Easter Week in Key West April 16 – 23rd, 2022

I couldn’t believe we were headed back to Key West again after just a few months. However this time, felt like it was a much needed break and so did my husband. With our arrival day nearing I was getting super excited watching the weather forecast. 80s during the day all week and 70s in the evenings. It was a welcoming sight to see after our cold trip back in January. (That is why the month of April is my favorite time to visit Key West. The weather is usually very warm, but not too warm and pretty much on the drier side.)

Saturday – April 16th – Arrival Day

Our direct flight to Key West was scheduled to depart at 8:50am from Newark Liberty International Airport. The car service picked us up right on time at 5:45am. It was a cool morning but not too bad. We arrived at the airport about an hour later. When we walked in, we noticed there was barely anyone in the TSA pre lines. Then I looked further down and didn’t see that many people in the regular lines which I was quite surprised. I thought due to the fact it was a holiday weekend it would be busier then what I saw. We still had the Clear Pass. We quickly walked to the kiosk to get scanned and easily went through security. I think the entire process took about 5 minutes if even that. Once we got through security we grabbed our bags and walked down to the United Club lounge for a bite to eat. I checked my phone and we were still scheduled to leave on time.
Eventually it was time to walk down to the Gate and it was a full flight which wasn’t a surprise. Soon the boarding process began and we all quickly got on to the plane. After everyone boarded, the captain got on the Intercom and welcomed us on to the “Conch Republic Plane”. Then I new we had a fun crew. Even our flight attendant was so nice and friendly.

I wish all flight crews could be that way, but I get it, you can get disgruntled passengers, etc. but it was a refreshing experience. 
Roughly about two hours had passed and then I could start to see the various hues of blues below. 
It always makes me so excited to see even though we have been lucky enough to go so many times since 2006. This marked our 26th time, but who’s keeping track?

Our flight landed a little bit sooner than expected so that was an added bonus. We deplaned and walked the tarmac into the airport as another flight was walking to their plane.

Luckily there was no line outside of the airport, so we were able to grab one of the first taxis. Soon we were on our way to the Gardens hotel.

(You can read my review of the Gardens Hotel here: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g34345-d227346-r835996964-The_Gardens_Hotel-Key_West_Florida_Keys_Florida.html)

I always love the drive along A1A to the hotel. It puts me in such a happy mindset. Then I started to see the yellow wall that surrounds the Gardens Hotel.  “We’re almost home” I thought to myself. 

We walked in and check-in was a breeze as usual. When you stay at the same place over and over like we do, it can’t get any easier than that. . 

Our room wasn’t ready yet so we brought our bags to the spare bathroom located in the back by the bar area. I find it to be one of the best bathrooms in all of Key West. After we changed into our Key West wear we sat down and talked to the bartender at the Gardens Phil, whom we have become friendly with. 
He was so happy to see us and vice versa. He mentioned how the Gardens Hotel was partaking in an Easter event the following afternoon so we made sure we would make an appearance for it. Even the pool was all prepped for it.
After having a welcoming us to Key West beverage, George from the front desk came out and gave us our keys to our room. Hooray it was ready!

Then came the infamous turn. Our typical right turn onto Duval. My husband and I always joke about it, how once you make that turn all the energy from Duval St. comes to life. 

We carried our luggage up one flight to our usual room. Once we unpacked all our things we headed down to Duval. We told Phil thank you and we would see him later.

While we were walking down Duval St. we noticed that some of Duval St. was completely closed. It turned out they were having a flea market.

It was neat to walk down the street and not have to worry about traffic, etc. It reminded me when they used to close parts of Duval during the evenings several years ago.

During our stroll, I remembered Gabriel Wright was playing at Captain Tony’s that afternoon. My husband and I felt bad that we didn’t get a chance to see him last time we were in town, except for when we ran into him while we was riding his bicycle.

We walked in and Gabriel saw us right away and welcomed us. We grabbed a couple of seats at the bar and ordered a few drinks. It was a beautiful afternoon listening to him sing some of our usual favorite requested songs that he always remembers. 

It was nearing 4 o’clock so I wanted to be sure to see our friend, Zack Seemiller at Rick’s before his set ended. We said goodbye to Gabriel and told him we would most likely see him again. 

We walked right around the corner to Rick’s and noticed that Zack wasn’t playing. Then I checked my phone and completely missed his message that he wasn’t playing that afternoon. I was a bit disappointed but realized we should probably just walk back to the Gardens and get ready for dinner at that point.

A few months back I called Blue Heaven for dinner reservations. We had been trying for the past several trips to get there early for breakfast, but the wait times have been so long and not worth it. I did miss going there, so I thought let’s try for dinner. So when I called they did have two seatings available for that Saturday night, 5:30 or 8:30. I prefer to eat earlier so I booked the 5:30 reservation. And this was about two months in advance mind you.

On our walk back I saw that our friend Terri was bar tending at the Tree Bar and I wanted to stop in and say a quick hello. So much for going back to the Gardens. There were two seats open and we sat down and ordered a couple of fresh squeezed orange juice and Titos. I must have to say those drinks are super refreshing and I could drink more then one, but it wouldn’t be a good idea with dinner on the near horizon. We talked to Terri for a few, along with a couple of people sitting at the bar. It was kind of funny because I heard one of the guys talking and I mentioned to my husband that his voice sounded familiar. And then my husband said ‘yes’, he just said he did voice overs. Go figure?

We thanked Terri for the couple drinks and started walking back down Duvala. It was getting closer to the time of our reservation, so we walked down to Blue Heaven instead of stopping at the Gardens first. There were already a few people lined up and I thought to myself now we are going to have to wait even though I made reservations.

When I walked up to the hostess, she said our table was ready. I was so relieved that we didn’t have to wait. I know technically it was still very early in the evening, but both of us hadn’t eaten since at the airport .

Our server came over and recited their specials. They had stone crabs as a special and in addition grouper for one of the main dishes. I was so happy that both sounded appealing to me. My husband ordered a caesar salad for his appetizer and I of course ordered the stone crabs. Unfortunately they only served two, but they were ample in size. Once I tasted one, I realized what all the hype was about. They were so sweet and flavorful. 
Then our main courses came out. My husband ordered the burger and he really enjoyed it. The grouper special I had was absolutely delicious. 
As an added bonus there was live entertainment which set a nice chill vibe. It was an enjoyable way to spend our first night in Key West. 

We were both full after our meals, however several years ago we saw the episode of the show with Andrew Zimmern when he visited Key West and went to Blue Heaven. I remembered him ordering a piece of key lime pie and watched behind the scenes of the baker making it – with that huge pile of meringue on top. When our server asked us if we would like anything else, I said yes a piece of key lime pie please.

And it looked exactly like it did on tv – delicious!

We finished up the pie and we didn’t have much energy left to do anything else, especially after a day of travel. As a result we walked back down to Angela St. to the Gardens. The bar was still open so we talked to Phil while having a night cap and then went to get some much needed sleep.

You can read my review of Blue Heaven here: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g34345-d447631-r835997980-Blue_Heaven-Key_West_Florida_Keys_Florida.html

Sunday – April 17th – Easter

We woke up to a beautiful morning. This was our first time back for Easter in Key West since before covid. In the past we have had Easter Brunch at Louie’s Backyard and Latitudes. I really enjoyed Louie’s Backyard for brunch but I prefer to eat earlier in the morning and the first seating at Louie’s isn’t until 11am.

A few months ago I made reservations on line for breakfast at Latitudes. I was able to book the ferry at 9:15am. Once we freshened up we walked down to Cuban Coffee Queen for our first cup of coffee of the week. We remembered to take the little short cut this time which cuts off a lot of time, even though it isn’t that far of a walk at all, but when you really need that first cup of coffee, the quicker you can get there the better.

We walked in and the line wasn’t too long. For some reason we always wind up getting behind someone who doesn’t know what they want and wind up asking a hundred questions about every item on the menu. Sometimes I wish they could have a separate line for coffee orders only, but I know it is a small place and they do the best they can.

Eventually we got our coffees in hand and walked down towards the Opal Resort (which used to be the Margaritaville Resort, and the Westin before that). It was nearing 9:15am and I noticed that the ferry was already there and loaded with people. We tried to drink all of our coffee before boarding, but sadly had to throw reset of it away.

Then as we walked onto the ferry we saw a few people holding coffee cups. Darn it I thought. I didn’t think beverages were allowed. All well. Good to know for next time.

The outside seating was fully occupied, so we opted to sit inside which was nice and air conditioned. I always enjoy the inside too because the smell of the teak wood reminds of taking the Caneel Bay Ferry from St. Thomas to St. John years ago.

It was a quick little ride over to Sunset Key. We all disembarked and walked up to the restaurant. The grounds are so well kept and beautiful. It makes you feel like you are on your own little Caribbean island not in Key West. 
We walked in and were seated at a table outside near the water which I requested.

We were given menus and water. I started to take a few photos while we waited for our server. And waited…. and we noticed no one was coming over. Finally we did get one of the server’s attention and he said he would get someone to come over. After a few minutes someone did come over. He apologized and said he usually works dinner and not breakfast (I assume he was filling in for someone). 

We told him that it wasn’t a problem and ordered a few Easter brunch cocktails. I decided to go with the smoked salmon eggs benedict and my husband went with the old reliable american breakfast of two eggs and bacon with the regular accompaniments.
Our breakfast was delicious but found mine a little bit on the cooler side. I didn’t mind too much especially with that view.

(You can read my review of Latitudes here: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g34345-d680742-r835998950-Latitude_s_Restaurant-Key_West_Florida_Keys_Florida.html )

Once we were done, we walked back to the dock to catch the ferry back. We timed it exactly right because the ferry just arrived. We only had to wait a few minutes to load back onto the ferry. I noticed this time the ferry was almost full. It was around 10:30am so most likely it is a popular time with hotel guests to go to the main island.

We walked around to Mallory Square. I couldn’t get over how gorgeous the sky was. The weather was absolutely perfect. 

Eventually we made our way to the Sunset Tiki Bar at the Galleon to see our friends Phil (the owner) and Ramsey (one of the bartenders that works there). We chatted for a bit and it was nice to see them both. (I always love it when it is the beginning of the trip and people ask you how long you are in town and when you say for the week it seems like forever.)

We remembered the day before that the Gardens Hotel was partaking in some Easter events so we wanted to get back and check it out.

We said our goodbyes and walked down back to the Gardens. They were still setting up so we secured two seats at the bar while we watched all the guests and locals alike arrive. Then I noticed the owner of the Gardens Hotel Kate was dressed in her Easter finest. 

They were having an Easter Bonnet contest. Many people were wearing different kinds of bonnets making it very festive. Then they announced that they were going to start their Easter egg hunt. However, instead of eggs it was champagne. (They were the mini size bottles of champagne, plus I think the regular size would be difficult to hide.)
It was quite comical to see all these people walking around the gardens searching for the bottles.

I wound up trying to look myself but came up empty. However, one of the locals I was talking to, came back with several bottles of champagne and give one to us. I thought that was really nice. 

Once the festivities concluded it was time for Jazz at the Gardens. As a result, we stayed. I made dinner reservations, again ahead of time, this time at Firefly. I figured that we would be at the Gardens for Jazz anyway and being that Firefly is located not to far from the Gardens and thought it would be convenient.

After Jazz ended we walked down to Firefly. We had always walked by it but never tried it. This time I was determined to give it a try. When we walked in, the hostess asked us if we wanted to sit inside or outside and I suggested outside. So we walked up the stairs (the restaurant is basically a transformed house) and through a dining area onto the outside porch. 

We ordered our appetizers and main meals. While we were sitting there, the winds started to pick up quite a bit. So when our server came back over I asked if we could move inside and apologized for the inconvenience. She said it wasn’t a problem and we walked back inside, downstairs and wound up sitting at the bar since the tables were all occupied.

As we were settling into our new location, our appetizers arrived. My husband ordered the mac and cheese which was served in a cute little cast iron skillet. I don’t know what made me order it, but I wanted to try it and be somewhat daring. I wound up ordering the buffalo pig ears. Actually the first few weren’t so bad, but after I started realizing what they were, I had enough. At least I can say I tried it.

Then for our main courses I ordered the shrimp and grits and my husband had the bacon wrapped meatloaf. 
The shrimp and grits almost had like a gumbo like sauce to it with the grits. The combination was delicious and the grits were outstanding and creamy. My husband thoroughly enjoyed his meatloaf. I was glad that we finally tried Firefly. I would also like to go back and try their brunch, but I believe they don’t open until 10am and we tend to have breakfast before then. Maybe if we decide to sleep in one morning we would give it a try.

You can read my review of Firefly here: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g34345-d4867469-r835999547-Firefly_Key_West-Key_West_Florida_Keys_Florida.html

We were both quite tired so we headed back towards the Garden, but first stopped to grab a bottle of white wine for our room. It was nice to sit out on our porch/balcony with a glass of wine before retiring for the evening.

Monday – April 18th – La Te Da, Hogsbreath, Cafe Sole

It was another picture perfect morning to wake up to. After we freshened up we were both ready to venture out for the day. We made our usual first stop to Cuban Coffee Queen before returning to one of our favorite breakfast spots, La Te Da. I love sitting at the bar and talking to the locals that tend to go there. Plus it is fun to see all the people go by along the street. 
We walked in and there were two seats open at the bar so we sat down and ordered something to eat. My husband had the half order of sausage and biscuits (which we learned last time that you can order it that way which is ideal because the portion is huge). I didn’t feel like anything fancy so I opted for the usual 3 eggs over medium with sausage.

The food came out in a timely matter and was as always very good. Once we were fueled up we walked back to the Gardens to relax for a little bit.

Zack Seemiller was playing at Hogsbreath that afternoon so I wanted to be sure we would catch part of his show at least. So we gathered ourselves and headed back on Duval. 
We hadn’t been to First Flight in a while so we agreed to stop in for a beer. They had a nice selection of seasonal beers on the menu but i just went with their amber ale. My husband ordered one the Maverick IPA. The place was pretty quiet but we didn’t mind at all. Another couple eventually walked in and we chatted for a little bit. They mentioned that they were from the cruise ship. I had no idea there as a ship in town.
Our next stop was obviously Hogsbreath. We walked in and I was happy to see that Zack’s son Kai was playing with him. We were able to get a couple of seats at the bar which tends to be a challenge depending what time you get to Hogsbreath. 
It was nice to see them both again and enjoy the show. We wound up staying until the end so I was able to get a few pictures before leaving.
Then I remembered that Gabriel Wright was playing at Captain Tony’s. So after we said our goodbyes to Zack and Kai we walked around the corner to Captain Tony’s. 
We listened to Gabriel for a little bit before we had to make it back to the Gardens to freshen up for dinner. I had made reservations at 6:00 at Cafe Sole.

We thanked Gabriel for playing our usual requests and he mentioned that he was playing at the Salty Frog (formerly Red Fish Blue Fish – ate there once….no comment) the following evening, so we told him we would stop by.

At this point, I was getting quite hungry. We made it back to the Gardens for a quick shower and a change of clothes. We walked back down Simonton onto Southard. It was such a nice evening for a walk. I love walking off of Duval down the side streets. Everything seems to get quieter.
I looked at my fitbit and noticed it was just after 6pm. We walked up to the restaurant and I saw that they now have tables outside along the sidewalk. Interesting, I thought, but I would rather sit inside. We walked in and were seated right away in the “outside” covered area. The place was very busy. I was glad I made the reservations. 
We ordered each a glass of white wine. I was in the mood for a caesar salad and my husband had the escargot. And (no surprise) we each ordered the hogfish snapper special. There has been speculation in my mind about if it is really hogfish. The last time we ate there I could have sworn it was tilapia. This time however, it was definitely hogfish and it was delicious.

You can read my review of Cafe Sole here: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g34345-d495527-r836001571-Cafe_Sole-Key_West_Florida_Keys_Florida.html

When we were done with our meals we walked down towards the Galleon. It turned out that friends of ours, Will and Lynda, (that used to come down from NY to Key West for the winter months – and were the ones that talked us into coming down to Key Wests back in 2006) were in town the same week as us. Will plays with the Hippie Band every year for Earth Day at the Schooner Wharf. 

We hadn’t seen them in a while, so we were both excited to see them. We walked into the Sunset Tiki Bar and Will was already playing. Lynda was sitting down, so we sat next to her along with a few of her friends. I noticed however, the winds started to pick up. And I mean pick up. At least it wasn’t too cold out our anything.

Will was only playing until 9pm so we wound up staying until the end. After he was done we sat and chatted for a little bit, catching up on things. It was so nice to seem them both again in Key West.

It was getting late so we said our goodbyes and told them we would see them again at the Schooner Wharf later on that week.

We walked back to the Gardens and turned in for the night.

Tuesday – April 19th – Breakfast Club Too, Smokin’ Tuna, Red Shoe Bistro and Salty Frog

It was another beautiful morning. Perfect to walk down to Breakfast Club Too to meet Zack and his son Kai for breakfast. We first stopped at Cuban Coffee Queen for coffee but the line, I mean the LINE… it was too long so we wound up walking down Duval in hopes of finding another place grab coffee.
We never wound up finding a place, so we just went to Breakfast Club Too. Zack and Kai weren’t there yet, so we grabbed a table inside towardsd the back. We ordered coffee while we waited. The coffee was actually very good there.
Then I saw Zack and Kai walk in and waved them over. We all ordered our breakfast and had a nice morning just hanging out and talking. 
After breakfast we told Zack we would catch him at the Tuna later on. We thanked him for breakfast and started our usual walk around Key West. It was such a nice day that we decided to walk around the Bight.

The winds started to pick up a bit again but it was welcoming because it was getting a bit warm in that sun, especially with no clouds in the sky. 

As usual, we wound up at the Sunset Tiki bar for a cold beverage. It is always so nice to sit there and take in the view of the water. 
Our next stop was the Tuna. It was nearing the time that Zack and Carl were going to start. We made our way back down Duval to the Tuna. The place wasn’t busy at all so we were able to secure a couple of seats at one of the tables in front of the stage. Phil was bar tending and recognized us right away. 

We ordered a couple beers and settled in to watch Zack and Carl. It was a nice afternoon to hear them play. I kind of prefer just seeming them before instead of the band. However, I enjoy the full band as well, but it is just a little different.

No surprise we wound up staying for the entire show. At that point we were feeling pretty good. We said goodbye to Zack and Carl and headed towards the Gardens hotel.

I had made dinner reservations that evening at one of our new favorite places, Red Shoe Bistro. We made it back to the Gardens to get ready for dinner.

Phil was bar tending so we stopped and talked to him before we went back out to dinner. 

The Red Shoe Bistro is located not too far from the Gardens, like Firefly. We walked down Duval onto Petronia. The place was quite busy. I recognized one of the owners and he asked us where we would like to sit, and we prefer the bar so he seated us there.

For our appetizers I decided to go with their crab cakes and my husband and had the special which were lobster crepes. When our appetizers came out they looked so good. I wasn’t sure if it was because I was so hungry but wow, the crab cakes were delicious. They were served with a light tomato sauce which isn’t a normal pairing with crab cakes but it worked beautifully. My husband absolutely loved his lobster crepes. I even had to try a taste and they too were amazing.

My husband wound up ordering what I usually get, the yellowtail snapper with shrimp and I tried their catch of the day which was tilefish. Both dishes were outstanding. That is why we keep coming back to this place. It is always consistently good.
You can read my review of Red Shoe Bistro here: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g34345-d21141783-r836002156-Red_Shoe_Island_Bistro-Key_West_Florida_Keys_Florida.html

After dinner we walked down to Ramshead where Zack was playing. Unfortunately there weren’t enough seats at the bar for the two of us and it was pretty crowded. We saw Zack’s friends, Ron, Natalie and Stephanie so we talked to them for a couple of minutes. Then we decided to check out the Salty Frog where Gabriel Wright was playing. Plus I wanted to walk off all that food we just had. I was stuffed.

We walked down towards Mallory Square into the Salty Frog. The place is a decent size. Gabriel was playing towards the back. My husband ordered us a couple of drinks (that I really didn’t need) while I grabbed a table. 

Gabriel saw us and we said hello. His wife Kim was doing the video so we said hello to her as well. It was a fun night listening to him at a new place instead of Captain Tony’s. Don’t get me wrong I like Captain Tony’s, but it was a nice change.

It was getting late and I couldn’t drink anymore. Gabriel was ending his set so once he finished we said our goodbyes and made the long walk back to the Gardens and passed out for the night.

Wednesday – April 20th – Bagatelle’s, Smokin’ Tuna, Willie T’s, Martin’s

We woke up and the sun was brightly shining again. After a much needed shower, I felt revived enough to get some coffee at Cuban Coffee Queen and have a nice breakfast at Bagatelle’s. 
We took the short cut again to Cuban Coffee Queen. This time the line wasn’t too bad so we were able to get some much needed coffee to have in hand for our walk down Duval.

It is always so pleasant to walk down Duval in the morning. No crowds, no traffic, just a quiet street unlike at night – especially on the weekends.

We walked in to Bagatelle’s and were seated right on the front porch, which like La Te Da, is a perfect place to watch the world of Key West go by.

I was in the mood for something different, so I had their lobster omelette with mushrooms and swiss cheese AND topped with a Key Lime Hollandaise sauce. Yes it was decadent but oh so good. My husband ordered just a regular breakfast of fried eggs.

Once we were done with our breakfast we went back out to do our usual walking around. I needed to walk off that breakfast too. Like the day before the sky was so beautiful. It was still windy as well but not too cold or anything.
We wound up walking back to the Gardens to relax for a little bit. I remember checking the schedule for the Smokin’ Tuna about a month before we were coming down and saw that one of my favorite musicians to see was back the same week we were there, Joal Rush for the 5pm slot. However due to the Conch Republic Celebration festivities that were going on he was moved up to play at 1pm that day.

So we regrouped and walked down to the Tuna. Joal was already playing and he recognized us. I can’t even remember the last time we saw him but it was nice to see him again and listen to him sing.

While we were listening to him I noticed a rack on the stage. Now I work for an AV company that is known for this type of equipment. I immediately recognized it. I knew this was one of our products. So my determination came out and I wound up searching online and found it. It was indeed this rack that I did a lot of graphic work for years ago promoting the product line. How funny is that? Now it is sitting pretty on the stage at the Tuna. (well when you work for a company for over 23 years things like that make me smile)
When Joal was done with his show I wound up getting one of his t-shirts he was selling. We chatted for a bit and I congratulated him on his recent engagement. We told him that we would most likely see him again and thanked him for a great show.
Then of course I had to go and see Zack. He was playing at Willie T’s so it was a quick walk down Duval. The place as usual, was quite packed but we managed to find a table to sit at. Donna was working and it was nice to see her again. (We are both Nascar Drive Kevin Harvick fans and always joke around about how bad he is doing lately)

Not before we long we saw Ron and Natalie walk in. They joined us at our table and we had a fun time hanging out and listening to Zack. While he was finishing up we saw John LaMere walk in. He was scheduled to play after Zack so he came over and welcomed us back in town.

Originally I was thinking about going to this event that the Tuna was hosting that evening called Hot Havana Nights. Then I was reading more about it and decided that we should probably go some place for dinner instead. Unfortunately that meant though, Caffeine Carl and Zack (with the band), were pushed back to start at 10:30pm that night instead of 9pm. And I knew I wouldn’t make it that late. 

We stayed for a few John LaMere songs before making our way back out. We were both getting pretty hungry and needed to grab something to eat. We said goodbye to Ron and Natalie and decided to give Martin’s a shot.

Unfortunately when we walked in, it was just after 6pm. We just missed happy hour. The host asked us if we had reservations but obviously we didn’t. Luckily two people just left that were seated at the bar and told us that we could have those two seats, perfect! 

Once we sat down, my husband ordered a martini and I had a glass of white wine. There’s no way I could have had a martini after drinking all afternoon, but it did look good.

Our appetizers consisted of tuna poke and the calamari ceviche. Both were delicious. My husband decided to go for it and ordered the beef wellington. Martin’s had a grouper special wrapped in bacon so I decided to go with that. 

My husband’s beef wellington looked amazing. I even had to try a taste even though I don’t eat beef and it tasted as good as it looked. My grouper, on the other hand, wasn’t what I had hoped for. Unfortunately it was overcooked which dried the fish out. All well, not every meal can be a top ten. It still tasted very good but just too dry for my liking.

My review of Martin’s is here: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g34345-d779473-r836003023-Martin_s-Key_West_Florida_Keys_Florida.html

After dinner we agreed to just walk back to the Gardens. I knew I wouldn’t make it to the Tuna. We still had the bottle of white wine in our room, so we walked back shared a glass and called it a night.

Thursday – April 21st – White Tarpon, Mallory Square, The Roost, Willie T’s, Berlin’s, Smokin’ Tuna

Like the previous mornings, this one was another spectacular morning. We did the usual freshening up, Cuban Coffee Queen stop and then we weren’t sure where to go for breakfast. So we just started to walk around. Eventually we wound up by the Bight and then I remembered that the White Tarpon has breakfast. We tried it during our January trip and enjoyed it so why not? Plus you are right on the water which makes a nice backdrop.

We walked in and sat at the bar. This morning, however I was not in the mood for eggs. I think I reached my limit of eggs for breakfast several days in a row. I saw on the menu that they had some nontraditional breakfast items, such as a BLT. For some reason it just sounded so good to me, so I wound up ordering. My husband ordered the huervos rancheros. 

His breakfast came out in a cute little cast iron skilled. Then when my BLT came out, I could not believe size of it, but boy did it taste good and hit spot. I definitely recommend trying the White Tarpon for breakfast.

When were done with breakfast we wound up walking around and did a little shopping. We walked through all the shops near Mallory Square like we usually do. 

A couple visits ago I found this sign that said “Key West is my happy place”. I never bought it and always regretted not getting it. So I was determined to find it or something similar.
A couple visits ago I found this sign that said “Key West is my happy place”. I never bought it and always regretting not getting it. So I was determined to find it or something similar. While walking around my husband spotted a sign that said “Key West is Our Happy Place”. It wasn’t exactly the same but even better. And this time I bought it.
A few days earlier when we saw the bartender Ramsey working at the Sunset Tiki Bar, she mentioned Grubby (he was a bartender that we used to talk to a lot back when he worked at the Tiki Bar) now works at this placed called the Roost. She said it was located right near Fausto’s which isn’t too far from the Gardens. 

It wasn’t too hard to find and we walked in. It was such a cute little place. No one was in there but then the bartender came out from the back. She told us to sit anywhere and that they make their own ginger beer. They had a special Key West lime mule on hand so we both thought to give it a try. It was a good decision because it tasted nice and refreshing after all our shopping. The bartender introduced herself, Annette, from Dublin. Boy was she a hoot to talk to. I could have stayed there for a while just listen to her tell us these stories, but I knew we still had the rest of the day ahead. 

Then the next order of business was to find this store for my husband’s friend. Last time we were in Key West, my husband’s friend asked him to pick up this hat, but both of us totally forgot about it. So this time he wanted to make sure he picked one up. Apparently when my husband’s friend and wife visited Key West last year, they saw this rooster hat at a place called Tucker’s and like my sign, regretted that he never got one.

Ironically the Tucker store was located really close to the Gardens. We must have walked past the store countless times and never noticed it and/or walked in. We walked in and the place was so cute. All their clothing, hats, accessories…. I even had to get a hat. They were too cute to pass up. So instead of one hat purchase, it was three. Yes my husband got one too.

We walked back to the Gardens to drop off our bags, but I wound up wearing my hat. We stopped at the bar at the Garden’s to talk to Phil for a few. It was getting later in the afternoon and I wanted to catch at least part of Zack’s show at Willie T’s, so we walked in and grabbed a table. His friend Lynwood was in town so it was fun to see them play together.
After his show we, again, we were both quite hungry. One of my husband’s favorite places to go to is Berlin’s. I know it is a cigar bar (well used to be, now you have to smoke outside), but you can order off the regular A&B Lobster House menu. The bar itself feels like a throwback when you walk in and the bartenders are always so professional. 
So we walked up the stairs to Berlin’s. When we walked in the bar was filled with people. Thankfully, the majority of them were waiting for their table to be ready, so it wasn’t before long their names were called and we were able to sit down at the bar.
The menu is quite pricey mind you, but we hadn’t had our usual one “splurge” meal, so this was it. For appetizers we shared the oysters rockefeller and the lobster and escargot. It was so rich but so good. Then for our main meals, I had the mahi mahi special and my husband had the sirloin. Everything as usual was spot on and delicious.

My Berlin’s review: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g34345-d2390405-r836004112-Berlin_s_Cocktail_Bar_Lounge-Key_West_Florida_Keys_Florida.html

I think for some reason that meal gave me some energy, enough energy that we walked back down Duval to the Tuna. Joal Rush was playing so it was fun to catch him again.

Carl’s wife Erin was working so we sat at the bar. We wound up staying for Caffeine Carl and the Band. This time Just George was playing. I was kind of disappointed that Zack wasn’t playing that night but George is always solid.

We had a fun time listening to the band. In fact it was probably the latest we had stayed up during our entire trip.

It was getting late and unless I wanted to feel extremely terrible the next day, which was our last full day, then it was that time to head out and get back to the Gardens.

We did make it back and crashed.

Friday – April 22nd – Last Full Day (Always Comes TOO Fast)

Like our last trip, I made plans to have breakfast with Zack and Kai at Sarabeth’s. We usually, in the past would have breakfast the morning we leave, but again like back in January, our flight out the following morning was too early. This time it was 8:50am, not 7:00am like last time, thank goodness.
We woke up and noticed we heard something outside. It was raining. I didn’t think we were supposed to get any rain during this trip when I looked at the initial forecast, but it’s Key West, rain can always happen. Luckily it stopped, so we were able to grab a couple cups of coffee at Cuban Coffee Queen. 
We walked down to Sarabeth’s and Zack already grabbed a table outside. His friend Tim was in town so that was a pleasant surprise to see him join us. Kai was a little late but he made it. It was a nice way to start our last full day in Key West. 

We noticed while we were eating that the rain was starting up again and then it would dissipate. However once we were done with breakfast, the rains started up again. And it was coming down. I thought we were going to be stuck at Sarabeth’s for hours. Eventually the rain stopped momentarily so we were able to make our escape. We side our goodbyes and told Zack we would catch him later at Willie T’s.

My stomach wasn’t feeling so great, probably from the rich dinner the night before and/or maybe all the Deep Eddie Grapefruit and Sodas we had at the Tuna, so we walked back to the Gardens, which in a way was a good thing because once we got back the heavens opened up once more. 
It reminded me when we were stuck during Tropical Storm Elsa last July. That’s how much it rained. We sat out on our porch/balcony watching the rain. Eventually the rain did finally end and my stomach was feeling much better.

Then I checked the front desk regarding the laundry we dropped off the previous morning. They said it would come back later on, so we both wanted to make sure we took care of that later on instead trying to deal with it, in the morning. I also asked for them to call us a taxi for a 7:15am pick up to the airport. 
We wound having to walk out onto Simonton because the road in front of the Gardens was flooded. It tends to do that every time they get a good amount rain, but it eventually recedes. 

I knew that Ramsey was working at the Sunset Tiki Bar so I wanted to be sure we saw her before we left. So we walked back to the Sunset Tiki Bar. This time it was a bit cooler and very windy, so I wound up wearing a hat and long sleeve shirt.
We walked in and Ramsey was indeed working. We talked for a bit and she told us that the Battle of the Conch Republic was canceled because of the high winds. I was a bit disappointed because I really wanted to see it again since it had been a few years. All well. We chatted a little longer, before telling her goodbye and that we would see her again when we come back. I always hate the last day saying goodbye to everyone, but all good things must come to an end.
Then we wound up going back to the Gardens to check on our laundry. It was ready and already delivered to our room. So we used that opportunity to pack up most of our things, so we would be mostly ready to go in the morning.

Next up was of course to see Zack at Willie T’s. Unfortunately this time it was packed, most likely due to the weather so we couldn’t find any open tables. Thankfully a couple of seats at the bar opened up so we were able to sit down.

We stayed until the end of Zack’s show. I told him we would try and catch him later that night at the Tuna, but had previous obligations to see our friends Lynda and Will again at the Schooner Wharf and see the Hippie Band. So we said our goodbyes just in case.
I didn’t make any dinner reservations that night so we were kind of up in the air of where to go for dinner. Then we thought about going to Off The Hook. I was craving pizza and remembered the last time we were there I had their pizza and it was really good.
So we walked down to Off the Hook. We wound up sitting at the back bar because it was less crowded. 

When we sat down, it was just before 6 o’clock and the bartender said that we can still order off th Happy Hour menu.

We looked at the menu and everything looked so good. We wound up sharing the pizza with pepperoni, tuna poke and the calamari steak.

We probably could have ordered more but after the pizza I was quite stuffed. It was such a great deal. We had a couple of sangrias and all that food and I believe the bill was around $45? I would definitely go back to Off the Hook for their happy hour.

My review of Off the Hook: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g34345-d5565929-r836004629-Off_the_Hook_Grill_Key_West-Key_West_Florida_Keys_Florida.html

When we were done with dinner we walked down to the Schooner Wharf.

The Hippie Band was already playing. We located Lynda who was sitting at a table near the stage. It was nice to see her again.

We ordered a couple of drinks and listened to the band. 

It was a nice evening but of course I was getting sad knowing we were leaving the next morning. The band eventually went on break so we were able to see Will before we headed out. It was getting later in the evening and I wanted to stop at the Tuna at least to see a couple of songs before we had to get back to the Gardens.

We said our goodbyes to Will and Lynda and we all joked how we have to get together up here in NJ/NY this summer.

We walked back down Duval. Being it was a Friday night, the streets were filled with people. We dodged the crowds and made it to the Tuna. There were no seats to be had. The place was packed. I was debating about sitting at a chair at the end of the bar, but there was only one. And by the time I thought about sitting down, someone beat me to it. All well. 

Then I noticed these two ladies sitting at one of the tables near the stage. It looked like they were leaving, because they only had drinks and no food. I walked up and asked if they were leaving. They weren’t but invited us to join them. I thought that was really sweet so we took them up on their offer. It turned out they were locals and they were waiting to see Caffeine Carl play.

While we were chatting Carl came over to say hello to us. Then Zack spotted us and came over and I gave him one last hug goodbye before the band came on to the stage. We only stayed for several songs. I was hoping to hear Jersey Girl but didn’t get to hear it. And then it came to be that time where we had to motivate ourselves to leave.

We said goodbye to Erin and Big Ed who was also working. Then made our way by the stage and waved goodbye.

And made our last walk down Duval to the Gardens.

Saturday – April 23rd – Going Home

I can never sleep through the night without waking up, especially the night before we have to fly back home. I think I might have looked at the clock ten times throughout the night. 

I did have the alarm set for 6:00am but didn’t even need to do so. We did get up on time and packed up our things after a quick shower. 

We did the dreaded walk of woe dragging our rollable carry-ons past the pool to the front of the Gardens. Our taxi was scheduled to pick us up at 7:15am. Usually they show up on time but this time we had some issues. It was nearing 7:30 and no taxi. 

Thankfully my husband asked the Gardens which taxi company they were using just in case. So my husband called and they said they would be there in a couple of minutes.

Eventually the taxi did show up. Once we were dropped off at the airport we hear someone calling to us. We look over and it was Phil the bartender from the Gardens. He was waiting for us. He had two Dunkin Donut coffees in hand and a couple of egg and cheese croissants. We told him when were leaving the previous day, but I didn’t expect him to do that. We were both beside ourselves. We thought it was so nice of him. We thanked him and told him we would see him soon.

After taking a few sips of coffee and a few bites of the sandwich we had to get to our gate. When we walked in, I was expecting to see a long line at the TSA check point, but there was no one there. I mean no one in line. It was so odd. Then once we breezed through security we walked down to the gate. I thought now we are going to see all the people waiting, but again not many people at all. I couldn’t believe it. It turned out that there were only two flights leaving at that time in the morning. So after the first flight left, it was just our United Flight in the airport. It was nice actually instead of fighting for a spot to sit.
It was then time to board our flight, which is always the furthest plane from the airport on the tarmac. I know eventually there is going to be a new airport, I think the sign said coming in 2024, but until then… it’s a long walk.

Thankfully it wasn’t raining.

Our flight took off on time and actually landed a few minutes earlier. (And as a side note the mask mandate was lifted while we were away, so we didn’t have to wear one in the airport or on the plane and even at Newark airport when we landed.)

I got in touch with our car service and we met the driver outside at the curb. Ironically our car driver, whom we have gotten to know, used to live in the Keys years ago and gave me a welcome home gift.

We got home around 1pm and soon the thoughts of Key West became another distant memory. 

It was another great trip to Key West, seeing our friends, visiting our favorite places and listening to great music. Key West continues to be one of those special places filled with beauty and wonderful people that keeps bringing me back. It’s my happy place.

Thanks again for taking time to read my blog…. until next time!

Winter Thaw in Key West – Jan. 16th – 22nd, 2022

For the past several years I started booking another trip to Key West in January to break up the monotony of the winter season up here in New Jersey. During our most recent trip this past October, we wound up meeting a very nice couple from Nashville, Brent and Julie who were staying at the Gardens in a room next to near us. Low and behold they were returning the same time, so my husband and I were excited to see them again.

About a week before our arrival, I saw that the weather in Key West was going to be a mix of both cool and mild temperatures making it a bit of challenge of what to pack – let alone how to fit everything in our carry on luggage. I wound up making sure to pack a lighter weight jacket, a hoodie and leggings which worked out perfectly for me.

And for the plane I figured that we would both be dressed warm to begin with so that would be another option if it did get cold while we were there. (As a side note, people may think that 60 degrees is not that cold. However in Key West, if you are near the water and there is a strong wind from the NW, it does indeed get chilly. Plus some places don’t even have heat)

Sunday – January 16 – Arrival Day

A few days earlier, it was forecasted that a snow storm was going to hit the mid-atlantic area on Sunday, the day we were flying out. Luckily the storm slowed down a bit and was not supposed to arrive in our area until later that evening. However we did wake up to extremely cold temperatures. I looked at my phone on the way at the airport and it said 2 degrees. I thought even 60 degrees would feel a lot better then this.

Once our car service dropped us off at Newark Airport, we walked down to the TSA line. Since we were already registered for Clear we were able to walk right up to the kiosk and get scanned. I did notice that the airport seemed quieter then normal. The regular TSA Pre line only had several people, maybe due to the fact it was a Sunday. Needless to say, getting through TSA was an effortless affair. Our gate was located near the United Lounge so were able to grab a snack and some coffee before our flight.

We walked down to our gate and thankfully there were no delays. It was still very cold but since there wasn’t any snow or ice overnight, no de-icying was required. Soon it was time to board the plane and everything was going smoothly. Once everyone boarded we just sat at the gate which seemed like forever. There was no explanation so I assume it was just they typical Newark airport traffic delays. Finally we disembarked from the gate and made our way to the runway.

The flight was nice and smooth which not much turbulence until we got further south. The storm that was supposed to hit our area later that night was coming from the south. The pilot actually took the plane away from the storm, changing the usual 2 and 1/2 hour flight to 3 hours. 

Unfortunately the forecast for Key West was rain. As we neared the Keys, most of them were covered by clouds. It did get a bit bumpy as we got closer to landing, but all and all it was a pretty smooth flight. Once we landed we walked down the tarmac in the rain. This was the first time we had ever experienced rain arriving in Key West. It usually happens while we leave. I thought it doesn’t matter, I am in my happy place!

We were one of the first people off the plane so we were able to get a taxi right away. The rains started to dissipate during the ride to the Gardens Hotel. (And yes we booked another stay – making it our 26 time staying there. I have looked at other places but nothing else seems to get my attention to book so I continue to book it each and every time. No judging here.)

Soon I could see the yellow walls that surround the Gardens Hotel and that feeling of returning “home” was set. The taxi had to drop us off away from the entrance since part of the street was flooded. I remember the last time we were there for Tropical Storm Elsa, the area right in front of the entrance gets a lot of water collected on the road. 

We walked in and checked in. Since we have been there so many times check-in is always a breeze. Luckily our room was ready so we were able to unpack our things before heading out for the afternoon.

We walked by the bar area and saw a familiar face, Phil the bartender. We were going to have a drink first but there weren’t any open seats at the time. So we said hello and made our way out onto Angela St. The rain had stopped and the road was clear from all of the water. 

We made the usual turn onto Duval which always brings a smile to both myself and my husband.  You get the feeling that yes we are back again. We joked too about how due to the fact we have been coming back to Key West several times a year now, it feels like one long trip and the time spent back in NJ is just a break. 

Since it was a Sunday there wasn’t any entertainment going on that I wanted to see. We walked by Jack Flat’s to see about checking out one of the NFL Playoff games but it was packed.  So we kept walking and I suggested that we could head up to the Galleon for a drink since it tends to be quieter then the other places along Duval. 

While we were walking, my husband reached out to our friend Charlie (who lives in our home town) and his wife who were in Key West the same time. They were at the aquarium but said that they would meet up with us when they were done.

We made it down Front St. to the Galleon and walked around the boardwalk to the Sunset Tiki Bar. We found two seats at our usual spot and saw Ramsey was bartending. She welcomed us back and poured our favorite go to drinks at the Tiki Bar, sweet tea vodka with water and lemon. While we were catching up we also saw Phil who manages the bar.  He too welcomed us back. It was so nice to be back. 

Then my husband got a call from our friend Charlie. It was him and his wife’s first time in Key West so trying to tell them where the Tiki Bar was, was a bit of a challenge. So my husband told them he would meet them on Front St. by the A&B Lobster House sign. My husband did find them and walked them back to the Tiki Bar. It was so nice to see them again. And it was quite ironic that we hadn’t seen them in quite some time, but here we are in Key West hanging out together.

Unfortunately they were leaving the next day so we wanted to show them a couple of places that they hadn’t visited to yet. So we said goodbye to Ramsey and Phil and knew that we would see them again.

We walked down Duval to Captain Tony’s. I wanted them to see the place but it was pretty crowded. We did however tell them about the coin tossing into the fish above Captain Tony’s. Charlie did try. He came close but it is harder than it sounds.

Our next stop that’s one of my husband’s favorites is General Horseplay. Usually we would stop in to get some relief from the heat, but after the rain had left, I could feel it getting cooler as the day went on. 

We walked in and found a table. Of course we recommended ordering the Murricane to start with. We convinced Charlie, but his wife opted for a beer. We only had one round because the Murricanes are pretty strong without realizing it because they are made so well. 
After we settled up with our tab, we walked back down Duval towards our hotels respectively. They were staying off of Duval close to where we were, so we agreed to meet up after dinner at Mangoes for a nightcap.

We wanted to make sure we were back in time for Jazz at the Gardens Hotel because we were meeting our friends Brent and Julie that we met during our last trip. They were staying at H20 for a few nights and then they would be staying at the Gardens. We made plans prior to our arrival that we would meet up for Jazz that evening. 

We made it back to the Gardens just in time for Jazz. The temperature as I mentioned earlier was falling so there was no need to change. (We were still dressed with what we wore on the plane.) We walked up to the bar and asked Phil for a couple of drinks. It was starting to get crowded and all the tables were reserved. The ones that were open, were still damp from the rain earlier.

Then I suggested why don’t we sit at the Gazebo. And that’s what we did. While we were waiting for Brent and Julie, I noticed another familiar face. It was Jim the General Manager at the Gardens. I wanted to make sure I said hello and thank him for always accommodating us in our usual room. So I walked over and chatted with him fo r a few before walking back to the Gazebo.

Before we knew it, we saw two faces emerge from the surrounding gardens. It was Brent and Julie! They came in through the back way so we weren’t expecting it. It was so much fun to see them again. 

We had a great time talking and listening to the Jazz. They had dinner reservations at A&B Lobster House so after Jazz was over we said our goodbyes and would meet up the next day after they checked in.

I didn’t make any dinner reservations for this trip because lately when we have been in Key West, we have changed our minds so many times where to go and I don’t like cancelling reservations. So I figured this trip we will go where we felt like that night. Plus there wasn’t much going on during this time, besides the RokIsland Festival (a collection of 80s hairbands) which was ending the next day.

I was getting cold so I didn’t want to go to Kaya Island eats, even though that’s where I originally wanted to go to that night. So we decided to walk down to Blackfin Bistro. My husband was craving a burger and I was just plain old hungry since I hadn’t eaten all day.

We walked down to the Blackfin Bistro. The bar was empty so we grabbed two seats. The bartender read us the specials and the catch of the day (I think it was snapper) served with a light curry sauce which seemed to fit the bill for me. So I ordered the special while my husband ordered the burger. We first shared their escargot appetizer which I remembered from last time. It was so flavorful filled with garlic and butter. 

I was surprised how quiet the restaurant was. There were a few people in the back outside section but that was it. Then our bartender brought out our main courses. The fish was delicious and the curry sauce wasn’t too strong. It paired well with the fish. My husband of course loved his burger. I stole a few fries and they were tasty. You can read my review here: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g34345-d1581064-r826052075-Blackfin_Bistro-Key_West_Florida_Keys_Florida.html

While we were finishing up we heard from Charlie and his wife, Elaine. They were on their way to Mangoes. So after we paid our bill we walked down to Mangoes. It was definitely getting chilly. Charlie and Elaine were already sitting at the bar so we sat down next to them. My husband and I each ordered a drink. We only stayed for one since it was a long day. I was feeling the travel day and the drinks that I had throughout the afternoon and evening. 

We decided to meet up for breakfast the next morning before they had to leave. So we said good night and walked back to the Gardens. I couldn’t wait to get some sleep. I don’t think it took me any longer than a couple of minutes.

Monday – January 17 – Breakfast Club Too, Hogs Breath, Lola’s

A few days earlier, it was forecasted that the weather was going to get a bit cooler in Key West. So I was prepared to wear my leggings and sneakers for the first few days. We woke to a beautiful brisk morning. After freshening up and collecting ourselves we walked down to our usual first stop, Cuban Coffee Queen. The line wasn’t too long so we didn’t have to wait a while for our order. My husband ordered us a couple of Cuban American’s. It was hot and delicious – the perfect pick me up to get us going.

We were meeting our friends Charlie and Elaine for breakfast before they had to head back home. We walked down to Breakfast Club Too where they already grabbed us a nice table  outside protected against the wind. They talked about how much they enjoyed Key West for their visit and would love to return. I told them how they now have the Keys Disease. Once you come down to Key West you just want to keep returning.

We ordered breakfast and everyone enjoyed what they had. 

You can read my review here: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g34345-d13526247-r826050143-The_Breakfast_Club_Too-Key_West_Florida_Keys_Florida.html

They weren’t leaving until later on in the afternoon, so after breakfast we walked down to the Bight. It was pretty cool to see some of the Christmas decorations still displayed around. I noticed though they were starting to take the decorations down.

We eventually said our goodbyes and wished them safe travels if we didn’t meet up with them later at Hogs Breath. So we decided to walk down to the Galleon to the Sunset Tiki Bar for a drink. We saw the owner Phil again and he was setting up for a grroup of sailors that were coming in later that afternoon. Apparently there were these sail boat races going on all week and they would come to the Galleon after they were done for the day. They weren’t scheduled to arrive until 3 or so, so we had the place pretty much to ourselves.

Then we agreed to motivate and walk down to Hogs Breath to see our friend Zack Seemiller play. Since we arrived on a Sunday, we hadn’t seen him since our arrival so I was excited to see him again. We walked in and of course the seats I wanted were taken. They were no seats available and I was a bit frustrated, but knew if we gave it time, eventually someone would leave. 

My husband ordered us a couple of beers and then we saw a few seats available at the Raw Bar. A nice couple moved over so I was able to sit down, but it was difficult because there was a tree right next to the seat. I managed to squeeze in while my husband stood near me. As predicted a few seats did finally open up and I beelined to grab them. 

Finally we were able to relax and enjoy the music. Stephanie was bartending as usual and she always takes care of us. While we were listening to Zack I saw a familiar face, it was his mom. She was staying with Zack for a few months so it was nice to see her again. Then Zack’s son came in as well, Kai. So we chatted for a bit. 

We wound up staying until Zack’s show was over where I had to get my usual photo with him. He was off that evening but mentioned that we could do breakfast the next morning. 

So we said our goodbyes and headed back onto Duval.
Our friends Brent and Julie reached out to us letting us know that they were all checked in at the Gardens and that they would meet us at the Gardens Bar later on before we went to dinner. (Right before we were leaving I reached out to Julie and she said how her and Brent had dinner reservations at Lola’s and they would be delighted for us to join them and I thought that would be so much fun).

So before we made it back to the Gardens we stopped at a liquor store located right on Duval on the side just past Angela St. to grab a bottle of white wine since Lola’s is a BYOB.

Then we needed to relax for a bit before making our way to the Gardens Bar. Phil was bartending so it was nice to see him again.

We talked for a few before Brent and Julie showed up. It was fun hanging out with them. The dinner reservations were for the 8pm seating. Lola’s has two seatings, 6 and 8pm. I was getting hungry but the glass of white wine helped curb my appetite.  

The evening seemed to whip on right by and before we knew it was time to walk down to Lola’s which is located literally right behind the Gardens on Simonton St.

Brent and Julie were staying near the back of the property so they had a key that opened the access gate onto Simonton. This made the walk super quick and easy.

We walked down to Lola’s and notice a lot of people standing around outside. The 6pm seating was still finishing up so we had to wait several minutes. It wasn’t too long before we saw everyone exit the restaurant. Then the owner mentioned that they would start calling the reserved parties one by one to be seated. Luckily we were the first to be seated, which was a good thing because it was starting to get a bit breezy outside.

We were seated near the front of the place allowing us to have a great view of the chef working his magic. Our server came over and listed 6 options for appetizers. I was surprised because the last time we dined at Lola’s there were only two options. They of course had their famous scallops as an option,  roasted artichokes,  calamari and few other choices that I can’t remember.

For dinner they had roasted duck, branzino and pompano. There was another option as well but again I don’t exactly remember what it was. I think it was another seafood option.  Brent ordered the pompano and Julie, my husband and myself wound up going with the branzino. 

A few minutes after we ordered, we were told that they were out of branzino but they would substitute with sea bass. We had no issues with it and said that was fine. Our first course was a little plate prepared by the chef of crostini, roasted tomato, mozzarella and a side of homemade pickled cucumbers. I don’t know if it was because I was so hungry or what, but it tasted delicious.

Our appetizers came out next and again everything was delicious. Brent and Julie had the scallops and my husband had the calamari which was served like a filet or steak. My husband really enjoyed it. I had the roasted artichokes which also didn’t disappoint.

There was a little lull until we had our main course, but we didn’t seem to care because we were having such a good time talking. Finally our dinners were served. The sea bass itself was amazing. I think it was probably the best sea bass I have ever had. And even my husband who is not a big seafood fan loved it. It was definitely worth the wait.

You can read my review here: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g34345-d19247202-r826050901-Lola_s_Bistro-Key_West_Florida_Keys_Florida.html

After dinner we walked back to the Gardens and grabbed a couple of seats at the Gazebo for a night cap. We hung out until about midnight before calling it a night. We mentioned to them that Caffeine Carl and Zack were playing at the Tuna the next afternoon and they wanted to go, so we told them we would meet up with them the next day.

Tuesday – January 18 – The Smokin’ Tuna and Red Shoe Bistro

The day beforer I mentioned to Zack and his mom that we would meet them at Breakfast Club Too for 9am at Hogs Breath. When I first woke up it was a few minutes before 8am. I thought let me just close my eyes for a few more minutes before getting ready. Unfortunately the clock was on my husband’s side of the bed, so when I woke up again I asked him what time it was. It was 8:40am and I knew we wouldn’t be at the Breakfast Club Too in time since we both had to shower. I texted Zack and told him that we were running behind. We agreed to just try it another day. 

I felt terrible but sometimes that just happens. So instead of going to Breakfast Club Too, we wound up walking down to La Te Da. The winds were still blowing, but it was another beautiful clear blue sky kind of a day.

We walked in and the place was pretty quiet. I was happy that we were able to find a couple of seats at the bar. We always wind up talking to a few locals hanging out there which makes it kind of entertaining. For breakfast I wound up going with the La Te Da scramble (which is basically scrambled eggs served with sour cream and fresh chives).

My husband was about to order the sausage and biscuits, when one of the locals sitting at the bar mentioned that the portion is huge and would suggest ordering a half order, so that’s what he did. Good thing too, because when our breakfast was served, just the one biscuit alone was huge. As usual the breakfast was delicious. When we were done with breakfast we walked back to the Gardens to digest our food.

Eventually we motivated ourselves and made it back onto Duval. We noticed that parts Duval of were closed. There was a lot of maintenance going on, between cutting down trees, working on the roads, etc.

While we were walking down the street we noticed that the Key West Women’s Club building was completely covered. Later we found out it was for treating termites. (And then the next day we walked by the cover was gone.)

We walked down to the Bight again and I kept taking pictures because I couldn’t get over how beautiful the sky looked.

Shockingly, we wound up going back to the Sunset Tiki Bar for a drink. We tend to find a place we like and stick with it. (Hence staying at the same hotel for over 25 times). 

We sat down and just admired the view for a while. Phil popped back in and we asked about the Sailors. He said it did get crowded but nothing too crazy. They were scheduled to come in again later on but we knew we wouldn’t be there for that.

It was nearing the time that we were supposed to meet Brent and Julie at the Tuna. So we left the Tiki Bar and walked down to Duval to the Tuna. The place wasn’t too crowded so we sat at the bar leaving two extra seats available. Then we noticed the stools they have at the Tuna now are very awkward. They have a back on them but they are all metal and kind of flimsy. Then I noticed instead of the tables in front of the stage, they have high top tables and chairs, which makes sense because now you can see the band if people wind up dancing in front (like last time during Fantasy Fest I couldn’t see a thing).

I didn’t like how the stools felt so when one of the high top tables opened up we grabbed it. It was perfect timing because once we grabbed the table, Brent and Julie showed up. We told Zack and Carl ahead of time that they were coming and Carl was very excited to meet Brent and vice versa, so it was fun to see them meet.
Soon Carl and Zack started playing and we had a great time. 
While they were playing a couple came into the bar and grabbed the two seats at the bar that we were originally sitting in. Then all of a sudden the girl fell onto the ground. I thought to myself, see these seats are terrible! Thankfully she was okay and just joked about it. I told her how a few years ago we walked in to the Tuna while Joal Rush was playing and I kept walking and waved at Joal and completely missed the metal door at the end of the bar and walked right into and felt like a complete idiot. So she laughed and it was all good. 
While we were enjoying the music Kai stopped by with Bullet, such a cute dog.

Then Zack’s friends Natalie and Ron showed up so it was nice to see them again.

After the show we took a few pictures before heading back to the Gardens. Zack was playing at Ramshead later that evening but I had a feeling it would be too cold to have dinner since everything is outside. We returned to the Gardens to relax for a bit before sitting at the bar for a few.

While we were sitting at the bar we were trying to figure out where to eat. Phil, the bartender mentioned the Flaming Buoy so I gave them a call. Unfortunately it went to voicemail so then my husband thought of the Red Shoe Bistro since it was close by. I originally wanted to go back to Kaya Island Eats, but it was getting chilly and I needed to go someplace indoors otherwise I would not enjoy myself. 

My husband called the Red Shoe and they said they were full but if we sat at the bar they could accommodate us. I was so happy that we found a place to eat. We headed down to Petronia St. to the Red Shoe Bistro. When we walked in the place was packed. The previous handful of times we have dined there, I usually choose the first reservation they have which is 6pm, but it was later in the evening, probably closer to 8pm. The owner sat us at the bar and told us the specials. For our appetizers I had the shrimp toast and my husband had the sea scallops and deviled eggs. It did sound strange, but I tried one and the combination actually worked.

The last time we dined at the Red Shoe my husband really enjoyed the beef stroganoff so that’s what he wound up ordering again. The catch of the day was black grouper so I had to order that.

Dinner was served nice and promptly. Again I was quite hungry since we hadn’t eaten since breakfast. Both our meals were excellent. One of the owners came by and I had to thank him for accommodating us last minute. 

You can read my review here: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g34345-d21141783-r826052828-Red_Shoe_Island_Bistro-Key_West_Florida_Keys_Florida.html

While we were finishing up a couple of people walk in and started calling my husband’s name. I was like who in the world is that? It turned out it was the parents of one of my husband’s high school friends. I thought what are the odds? Only in Key West! They were staying at the Orchid Key Inn and getting ready to sit down for dinner. We were getting ready to leave so we said goodbye and made the short walk back to the Gardens and called it a night.

Wednesday – January 19 – White Tarpon, The Tree Bar and The Smokin’ Tuna

We woke up to another gorgeous day. It was still a bit brisk but I noticed the winds definitely had calmed down. 

Since we had a later dinner both of us weren’t too hungry. So after grabbing coffee at Cuban Coffee Queen we wound up walking around back up towards the Bight.

Then I remembered I noticed the other day that the White Tarpon now serves breakfast so I suggested why don’t we give it a try. Before walking in, we both took a quick peak at the menu and it looked like they had everything that we would want to order. 

We walked in and sat at the bar. All the windows and doors were open so it was a little breezy. It was a nice view however to see the water while waiting for breakfast. For breakfast I had the smoked salmon and bagel while my husband had a couple of eggs over medium. The food was good and satisfying. I would definitely go back.

You can read my review here: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g34345-d1632255-r826052431-White_Tarpon_Bar_Restaurant-Key_West_Florida_Keys_Florida.html

When we were done, we wound up walking around as usual. The sky was once again so beautiful. The temperature seemed to be finally warming up where I could actually take off my jacket.

We walked to the Sunset Pier to see if Al was working but unfortunately we didn’t see him so we kept on walking.

We eventually wound up stopping at the Tree Bar to see our friend Tracey working. 

Two seats opened up so we were able to sit at the small bar. I didn’t realize that they are known for their fresh squeezed juices until then. Tracey suggested the orange juice with some Titos. It was the perfect drink after walking around.
We chatted for a bit before heading back to the Gardens to unwind for a few.

We planned on going back out to the Tuna later that night to see Caffeine Carl and Just George so we wanted to make sure we were pacing ourselves.

Before we went to the Tuna we had some time to sit at the Gardens Bar and talk to Phil for a little bit. He always has some story to tell. We were having a nice time and then Brent and Julie showed up. They were joining us that evening because they wanted to see the band at the Tuna as well.

I suggested that we should walk on over a little earlier so we can grab a table and order something to eat.  On our way there I texted Carl to see if he could get us a table, but he was on his way as well to the Tuna, but said to check with his wife Erin about getting a table.

We walked in and Cliff Cody was finishing his set up so there were a lot of people already seated at the bar and all of the tables (except one table behind the bar which I don’t care for sitting in, at all). We found an area at the side of the bar where we were able to grab a couple of drinks and wait it out. Erin saw us standing and told us that she just gave a table their tab so they should be on their way out.
We stalked the group of people at the table until they finally left. However two people out of the party decided to stay and not leave. While we were trying to figure out what our next move was, Cliff Cody came over to say hello to Brent. He seemed like a very nice guy.

Thankfully another table opened up just in time so we were able to move to the other table, which worked out a lot better. Once the band came on and people started dancing, they would dance right in front of the table we were originally seated at.
For dinner my husband and I ordered the grilled mahi caesar salad that hit the spot.  Brent and Julie also ordered a couple of appetizers. Soon the band came on and we had a great time. Everyone truly enjoyed themselves.

It was getting late and we all agreed it was time to go back to the Gardens. We would have stayed until the end of the show but it was for the best. We made sure to get a few pictures before leaving. We thanked Erin and Carl for helping us with the table situation.

We made it back to the Gardens and had a night cap at the Gazebo before we all retired for the evening.

Thursday – January 20 – Power Outage, The Tuna Again, Willie T’s, Kaya Island Eats

We woke up to pouring rain. I had no idea that it was supposed to rain that morning. While I was getting ready, my husband wound up getting us coffee at Cuban Coffee Queen because the rain seemed to be subsiding. We were going to bring an umbrella that is provided in our room, but we figured we wouldn’t need it.

Since we had a late dinner the night before at the Tuna we weren’t exactly very hungry. We decided to walk down Simonton towards La De Ta. While we were walking I noticed the clouds were getting dark again. We turned down a side street and walked to Duval. Once we hit Duval the skies opened up. Luckily we found a canopy on the corner where we were able to ride out the rain for a few minutes.

While we were standing at the corner we thought that we should try Moondog for breakfast. Once the rain stopped again, we walked down to Moondog Cafe. Apparently everyone else had the same idea. We were going to walk inside but it was packed. No one was sitting outside obviously because of the weather.

All well I thought and started walking again and then remember Ramshead Southernmost was right down the street. We walked in and grabbed a couple of seats at the bar which was covered from the rain, in case it started again. We ordered a couple of drinks and then literally 30 seconds later we see all the lights, tvs go dark. The power went out and we just looked at each other. So obviously we couldn’t order anything from the kitchen at that point.

We found out that a transformer blew and the entire island didn’t have any power. We made the best of it ordering a couple of breakfast beverages and talked to a nice couple from Minnesota. Eventually the power did finally return, probably about an hour later.

It was getting later and we told Brent and Julie we would go with them to the Tuna to see their friend Erica Sunshine Lee who was playing the 1pm set. We still hadn’t had anything to eat but decided that we would grab something at the Tuna.

We walked back to the Gardens to meet up with Brent and Julie. 

We walked back out onto Duval and to the Tuna. when we walked in, there were only a handful of people there so we were able to grab a table. Then Brent realized he forgot his glasses so my husband went back with him to the Gardens. When they came back, my husband told me how Brent told him about this short cut that cuts off so much time. 

Usually when we go to Cuban Coffee Queen, we walk down Simonton and make a left onto Southard St. However if you walk down Josephine Parker Way behind the Firehouse and make a left down this little lane called Mo’s Way, Cuban Coffee Queen is right there. I know it isn’t very far to begin with, but after all these times staying at the Gardens we never knew, but now we do.

We ordered a couple of appetizers while Erica Sunshine Lee was setting up. She came on over to say hello to Brent and Julie. She was very friendly and charming. Once her show started we just sat back and enjoyed hearing her sing.

One of the appetizers we ordered were the garlic parmesan fries. Wow is all I have to say. They are delicious don’t get me wrong, but if you have any intent of talking to anyone the rest of the day you may want to cover your mouth. The amount of garlic they put on those fries!

At one point Brent even got up to play with her so that was fun to see.

It was getting later in the afternoon and I wanted to catch Zack at Willie T’s. So we told Brent and Julie we would meet up with them later at some point at the Gardens.

We walked down Duval towards Willie T’s. When we walked in I saw an empty table to sit at. While I was clearing off the empty bottles, we saw two familiar faces Janice and Matt. So we wound up sitting with them for a bit while listening to Zack play. Kai was also playing with him so that was a nice treat.

Then my husband got a text message from another friend of ours Wayne. Wayne and his wife Karen were going to go to the Tuna to catch Cliff Cody but knew we were at Willie T’s so they wanted to stop by and say hello. It was nice to see them again as well. That is another reason why I enjoy coming back to Key West, seeing all our friends that we have made along the way. 

After Zack’s show I asked about perhaps trying breakfast again the following morning. I suggested our usual place we go to before we leave, Sarabeth’s. We had a super early flight on Saturday so I knew that we wouldn’t be able to have breakfast that morning.

We made tentative plans (again) to meet up at 9am for breakfast. We said our goodbyes and made it back once again to the Gardens to regroup for a bit.

Since it was finally a milder evening, I suggested that we go to Kaya Island Eats for dinner. We made the short walk across Duval to Kaya. It was pretty crowded but once again we found a couple of open seats at the bar. I enjoy sitting at the bar at Kaya because it reminds so much of this place in St. John called the Longboard. (As reference https://www.thelongboardstjohn.com/location/the-longboard-st-john/)

I love the vibe too of Kaya. It definitely has that St. John feel to me. For appetizers I ordered the Tuna Poke Nachos and my husband had the Jamaican jerked wings. It was a great start to our meal.

The last time we were at Kaya I had the mahi mahi tacos, but this time I wanted to try something different. The Rasta Pasta caught my eye on the menu so I went ahead and ordered that with portobello mushrooms and my husband ordered the sliders.

Everything was spot on and delicious. We thanked the owner for such a wonderful meal. He was very appreciative that he gave us each a nice little Key Lime Pie for dessert. 

You can read my review here: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g34345-d23162562-r826051642-Kaya_island_Eats-Key_West_Florida_Keys_Florida.html

After dinner we were both pretty tired so we just wound up going back to the Gardens. I made sure, however to set my alarm on my phone so I would not oversleep and miss breakfast again with Zack.

Friday – January 21 – Last Full Day (which always arrives way too fast)

My alarm on my phone worked and it woke me up right on time at 8am. I have never used the alarm on my new iPhone before so I also wanted to test it since we were leaving super early the next day for our 7am flight. It was nice to know that besides using the clock alarm in the room I could set my phone.

We freshened up an made the quick walk to Cuban Coffee Queen before walking down to Sarabeth’s. Not before long Zack showed up along with his mom and Kai. It was nice to see them again.

We decided to sit inside since it was less crowded then outside. I actually prefer the inside at Sarabeth’s since they redid it. I was pretty hungry and went with the Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict. 

You can read my review here: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g34345-d922505-r826053249-Sarabeth_s_Key_West-Key_West_Florida_Keys_Florida.html

Everyone else enjoyed what they ordered. It was a nice time just catching up before we had to leave the next day.

After breakfast I made sure to get my usual photos. We said our goodbyes and told them we would be back in several months and hope to see them again.

On the way back to the Gardens we saw someone on a bicycle heading our way. I turned to my husband and said wait that looks like Gabriel Wright (who plays at Captain Tony’s)? And sure enough it was. We didn’t talk to long but asked him when he was playing again since we had not have seen at Captain Tony’s. Unfortunately he wasn’t playing until the next day and we were leaving. So we told we would catch him the next time we were in town. 

I wanted to see if our laundry had been returned. (My husband dropped off our laundry the day before for a mid-week wash.) So I walked in to the office at the Gardens and I was happy to see our laundry was back. I also made sure to reserve a taxi for the next morning at 5:45am. Yikes I thought but it would be good to be home so early in the day.

We went back to the room and packed up most of our things so we didn’t have to try and do everything the next morning (with one eye open). Once everything was good to go, including checking in for our flight, we headed back out. 

It was finally a warm day. We walked down to the Galleon and to the Sunset Tiki Bar to see Ramsey (the bartender) one last time. The sailors from the races were scheduled again to arrive after the final race which wound up being earlier than the previous days.

We made sure we tabbed out before the place got too crazy. We said our goodbyes to Ramsey and Phil (the owner) and told them we would see them again.
The weather was just perfect, perfect enough to grab a drink at the Sunset Pier. Plus I wanted to see if we could catch Al. We walked all the way down to the Ocean Key and saw a friendly face. It was Al! Finally we got to see him before we left. We grabbed a couple of open seats along the pier and watched the boats go by. I didn’t want the day to end and just the thought of going back to NJ during the winter made me uneasy.
Brent and Julie invited us again to join them at Lola’s that evening for our last dinner in Key West. This time it was the earlier seating at 6pm so we wanted to get back to the Gardens so we had some time to wind down before dinner.
So we walked towards the Gardens, but not before stopping at the Tree Top Bar to see Tracey again. Since we weren’t planning on going out after dinner, we figured why not? It’s out last time out on Duval.
We wound up staying longer then we initially planned talking to a few locals. 

Then it was nearing that time to get back to the hotel. Before we went back, we stopped at a liquor store to grab a bottle of wine for dinner.
We walked back and met up with Brent and Julie at the Gardens. There wasn’t too much time so we walked on over to Lola’s. Since it was the first seating we didn’t have to wait too long this time. We were one of the first few tables that were seated. This time our seat had an even better view of the chef then last time.

This time one of the main courses there was a filet mignon option, so my husband ordered that. I decided to try the pompano as my main course. We were served the first course like last time and then for our appetizers I wound up going with scallops this time. 

There was a bit of a wait in between the appetizers and our main courses, but again the food was delicious. It was a perfect way to spend our last night in Key West.

We finished up our dinner and walked back to the Gardens. We wound up staying a bit later then I wanted to, just talking and having a great time.

It was finally time to say goodnight and goodbye (which I hate goodbyes). We thanked them for a wonderful time and would see them again at some point in Key West.

Saturday – January 22 – Leaving Key West

The 5:00 alarm came way to fast. It didn’t help either that I couldn’t really sleep. I think I woke around 4:15 am and never fell back to sleep. We both freshened up and packed up the last of our things. It was still dark out but we were able to make the dreaded walk to the front of the hotel. 

While we were waiting for the taxi I noticed that there was an exclamation point next to our Flight information. I I couldn’t understand what was wrong. I then saw our seats were moved from one row to another one. Then I saw that the flight arrival time changed. We were originally supposed to land back in Newark at 10:04 am and now it showed 11:14 am.

After a few other maneuvers in the United App, it showed that we were going to Miami. At this point I was so confused and of course concerned. 

The taxi showed up right on time. It was more or less this huge luxury van that also had a few other people also headed to the airport (at least there was still room for us). I thought that since it was such an early flight we would be the only ones in the airport but then again it doesn’t matter what time you are flying out of Key West as of late, it is always busy now.

The taxi dropped us off and I wanted to go to the check-in counter for United even though we already had our boarding passes and only doing carry on. I needed to see what was going on with our flight. Which seemed like an eternity, we were finally next in line. I asked the ticket agent about our flight and she said that most likely the plane was going to stop in Miami to refuel before taking back off to Newark. Fuel stop? What the? We never had that happen before but at least we were still going to make it back home even though it was somewhat of an inconvenience.

We walked to the TSA line and it wasn’t too long but boy was the line slow. We have the TSA Pre but it really doesn’t save much time since you wind up merging in the same line as everyone else. Once we made it through security we walked down to our Gate. Even though it was early in the morning there were already a lot of people waiting to leave. I think there were around 4 or 5 flights leaving around the same time.

While we were waiting, the United employee came onto the intercom and told us that our flight was scheduled to stop in Miami to refuel and then fly to Newark which we already knew at that point. Soon it was time to board the plane. And as always United is the furthest plane away from the airport. Luckily it wasn’t raining this time and I could see the sun start to rise.

Once we were airborne the pilot told us due to 5K issues they couldn’t refuel before landing in Key West, hence we had to stop in Miami on the way back. The flight was literally 30 minutes to Miami. It was so odd to land in Miami and wait about 20 – 30 minutes for the plane to be fueled up.

I guess it could have been worse, but thankfully once we were fueled up we took off right away. I tried to sleep on the plane but I couldn’t really stay asleep. After about 2 and 1/2 hours I could start to see the NYC skyline.

It looked like a beautiful morning but then the pilot told us it was 16 degrees. Once we landed we walked off the plane and it was like a shock to the system. It is amazing after just a week some place warm, you forget how cold, cold actually is.

Our car service met us outside of the airport and soon we were back home around noon staring at the snow and I thought to myself were we really just in Key West this morning?

As always Key West continues to be my happy place filled with both beauty and great people. And a place where we have made lasting friendships with both locals and visitors alike.

Thank you so much for taking time to read my blog.

Until next time…..

Fantasy Fest in Key West October 23 – 30th, 2021

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.

You can read my review here: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g34345-d23221159-r818171332-Bel_Mare_Restaurant-Key_West_Florida_Keys_Florida.html

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 ordered a couple of drinks and then noticed our friends Natalie and Ron walked in. I joked at them saying we have their seats because they usually sit at the bar. A table in the shade opened up so we joined them. It was a fun afternoon hanging out with them and listening to Zack. 

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.

It was an interesting time sitting there watching all these people dressed up and as I said earlier some not dressed at all. Even one gentlemen came up to us and was pretty friendly and sat with us. It was a bit awkward because lets just say he wasn’t wearing too much. After a few minutes I kindly told him my husband wasn’t enjoying his company too much so he left.

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. 

Then it was time to get ready for the Tuna. I figured that we would just grab some food there so we could get a good table at the Tuna and not worry about fighting over a bar seat.

We made our last trek down Duval St. to the Tuna. When we walked in there were two girls performing that sounded really good.

Thankfully the tables were open and I grabbed the one right in front for the best view. We had a couple of appetizers and then I ordered (yes again) a caesar with grilled mahi mahi. I couldn’t believe how good the fish was and how I was so disappointed with the tilefish at Prime.

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.

Eventually it started to clear a little so I was able to see the band again. While we were enjoying the band, my husband kept checking his phone to see if Brent and Julie were still on their way. Unfortunately he did hear back from them and they wound up going back to the Gardens after dinner. 

A bit disappointed we figured it was probably for best so we didn’t stay out as late as we could have, if they showed up. So after the watching the band for a bit, we decided to call it a night – but not before I hehard Zack play Jersey Girl, since I always request it.

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.

Soon I could see the NYC skyline and we landed a little bit early. Too early – that we had to wait for our car service to pick us up. Thankfully we only waited about 15 minutes.  It was definitely cooler back home then in Key West but it wasn’t too bad. And not before long we were back home. 

Once again there are never two Key West trips a like. This one was obviously the most interesting trip with it being Fantasy Fest and all. With that being said, most likely I would probably avoid returning that time of year again, but I will always remember this trip. I am so thankful and grateful that we were able to visit Key West three times this year especially after the year before without being able to travel anywhere.

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! 

Should We Stay or Should We Go – Key West 7.3.21-7.10.21

We were in Key West just a couple of months prior but we were ready to go back. Our initial April trip was delayed until May (so we could be fully vaccinated before traveling on a plane again, etc.) As a result, it made the quickest amount of time between trips. However, for me it doesn’t matter if was a year ago, 2 months ago or even just a week ago, I am always excited to get back to my happy place.

Several days before our trip I noticed that there was a tropical disturbance forming in the Atlantic and thought to myself how could this be? I know it is technically hurricane season but normally I never see a storm form so early in the season that could possibly track towards Key West. 

As our vacation neared I saw that the tropical disturbance formed and was now named Tropical Storm Elsa. I thought to myself this is just terrific. What do we do? I kept reading reports and most of them indicated that the storm most likely would remain a tropical storm and not become a hurricane. And if it did, it would probably weaken again over Cuba. I know storms are very unpredictable but I figured at this point let’s just go and see what happens. 

Saturday, July 3rd – Returning to Key West

The day before our trip I was getting a bit anxious, besides the impending storm, I was having a hard time reconfirming our airport pick up with our usual car service. Luckily my husband recent worked on one of the driver’s cars so he got a hold of him and confirmed that he would pick us up at 6:30am. Our flight was scheduled for 9:30am so that was fine. 

I had my alarm set for 5:30am but didn’t need it. I woke up probably about 3 times before that throughout the night. I was so excited that we were returning again. When it was time to get up and ready, I made sure we had all our necessary ID’s, boarding passes, etc. Our driver was right on time at 6:30am. It was a bit of a rainy morning but it didn’t affect the drive at all.

We arrived at Newark-Liberty International Airport and it was insane. I knew that this was going to be the busiest travel weekend since the pandemic but was not prepared for it. We do have TSA Pre but even that had a line. It probably took us about a half hour to get through security. I couldn’t even imagine what the wait time was for the regular line, but it looked very very long.

By the time we got through security we still had about an hour to spare before it was time to board. Unfortunately where we were in the Terminal it wasn’t worth the extra walk to the United Club lounge. We did however, find this funky little bar and restaurant set up right in the center of the terminal. We sat down and had something drink. I noticed on the TVs they were talking about Elsa and how the projected path was still showing it headed right over Key West. I kept thinking to myself, it is a tropical storm it won’t be that bad.

Not before long it was time to walk to the end of the terminal to the lower level to our gate. It was a few minutes until we were going to board and I thought perfect, in no time we will be in the air. Then within a matter of minutes, one of the United ticket agents came on the intercom and announced that due to air traffic congestion in Florida our flight was going to be delayed until 10:30am. Really? I thought. My husband suggested that we could go back to the bar/restaurant where we were, so that’s what we did. It wound up being a good decision because we hadn’t had breakfast yet. 

I don’t know if a lot of airports are like this, but in the United Terminal all orders for drinks and food have to be through their iPads that they have set up. It was a little getting used to, but once you scan the QR code from your phone of your airline ticket it isn’t too difficult. Anyway we wound up ordering a couple of drinks and breakfast. I wasn’t sure where the food would come out from but somehow someone brought the food out from somewhere. $100 later we were done with breakfast and it was time to walk back to the gate. If we were delayed any longer who knows what the final tab would have been. Thankfully we started to board a little after 10am so the hour delay wasn’t too bad. Once we got on the runway we had to wait a while before take off, typical of Newark Airport since it is always so busy. 

Eventually we were in the air and the flight wasn’t too turbulent. It is about a 2 and 1/2 hour flight, give or take 10 minutes – so it doesn’t seem that long at all before you start to see the Keys below and the amazing colors of the water. We wound up approaching Key West in a different way, so I was able to get some great photos of the island.

Once we landed, as usual we were escorted on the tarmac into the airport. It was a hot and sunny day. We were one of the first to deplane so we got a taxi right away. I always love looking out the window along the way of Smather’s Beach. I kept thinking to myself we made it but what is going to happen with this storm?

Soon we turned on to Angela St. where the taxi dropped us off in front of our home away from home, the Gardens Hotel. Since our last stay a few months ago a few things changed. We didn’t have to spray our luggage or wear masks while checking in. Also they reinstated housekeeping once again, thank goodness. 

Our room was ready so we dropped off our luggage and unpacked. Of course we traded the socks and sneakers for flip flops. We wound up sitting down at the bar at the Gardens to have a nice cold beverage and decompress for a few minutes. Normally we get into Key West around 1pm but being that our flight was delayed it was a little after 2pm. I was getting a little antsy since our friend Zack Seemiller was playing at Rick’s only until 4pm that day so we finished our drinks and walked down Duval St. to Rick’s.

We walked in and found two seats at the bar. Zack immediately recognized us as usual.

His son Kai was also there. It was great to see them again. And of course I had to get my usual photo with Zack.

Once his set was over we were able to chat for a few minutes. He was playing later at the Smokin’ Tuna with Caffeine Carl so I told him we would try to make it.

A few weeks prior I made reservations at Cafe Marquesa. Usually we have dinner at Lola’s our first night, but I wanted to try something different. I knew it was a bit pricey but figured why not it is our first night in town and it is pretty close to the Gardens. I made the reservations for 6:00pm so we still had sometime before getting ready for dinner.

During our last visit my husband took a liking to this newer place called General Horseplay. As I mentioned in my previous trip report, the bar has a feel /vibe like you are in Brooklyn not Key West and the AC is wonderful. We walked in and ordered a couple of drinks called the Murricane. I normally would never touch bourbon, but these drinks are crafted so well you can’t tell what is in them except they taste really good. Since it was later in the afternoon the place was bustling.

We only stayed for one because we did have to make it to dinner. We walked back to the Gardens hotel to freshen up. On the way back we passed by the newly replaced Mile 0 sign. I have no idea why they made it the size it is now, perhaps deterring people from trying to steal it, but it just looked so odd.

Once we were all freshened up, we headed down Simonton St. to the restaurant. It is a quick walk from the Gardens. We walked in and there was only one other large table occupied.

The hostess sat us near the window. We did try dining here several years ago and were unimpressed. I heard that there was a new head chef and that the food was a lot better and indeed it was.

Our server was very accommodating and didn’t miss a step. For appetizers I ordered the fresh seared Ahi Tuna with watermelon and my husband had the oysters rockefeller. My appetizer was perfect for this time of year, tasty and refreshing. I tried one of my husband’s oysters and it was delicious. Then for dinner I decided to go with the crispy yellowtail snapper topped with a crabmeat salad and served with an avocado cream sauce. The combination was outstanding. My husband had the beef tenderloin and thoroughly enjoyed his dinner. We were too stuffed for dessert but really enjoyed our dining experience vs. the last one several years ago. When we received the bill it was a bit of a shock. Yes prices are listed on the menu, but once they are all added up it adds up! I would definitely recommend Cafe Marquesa, however just be forewarned that you will pay the price. It was worth it though.

You can see my review here: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g34345-d447628-r796831315-Cafe_Marquesa-Key_West_Florida_Keys_Florida.html

Surprisingly I wasn’t too tired and convinced my husband to go to the Smokin’ Tuna to see Zack and Carl play. Plus it was a good excuse to walk off all that food. The sun was starting to set as we walked down Duval. It was a Saturday night so the streets were jamming.

We walked in and it was packed. I was able to stalk out two people getting ready to leave at the bar and waited for them to exit. Once they left we sat down. Erin and Big Ed were bartending so it was great to see them again. During the show I got in touch with one of Zack’s close friends Natalie. We got to know her from our past few trips and was looking forward to seeing her again. She met us at the bar and we were having a great time.

She mentioned how her boyfriend Ron who is in the band the Durtbag’s was playing next door at Dirty Harry’s. I figured we hadn’t been to that place in years so why not? We walked in and I felt like I was back in Panama City, FL during Spring Break. It was mobbed with people of the younger generation lets just say (I felt way too old). We found a couple of seats at the bar close to the stage. 

I wasn’t used to seeing such a loud band like that since my high school years. They were great though. We were having a lot of fun but it was getting super later. Normally we don’t stay out that late for our first night, but we did. We headed out and made it back to the Gardens. We then said goodbye to Natalie and would meet up later on during our trip. 

Video of the Durtbags https://youtu.be/-Ub0-yumFGY

We called it a night after a long day. I think I remember the clock in the room saying 1:30?

Sunday, July 4th – Independence Day

I always love first waking up in the morning thinking I am at home, but then realizing I am not, I am in my happy place. We woke up to a beautiful day. I had a feeling that would happen since the old saying goes ‘the weather is always great before and after a storm’. 

Our first stop was Cuban Coffee Queen. Then I thought why don’t we try Blue Heaven this time since it is before 9am.

My review of Cuban Coffee Queen https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g34345-d9729234-r798300158-Cuban_Coffee_Queen-Key_West_Florida_Keys_Florida.html

We walked down past Ramshead Southermost and as we got closer to Blue Heaven you could see all the people waiting. There were even people waiting to put their name down. We looked at each other and said let’s go to Moondog Cafe instead.

We walked in and sat at the bar. I don’t understand why more people don’t sit at the bar. It is nice and spacious, but I don’t mind – more room for us. For breakfast my husband ordered the egg tacos and I had the standard two eggs with bacon.

Breakfasts at the Moondog Cafe are always consistently good no matter what you order. 

After breakfast we walked back to the Gardens to relax for a bit before heading out for the day. When we were set to go we headed up towards the Bite to walk around.

We eventually reached the Galleon but noticed you could not enter the parking lot area but had to go around using the boardwalk. It was kind of strange but I think they are trying to avoid a lot of foot traffic of non-guests from entering the parking area. 

So we walked down and sat down. Ordered a couple of drinks and as usual took the view in.

Another friend of ours Dave was in town so I reached out to him to see if he would stop by.

After about a half hour we heard his familiar voice. He wasn’t around during our last trip, so it was nice to see him this time. We talked for a while and glanced over to watch Joey Chestnuts eat 76 hot dogs.

I still don’t know how the guy does it. We also ran into Phil who manages the Sunset Tiki Bar. It was nice to see him as well. 

It was time for us to make our next move so we said our goodbyes to Dave and Phil and headed towards the Retro Room. This is another great place if you are looking for an escape from the heat. The AC is always blasting in this place.

We stopped in and met out with Kai for a drink. He even brought Bullet to say hello. 

While we were hanging out we heard from another fan of Zack’s that we became friends with Wayne. We wanted to say hello before he was leaving Key West. Once we settled up the tab at the Retro Room we headed down to Jack Flat’s.

It wasn’t crowded at all so we sat at a couple of seats at the bar. My husband wound up getting a box so we could listen to the Yankee Game.

As a side note, a couple months before our trip I was able to get dinner reservations at Latitudes for the Tuesday Night we would be in Key West. However I kept reading reviews of how the food is okay but not worth the price. We have dined there several times in the past and thought maybe try Louie’s Backyard instead. We have eaten there as well, but it has been a long time since we had dinner there. In the end I wound cancelling Latitude’s and booked a reservation at Louie’s Backyard for outside.

While we were waiting for Wayne, my phone starting ringing. I saw that it was a 305 are code, so I knew it was a Florida call. I answered my phone and it was Louie’s Backyard. They said that they would be closed on Tuesday (since that was when TS Elsa was forecasted to hit). I figured that would happen. Disappointed I told them thank you and would like to make a reservation for when we return in October and they said they would start taking reservations in September. So I made that mental note for next time.

While we were watching the Yankee game, we saw Wayne and his son walk in. Wayne couldn’t stay long but it was also nice to see him again.

We were getting hungry so we headed back to the Garden’s to freshen up. It was a beautiful evening. I heard from several locals that there is this new place called Kaya Island Eats right in the location Cowboy Bills used to be and across from the restaurant Mangoes. It is really close to the Gardens and I suggested to my husband that we could try it for dinner.

Initially I was hoping to do the Key West Rotary Fireworks Picnic like we did a couple years ago at the Casa Marina Resort, but this time it was being held at a local park and I wasn’t sure what it exactly entailed, so I opted to pass on it this year.

We walked down Angela St. and crossed Duval. We walked in to Kaya and it immediately reminded me of a restaurant in St. John, USVIs called Longboard. It had the same similar vibe and you could sit at the counter/bar area like Longboard.

I was so excited to see on the menu – all these things to choose from that I like.

For appetizers my husband ordered the coconut shrimp and I had the tuna poke. I also ordered a mai tai to go along with it.

The food came out and it was fresh and delicious. I had to order the fish tacos and I was happy I did. There are several ways to choose how you want your fish cooked and I went with blackened. It paired really well with the mango salsa. My husband had a burger and he really enjoyed it as well. I would definitely recommend this place. It is reasonably priced, fresh ingredients and amazing food. 

My review here: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g34345-d23162562-r796834499-Kaya_island_Eats-Key_West_Florida_Keys_Florida.html

After our dinner we walked over to Mary Ellen’s for a nightcap. We stopped in our last trip, but never noticed the Christmas Tree hanging upside down on the ceiling. I was getting tired so we only stayed for one.

On the way back we stopped at the liquor store to get a few things for the room in case we were stuck there during Tropical Storm Elsa which was supposed start effecting Key West the following day.

We wound up relaxing on our porch and listened to the Fireworks. We could actually see them around the other side of the building at the Gardens, so we walked down Simonton a little ways to watch the finale of the fireworks. I was kind disappointed we didn’t get closer to watch them, but I didn’t feel like dealing with all the people. After the fireworks were over we retired for the evening. 

Monday, July 5th – Calm Before the Storm

We woke up to a beautiful day with blue skies. My husband spotted this cafe / boutique the other day and wanted to try it for coffee instead of Cuban Coffee Queen. Plus it was on the way to a breakfast place I always wanted to try called La Grignote.

We made the left hand turn down Duval St. and there it was Flamingo Cafe & Boutique. We walked in and the place was adorable. In the back part of the store is where you order coffee. They also had a selection of pastries on display. The front of the store is devoted to women’s apparel and accessories. 

The woman that was working asked us if we would like coffee and we both ordered a cup. We had to wait for her to brew it, but once she handed us the coffee it was worth the wait. It was very good.

We walked down past La Te Da, which was really crowded and down to La Grignote. I walked up the stairs and noticed a closed sign on the door. I didn’t realize they are closed on Mondays. Then I thought let’s go to Banana Cafe, which is right next door, but that had a long line of people waiting.

So we turned around and started walking back towards La Te Da. We walked in and there wasn’t really any place to sit unless you would sit towards the back of the place closer to the pool area but I didn’t want to sit that far back.

Then we both agreed to head to Bagatelle’s. When we walked up the stairs, I noticed all the tables were occupied. I was beginning to think we were never going to find a place to eat breakfast. However, my husband suggested we sit at the outside bar area.

It wound up being a great call because no one else was sitting there and it felt in a way like La Te Da. We couldn’t people watch, but there was a tv on so we could watch part of Live with Ryan and Kelly while we waiting for our breakfast.

Our breakfast as usual was very good at Bagatelle’s. I had the standard two eggs and bacon breakfast and my husband did too. Once we were done I wanted to go to the retail store at the Hogsbreath Saloon to get a few shirts and also one for my sister (who asked me to pick me up one).

I find that they probably have the best variety of shirts over any other bars/restaurants. When we walked out of the store, I noticed this building across the way that I never noticed it before saying it was for sale. I looked towards the top of the building and it was faded but said ‘The Bank of Key West’. It was pretty interesting.

After our shopping we walked back to the Gardens to drop off the shirts and to relax for a little bit before going back out for the day.

Once we were ready to go back out we walked down Simonton St.

Then I noticed that the skies were starting to have more cloud cover if you turned around to the south. We walked all the way down to the Bite and around back towards the Galleon. As we were walking, we noticed that the winds were starting to pick up. I thought to myself here it comes.

We walked in to the Sunset Tiki Bar at the Galleon and there were a few people sitting around. The bartender Ramsey told us that they were closing at 2pm for the day. While we were having a drink I noticed the manager Phil gathering all the tables and chairs around the bar area. He mentioned he wasn’t too concerned about the storm but he wanted to move everything back because of the potential winds – which makes sense since the bar is located right near the water. He also told us that he planned on reopening the following day around 3pm. 

After a couple of drinks we walked down to Captain Tony’s to see our friend Gabriel Wright play, but when we got there someone else was playing. I got in touch with him and he said he was playing 4:30-8pm. I thought perfect, we can go see Zack at Hogsbreath and then come back. 

Obviously then our next stop was Hogsbreath. We walked in and there were no seats available at the bar. We ordered a couple beers from the bartender Stephanie and while we were waiting I stalked out two people getting ready to leave at the end of the bar. As soon as they were getting up to leave I was able to grab the two seats before someone else did. 

I prefer the seats at the bar so you can watch whomever is playing. The other seats around the bar make it difficult. So we settled in for a bit to listen to Zack play. His son stopped by gain with their dog Bullet.

During his show he was referencing a couple of friends of his from Missouri and how the one guy is a bass master. My husband is familiar with the sports competition from watching it on tv and thought it was really cool that he was there. 

After Zack was done I mentioned to him about breakfast the following day if the weather wasn’t going to be so bad. So I thought fingers crossed it won’t be and we’ll be able to have breakfast.

Before we left I wanted to get a picture with the bartender Stephanie, who has been working there for years and she always takes care of us whenever we go there.

Our next stop was to go back to Captain Tony’s. And sure enough Gabriel was playing. It wasn’t as crowded as the last time we went there during our last trip so we were able to sit closer to the front.

As usual Gabriel played a bunch of songs that we usually request which was a lot of fun to hear again. We stayed until he went on break. We were both getting hungry at this point so we told Gabriel we would see him again the next time he was playing, but unfortunately we didn’t get to meet up again. 

Video of Gabriel Wright:https://youtu.be/g8tcEpKTlZE

We started walking around and my husband suggested we go to Marylin’s for something to eat, but when we got there, they were closed. So then I thought about going to Off the Hook since it was close by. We walked in and they were pretty crowded. We asked if we could sit at the back bar and it wasn’t a problem at all. In fact it was nice and quiet.

My husband ordered the tuna poke and I had the scallops ceviche. I never had a chance to have ceviche during our last trip so I was so happy to have it again. Off the Hook always makes great ceviche. I remember I would always order it back when they were located behind the Gardens Hotel.

While we were looking over what to have for dinner we saw that they have personal pizzas. I thought ‘sure I can go for that’! So we ordered the personal pizza with duck bacon. When it came out I was really surprised. It was larger then I expected and it looked terrific. And it was. I loved the firewood taste it had. The pizza was definitely enough for two people. In fact we couldn’t finish it so we took the leftovers back with us to the Gardens. 

My review of Off The Hook: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g34345-d5565929-r796835508-Off_the_Hook_Grill_Key_West-Key_West_Florida_Keys_Florida.html

By the time we got back to the hotel it started to rain, so we made it just in time. We sat out on the porch and listened to the rain for a bit while watching the Yankee game on my phone. I didn’t know what to expect the next day figured the best thing would be is to get some sleep.

Tuesday, July 6th – Tropical Storm Elsa

When we woke up the storm was here. The rains were coming down and the winds were picking up. There was no need to rush out to breakfast this morning. I contacted Zack and we agreed to take a rain check (no pun intended) for the following day.

We wound up setting outside on our balcony watching the storm for hours. It was really cool to see. Every once in a while you would feel and see a huge gust of wind. We even saw one of the large palms from the two iconic large palm trees at the Gardens (and also my inspiration for when I redid their logo several years ago) fall into the pool. 

Every time you would think the storm was over, there would be another band that would come through. While we were watching the storm we saw a few other guests as well waiting it out. We chatted for a bit and even recommended to them totry the Kaya place since they were looking for a place with good fish tacos. 

We also saw David, who works at the Gardens down below trying to clean up all the debris from the trees that fell. He joked around saying how my husband should help. 

Video of Tropical Storm Elsa: https://youtu.be/GKHAj-MZmHQ

Eventually the storm subsided and we were getting antsy to get back out after being stuck at the hotel for so long. So around 1:30-2pm we went back out, or so we thought. We walked to the front of the hotel and the street was flooded. Luckily the Gardens sits on the corner of Angela and Simonton so we were able to go through the other side to Simonton which was fine. David showed us where the opening in the Gate was to leave. It was like it was just flooded right in front of the hotel.

I wanted to check out down on Front St. to see if it was flooded. When we were walking around I didn’t seem much of anything as far damage, etc. All and all it was just a storm that had rain and wind but nothing too serious at all. It was a big sigh of relief. When we reached Front St. it was perfectly fine. No flooding whatsoever. 

Since it was after 3pm I knew that General Horseplay was open (during the week they don’t open until 3pm as opposed to on the weekends they open at noon). My husband is a big fan of the place so we went back. 

The place was pretty busy but not too bad. It was also happy hour so that made it fun. For happy hour they give you dice to roll, actually just one and depending on the number that’s the discount you get. I rolled a 3 so my drink was half off. My husband rolled a 1 so his drink was only a dollar. 

Now this is a type of place where you can settle in and just keep ordering drinks. The recipes they put together are so tasty that you can’t really taste the alcohol. We were thinking of staying for another, but when I got up to use the ladies room, I could feel it. Plus Zack was playing that evening at Ramshead. His original show with Caffeine Carl was postponed obviously because of the storm, so it was the only chance to see him that day.

On our way to Ramshead, I noticed a lot of places were closed because of the storm and the ones that were open were packed with people. When we got to Ramshead it too was busy with people. We were going to have dinner at the bar there but it was too uncomfortable to eat so we just ordered a couple of drinks.

Zack showed up shortly after we did. I didn’t think the place would have entertainment that night but I am glad they did. His son Kai showed up too.

While we were enjoying his music, the couple from Missouri showed up, Sandy and Josh. My husband started talking to Josh and I started talking to Sandy. They were telling us how Zack played at their wedding 11 years ago (they got married in Key West) which was really cool. 

We wound up hitting it off with them and talked for a while. When Zack’s show was nearing the end I was starving. We both were. Since we were close to the restaurant 915 and also the Blackfin Bistro we figured that we could try going to either place for dinner. So we said goodbye to everyone and walked down towards 915.

When we got there, they were closed and so was the Blackfin Bistro. Then we were going to try Old Town Tavern and they too were closed. We circled back and then wound up coming upon this newer place I heard about Lost and Found. It was also crowded but once we walked in I could see on the side of the bar there were a few open seats. I thought thank goodness – I needed food asap.

We sat down and shared the shrimp cocktail. I saw that they had fried hogfish fish tacos and ordered them. I know a big surprise my husband ordered the burger. While we were waiting the bartender mentioned that they were substituting the hogfish with grouper. I love both so it didn’t matter to me and I told her it was fine.

It felt like eternity because I was so hungry but when the food came out I was so happy. It was exactly what the doctor ordered. The fish tacos were tasty and my husband enjoyed his burger. I even stole a few of his fries. I did notice a lot of locals in the place which is usually a good sign. I was so glad that we stumbled upon this place. It was really good.

My review here: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g34345-d23257128-r796836751-Lost_Found_Key_West-Key_West_Florida_Keys_Florida.html

After dinner we were pretty tired so we walked back to the Gardens and that was that.

Wednesday, July 7th – Long Long Long Day

The storm was well out of Key West leaving it to be a beautiful morning to wake up to. We rescheduled to have breakfast with Zack and Kai that morning and would plan on meeting at Breakfast Club Too. First we made a stop at Cuban Coffee Queen before walking along Simonton St. 

The sun was shining and it was getting hot. We walked down to the Breakfast Club Too and noticed there was a letter on the door saying that for the month of July they are closed on Wednesdays. We waited for Zack and Kai to show up and when they did Zack suggested Harpoon Harry’s.

We walked in and it was really crowded. We were seated all the way in the back but it was fine. The breakfast at Harpoon Harry’s is always solid. Nothing fancy, just good home cooked food. I particularly enjoy their grits. It was a pleasant way to start the day – catching up and enjoying each other’s company. We finished breakfast and thanked Zack and told him we would see him later at Willie T’s.

After breakfast we wound up walking around along the Bight. It was amazing what a difference a day makes as far as weather. 

It was still quite humid. Locals were saying that the storm didn’t come close enough. It was actually 55 miles out to the west of Key West when it passed by. They said if it did come close enough the following day would have low humidity but that definitely wasn’t the case.

We wound up stopping in at the Sunset Tiki Bar at the Galleon for one. They never wound up opening the day before after the storm passed. I guess it was like a snow day for them. We were enjoying the conversation with the bartender but knew one would be enough.

Since Zack was playing at 2:30 at Willie T’s that day we decided to go back to the Gardens and relax for a while. Unfortunately the pool was closed that day because it had to be treated / shocked after the storm. The pool on the other side of the hotel where the suites are located was open, but we figured we would just relax in the shade.

Before heading back out for the rest of the day we both agreed to freshen up since it was so hot out. It was a great idea. We made it back out to Willie T’s and thankfully found a table in the shade. 

We sat down and ordered a couple of drinks and listen to Zack play. During his show we saw his friends show up Natalie, Ron, Janice and Matt. We saw them last time and that is when we stayed out too long at Ramshead the last time, but it was a lot of fun. Also Sandy and Josh who we met the other day showed up. They actually sat with us and we had a great time talking and listening to Zack.

When Zack’s show was over we saw another familiar face John LaMere. We always enjoy watching him as well so we figured we would stay for a bit and then head down to the Tuna to see Zack and Caffeine Carl play.

We were getting hungry so we grabbed a menu. We wound sharing a dozen oysters. I never thought about ordering oysters at Willie T’s but they were delicious and very fresh. It definitely hit the spot. My husband also ordered their friend shrimp which wasn’t as fancy but very good as well.

With our bodies refueled we said good bye to John and made our way down Duval to the Smokin Tuna. 

When we walked in there was a female artist singing and her voice sounded amazing. I looked up on the schedule and her name was Kristen McNamara. She was finishing her show so we only heard a few, but at the very end she wound up singing the Star Spangled Banner. Everyone in the place stood up, took off their hats and put their arms across their chests, even the staff. It actually gave me chills it was so cool to see and experience.

Instead of sitting at the bar we wound up sitting at a table for more room and a better viewing experience. My husband ordered their delicious jalapeno poppers wrapped in bacon. I wasn’t too hungry so passed on them, but in hindsight as usual I probably should have eaten more that evening.

Not before long I saw Caffeine Carl setting up with Joey Marchiano, the drummer. Then Zack showed up and I had to get a few pictures before they started.

Once they started Sandy and Josh showed up and joined us. It was a fun night. We wound up staying through both sets. 

Video of the Band: https://youtu.be/J98DY_iGfvM

When they were done so were we. We said goodbye to everyone and made it back to the Gardens and called it a night.

Thursday, July 8th – Taking it Easy

A few days prior I reached out to our friend Billy to see about going out on the water with him. I was hoping that today was the day that we would do so, but unfortunately he never got back to me.

After the night before we wound up sleeping in later then we normally do, but I needed it. I was feeling the effects of not eating enough compared to the amount of drinks. It wasn’t a great start but thought that a good breakfast may do the trick.

We freshened up and walked back down to La Te Da. It was nice and quiet this time and we found two seats at the bar along the road. I was so happy we could finally find a spot to sit, especially where we were. We ordered breakfast and surprisingly it came out quite fast this time. It was really good.

Unfortunately the breakfast did make me feel that much better so when we were done we went back to the Gardens to kick back for a while. Later on we had a beverage at the Gardens Bar and talked to the new bartender Phil for a while. He was a nice and friendly guy but boy he took forever to finish a story. We managed to listen to him for a while before going back out. 

Zack was playing again at Willie T’s so we headed down Duval. At least Willie T’s is pretty close to the Gardens so the walk in the heat wasn’t too bad. 

Zack’s son Kai was there so we joined him.

I also saw Donna who works at Willie T’s, a friend of Zack’s who I have become friends with being we are both Kevin Harvick Nascar Race fans. It was nice to see her, she always has a big smile on her face.

I tried a couple of things to drink, but nothing tasted good. It was like drinking sand. I couldn’t do it. So when Zack was done we didn’t stay much longer.

Video of Zack singing his song Harmony: https://youtu.be/C3Zkopn6eJ4

We were craving pizza again so we walked down to Onlywood, the original location, which is on the way back to the Gardens on Duval. 

My husband grabbed a menu and asked me what kind of pizza I wanted. The first thing that struck my eye was the marinara pizza. He wound up waiting for the pizza while I walked back to the room.

When he came back with the pie and opened it up we realized there was no cheese on it. I had no idea that it wouldn’t come with cheese, but looking back it didn’t say it had cheese on it on the menu. All well. It was still good, but my husband wasn’t too thrilled. I think I wound up eating the majority of it. At least it wasn’t too fattening because it didn’t have the cheese.

We were both really tired from the day/night before so we called it an early night. I think I was asleep by 9pm.

Friday, July 9th – Last Day 

Since we went to sleep so early, I woke up feeing refreshed. It was an awesome feeling. It was our last full day but it felt like we were there a lot longer. Maybe because we were just there a few months ago, it almost felt like a continuation to this trip. 

Of course our first stop was Cuban Coffee Queen. Then for breakfast we wound up going back to Breakfast Club Too knowing they were open. The place was pretty crowded so we decided to sit at the bar, otherwise they would have sat us at this two top right in the line of foot traffic.

I wound up ordering the chorizo rostis and my husband had the eggs and hash. While we were waiting for our order, we noticed a girl sitting near us eating off this platter which appeared to have 20 or so silver dollar sized pancakes and a plethora of sides, like jars of jam, etc. My husband asked the bartender what it was and it is called the pancake charcuterie board. I think it was enough to serve a family of four but it looked delicious and no she didn’t finish it.

Our breakfasts soon came out and I forgot how large the rostis are. It was so good I ate almost half of it but it still looked like I didn’t put a dent in it. I felt guilty not finishing it. If we were staying at a place with a kitchen I would have totally brought back the leftovers. It was that good – especially their homemade chorizo. 

My review here: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g34345-d13526247-r796839802-The_Breakfast_Club_Too-Key_West_Florida_Keys_Florida.html

When we were done with breakfast we wound up walking around the Bight again.

As we were walking near the White Tarpon restaurant, we heard a guy yell to his wife that there was a manatee in the water. So we rushed over and sure enough there it was. I have only seen one a few years ago but not this close. He even came up for air. It was quite impressive to see.

We then walked back to the Gardens to start packing some things up. We had a later flight the next day (1:30pm) but figured why not get some of it done. I also was able to check in for our flight at the Gardens. 

The Gardens also has a computer and printer available so you can print out your boarding passes. I know you don’t need them if you have the app on your phone, but I tend to like having the printout just in case. I did have a problem with the printer, but David was able to help me. Basically I had the paper in the wrong part of the printer.