July 4th Week in Key West June 30th – July 6th, 2019

Hard to believe that this was going to be our 22nd time down to Key West and 3rd time for the year. You think we would get tired of going to the same place over and over, but that is not the case. I think I get even more excited each time we go.

Sunday, June 30th – Going Back “Home”

I had the alarm set for 4:45am and it was already a beautiful summer morning. Our driver was right on schedule and we made it to the airport just before 7:00am. I was a bit concerned that we were going to have issues with our flight due to the fact the previous day a United flight had to make an emergency landing into Newark Airport causing massive delays. I even got a message from United saying that if we wanted to change our flight we could. Luckily when we got to the airport it seemed that everything was back on schedule. Our flight was scheduled to leave at 8:55 am so we had time to have some coffee at the United Club Lounge.

Soon it was time for us to walk to the gate. Last time we had a bit of an ordeal with changing planes and gates. This time, however we lucked out. It wasn’t before long we were boarding the plane. The flight itself was a little bumpy along the way but not too bad. After about 2 hours I soon was able to see the beautiful hues of blues and greens of the water. 

The excitement of returning to Key West once again came back. We actually landed about 20 minutes earlier then scheduled so it was just about noon when we landed.

We exited the aircraft and made a quick dash to the taxi pickup. There was no line so we were able to grab the first taxi available.

The taxi driver was quite an interesting guy but we got a kick out of him. I always love seeing the water along the way to the hotel. Not before long I could see the yellow walls surrounding the Gardens Hotel. He dropped us off and we checked in. Jim, the Gardens Hotel GM was there, so it was great to see him again. Our room was ready so we unpacked all our things. Before making our way out for the afternoon we sat down on the outside porch for a moment and I thought to myself how nice it is to be back “home”.

Since it was a Sunday there wasn’t any live music I wanted to see in particular so my husband suggested we stop in at Jack Flat’s for a drink and catch the ending of the Yankees and Boston game that was being played in London. It was pretty hot out so it wasn’t a bad idea.

We made our usual first right onto Duval. It is always such a fun feeling getting back on the street and walking down. It was a fairly quick walk and we made our way into Jack Flat’s. It was kind of crowded but we were able to find a couple of seats at the bar. We ordered a couple of beers and watched part of the game. During the game, there was a large group of people came in. We just ignored them but they were getting pretty loud. They became so loud and obnoxious that local patrons were yelling at them to be quiet or leave. Eventually they were thrown out of the place. Apparently after they walked in, another party of two walked in. The large group ordered first, but the order for the party of two got their order first. I used to work in the service industry and it is quite common that the smaller order will come out first. I guess the large group didn’t feel that way and hence that is why the commotion happened. 

The Yankess wound up having a big lead so we decided to move on to another place. My husband suggested the Blue Macaw since it is back towards the Gardens and it is always a nice atmosphere there. We sat at the bar where we listened to some guy play steel drum music which I love because it reminds me of the Caribbean.

While we were sitting there we started to talk to the bartender, Travis. He mentioned that he also bar tends at the Hot Tin Roof which I always wanted to go to. We talked about any special drinks that he makes and he said that he makes a lot of different ones at the Hot Tin Roof and that we should come by. I wound up making a reservation for the following evening. So we told him we would see him there the next night.

We walked back to the Gardens so we could freshened up for Jazz at the Gardens which was the last one of the season so we wanted to be sure to check it out. When we walked back to the Gardens we saw a familiar face, Adam the bartender.

We sat down with him and talked a bit before getting ready for Jazz. Once we were all freshened up we grabbed a couple of seats near the bar and listened to the Jazz for a bit. Kate, the owner of the Gardens was also there. It was nice to see her before she left for Paris the following day. She always thanks us for our loyalty for always staying there and also how she loves the logo I did for the hotel. I told her we always look at other places but could never find anything comparable.

We were getting pretty hungry so we wound up leaving before the Jazz ended. Since it was getting later I suggested the Moondog Cafe since it is nearby. I also read that their dinners are very good there. We only tried breakfast the previous trip so I figured why not. 

We walked in and sat the counter/bar area. It wasn’t too crowded so our food came out quickly. We shared an ordered of truffled french fries which hit the spot. For dinner my husband ordered a burger and had their grilled mahi mahi fish tacos. Everything was tasty and enjoyed our dinners.

It wasn’t too late but being it was a travel day, we were both pretty tired so we called it an early night.

Monday, July 1st – First Full Day – Azur, Peppers, Hogsbreath, Willie T’s, Hot Tin Roof

We woke up to a beautiful day. It was already quite warm but still so pretty. We freshened up and walked down to Cuban Coffee Queen for our usual first stop. 

I couldn’t believe there was no one waiting but then again it was summer which is much quieter then in April. https://tinyurl.com/y2capbvu

Once we had our coffee in hand we walked down to Azur for breakfast. We usually go to Blue Heaven for our first morning breakfast but I wanted to try something different. We went to Azur several trips ago and I remembered it was quite good.

When we got to Azur we realized we were a few minutes early. The restaurant doesn’t open until 9am. Since we had some time we walked further down Grinnell St. looking for this new place called the Dirty Pig. We wanted to try it this time and wasn’t exactly sure where it was. So we kept walking down the street and there it was on the corner. You could smell the meat being smoked. It was bigger then I thought it would be too. We both looked at each and thought we will definitely be back.

It was just about 9am so we walked back to Azur. We were the first ones there and decided to sit inside since it was getting steamy outside. I decided to go with the smoked salmon eggs benedict and my husband ordered the gnocchi fritatta. My eggs benedict were a little on the cool side but still very good and my husband had no issues with his breakfast. https://tinyurl.com/y4enocmm

After breakfast we strolled around for a bit before walking into Peppers. 

We have been there so many times and are very familiar with their hot sauces so I wasn’t going to try any. They did have a few new items so my husband volunteered to taste a few. Meanwhile I was making the selection of hot sauces that I wanted to be shipped back home. We decided on a decent amount of hot sauces and a few marinades. I filled out the shipping info and we were all set. Ironically when we came back home, the box from Peppers made it home the same day we did.

We made our way to the Galleon’s Sunset Tiki Bar. It was getting hot so it was a perfect spot to grab a couple of seats and order a cold beverage. Also the bartender Grubby was working and he is always fun to talk to and full of energy. 

We kicked back a bit before deciding on our next stop.

I wanted to be sure to see my good friend Zack Seemiller (who I also do all his design/ad work for) at Hogsbreath but I remembered our friend Gabriel Wright was playing at Captain Tony’s as well. So we wound up going to Captain Tony’s first. We stopped in and immediately he recognized us.

As usual he wound up playing a set of songs we normally request which is always welcoming. We were able to talk to him for a bit once he went on break. Before I realized it, we were there much longer then intended but we were having a good time.

With not that much time to spare we said our good byes and made it to Hogsbreath. It was fairly crowded but luckily a couple of seats opened up. Zack saw us and gave us a shout out. While we were listening to Zack, we saw a familiar face – Wayne. We met him a couple of years ago at one of Zack’s show and turned out he is from Long Island which isn’t too far from NJ. We agreed that we would meet up then next day at Willie T’s. Just as Zack’s show was ending, his son Kai showed up. Once Zack was done, I got my obligatory photo before leaving. We had dinner reservations at Hot Tin Roof, so I wanted to be sure we had enough time to get ready.

Kai wound up walking back with us to the Garden’s so it was nice to catch up with him. We said our good byes and said that we would catch him tomorrow at his dad’s show, if not we would see him and his dad at Breakfast Club Too that Wednesday for breakfast. 

When we walked into the Gardens we noticed that Adam was bartending again, so we grabbed a couple of seats and sat down for a drink. We took turns getting ready for dinner. We also saw a familiar face at the Garden’s, David who works the front desk from time to time and Alicia who helps out around the hotel. It was fun to hang out and talk to everyone before dinner.

We realized we were cutting it close to dinner so we said good bye and walked at a fast pace down Duval towards the Ocean Key Resort. We made it to the front doors at 6:28 and our reservation was for 6:30 so we literally just made it. 

We walked up the stairs and asked to be seated at the bar, which was empty so it wasn’t any problem.

We didn’t see the bartender Travis that we met the other day at the Blue Macaw working. We asked the bartender about Travis and turned out he was out sick – all well. It was still a beautiful setting and I finally was able to see what the restaurant looked like. As we were deciding on what to order, I noticed more people coming in asking to be seated inside since it was so hot out. Usually people will sit outside to watch the sunset but not that night. 

For our first course I ordered the grouper ceviche and my husband ordered the tuna poke. I tried my husband’s poke and I actually like it better. The ceviche was good but not as flavorful as other places I have tried it, like Off the Hook and Turtle Kraal. We then ordered a half dozen of their east coast oysters on the half shell which were delicious. I then choose to go with the black grouper for dinner and my husband had their NY strip sirloin. My grouper was very good, however my husband’s steak wasn’t exactly. While it looked amazing, he said it lacked flavor – like it was freezer burned. He joked and said that’s what he gets for ordering a steak in Key West. Perhaps next time we will give Prime a try since we heard from so many locals that is where you go for good steak. https://tinyurl.com/y36rv7a5

I was pretty full after dinner since I managed to finish everything on my plate. It felt good to walk back towards the hotel. 

On the way, I noticed Big Ed was bartending at the Tree Bar at Rick’s. We walked on over and said hello while ordering a couple of drinks. He mentioned that Carl and George were playing at Rick’s the following night so we thought perfect, we’ll be back the next night. We were both pretty tired at that point so we said good bye to Ed and walked back to the Gardens and got some much needed rest. 

Tuesday, July 2nd – La Te Dah, Pool Time, WIllie T’s, The Dirty Pig

We woke up to another gorgeous morning. It was already warm again but there was a nice breeze. We did our usual first stop to Cuban Coffee Queen. 

Our choice for breakfast this time was La Te Da. I enjoy the atmosphere there and you are right along the street where you can people watch – which in Key West, can be very entertaining.

We walked in and grabbed two seats at the bar. I didn’t have anything really planned that day so we both ordered a couple of screwdrivers to start.

I ordered the omelet of the day which hit the spot. My husband had the 3 egg breakfast with their candied bacon. https://tinyurl.com/y4cguywq

After breakfast we went back to the Gardens to relax by the pool for a while. It was the perfect decision after all the walking the previous day.

A couple hours passed and it was time to head back to town. After we freshened up we walked down to Blue Heaven for a drink. I was surprised it was pretty busy even though it was just after lunch. They had some entertainment while we were there so it was nice. 

We only stayed for one and walked on over to the Blue Macaw. We grabbed a couple of seats at the bar right next to the fan blowing that helped immensely. We chatted with the bartender Justin for a few. We actually remembered him from a previous trip, which isn’t much of a surprise since we go some many times of a year. I wanted to head on over to see Zack at Willie T’s but my husband wanted to stop at the Green Parrot first.

It is one of those places you have to stop in at least once during your stay. It seems like every time we go to the Green Parrot, there are always nice people we wind up meeting. 

Then it was time to go to Willie T’s. We walked in and I saw our friend Howard and his wife there. We sat down at a table next to them. We talked to them for a bit during Zack’s show. It was a lot of fun. They were leaving the next day so once Zack was done we got a few pictures and wished them a safe trip back home.

We mentioned to Zack that we were going to give the Dirty Pig a try, since one of his good friends is part owner of the place. He mentioned that he would stop by. We walked to the Dirty Pig and once again you could smell the smoke. It smelled so good that it made me quite hungry. Of course we choose to sit at the bar. The lovely bartender handed us menus and explained to us how the ordering worked. For example if you order one of the main entrees,  you get a choice of two sides, etc. 

My husband ordered the mac and cheese balls and I was craving something green so I ordered a caesar salad. The bartender asked if I wanted it small or large. I opted for the large and when she brought it out – it was HUGE.  So I decided to try the mango habanero wings as my main course and my husband had the brisket sandwich. The wings had a great smoke flavor to them. They weren’t crispy but they were so tender which was fine for me. My husband enjoyed the brisket sandwich but would have preferred the meat in larger slices then chopped. https://tinyurl.com/y45g9ola

While we were finishing up a familiar face stopped in, it was Zack. We told him that we enjoyed the meal. He told us that George who was supposed to play with Carl later that night at Rick’s was having issues with his eyes and wouldn’t be able to play.

So after we decided on a time to meet up for breakfast the following morning we walked around the bight a little bit before going back to the Gardens to turn in for the night.

Wednesday, July 3rd – Breakfast Club Too, Café Solé

Another beautiful morning and made our first stop once again at Cuban Coffee Queen.

We walked along Simonton Street this time towards Caroline Street up to Breakfast Club Too. 

We sat at the bar while we waited for Zack and Kai.

My husband ordered a bloody mary but I didn’t feel like anything to drink at that point but it sure looked good.

Once Zack and Kai showed up we grabbed a table. It was nice to hang out and catch up with them since our last visit. Everyone enjoyed their breakfast. I don’t think we have ever been disappointed there. It has actually become one of my favorite places for breakfast. https://tinyurl.com/y2r6gxmg

We thanked Zack for breakfast and told him we would catch him later at Willie T’s. We walked back to the Gardens to relax for a bit before heading back out for the day. 

After we freshened up, we made our way back on to Duval.

We decided our first stop would be First Flight. I hadn’t had a moscow mule in a while so ordered one. It was the perfect drink on a hot day. 

After our drinks we made walked down towards El Pepe De Mason for a couple of mojitos. 

However after we ordered a couple we realized that they raised their prices from $12 each to $14. I thought that was crazy for the size drinks you get.

So obviously we were one and done after that. 

Then we walked back to the Galleon Tiki Bar to hang out there for a bit. It was another hot day so the shade was perfect and plus you get the breeze off the water.

Eventually we made it to Willie T’s to catch the second set of Zack’s show. It wasn’t too packed so we got a table in the shade right next to the fan – it was perfect! We stayed until the end so I could get a couple more pictures. 

We told him we were going to Cafe Sole later for dinner. He invited us to stop by his house after dinner since it isn’t too far from the restaurant so he can show us the work he has been doing to it. We told him we would meet him later.

We walked back to the Gardens to get ready for dinner. Once we got to Cafe Sole we were asked whether to be seated outside or in so I suggested that we sit outside. The table they sat us at was really hot since the ceiling fan above us was broken. My husband asked our server if we could sit inside and they offered two seats right at this tiny bar inside. It was perfect. 

 My husband ordered the beef carpaccio and I had their tuna tartare. It was amazing. Then of course we each had the hogfish for dinner. 

The food was delicious. Cafe Sole never disappoints when we dine there and enjoy its location off the beaten path. https://tinyurl.com/yyqs5pnd

After dinner we got in touch with Zack and walked over to his house. He showed us around and suggested to walk to Don’s place – which is a local hangout that we had never gone to. While we were walking we noticed the skies became this amazing color of orange. It was beautiful. 

We walked to Don’s and sat in the outside area and talked for a bit.

 It was a nice way to end the evening. We thanked Zack and Kai for their hospitality and walked back to the hotel and went to sleep.

Thursday, July 4th – Independence Day at the Casa Marina

I always heard about how you can get tickets to be a part of the VIP picnic that is held every year at the Casa Marina to watch the fireworks. I saw the tickets when they went on sale and thought they were a bit pricey, but then after reading how it is a 3 hour open bar, gourmet buffett and live local music – I thought why not? Plus for the past couple of years we have been going out on one of the boats for the fireworks that it would be a nice change.

When we first woke up we could here rain, but by the time we freshened up, the skies had cleared. As we were walking to Cuban Coffee Queen I spotted a rainbow. It was pretty impressive. 

Once we had our usual coffees in our hands, we agreed to go back to Moondog Cafe for breakfast. We walked in and sat at the bar. Unlike last time, the inside was busier then the outside because it was another hot day. 

We ordered breakfast and I decided to try the huervos rancheros. I was a bit disappointed because they served it like a deconstructed style so I had to put everything together myself – it still tasted good but prefer them already assembled. 

Due to the fact we had the Casa Marina event later in the day, we thought it would be best to take it easy.

Plus we found out that in honor of July 4th, the Gardens was having a hot dog bbq from 2-4pm that afternoon.

As a result, we spent the rest of the day relaxing by the pool. Around 2 o’clock the hot dogs were ready. 

We even met a nice couple from Albany, John and Carolyn.

Another bartender by the name of Scott was working and we remembered him as well from our previous visits.  We were talking to him and the other couple about how they should check out the Smokin’ Tuna the next night because Caffeine Carl and Zack were playing. Then it was time to get ready for the fireworks. The hotel (Nancy) called a taxi for us since it was a bit of a walk to the Casa Marina. Just before we were leaving we saw her (who has been working at the Garden for years). She is such a sweetheart. 

We hopped into the taxi and soon we were at the Casa Marina. They had tables set up before you walk in to check-in. Once we walked through the lobby and outside on to the grounds, it was so magnificent – such a beautiful place. 

We walked towards the beach where they had tables set up. I was surprised when we were seated at our own private table. It was perfect, the setting, the location, etc. 

My husband grabbed a couple drinks for us while I was just sitting there taking in the view. Not before long they had the buffett stations ready for dining. 

The food was quite good for a buffett. They had beef tenderloin, grilled local organic chicken, paella with all kinds of shellfish, salads, and other sides. 

While we were eating, my husband realized he left his phone in the taxi. Thank goodness while we were going to the hotel, my husband remembered that the driver kept repeating the number 42 on his radio. So after a few phone calls, we were able to locate the taxi driver and he said that he did have his phone. We arranged that right after the fireworks, he would pick us up. 

The sun began to set making it an even more beautiful setting.

Really the only negative was that they wound up not having live local music. Ironically in the past Zack and his son would play at the Casa, but for some reason they didn’t have it this year. I honestly think it would have been so much better instead of the top 40 hits radio music they were playing.

As it neared 9 o’clock you could see the White Street Pier fill up with people and all the boats that went out for the sunset and fireworks lined up in the distance. It was strange to be in the opposite spot that we were usually at, to watch the fireworks.

Soon the fireworks began and they did not disappoint. You felt like you were so close to them. It was amazing to watch. The fireworks lasted probably around 20 minutes or so. Even the grand finale was spectacular. https://youtu.be/M7F9o1WRRLY

Once the fireworks ended, we walked out of the Casa Marina and it was a mad house with everyone doing the same thing looking for a taxi. Luckily we spotted the taxi driver right away and he was able to get through the crowds pretty easily. On our way back he handed my husband his phone and said that another passenger after us found it and gave it too him – and without a pass code on it, I thought how nice that person was and how lucky my husband was to get his phone back. The taxi driver dropped us off and we turned in for the night.

Friday, July 5th – Last Full Day (Already)

We wound up sleeping in a little later since most likely we would be up late going to the Smokin’ Tuna later that night. So when we arrived at Cuban Queen there was a line.

Thankfully it moved pretty quick and soon we had our coffees back in hand. 

We both decided to go to Bagatelles for breakfast. It wasn’t too hot so we sat outside on the porch. I ordered the smoked salmon served on focaccia bread and my husband had the huervos rancheros (which were served the way I prefer). It was a great start to our day. https://tinyurl.com/y2r4mufl

Once we were done with breakfast we walked around for a bit before stopping at Glichcraft, a small craft beer place on Simonton. 

Last time the bartender at the Gardens told us about the place and thought it was pretty cool and wound up doing some artwork for them. This time we were meeting up with one of the owners to talk about some t-shirts. We walked in and sat down. One of the owners, Adam was sitting there waiting for us. We talked for a bit about some potential design ideas. I told him I would get going on them once we got back home. 

While we were sitting there, they were setting up their screens for locals to come in and watch the Netflix Series Stranger Things Season 3. I didn’t want to stay because I wanted to wait to watch it once we were home. We thanked Adam for the beer and told him I would be in touch.

Our next stop was sunset pier.

We had not been there yet and wanted to see Al the bartender. When we got there we didn’t see Al. We asked one of the bartenders and it turned out he was off for the July 4th holiday weekend. We were both a bit disappointed but had one beer before going to Rick’s to see Zack.

We walked to Rick’s and were happy to see that the seats outside facing the bar were available. There were a bunch of people already inside so it was perfect to be away from the crowds. 

As we were sitting there, I noticed that Zack was wearing a shirt I designed for him for his up and coming birthday.

I laughed with my husband and told him he has to get a picture of it when he goes on break.

We hung out for a bit and Kai also showed up. It was fun but that feeling of leaving the next day kept coming over me, but I knew how lucky we have been to be able to come to Key West so many times – year after year. After Zack’s show, we told him we would see him later at the Tuna.

While we were walking back to the Gardens we noticed that since it was a Friday, they were closing off the portions of Duval again, like they did when we were there in April, which I think is a great idea.

When we got back to the Gardens we saw Scott bartending again. So obviously we had to sit down and have a couple more drinks. Then the other couple that we met the other day, John and Carolyn showed up. My husband and I wound up getting ready in shifts – first me and then my husband. When we were ready to go we told them again about going to the Tuna that night.

While we were walking trying to figure out where to go for dinner, I looked at my fitbit and saw that it was 7:30. How did that happen?

I knew if we went somewhere to eat we would never get a seat at the Tuna. So I suggested we go straight to the Tuna and that’s what we did. 

When we walked in it was crowded because the band the Nace Brothers were playing.

Luckily a couple left just as we were about to order drinks so we were able to get two seats at the bar. We saw Erin back behind the bar and it was great to see her again since we missed her the last trip. We ordered a couple appetizers to start but never ordered anything else – which in hind sight I probably should have. https://tinyurl.com/y38dkg7m

Soon Zack showed up and we talked to him before the show. We even were able to get a few pictures with Zack and Carl. 

Then it was time for the show to begin. Not before long Zack’s son Kai showed up to watch with us. While we were hanging out and enjoying the music, we noticed the couple from the Gardens, Scott the Bartender, and David the front office guy – all showed up. 

It was hilarious to see them all there. We were having such a great time hanging out and they even thought the band sounded great. I was joking saying – why is the last day always the best one?

They wound up leaving before us but we didn’t make the mistake before like last time staying until the end of the show. We were leaving the next day and the last thing I wanted, was to feel terrible for the flight home. We were supposed to have breakfast with Zack and Kai before we left so we told them we would seem them in the morning.

Saturday, July 6th – Leaving “Home”

We woke up to another sunny day. After freshening up and packing up all our things we walked to Cuban Coffee Queen for one last cup of coffee. Kai wound up meeting us there because Zack was running later from his morning workout.

We then walked over to Sarabeth’s which is our usual go to place before we leave so you don’t have to get too warm from walking some place further away. We got a seat inside and ordered. Then we got a message from Zack saying he couldn’t make and wasn’t feeling well. I was really bummed out, but obviously hoped he felt better. We still had a nice breakfast with Kai.

After breakfast we said our usual good byes which I always hate. 

We arranged for a taxi to pick us up at 11:30am and soon we were on our way to the airport. Our flight left on time and even arrived back in Newark, NJ a few minutes early. There were severe thunderstorms forecasted to hit the area (which seems to be a regular occurrence lately), but luckily they didn’t arrive until we were pretty much back home. Before I knew it we were back home doing laundry and unpacking. 

Every trip to Key West seems to go by quicker and quicker. Some day I would like to stay longer, but at least we are fortunate enough to keep returning as many times as we do.

As I always say Key West continues to bring great memories filled with amazing people and special friends that makes it feel like “home”. 

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog… until next time!!!

Conch Republic Independence Celebration Days in Key West – April 20 – 27, 2019

Great Battle of the Conch Republic, Mallory Square April 26th, 2019

This was going to mark our 21st time coming to Key West. Yes 21 times since 2006. My husband and I started going just once a year which became twice a year to now three times a year. I guess you can see we really love this place. This time we were going down to Key West during the 37th Anniversary of the Conch Republic Independence Day’s Celebration. Having no idea that it was going on, I was beyond excited to have had our trip scheduled during the same time.

Saturday April 20th – Arrival Day

Over night there were bad storms that blew through our area, but luckily our flight was scheduled to leave on time (or so we thought). The car service picked us up on time and we were on our way to Newark Airport. Along the way the rains started to pick up again and it was a bit nerve wrecking but thankfully we got there on time. 

We got through security pretty quickly due to TSA pre. We had time before we had to board, so we went to the United Club Lounge for some coffee. I saw that our Gate was at 115 so I wanted to make sure we gave ourselves enough time to get to the Gate since the Lounge was near 90 in another section. While we were waiting I got an alert that our Gate changed to 87. Perfect! Once we finished our coffee we walked down to Gate 87 which is actually on a lower level and is very small. I looked at the status and it said our flight was having mechanical issues. Instead of leaving at 8:55am it showed 9:15am. I wasn’t too concerned at that point but 9:15am then turned into 9:40am. Eventually an announcement was made that they changed our plane to Gate 105 and we would have to go there. We gathered our things and walked to the other Gate. Once we got there, we saw other people on our flight make their way. The United Agent at the counter then made another announcement that we were at the right Gate but had to wait for the flight crew.

After about an additional 25 minutes or so the flight crew finally showed up and everyone applauded once they arrived at the Gate. By the time we boarded the plane and took off, we were close to 2 hours behind. I was a bit disappointed but knowing we were still going to get to Key West brought a smile to my face. Since the storms were moving out of the tri-state area, the take off was quite bumpy. The captain didn’t even turn off the seat belt sign until we were about an hour and a half into the flight. 

On our way to Key West, the flight attendant mentioned how there was a later flight at 10am that wound up leaving before us and was going to beat us into the airport which resulted us having to circle Key West several minutes in order to allow the other flight to land and disembark. Eventually we landed but then had to wait on the plane before the other United flight was boarded with passengers and make its way to the runway. I was trying not to be impatient, but when I saw that it was after 2 o’clock and we were supposed to land by 12:30 I was getting very frustrated. I also wanted to see my good friend Zack Seemiller, whom I still do design work for, play at Rick’s but I knew he was only there until 4. 

Finally they gave us the go ahead to exit the plane. We got all of our luggage and made it down the tarmac and into the airport. We quickly raced to the taxi line and didn’t have too wait long to find one. We got into the cab and soon we were on our way to the Gardens Hotel. I always love staying there and it is so beautiful every time I see it. https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g34345-d227346-r670773279-The_Gardens_Hotel-Key_West_Florida_Keys_Florida.html

Once we were dropped off, we checked in pretty fast. The staff knows us by now so it is always a quick process. They welcomed us back and told us our room was ready. We walked up to our favorite Garden View room and unpacked all our things. By the time we were ready to go into town it was after 3 o’clock. I knew Zack wouldn’t be there much longer at Rick’s by the time we got there. I also saw on Facebook that he was also playing the Salty Angler later with his son Kai, I thought perfect. I figured that we would decompress at the Gardens Hotel Bar before going to the Angler.

We saw that Adam was bartending and we have enjoyed his company in the past and sat down. I thought to myself we have finally made it back “home”! While we were chatting with Adam he told us about how on Tuesday night the Gardens Hotel hosts the CIA Military Muster of the Conch Republic as part of the Conch Republic Independence Day’s Celebration. As a side note: Tuesday, April 23, 2019 marked the 37th anniversary of the Conch Republic Secession. It definitely sounded like something different for us to check out. 

After our drinks we walked down towards the Salty Angler. This was the first time we wound up walking down Angela Street and making a left instead of a right on to Duval.

It was a beautiful evening with low humidity. It was so nice to just get back and walk along Duval St. We made it to the Salty Angler where we saw Zack and Kai playing. They welcomed us back and it was great to see them. 

We were pretty hungry at that point so we ordered some food. My husband ordered their infamous thunder chicken thighs with a side of mac and cheese and I ordered a couple of grilled mahi mahi tacos. We didn’t wait too long for our food which was nice. Everything was tasty and hit the spot. 

Then Zack’s’ good friend Tim showed up (who we have met before) and his girlfriend. It was nice to him and meet his girlfriend. We wound up staying until they were down with their show. Once they were done we talked for a bit before walking down towards the Smokin Tuna to see Carl play. We told them we would see them around town and walked back to the Gardens to quickly get a long sleeve shirt since it was getting cooler.

Then we walked back onto Duval and made our favorite right hand turn. As we were walking by Willie T’s we saw John LaMere playing. We wanted to stop by to see him. We walked in and it was really crowded so it was standing room only. We didn’t stay that long because we couldn’t find a seat, but long enough to say hello.

Then we headed down Duval towards the Tuna. This was the first time to see how on the weekends they close off sections of Duval where you can walk down the street. It was pretty cool to see some restaurants had outside dining available along the road. It is only certain sections of Duval, but I think it is a great idea. 

As we got closer to the Tuna we noticed how packed the streets were. I forgot how crowded Duval gets on Saturday nights. We walked in and found a couple seats at the bar. I was hoping to see Carl’s wife Erin bartending, but she was home not feeling well.

Soon it was 9pm and Caffeine Carl, Joey Marchiano and George Chapman began to play. We probably stayed out a little bit longer then we initially intended, but it was fun to be back there and listen to the live music. 

Eventually it was time to make our way back to the Gardens and had reservations at Latitudes for Easter brunch the following morning.

Sunday, April 21st – Easter

I always love while we are away and when you wake up for the first time in the morning and think you are home at first, but then realize you are in one of the most beautiful places. I woke up and it was a beautiful day. The skies were blue and the humidity was still low. We freshened up and headed to Cuban Coffee Queen to grab some coffee and see our friend Joe. 

We walked in and sure enough he was there sitting in his usual spot. We talked to him for a little bit before walking down towards the Margaritaville Resort to catch the ferry to Sunset Key. It was nice to see he was doing well and told him we would catch up with either later or the following day.

Our reservation was for 9:45am and it was getting closer to that time. We walked down to where the ferry was and wound having a few minutes to kill. I forget how close everything is and it doesn’t take a lot of time to get from one place to the other in Key West. So we had time to walk around and saw this door. I remember hearing from locals about this place. 

Then we made it down to the dock to wait for the ferry. A few minutes passed by and then I could see the ferry on its way from Sunset Key to the Margaritaville resort. Once it was docked we watched all the guests get off the ferry. 

Then my husband and I noticed that there was a familiar looking tall guy walking off the ferry with his wife. We both did a double take and realized it was the coach for the NY Giants Pat Shurmur. Being that we are both NY Giants Fans we couldn’t believe it. We joked saying he is getting some r&r before the draft that was happening later in the week. By the time we realized it was really him he was long gone. Unfortunately no photo opportunity but it was still funny to see.

Then it was time for us to load up onto the ferry. Whenever I get on the ferry it reminds me when we used to take the Caneel Bay Resort ferry over from St. Thomas to St. John. 

It was a nice quick ride and walked up to Latitudes. The hostess seated us at a table right near the water. It was a perfect spot to have our Easter brunch. We ordered a couple of cocktails and their regular style breakfast of 2 eggs, bacon, toast and potatoes. It wasn’t anything special, but the views made it feel that way. We both enjoyed our meals before walking back to catch the ferry back to the Margaritaville Resort. 

Once we got back I remembered that our friend Dave was working over at the Galleon Sunset Tiki Bar that day. We walked down Front St. towards the Galleon and along the pier.

Once we got to the Sunset Tiki Bar we grabbed a couple seats. Dave recognized us right away. We sat and chatted for a bit. We also saw the owner of the Tiki Bar Phil as well who is always so friendly. We didn’t want to stay too long because we were also going to see friends that were in town the same time as us. We thanked Dave and told him we would catch him again at some point.

The day before we found out that good friends of ours were also in town and were actually on that other United Flight that beat us in. It turned out our friend Will Hoppey was playing with the Hippie Band for earth day and booked a trip down with his wife Lynda. They were the ones that initially talked us into going down to Key West back in 2006, when they used to come down for the winter season.

We walked into Rick’s and saw Will up on the stage. We also saw our friend Miguel bartending as well. Initially we were going to sit at the bar, but then saw Will’s wife Lynda sitting with some friends. We walked on our and sat down. We spent afternoon catching up. It was nice to see them both back in Key West at the same time as us. Ironically while we were there, a fellow TripAdvisor Forumite came up to me. It was KeyWestSteps. It turned out she is also very good friends with Will and Lynda. It was nice to finally put a face with the name.  We were having a good time and even Kai showed up for a few minutes. 

However, we were both getting quite hungry so we said our goodbyes. I didn’t have any dinner reservations planned, but I suggested that we would check out the Half Shell Raw bar for happy your since it was about that time. First we wanted to go back to the Gardens to freshen up but decided to just head towards the Bight. Once we got to the Half Shell, the place was hopping but we were able to find a couple of seats at the bar. 

We each ordered our own 12 dozen oysters and they were delicious. Since we were still hungry we decided to order the peel and eat shrimp as well. Everything tasted so fresh. It really hit the spot for both of us. https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g34345-d447772-r670892072-Half_Shell_Raw_Bar-Key_West_Florida_Keys_Florida.html

After our meal we wound up walking around and finally got our picture in front of the Cuban Coffee Queen’s famous mural Greetings From Key West. 

Our next stop was First Flight for a cold beverage. 

By the time we got back onto Duval and near Rick’s we saw that Big Ed was bartending. So we stopped by to talk to him for a little bit. 

 I remembered that Joal Rush was playing at the former Lazy Gecko and now called I.C. Double’s. Once we finished our drinks at Rick’s we walked across the street to I.C. Double’s. Immediately you notice all the hard wood and decor has changed. 

They did a great job after how the Duval Central remodeled it. I noticed that there are two bars along the front side and they moved the entertainment more in the center of the place. We saw where Joal Rush was playing and sat down at the bar. 

I decided to try one of their craft cocktails. The only drink of the list that sounded appealing to me was a blend of vodka, orange juice and vanilla. It actually tasted pretty good. While we were there Zack stopped by to tell us he was going with his friends and Kai to the new place the Dirty Pig. 

I wanted to check out the place but we weren’t really hungry and getting tired. We told him we would try if not we would see him tomorrow at Hogsbreath. Then after another cocktail that was it, I was too tired to make it to the Dirty Pig. It was a long day and it was that time to walk back to the Gardens.

Monday – April 22nd – Earth Day

We woke up to another picture perfect day. The skies were once again blue and the humidity was low. Typically our first breakfast in Key West is Blue Heaven, however being it was Easter the day before we had to delay our tradition one day. We slept in a little later then we wanted to but I thought that since it was a Monday, Blue Heaven wouldn’t be too crowded. We first had to make our way to Cuban Coffee Queen. 

We walked in and saw Joe again. We didn’t have too much time to chat but we mentioned to him that perhaps the next day we could get together. While we were leaving I noticed someone calling my name. It turned out it was one of Zack’s friends Natalie who I have met a couple times before in Key West. Her sister was with her and her kids. It was nice to see her and meet her sister. I thought maybe we would have run into her during our trip but never did again.

It was after 9am by the time we got to Blue Heaven. We noticed a few people standing but it was just a party of four. We only had to wait a couple minutes before being seated. We got a nice sizable table along the wall and out of the way which I prefer. I always feel uncomfortable being seated right out in the open and in the center.

We still had our coffees with us so we ordered some water. We each had the rooster special. I choose the bacon for my side while my husband went with the sausage. While we were waiting for our breakfast we noticed more and more people coming in and the line was getting longer and longer. I realized we came just in time.

We had to wait a little, but once we got our breakfast everything was delicious and hot. Since we were later too, we noticed that they had entertainment as well which was a nice little surprise.

Once we were done with our breakfast we went back to the Gardens to regroup for a little bit and relax. We walked back down Duval and into Rick’s. Miguel was working again so my husband wanted to stop by. We found our two favorite seats at the perch and talked to Miguel for a bit. While we were there Miguel’s cousin and his friend stopped in. They were hilarious. We wound up staying longer then we anticipated but we enjoyed talking to them.

On our last trip back in January we never got to see another friend of ours Gabriel Wright play. I remembered he usually plays at Captain Tony’s on Mondays. I saw on his facebook page it was his last show before he was leaving the island. I figured that we should make sure we see him before he leaves. We said goodbye to Miguel and walked down to Captain Tony’s and Gabriel was playing.

It is always fun to see him when we go down to Key West, because he always remembers our song requests and plays them. We sat for a bit and his wife and parents walked in. It was great to see them as well this time. It turned out that Gabriel and his wife Kim were leaving for Paris for vacation. We hung our for a bit and wished them safe travels before making our way to Hogsbreath. 

We walked into Hogsbreath and luckily found a couple seats at the bar. We said hello to Zack and watched him play the second half of his show. During the show I recognized another good friend of Zack’s Lynn. We wound up chatting for a bit and she was showing us the bumble bee she was building out of recycled materials for the Kinetic Sculpture Parade that was happening soon – really cool. She even took a picture of us!

I had made dinner reservations at Little Pearl and wanted to make sure we had enough time to freshen up and make our 6:00pm reservation. We said goodbye to everyone, and told Zack and Kai we would see them later that night at the Smokin’ Tuna.

We walked back to the Gardens and freshened up. Once we were all set we walked to Little Pearl.

The place is small but we still enjoy sitting at their little bar. 

We sat down and ordered some appetizers. I had oysters on the half shell again, which was some sort of special, and my husband had shrimp cocktail. For dinner I ordered the snapper and my husband had the shrimp and grits. Everything was spot on and delicious. When we got the bill, we noticed it seemed a bit higher then normal. We looked closer and realized my oyster special was $48. I couldn’t believe it! I know they were delicious, but had I have known they were that much I probably would have passed.https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g34345-d12231430-r670780235-Little_Pearl-Key_West_Florida_Keys_Florida.html

When we were done with dinner, it was about the time to head on over to the Tuna. I wanted to make sure we had good seats at the bar. We walked and our usual favorite seats were taken at the end of the bar. Plus they added a service station on that side of the bar as well which limits seating there. Then a couple people left and two seats opened up. Joal Rush was still finishing his set so it was nice to catch part of it.

As we were about to sit down we realized Zack’s friend Tim and his girlfriend Christine sitting right there. We laughed and wound up sitting right next to them. We chatted a bit before Zack went on. I also got the opportunity to get a picture with Zack and Carl.

In the back of my mind I wanted to stay for the entire show since I knew Zack wasn’t playing at the Tuna again that week. We sat back and enjoyed the show. Even Kai played a couple of songs.

When they went on break we were able to chat with Joey and Zack. Once they came back on we decided to stay longer. With a little persuasion, I was able to convince my husband to stay until the very end, and we did. It sounded like a good idea at the time, but I was getting tired.

We had made plans to have breakfast with Zack and his friends so we told him we would see him the next morning. We wound up getting a cab since it was so late and we were both exhausted. I think it was after 1am by the time we got to the Gardens.

Tuesday, April 23rd – Conch Celebration at the Gardens Hotel

It was another beautiful morning in Key West. Due to the fact that we were out late the night before we decided to sleep in a bit. Once we freshened up we walked down to the Cuban Coffee Queen for much needed coffee. We saw Joe again and talked to him for a bit. He told us that he was going to Lucy’s later that afternoon for Happy Hour. We told him we would meet up with him later.

We walked down to the Breakfast Club Too. We grabbed a table and waited for Zack and his friends. They did make it over and we all ordered something to eat. It was fun just having a nice breakfast with great people. Zack’s friend Tim and his girlfriend Christine were leaving that morning so after breakfast we wished them safe travels. We told Zack we would see him later at Willie T’s.

We walked around for a while before making it to the Sunset Pier to see Al. It was great to stop in and see him for a little bit. We only stayed for one and told Al we would stop in again to see him, but unfortunately we never got a chance to see him again. 

 After our drinks we wound up going back to Rick’s. Miguel was working again and our seats were open, so yes that’s what we did next. We sat down for a little while before meeting Joe at Lucy’s. Once we got to Lucy’s we saw Joe sitting at the outside bar on the side. We sat down and I looked around the bar and it reminded me of this place in St. John called the Longboard Restaurant. It had a very familiar vibe. 

We had a couple of beers and talked for a while before making our next move. We decided to back to see Miguel for one before going to see Zack at Willie T’s. 

We eventually made it to Willie T’s and got a table right in the front center, similar to the last time we were there with Joe.

Then we noticed Marcy (also from NJ) who used to work at Willie T’s was there working again for a few weeks. It was great to see her back at Willie T’s. We grabbed a table front and center and watched Zack’s show.

It was fun to listened to Zack and hang out with Joe for the afternoon. After his show we went back to the Garden’s to get ready for our dinner reservations at Cafe Sole or so I thought.

When we walked in to the Gardens we noticed there were a few ladies sitting at a table and we had to walk around through the building. Then when we walked into the courtyard area where we saw all these people standing around wearing military apparel. When we got to the bar I saw Jim the general manager of the Gardens and Nancy who also works the front desk. 

We wound up grabbing a couple of drinks at the bar and Jim starting explaining to us what was going on and how the ladies wearing C.I.A. were called “Cuties In Action”. Every year the Gardens Hotel invites its guests and locals to celebrate the Anniversary of the Conch Republic Secession. We didn’t realize we had tickets in our room for us but Jim knows us so we didn’t need them. It was so interesting to see all branches of the Conch Republic Military Forces walking around. My husband and I looked at each other and said that we should stay and watch the celebration so I called Cafe Sole and cancelled our reservations.

It was a fun evening and eventually had to grab some dinner. I wanted to check out the Moondog Cafe, but then when we were walking down Petronia we saw the restaurant Bliss was open. We walked in and it was pretty quiet. We were first seated at a table under this fan that was blowing so strong. We asked to move to another table which they did accommodate us.

For appetizers we each ordered the cartagena, which was shrimp and calamari sautéed in tomato, fresh basil, white wine and garlic broth. It was delicious. For dinner I had the pan seared yellowtail snapper filet and my husband had the fettuccine with homemade roasted red pepper – tomato – basil sauce. From what I can remember everything tasty quite good. We really enjoyed the food after the long day. We were stuffed and tired, so we just walked back to the Gardens for much needed sleep. https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g34345-d6560511-r670776303-Bliss_Restaurant_Key_West-Key_West_Florida_Keys_Florida.html

Wednesday, April 24th – Day out on the water with Billy

We woke up to another beautiful morning which made me so excited since we were going out on the water with a good friend of ours Billy who actually used to bartend at the Gardens. Since he was going to pick us up at the Gardens, we wound up having breakfast there after picking up our coffee at Cuban Coffee Queen. The Gardens has a very nice breakfast. They off both hot and cold food that usually includes an egg scramble of some sort. That morning the egg had potatoes and cheese in it.

After breakfast Billy showed up and took us to the Garrison Bight Marina where his boat was docked. It was so nice to see Billy again. Our last trip in January wound up happening during a cold spell in Key West so we never made it out on the water.

Soon we were on our way out of the marina. Since we enjoyed going to Snipes last time we decided to do it again.

Along the way we stopped a few times to see dolphins swim in the water. We weren’t expecting it and it was fun to watch them.

We made it to Snipes and there were already a few boats that beat us there. It was a beautiful day. I was debating about going into the water, but as we were looking around we saw a shark swim by the boat and that made my decision. 

We spent the day relaxing and catching up with Billy. It was so nice to see him again and doing well. 

Eventually it was time for us to head back to the marina. Billy dropped us back off at the Gardens and told him that if we didn’t see him before we left we would see him again soon.

Even though we didn’t go in the water we wanted to freshen up because of the salt air that sticks to you. After feeling invigorated with showers we walked back down Duval to Rick’s. We wanted to be sure to see our friends Will and Lynda before they were leaving the following day. Unfortunately it was nearing the end of Will’s set so didn’t see them for too long. We told them we would see them this summer back up north in NJ and wished them a safe trip back home.

We still had time to catch the end of Zack’s show so we walked back down to Willie T’s.

As we were sitting there I noticed that I got pretty sunburned from the boat. We wore sunscreen but that sun was strong that day. Next time I am going to reapply while out on the water.

After Zack’s show we decided to try the new Off the Hook location. We used to always go to Deuce’s on our first night in Key West since it was located right behind the Gardens Hotel. We made our way down Caroline Street to  Off the Hook. We walked in and the place was huge. It was pretty empty and told the hostess we preferred to sit at the bar. We opted for the back bar since they had sports on the TV. I was hoping to order their ceviche special but unfortunately it was conch. I learned the hard way in the past that for some reason the only seafood / crustacean that I am allergic to for some reason is conch so I couldn’t have their ceviche. Instead I had their tuna poke as an appetizer and their grilled mahi mahi fish tacos. My husband ordered their shrimp deviled eggs and gnocchi. Their food was just as I remembered – very very good. We both really enjoyed their meals but kind of missed the intimacy of their old place. I am sure it will do well regardless. https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g34345-d5565929-r670775595-Off_the_Hook_Grill_Key_West-Key_West_Florida_Keys_Florida.html

Once we were done with dinner we were both pretty full and wanted to walk around. We wound up walking by Rick’s again and saw Big Ed. We also saw our seats were open so sat down and said hello. While we were talking to Ed we heard a familiar voice behind us. It was Carl! We said hello and asked him how his wife was doing. He said she was feeling better but probably wouldn’t be back to work until after we left. Then he mentioned he was playing with George in a few so we decided to stick around to watch him for a few songs.

While we were waiting we also saw another familiar face driving down Duval.

Soon George and Carl took the stage and began to play. Then the place started to fill up. Eventually we started to feel the long day and we couldn’t stay any longer. We tried to rally but it wasn’t happening. We said goodbye and took a cab back to the Gardens. 

Thursday, April 25th – NFL Draft

Once again we woke up to another beautiful day. I did notice that it seemed warmer and the humidity was starting to return. It was still a gorgeous morning. I wanted to try the new restaurant, the Moondog Cafe. So we walked down Whitehead St. to the Moondog Cafe. 

They had both indoor and outdoor seating. The outside area was packed. We walked in and noticed that the counter/bar area was available and not crowded at all. We sat down and noticed that they served Cuban Coffee Queen coffee there. I thought perfect since we didn’t stop there that morning. We ordered a couple cups of coffee and just ordered the standard two egg breakfast. 

The food came out fairly quickly. The eggs were cooked perfectly too. Once we were done with breakfast we walked outside and realized that we were right next to the Hemingway House and that the place used to be the Six Toed Cat. 

We walked back to the Gardens to relax for a few before making it back out. We decided to walk up towards the bight near Dante’s.

I was so glad we did because along the way we noticed two girls with a water hose near one of the docked boats and there were two manatees drinking the water! It was a mother and her calf. 

This was the first time I have ever seen a manatee in Key West. I was super excited and couldn’t believe it. It was amazing to see them and how gentle creatures they are. After taking about 20 photos we decided to walk down to the Galleon Sunset Tiki Bar. When we walked in we heard this loud sound and the smell wasn’t too pleasant. 

We sat down and talked to the bartender Grubby. He told us that the Hilton next door was dredging out their sewer system. While we were sitting there we saw Dave again. We chatted with him for a few. We wanted to stay longer but couldn’t take the smell.

While we were walking down Front St. my husband remembered Adam (the bartender from the Gardens) mentioning this new craft brew place called Glitch which is located next to the dive shop on Simonton St. So we decided to check it out. When we walked in we were both overwhelmed with the funky and eclectic decor. We started chatting with the bartender and one of the owners, who used to work at the Porch. It was a cute little place and even the bathroom had a toilet that lights up. 

It was pretty crazy and fun. We told him that we both enjoyed the place and hope that it does well.

We finished our beers and made our way back out on to the street. We realized one of the places we hadn’t hit yet was El Pepe De Meson. We walked over and sat at a couple seats that were open at the bar. We chatted with the bartender Thomas for a bit. He was a very friendly fellow all the way from Brazil. 

We only stayed for one drink before making our way to another place we had not visited yet and that place was the Green Parrot. Ironically the Green Parrot to me doesn’t seem that inviting during the day, but for some reason whenever we go in there we find people that we wind up talking to for a bit. I guess it is just one of those places. We actually wound up staying for a couple of beers before our next stop. I realized too that it was around 3pm and I wanted to check out Zack and his son Kai playing at Willie T’s. 

Along the way my husband wanted a bite of food so we stopped at Frita’s for a burger. I wasn’t really hungry so I just had some water while my husband waited for his burger. And waited…. and waited… it seemed like an eternity and it wasn’t that crowded, but finally they brought out the burger for my husband. I joked with him and said it better be the best burger he has ever tasted after that wait. He said it was pretty good but not worth the wait.

Eventually we walked back onto Duval towards Willie T’s but then my husband noticed his favorite side street musician playing. My husband is a huge Jethro Tull fan so he always requests a few songs. I was getting antsy about missing most of Zack’s show so I told him I would meet him there since he wanted to hear a few songs. 

I walked in and waited for a table. Finally a table opened up and I quickly jumped on it. It was right in the sun but stuck it out. My husband then arrived shortly after. It was towards the end of the show so missed most of it which I was a bit disappointed. However I was still able to get a picture.

Then we saw John LaMere come on to the stage and decided to stay for a bit. It was fun to see him again. It was getting close to the time that we planned on going to Jack Flat’s to get seats at the bar to watch the NFL draft. So we said goodbye to John and walked down to Jack Flats. 

We found a couple of seats at the bar and my husband was able to get one of their boxes so we could hear the broadcast of the draft. We were both pretty excited to see who the Giants were going to pick and were hoping for this guy Rashan Gary from Michigan. While we were waiting we ordered some food. The draft started and it seemed to drag between each pick. I then realized the Conch Republic Celebration parade was happening on Duval. So I walked outside and I was able to watch it before the Giant’s selection. It was so much fun to see. 

By the time I walked back into Jack Flat’s the Giants were about to make their selection. Once the NFL commissioner made the announcement we couldn’t believe they took a QB at the sixth selection. We were terribly disappointed. You could even see the reaction on the TV screen.

We didn’t stay much longer after that and called it a night.

Friday, April 26th – Last Full Day Already

I woke up and the feeling of sadness was starting to set in. Tomorrow we were leaving and this was our last full day in such a beautiful place. Once we freshened up we walked to Cuban Coffee Queen for our usual coffee. 

We didn’t really have any plans on where to eat for breakfast. After saying hello to Joe so we walked down Duval.

I was thinking that maybe we can go to Bagatelle’s for breakfast since we hadn’t been there yet. However, when we got there it was pretty crowded. Then I thought about going to the Key West Key Lime Shoppe for breakfast, but as we were passing Island Dogs it was quiet and remembered they have breakfast. We usually don’t stop in there but figured why not.

Surprisingly the food was good and the service was friendly. Once we were done with our breakfast we walked around again for a bit of some “window” shopping.

Eventually we walked down to the Tiki House. My husband wanted to check it out plus it was getting hot out. We walked in and we were the only ones in there. We decided to order a couple of mojitos. It was getting to be that point of the trip where every drink you try doesn’t really appeal anymore. However, the mojitos were quite tasty. It took us a while to get them down but we eventually did.

I knew that Zack was playing at Rick’s too that afternoon so I wanted to be sure to catch him since it was our last day. We walked on over and it wasn’t too crowded yet. Our seats were open so we sat down and listened to Zack for the afternoon. Once he was done he mentioned to us that his son Kai was playing sunset at Mallory Square which worked out perfectly because we heard about how that evening was the Great Battle of the Conch Republic down there as well.

We said our goodbyes and made it back to the Gardens to regroup for a bit. We made it back onto Duval and my husband suggested stopping at Mangoes for something to drink before we head to Mallory Square. It was more or less a stop out of curiosity since we hadn’t been there in quite sometime even since they redid the place. We walked in and the place was nice and spacious. I had a glass of wine and we sat and relaxed for a bit.

We were both pretty hungry so we walked back to First Flight. We grabbed a seat near the bar and ordered some food. 

After feeling a bit revived from getting something to eat we made it down to Mallory Square where we saw Kai registering for sunset. We walked around waiting for the Battle start. We even grabbed some coconut water and I joked about how when I first tried it I wasn’t a fan. Ironically now I do like it and buy it for home.

Soon the Battle began and it was a blast to see. I never saw anything like it before. Planes would fly overhead and drop toilet paper to simulate bombs. It was so much fun!

We even got to witness a beautiful sunset.

Once the battle ended we walked on over to listen to Kai play a few songs and even Zack showed up for a little bit. We told them we would meet for breakfast in the morning before we left.

Knowing it was our last night I wanted to see Carl play at the Tuna, plus it was on our way back to the Gardens. We walked on in and it was packed. We had to wait for a couple of seats, but eventually two opened up – ironically at the end of the bar which are our favorite seats.

We ordered a couple of drinks and even Kai stopped in. I wanted to stay longer but I was getting really tired and couldn’t drink anymore – I hit my wall. So we said our goodbyes to Carl and told Kai we would see him in the morning.

Saturday, April 27th – Going Home

Our flight wasn’t until 1pm so we had time to have breakfast with Zack and Kai. It has actually become somewhat of a tradition to have breakfast with them before we leave. We were up pretty early to get everything in order so we had time to stop at Cuban Coffee Queen. We stopped in and saw Joe again for one last time. 

Then we walked down the street to Sarabeth’s. We were a little later so it was crowded. They were able to accommodate us inside. It was a very odd room (where the service station was) but it was roomy enough. We all ordered and just talked for a while. It was a nice way to end our trip with such great friends.

It became that dreaded time to say our goodbyes. We wished them well and hope to see them again real soon.

We walked back to the Gardens and grabbed all our things. The cab picked us up on time and we were on our way back to the airport.

Our plane already arrived so there weren’t any delays this time. Before I knew it, it was 5:30pm and we were back home. 

I know people say why do you keep going back to Key West and yet so many times a year? I just tell them the same thing – it’s a beautiful place like no other, filled with many memories and great friends. And I hope to continue to make more.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog…. until next time!!

Winter Escape To Key West – January 21st – 26th, 2019

After our last trip back in July, my husband and I wanted to return again before the spring. I knew how during the Winter months can become so dreary with cloudy skies and gray trees. So I decided that the 3rd week in January would be the perfect time to break away for a few days. I called the Gardens Hotel and was able to book our usual room for our 20th stay. https://tinyurl.com/y984gmhl

Monday, January 21st – Arrival Day

A day before we were supposed to leave, we had a snow and ice storm that came through. Luckily it had passed but the temperatures dropped way below normal for NJ. We woke up and it was only 1 degree. We thought what a perfect time to leave NJ. I was also concerned about getting through TSA at Newark airport since the Government shutdown was still in affect. When we arrived at the airport surprisingly the lines were not that long and we breezed through security. Once we had all our things in place I checked to see if our gate had changed since I checked us in the day before. It turned out that not only our gate changed, but the terminal changed.

I thought that we were going to have to go back out through security, but it turned out that there was a shuttle bus available that can take you from Terminal C to A. We walked down to the lower level to catch the bus which was not heated at all. Thankfully we didn’t have to wait too long for the bus to take us to the next terminal. Once we got off the bus we had to go back up a flight of stairs in to where our gate was. We had a couple hours to spare so we were relieved to find a United President Club lounge was also in Terminal A. It was actually a really nice lounge that must have been recently completed.

I kept checking my phone to see if our plane was at the gate. The alert said that our plane was flying in from Louisville and that it was behind schedule about 15 minutes which later turned into a half hour. It seemed like a long time to wait and eventually I saw our plane had arrived at the gate. We grabbed our things and saw that people were already boarding. I couldn’t believe that we almost missed boarding our flight. Once we went to the ticket agent, she asked us if we were going to Milwaukee. We immediately stopped in our tracks and told her no. It turned out the gate we were at had two gates. One was A25A and the other one was A25 and the doors were literally side by side. We were supposed to be at A25A and stepped back into the waiting area. We didn’t wait too long to board the plane. Once we were settled in the pilot came on the speaker to tell us that they were waiting for the water trucks to thaw out so they can fill the plane’s lavatories with water. It turned out to be about a 15 minute delay which could have been worse. We actually made up the time in the sky.

Since it was a direct flight to Key West it took about 2 and a half hours. Soon you could see the different hues of blues and greens of the water. It was so nice to see after looking at bare trees for months. Once I saw Key West come in to view I became so excited. I couldn’t believe we were coming back in January. 

Once we landed we immediately deboarded the plane and walked into the airport. I noticed that even though the skies were brilliant blue, it was quite chilly for Key West. 

It was quite breezy and it was only in the low 60s. I didn’t care though, we were back in Key West! We were one of the first ones off the plane so we were able to get a taxi right away. The taxi took us to the Gardens Hotel to check in.

We saw Nancy and Jim the general manager and they both welcomed us back. Our room wasn’t ready but it didn’t really matter, since it was so cool we just kept our clothes on we wore on the plane.

We walked down Angela St. and made a quick right hand turn onto Duval which we both always love to do. I noticed the streets seemed quieter then usual. I wasn’t sure what to expect as far as crowds go for the third week in January. It turned out it wasn’t much different then when we go in the Spring. I knew the musician Zack Seemiller who I have been doing artwork for the past several years and have become good friends with was playing at the Hogsbreath Saloon with his son. However, we wanted to stop at Rick’s to see our friend Miguel who was bartending that day. We walked down and crossed the street to Rick’s and sat down on the outside porch seats. Miguel was happy to see us. Unfortunately it was so cold we had to move inside. We talked for a bit before making it down to Hogsbreath. He told us that it was supposed to warm up for a couple of days. It was nice to see him again. 

Then we walked in to Hogsbreath. Zack and his son were on break but I was able to spot them at one of the tables having lunch. His son Kai knew we were coming and tried to surprise Zack but we wound up blowing the surprise. We walked on over and it was great to see them both.

They were finishing up so we wound up getting a table to sit at to watch their second set. I wanted to sit at the bar because the table was not protected from the wind, but all the seats were taken. We ordered a couple of beers and listened to them play. It was so much fun and that’s when I realized it was great to be back in Key West, not only because it is such a beautiful place, but we have become friends with people on the island.

After their set was done I noticed that I got a call from the Gardens Hotel letting me know our room was ready. So we said our goodbyes and told Zack we would catch him play at the new Tuna location later on. 

Once we unpacked our things we realized that we hadn’t eaten since the plane. Or tried to eat on the plane. As a side note, the food they served us must have been on the plane where it wasn’t temperature controlled or due to the fact the outside temperature was so cold, everything was frozen solid. I tried to eat the yogurt and couldn’t even get a spoon through it, so needless to say we were both really hungry. We used to have dinner on our first night at Deuce’s which was located right behind the hotel and was so convenient for our first night. Unfortunately since our last trip it had closed down. I did hear however they will be opening up at a new location, but not as close to the Garden’s.

I didn’t have a preference where to eat, as long as it was indoors since the temperature was dropping. Luckily I packed a knit hat so that helped a lot. It wasn’t that it was so cold, it was that the winds were strong and cold. So once you were in a place that was protected by the wind, it wasn’t so bad. 

My husband wanted to check to see if there was a place to catch the ending of the Nets basketball game and then Jack Flat’s came to mind. It was a perfect decision. We walked in and it wasn’t too crowded and we sat down at the bar. The bartender even changed one of the tvs so my husband could see the game. We ordered a couple of drinks. For our appetizer we split their coconut shrimp which hit the spot. I decided to go with their wasabi tuna and my husband had their meatloaf. It wasn’t a gourmet dinner but it definitely satisfied us. https://tinyurl.com/yco9ofgt

While we were eating another friend of ours Dave, who we met a couple years ago who bar tends at the Galleon Sunset Tiki bar, asked us where we were. We told him that we were on our way to see Zack at the new Tuna location.

We walked down Duval and found the new Tuna location. It was turned into a sports bar that was wide open and went way back. The place was quite large. The stage where Zack was playing was off on the side. We made sure he knew we were there and then grabbed a couple of seats at the bar.

Then not before long we saw Dave walk in. Ironically he moved to St. Thomas a couple years ago for about a year and we were able to see him while we were vacationing on St. John. We hadn’t seen him since, so it was nice to see him again. We hung out for a bit before he had to leave. We told him we would try and meet up again another day.

Once Zack’s show was done (of course I had to take a couple of pictures before making our way to the old Smokin Tuna location), he told us that if we keep walking back in the new Tuna it will connect you to the old one. He was right! It was so odd how they all connect.  We walked on in and it wasn’t really crowded so we were able to grab our two favorite seats at the end of the bar.

I noticed that Scott Kirby was finishing his set. We were hoping to catch Caffeine Carl, but unfortunately he wasn’t playing due to not feeling well.

However George Chapman and the Joey Marchiano were still playing. We did miss Carl, but the band did put on a good show. We sat for a bit and chatted with another couple and had fun. It was crazy how it was only our first day, but I felt like we were already there several, which was a great feeling. We were both getting tired and thought that it would be a good idea to go back to the Gardens and call it a night.

Tuesday, January 22nd – Banana Cafe, Martin’s and a lot of walking around

I woke up pretty early for me on vacation, at around 7:30 and couldn’t sleep anymore. I knew it was a shorter stay then we normally do so I wanted to get up and start the day. Once we freshened up we checked outside and noticed that it definitely was warmer then the day before. I still had to wear a jacket at that point but it felt a lot better. We made our usual stop to Cuban Coffee Queen for a couple of con leches. 

We usually have our first breakfast when we are in Key West at Blue Heaven, but it was so early in the morning that it wasn’t warm enough to sit outside. I remembered how our last visit we tried to eat at Banana Cafe but it was too crowded. I figured that we could try eating there again since we were up so early. It was a nice quiet morning to walk down Duval. The love it when the streets are so quiet.

When we walked into Banana Cafe, there wasn’t a wait. We were seated right away but my husband wanted to sit at the counter/bar area which was fine. I decided to go with the smoked salmon eggs benedict and my husband had one of their signature crepes. Everything was delicious. https://tinyurl.com/y75zsoc3

After breakfast we agreed to walk off our breakfast. We made it down by the bight and walked into a couple of shops and looked around for a while.

Eventually we made it to Sunset Pier. We wanted to say hello to the bartender Al who is always a pleasure to see. Once we got to the pier it was so nice to see it rebuilt again. It looked beautiful. 

We went up to the bar and said hello to Al. We talked for a few and ordered a couple of beers. We sat along the pier and just took it all in. It is such a nice view looking at the water and seeing Sunset Key in the distance. The temperature was getting warmer but not warm enough to go in the water.

Instead we decided after our beer was done was to go towards First Flight and have a beer there.

I do miss the old Kelly’s but the atmosphere there hasn’t changed much and I always enjoy it. We walked in and noticed there was some live music which was a nice surprise. 

Then my husband wanted to see Miguel again at Rick’s so we walked down to see him. This time it was warmer so we were able to sit out on the porch area which is great for people watching. We talked with Miguel for a while and before you know it my husband and him (which are both wrestling fans) had to do a few poses for me to take pictures of. 

I was looking at my watch and realized Zack was playing at Willie T’s. I wanted to catch him play so we finished up our drinks and walked in. We were able to find an open table and listened to him play for a while. He is always so much fun to see. I think it is great that I actually do artwork for such a talented musician. While we were there his son stopped by for a little bit before he had to go for work. 

It was getting later in the day and once again are stomachs were telling us that we should get something to eat. My husband suggested that we go to Martin’s for their happy hour. I had no problem with that, but that meant we had to leave because we didn’t have much time before it ended. So of course I had to do a couple pictures with Zack again before we headed on out. We made plans for breakfast the next day so we told him we would see him then.

We walked down to Martin’s and the bar was packed. The hostess was able to find us a table towards the front of the place which was fine.

Immediately we opened our menus and picked out a bunch of appetizers, ranging from lamb chops, escargot to pork schnitzel. I think the total was around 8 or 9 appetizers. My husband had a martini and I had a glass of wine and everything came to around $54. You simply can’t beat that price for all that food. https://tinyurl.com/yd4ry5ye

I wasn’t sure if it was from the food or from the long day but we were both pretty tired at that point so we walked back to the Gardens. When we walked past the bar we saw Kate the owner of the Gardens. She welcomed us back and our loyalty of staying there every time we come down to Key West. She even gave us a bottle of champagne to celebrate. We thanked her and told her how we wouldn’t stay at any other place and how we love it there. 

We got back to our room and sat on our porch. I don’t think I got through much of the glass of champagne before heading in for much needed sleep.

Wednesday, January 23rd – Breakfast Club Too and Food & Wine Festival Kick Off Party

We woke up to another warm day. It was probably the best day weather wise we had during our short visit. Once we freshened up we were ready for another full day in Key West.

We wound up walking down Simonton instead of Duval and head towards Cuban Coffee Queen. We started talking about our stay so far and before we realized it we missed the street completely and we were pretty far down the road. Then my husband mentioned how we were supposed to meet another friend of ours Joe the next morning for coffee at this place called Coffee Plantation. So we figured we would try and find the place and get coffee there. It wasn’t too far to find as it was located down Caroline St. We walked in and the place was decorated so festive and welcoming. We ordered a couple of con leches and sat on the front porch for a bit. 

We were meeting Zack for breakfast so we had some time before walking over to the Breakfast Club Too. We walked back over towards the bight and then made our way to the restaurant.

Once Zack got there we were seated at a table inside. This wasn’t our first time eating there and remembered how the last couple of visits the food was really good and this time it was the same. Everyone enjoyed what they ordered. It was nice to sit for a while and just hang out. https://tinyurl.com/y8vkke7t

After breakfast Zack offered to show us the Key West Theater since we never had the opportunity to see a show there. We walked down the street and first stopped at a place called The Studios of Key West located across from the theater. He introduced us to one of his friends that work there and he showed us their current gallery which was made up of clever ways to show poetry on signs and what not. It was a different type of gallery I am used to seeing, but it was very creative.  Then we walked over to the guitar shop The Grateful Guitar where his son works. We walked in and it was cool to see the photos of all the musicians that play in Key West. 

Our next stop was the Key West Theater. It was really great to finally see what it looked like inside. There was also another area in the theater where they have more intimate shows. Unfortunately Zack played there a couple days earlier and we literally missed it by one day. After that we just walked around and Zack showed us other places along Duval. Then it was time for him get a few things done before his show later on that day. We thanked him for taking the time and giving us a walking tour if you will, of Key West. 

Eventually we made it to the Galleon to sit down and enjoy the view. 

We ordered a couple of drinks and sat for a while chatting with the bartender. Our next stop was to see Miguel again at Rick’s. We hung out for a bit before going back to the Gardens to freshen up. 

As a side note, a couple of months ago I found out that Key West’s Food and Wine Festival was going on while we were there, so I purchased tickets for the Food and Wine Festival kick off party. The event started at 5pm and was being held at The Garden at the Oldest House Museum. I wanted to get ready for it and then stop by and see Zack and Kai play at Willie T’s.

When we said goodbye to Miguel he told us he wasn’t working again until the weekend so we wouldn’t see him again before we left so we thanked him again for always having a good time when we see him. 

While we were walking back to the Gardens we noticed two cops on horses walking down the road. We have seen them before, but it still looked so odd watching them walk Duval Street. 

We made it back to the Gardens and freshened up for the kick off party. Thankfully it was still mild out so I was able to wear something else besides yoga pants and a sweatshirt. We walked back down to Willie T’s to catch Zack and Kai play. While my husband was ordering us something to drink at the bar, I noticed there was a familiar face. It turned out Zack’s photographer was there watching him. I have used a lot of his photos for the different ads I create for Zack to post on social media and never officially met him in person. We wound up sitting with him and chatted for a bit. 

https://youtu.be/6Vlyd1t6cFs

I was also so happy to meet Zack’s good friends Natalie and her boyfriend Ron.

Then it was that time to say goodbye and walk to the Oldest House Museum. It was pretty impressive to walk in to a beautiful garden behind the house. 

They had stations set up where you can select a glass of wine. Servers would come out with a variety of hors d’oeuvres. 

In addition, they had this Doo-Wop band called The Fabulous Spectrelles which were really good. 

We danced a little and talked to other people that were attending the event. It was something different for us to do and it was a lot of fun. I probably didn’t need any more wine at that point but we enjoyed ourselves. I would definitely recommend trying the event.

After we left we walked down Duval Street and noticed that Caffeine Carl and George were playing at the new Tuna. We walked in also saw Carl’s wife, Erin bartending. 

We had not seen Carl yet, so of course we stayed. As they were nearing the end of their show, we found out that they were playing at Rick’s next. So we left the Tuna and made it to Rick’s and saw Miguel again and Big Ed. 

Again, I probably should have just gone back to the Garden’s but wanted to see them play. Right before then went on, I was able to get a photo with Carl. 

It was fun to sit and watch them play for a while.

Eventually we called it a night and went back to the Gardens.

Thursday, January 24th – a day with Joe and the Rooftop Cafe

When we eventually got up I was feeling the night before, however after a shower and a couple of Advil I felt better. This was the morning we planned on meeting our friend Joe who we met a couple years ago while sitting at the Galleon Sunset Tiki Bar. 

The weather was still mild so I just threw on a tank top and shorts. We walked down Simonton to Caroline St. and down to Coffee Plantation. We spotted Joe and said our hellos. We mentioned that we were going back to the Breakfast Club Too for a late breakfast. He decided to join us and we walked down to the restaurant. This time we were seated outside.

I was so hungry that I ordered one of their rostis with fried eggs, sauteed onions, peppers, cheese over potatoes. It was delicious but I was so full after eating it. When we were done with breakfast we told Joe we were going to walk off our breakfast for a bit and then meet up at the Galleon Sunset Tiki bar. 

While we were walking around we ran into our friend Dave. We were hoping he was bartending at the Galleon but he wasn’t until Friday evening. We told him we would try and meet up again. 

After a bit, we walked to the Galleon and sat down at the bar. We ordered a couple of drinks and not before long Joe showed up.

We talked for a bit and he mentioned how he really liked this new sports bar called The Sandbar. After we finished our drinks we walked in to the Sandbar. It was a nice place. We sat at the bar and I ordered a margarita. I should have stuck with a corona light or something because the margarita was made with all sour mix which wasn’t agreeing with me too well. I wasn’t even able to finish it.

We mentioned that we were going to see Zack at Willie T’s and Joe wanted to see him as well, so we thought perfect – that will be our next stop. As we were walking down Duval St. I noticed a cooler breeze was picking up and the skies were getting dark. There was talk of a cold front coming through and that was probably the start of it.

We walked in to Willie T’s and we were able to get a table right in front which was good because there was a cover above. We were having a lot of fun watching Zack when all of a sudden it started to downpour so everyone tried to bring their tables closer to the front to take cover while others left. The way the rain was falling I figured we weren’t going anywhere for a while. 

That is exactly what happened. We wound up staying for Zack’s entire show. 

The rain still wasn’t letting up so we decided to stay a little longer, which was fine because we were able to see John LaMere and another musician we enjoy seeing. Eventually Joe had to leave and we wished him well. 

When the rain finally let up we both came to the conclusion it was our opportunity to get something to eat. 

My husband wanted a nicer dinner so we walked down to the Rooftop Cafe. The restaurant wasn’t too crowded so we sat at the bar on the outdoor side which surprisingly not very crowded. I ordered a caesar salad to start and their fresh catch of the day, which was yellowtail snapper for my main course. My husband ordered the gnocchi for his first course and then the pork tenderloin. Everything was delicious. 

We tend to eat at the Rooftop Cafe at least once while we are in Key West and have never had a negative experience. https://tinyurl.com/ybv2slnd

When we were done with dinner, you could feel the cold front settling in so we agreed to go back to the Gardens and get some sleep. 

Friday, January 25th – Last Full Day Already

We woke up to a chilly day but at least the rain had stopped. Earlier in the week I received a message from a friend of ours from NJ that she was on a cruise and was coming into port on Friday from 7:00am – 1:00pm. So we wanted to make sure that we would see her at some point. In addition, people that we met while we were on St. John during our last trip were also going to be in Key West and we were supposed to meet up with them as well.

Unfortunately it was too cold of a morning to go to Blue Heaven again, so we decided to go to Harpoon Harry’s for breakfast. We were a little late then normal for breakfast and noticed when we walked past Pepe’s it was packed. Harpoon Harry’s also had a line of people waiting. Thankfully we didn’t have to wait too long before being seated in a booth.

I always enjoyed their grits there so I had to have a side of grits with a couple of eggs and bacon. The food was served quickly and it was nice and hot.

It is a nice place to start your day with that old diner feel and being from NJ I always enjoy a good diner. https://tinyurl.com/ycqq92ac

We walked back to the Gardens to grab an extra jacket since it was not warming up much.

I wound up getting a text from our friend from NJ and she and her friends were at Irish Kevin’s. So walked down to meet her. It was so odd to see her in Key West. It was in Key West where we first met her. It also turns out that she lives not far from where we are. We joked saying how we live in NJ and only see her in Key West.

She didn’t have much time before going back on the boat so we walked on over to Rick’s since it is one of her favorite places. I didn’t mind because I knew Zack would be playing there shortly. We grabbed a table and talked to her and her friends. Soon enough Zack walked in and we chatted for a few minutes before he started his show. He told us that he was playing the Salty Angler later that day. 

Not before long our friend had to leave and get back to the boat. We wished her safe travels and not before long were our friends Rick and Christine from St. John. My husband and I laughed about how we couldn’t ask for better timing. We sat with them for a bit and they told us the work they are doing on their boat and how eventually they will wind up in St. John. It was fun to talk about St. John and then meeting up in Key West. We hung out for a bit and then they wound up grabbing some lunch. I wanted to stay to watch the end of Zack’s show so we told them we would try and meet up again before they left if not, we’ll see them again on St. John.

After Zack’s show was done I had to get another obligatory photo with him and then said we would see him and Kai later at the Angler and grab some dinner. We wound up walking down to First Flight again to have another drink. We wound up talking to very nice couple at the bar.

Before we knew it, it was time for dinner. Why does the last day of a vacation always go by so fast?

We walked back down to the Salty Angler but first had to stop back at the Gardens to grab extra money. The Salty Angler is located right across from La Te Da so it wasn’t too far of a walk. We walked in and Zack and Kai were already playing. We found a couple of seats and ordered some dinner. The Salty Angler is known for their chicken thighs they refer to thunder thighs. My husband and I are not huge fans of chicken thighs but thought we would give them a try. So for an appetizer we shared the chicken thighs and then my husband ordered the brisket and I had yellowtail fish tacos. Everything was really good – even the chicken! I can see why they are known for them.

While Zack and Kai were playing, Zack told us he was playing at the Smokin Tuna that night. I thought would a great way to end our last night at the Tuna one of our favorite places. It was fun watching them play and I being that I am a HUGE Pearl Jam fan, I was so excited when they played Hunger Strike! https://youtu.be/q3Yqz_XGM_Y

So after they were done at the Angler we walked down to the Tuna. We walked in and it was quite crowded. Thankfully a few people left so we were able to get a couple of seats right in front at the bar and also see Erin again.

It turned out too that Caffeine Carl couldn’t play so Zack’s son Kai was able to fill in his spot. It was so much fun to see both of them on the main stage like that. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YI3S0Y-u-EE

 I thought we were only going to stay for an hour but wound up staying until the end. At that point it was time to go back to the Gardens. I think by the time we got back to the room it was around 2am. 

That was probably the latest we had even been up in Key West and of course it had to be our last night. We wound up getting a taxi back to the Gardens.

Saturday, January 26th – Going Home

Our flight wasn’t until 1pm so we were able to sleep in for a little bit. We also had planned to meet Zack and Kai for breakfast before we left at Sarabeth’s which is located very close to the Gardens, Once we freshened up and packed our things we walked down to Cuban Coffee Queen for our last order of con leches. Then we made the short walk down to Sarabeth’s and met up with Zack and Kai. It was a nice way to end our trip. 

After we were done with breakfast it was time to say goodbye. I always get so sad to leave Key West and especially sad to say goodbye to our great friends. We wished them all the best and hope to see them again real soon.

We walked back to the Gardens and made sure we had our boarding passes printed and we were ready to go. The taxi picked us up around noon and we were on our way back to the airport. Check-in was a breeze and soon we were back on the plane.

The flight was a quick 2 hour and 20 minute ride so we made it back to Newark around 3:45pm. We wound up landing 45 minutes earlier then expected. The direct flight is such a no brainer if you can do it. We only had carryon so once we landed our car service was there and made it home around 5pm.

I am so grateful we were able to pull off this quick trip to Key West and break away from the cold NJ winter season. Even though it was a bit cooler then we were used to, I would do it again without any hesitation. No matter what time of year we go to Key West it never disappoints. Key West continues to be a special place in my heart filled with many memories and amazing friends.

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

Finally Back to My ‘Other’ Happy Place – St. John 10.27.18 – 11.3.18

IMG_4431This would mark our 14th time to the St. John (15th to the Virgin Islands). We started going back in 2003 and fell in love with St. John right away. We were supposed to go back again last October but Hurricane Maria and Irma changed that. Thankfully the villa we we reserved was not damaged so we were able to keep our deposit with the owner and planned to return the following year. I wasn’t sure if it was too soon to return being that it was just over a year since the hurricanes hit and the island was still in recovery mode. After reading endless trip reports of people returning, I knew I couldn’t wait another year.

Saturday, October 27th – Arrival Day IMG_4231As our trip was approaching there was a storm system headed our way. It was remnants of a hurricane that crossed Mexico and was forecasted to go head to the mid-atlantic and create a N’oreaster. Instead of being excited for our vacation, I started to get a sense of doubt that we were not going to be able to go. Two days prior, I received a notice from United Airlines that it was recommended to change our flight being that we were flying out that morning the N’oreaster was supposed to be at its strongest. I thought about flying out a day earlier, but my husband had too many things he had to do before he was closing his business for a week. Then I was thinking about changing our flight to Sunday but the thought of losing a day of our vacation was unsettling. My husband convinced me that we should just wait it out and see what happens. So with fingers crossed we kept our original travel arrangements.IMG_4229We woke up early to a rainy and windy morning. It wasn’t as bad as I thought and our car service arrived on time. As we drove further east, the rain and winds started to pick up. I was beginning to question our decision. We did make it to Newark airport and passed quickly through security. We were flying directly into St. Thomas via United Airlines. I checked the schedule of flights and noticed not one delay. I couldn’t believe it. We had some time so we checked into the United Club Lounge for a snack and much needed coffee.IMG_4230It seemed like an eternity, but it was finally time to get to our gate. Once we got there we noticed there was no plane. My heart just sank. I checked the United App and noticed the plane that we were flying on was delayed. It was coming in from Jacksonville, Florida. I figured it was most likely due to the weather. Thankfully the plane was only delayed about 30 minutes and it did make it to our gate. Eventually we boarded the plane and were on our way. The flight was a bit bumpy during take off, but once we cleared the storm it was a calm flight. We wound up making up some time during the flight. Soon I could see St. Thomas and St. John through the window. I actually started to tear up a little because it looked so beautiful and I couldn’t believe that we were actually going to be there.IMG_4236Once we landed we quickly departed the plane. It is always so nice to have carry on so you don’t have to wait for your luggage. A few other planes also had arrived so when we went through the airport there was someone playing steel drums and people offering samples of Cruzan Rum. The airport was alive and busy. It was such a happy thing to both hear and see. After we grabbed a shot, we waited for a taxi. Once the driver had enough people to fill up the van, we were on our way to Red Hook to catch the ferry. It was around 2:15 and didn’t think we were going to make the 3pm ferry. Luckily there were no cruise ships in port so traffic was minimal. As we got closer to Red Hook, the driver assured everyone we would make the 3pm ferry. Surprisingly he was right. IMG_4237Once we were dropped off, my husband paid the driver and grabbed our luggage, while I went to get tickets. Within a few minutes it was time to get on the ferry. I always choose to sit up top so I can see St. John come in to view. I had to get in contact with our villa manager so that she knew we were on our way. Since the villa was located very close to Cruz Bay, she gave us driving directions to meet her there.
While we were waiting on the ferry there were a group of people sat down behind us. They started talking about places that sounded familiar and my husband turned around and asked them if they were referring to Key West. Ironically they were indeed from Key West and they had just left Fantasy Fest to come to St. John. We told them how we also love Key West and have being going there since 2006. We thought it was pretty funny to be in St. John and meet people from Key West. Soon we were on our way to Cruz Bay. It was a beautiful afternoon. Not before long I could see Cruz Bay come into view. I was just so happy. It looked gorgeous. IMG_4241Once we arrived at the dock we gathered our luggage and walked up to Bougainvillea Leasing to pick up our 4 door Jeep Wrangler. I wasn’t used to walking up the hill with our luggage that we had. Usually the villa manager drives us to pick up our jeep. It was a bit of a hike but we made it. Once we got our jeep we drove out to our villa. The villa was called Three Palms Villa located right next to Sea Shure Allure and Coconut Coast Villas. It was definitely a change for us. IMG_4243

However you could not beat the location. It was very convenient to Cruz Bay and it was located right on the beach. The beach was a bit rocky, but it was still nice to be able to walk to it and here the waves throughout our stay. IMG_4254We quickly settled in and unpacked our things. I had ordered provisions from St. John Provisioning ahead of time so we had plenty of refreshments and snacks. We were both pretty tired from the travel day so we just decided to stay in that evening and kick back on the patio outside. I was so happy to be back in St. John, my other happy place. IMG_4253

Sunday, October 28th – Hawksnest Beach and Rhumb Lines IMG_4268
We woke up to a picture perfect morning. It was so nice to sit outside and have a cup of coffee. You could hear the roosters that were hanging around nearby which reminded me of Key West. I made a quick breakfast of scrambled eggs and bacon for us and then it was time to hit our first beach of the trip. IMG_4276

We decided to go to Hawksnest since it is an easy drive and the closest beach on the North Shore. It has always been one of my favorites. After breakfast we hopped in to the jeep and made our way up towards the North Shore Beaches. As we drove to town we could see how the building that used to have Jake’s and a few other businesses completely gone. IMG_4566We heard that supposedly a new small hotel will take its place. It will be a prime location with great views of Cruz Bay.

We drove past Mongoose Junction which looked completely the same. I also noticed that Morgan’s Mango appeared like they had never sustained any damage from the hurricanes. We came up on to the Virgin Islands National Park sign and the views started to come in to play. The island was so green and the water looked so blue. Even though it was only two years since we had been there, I always forget how beautiful everything is. IMG_4279

Then we came to the Caneel Bay overlook. We got out of the jeep and just a weight of sadness came over us. It was just so upsetting to see it in ruin and not one thing has been done to it. It just looked like something forgotten in time. There was just so much damage. The first time we came to St. John we stayed at Caneel and a few other times as well so it holds a special place in our hearts. IMG_4282We took a few moments before going back to the jeep and onto Hawksnest. We pulled into the parking lot and it was packed. We later found out that Hawksnest is a popular beach for locals especially on Sundays since it is very convenient for them to get to after church mass. IMG_4285Luckily we were able to find a spot and walked onto the beach. We noticed right away that the beach was much wider and a lot less shade. We found a nice spot to put our things and to relax for a while. It was hot and sunny. The water again looked amazing. IMG_4286We did notice though there wasn’t really any wind so it did make it a bit hot to sit out on the beach. We would take turns going into the water. I brought my snorkel gear and was eager to try it out, however the water was a bit too choppy that day and the visibility wasn’t great so I didn’t. It was still nice enough to go in and swim for a while. IMG_4288A few hours passed and we were getting pretty hot and needed a break from the sun. We walked back to the jeep and drove back towards Cruz Bay. We wanted to check out the new Tap Room so we made that our first stop. They did a really nice job and the bar is quite large and room. We ordered a couple of drinks and cooled off for a little while.IMG_4295Then we realized that it was getting close to football time. We are avid Giant fans and knew the game was on at 1pm. They have been having a terrible season once again, but we still wanted to catch the game. We drove to the Wharfside and parked the jeep at Slim Man’s Parking Lot. IMG_4297The entire area of the Wharfside was redone, even down to the cement walkway. It looked really nice. However the Beach Bar, Joe’s Rum Hut and the area that once housed the Waterfront Bistro were all still under repair. IMG_4738The only are that looked like there was any progress was the Beach Bar. IMG_4699We were hoping it was going to be open when we arrived on St. John, but it looked like they still have a while to go. IMG_4298We walked over to High Tide which looked like it always has. We found a couple of seats at the bar with a good view of the television screens. The game was just starting so we ordered a couple of drinks. IMG_4311We stayed until about halftime as the Giants looked terrible once again. At least they views of Cruz Bay put me in a better mood then watching the game. We wanted to catch the rest of the game back at our villa so we paid our tab and drove back to Three Palms Villa. IMG_4259Our day trip to Jost Van Dyke was the next day so we didn’t want to be out that late. We figured we would go somewhere that had some sort of happy hour specials. Once we freshen up we drove back to town. We parked again at Slimman’s and walked toward Longboard. The place was packed and figured that we should try somewhere else. IMG_4314Then I remember reading that Rhumb Lines recently started doing Happy Hour as well. We saw the sign that they were open and that from 4-6pm they have specials but you have to sit at the bar. We didn’t have a problem with that and thought it sounded right up our alley. We walked in and the place was empty besides just one other person at the bar. I noticed that the back area of the restaurant was a lot more open now. I assumed that a lot of the vegetation most have gotten destroyed in the hurricane. However the place itself looked mostly the same as I remembered it. IMG_4315

We sat down and ordered a couple specialty cocktails. The bartender explained that we can order anything off their pupu menu for half price. There were so many things to choose from but we wound up picking out the chicken skewers, Thai spring rolls, Filipino pork lumpia, two kinds of shrimp and a a bowl of spicy szechuan noodles. It didn’t take very long for our food to come out. I thought it was going to come out in separate bowls but they put everything on one platter which made it very easy to eat. IMG_4316

Everything was delicious. https://tinyurl.com/y8evvxlz I wasn’t sure which one was my favorite because it all tasted so good. We thought we would order another item, but after we finished eating everything we were pretty full. We ordered another drink a piece, the thai chili margarita. It probably wasn’t the best decision because it was very spicy. My husband asked for the check and once we got it we were shocked. Everything we had came to $28! It was such a nice surprise. We were still trying to get our drinks down but felt bad and didn’t want to leave them so our bartender gave us to go cups and then we were on our way. IMG_4317

Again we didn’t want to stay up too late so we decided to go back to the villa for an early night.

Monday – October 29th – A Great Day on White Bay IMG_4320
A couple months prior to our trip, I got in touch with a fellow forumite from the Virgin Islands Online Forum, Brenda. A few years ago we were supposed to meet up while we were both on St. John at the same time but we were unable to get together. However, this year we planned to meet up. Since the ferry from St. John to Jost Van Dyke was still not in operation, Brenda was able to find a very reasonable charter company called Second Chance to take us out on their catamaran over to Jost for the day. We needed at least five of us in order to go out and she was able to find another couple to join us. We wound up meeting Brenda at Cruz Bay Landing for breakfast. Shortly after we ordered, her friends Kelly and Rick joined us. We were all pretty excited to get over to Jost. Luckily Brenda asked everyone if we had our passports and Kelly and Rick forgot their passports. It was still early enough that they were able to go back to their condo and grab them. IMG_4324The catamaran picked us up over at the National Park Dock. It was nice and spacious. We all found spots on the boat where we could settle in to enjoy the sail over to Jost. It was another beautiful day. We noticed again there was no wind so it got quite hot on the boat. IMG_4322We passed by Caneel and again it was so sad to see. IMG_4327We eventually made it over to Jost. We had to check in to customs at Great Harbour first before going over to White Bay. We were able to take the dingy over so we stayed dry on our way over. Once we got the okay that we were all checked in we walked down to Foxy’s. IMG_4372I couldn’t get over how so much vegetation was gone. Most of the shops on the way were open but we just wanted to have a cold beverage at Foxy’s. When we walked down we noticed that Foxy himself was back on island. It was great to see him again. IMG_4381We enjoyed listening to him play a few songs while we had a drink. While we were sitting down a taxi came by and a lady asked us if we needed a ride. It turned out to be our friend Joan who runs Sugar and Spice, a little luncheonette place on Great Harbour. I was so happy to see her, because I wound up bringing a couple of t-shirts for her that I designed for Sugar and Spice. Unfortunately I left them on the boat, but I knew Leon Miller another friend of ours was now bartending at the Soggy Dollar Bar so I told her I would give them to Leon. She thanked us and told us to come by her shop, but we knew everyone wanted to head on over to White Bay so we said our goodbyes and told her we would see her again next year. IMG_4387

Soon it was time to sail towards White Bay. It didn’t take long to see that water and that beautiful beach. Once we were all set each one of us swam to shore. IMG_4390The water felt so good since it was so hot out. Not before long we all made it to the Soggy Dollar Bar and saw our friend Leon. It was nice to see him again. I asked him to give the t-shirts to Joan since we wouldn’t be back at Great Harbour. IMG_4386

We noticed the bar looked pretty close to the old one but the ceiling seemed a bit higher then the original structure. It was strange to see no hotel at all. They did plant a lot of palms and it still looked beautiful. IMG_4409We spent the afternoon talking and relaxing. It was a fun day. IMG_4389

I was getting a little concerned about swimming back to the catamaran. It looked a lot further out then it was earlier. Thankfully my husband swam back out to get the noodles to swim with. They help a lot especially after drinking all afternoon. It made it a lot easier to get back to the boat. Once we all made it back we headed back to St. John. Soon White Bay was in the distance. IMG_4412

John and Michelle of Second Chance were both very friendly and professional. I would definitely recommend them for a private charter. https://tinyurl.com/y92469zbIMG_4416Our usual tradition after spending a day out on Jost is to walk on over to Margarita Phil’s for a to go order. IMG_4417We weren’t sure if they were open, but when we walked on over I noticed a few people sitting outside. We walked in and ordered a couple of margaritas while we were waiting for our order. IMG_4419Once our order was ready we walked back to pick up our jeep and drove back to the villa. I was really hungry by the time we got back. We sat inside and had our dinner. It was tasty and hit the spot. I had shrimp enchiladas and my husband had a mix of a few tacos and enchiladas. A day out on the water always knocks me out. I think I was up only for about an hour after I had our dinner. Needless to say we went to sleep early.

Tuesday – October 30th – Trunk Bay and Lobster Night at Morgan’s Mango IMG_4425

Since we went to sleep early we both woke up around 7:00 – 7:30. It was another sunny day. We got up and had some coffee and another breakfast of some scrambled eggs and bacon. The one thing I noticed though each morning we woke up we had more bites then the previous day. IMG_4257I wasn’t sure if we were getting bit overnight or while we were outside in the evening, but they were quite bad during our stay. Plus with the lack of wind it didn’t help keep the noseeums or mosquitos away. I did find that if you use tea tree oil, it does help a lot with the itchiness. IMG_4432

We decided that we would go to Trunk Bay. I know it is such a popular beach, but it is just so beautiful. Once we finished our breakfast we made our way towards Trunk Bay. We made it to the overlook and course had to pull over to get a few shots. It looked as beauitful as ever. I kept picturing the image of Trunk Bay post Hurricane Irma/Maria and it looked like winter back here in NJ with no leaves on the trees. It was remarkable to see how much came back in such a short amount of time. IMG_4430

After taking too many pictures we hopped back in to the jeep and parked at Trunk Bay. We were one of the first people there so we were able to park close to the entrance. The admission building was closed so we did not have to pay anything to use the beach. There was a small consession stand that had some snorkel gear a few other things available for rent. IMG_4448

We picked a nice location on the beach and the water was gorgeous. Needless to say it did not take us long before we went in to the water. The sand was so soft. I noticed that a lot of the palm tress were gone, but the ones that survived still looked beautiful. IMG_4469I did try to snorkel around but didn’t see much besides a sting ray and a few fish. IMG_4445IMG_4441It was nice time relaxing and swimming in Trunk Bay. We noticed more people come on to the beach as the day went on.  IMG_4474

The sun was so strong that after a couple of hours we had enough. Again there was a lack of a breeze so it was hot. It was time for us to get back into town and having something cold to drink. Our first stop this time was the Sun Dog Cafe. I always liked this bar. It is small but it just is in a great location at Mongoose Junction. There was just one other person at the bar so we were able to find two seats without any problem. As we were drinking our beers I noticed that the old location for Virgin Fire is now Greengos. I saw the reviews on TripAdvisor were quite favorable and wanted to check it out. IMG_4475

After our beers we walked in and it was impressive. The bottles behind the bar went all the way up to the ceiling. The bartender actually used a ladder to access certain tequilas. We each ordered a margarita on the rocks and they were refreshing. We were starting to get a little hungry but I knew we had early dinner reservations at Morgan’s Mango for lobster night and I didn’t want to ruin my appetite. IMG_4478

We finished our margaritas and walked back to the jeep when all of a sudden we saw a pack of Donkeys walking around the parkling lot. One of the locals was giving them water too. I thought this was a great time for picture. IMG_4483IMG_4489

We made it back to the villa to freshen up for dinner. My husband drove us back to town and we parked again at Slim Man’s parking. On our way to Morgan’s Mango we noticed we still had some time before our 5:30 reservation so we stopped at Cruz Bay Landing for a drink. It wasn’t too crowded yet so we were able to find a couple seats at the bar. IMG_4491

We then walked on over to Morgan’s Mango. IMG_4495It was amazing to see how it came back so quickly. They did such a great job rebuilding the place. Normally when we would go on lobster night the place would be packed so that was the reason behind having the 5:30 reservation. IMG_4496When we walked in there just one other couple waiting. We were seated along the balcony which I always love watching the sunset. IMG_4497We both had the lobster special but to start I had the red snapper ceviche and my husband had the fried calamari. I was really hungry at this point so everything tasted so good. Then our 1 and 1/2 lb. lobsters came out. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to finish it, but I did. The lobster was really fresh. IMG_4508
We thanked our server for a great dinner and headed out. On our way out we were surprised by a few more donkeys again trying to walk up the stairs for dinner. I guess they wanted to see if they could get a seat too for lobster night. The owner quickly shooshed them away. She said that they have been having a problem with them coming up the stairs for food. IMG_4505

We walked back down to High Tide. We were going to go back to the villa but then I heard live music playing so I had to walk in. IMG_4528There was a guy playing guitar and it was a fun way to end the evening. IMG_4527We only stayed for one before going back to the villa. I think we were asleep by 8:30.

Wednesday, October 31st – Halloween on St. John IMG_4533

We woke up again early as the sun started shining in our villa. I didn’t mind though since we went to sleep so early the night before. I wound up getting in touch with our friend Brenda and found out that everyone was going to go to Francis Bay. I asked her if she needed a ride but she said that they were going a little later so we would just meet her there. We had some coffee and made a quick drive in to town to pick up a few things that we needed for our villa. After we dropped everything off and had a bite to eat we were back out and on our way to Francis. IMG_4582

As we were driving I remembered hearing on previous trip reports how you can see more damage from the hurricane near Maho Bay. Sure enough as we got closer you could see on the right hand side of the road all the trees that got destroyed. It was remarkable to see how so many trees came down and yet so much growth had come back. IMG_4597

We found a nice spot on the beach where we could relax for a while. The water was beautiful and calm. IMG_4535It was a little bit on the cooler side, but once I grabbed my snorkel gear I warmed up a bit. I didn’t go out too far but did see a nice variety of fish. Earlier we saw a shark swim by along the shore so I was a bit apprehensive to go all the way out and stayed near the shore. IMG_4607

A few hours had passed and we saw Brenda and the rest of the crew arrive. I was also excited to meet Rick G who has been on the forums for years. It was funny because I knew who he was but we never ran in to each other on St. John. We finally met and talked about St. John and our posts and what not. IMG_4544We had a nice time chatting for a bit before we had enough beach time for the day. We said our goodbyes and would meet up the next day at Maho for a Forum Beach Day. IMG_4562

I wanted to stop at Woody’s since we hadn’t been there yet and I wanted to get a couple of shirts. We drove back to town and parked the jeep once again at Slim Man’s. However before we walked up to Woody’s, I wanted to stop in St. John Spice and see Ruth and order some hot sauce to send back home. We walked up to the store and it was pretty crowded. I was able to find a few different hot sauces that I wanted, especially Jerome’s hot sauce. I really miss the green style. The young girl behind the counter was new so she had to call Ruth in the back to help us with our order. I thought perfect I get to see Ruth! She came out from the back and recognized me. It was nice to see her again. She even told us that the green Jerome’s hot sauce should be back in production soon which was good to hear. Once our order was set to ship back home we thanked her and headed to Woody’s. IMG_4549We walked up to Woody’s and found a couple of seats outside. They were right in the sun so it was hot but powered through it with a refreshing rum punch. IMG_4553

Then we noticed the new Tap & Still across the street. Once we finished our rum punches we walked on over to check it out. We walked in and noticed it was all decked out for a Halloween Party they were having later. We found a couple of seats at the bar and ordered a couple of drinks. It was a cute little place and we noticed that the food they brought out came in paper bags for carry out however you can eat it there too if you so choose. I thought it was kind of odd but I guess it saves them a lot of money if they don’t have to provide plates and eating utensils. IMG_4564

Since it was Halloween I wanted to go back to Mongoose Junction and have dinner at Greengos. I remember how Mongoose Junction seems to be the go to place for Halloween on St. John. We walked back to get our jeep and drove back to the villa. We freshened up and went back to town. The villa where we were staying was very convenient and close to town that it made it very easy to go back and forth even though I prefer further out towards the South Side. IMG_4569

We walked back to Mongoose Junction and once we walked inside it was packed with people. It is always so festive to see everyone dressed up. IMG_4568We managed to squeak our way past all everyone dressed up and into Greengos. We walked in and it looked like a lot of other people had the same idea. We were able to find a couple seats at the bar.

We ordered a couple of margaritas while we were looking over the menu. For an appetizer we shared the mango glazed shrimp which was addictively tasty. Then for dinner I went with the mahi mahi tacos and my husband had the beef tacos. The tacos were delicious but asked the bartender if they had any hot sauce. She then came out with a homemade hot sauce. I had no idea it was going to be so hot but it was. I probably should have not had it but I had to try it. https://tinyurl.com/yblk4hc6IMG_4575

After dinner we walked down to Longboard for a night cap. We walked in and since it was after happy hour it wasn’t crowded at all. We sat down at the bar and ordered another round of drinks. The staff was very nice and asked if we wanted anything to eat but we were quite full from dinner. IMG_4576We contemplated going to check out Tap & Still since they had the Halloween Party but we were tired at that point and just went back to the villa.

Thursday, November 1st – Forum Beach Day at Maho Bay IMG_4671
We woke again to another wonderful day. I noticed that there was a slight breeze that was wonderful. I also wanted to check out a new little breakfast spot. The past several times we have been going to St. John I have ordered provisions from St. John Provisioning. Meredith who is so sweet to deal with left us a postcard at our villa mentioning she just opened up a breakfast cafe place in town. IMG_4581

So we hopped in the jeep and drove down to her place. It is located right near the Marketplace on the one way road towards the Tamarind Inn. We found a spot and walked over. We grabbed a some coffee and a couple of breakfast sandwiches. Meredith was working in the back but got her attention. She was so nice and thanked us for stopping in. IMG_4585

When we finished our sandwiches we drove back up towards the North Shore and on to Maho Bay. I forgot to take a picture of the overlook the previous day on the way to Francis so I made sure my husband stopped this time. IMG_4584I always find the Maho Bay overlook so peaceful. It was so beautiful and green. It is amazing how there was something so tragic that happened in just over a year ago.
We parked at the new parking lot in Maho and grabbed our things. There was just a few people on the beach so we found a nice spot. It didn’t take long before I noticed donkeys were in the area. They started making sounds and then I walked down the beach to see where they were. One was actually rolling around in the sand.IMG_4610They crossed the road and then came down to the beach. Then we spotted Steve and Adrian who we met the previous day at Francis. IMG_4619We couldn’t believe how many donkeys were in the group. I think we counted at least 10 and even one of them was a darker brown color. IMG_4627I took a ton of pictures of them on the beach. Then I realized that some of them were drinking the salt water. I didn’t think that they did drink it but it was pretty amazing to see all of them at once. IMG_4621IMG_4628

We walked back to our spot on the beach and Steve and Adrian joined us. We enjoyed hanging out in the water. It was so calm and warm that day too. Eventually Rick and the others showed up with even more people. IMG_4629Usually when we go to a beach on St. John it is just the two of us, but this was so much fun. We had a great time meeting everyone and just hanging out.IMG_4635Kelly and Rick that we met on the charter to Jost also showed up with something I have never seen before. It was a raft that had a bull in it. It was hilarious watching everyone trying to get on the thing. I wasn’t about to but did think about it for only about a second. We had so much fun that afternoon. IMG_4631I think it was the longest amount of time we had ever been on the beach. Eventually we started to feel the sun and I felt like I was overheating a bit even in the water. So we wound packing up our things and thanking everyone for a great time. https://tinyurl.com/yb8stmn2IMG_4636

When I originally booked Three Palms Villa two years ago, I read that the location where the villa is supposedly has wild peacocks that roam around. We did hear a few of them during our stay but never saw any. We found out that there are usually some near Coconut Coast Studios near Frank Bay, which is also the villa’s owner’s mother’s art studio. So on our way back to the villa we stopped to see the art studio and if there were any peacocks roaming around. We drove down past Gallows Point towards Frank Bay. IMG_4640We immediately saw a few peacocks walking around. It was so strange to see. Then we noticed that the studio was open so we walked in. I wanted to meet the owner’s mother but unfortunately she wasn’t there. We walked around and it was a cute little studio. I wound up buying a calendar and a beautiful set of coasters of hand painted sea turtles.

We then drove back around towards our villa to get ready for dinner. La Tapa was the restaurant of choice. We always like dining there and the last time we were on St. John we didn’t make it there for dinner. Usually we sit outside but this time we were going to try inside at the bar. Ironically when we got back to the villa we finally saw a few other peacocks walking the beach. My husband was even able to give one of them a snack. IMG_4648

After we got ready we made the usual quick drive back to town. Our reservations were at 6:00 so we had some time to have a pre dinner cocktail. IMG_4661We walked down to a restaurant I always was intrigued about trying, The Terrace Restaurant. We walked in and it had a nice atmosphere where you can see the sunset setting over Cruz Bay. We sat down at the bar and were welcomed by the friendly bartender. I ordered a beet martini which sounds very odd, but it was really good and not too sweet. My husband had their pepper olive martini. While we were enjoying our cocktails we agreed that we should come back for our last night and have dinner there. IMG_4659

Once we finished our drink, we made reservations for the following evening and pointed out which table along the terrace we preferred. IMG_4655We thanked the staff and walked down to La Tapa. They were just opening up so there were just a few people inside. IMG_4664We walked up and we were seated at the tiny bar. I picked out a nice bottle of red wine to go with our dinner.

For an appetizer we ordered the steam PEI mussels which were delicious and went well with the wine. Then our entrees came out shortly after. I had the fresh local yellowfin tuna and my husband had the squid ink papadelle that was served with shrimp and calamari. I tried his dish and was just as tasty as mine. During the course of our meal, I did see that more and more people were filling up the place. I was so glad that we were able to sit at the bar. IMG_4665It was definitely a different dining experience then sitting outside, but it felt cozy. https://tinyurl.com/ycq7o23h

After dinner we were both tired from the long day out in the sun so we agreed to head back to the villa. Plus I wanted to start putting together all our clothes and do some laundry so I didn’t have that much when we got back home that Saturday. Once I got a few things done it was time to get some sleep.

Friday, November 2nd – Last Full Day IMG_4670
When we used to go to St. John we would go for 10 days instead of 8 and that does make a difference. The 8 days went by so fast. I couldn’t believe when I woke up it was our last full day. I felt like we just got there. We were woken up earlier then expected with several strong storms that rolled through early in the morning. Thankfully by the time we got up and had some coffee the skies were clearing. It felt like there was a steadier breeze as well. Since we spent a lot of time on Maho the previous day, we were not up for another beach day. My husband suggested that we would go in to town and have our snorkel gear shipped back home since it took up so much room in my carry-on and it was quite heavy. IMG_4674After a few cups of coffee drove to town and parked our jeep. We walked up to Connections and went inside. The nice lady at the counter told us to find a recyclable box that was stacked next to the back door. I couldn’t believe my husband found a box that fit everything perfectly. It took a few minutes but all and all it was very easy to do. She told us that it would ship out the following day and that I would get an email confirmation. Perfect! (and as a side note it only took two days for our snorkel gear to be delivered back home). IMG_4676

I was getting hungry since we didn’t have any breakfast and mentioned about grabbing something to eat. Cruz Bay was pretty crowded so we walked back down to Mongoose Junction. IMG_4677I checked my phone and saw that the Sun Dog Cafe serves brunch which is just what we needed. We walked to the bar and grabbed a few seats. No one was there for a while but weren’t in a rush. Eventually an older gentleman comes up to us and apologizes. IMG_4678Apparently there was a mix up with the staff and he was the owner. He started to set up the bar to get things ready. We ordered two screwdrivers which we later realized they have endless screwdrivers, bloody marys and mimosas. That could be dangerous. As we were drinking the screwdrivers we realized they were made with pineapple juice and not orange juice. It was still good but we told the bartender/owner because he was about to make a mimosa for another customer having breakfast. He apologized and wound up buying our drinks which was really nice. Then another guy showed up to relieve the owner until they could get someone else to show up for the day. It was definitely entertainment for us. IMG_4679For breakfast I had the huervos rancheros and my husband had the breakfast quesadillas which were huge. I couldn’t believe. We both enjoyed our breakfast – it was a nice surprise. Eventually a waitress that works at Sun Dog Cafe showed up to bar tend for the remainder of the morning/afternoon. She told us she never bar tended before, just waitressed so we actually helped her how to make some of the mixed drinks. It was pretty funny. We probably could have stayed longer but didn’t want to keep drinking so we wished her luck and were on our way. IMG_4682

We walked around Mongoose and did some shopping. Then we walked to the shops at Wharfside and found a few things to buy. It was another hot day and it was around that time to have a cold beverage so we walked over to High Tide and sat down. IMG_4683We ordered a couple beer and not before long we saw David and Becky that we met the previous day at Maho Bay. IMG_4688It was nice to talk to them and eventually Rick, Christine and Brenda arrived. What we originally thought was going to be a drink and go wound up being a fun afternoon. Everyone decided to skip the beach that day since we were all out at Maho for a while the day before. IMG_4694

We were having so much fun that we decided to move on over to Cruz Bay Landing for another drink before going back to freshen up for dinner. IMG_4696We could not have asked for a better last day on St. John spending it with new friends. It was getting close to the time we had dinner reservations so we said our goodbyes and drove back to the villa. IMG_4673

Once we got back I made sure most of our things were all packed and ready to go for the next day. I also threw our last load of laundry in the washer as well. Soon it was time to go back out to Cruz Bay. IMG_4658We had early reservations at the Terrace Restaurant so when we walked in there was just one other table. We were seated in the corner on the terrace. IMG_4707It was the perfect setting for our last dinner on St. John. IMG_4720For appetizers I decided to go with the oysters rockefeller and my husband choose the escargot. We each shared them and they were so good. Then for dinner I ordered the stuffed prawns served with risotto while my husband had their signature mac and cheese with truffle oil and wild mushrooms. I sampled his mac and cheese and it was so rich but so delicious. The prawns that I ordered were cooked perfectly. https://tinyurl.com/yc9sjcud

We were too full for dessert so we asked for the check and walked down to Drink for one last nightcap. IMG_4732We were supposed to meet the rest of the group there but I knew we were on the earlier side. After we got through half of our cocktails I was just too tired to stay out any later. I wanted to see everyone last time but I just couldn’t do it. So we wound up leaving and going back to the villa.

Saturday, November 3rd – Going Home IMG_4260
I didn’t have a great night sleep which I never usually do before going home for some reason. I think I stress too much about everything going right as far as the flight home, making sure our car service is there when we get to the airport and so forth. When I did finally get up I noticed it was an overcast day which made it easier in a way to leave. It was actually the first day during our entire trip that the skies were that cloudy. IMG_4675

We were out of coffee so my husband drove down to St. John Provisions Cafe to pick some up. They have very good coffee there too. While he was out I began on breakfast for our last meal. After breakfast we made sure we cleaned up everything and left the villa as we found it. We grabbed the luggage and trash and we were on our way. IMG_4734

My husband dropped me off by the ferry with our luggage and I waited for him to return the jeep rental. We were taking the 11am ferry and it was just after 10 so we had some time before doing the walk of woe. I wanted to get tickets, but the ferry ticket window only opens up 10 minutes before the scheduled departure. IMG_4684

So we decided to go over to High Tide for one last drink if you will. We sat down and saw that Andrew was bartending. He is was so nice to us during each visit to Hight Tide. We ordered a couple of drinks and then Rick and Christine sat down. I didn’t think we were going to run into anyone before we left but we were all leaving that day so I guess it was inevitable. We just talked about what a great time we had and that we have to do it again next year.

Then it was time to grab our tickets for the ferry. We said goodbye to Andrew and we were on our way. I always get so sad leaving on the ferry that I don’t even turn around. I don’t like seeing St. John fading into the distance so I just look ahead. We had a very old ferry so it seemed like eternity to get to Red Hook, but we finally made it. Once we got off the ferry we said goodbye to Rick and Christine. We were able to get a taxi pretty quickly and make it to the airport in a decent amount of time. IMG_4746

Once we checked in and printed our boarding passes we walked over to the small restaurant near the baggage claim since I knew the restaurant inside the terminal wasn’t open yet. We had one more round of drinks and then it was time to go through customs which was so easy now that you don’t have to fill out a customs form. Once we got through security, which took a bit longer then expected since we were “randomly selected” to be checked even with TSA Pre, we found Brenda waiting for her flight. We made sure we said goodbye and wished her a safe flight home. IMG_4233

Luckily our flight was on time and before we knew it we were back in NJ around 6pm.

I honestly didn’t think we were going to be able to return to St. John just one year after the hurricane but I was so grateful that we were able to and to see how beautiful the island is. I didn’t think I missed the island so much as I did when I saw it again. It is really remarkable how both the island and the people of St. John have come back. It was so much fun going back to our favorite places, trying new restaurants and making new friends. For that I will always remember this trip in particular. If anyone has any doubts that the island of St. John isn’t ready for visitors, don’t have any, St. John is ready and waiting. I am so glad that we did. IMG_4715Thank you for taking the time to read my blog…. until next time!

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrating July 4th in Key West 6.30.18 – 7.7.18

IMG_3124

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_3338My husband just read on the porch and I started to work on my blog. Around 11:00am Zack showed up and we were ready for the Zack tour of the Keys! I was so excited!!