to the Smokin’ TunaIMG_2986

We woke up to another beautiful day in Key West. For breakfast we decided to go back to La Te Da. We tried it last time and really enjoyed the atmosphere there so we figured lets go back. Our stop though was Cuban Coffee Queen. IMG_2988We met up with our friend Joe Cortner who we usually see there. We sat down and talked to him for a bit. We told him we would meet up with him again at some point.

I also reached out to Billy Rentz about going out on the water with him the next day. He got back to me and we were good to go. I was so happy that we were going back on the water since we didn’t get to do it last time.

IMG_3042We made the walk down Duval to La De Ta. The sun was quiet strong so we made sure to stay on the side of the road that had the shade. We sat down at the bar and ordered breakfast. The bartender Kathy was really sweet and turns out her boyfriend used to bar tended at the Gardens as well that we knew. Small world. For breakfast I just had scrambled eggs with sour cream and chives and my husband had the regular american breakfast. Their smoked maple pepper bacon was delicious. We enjoyed the breakfast very much and noticed it didn’t take as long as last time we were there for our orders. After breakfast we walked back to the Gardens to relax for a bit before going back out on Duval. IMG_3063

Once we got motivated, we decided to go to the Blue Macaw for a drink. It is nice and close by to the Gardens and I always like the atmosphere there. We found a couple of seats at the bar and listened to James Whitehead. IMG_3046

The next stop was to go to Hog’s Breath to see Zack and his son Kai play. IMG_3049We lucked out when we got in there and were able to find two seats available near where they were playing. We had such a great time just listening to them play. In fact we stayed until the end of the show. https://youtu.be/gjN7Mf2nQS0IMG_3061I also saw on the Tuna schedule that Joal Rush was in town and was playing at the Tuna. So after Zack and Kai’s show, we made our way back down Duval to the Gardens. IMG_3047After a quick shower and feeling rejuvenated, we made it to the Tuna. I wasn’t too hungry since it was so hot that I figured we would just order some light fare and listen to Joal. https://youtu.be/VaEmJkB718YIMG_3068I always enjoy their fish dip there, which is more or less like tuna fish salad. It was the perfect thing for me to have. My husband had ordered the coconut shrimp appetizer. I also sampled several, if not half the order, and then he had a burger.

Then unfortunately a thunderstorm came through so Joal had to take a break until the skies cleared. I didn’t mind though, because it gave me a great opportunity to take a picture of him and Carl who was getting ready for the show that was on at 9:00 pm. IMG_E3071The rains did finally subside and Joal came back on for a few more songs. Then it was time to see Carl play. It was a fun night. We wound up taking a cab back since it was easier then trying to make the walk back.

We didn’t get back too late on purpose since we were going out on the water with our friend Billy the next morning.

Tuesday, July 3rd – Out with Billy to Snipes Point and Mud Key IMG_3337

We woke up early in the morning to a very loud thunderstorm. I was concerned that it was going to affect our trip out on the water that day, but by the time we woke up the skies were clear and it was a perfect day to get out on the water.

Billy was picking us up at 9:30am so we decided to just have breakfast at the Gardens. The breakfast was surprisingly very good. IMG_3076They had a nice spread of scrambled eggs, sausage, bagels, fruit and several other pastries.

IMG_3078Soon it was time for Billy to pick us up. He gave us a call when he was in front of the hotel and soon were on our way to Garrison Bight Marina. He also loaded up the boat with refreshments so we didn’t have to stop before we got on the boat.

While we were getting ready, another boat was taking people out at the same time. It turned out that Billy new the captain and he asked where they were going. She said she was taking them to Snipes Point for the sandbar and beach. Billy suggested that we could follow her out. We just wanted to be out on the water so we thought it was a great idea.

IMG_3081It was probably only about a 30 minute ride out through the Gulf and once we got to Snipes, I could see why she was taking her group there. It was just gorgeous. IMG_3083We had been out to the sandbar before, but on the Atlantic side, not the Gulf. IMG_3090IMG_3089We jumped into the water and the sand was just so soft. The water was only waist high so we walked on over to the beach. IMG_3093It was really cool to see how large the beach was and the birds flying around the little island. I was looking for some shells but couldn’t find the perfect one for a necklace, but still it was really nice to be out there and some place new that we haven’t been before.

IMG_3099Billy anchored the boat and swam around for a bit. We noticed more boats coming in having the same idea. Apparently on weekends the place can get pretty crowded with locals and other boating trips. IMG_3118.jpg

Then it was time for us to get ready and make our next stop. It turned out the other boat was going to Mud Key. We were up for it as well so we followed her there. IMG_3119It was pretty amazing to go through the mangroves and seeing so many birds like blue herons and other wildlife. It was really beautiful and peaceful. We then anchored again for a bit just to relax. IMG_3123IMG_3125We noticed in the distance a pretty large storm over Key West. So when it was time for us to make it back, Billy took us back a longer way, but we completely avoided the storm.

IMG_3136We made it back to the marina without ever getting rain on us. We thanked Billy for a great trip I and suggested that he do that trip again with other people in the future since it was so beautiful and different. https://tinyurl.com/y75xw89m

IMG_3138Once Billy dropped us back off at the Gardens we needed to shower. Then I remember Zack was playing at Willie T’s so we walked down Duval to see him again. His son Kai was there again so we listened to both of them play for a bit. https://youtu.be/4djPSW9eH24IMG_3156

Ironically the day before while we were at Hog’s Breath, Zack’s good friend Danny showed up for a few songs. A couple years ago he actually waited on us at Cafe Sole. It turned out that he now works at Little Pearl, which is such a tiny place it’s really hard to get a reservation there. He told us that if I called the next day he could get us in at the bar. I thought that would be awesome since I always heard great things about the place and wanted to try it.

While Zack and Kai were playing, I gave Little Pearl a call and it turned out that Danny was able to get us in. Once Zack and Kai were done, we walked down to Olivia Street to Little Pearl. IMG_3160.jpgIf I didn’t look it up on my phone, I probably would have passed the place.

IMG_3164We walked in and saw Danny right away. He sat us at the bar and it was perfect. I looked around and the place was tiny. IMG_3165I was really excited too because everything they serve there is so fresh. They don’t even have a refrigerator. Everything is on ice. I had to try their oysters on the half shell for an appetizer and I was so glad I did. They were probably the best oysters I have ever had. My husband had their tuna tartare brulee. For dinner I had their fresh local snapper served over pearl couscous and my husband had their pasta dish that had clams, shrimp, calamari and local fish.

 

Everything was spot on and so delicious. We were weren’t going to have dessert but as a surprise Zack treated us to dessert. It was a panna cotta with a red wine berry syrup and it was the perfect ending to a great meal. We were definitely full at this point. We thanked Danny again for such a great dinner and for him getting us in the restaurant. I would definitely recommend Little Pearl if you are craving fresh seafood and a nice quiet place off Duval. https://tinyurl.com/ycwy5lby

We were both pretty tired so we just walked back to the Gardens for an early night.

Wednesday, July 4th – Fireworks on the Sebago Appledore Star IMG_3182

It was 4th of July and we woke up to another beautiful day. It was another hot one, but still cooler then it was back home in NJ. We made plans with Zack and Kai to meet for breakfast at the Breakfast Club Too. However our first stop was to grab a couple coffees at Cuban Coffee Queen where we usually run into our friend Joe Cortner. We walked in and sure enough he was sitting there.

IMG_3184bWe sat down and chatted for a bit. It is always a nice way to start our day. We wished Joe a happy 4th and walked down Duval and onto Greene St. to the Breakfast Club Too. I remembered last time we were there I saw their breakfast being served in a cast iron skillet and later found out they were called rostis. I made sure I ordered one of them this time. Once Zack and Kai arrived we were seated at a table inside since it was really warm out.

IMG_3186I wound up ordering the chorizo poblano rostis which was very good but also very filling. It was nice to just enjoy a great breakfast with our friends. Zack then mentioned if we ever been to Stock Island and we never had been. He offered to take us around the Keys the next morning for a little tour of the other keys. I was so excited!! I told him without and
hesitation, we would be up for it. I always wanted to try the hogfish at the Hogfish Bar and Grill and see Stock Island.

We thanked Zack for breakfast and needed to walk around again. I knew we would catch them later at Willie T’s so we told them we would see them later. After walking off some of our breakfast we agreed to go back to the Galleon Sunset Tiki Bar for a cold beverage. It was pretty crowded with people coming in starting their July 4th celebrations early.

IMG_3188It was still nice to sit at the bar and just gaze at the water nearby. We were going out on the Sebago Appledore Star later on that evening to catch the fireworks so we had to be mindful of how much we were drinking that day. IMG_3190

After we finished our drinks we walked by the Sunset Pier to see if Al was working. We noticed that they finally started working on the pier. It was strange to see most of it gone. IMG_3191We walked in and I asked one of the bartenders if Al was working. Unfortunately he was off so we just kept on walking. It was probably just as well, because it would have been too hot to sit in the sun on the pier. IMG_3193.jpgWe walked over to El Meson De Pepe to have one of their overpriced mojitos – but they are really good. IMG_3195

Our next stop was First Flight. We walked through Mallory Square and then I noticed one of the conch trains sitting there with the driver waiting for his next tour. I thought what a great opportunity to get a photo of me in the train. So my husband asked the driver if I could get my picture in the train and he was really nice. He said of course and I got a great picture! IMG_3204We walked down to First Flight and it was another good choice, since they have a nice shaded area to sit. There was a guy playing guitar which was perfect to just relax for a bit. IMG_3221The Yankee game was on, so we made our next stop Jack Flats. We had not been in there for quite some time. The place is large and there are a ton of large screen TVs, so if you want to catch your favorite sport team, this is the place to do it. IMG_3224

We were able to catch a few innings before walking back to Willie T’s which is practically next door. We couldn’t stay for Zack and Kai’s entire show since we had to grab something to eat before the Sunset and Firework Sail. There was enough time though to catch them for a little bit.

IMG_3230Then it was time to get something to eat. We said goodbye to Zack and Kai who were also playing later at the Casa Marina. I wanted to see them play there, but I had already booked the sail. IMG_3231

My husband heard from a friend of his that Frita’s has great burgers. So we walked down Southard St. and sat at the two little stools outside of the place. It was a hole in the wall but it smelled wonderful. My husband ordered their traditional burger and I had to try their local fish tacos. IMG_3232

We didn’t wait long for our food, thank goodness because we were both hungry and it was delicious and so reasonable. We thanked the owner for a great light dinner and made it back to the Gardens. IMG_3234

We freshened up quickly and walked down to the Bight to check in for the Sebago Sunset and Firework Sail. There wasn’t much of a line so the check in was quick. It was so fast, that it turned out we had about an hour before we had to board the schooner.

IMG_3236We were still a little hungry so we walked over to the Half Shell and ordered a dozen oysters. IMG_3239They were so good that we ordered another dozen. It probably wasn’t the best idea, because afterwards I didn’t feel that great. Luckily we had some time to just sit and wait before the boat. IMG_3240By the time we were able to board the boat I was feeling much better. We got on the boat and it was so hot. The sun was beating down on us and there was no shade since the sails were down which is to be expected. We had to wait for a few people running late which really annoyed me. IMG_3242Finally they showed up and we were on our way. I thought I was going to melt on the boat, but once we got on the water the breezes picked up and it was just beautiful.

IMG_3245They took us out not too far from Key West where we watched the sun set into the water. Then the crew put out this great display of food. IMG_3247 I wasn’t hungry and neither was my husband. I knew they had food on the boat but couldn’t have waited that long to eat. IMG_3257IMG_3262

Then around 9:00pm or so it was time for the fireworks. It was funny at one point, I thought I heard Zack and Kai playing at the Casa Marina since we were pretty close by.

IMG_3291The fireworks were amazing and a it was so cool to see it from the water. We did a similar trip a couple years ago and it was enjoyable to do it again. It is a long trip but it was a lot of fun especially since they only have 16 people on the boat. I would also recommend this trip for the 4th of July to see the fireworks. The crew was very nice and accommodating as well.

IMG_3327It was nearing 10:00 pm and the fireworks ended. We sailed back to the marina and thanked the crew for a great time. It was a long day and being out on the water always knocks you out. So we just grabbed a couple of waters and walked back to the Gardens and called it a night.

Thursday, July 5th – the Zack Tour IMG_3335It was another beautiful morning. We did our usual stop at Cuban Coffee Queen and saw Joe again. IMG_3333I knew we were going out with Zack and to the Hogfish Bar and Grill and didn’t want to have anything for breakfast. I knew if I did, I wouldn’t be hungry for lunch. My husband wound up ordering one of their egg sandwiches and it did look good. We just sat for a while talking about what we did the day before. We said goodbye to Joe and then went back to the Gardens to relax for a bit.

IMG_3338My husband just read on the porch and I started to work on my blog. Around 11:00am Zack showed up and we were ready for the Zack tour of the Keys! I was so excited!! IMG_3342Our first stop was Five Brothers for a cup of coffee and few bottles of water. Soon we were on our way up the Keys. Before we got on A1A, Zack drove us around a few back roads telling us some stories which was really interesting. IMG_3348

We made it onto A1A and it was so cool to see the water surrounding the road. Our next stop was Baby’s Coffee. Zack told us how much they did for locals during hurricane Irma. We walked in and Zack got a bag of coffee for us to take back home with us. Then we drove up to Geiger Key and drove around. It was pretty interesting to see how quiet and beautiful it was out that way as compared to Key West. There was only one way in and one way out off of A1A. IMG_3350The next stop was Boca Chica where the Naval Air Station is located to see where their training. We got out of the van and walked around just for a few minutes. IMG_3349.jpgThere was a lot of seaweed washed up on the small beach so the smell was not very pleasant. IMG_3356

The next stop was Stock Island. IMG_3357Zack first took us to the new part of the marina, called Stock Island Marina Village and then over to where Hogfish Bar and Grill was. We walked around the pier for a few and it was intriguing. He referred it to what Key West looked like and felt like years ago – the old Key West. IMG_3358Then it was time to grab a bite to eat. IMG_3359I ordered the fried hogfish tacos and my husband had the fried hogfish and chips. The hogfish was really good. IMG_3365I wanted to try the sandwich but wasn’t too sure how I would like the fish with swiss cheese and mushrooms. I am not a huge fan of cheese and fish together.

IMG_3367Soon it was time to get back to Key West. We then had one last stop that Zack wanted to show us, the Casa Marina Resort where he just played with his son on the 4th of July. We parked and walked into the lobby. The place was impressive. I couldn’t believe how big it was. IMG_3370It was gorgeous, but to me it didn’t feel like Key West. It felt like it could be a resort anywhere in the Caribbean. Don’t get me wrong it was beautiful, but would rather stay at a place such as the Gardens where you get the true feel of Key West. IMG_3368

It was getting close to the time when Zack was going to play at Willie T’s so he dropped us off and we thanked him again for taking us out. IMG_3371

After regrouping at the Gardens, we walked back down to the Blue Macaw for a drink. There was some guy playing but it wasn’t the type of music that was enjoyable to me. He almost sounded like he should have been playing on a cruise ship or some cocktail lounge. We only stayed for a drink and unfortunately just when we were leaving Nick Norman was getting ready to start the next music shift. I wanted to make sure we made it back to Willie T’s so we couldn’t stay.

IMG_3372We walked towards the Green Parrot. We decided to stop in for a drink since we hadn’t gone in yet. The place was a bit more crowded then usual but we were able to find two seats at the bar.

We sat for a drink and wound up meeting a younger couple from Florida. It was funny because they asked if we were local. I guess after being in Key West for 19 times, people think you are – maybe it’s just the vibe we give. It was their first time in Key West so we were recommending places that they should go to. We told them to enjoy their trip and made our way to Willie T’s. It was crowded but again we were able to get a couple seats. IMG_3374

We stayed until the end and saw that John LaMere had returned and we wanted to catch a couple songs. IMG_3377Once Zack and Kai were done we said our good byes and told John that we would be back. We went back to the Gardens to freshen up again and tried to decide where to go for dinner.

We walked back to Willie T’s and stayed for a drink. IMG_3378We were both hungry again so we left Willie T’s and walked down Duval once again. We were thinking about the Roof Top but wanted to try something new. Their food is always good, but they haven’t changed their menu in a while. I remembered seeing on TripAdvisor that the Red Fish Blue Fish had decent reviews.

IMG_3380We walked in and sat at the bar. We ordered a couple of drinks. The bartender was friendly but she was really slow. We were ready to order, but a bunch of people kept walking in to order drinks to go. At this point I thought maybe we made a wrong decision?

IMG_3382After a while she was finally able to take our order. For an appetizer we shared the fried calamari which was decent. Then for dinner I decided to go with the fried whole snapper and my husband ordered the sirloin. We didn’t have to wait very long for our entrees to come out considering how long we had to wait to order. The fish looked better then it tasted. I think it was fried too long because it was pretty try and didn’t have much flavor. I tried some of the mango beurre blanc sauce that was served on the side, but that didn’t add much to the dish. My husband’s sirloin was just okay. All and all I probably wouldn’t go back there, but now I can at least say we tried. IMG_3384

It was getting to be about that time to go back to the Tuna and catch Carl for a bit. It was technically our last night where we could stay up late and not have to worry about getting ready to leave the next day and pack up our things.

IMG_3385We walked in and Joal Rush was finishing his set. Not before long Carl was back on stage. Kai, Zack’s son, also stopped by to catch Carl. IMG_3386It wound up being an interesting evening because the lights kept going out. Eventually they got everything back up and running and we had a great time listening to Carl play. IMG_3405And it is always nice to see his wife Erin behind the bar who always takes care of us. IMG_3396Time flew by and we realized it was getting pretty late. IMG_3406We headed out probably around midnight or so and walked back to the Gardens.

Friday, July 6th – Last Full DayIMG_3438We wound up sleeping in for a bit since we didn’t have any plans for our last full day. Where did the time go? The week began at a nice and relaxing pace, but before I knew it, we were leaving the next day. We got up and made our first usual stop at Cuban Coffee Queen. We chatted with Joe for a bit and he suggested Bagatelle’s for breakfast. We had not been there for a while decided to give it a try again.

IMG_3414We walked in and it was nice and quiet. We sat outside on the porch which is always great for people watching. Our server was very attentive and friendly. I ordered a mimosa and my husband ordered a screwdriver. IMG_3410I decided to go with the huervos rancheros and my husband had the regular breakfast of two eggs with a few sides. It didn’t take long before our breakfast was served and it was really good. After the dinner from the night before it was a relief that we made the right decision for breakfast. IMG_3437

After breakfast we went back to the Gardens and relaxed on the porch for a bit. I knew Zack was playing at Ricks at noon but had to wait until after 1:00pm in order to check in for our flight home on United. I didn’t want to wait until later on and wind up forgetting to do so.

I also took the time to make sure everything was packed and ready to go. You think by now I would be so used to it, but it always makes me sad to do every time. That’s the one thing with vacations, you get that great high when you arrive at your destination and then you get that low when you know it is ending. Finally 1:00pm came along and I was able to check us in using the computer at the Gardens. Once I printed out our boarding passes it was time to go see Zack for one last show. IMG_3423We walked down Duval and saw that our favorite outside seats at Rick’s were available. We waved at Zack and sat down and listened to him for a while. During his show I guess another fan of Zack’s, came up to me. She recognized that I was with one that works on all the ads with Zack. She wanted to meet me and complimented my work which I thought was really sweet.

Then I got in touch with Zack’s son Kai and he was able to come by and hang with us for a bit. The afternoon seemed to fly by and before I knew it, Zack’s show was over. When he was packing up another gentlemen came up to me and complimented my work as well. It totally made my day having two people come up to me.

IMG_3427-copySoon it was time to make our next move. We said goodbye again to Zack and Kai and hoped to meet up later that night. My husband and I were needed a quick bite to eat so we walked back to First Flight and sat down at one of the high top tables near the bar. We ordered a couple Moscow Mules and that probably wasn’t the best decision. They are very good, but strong. IMG_3430We ordered a basket of fries that was served with an amazing tasty cajun aioli. I getting really hot sitting there because the sun was beating down on me. It got to the point that we had to leave and get back to the Gardens to cool off with a shower. I knew i was overheating at that point. IMG_3434We walked back and freshened up again. I felt so much better and rejuvenated in a way. Before going to dinner we sat down at the bar at the Gardens. We saw a couple sitting there and we started chatting. It turned out they were from Austria. They were so friendly and nice. They had not been to Key West before, so we were telling them places to go. The husband was in a band so of course we suggested for them to go see Caffeine Carl at the Tuna that night. We said that we would hopefully meet them out later depending on how we felt.

IMG_3446For dinner, we heard from several locals that the old Mcconnell’s Irish Pub And Grill closed and a new placed opened up in its place called the Old Towne Tavern and the chef formally worked at Blue Heaven. We walked in and grabbed two seats at the bar. (As a side note, my husband tends to prefer sitting at the bar vs. a table. I used to be a table person but now I am so used to it that I prefer it as well. We looked over the menu and the first thing that intrigued us was their pork belly appetizer. I wasn’t starving so I decided to have their superfood salad which consisted of kale, mixed greens, quinoa, beets, almonds, citrus, sprouts, orange beets vinaigrette. I think I was craving something healthy. My husband decided to go with the shrimp scampi flatbread.

 

 

 

 

 

The pork belly came out and it was delicious. I have had pork belly before, but this one was probably one of the best I have tasted. The ratio of fat and meat was perfect and it was light and crispy – not chewy at all.

The salad I ordered was nice and refreshening – just what I needed. My husband’s flatbread looked great and he said it was delicious. I actually snagged a couple pieces of shrimp off the flatbread. It was really good. https://tinyurl.com/y9qoj8ef

We finished our orders, and then we walked back on Duval and then I saw these two ‘ladies’ I had to take a picture of. They were hilarious. IMG_3452

We were debating about going back to the Tuna again. We realized we didn’t have to be at the airport until 11:30am and that we could still sleep in a bit. IMG_3453So of course it was decided that we would return once again to the Tuna. It was pretty crowded this time, being it was a Friday night. IMG_3456We had to wait a few minutes, but finally a couple of people left where we were able to get a couple of seats. Not before long I saw Zack’s son Kai again. He sat down and we were able to chat for a bit before Carl went on. While we were talking, a fellow TripAdvisor Forumite came up to me. It turned out to be FLBoy22 who recognized me from my blog. I thought it was so funny that he recognized both myself and my husband. It was a pleasure meeting him. IMG_3457Once Carl started to play we saw two people walk in and it was the couple from Austria. They spotted us and we were able to find a spot to hang out and listen to Carl. As we were sitting there I looked over and then I saw Zack. I couldn’t believe he showed up! I was so excited to see him!! IMG_3459I walked over and we were able to talk for a little bit, but it was loud and crowded. He didn’t stay too long, but it still made my night. We were going to meet the next morning to for breakfast before we had to go to the airport. The couple from Austria wound up leaving before us and so did Kai.

Once again it was getting late and we needed get back to the hotel. My husband was going to ask for the tab, but it turned out the couple from Austria paid for it. We couldn’t believe it. They were such. nice people and they didn’t have to do that. We did finally made it back to the Gardens.

Saturday, July 7th – Leaving Key West and Returning Home IMG_3460We eventually woke up around 9:00am and packed up the rest of our things. I walked into the office at the Gardens to let Jim know we needed a taxi for 11:30am to take us to the airport. I also had him reserve our return stay next year, I figured that was the best way to lessen the sadness of leaving Key West.

IMG_3461I got a hold of Zack and we decided to meet up at Sarabeth’s since it wasn’t too far from the Gardens. We were able to get a table inside which was much needed because it was another hot day. Kai also joined us for breakfast. We all kind of joked about the mugs that the coffee is served in. They are huge and take up a lot of the table and since they are so large, the coffee doesn’t stay hot that long – not sure why they serve coffee that way. We had a great time just talking for a bit. I didn’t eat too much of my breakfast because I was really sad. I always find it hard to eat the day we are leaving.

 

 

Soon it was that dreaded time to say our good byes to Zack and Kai, who are such great people and friends. I thanked Zack for everything and told them we would see them next year which seems like so far away. IMG_2941We walked back to the Gardens to grab our luggage. Right before we were leaving we saw the couple from Austria again. We thanked them for their nice gesture, and told them to have a great rest of their vacation. The taxi showed up right on time. It turned out the driver used to work at M&M Mars which is located right in the town where my husband’s auto repair shop is located (and he works on cars as well from M&M’s). We thought how ironic is that? She was really nice and made the ride back to the airport nice and pleasant.

 

Since we already had our boarding passes printed, we walked right through security which is always so quick and easy in Key West. We walked in and saw the couple from upstate New York, Lisa and Rick. They were getting ready to board so it was a quick goodbye.

We didn’t have to wait to long to board our flight. Soon it was that time to walk out to the United plane, which for some reason is always parked so far away from the terminal. It was at that point I realized I was leaving my happy place and started to get upset.

Not before long we took off and we were on our way back to Newark, NJ. The flight was a quick 2 and half hour direct flight. We actually landed a little earlier then expected, around 3:30pm. Once we landed we found our car service driver to take us back home. At around 5:00 pm we were walking in our house. The weather was just so beautiful though so it made the return easier.

I was sad but it is always nice to get back home – getting back to work on the other hand… not so much. All and all this was probably one of the most fun trips I have had in Key West. We did a lot of things that I didn’t expect and tried new places. As always, Key West always brings a smile to my face and happiness to my heart – with such amazing people we have met that have become such great friends. This is why we keep going back to Key West. There’s no other place like it. IMG_3110bUntil next time…. thank you for taking the time to read my blog!

 

 

2 thoughts on “Celebrating July 4th in Key West 6.30.18 – 7.7.18

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