It’s hard to believe that the last time I wrote on my travel blog, it was almost a year and a half ago. I don’t think anyone in their right mind thought that this pandemic was going to affect some many people, lives and especially the travel industry. Originally last year we had 3 trips planned, two to Key West and one to St. John in the US Virgin Islands, but like everything else, they were postponed.
This year I had a trip planned for the end of January but with travel quarantines still in play here in NJ, I pushed our trip to Key West to April for Easter, but again that trip had to be rescheduled. Due to the fact that vaccines were becoming more available, I changed our trip to the second week of May (with fingers crossed) hoping by that time my husband and I would be vaccinated by then and we were. FINALLY we were going back to my happy place.
Saturday, May 8th – Returning to Key West
My alarm was set to 4:30am to give myself enough time to get ready for the car service that was picking us up at 5:30am. I didn’t even need an alarm that morning. I was so excited that I woke up just after 4 in the morning and could not fall back asleep. Are we actually going to go back to Key West after all this time? I thought. With a big smile I was ready to return.
The car service was on time and we were on our way to Newark Airport. We did have to wear our masks in the car ride and also once we arrived at Newark. It was a long time to keep one on, but I didn’t mind. Whatever it would take to get back. Once we made it inside, my husband and I could not believe how busy the airport was. With the exception of everyone wearing facemasks you wouldn’t think that there was a pandemic still in play. Luckily we have TSA pre so going through security was a breeze. There were about five or six people in front of us, while the regular security line wrapped around for miles.
We had some time to spare, so we went to the United Business Lounge for a cup of coffee and a snack. I was so excited and anxious that I didn’t have much of an appetite.
It was about a half hour before boarding time so we walked down to the Gate. I saw our plane was there so I knew that was a good sign and that we would most likely be on time, which we were. I was able to get first class tickets on the way down with all the credits I had from rescheduling, etc. We boarded first and took our seats. The flight attendants were handing out sanitizer wipes to everyone.
Once everyone got onto the plane we soon made our way to the runway, but we were 10th on line for take off. I knew it was going to be a while]. I always seem to get tired at this point of every trip, right before take off. Maybe it is because it is almost a sign of relief that we made our flight. (One time I overslept and we missed our flight and had to go on a later flight and it changed our entire travel day.)
I love how United has the direct flight now from Newark to Key West. It only takes little over 2 and 1/2 hours. It is quicker to fly from NJ to Key West then taking the Key West Express Ferry from Ft. Myers to Key West. Crazy.
About a half hour had passed and we were next on line for take off. Once airborne, the captain came on the intercom and told us that even though we were a bit behind, we would still be on time for our arrival to Key West.
He was right. It was nearing 11:30am and I could begin to see all the green and blue hues below. I was so happy to see that beautiful water again. Then before I knew it I began to see Key West appear. It didn’t take long for us to descend. Once we landed we were escorted as usual on the tarmac into the airport.
Even though we had not been to Key West in almost a year and a half it felt like we were just there. Maybe since we are so familiar with the island – especially being that this was our 24th time there since our first visit in 2006.
Several other airlines had landed around the same time so there was a line to get a taxi. Thankfully the majority of the people were standing in the wrong line so they were directed to another line which we got on right away ahead of them otherwise we would have waited for a while.
We were directed to the next available taxi and we were soon on our way back to my favorite place to stay, the Gardens Hotel on Angela St. I love how the hotel is so conveniently located off of Duval and the center part of the island, but yet when you walk in it feels like a different world with all the gardens and lush vegetation.
(My review of the Gardens Hotel: https://bit.ly/3hS17l5)
Prior to our arrival, I was notified via email that we would have to spray our luggage as a precaution with the can provided in front of the entrance. We also had to wear our face masks while inside the office to check in. Our temperatures were also checked and we were all set. They did mention that the daily maid service was suspended and that if you needed fresh towels to put them in the large plastic bag provided in the room and bring the used towels to the office. Breakfast was also eliminated for the time being, but snacks were provided in the room and would be replenished free of charge if needed.
Our room wasn’t ready so we went to their large guest bathroom located near the pool to change into shorts and get rid of wearing socks and sneakers in exchange for flip flops. It is such a great feeling to do that. I noticed it was quite hot. Hotter then I expected. We had never been to Key West this time of year so I wasn’t sure what to expect. We tend to go around the 4th of July which is hot as well, but being we were having a cool start to the spring up here in NJ we weren’t used to the hot temperatures at this point.
While I was waiting for my husband to get ready I started to talking to a new bartender who was setting up the Gardens Hotel bar. Ironically he was also from NJ. Once my husband came back out and I was ready, he suggested we should stay for a drink and relax for a few minutes. I thought that was a great idea since we had been on the go all morning. We asked Greg, who was the bartender about the masks and he said that they were no longer required for walking around as of several days before we we had arrived. Some indoor places may require them and will indicate it with a sign on the door. We were so excited about not having to wear a mask while walking outside, sitting at bar, etc.
We were having a pleasant time hanging out with Greg and we were just about to head out onto Duval, when the keys to our room were dropped off. So we figured it would be best to get all our things unpacked so we didn’t have to deal with it later on.
We walked up the stairs to our Gardens Room on the second floor (which I prefer) that overlooked the grounds and fountain below. I thought to myself, this going to be our home away from home for the week and smiled.
Once everything was put away it was time to head back out on to Duval. My husband and I always joke about how you walk down the block and once you make that turn on to Duval it’s like you are officially back in Key West mode.
I knew a good friend of ours Zack Seemiller, who I have been doing artwork for him for a while now, was playing at Rick’s. My husband suggested that we would check out to see if our friend Gabriel Wright was playing at Captain Tony’s. So we walked down to Captain Tony’s and it was packed. We were able to find a few seats towards the back of the bar. We walked up to Gabriel and knocked on the plexi that they had set up in front of him. It was hard to see him but he recognized us.
Once he went on break, we talked to him for a bit before he went back to play. He played a couple of our usual requests which is alway fun. I did have to use the restrooms and all I can say is, if I wasn’t vaccinated, my mind would have been ripped with fear.
It was getting later in the afternoon and I didn’t want to miss Zack’s set, so we said our goodbyes to Gabriel and walked down to Rick’s – which is literally only a couple of minutes – if that.
We walked in and saw Zack’s son sitting with a few of his friends. He immediately saw us and came over. It was great to see him again. Zack also acknowledged us and gave us a wave. When he was done with his set he came over and I got my usual photo my husband takes us upon our arrival. We talked to him for a few and while we were I saw a familiar face, it was Ena whom I have gotten to know from my travel blog. It was nice to finally meet her.
We had dinner reservations at Lola’s which is located right behind the Gardens where the former Deuce’s Off the Hook restaurant was located. We tried dinner there the last time we were in Key West and thoroughly enjoyed it. They only have two seatings now, 6 and 8 o’clock. We choose the 6 o’clock seating, figuring after a day of travel we would be pretty tired. We said our goodbye’s to Zack and Kai said we would catch them at Kai’s show at Scotty’s the next evening.
While I was getting ready for dinner I totally forgot that we had to pick up a bottle of wine for dinner, since Lola’s is a BYOB. My husband went back out to the liquor store which is located around the corner from the hotel for a bottle of white wine.
After we were both freshened up we had a few minutes to see Greg again and have a drink. While we were chatting with Greg I saw a familiar face. Jim! Jim is the general manager at the Gardens. He has been working there for quite some time and we have become friends over the years. I even do a few ads for him here and there. He always takes cares of us too and he worked with me while I was trying to reschedule all our trips.
His sister was visiting so we also had the opportunity to meet her. We were having such a good time that we realized it was just past six. As I mentioned earlier the restaurant is right behind the hotel so it doesn’t take long to get to. While we were walking I realized my husband forgot to grab the bottle of wine that we had for dinner. So he ran back to get the wine while I walked in to secure our reservation.
I walked in and remembered how small the place is but it is a nice simple atmosphere with the open kitchen to watch the chef work his magic.
Our table was right near the entrance so my husband had no problem locating our table when he walked in. The owner’s wife I believe, came over to us to read off the chef’s selections for that evening. Last time we were there I ordered the sea scallops for dinner and they were delicious so I ordered them again, along with the fresh snapper. My husband also ordered the scallops and the filet mignon. Everything was spot on and it was a perfect ending to our first day back in Key West.
As expected, after we were done with dinner we were exhausted and thankfully had a short walk back to the room. I don’t think it took us a matter of minutes before we were both sound asleep.
My review of Lola’s: https://bit.ly/3yDDrGT
Sunday, May 9th – Latitudes, Discovering New Places, Jazz at the Gardens
I made breakfast reservations for Latitudes for 8:45am a month prior to our return, so there wasn’t much time to sleep in. Actually I couldn’t sleep in, I was too excited. Once we freshened up we walked down to Cuban Coffee Queen for two cups of Cuban American with an extra shot and cream. It is a great way to start the day. Luckily we were early enough that there wasn’t much of line.
With our coffees in hand we walked down Duval towards Opal Key (which used to be the Margaritaville resort and the Westin prior to that).
We had a few minutes to spare so we found a bench and looked at this massive yacht in the water. I wondered who could have owned such an enormous boat like that. It was very impressive.
Then I noticed a few ladies wearing their masks waiting at the dock to take the ferry over to Sunset Key. I forgot that it was mother’s day and realized that’s why they were going over for a nice breakfast. (And then I called my mom to wish her a happy mother’s day while we were waiting.) We did have our masks with us the entire trip just in case such as instances like this, that you had to wear one in the ferry.
Soon we boarded the ferry and we were on our way. It is such a quick ride, but it always reminds me back when we stayed at Caneel Bay on St. John, in the USVIs and take their ferry from St. Thomas over to St. John and vice versa.
When we arrived at Sunset Key we walked up to the restaurant.
Once we were seated outside we were able to take our masks off. We had a beautiful table overlooking the water. It felt like we weren’t in Key West anymore, but an island in the Caribbean. That’s what the appeal is to me going to Latitude’s. The food is okay but nothing spectacular, but the atmosphere speaks for itself.
We ordered a couple cocktails and breakfast.
It was a pleasant start to our first full day back in Key West.
After breakfast we took the ferry back to the dock and walked to the Gardens. It was getting hot again so I decided to keep the dress I was wearing on since it was lightweight. My husband changed and then we took a stroll around the gardens at the hotel.
We checked on the turtles and counted five of them. I remember when we first stayed at the Gardens there were only two.
Then it was time to make our way back onto the streets of Duval. We sometimes prefer to walk Simonton instead of Duval as a change and pace and less foot traffic.
We agreed that our first destination would be the Sunset Tiki Bar at the Galleon. This is one of our favorite spots to sip down a cold drink and enjoy the views. We walked in and saw a familiar face, Phil. He welcomed us back and said the first round was on him. We thanked him and sat back and enjoyed the view.
While we were talking, my husband found out from a friend on social media that someone from his hometown works at this new bar called General Horseplay. I wasn’t too familiar with the place but saw some mention of it on the TripAdvisor forum not too long ago.
Ultimately our next stop was General Horseplay. We walked in and it had the air conditioner on full blast but it felt great. The day was getting pretty hot and as I mentioned earlier we weren’t used to it. We grabbed two seats at the bar and noticed another young couple at the bar enjoying a few cocktails. The bartender gave me instructions to scan the QR code to access their menu. There was an extensive selection of craft cocktails I had no idea what to get. Then I saw a sprig of fresh herbs on the bar and it gave me the idea to order a mojito. It took a bit of time for the bartender to put together the drink, but it was probably the best mojito I have ever had. Not too sweet and not too acidic. My husband ordered I believe it was some sort of bourbon drink called a ‘Murricane’. I took a sip and it was outstanding. I thought we can get in trouble in this place.
We started talking to the couple next to us and turned out they were from Pennsylvania and the bartender was originally from New York. My husband asked him about the lady that was from his hometown that worked there, but she only works at nights. We could have stayed for another but knew that the best bet would be to move on.
My review of General Horseplay: https://bit.ly/3fEhvCU
We walked around a little more before going back to the good old Green Parrot. I was surprised to see they had the mask mandate when you walked in but no big deal. Again once you sat down you could take it off. I also noticed that the place no longer allowed smoking which made a huge difference.
While we were there I got in touch with Zack’s son Kai to stop by for a drink. I still can’t believe he is 21, I remember I first met him 5 years ago. Time does go by fast. We were planning on seeing him play at the former Rum Barrel now called Scotty’s later that evening but turned out he was playing the following Sunday not this one.
We told him we would catch him the next day at Hog’s Breath where he would be playing with his dad. We had every intention going back to the Gardens, but we then remembered how the bartender from General Horseplay mentioned that their sister bar is Mary Ellen’s right down the road across from Willie T’s. I have seen pictures of the place online with all the Christmas lights hanging from the ceiling and wanted to check it out.
It wasn’t hard to find and walked right in.
Again feeling the air conditioning was much appreciated, and normally I am someone who is always cold. We grabbed two seats at the bar and ordered a couple of beers.
The bartender immediately recognized my husband’s accent that he was from NJ. It’s funny how you can’t tell if you have an accent unless someone points it out. The bartender was also from the area so that’s probably the reason. While we were talking to him we noticed the same couple from General Horseplay walked in. What were the odds?
It turned out they were staying on Islamorada and came down to Key West for the day. They were celebrating their anniversary/ birthday I believe. We wound up hitting it off and had a great time.
Then I remembered that the Gardens Hotel usually has jazz on Sundays but wasn’t sure if they started it back up again. I wound up getting in touch with Jim and he said he would reserve a table for us. While we were talking to the other couple we asked them if they would want to check the place out and see the jazz. They wanted to check it out so we all walked to the Gardens.
Tthere was a decent amount of people sitting at tables listening to the jazz when we walked in. I went up to David who also works at the Gardens, always so pleasant, if there was a table for us and he said Jim reserved us a table but it was only for two. I felt bad and I said we had another couple with us. Within seconds David grabbed another table and placed it right in front of the jazz performers. I have never seen someone set up a table quite so fast. It was pretty funny actually. I thanked him profusely and we sat down and ordered a couple of drinks that we didn’t need. The couple was headed back up later that evening so the husband stopped drinking and had water. We probably should have done the same.
The jazz did sound great and I took a few pictures. While I was leaning over to take a picture I leaned a bit too far and wound up on my backside right in front of everyone. It wasn’t my most proudest moments but I was totally fine. Jim ran over to help me up and thankfully I only got a little scratch on my elbow.
At that point it was time for us to say our goodbyes to the sweet couple and wished safe travels back up to Islamorada. Jazz was finishing up and it was after 7:30 and we hadn’t eaten since breakfast at Latitudes. We were starving.
I didn’t have any reservations planned for that evening, but thought of checking out the Blackfin Bistro. I heard great things about it and my husband was craving a burger which they are known for. So I thought it’s not too far from the Gardens and we should be able to make it.
We did wind up making it, but after we walked passed it to about another block. I looked around and thought it couldn’t be this far. I have seen it along the way walking to La Te Da. We turned around and walked in. There were seats in the back outside, but the bar was nice and empty.
We sat down and ordered their calamari appetizer to share, and then my husband had their burger and I had their snapper special. It was the perfect choice for dinner after a long day.
With our bellies finally full, we walked back to the Gardens and crashed.
My review of the Blackfin Bistro: https://bit.ly/3bQaI8c
Monday, May 10th – La Te Da, Hog’s Breath, Prime
We tried to sleep in but couldn’t really sleep past 8 o’clock. It was another picture perfect day and didn’t want to waste it. After we freshened up we made our usual stop at Cuban Coffee Queen.
Then we wanted to head down towards La Te Da. I always like sitting at the bar and people watch. When we got there we noticed that the bar was pretty full. What a bummer, but we did find two seats on the end towards the inside of the place. We couldn’t people watch, but at least we weren’t sitting on top of anyone. As a side note, we noticed A LOT more people around on the island – more so then ever. Probably the last time we saw so many people was back when we used to visit during Spring Break in March.
For breakfast I went with their signature eggs benedict that substitutes ham with fried tomatoes and my husband had the standard american breakfast with two eggs over medium. The benedict was filling between the fried tomatoes and english muffins, but really good.
My review of La Te Da: https://bit.ly/3fixGGU
When we walked back to the Gardens my husband suggested we should relax there for a bit before going back out to see our friend Zack play at the Hog’s Breath Saloon.
We hung out for the entire show. It was a lot of fun. I even got to meet one of Zack’s friends that was also visiting at the same time Mitch and his wife. They were very pleasant to talk to.
Once Zack’s show was over we walked back to the hotel. We had dinner reservations at Prime Steakhouse and didn’t want to miss it since we heard such great things about the place and never been.
Once we freshened up, it was back out and down Simonton St. out towards the Bite. Prime is located just above Dante’s. It is kind of hidden in a way if you didn’t realize it was there.
When I initially made reservations there were only two options, the bar or outside. I had a feeling outside would be hot so I choose the bar and I was so glad I did.
We walked in and the place was beautiful. It reminded me a little like Berlin’s with the dark lighting and the leather furniture. We were seated right at the center of the bar below a big screen TV. My husband was thrilled.
Once the specials were read we placed our order. I started off with the tuna tartare and then decided on the red grouper special stuffed with crabmeat in a bernaise sauce. My husband ordered the oysters rockefeller and then the NY Strip.
Everything was spot on. The food, the service, timing, etc. I was so happy I finally took all the recommendations from people about this place.
My review of Prime: https://bit.ly/3oSHKd8
When we were done with our meals we were too full to order dessert so we made our way back to the hotel.
It was a beautiful evening.
We were always curious about this place that is located on Angela St. where our hotel is called the Sidebar. Due to the fact we had no care in the world at that point we figured why not? We walked in and it was definitely an interesting place. The stools were wrapped in tutu’s and it was decorated in a fun and festive way. The bartender was really nice and we only stayed for one.
When we walked back to the Gardens, we saw two people standing outside trying to get in and even trying to call David who is on call at night. Apparently they were having a hard time trying to enter the code to open the gate. I remembered back when we first stayed at the Gardens we had a hard time with the gate as well. Our timing couldn’t have been better. My husband opened the gate with the code and they thanked us saying we saved them.
Tuesday, May 11th – Breakfast Club Too, Smokin’ Tuna, Ramshead Southernmost (Twice)
We woke up to another beautiful day. For breakfast this morning we were going to meet Zack and his son at Breakfast Club Too. We did the usual stop first at Cuban Coffee Queen for coffee and then headed back out onto Simonton and down to Breakfast Club Too which is located on Green Street.
It was early enough in the morning that we didn’t have to wait for a table. Zack and Kai showed up shortly after we sat down. We spent the morning catching up and enjoying a nice breakfast.
After breakfast we went back to the Gardens. I knew that Zack and Caffeine Carl were playing at the Smokin’ Tuna later that afternoon and wanted to make sure we didn’t miss it. My husband suggested that we should relax for a bit. The Gardens is perfect for doing so.
Before we got too comfortable it was time to get back out and about. We wound up making a detour first and walked to Ramshead Southernmost (formerly the Blue Macaw). Basically the place looks exactly the same before Ramshead took it over. The only thing different are the signs and the menu. I always liked the vibe of this place – very island – caribbean feel to me.
We grabbed two seats at the bar and ordered a couple of beers. We were only going to stay for one but a very pleasant gentleman by the name of Spike sat down next to my husband. He began talking to us and mentioned how he was waiting for his wife who was shopping. The next thing you know we ordered another round. It wasn’t our intent but things like that happen a lot in Key West. Plus it was so nice to talk to people again.
I knew time was ticking away, so we finished up our conversation and headed back out to the Tuna. When we walked in Zack and Carl were already playing. Luckily there were seats at the bar, but the ones that were available were directly in the sun. I tried to tough it out but it was hot. My husband suggested we sit at a table and that was the best decision to make. It was still hot but not directly in the sun. There now is a covering that is connected from the bar to the stage to help with the sun. They also expanded the stage a lot so you have to be careful if you need to use the restroom facilities.
We ordered a couple of appetizers and enjoyed watching them play. While they were playing Kai showed up with their dog (Bullet). He is such an easy going cute little dog.
When the show was over I was able to get a picture of all of us and I was so excited.
Ironically Zack was playing later that night at Ramshead so we planned on going back see him play and have dinner there since we didn’t have any plans that evening.
We walked back to the Gardens to freshen up and regroup. Ramshead Southernmost isn’t far from the Gardens. Just a quick walk down Duval to Petronia.
When we got there Zack was already playing and we grabbed a couple of seats at the bar.
I ordered the “tuna boats” and my husband had the peel ‘n eat shrimp. We were planning on ordering more but I was good for the moment.
While Zack was playing friends of his, Natalie, Ron, Janice and Matt showed up. We have met Natalie and Ron before so it was nice to see them again.
We wound up having a great time talking to one another that we stayed there even after Zack’s show. In fact we closed the place. In hindsight we should have left earlier because I had planned going out with our friend Billy the next day on his boat to Snipes, but we were having so much fun.
Eventually we left and started heading back to the hotel when my husband stopped to grab us a couple of slices of pizza. At that point I was pretty hungry and it hit the spot. I can’t remember the name of the place but it is close to Angela Street. Once the slices of pizza were consumed we went back to the Gardens and called it a night.
Wednesday, May 12th – Plan B – Relaxing at the Gardens, Back at the Tuna
I was able to get in touch with our friend Billy a few days earlier and we were set to go at 10:00am He would pick us up right at the Gardens and take us to the marina. We wound up sleeping in a little figuring that we would get coffee and a couple of sandwiches at Cuban Coffee Queen for breakfast.
We didn’t bother taking showers since we were planning on going on the boat. When we arrived at Cuban Coffee Queen there was a huge long line. I was starting to think we had the wrong idea. There wasn’t enough time to wait for food so we agreed that we would just get coffee and ask Billy to stop somewhere so we can grab something for breakfast.
While we were standing there waiting, which felt like an eternity, I mentioned to my husband that I was really thirsty and that when we got to the front of the line I needed a bottle of water. A few moments later I felt very light-headed and not well that I had to sit down. Most likely a combination from the night/day before and the heat. Plus not staying hydrated enough.
My husband did finally reach the front of the line and order coffee and water. While we were sitting there I realized it probably would not be a good idea to go out on the water that day in the sun and heat. Our friends boat is more or less a fishing boat, so there is not much shade on it at all.
So I wound up getting in touch with our friend Billy to tell him the verdict. I felt terrible but he was very understanding. I told him we would make arrangements for another day but with only a few days left it unfortunately never happened.
Plan B – wound up being finding a place for breakfast. We started walking down Duval and wound up at Bagatelle’s. I tend to stay away from restaurants on Duval because of the crowds, but Bagatelle’s is always a solid choice for breakfast.
We walked up the stairs and I saw there was a table available on the porch. Nice! This is another great place to watch the world go by when you sit on the porch. For breakfast I wound up ordering an omelet while my husband had the biscuits with a sausage gravy. It looked really good, but I would need a nap after eating that.
My review of Bagatelle’s: https://bit.ly/2RCOqjp
I started feeling myself again and when we were finished with our breakfast we walked back to the Gardens. We both agreed that the best thing to do for the day was to relax by the pool.
Jumping in that pool was indeed the perfect medicine. The cold water felt wonderful. I knew that it was probably the right decision to postpone the boat trip even though I still felt awful for cancelling the trip with our friend Billy. I think I needed the time to relax and unwind instead of being on the go which we had been doing pretty much every day.
Zack was playing that afternoon at Willie T’s again but my husband suggested we should just wait until that night to see him play with Caffeine Carl and the band at the Tuna. We didn’t have plans for dinner again so I suggested that we could go to the Tuna a little earlier and try to get better seats and something to eat.
We freshened up and made our way back towards Duval.
On the way we saw that Zack was leaving at Willie T’s so we stopped by to say hello. Natalie, Ron, Janice and Matt were there as well. Another musician we like to see is John LaMere and he was setting up. Not before long he started playing and we decided to stay a bit longer and watch some of his set. It was fun to see him play again since it had been a while.
It was getting later in the evening and we were getting hungry so we walked down to the Tuna.
The band that was playing when we walked in were called Hey Monea. They were quite good.
We wound up finding two seats at the bar and low and behold was Ed and Erin (Carl’s wife) both bartending that evening. It was so nice to see them.
We ordered a couple of drinks and shared their version of jalapeno poppers which are wrapped in bacon. Anything wrapped in bacon is addictive. My husband had the shrimp basket and opted for the fish dip, which is like having tunafish salad. It was still pretty warm out and I wasn’t in the mood for something hot. When we were done eating we decided to move to one of the tables closer to the front. The bar was getting more and more crowded making even warmer.
I wasn’t feeling so great again so the table was a better option. Zack and the band came on and we watched the first set. I wanted to stay longer but I just did not feel well and couldn’t drink or get comfortable. We wound up going back to the room and getting some sleep in the cold air conditioning.
Thursday, May 13th – Seeing What’s Changed and Café Solé
I think this was the first morning we both slept in and it felt great. It was another sunny morning and I wanted to try Blue Heaven for breakfast. We never made it there during our last visit so it was on my to-do list. As usual we made our first stop to Cuban Coffee Queen. There wasn’t much of a line this time so we were able to get our coffees in a timely matter. I also brought a bottle of water with me just in case.
We walked down Duval to Petronia, passing Ramshead and then I started to see people, a lot of people standing outside the entrance to Blue Heaven. I also noticed that across the way they implemented a waiting area and a bar of some sort. We both looked at each other and thought Blue Heaven has good breakfasts but not good enough to wait an hour.
Then I thought of the Moondog Café since it is close by and they always have a solid breakfast as well as dinner. When we walked to the door we noticed the sign to wear a mask upon entering. Thank goodness we had ours with us. We could have eaten outside but the bar was empty and it was nice and cool inside.
We sat down and ordered the standard two egg breakfast. While we were waiting I was watching a young gentlemen make fresh key lime pie. It was quite impressive how quickly he was assembling them.
My review of Moondog Café: https://bit.ly/3flwOS1
After breakfast we started walking around. (Again we noticed a lot more people in Key West. Even the side roads had a lot of foot traffic. There was even a line to take the Mile 0 sign photo every time we walked by – which is now on the opposite side of the road below the end of Highway 1 sign).
I wanted to see what has changed since the last time we were there. We had not made it up towards the Bite at that point (besides going to Prime) so that’s the direction we went.
We walked down Duval all the way to Front Street. We walked by the Galleon and past where the old White Tarpon was located. Now it is a Wahlbergers. It looked so strange to see.
Then we walked by where the Boathouse used to be and now it is the White Tarpon.
We continued our walk past Schooner Wharf and Turtle Kraal which is now going to be the Boathouse which wasn’t open yet. I thought it was an odd color choice for the building but I suppose once all the doors are open it will come together nicely.
Then my husband wanted to check out the new restaurant Marylin’s located where the Dirty Pig used to be on Grinnell St. We walked in and I loved the vibe of the place. It was like an old school dinner. The young gentlemen that seated us was very charming.
We ordered a couple of drinks and looked over the menu for a potential future visit. I had reservations for Cafe Sole so I knew that evening wasn’t an option.
Our next stop was back to the Galleon Sunset Tiki Bar. As another side note, this was the first trip that we would have a full glass of water with everything drink. You had to in order to stay hydrated otherwise I would have felt like I did the previous morning.
While we were enjoying the view we saw this huge ship sail on through. It looked like something out the movie Goonies. The bartender told us the name of the ship and how it sails around but the name escapes me.
Once we were hydrated we walked down to Mallory Square. Along the way I noticed the old Rum Barrel is now called Scotty’s. It looked like it had a cool bar up top but we didn’t go in.
When we got to Mallory Square we saw the same ship docked. It was so cool to see it close up like that.
We were going to stop at El Meson De Pepe but they had the bar area closed off. I wasn’t sure if it was due to COVID restrictions or what so we kept walking.
I knew Zack was playing at Willie T’s that afternoon so we started to head back in that direction. I was thinking of stopping at Rick’s but my favorite seats (the perch) were taken so again we kept walking. Then we passed the Tree Bar and my husband recognized the bartender Ed from the Tuna so we stopped and sat down.
Ironically while we were talking to Ed, the bartender Terry knew my name. She recognized me from doing all the artwork for Zack during the past several years. It was funny. She was really nice. We didn’t expect to stop at that bar but wound up staying a bit longer (as usual) then expected talking to them and also to a couple of other people that sat down.
Eventually we said our goodbyes and made it to Willie T’s. We were able to find a table that was mostly in the shade thank goodness. They have the fans blasting there which helps, but in that sun I would overheat. We wound up getting to Zack’s show a bit later then intended but it was fun to catch him again.
Our dinner reservations were at 6:00pm so we couldn’t stay for the entire show. We told Zack we would catch him again tomorrow.
We made it back to the Gardens to get ready for dinner. On our way out I saw a familiar face. It was Kate who owns the Gardens Hotel. I redid their logo a few years ago and she was probably the easiest client that I ever worked for. It was great to see her again. That’s another reason why we love staying at the Gardens, besides it being such a beautiful place, the staff is so nice and welcoming each and every time we stay there.
It was getting close to 6:00pm so we had to book it to Cafe Sole. It’s not too far from the hotel. Just a few blocks down Simonton and a right turn onto Southard St. all the way to Frances St. and it is right on the corner. I think it is about a 3 minute walk? I remember during are earlier visits to Key West before we got our bearings straight, we would have such a hard time finding the restaurant and now it is super easy.
We were a couple of minutes late but it wasn’t an issue. I prefer sitting outside, but due to the heat we wound up sitting inside. And so was everyone else. No one was sitting outside.
We each order a nice glass of sauvignon blanc while perusing the menu. It was no surprise that my husband and I are were going to order their signature hogfish entree for dinner. I wasn’t exactly sure what to pick for my appetizer but then saw they had foie gras. I know it’s probably something I shouldn’t order but it is so decadent and thought hey I am on vacation why not? My husband went with the escargot which I was happy about because I wanted to try one.
Our appetizers came out and I was a bit disappointed with the foie gras.
It was like a hard kind of mousse in a jar served with bread. It was like eating butter. I tried to power through it but I wasn’t a fan. The figs that came with it were delicious though. Thankfully I had a couple pieces of my husband’s appetizer.
Then our entrees came out. I thought the hogfish looked a bit larger or thicker then normal but it was still delicious. I think it is that sauce that makes it. You can put that sauce on anything and it will taste wonderful. It is like a hollandaise sauce and a roasted red pepper sauce infused together.
As usual we passed on dessert and walked back to the hotel. It was still early enough that the bar was still open. Kate was also still there so we were able to chat for a few minutes before she left. She just came back from Las Vegas.
Then we walked back to our room and relaxed on our porch before turning in for the night. It was a nice way to end the evening.
Friday, May 14th – Last Full Day – Already???
We woke up and it was the first time it was cloudy. It was a welcomed surprise because it kept the temperature down. After our usual stop for coffee we wanted to try Blue Heaven again. It was before 9 o’clock this time so we thought there shouldn’t be much of a wait. We were wrong. As we were nearing the entrance you could see all the people already waiting. What the??? I guess you have to get there right when they open now.
We turned around and started walking back to Duval passing Ramshead. We could have eaten there but it was also packed. Then I remembered the restaurant Azur is usually nice and quiet since it is off the beaten path. I checked my phone and it wasn’t too far of a walk for us.
When we arrived at Azur, they too had the mask requirement and thankfully we still had our masks with us. We walked in and sat inside. During breakfast we were contemplating our game plan for the day. I didn’t have anything planned and didn’t want to go back to the hotel since it was our last day. So after another good breakfast at Azur we set out to walk around again.
My review of Azur: https://bit.ly/34kssUR
We wanted to stop by and see Al at the Sunset Pier since we had not seen him in a while. We walked down to check out the beach at the end of Simonton St., but the weather at the time didn’t make it look too inviting.
We made it to Mallory Square to look around and do some shopping.
The skies were starting to clear again but it was still comfortable enough to head over to Sunset Pier to see Al.
It was nice to see him again. We ordered a couple of drinks and water and listened to the live music.
I wasn’t sure who he was but he was pretty good. He played a lot of music from the 90s which is my genre of choice.
Zack was playing again at Willie T’s so that was going to be our next move. Along the way we checked to see if Gabriel Wright was playing at Captain Tony’s but it was someone else so we kept on walking.
My husband was getting hungry so we walking into Jack Flat’s for something to eat. We always say to each other how something always happens sports related while we are away. Unfortunately the last time it was when Kobe Bryant perished in that horrific helicopter crash. Another time was when Jason Pierre-Paul (former NY Giant) shot off his hand with fireworks (and we are Giant fans). This time the big news was Tim Tebow returning to football as a TE to the Jaguars.
While we were sitting at Jack Flat’s we were trying to figure out where to eat dinner. I was thinking Blue Heaven, but forget that if you are a party under 6 you can’t make a reservation and with our past luck I didn’t want to chance having to wait a while.
We always enjoyed Martin’s for Happy Hour but when we walked by there the other day going to La Te Da, we checked out the menu and it looked very enticing. With not much hope of them having anything available I called. When I called they said they did have availability at 6:30. I thought perfect.
When we were done we walked just a few steps down to Willie T’s to see Zack. We found a table again in the shade thank goodness. While we were waiting for our drinks from the server, two people started shouting out my husband’s name. I am thinking to myself who are these people? It turned out they are customers of my husband’s. (He owns an auto repair garage with his brother back here in NJ). What a small world we all thought. So of course we had to sit together and stayed longer then planned.
It was nearing our reservation time so we had to get moving. We said goodbye to my husband’s customers and walked down to Martin’s.
Usually we sit at the bar for Happy Hour, but it was such a nice change to sit outside in the back of the restaurant. It wasn’t too hot and our table was perfect.
For dinner my husband had the beef wellington and I had the black grouper. I don’t think we could have done much better for our last dinner in Key West.
My review of Martin’s: https://bit.ly/3ujeHAx
Zack was playing with Carl again that night so we went back to the hotel to freshen up. We made it back to the Tuna and it was packed. We were able to find two seats at the corner of the bar. We did manage to make it until the first set break, but the day started to catch up with us. I knew that tomorrow was going to be a long one with it being a travel day and all.
So we left and walked back down to Duval to Angela St. and to the Gardens.
Saturday – May 15th – Going Home
Earlier in the week we had made plans with Zack and his son to have breakfast before we left. It has become sort of a tradition going to Sarabeth’s for our last meal. It makes it a nice way to end our trip.
I got up first to get ready and started putting things back into the luggage. I love packing for trips, but despise unpacking. Once my husband was ready we made our last stop at Cuban Coffee Queen and met Zack and Kai at Sarabeth’s. After breakfast we said our goodbye’s.
We went back to the Garden’s to finish gathering up all our belongings. Our flight was scheduled at 12:45pm so I had the front desk arrange for a taxi to pick us up at 11:15am. We grabbed our luggage and made that walk of woe through the Gardens and to the front to wait for our taxi.
While we were waiting there was another couple there who were also going to the airport. And the gentleman mentioned how we don’t recognize them, but they were the couple that my husband helped to get in when they couldn’t open the gate. We all laughed about it. It was funny. It made the ride back to the airport more enjoyable.
Checking in through security was a breeze and our flight left on time. However once we got to cruising altitude there was a loud bang that happened causing the plane to move so much that the flight attendant standing almost fell. Then she sat back in her seat. We had no idea what happened.
Moments later (which felt like eternity) the captain comes on the intercom and explained to us that it was a clean air pocket of turbulence that it was unexpected and that everything was under control. He also said that we would be experiencing more pockets of turbulence throughout the flight. He was right. The entire flight was so bumpy that I couldn’t sleep but we did make it back to Newark International Airport safely and on time.
Our car service was waiting for us to take us home and before we knew it we were back home by 5:30pm.
This was a very special trip for me. I was a bit apprehensive about traveling and not knowing what to expect, but definitely being fully vaccinated eased both of our concerns.
I feel so lucky that after the year we had we were fortunate enough to return to my happy place. Key West continues to hold a special place in my heart with its beauty, warm people and great friends.
Thanks for taking the time to read my blog…..
Until next time!