Spring Break in Key West April, 15 – 22, 2023

It felt like I just finished writing my trip report from January and now we were headed back to Key West again. I think it was because we had a milder winter making the season feel shorter then usual. Easter fell on April 8th this year and I originally booked our trip for the week after Easter like we normally due. However, our friends Brent and Julie were staying the week after us, so I wound up calling up the Gardens Hotel and they were able to adjust the dates for us. So this was the first time we weren’t spending Easter in Key West for the past couple of years. I didn’t mind because we were able to spend it with my family. Plus I figured that Key West would be quieter after the Easter Break since many schools are closed that week.

Saturday, April 15th – Arrival Day 

Unfortunately United changed our normal 9:30am direct flight to Key West to 10:36am, making our arrival time not until 2pm. The only positive was that my husband and I were able to sleep in a little. I set our alarm for 6:00am and it came quickly. We freshened up and soon our car service was parked outside our house. It was actually a very mild morning so neither of us wore a jacket. The day before we wound up hitting 90 degrees. It was a bit odd for April. Traffic wasn’t an issue so we made it in just under an hour to Newark – Liberty International Airport.

When we were dropped off, we walked down to the TSA Pre check point and noticed it was empty. Of course there were people there, but really there weren’t anymore then maybe 10-15 people waiting to get through security. I thought maybe since we were a little later in the morning then we normally are could be why. And the line for Clear was also non-existent. We walked right through security within a couple of minutes. The United Club Lounge in Terminal C was still under construction so we walked to our go-to restaurant for breakfast. I knew we had a snack option on the plane, but I knew it wasn’t going to be much of meal so I wanted to make sure we had something to eat.

We sat down at the bar and I had to reset my password log in since I forgot it when I was trying to order our breakfast through their phone app. Eventually I was able to order our breakfast and a couple of cocktails. $150 later we were served our drinks and breakfast. It actually was quite good, but what they charge at these airport restaurants is ridiculous. 

I checked my phone and got the alert that our flight would be boarding soon. So we grabbed all our luggage and walked to the gate. Not before long, the United ticket agent called Group One to board. That was us, so we got in line and boarded right away. The excitement of returning to Key West was finally starting to set in. I always get so worried about flight delays and whatnot, that I try not to get too excited until we are on the plane.

Once everyone boarded the plane, we waited for a little bit before we left the gate, which is typical at Newark airport with all the air traffic. It was already after 11:00am and I thought we were going to get into Key West even later. Finally the captain gave the call that we were about to take off.

After about two hours, I began to see the blue and green hues of the water once we left the coast of Florida. It always amazes me to see the colors and the Keys below no matter how many times I have seen it. I looked at my phone and saw that we would probably be in Key West as scheduled. I guess they made up the time in the sky. 

Then I saw Key West come into sight. I took my phone and thought to record the landing. I never thought to do it before, but I figured why not? I was able to capture how the plane flies past Key West and comes back around to land.  https://youtu.be/J85BLfOacyQ

Once we landed, I noticed several other flights that just arrived as well. I thought oh great, we are going to have to wait in a long line for a taxi. When we got the go ahead to exit the plane, we were the first ones off. As soon as we walked out onto the ramp, I could immediately feel the humidity. It was warm but felt great. The last time we were in Key West, back in January, I remember walking out and feeling that cold wind ripping right through me. So this was a nice change.

We were escorted around through all the construction going on at the airport. Supposedly it is going to be completed by October of next year, which hopefully will be a huge improvement, especially for departing flights. We walked into the tiny airport and saw a bunch of people waiting at the baggage claim. Being that we had only carry-on, like we always do, we walked right past them and back outside to the taxi line. To my surprise there was no one waiting. So we walked right up to the first taxi waiting in line.

My husband told the driver that we were going to the Gardens Hotel on Angela St. – which comes to no surprise since we have been staying there every time we visit Key West since 2006. This marked our 29th time. Sometimes we get drivers that don’t talk, talk too much or somewhere in between. Our driver was so friendly. It was nice to talk to him on our way to the hotel.

As we drove along A1A I could see some of the sargassum washed up along the beach. I thought to myself, how bad is it going to be in a few more months with that gigantic blog headed towards Key West. Thankfully there wasn’t much of a smell, yet.

Soon I could see the familiar yellow wall that surrounds the Gardens Hotel property. It always makes me happy when I see it. Since we have been coming down for so many times, it has almost become a second home to us. We have become quite friendly with the entire staff, making us feel so welcome.

You can read my review of the Gardens Hotel here: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g34345-d227346-r888101343-The_Gardens_Hotel-Key_West_Florida_Keys_Florida.html

We grabbed our luggage out of the taxi and thanked the driver. We walked up the stairs and saw that there was a couple checking in. As we were dropping off bags in the reception area, my husband got a text from Brent and Julie that they were out by the pool. I told my husband I would wait to check in and that he didn’t have to wait for me.

While I was waiting for the couple to finish up, my husband came back letting me know he ran into one of the staff that opened the door to the room we were staying in. So he grabbed all our things and brought them to the room. I thought wow that’s awesome! Finally the couple left and I was able to check in. Obviously I don’t need to hear about the hotel, the amenities, etc. so check-in is always a pretty brief experience. 

Once we were all checked in and given the keys I walked out through the back towards the pool area where my husband was joined with Brent and Julie. I gave them both big hugs. It was so great to see them again. Phil was bartending at the bar so it was a fun little reunion. It was getting closer to 3pm so we figured we would unwind for a bit before going out for the evening. Plus when you have such a beautiful backdrop it is difficult to pull oneself away from it.

Brent and Julie had dinner reservations at 6pm at A&B Lobster House that evening so we figured that we would walk with them up towards the Bight and find somewhere to eat, like the White Tarpon for instance. We all went back to our rooms to freshen up before returning back to the pool bar. We thanked Phil for the drinks and conversation and headed out onto Simonton St. 

It felt strange not making that first right onto Duval, but I figured we have all week to do that. It was a beautiful evening and the sun was shining. It was a bit humid but I didn’t mind. We walked up to the Bight and noticed that many of the restaurants were pretty crowded. Then we realized it was just past happy hour making a bit challenging to find a place to eat. Brent and Julie went up the stairs to A&B and we told them we would meet them after at the Smokin’ Tuna for some music. We walked down to the White Tarpon and there were no seats to be found. 

We kept walking and even Walburger’s was crowded – not that I wanted to have a burger. My husband suggested then that maybe we should just walk down to the Tuna and grab something there for dinner since we were going to wind up there anyway.

So we walked down to Duval and down the back way onto Green St. We walked in and like everywhere else, the Tuna was packed. Luckily the newly added on back outside area was nearly empty. We asked one of the servers if it was okay to sit there and order something to eat and she said it wasn’t a problem. 

At this point we were both quite hungry since the last time we had something to eat was at the airport. We ordered a couple of appetizers and then one of our go to items there at the Tuna, the blackened mahi mahi over caesar salad. We didn’t have to wait very long for our food to come out. Everything tasted really good and it hit the spot. 

Once we were done with dinner, the affects of a travel day started to kick in. I was getting really tired and so was my husband. I really wanted to stay out but I just wasn’t feeling it. We texted Brent and Julie and they were pretty tired as well. (They also arrived the same day) So we agreed that we would just meet back at the Gardens for a night cap.

We paid our tab and walked down Duval to Angela St. to the Gardens. Phil was still at the pool bar, so we grabbed a cocktail and walked over to the gazebo. Brent and Julie soon arrived and joined us. It was nice evening to just kick back and enjoy each other’s company.

Eventually we all retired to our rooms and made plans to have breakfast at La Te Da the next morning.

Sunday, April 16th – First Full Day 

We woke up to a beautiful April morning. The humidity didn’t seem to feel as much as the day before. We both freshened up and waited for Brent and Julie at the gazebo. Once they arrived, we walked out onto Simonton down to Truman and made a left onto Duval. When we arrived at La Te Da, I noticed the two tables where we ate last time were open. The host came up to us and we asked if we could set at the two tables and he said of course. We each ordered something to drink while he mentioned what the omelet of the day was. 

Brent and Julie decided to go with the omelet of the day and my husband ordered the eggs benedict La Te Da. I have ordered them before and it is quite tasty with the breaded tomatoes instead of the typical canadian bacon. I didn’t feel like something super heavy so I ordered the scrambled eggs with green onions and sour cream.

There was a nice breeze as we waited for our breakfast and watched the people walk by down Duval. We were talking about what are plans were for the day, but we really didn’t have any. Brent and Julie were planning on relaxing by the Gardens for the day, but I wanted to walk around after breakfast.

Our breakfast came out in a timely matter and everything was delicious and hot. There’s nothing that can ruin a meal then if it is served cold.

When we were done with breakfast we all walked back to the Gardens. I had to brush my teeth before going back out for the day. We told Brent and Julie we would catch up with them later.

My husband and I walked back onto Simonton, but this time headed towards Front. St. We both wanted to stop at the Galleon Sunset Tiki Bar. It has become our go-to stop while we are in Key West. You just can’t beat the view. We walked down to Front St. and soon we could see the large A&B Lobster House sign at the end of the road. 

We made our way around the Galleon and to the tiki bar. Since it was a Sunday, the bar had a bunch of people already sitting in the seats we prefer. It wasn’t a big deal, so we grabbed a couple of seats on the other side. Ramsey was working and she welcomed us back to Key West. It was nice to see her again. We chatted for a few while we both ordered a couple of Deep Eddy Sweet Tea with water and lemon.

Then we saw another familiar face, Phil the manager of the Sunset Tiki Bar. It was good to see him too again. While we were talking we ordered another round and I was starting to feel pretty good. The sun was shining and we were having fun catching up with everyone. We decided to have one more round before making our next move.

Then it was time to tab out and we asked Ramsey for the check. We thanked her and told her we would see her later on in the week, if not sooner.

We walked back down Front St. to Duval. We were planning going back to the Gardens to relax for a bit, but along the way I saw the Tree Bar next to Rick’s. Unfortunately Tracy wasn’t working but I saw two empty seats at the bar. The thought of having a couple of vodka and fresh squeezed orange juice sounded like a good idea to me. We walked on over and sat down. We ordered a couple of drinks and I noticed there wasn’t much orange juice in them. I didn’t think anything of it as we started talking to nice couple sitting next to me. We talked for a while and ordered another round. 

We were having a fun time and also ran into John LaMere (a musician in Key West who we see play from time to time at Willie T’s) who was walking around on his day off with his girlfriend. I also saw Big Ed stop by, the bartender from the Smokin’ Tuna. I waved hello as we were still talking to that couple. Then we wound up ordering another round which wasn’t a good idea. 

We wound up pulling ourselves away from the Tree Bar and make our way back to the Gardens. Then I saw the Margaritaville Store come into view. I told my husband I wanted to go in and see what new merchandise they had – not that I could really tell what I was looking at. Somehow I found a shirt for myself and my sister that I liked. I wound up going to the counter and made the purchase.

With my shirts in tow, we made it back to the Gardens hotel. We walked up the stairs to our room and all of a sudden everything hit me. I told my husband that I need to lay down. I couldn’t even think about going back out that evening.

The next think I knew it was 9:30 in the evening and my husband came back with some food from Old Towne Mexican. He wound up going out to dinner with Brent and Julie that evening while I was asleep. I was so hungry that I think I finished everything that was in the to-go container. I felt better but also disgusted with myself for sleeping the rest of the day / evening away. I wanted to see Jazz, have a nice dinner, etc. However, that never happened. After 29 times coming down to Key West, this was the first time that ever happened to me. And I thought to myself, I won’t let that happen ever again.

After I ate all the chicken fajitas my husband brought back, I relaxed for a little bit on the porch, but it didn’t take me very long to go back inside and back to sleep. 

Monday, April 17th – Latitudes, Hogsbreath, Lola’s & the Smokin’ Tuna

My husband first got up to take a shower, while I was still trying to gather myself from the day before. I took a couple of Advil which made me feel a lot better. A few months ago, Julie booked breakfast reservations at Latitudes for us. After a much needed shower, I was ready to make the walk down Duval to the Opal Resort to catch the water taxi to Latitudes. 

We all grabbed a cup of coffee at the Gardens before walking down Duval St. I apologized for not being able to have dinner with them the night before, but we all agreed it happens. It is Key West after all. As we made our way, I noticed the humidity had dropped quite a bit. Julie mentioned there was a storm over night but I didn’t hear it. The storm probably pushed out the humidity. It was a little brisk out when the wind blew. 

We made it to the Opal resort and noticed a cruise ship that was docked. It was hard not to notice it, because the ship itself was enormous. I recognized the logo on the ship and it was Royal Caribbean. As we waited for the water taxi to arrive, we watched all the passengers walk out from the ship. I only was on a cruise ship when I was a teenager with my family, coincidentally it was Royal Caribbean, and I was not found of it. I felt that you were rushed when you arrived at each island. I prefer not to have such a strict schedule and enjoy doing things that you didn’t even plan. Like I always say, the best plans in Key West are no plans.

Finally we saw the water taxi appear out of the shadow of the cruise ship. Once the taxi docked, we were escorted onto the little boat. Our reservations were for 9:45am so there were quite a few people on the boat. Nearly all the seats were filled both inside and outside.

It is always a quick ride over to Sunset Key. The water looked beautiful when we walked off the boat onto the pier.

The hostess sat us at table outside. I think it was the same table we tend to get when the four of us dine together at Latitudes. Everyone ordered some sort of egg dish for breakfast. I wound going with the usual eggs over medium with sausage and whole wheat toast.

It was a nice way to start the day having breakfast at Latitudes. There was a little bit of a cool breeze, but the sun felt great.

By the time we got back to the Opal Resort it was nearing 12:00pm. I knew our friend Zack Seemiller was playing at Hogsbreath and wanted to catch some of his show. Brent and Julie also wanted to go, so we walked down to Hogsbreath. It was just about noon and all the seats were taken at the bar, except for a couple on the side. My husband was able to grab a couple of stools so we were able to all sit together. It wasn’t the most ideal location, since I was sitting right by the service station.

Once Zack showed up I noticed a few seats opened up at the end of the bar where we usually sit. We grabbed all our things and we were able to enjoy the music in a much better location. We all said hello to Zack and wound up staying for a bit. Brent and Julie wanted to go back to the Gardens, but my husband and I stayed a little bit longer.

We didn’t stay too long because we had dinner reservations at Lola’s later that evening. Julie booked the 6pm seating so we said good bye to Zack and walked down Duval to the Gardens. I saw the Tree Bar as we walked by and I thought to myself, definitely not stopping there again.

When we got back to the Gardens we had some time to relax for a little while before freshening up for dinner. It was getting close to 6pm, so we walked out the back of the Gardens onto Simonton. Lola’s is located a stones throw away so within minutes we were at the front of the restaurant. People were already waiting outside for the restaurant to open. 

Soon one of the owners opened the door and began reading people’s names.

Then we heard Julie’s name called and it was our turn to be seated. Lola’s is very small, but they seated us at a nice 4 top. She then told us what selections were on the menu for the evening. The item that caught my ear was the roasted artichoke hearts and the black grouper. She gave us a few minutes before returning to ask what our choices were going to be. I can’t exactly remember what everyone ordered, but I went with the artichoke hearts and the black grouper. My husband ordered their homemade gnocchi to start followed by the filet mignon.

Our first little course came out, which is more or less an amuse bouche consisting of sautéed white beans, along side a little toasted slice of baguette with a slice of tomato and mozzarella. I joked saying these are the only vegetables we are going to get all evening. (Most of the entrees served tend to not include vegetables). 

After our first course all our appetizers arrived. My husband’s gnocchi looked delicious and my artichoke hearts were so tender and went so well with the tomato sauce.

Usually there is a bit of a wait between courses, but it is to be expected since it is just one chef cooking everyone’s meals. Plus it gives us time to talk about our day and what we want to do the next day. Brent was actually going to play at the Smokin’ Tuna that evening with the Myles Mancuso Band. 

When our entrees came out I was starving. Everyone’s dishes smelled amazing and looked wonderful. My black grouper was delicious and my husband could not help but finish his entire filet mignon. 

You can read my full review here: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g34345-d19247202-r888583235-Lola_s_Bistro-Key_West_Florida_Keys_Florida.html

 I thought to myself, how will I be able to stay up after this meal? However after we were done at Lola’s, we made a quick stop at the Gardens before walking back out to the Tuna. The walk down Duval was just what the doctor ordered. The walk helped digest all that wonderful food. When we walked in to the Tuna, we were able to find a table available near the stage which was perfect.

Cliff Cody was finishing up his set. Once he was done he came over to say hello to Brent and Julie.

When Myles showed up, Brent went up on the stage to set up for the show. Soon the lights were lowered and it was time for the show. I was feeling better and had some energy from all that food.

We wound up staying for the entire show and it felt like it went by in a flash. It was so much fun. https://youtu.be/-6xXgtExwLo

After the show we waited for Brent and we talked to Myles for a little bit and his girlfriend. Ironically they are both from New York – Brooklyn I believe. They were planning on leaving Key West later on that week and make a stop in Nashville to see Brent and Julie before going back to New York. I was glad we were able to see Myles play before he was leaving.

It was a long day and we were ready to go back to the Gardens. I think by the time we made it back to the Gardens it was pretty late – maybe 1am? Regardless, I was ready to get some sleep.

Tuesday, April 18th – Harpoon Harry’s, Smokin’ Tuna, Blue Heaven and the Salty Frog

We wound up sleeping in a little since we were up late the night before. It was another beautiful sunny morning. After we both freshened up we decided to go to Harpoon Harry’s for breakfast. We had not been there in a quite some time and thought that it would be a nice change. Plus it is very reasonable which is few and far between in Key West lately.

Again the weather was beautiful to walk around. Before going to Harpoon Harry’s, we made a quick stop at Cuban Coffee Queen for their cuban american coffee.

Then we walked back onto Simonton all the way to Caroline. 

When we walked in to Harpoon Harry’s we were seated right away. I remember the last time we went, it was so crowded that we didn’t even bother waiting. We each ordered a cup of coffee (even though we already had the coffee from Cuban Coffee Queen and finished it along the way) why looking over the menu. I had to go with their grits. I have had them there before and I really enjoyed them. So I decided to go with a couple of over medium eggs and grits. My husband did the same. While we were waiting for our order I just looked around the place. Harpoon Harry’s has that old school Jersey diner vibe which I enjoy being from New Jersery. 

Our order arrived pretty quickly and we thanked our server. As usual the breakfast wasn’t fancy, but it was very good which is what you expect at Harpoon Harry’s. When we were finished with our breakfast, my husband reached out to Brent and Julie. They mentioned that they wanted to meet us at the Sunset Tiki Bar when we were all done. 

While we were walking along the Bight we did hear back from them saying that they would meet us at the Galleon in about a half hour or so. This gave us some time to walk around and do some shopping. I went over to the gift shop at the Conch Republic Seafood Company aka. the Conch Farm, to check out their latest arrivals. I find that their shirt designs are done quite well. I walked in and looked around for a few minutes and then saw this blue t-shirt with a hogfish on it. It was one of those super soft t-shirts you could actually sleep in. Then I looked at the price and it was $36. For a t-shirt?? Short sleeved mind you – I did think about it for a moment and thought, why not? You’re on vacation, but then the thought of carrying around the shirt made the decision for me. 

We walked out of the shop and back along the water. As we walked by the White Tarpon I saw that they were just opening up. I really wish they would do breakfast again. It was such a nice option for breakfast – plus I really enjoyed their B.L.T. 

When we got to the Sunset Tiki Bar, there were already a bunch of people sitting at the bar. Luckily, there were just enough seats for the 4 of us. Brent and Julie weren’t there yet, so we ordered a couple of drinks why we waited. Not before long they showed up. It’s funny how so many people are unaware of the Sunset Tiki Bar at the Galleon, thinking it is only open to hotel guests, but it is open to the public. In a way I am glad that many people don’t know, because that’s what makes it so enjoyable – no crowds and a beautiful water view.

I looked at the time and noticed it was getting close to 1pm. I wanted to be sure to catch Caffeine Carl and Zack Seemiller at the Smokin’ Tuna for their afternoon show. Brent and Julie also wanted to go, so we finished up our drinks and made our move down towards Duval. 

Again we went the back way to the Tuna, avoiding some of the crowds of people walking along Duval. You would think the week after Easter it would be quite, but I don’t think there really is a down time in Key West anymore. Maybe late Summer? I am not really sure.

We walked into the Tuna where Carl and Zack were setting up. We all said hello and grabbed a table near the stage. The bartender Phil was working and recognized us right away. Everyone ordered something to drink and I was thinking about ordering an appetizer of some sort, but I made reservations at Blue Heaven for 6pm and wanted to make sure I would be hungry. Brent and Julie ordered some thing to eat since they really didn’t have any breakfast. 

Then the music started. It was such a nice afternoon. Seeing Carl and Zack perform together without the band is a favorite of mine. When they went on break we thought it would be a good time to get back to the Gardens to relax for a little bit before dinner.

We said our goodbyes and walked back down Duval to Angela. When we walked back to the Gardens, Alan was working at the pool bar. We waved hello and grabbed a couple of seats at the bar. Brent and Julie went back to their room to get ready for dinner. I felt fine so I didn’t bother changing (unlike when we are in Key West in July – two showers a day is highly recommended). My husband went to the room to change and soon he was back out by the bar. I looked at the time and I couldn’t believe it was almost 6pm. How did that happen?

Soon Brent and Julie joined us at the bar and it was time to walk down to Blue Heaven. The temperature cooled down a little making it a comfortable evening to dine outside. 

We arrived at Blue Heaven and I gave the hostess my name. We were seated at a nice table when our server came over to take our drink order. 

Surprisingly it wasn’t that crowded – not like it is for breakfast. I was impressed last time with the miso eggplant salad, so I ordered it again. For my main meal I ordered something vegetarian – called the macrobowl. It isn’t something I would normally order, but it just sounded good and I felt like something different.

Our first courses came out and when I saw my salad, I noticed the portion wasn’t the same as last time. The eggplant was probably half the size and the plate was small. I could have sworn last time that the salad was served on a regular size plate, but I could be wrong. It still tasted delicious. Then my “macrobowl” arrived. Wow it was tasty – I looked up on the menu and it consisted of: sautéed quinoa, roasted sweet potatoes, avocado, spinach, wakame seaweed, pickled onion, roasted red pepper tahini dressing, finished with house kim chi and local sprouts. There was a lot going on, but it all worked. My husband and Julie had the filet mignon and Brent had the yellowtail snapper.

You can read my full review here: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g34345-d447631-r888584211-Blue_Heaven-Key_West_Florida_Keys_Florida.html

Everyone enjoyed their meal and we didn’t have room for dessert. So we finished up  and started walking back towards the Gardens, but then I remembered that our other friend Gabriel Wright was playing at the Salty Frog that night. Our last trip we never got to see him, so I wanted to make it a point to stop by. 

Brent and Julie wanted to go back to the Gardens for a  bit before deciding what  to do. We told them that we would reach out once we got to the Salty Frog. So my husband and I walked all  the way down to near Mallory Square where the Salty Frog is located. Since it was almost 9pm most of the dinner crowded was gone. Gabriel was playing towards the back, so I sat down at a table closer to where he was playing while my husband grabbed us a couple of drinks from the bar.

Gabriel acknowledged us and then of course played my usual song request, Hard Sun by Eddie Vedder. https://youtu.be/OWIQFyyRZ4Q

We were both tired, but I was glad that we made it out to see him. We stayed until he finished his set and talked for a few minutes before headed out. He did mention he was playing at the Salty Frog again that Thursday so we told him we would try and stop by again.

While we were walking back towards the Gardens, my husband received a text from Julie telling us that she was at the Tuna hanging out with Cliff Cody’s girlfriend, Elizabeth, watching Myles Mancuso play with the Honky Tonk band – I think that’s what they were called? At this point I just wanted to get back to the Gardens, but it was along the way and we agreed why not check out another band we have never heard or seen before?

We walked down Duval, this time to Charles St. and walked in the regular way. Even though it was a Tuesday night, the place was crowded – again. We found Julie who had grabbed a table near the stage. We sat down and stayed for a couple of songs. The band was surprisingly quite entertaining and it was fun to see Myles play with another band.

It was getting late and it was time to get back to the Gardens. Julie was also ready to go, so we said goodbye to everyone and walked down Duval to the Gardens. 

When we got back to the Gardens, I thought it was another late night, but it was only 10:30pm? It did feel like a long day however. We said good night to Julie and planned to meet for breakfast at Ramshead Southernmost the next morning.

Wednesday, April 19th – Ramshead Southernmost, Viva Argentinian Steakhouse, and the Smokin’ Tuna

It was another picture perfect day to wake up to. We both freshened up as usual and met Brent and Julie in the courtyard at the Gardens. I grabbed a cup of coffee before I could walk down to Ramshead. It wasn’t a far walk but I needed some caffeine to get me going.

We made the short walk down to Ramshead Southernmost. We had to wait a few minutes since there were a few people ahead of us, which I was surprised to see. We were a little later in the morning so that was probably the reason. 

Then it was our turn to be seated. Unfortunately we were seated at a table right behind the small bar that sits right in front of the entrance way. There was some sort of funky smell – perhaps from the vents or the draining system. I wasn’t quite sure but I did not want to say anything if no one else seemed to mind.

I had no idea what to order and was getting to the point where I felt like something other then eggs. However, most of the items on the menu were eggs and a sweet breakfast is always out of the question for me, since I don’t have much of a sweet tooth – especially for breakfast. Then I saw the egg scramble on top of tater tots. Ever since I saw that Domino’s commercial where they are offering loaded tots, it gave me a craving so I decided why not?

Julie and my husband decided to partake in the bloody mary bar. Brent and I passed on the opportunity. I wish I liked bloody marys. They look so good, but I am not a fan of tomato juice. I do love tomato sauce, fresh Jersey tomatoes and soup, but that’s where my love for tomatoes end. 

While Julie and my husband were creating their bloody mary masterpieces, our server brought out our food. I couldn’t believe how fast it was. I was quite hungry at this point so I started to dig in before everyone returned to the table. Then I stopped. While the tater tots looked good, they were stone cold. I tried getting around them and eat the egg scramble nestled in between them, but they weren’t really hot either. Everyone else ordered omelets and had no issues. So again I didn’t want to be the only one saying anything or complain about it. 

When everyone was done, we all agreed we would go back to the Gardens for a little while. Then my husband and I decided to head back out go to our usual place, the Sunset Tiki Bar.

We walked along Simonton down to  Front St. The sun was shining and it was another beautiful day.

We walked into the Tiki Bar and it was nice and quiet. Candace was bartending so it was nice to see her and talk for a bit. I wanted to go see Zack and Carl play that night at the Smokin’ Tuna so I wanted to make sure to take it easy that day. 

We thanked Candace for the drinks and walked around back to the Gardens. Brent and Julie were relaxing by the pool when we walked back. We wound up hanging out by the pool that afternoon. We talked about where we should go for dinner. We thought about going to Viva Argentinian Steakhouse. We have walked past it numerous times and were always curious about it. Plus one of my husband’s customer’s nephew help build the outside tiki bar that they now have. So I made a reservation through Open Table for the 4 of us at the bar.

We spent rest of the afternoon just hanging around the pool and having a couple of drinks at the bar. The weather was perfect to do so. Then it came time to get freshened up for dinner. We all met back up at the Gardens bar and walked out onto Duval. Viva is fairly close to the Gardens (before La Te Da).

We walked in and saw the huge new tiki bar, but it was packed with people. There was someone at the hostess stand and I told him that we had reservations at the bar. He looked at the bar and then back to us, and said that maybe we would prefer a table in the back. 

We all agreed that it would probably be a better option since there was no way we were going to find 4 seats together at the bar. We were seated at table sort of in the middle of the outside area, near a band that was getting ready to play. 

Our server came over and took our drink order – he was really nice. I saw that they had sangria and ordered a glass of red sangria, and everyone else followed suit. The menu itself had some interesting options for an Argentinian steakhouse. I myself don’t eat red meat, maybe once in a blue moon, but I decided to go with the eggplant parmigiana. To start I ordered the salmon ceviche, while my husband ordered the chorizo and mushroom appetizer followed by the NY strip. Julie ordered the salmon and I think Brent ordered a steak as well.

After we placed our orders, the band started to play. They were entertaining and it made for a festive experience, however during a song, one of the musicians turned a speaker around and it was pointed right at us. We could not hear ourselves even breathe. We asked the server if we could move and there was a table further in the back that was available so he said it was fine. We grabbed our drinks and sat in the back where it was a lot better as far as the sound.

Then our appetizers soon came out. My salmon ceviche surprisingly was quite good. My husband’s chorizo and mushroom appetizer was interesting – I tried one. Julie and Brent both went with salads which you really can’t go wrong with. 

We were all done with our appetizers and our entrees were served. I saw the eggplant and I was a bit disappointed. I prefer eggplant sliced thin, but these were like two hockey pucks. I cut into one and thankfully they were tender and not under cooked. My husband’s steak unfortunately was cold. Julie and Brent thought their entrees were okay, but not great. I have read very positive reviews for Viva, maybe it was an off night and/or maybe if we sat inside maybe the experience would have been better? 

You can read my full review here: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g34345-d8493900-r888586150-Viva_Argentinian_Steakhouse-Key_West_Florida_Keys_Florida.html

When we were all done, we walked back down Duval to the Smokin’ Tuna to see Caffeine Carl and the Buzz with Zack singing the lead. We walked in and Cliff Cody was finishing his set. When he was done he came over to say hello along with his girlfriend.

Then we saw Carl and Zack who began setting up for the show. We all ordered a couple of drinks and settled in for the evening. It was a typical night at the Tuna with good music and drinks. I also saw Big Ed was bartending along  with Carl’s wife Erin. It was fun to see them as well.

Even John LaMere stopped by.

We wound up staying through the first set, but once they went on break it was time for us to head back to the Gardens for the evening. 

Then Brent wanted to talk to Carl since he was going to play the following night with him and Just George. While we were waiting, we saw out of the corner of our eyes, a young lady fall into one of the tables that are aligned near the stage. My husband and I ran over to help and the entire staff came over as well. Thankfully she was okay but she and her friends left shortly after. It was a scary sight. I think she was sitting on one of those chairs at the bar. I swear those things make me so nervous. I hope eventually they will change them into something else. I used not care for the large wooden seats, but they were definitely more stable.

We made it back to the Gardens and it was pretty late.  We told Brent and Julie that we meet up to go to Bagatelle for breakfast since we had not been there yet.

Thursday, April 20th – Be Like a Tourist Day

We woke up to another sunny morning. The temperature was just perfect. After we freshened up we walked down by the courtyard where fellow guests were enjoying the free breakfast that the Gardens offer.

It looked really good and thought about how we should have breakfast at the Gardens at least once before we leave.

Once Brent and Julie arrived, we walked down Duval to Bagatelle. I always love walking down Duval in the morning. It is so nice and quiet. It is amazing how it changes so much later on in the day with all the tourists, cruise ship people, etc. 

We walked up the stairs to Bagatelle and told the hostess we were a party of 4. I looked around and the porch and it was completely full (well a table for 4). So we were escorted upstairs to the second floor balcony. It was a nice table to look down and see what was going on below on Duval. This time there was no Hyundai commercial being filmed like last time (which we see all the time back home which is quite funny).

I was contemplating ordering their cajun eggs benedict which is both delicious and decadent, but I thought I would go with something lighter. I decided to go with just a couple of eggs over medium with a side of sausage and wheat toast. I believe my husband ordered the same thing and Brent and Julie ordered one of their omelets they had on the menu.

They were pretty busy so we did have to wait a little longer for our breakfast then we normally do, but it was fine – we weren’t in any sort of rush. In fact I wish it was slower, because it was that point in the trip you realize you just have one full day left and you’ll be headed back home. I think each trip to Key West seems to go by quicker and quicker each time we come down.

Our breakfast finally arrived. Everything was delicious and hot. I don’t mind waiting for food, as long as it is hot. Bagatelle is always one of our go-to places for breakfast.

When we were done with breakfast, Julie mentioned that she wanted to go back to the Sunset Tiki Bar at the Galleon. We paid the tab and made the short walk down to Front St all the way down to the end.

We walked to in to the tiki bar and there just a few people sitting around. Ramsey was working again so it was nice to see her again. We all ordered a couple of sweet tea and water with lemon. (I thought to myself do not have any more then 1 this time – maybe 2 – but that’s it.) It was nice to sit back and take in the view of the water. 

When we were ready to move on to the next stop, Brent and Julie mentioned that they would go back to the Gardens and relax by the pool and Brent also wanted to practice for the show that night. So we told them we would see them later on.

I thought this would be a good opportunity to get some shopping done. The only thing I bought were a couple of way overpriced t-hirts at Margaritaville.

My husband and I walked down to Mallory Square to check out all the usual touristy souvenirs on display. I was looking for another “Happy Place” sign or something similar to add to the one I got a few trips ago.

We couldn’t find anything so we walked out the square and saw another cruise ship docked. This one was a Virgin cruise ship.

We walked back through the shops at Mallory Square and then I heard someone singing.

Is that Gabriel Wright? And then I remembered he told us that he was playing at the Salty Frog again that Thursday. So we walked in and grabbed a couple of seats at the bar. It was lunchtime so we couldn’t get a table near where he was playing since we weren’t ordering food. My husband ordered a vodka and soda while I looked over the menu. I saw this drink that caught my eye called the Geib, made with Cruzan Mango Rum, Watermelon Pucker, Pineapple, Sprite. I thought that sounds refreshing – I will order that.

I wasn’t sure if Gabriel saw us or not but once he started playing our usual song requests, I knew he saw us. When my drink was served, I took a taste. Let’s just say I couldn’t drink it. It was awful – too sweet. I should have known when I saw Sprite in the drink. I thought it was going to be like those delicious watermelon vodka drinks at Hank’s. All well I thought. Thankfully they had a large cooler set up where you can help yourself to a glass of water. So that wound up being my drink of choice.

After enjoying several songs that Gabriel played, we went up to him and said goodbye and told him we would see him in July when we would be back.

Then we walked down to the Smokin’ Tuna to check out their gift shop. I could have waited until that evening, but then I would have to remind myself not to forget the bag.

We walked in and there were a few people also doing the same thing. I found a long sleeve dri-fit shirt that I thought would be great for when head down to St. John in October. I wanted a hoodie but felt the price didn’t warrant the quality of it.

Our next stop was First Flight. We had not been to First Flight for a while and we were both quite thirsty. We walked in and there were a few people at the bar, but enough room where we were able to sit down. My husband ordered one of their IPA’s and wound going with a mojito. This time I made the right decision. It was refreshing and had the perfect amount of rum and simple syrup. 

We left First Flight and walked along Whitehead St. Then we saw the Mile Marker 0 sign and I couldn’t believe it that there was no line. I have gotten my photo taken numerous times prior, but thought another photo couldn’t hurt. 

After my photo opp we made it to the Green Parrot, again another place we had not been to recently. We walked in as a few people were leaving to make room for us to sit at the end of the bar. I ordered a Miller Lite and my husband ordered another sort of IPA they had on tap. 

We started talking to a very pleasant couple from Canada. For some reason whenever we go to the Green Parrot, we always wind up talking to some really nice people. We only stayed for one and went to check out the gift shop. I wound up buying a hat that I liked a lot and it wasn’t too hot to wear which is helpful when you are in Key West. 

Then my husband bought a sticker for our refrigerator in our basement bar at home. It was a sticker of that very odd looking portrait that hangs at the Green Parrot. The portrait always freaked me out, so as a joke my husband bought the sticker. 

So that concluded our be like a tourist for a few hours. We made it back to the Gardens to wind down for a while. For dinner that night we wanted to go to Kaya Island Eats. I was craving their fish tacos and my husband was looking forward to have their rasta pasta. We mentioned it to Brent and Julie who were relaxing by the pool about it and they were in. 

It was around 6:30pm and we were all pretty hungry. We made the short walk across Duval to Kaya. Last time we had dinner there, we sat at the sports bar part, that is located on Duval, not the side entrance from Angela St. So we went back to the same bar. The bartender that served us last time was working again. She once again talked us all into having a mai tai to start. They are really good there.

My husband and I started with their yummy tuna poke nachos to share. Then of course, my husband had the rasta pasta with portabello mushrooms and I had the mahi mahi fish tacos. As usual, everything was delicious and fresh. And as an added bonus the prices are not too bad.

You can read my full review here: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g34345-d23162562-r888590155-Kaya_island_Eats-Key_West_Florida_Keys_Florida.html

When we went back to the Gardens after dinner so that Brent could grab his guitar. We made it to the Smokin’ Tuna and again Cliff Cody was finishing his set.

The Tuna was already packed with people. We saw Erin and she tried to scope out some seats for us but there was nothing available. We found a couple chairs at the end of the bar that we took turns sitting at while we had a couple of drinks. 

Then my husband and I noticed that there was a table at the end in front of the stage that had a ton of empty plastic cups. There were people still sitting there, but it was a sign that they were going to be leaving soon. I went up to this gentleman that was standing at the table and asked him kindly if they were leaving and if I could sit at one of the chairs. He at first said no, but he was just joking. He said of course and soon after I sat down, they did all wind up leaving. I called over to my husband, Brent and Julie. Everyone was so happy that we wound up with a table right near the stage, especially since Brent was playing.

Carl showed up, along with George. They came over to say hello and discussed when Brent would play. They said that they would play a couple songs to start and then Brent would join them on the stage. And that is exactly what happened. It was a fun night watching Brent play with the band. He wound up playing the entire night, so we stayed until the end of the show. It was late by the time we got back to the Gardens.

One of the videos I took during the show: https://youtu.be/pUMduQbvmCc

We mentioned to Brent and Julie that we would be sleeping in and then we thought about going to the Seaside Cafe at the Southernmost Mansion for an early lunch. And with that it was time to get some sleep.

Friday, April 21st – Last Full Day (always goes so fast)

It was so nice to sleep in for a bit and not rush out to go to breakfast or what have you. The weather again was beautiful. We had some time before meeting up with Brent and Julie so we walked down to Cuban Coffee Queen for some coffee. There was line, but thankfully it moved quickly. 

We walked back to the Gardens to meet up with Brent and Julie. We took a leisurely work down Duval all the way to the Southernmost Mansion.

It was just before they were going to open, so we had to wait a little bit.

Once it was 11:30am, we were able to be seated. We were the first ones there making the table selection easy. We picked a table close to the water but not too close, since the waves were coming up a little and there was some of that sargassum washing up. Luckily there was no odor from it. 

It was really nice sitting there and just taking in the view of the water. My husband and I ordered the lobster pizza to share and Brent and Julie ordered the gluten free version.

They also started off with their strawberry salad, that looked amazing.

The pizza was tasty like last time. I think our pizza was a little skimpy with the lobster, but it was still delicious.

While we were enjoying our lunch, all the tables around us started to fill up. At one point Brent noticed a lady wearing sunglasses that looked familiar. I looked over and she did indeed look famous. We were pretty sure it was Vanessa Bayer from SNL. (Well she used to be on SNL) It was kind of cool seeing her. Obviously we didn’t say anything and left quietly after our lunch.

We walked back to the Gardens to decide what to do. Then I thought about it and figured that it is our last full day in Key West, why not enjoy it at the Gardens. And that is what we did. It was nice to just relax and take in the beauty of the grounds. I joked saying this is our “Gravity Day”. I explained to Brent and Julie when we are in St. John and there is day where you don’t leave your villa and you spend it there – it is called a “Gravity Day”.

Julie had made dinner reservations for us at Latitudes that evening so I wanted to make sure I was up for it. Plus it gave us time to pack up all the laundry we had cleaned and was dropped off the other day. 

After we all got ready for dinner, we walked back down to the Opal Resort to catch the water taxi. There was no cruise ship this time when we got to the dock. 

It was a beautiful evening and I was hoping for a great sunset. Maybe even see the green flash? One can always hope. The water taxi arrived and we all loaded into it. We made the short ride over to Sunset Key.

We walked up the pier to the restaurant. Ironically the hostess sat us at the same exact table we had for breakfast at the beginning of our trip. 

Our server came over and took our drink order. While we were looking over the menu I saw a couple sitting nearby. The guy’s voice sounded familiar and I thought could this be another celebrity sighting?

I thought it may be Jeremy Strong from that show Succession on HBOMax that we watch. I tried to take a picture and then realized it wasn’t him because of the chin.

I ordered the caesar salad to start, while my husband ordered the burrato cheese. Julie and Brent both ordered the wedge salad.

Then for our main meals I went with the black grouper, Brent and  Julie had the crispy salmon and my husband went with the Key West pink shrimp carbonara which looked delicious.

With no surprise, everything was spot on delicious.

While we dined, we watched the sun set behind us. Unfortunately it disappeared into the clouds before touching the horizon, so there wasn’t a chance for a green flash.

And then that’s when Latitudes transforms. The lights come on and the tiki torches are lit. It really was beautiful.

We saw a table that arrived later on and were given menus that lit up to make it easy to read. I thought it was really cool to see.

You can read my full review here: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g34345-d680742-r888742957-Latitudes-Key_West_Florida_Keys_Florida.html

We were all too stuffed to order dessert so we paid our bill and walked over to catch the water taxi. While we were sitting on the boat, Julie got a call on her phone and wasn’t going to pick it up but recognized the number was the restaurant. Thank goodness she answered because my husband left his wallet at the table. We told the taxi to wait while my husband literally ran down the dock back to the restaurant to retrieve his wallet. We were so grateful that they called. That would have been awful to realize that the wallet was left behind after we got back from Latitudes.

When we got back, we walked by General Horseplay. There was a band in the back playing and I thought it would be fun to check it out. We went inside the bar first and it was standing room only. Forget it – we thought and we wound up just walking back to the Gardens. Phil still had the pool bar open when we got back, so we had a nightcap before going to sleep. 

Saturday, April 22nd – Departure Day

Our flight was scheduled to leave at 12:12pm so we thought it would be easier to have breakfast at the Gardens that morning. This way we also had time to make sure we had everything packed. We walked down to one of the tables in the courtyard and Brent and Julie were already there.

We grabbed a cup of coffee and joined them. They were still going to be in Key West another week. I was jealous but at the same time I was ready to get back.

The Gardens breakfast was delicious. In hindsight we should probably have had breakfast more then one time during our stay, but I do enjoy getting up and walking some place different to start each day.

The Gardens breakfast was delicious.

We finished our breakfast and went back to our room to grab all of our things. My husband had the Gardens call a taxi for a 10:45am pick up which would give us more than enough time to get us to the airport.

We rolled our luggage across the grounds and sat at one of the tables near the pool. I walked inside to return our keys and check out.

Brent and Julie waited with us until it was time to go. Then it was that dreaded time to leave. We hugged each other goodbye and told them we would see them again in a few months. They wished us safe travels and we were on our way.

We rolled our luggage to the front of the Gardens. Soon we saw the taxi pull up. Luckily we were the only ones that the taxi driver was taking to the airport. We have had experiences in the past where the driver will stop at several other hotels to pick up people to take to the airport, sometimes causing more time to get to the airport making me a little stressed with the timing.

We made it to the airport and we walked inside to see a decent amount of people waiting in line already. We have the TSAPre so we went in that line. There were only a handful of people, but only one TSA agent working both lines, so we still had to wait – not too long though.

We went through security and I got the lucky “you’ve been randomly selected” and I thought great, but all I had to do was walk through the full body scan machine and that was that.

We took the escalator down and as usual you walk through the doors to the waiting area and it was filled with people waiting. There wasn’t a single available seat at the United gate. So walked over to the Conch Flyer restaurant/ bar area. My husband grabbed a sandwich for the flight and I just wanted a bottle of water. We only had about a hour until we were supposed to board so it wasn’t too bad standing at one of the tables. Then we saw a couple of seats open up near our gate. 

Eventually United started the boarding process. We were group one again, so we walked over and outside onto the tarmac. When we got to the plane, for some reason we had to wait a good few minutes (which felt like forever in the blazing sun) before we could actually walk onto the plane.

Finally we were able to board the plane. Once everyone was seated, the flight attendants went through all the security procedures and we were all set to leave. Or so we thought. About 20 minutes passed by and we were not going anywhere. Then the captain came on the intercom and explained to us that there was an issue with the timing of when we were supposed to land in Newark due to too much air traffic. So instead of taking off at 12:12pm we were going to take off at 2pm. So basically we were going to have to sit on the plane for a couple of hours. He then mentioned that they were going to try to move up the time and let us know. Another 20 minutes or so passed and the captain came back on the intercom. This time it was good news. He told us we did get the clear to land into Newark and that we would be taking off in about a half hour. We were able to get up an stretch our legs and use the lavatory if you needed to before we took off – which I did. 

It was just a little after 1pm and we were finally on our way back to NJ. The flight itself was quite bumpy due to the storms we had to fly over. We landed about 30 minutes later which wasn’t too bad. We were picked up by our car service and made it home in just under an hour.

The feeling of being in Key West quickly became a recent memory. We were welcomed home by our cat, Angel.

Key West continues to be my happy place. I am so grateful that we are able to get back there as much as we do and experiencing it with great people and friends alike. 

Thank you for reading my blog…. until next time!