Originally my husband and I were planning on returning to St. John in the US Virgin Islands for our annual October Trip, however with the testing (even though we are vaccinated) and not being able to go to the British Virgin Islands I decided to postpone our trip another year. I contacted the villa company and they were very accommodating. So I (of course) suggested that we go back to Key West. I was aware that it was the same time as Fantasy Fest but was always curious about it. Plus I wanted to see some events, like the Zombie Bike Ride, the Parade, etc. And figured we could always avoid certain events. Luckily I was able to book a room for the week at our favorite place, the Gardens Hotel.
You can read my review of the Gardens Hotel here: https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g34345-d227346-Reviews-The_Gardens_Hotel-Key_West_Florida_Keys_Florida.html
As our departure date was nearing, I found out that most of the large events for Fantasy Fest that I wanted to see were canceled. I was a bit disappointed but then thought how it was probably for the best with COVID and less people would be visiting Key West during that time. However, little did I know there were still many people planning on coming down to participate in Fantasy Fest even though there were only smaller events still scheduled. I had no idea what to expect.
Saturday – Oct. 23 – Arrival Day
A few months prior I registered my husband and I for Clear®. https://www.united.com/ual/en/us/fly/mileageplus/clear.html
Last time we were at Newark-Liberty Airport, the lines were crazy, even in the TSA Pre line which we do have. After our car service dropped us off at Terminal C, we walked up to the Clear Entrance and up to the kiosk. The TSA agent asked us if we had our eyes scanned yet, etc. and we hadn’t. So we had to leave the line and then go to another area of kiosks where there was another TSA agent standing by to assist with the process. It wound up not being an easy process, at least for me. I went up to the kiosk first. First you had your finger prints scanned, followed by a picture taken. Then you had to enter in your address which was fine. Then a series of questions came up. One of them for me, was the age of my mom. Mind you it was 6 am and I only had one cup of coffee, plus I was nervous not wanting to answer anything wrong. Then I selected the age range and got it wrong. My husband standing behind me even said something, but I hit the submit button already. So I failed. I had to start the process all over again. Then the TSA agent said that if I failed again then I wouldn’t be able to finish the registration process until 24 hours after. Thankfully the second series of questions didn’t require any math and were pretty easy. Of course when it was my husband’s turn, the questions that they asked him were super simple. In the end we both were able to get enrolled in Clear.
Relieved, we walked back to the Clear line. I think there were just a several people ahead of us, while the TSA Pre line had a long line. When we walked up to the kiosk the TSA agent instructed us to look into the machine where they scanned our eyes and then had to place our hands on the platform so the machine could recognize our finger prints. It took only a couple of seconds and once we got the green light we walked through to the security check-in. Next time will be a lot less stressful since we now just go up to the Clear line.
Our direct flight on United left on time (a little after 9am) and about after 2 and a half hours I was able to start to see the Keys below. This time our seats were on the left side of the plane so I wasn’t able to take a photo of Key West when we got close to land.
We landed just a bit after 12:30 and it is always such a wonderful feeling to walk off the plane and feel the sun and warmth on your face. When we walked outside to grab a taxi there was a long line, but thankfully it moved in a timely matter. The taxi ride to the Gardens was a little longer than usual. This was due to construction going on, once you exit the airport you have to make a left turn (you cannot go right). I didn’t mind so much. It was a different way where you could see different things that I normally have never seen, like the high school.
Once we arrived at the Gardens we had to wait to check-in since another guest was in the office. I was so antsy to get to our room, that the wait felt like an eternity. Eventually the guest left and we were able to check-in. Due to the fact it was our 26 time staying at the Gardens, yes 26 times, check-in was quick. Our room was ready so we grabbed our carry-on and the box of toiletries I had shipped directly to the hotel.
After we unpacked all our things and changed into shorts and flip-flops, we walked down the stairs and past the bar. As we were walking by, we recognized the bartender from our July trip. It was Phil! He gave us a warm hello with a big smile. So we wound up sitting down at the bar for a welcome beverage. Plus I think I needed to unwind after the flight down and the Clear enrollment process. It was entertaining talking to Phil for a bit. He even shared his ability to blow a conch shell.
Feeling a bit more at ease it was time to make our usual first walk down Duval Street.
Here is a video I took of us walking down Duval St. https://youtu.be/dQKWOS8mXmU
I knew Zack Seemiller was playing at Rick’s so I wanted to be sure to say hello before he was done for the afternoon. We walked down Duval Street to Ricks. At this point there were not many people that I saw dressed up for Fantasy Fest. All looked normal on Duval Street. We walked in and Zack immediately recognized us. We watched his last set and afterwards talked to him for a few minutes before making our next stop.
I made dinner reservations at Red Shoe Bistro which is located not too far from the Gardens Hotel. During our last trip in July we dined there for our last dinner and were quite impressed. We still had some time, so I know my husband wanted to check out General Horseplay. When we walked in it wasn’t too crowded so we were able to sit at the bar.
It was a warm day so the air conditioning felt good at first. We each ordered the drink we remembered from last time that we thoroughly enjoyed called the murricane. It is made with bourbon which I normally never touch, but the way they infuse the flavors in this particular craft cocktail make it taste really good. They are dangerous – since you cannot taste the alcohol at all.
Before started to get too comfortable, we made the wise decision to pay our tab and head back to the Gardens Hotel to freshen up for dinner. The Red Shoe Bistro is located right down Petronia St.
Our reservations were for 6pm, right when they open up so when we walked in there was just one other table. We decided to sit at the bar just for more room. One of the owners came up to us and told us the specials for the evening. One of the items that intrigued my husband was the beef stroganoff with fresh pasta. So of course he wound up ordering that for his main meal and decided to go with the fish of the day which I believe was snapper, but I could be mistaken. Regardless it was delicious. We each started with the caesar salad which was served with the romaine lettuce left whole and grilled. It was an interesting twist for a typical salad that most restaurants offer. It was really good. When we were finished with our meals we both started feeling the travel day. Sometimes we would go out to the Smokin’ Tuna afterwards, but instead we walked back to the Gardens.
You can read my full review here: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g34345-d21141783-r817434184-Red_Shoe_Island_Bistro-Key_West_Florida_Keys_Florida.html
The Garden’s bar was still open so we sat down. While we were talking to the bartender Phil, there was a nice lady sitting by herself. She introduced herself (Julie) and mentioned how she was waiting for her husband to fly in the next day. He got held up with work back in Nashville so she flew down first by herself. Turns out she was staying right next to us at the Gardens. She was so sweet and friendly. We talked to her for a bit before turning in for the night.
Sunday – Oct. 24 – Galleon Sunset Tiki Bar, Garden of Eden, Bel Mare
When I first woke up that morning for a split second I thought I was home, but then realized I was in my happy place, Key West. Feeling revived from a good night sleep, we both freshened up for breakfast. As usual, our first stop was Cuban Coffee Queen for a couple cups of their cuban american coffee with an extra shot.
With our coffees in hand, we walked down to La Te Da. I wasn’t sure if it was going to be crowded since it was the weekend (Sunday), but luckily when we walked in the bar area was more or less open. We sat down on the end near the street. For breakfast I just had the standard american breakfast. (As a side note, La Te Da serves three eggs instead of the typical two). My husband had their scrambled eggs with their infamous caramelized black pepper bacon.
The breakfast came out in a timely matter and everything was delicious and hot. Nothing frustrates me more is being served a cold meal. It was a nice way to start our day. I didn’t really have anything planned besides dinner at Bel Mare up at the Bight later that evening.
The weather was on the overcast side so it wasn’t a ‘relax by the pool’ sort of day. We decided to walk around and see where the day will takes us. Ultimately we wound up down on Front St. and walked to the Sunset Tiki Bar at the Galleon.
We walked in and noticed that the side facing the water had a couple of ladies sitting where we normally like to sit, but there was room for us to sit beside them. Our friend Ramsey was bartending so it was nice to see her. We were talking to her when we saw Phil (who owns the Sunset Tiki Bar).
He told us that in about a half hour there was going to be a big group of people coming in for some sort of event but wanted us to stay. He even bought us a round of drinks and even the two ladies next to us. We both looked at each other and thought well I guess we will stay. We started talking to the two ladies Mo and Kristen. They were from Minnesota, but Mo recently moved to Tampa. I mentioned to them how I work for a company based in Minnesota. They were on a girls only vacation without their significant others.
While we were talking to them, another familiar face stopped by Dave. He used to work at the Sunset Tiki Bar and that is how we met him. Ironically he is from New Jersey like us.
As time passed, we started to notice people walking into the bar. Not before long it, the place was packed. A couple sat down next to us and began talking to my husband. I also joined in on the conversation with them in between talking to Mo and Kristen. Then we found out that the event was indeed a swingers event?! Okay then. We all kind of laughed about it and Mo and Kristen asked us if we ever have been to the Garden of Eden. And the answer of course from my husband and I was no. We had never been up there before nor have I ever wanted to after coming down to Key West for over 15 years. However I was always a little bit curious.
After a bit of convincing from the ladies we decided why not? It’s Fantasy Fest so we were going to see a lot more things going on throughout the week. We saddled up our tab with Ramsey and walked down Duval to the Garden of Eden. I noticed that there were definitely more people walking around then earlier. Also I started to see people with body paint, some with costumes on, and some with not so much on.
We made it to the Garden of Eden and started walking up the stairs. I kept thinking to myself, I can’t believe I am doing this. I have no idea what to expect. Thankfully I had a few cups of courage in me so I wasn’t going to stop now. We walked all the way up to the top roof of the Bull. It was a whirlwind of what I saw. There a mix of both men and women hanging out at the bar and standing around. Some were clothed and some were not. I kept trying not to stare and look else where. The view of the town up top was actually really impressive. You can’t take pictures there for obvious reasons. After the initial shock we got a couple of drinks. We stayed long enough for just one drink before walking back down the stairs, and no, none of us disrobed at the Garden of Eden. At least now I can say been there seen that, or should I say unseen that.
There was a couple of guys playing music down at the Bull that sounded pretty good. We grabbed a couple of seats at the bar and talked about what we just experienced. We couldn’t stop laughing. We were having such a great time, but I knew that we should probably head back to the Gardens and relax for a bit before freshening up for dinner.
Sadly Kristen and Mo were leaving the following day but suggested that they could join us for breakfast the next morning. I suggested Bagatelle’s since it was sort of in the middle of where they were staying and where we were staying. We said our goodbye’s and thanked them for a great time.
On our way back to the Garden’s I wanted to stop by Margaritaville. Kai, Zack Seemiller’s son recently started working there. As we walked by, there he was. I knew he was busy working, but wanted to say hello and get a quick picture with him. I told him that we plan on having breakfast with him and his dad on Tuesday if we didn’t get to see him again before then.
We made it back to the Gardens and their Sunday Jazz was in full swing. I completely forgot about it and wanted to listen to the music before going back out to dinner. While we were grabbing a few drinks at the bar, I noticed Kate, the owner of the Gardens. I walked on over and said hello. She is always so sweet and pleasant. Of course I had to get a picture with her and her little dog. She welcomed my husband and I back to the Gardens like she always does when we get the opportunity to run into her.
It was getting close to our reservation that we didn’t have time to change or freshen up. Thank goodness most of Key West has a casual dress code for dinner. We had to hustle down Simonton St. to the Bight. We were a little late to Bel Mare, but it wasn’t too busy so honestly we probably didn’t need a dinner reservation.
We were seated near the window and the sun was setting. The view was nice of the boats in the dock below.
Our server was a young girl in training but she did a fantastic job. I (for some reason) was craving caesar salad throughout this trip so I ordered the caesar salad. Plus Bel Mare is an Italian restaurant which tend to have very good caesar salads.
My husband ordered the carne cruda, which was a filet of rare beef tenderloin served over a bed of arugula and cherry tomatoes, served with a grapeseed oil and soy dressing. I normally do not eat red meat, but it looked so good that I tried a piece and it was so tender and flavorful.
For dinner I had the Chef’s special piccata, which was wahoo.
My husband had the pappardelle with Key West pink shrimp. Everything was outstanding and really enjoyed trying Bel Mare. We tend to stay away from Italian restaurants on vacation (being from NJ there is an Italian restaurant on practically every corner). However after having dinner there, I would make that exception again to return when we come back.
We were both too full to have dessert so we walked off our dinner back to the Gardens to turn in. It was a long and interesting day to say the least.
Monday – Oct. 25 – Bagatelle’s, Hogsbreath, Boathouse
I We woke up to another overcast sky, but didn’t mind too much since it kept the heat down while walking around. After a quick shower we went down to Cuban Coffee Queen for coffee before walking down Duval to Bagatelle’s.
The streets were oddly quiet. The thing I realized during Fantasy Fest, most of the participating crowd stayed out late making the mornings quiet. In a way it was great because we never had to wait to be seated at breakfast like back in July.
We made it to Bagatelle’s and walked up the stairs to see the hostess. She asked us where we would like to be seated, but my husband wanted to sit at the back bar outside. So that is where we wound up. It was fine, especially being that we were expecting two more people to join us. I did get a text from Mo that they would be a little later so we wound up ordering ahead. I ordered the southern eggs benedict with pulled pork and my husband ordered the regular standard two egg breakfast.
While we were waiting for our breakfast we saw Mo and Kristen walk in. They didn’t see us so I got up and showed them that we were sitting in the back. It was nice to see them before they had to leave. They sat at the bar with us and ordered a couple of drinks. We started talking about yesterdays events. Then our food came out. All I have to say, whomever came up with the combination of using pulled pork and grilled corn bread to replace the usual country ham and english muffins is a genius. It was delicious. Unfortunately though, very filling so I couldn’t finish it. Mo and Kristen weren’t hungry so we tried to figure out where to go next. They usually go to Sloppy Joe’s for their final drink, but being it was getting late Mo thought it would be too crowded. (Thank goodness because I really didn’t feel like going there.)
Then I mentioned that our friend Zack Seemiller will be playing soon at Hogsbreath which is literally across the street. So it was decided that that’s where are next stop would be. It was just before noon so I was hoping for good seats at the bar, but of course when we walked over they were already taken. There were seats open at the raw bar so we sat there. We ordered a round and after a few minutes the seats at the regular bar opened up. I was so excited that I made everyone move. No one seemed to mind, plus I wanted to see Stephanie who was bartending at that bar instead of the guy at the Raw Bar.
Soon Zack showed up and we spent the afternoon having a great time between listening to the music and talking to Mo and Kristen. Unfortunately Kristen did have to leave since her flight was in the afternoon. We said good our goodbyes and wished her safe travels.
I also reached out to a friend of Zack’s, Zoltan who I recently did some artwork for several weeks prior. Instead of paying me through Paypal, I thought it would just be easier to do in person since we were coming down within a few weeks. He agreed to meet me at Hogsbreath. It was nice to meet him in person and he was able to hang out and talk to my husband and I for a little bit. And ironically it was his birthday.
Once Zack was done I had to make sure I get my usual picture with him.
After Zack’s show, Mo suggested that we should go to the Boathouse. Yes the Boathouse finally opened up in the old Turtle Kraal location. We walked in and the bar was packed. We were fortune it enough though to find a couple of open seats at the bar. And as a side note I don’t think the one bartender was wearing anything under her little skirt.
Mo and my husband ordered a bunch appetizers to share but I still wasn’t hungry after eating the benedict earlier. The food did look great however. Then it was the time that Mo had to leave and catch her flight back to Tampa. I always hate saying goodbye to friends you just met and also ones you have known for years. We told her we would stay and touch.
I didn’t have anything else planned that evening so we walked back down to the Gardens to wind down and relax. We saw Phil was still bartending at the Garden’s bar so we sat down. Julie was there again so we talked to her again for a little bit before calling it a night. She told us that her husband Brent was flying down the next day and that we had to meet him.
Tuesday – Oct. 26 – Breakfast Club Too, Smokin’ Tuna, Ramhead’s Southernmost
Finally we woke up to a gorgeous sunny day. It definitely made it warmer but I it felt great. I knew that once we get back home to NJ, winter is on its way so any warm/hot day is better then a cold/snowy one. We made tentative plans to meet Zack and his son Kai at Breakfast Club Too for breakfast. After a couple of quick showers, we made our first stop at Cuban Coffee Queen and then walked down Simonton. Again the streets were pretty quiet.
We walked into Breakfast Club Too to wait for them. We didn’t wait too long and soon Zack and Kai showed up. We were seated right away since it wasn’t crowded at all. It was a nice morning talking and catching up.
We thanked Zack for breakfast and walked back to the Gardens to relax for a little while. Zack was playing later that afternoon with Caffeine Carl at the Smokin’ Tuna. I remember we saw them play back in July and it was a nice change instead of seeing them play with band so I wanted to make it a point to stop in and see them.
After relaxing for a bit on our porch at the Gardens we rallied up and walked down Simonton St. We figured since it was getting later in the day, Duval St. was probably getting more crowded. Shockingly (I know) we wound up walking down to the Galleon and back to the Sunset Tiki Bar. It just seems to be one of those places we gravitate towards. It is never gets crowded (besides for that swingers party) and it is so nice to sit there and look out onto the water.
I didn’t want to stay too long so we could catch Zack and Carl at the Tuna. So after a couple of drinks we walked down Duval. We both noticed a lot more people out and about. Many were dressed up or not dressed so to speak, but in body paint. Also I remembered that it was Tutu Tuesday, so obviously there were a lot of people wearing tutu’s.
We made it to the Tuna and found a couple open seats at the bar. Zack and Carl were already playing, but after they were done with the song they were doing, Carl said hello and welcomed us back “home” which brought a smile to my face. During the show, we observed more and more people walking in.
They were all dressed up for Fantasy Fest. I almost felt out of place wearing regular clothes. It was still fun enjoying the show. I did get a message from one of Zack’s friends that we became friends with as well, Wayne. We saw him briefly back in July. It turned out that he was going to be having dinner with his wife Karen at Ramshead Southernmost. So we told him that we would meet them later. When Zack and Carl were down with their show, I wanted to get my usual picture with them. And then I realized Carl was wearing a tutu too!
Also while we were enjoying them play, a gentlemen came up to us. He said he recognized us from my blog. He mentioned how much he enjoys it, I thought that was so nice.
We had some time before meeting Wayne and Karen so we walked back down Duval to the Gardens. When we walked passed the bar I heard a familiar “hello Susan”. It was Kate, the owner. I wound up sitting down next to her and chatted for a bit I waited for my husband to freshen up. Then it was my turn to get ready. When I walked back down I saw my husband talking to Julie and her husband Brent, finally showed up. It was nice to finally meet him. We talked to them for a few and mentioned if they enjoy music to see our friend Zack and Caffeine Carl play the following night at the Tuna. They were interested and we made plans that we would meet up with them.
It was nearing the time to meet Wayne and Karen at Ramshead so I headed down towards Ramshead while my husband finished talking to Julie and Brent and also squared up the bill with Phil.
I walked in and saw that Wayne and Karen were sitting at a table towards the front. Zack was also playing so it was fun to see him again. Soon my husband showed up as well. Wayne and Karen recently completed their newly built home up the Keys. It was nice to hear about how they were adjusting to life in the Keys coming from New York. We had a pleasant evening talking to them and the good thing about where Ramshead is located, it was very subdude as far as Fantasy Fest people. Actually when Zack finished his show, the place cleared out. I think we were the only table left at the place. Wayne and Karen had to drive back up the Keys so we said good night and that we would catch up again when we hopefully return in several months.
On our way back to the Gardens my husband stopped and suggested that we grab a slice a pizza. I realized that neither of us had eaten anything since breakfast. We each had a slice and realized that one slice wasn’t going to be enough. My husband ordered a few more slices for us to take back to the room.
We walked back to our room and I devoured 2 more slices of pizza. While I was devouring the pizza, we heard two familiar voices walking up the stairs and it was Brent and Julie. They were returning from dinner and as I mentioned earlier their room was around the corner from ours. As a result, we hung out for a little bit talking and telling each other about what we did that day.
I was getting tired, mostly likely from eating all that pizza so I called it a night. I am not sure how much later my husband hung out with them but I feel asleep right away.
Wednesday – Oct. 26 – The Lighthouse, Willie T’s, and a Night Out & About
It was another beautiful morning. I was still feeling all that pizza I ate the night before, so I wanted to go somewhere for breakfast that had a decent walk. Then I thought of Azur. After grabbing our cuban coffee queen coffees, we walked down to Azur. It is one of those out of the way places but always has consistently good food.
We walked and chose to sit inside instead of outside. It was a pleasant and quiet way to start the day being the only two in the room. My husband ordered the all american standard breakfast as usual, but I went out of the box and ordered a chicken caesar salad. It sounds weird, but Azur offers lunch options as well for breakfast. I guess they consider it brunch everyday starting at 9am. I was tired of eggs every morning that it surprisingly tasted quite good for breakfast. When we were finished with breakfast I suggested that we walk down to the lighthouse. I always curious about checking it out. The lighthouse is located right across the street from the Hemingway House and close to the Moondog Cafe.
We walked down Whitehead Street and there it was. I noticed a few people were already up the lighthouse. It was $17 per person but agreed that it was something different to do. Once we paid the elderly man at the window we walked towards the lighthouse. There was a sign that said it was 88 steps to get up and thought no problem.
We began the climb up the spiral staircase, but we started to hear people coming down the stairs. And there was not much room for two people to pass on this spiral staircase. I was getting a little apprehensive as they neared. We were able to maneuver where the couple stayed towards the inside of the stairs and we stayed towards the outside. Eventually they were able to get by us.
Of course several more turns up the stairs there was a platform for people to pass one another. All well, we made it all the way up to the top. We walked out to the balcony and it was so narrow. If someone was standing on one side, it was hard to pass behind them. For some reason I started to feel uncomfortable. I basically took a few pictures (afraid I was going to drop my phone down below) and had enough. I normally don’t have any issues being up high, but I think it was because the area was so small. It was beautiful don’t get me wrong and I was glad that we did give it try.
We made it back down to ground level and took few picture before checking out the little museum which was the old keeper’s quarters. It was really interesting to read the history of the lighthouse and how important they were to the Keys.
We left the lighthouse and started walking down Whitehead Street and noticed our legs were a bit fatigued from walking up and down the stairs. I was caught of guard because I run 4 miles a day, but we were probably using different muscles in our legs that we were used to going up and down those stairs.
In the mood for a cold beverage, we stopped Mary Ellen’s for one. Last time we were there we couldn’t get a seat at the bar. This time there was just two other people in there. I do have to say if you are hot from walking around and need a place to cool off, this is the place. At first it feels good, but after a while it’s a bit much (for me). I was getting cold and couldn’t even finish my beer before we headed back out.
Zack was playing at Willie T’s later on so I wanted to be sure we would see him. We wound up going back to the Gardens to relax for a bit before going back out to Willie T’s.
We walked into Willie T’s and it was pretty busy. I wanted to sit at a table but the one that was available was right in the sun so we grabbed a couple of seats at the bar. I noticed the servers were dressed up and a few patrons, but it wasn’t too crazy.
We were such a good time, that we stayed to see John LaMere after Zack. My husband ordered a couple of appetizers for us. We couldn’t stay too long because we were planning on seeing Zack and Caffeine Carl at the Tuna with Brent and Julie that night. Before getting into too much trouble, we said goodbye to John and walked back down to the Gardens to regroup.
Feeling recharged after freshening up we grabbed a couple of seats at the Gardens Bar. Not before long, we see Brent and Julie. They were ready to go. I was excited for them to see Zack and Carl. We walked down Duval St. and it was starting to get crazy and crowded.
It was around 8pm, but we figured if we arrived at the Tuna early we could get good seats. Well I was wrong. We walked down to the Tuna and noticed a lot of people dressed up standing outside. I walked in and the place was mobbed. And then there was some kind of event going on. Then I remembered reading that there was a homemade bikini contest of some sort going on at the Tuna that night that I completely forgot about. I reached out to Zack and Carl and they said they had no idea when they would be going on. I thought this is just great.
Then my husband remembered he reached out to Gabriel Wright earlier that day to see when he was playing, and suggested going to Captain Tony’s to see him play. So we left the Tuna and walked to Captain Tony’s. However, it was the same thing. Mobs of people standing outside. I walked in just to see what was going on and the guy at the door said it was open to everyone. I ran back outside and told my husband that we could go in since it’s not a private event.
So we walked in and saw the area that normally has the pool tables had several tables in their place. Luckily there was one available for us to grab, because the bar area was crazy. We sat down amongst the craziness. While my husband went to get us a round, I walked up to say hello to Gabriel. His wife who was also there filming his show.
Gabriel as usual played a couple of songs that my husband and I always request him to play. We stayed for a few before heading back out since his show was coming to an end. I was glad we were able to catch him, since the next time he was playing at Captain Tony’s was on Saturday and that’s when we were leaving.
We made it back onto to Duval and it was crazier then before. I don’t know if it was less people then normal or not for Fantasy Fest, but I had nothing to compare it too since we had never been had experienced it before. After a while seeing all these people, you almost get used to it. No one bothers you and everyone is having a good time.
We made it through the crowds and walked down to General Horseplay. I probably could have called it a night at that point, but my husband took a liking to this place and wanted Brent and Julie to check it out. Again we walked in and it was crowded, but low and behold there was one table available. We sat down and ordered a round. Ironically the server was from the same county that my husband live in, in NJ.
There was also a band playing in the back outside. I could here them while we were sitting inside so I went to check them out. They were playing a lot of 90s alternative rock which I really enjoy so I sat out there for a few. It is actually a pretty cool set up, the way they have the stage out in the back. There were a bunch of people there, but no one was on top one another.
The night was getting late and it was time to get back to the Gardens.
We all managed to get back to the Gardens together. We thanked them for a great time. I also mentioned how not all is lost, Zack and Carl play on Friday night so we can try again. And with that note we called it a night.
Thursday – Oct. 27 – Moondog Cafe, Willie T’s, Prime, Margaritaville
I woke up starving since I didn’t have much to eat the previous day. We hadn’t been to Moondog Cafe yet so we decided to go there. As a side note, Blue Heaven was closed during our stay. Apparently they had some construction going on during their usual time they close (September) but I guess things took longer, so we heard sometime in November they would open.
We freshened up and walked down to Cuban Coffee Queen for much needed coffee. Thankfully there wasn’t much of a wait. Then we headed down to the Moondog Cafe. When we walked in all the seats at the counter/bar were taken (that’s where we prefer to sit). Then the hostess asked us if we would like to sit inside or out. The inside looked pretty busy so I said the outside.
However, it was not the outside area in the front like I was thinking, but the back. I thought we are going to be forgotten out there, but after we sat down and gave our order, more people were seated out in the back. I definitely prefer the counter but it was okay for what it was. I decided to go with the veggie eggs benedict which were delicious and my husband had the standard american breakfast with two fried eggs.
The Moondog Cafe always is a solid choice for breakfast. I usually try to order something different each time we go and never have been disappointed, besides their huervos rancheros. They are good, but they serve it deconstructed style, which I am not a fan of.
When we were done with our breakfast we went back to the Gardens to relax for a bit. Zack was playing again at Willie T’s so as usual I wanted to stop and see him again. We had dinner at Prime that evening so I knew we couldn’t stay for the entire show.
After spending some down time relaxing at the Gardens we headed back out onto Duval. There were more people out and about then the previous days. We made it to Willie T’s and all the tables were taken. Then I noticed a couple leaving so I grabbed the table as soon as they left before someone else did. Plus it was a table in the shade which was key.
Zack was already playing, so we ordered a couple of drinks and listened to him play. While he was playing I looked around and noticed that the wait staff were topless with body paint on top. At first it was a bit uncomfortable but then after a while I began to get used to it. At one point even some guy asked me to take a picture of the one waitstaff with him. I was like really? Okay no problem I guess. More and more people were walking in with costumes on and body paint.
We stayed until about 4:30 and were also able to see Kai before he went to work at Margaritaville. We then walked back to the Gardens to freshen up for dinner. Revived once again with showers we walked back out on to Simonton to avoid the craziness of Duval.
Our reservation was at 6pm so I figured Prime wouldn’t be too busy at that time. We walked in and we were seated at the bar (which I did reserve ahead of time).
We sat down and started perusing the menu. The bartender told us the specials. There was some sort of pasta special that sounded amazing, but I decided to go with their catch the day special which was tilefish. For starters, I went with the escargot and my husband ordered the oysters on the half shell. He then ordered their NY Strip as the main meal with a side of fries. I also ordered a side of the garlicky creamed spinach.
While we were waiting for our food to be prepared, my husband mentioned how there was this gentlemen at the end of bar talking extremely loud and throwing out the “f” bomb. At first I didn’t notice him, but once he pointed it out I couldn’t get his voice out of my head. As the evening went on he just kept going and going.
Our appetizers arrived and I couldn’t believe the amount of snails on the plate. Usually escargot is served with maybe 6 to 9 snails? Anyway they were delicious. My husband’s oysters were also delicious. We wound up sharing each other’s appetizers because there was so much.
Then our entrees arrived. My husband loved his sirloin. I even tried a little piece and it melted in your mouth. My tilefish on the other hand was not as good. The crabmeat stuffing and hollandaise/bernaise sauce (can’t remember which one it was but they are so similar) was outstanding, but the fish itself was lack luster. I thought to myself, I should have ordered the pasta special. Plus I saw another patron next to my husband at the bar having the pasta and it looked really good.
When we finished our meals I thought it would be nice to order a couple glasses of port. While I was looking over the dessert menu, my husband finally had enough with the loud and obnoxious man at the end of the bar. He stood up and basically told him to keep his voice down and we are paying the same amount as him and we were trying to have a nice and enjoyable dinner. Surprisingly the man apologized and kept his voice down for the rest of the evening. Even the bartender and the people next to us thanked my husband for saying something.
Once we finished our port it was time to go back to the Gardens. We walked out through the back where you can see the pool at Dante’s below, which always looks so pretty at night.
We told Kai earlier that we would stop by and see him at work. So we wound up walking down Duval. Having to dodge the crowds walking down the street, we finally made it to Margaritaville. We hadn’t been in Margaritaville in years, so when we walked in, it looked so much smaller to me. Even the stage.
We saw Kai and grabbed a couple seats at the bar. I really didn’t need another beverage at that point, but thought hey I am in Margaritaville, have a margarita. It was actually fun to be back. It reminded me of our very first visit back in March of 2006, when we had to stop at Margaritaville for a drink and I thought how cool it was.
We talked to Kai for a couple of minutes before walking back to the Gardens. When we left I saw the Strand building / Walgreens was lit up. I am not sure if the sign always looked like that but it looked brand new to me? Maybe I never noticed it before.
We made it back to the Gardens and sat out on the porch for a few minutes. While we were sitting outside, Brent and Julie were also returning from dinner. So we wound up talking to them for a few before going to sleep. I mentioned that we were going to La Te Da for breakfast and would love it if they would join us. So we agreed that we would have breakfast the following morning. Then it as time to get some sleep.
Friday – Oct. 28 – Last Full Day (Always arrives way too fast)
We woke up to another beautiful day. I couldn’t believe it was our last full day already. That always seems to happen. The beginning of the trip it feels like you have all eternity before actually thinking of leaving. And then within a few days it is already the last day.
My husband got ready first and then it was my turn. While I was getting ready I heard my husband talking to Julie and Brent outside so I had to speed it up because I didn’t want them to wait too long for me. Once I was ready we all walked down to La Te Da. This was our first morning we didn’t go to Cuban Coffee Queen. It is a little bit out of the way and figured we would just wait to have coffee at La Te Da.
I noticed the a few day earlier walking down Duval to La Te Da some places really went all out with the Halloween decorations so I made sure I took a few along the way. Funny because Brent mentioned how I take so many pictures, but I told him how I do a blog and take a lot of pictures to help me remember what we do each day instead of trying to write it while we are on the trip.
We walked into La Te Da and it was more crowded then the other day probably because we were a little later in the morning. Plus it was Friday and more people were coming in for the weekend. We wound up sitting at one the tables towards the back which was fine. Ironically, besides my husband, we all ordered the same thing. The standard breakfast with scrambled eggs. It was a nice breakfast talking to Brent and Julie. They were bumming out that we were leaving the next day but joked around saying how we’ll be back in January and maybe we could meet up again then.
After breakfast we walked back to the Gardens and told them we would meet up with them later at the Smokin’ Tuna for our last night. Being it was our last full day I wanted to do some shopping. First we started packing most of things for the next day, before heading back out to Duval.
We wound up walking around Mallory Square. I was trying to find the sign from our last trip “My happy place”. I know it was a bit pricey but regretted not getting the sign during our last trip. Unfortunately I couldn’t find it. There were a few things I would have purchased, like Christmas ornaments, but I didn’t feel like walking around with a bag.
Our next stop was back to the Sunset Tiki Bar at the Galleon. Ramsey was working again so it was nice to catch her before leaving town the next day. We talked for a bit and I even showed her some logo ideas I had for the Sunset Tiki Bar that I sent to the owner Phil. It would be pretty awesome if they wound up using one in the future, but we’ll see.
It was time to move to our next stop, so we said our goodbyes to Ramsey. I was a bit bummed that Zack wasn’t playing at Willie T’s that afternoon so we decided to hit a place we had not been to yet and that was Hank’s.
There was a guy playing the guitar outside that was pretty good. We walked in and sat at the bar. It’s a shame we didn’t go there earlier in the trip because I really enjoyed the atmosphere. We only had one drink before walking back down to the Gardens to relax for a bit before going back out that evening.
When we walked back we recognized a few fellow guests that we ran into throughout the week so we sat down and talked to them for a bit.
We made our last trek down Duval St. to the Tuna. When we walked in there were two girls performing that sounded really good.
Soon Caffeine Carl showed up along with Zack and the rest of the band. I also noticed more and more people were coming in all dressed up in costumes, and again some without costumes (clothing). We timed it right so when we were done with dinner the band was just about to start.
Of course once they started everyone started dancing and a few people were standing right in front of our table watching. So I couldn’t see anything. So much for getting seats at a table for a great view. In hind sight it probably would have been better to sit at the bar.
You can see the video here: https://youtu.be/a1ABcpFiDB4
We said goodbye and told him we would meet up for our usual last breakfast together at Sarabeth’s with Kai. Then it was time to make that last walk down Duval to the Gardens. The road was packed with people, especially being that it was a Friday night. Parts of Duval were even closed off so people could walk down the street. It was definitely a sight to see for our last night.
We managed to make it back to our room and get some sleep.
Saturday – Oct. 30 – Going Back Home
Our flight was a little earlier then normal, at 12:15pm so we didn’t have too much time. After we both freshened up, I started packing up the rest of our things. Soon it was time to head down to Sarabeth’s for breakfast. There was a little wait but since we picked inside we were seated right away. I prefer the inside rather then the outside. They redid the interior part of the restaurant and it looks really nice. We all ordered breakfast and had a nice time before having to say goodbye.
Once we said our goodbyes we walked back to the Gardens. We only had about another 30 minutes to spare before the taxi was scheduled to pick us up.
Just as we were heading out to leave, we ran into Julie. She told us how after dinner they weren’t up going after. We said no problem and we were glad we were able to catch her and say goodbye.
We grabbed all our things and did the walk of woe to the front of the hotel. I dropped off our keys and soon we were on our way back to the airport.
We probably gave ourselves a little too much time before the flight but since we did, we were able to find a nice place to sit at the gate. The airport wasn’t as nearly as crowded back in July. Our flight was scheduled to leave on time but right before we were going to board, the United ticket agent came on the intercom explaining they over sold the flight and would need volunteers to give up their seats for a voucher of $1200. No one was budging. And they said how we couldn’t leave unless they got volunteers.
I thought we were going to be stuck there for a while, but eventually the agent came on the intercom again and said that they checked and were mistaken that the weight of the plane is fine for takeoff. So it was not oversold, they thought that the plane was going to be too heavy with all the passengers and luggage.
So we wound up boarding and leaving right on time. The flight was a quick 2 and 1/2 hours with minimal turbulence. I pretty much slept most of the way.
Key West continues to be a special place for me not just because of its beauty and charm, but most importantly, it is also filled with amazing people and great friends that we have made along the way. Thanks again for taking the time to read my blog…. until next time!