Still My Other ‘Happy’ Place – St. John 10.26.19 – 11.2.19

Several months ago my husband and I traveled to Key West for our 3rd time in one year. I couldn’t believe that we were now going back to my other happy place – St. John. I love both places, and both are so different in certain ways – but St. John always holds a special place in my heart.

I had to think about it for a bit to figure it out, but realized that this was going to be our 15th time to St. John since 2003 when my husband and I first visited the island.

My husband and I at Caneel Bay Resort on St. John back in 2003

This would be two years since Hurricane Irma and I was curious to see how the island was doing since our last visit a year ago. The villa that I had been eyeing for several years was finally available the same time I was planning our trip so I was very excited to experience a new villa in a different part of the island that we had never stayed in. In addition, my husband and I were traveling with friends of ours that had never been to the U.S. Virgin Islands, so we were very eager to show them such a beautiful island like St. John.

Saturday, October 26th – Arrival Day

I made sure the alarms were set and ready to go for our car service pick up at 5:45am. Since we were sharing the car with our friends, it made the drive to the airport seem to go by pretty quick. Once we arrived at the United Airlines terminal in Newark Airport, we could not get over how crowded it was. People were just standing around and not moving… We were finally able to figure out which line was for TSA pre, which my husband and I are, since registering last year for it. (I highly recommend it, if you travel at least a couple times a year.) After we went through security we had to wait for our friends to get through the regular lines. Eventually they made let through as well and then we walked down to the gate to wait for our flight. I couldn’t get over that it was such a beautiful morning. Lately when we had been flying, there was usually some sort of storm system that was affecting our flights. We checked the status and saw that our flight was on time, but then they made the announcement that our gate changed. It wasn’t a huge deal since it was a few gates away. Eventually it was time to board our flight and soon we were on our way. The flight was about 3 and 1/2 hours directly to St. Thomas.

It felt like an eternity to finally see the islands appear in the water, but once they did, I couldn’t believe how excited I was to seem the again. 

Once we landed and walked outside the plane, I could feel the hot sun beating down and it felt great. We walked in to the airport and did the mandatory welcome Cruzan Rum shots and welcomed our friends to the Virgin Islands. 

We all had carry on so we didn’t have to wait for any luggage. We exited the airport to get a taxi to Red Hook to catch the ferry to St. John. There were so many people waiting, but we were directed into a taxi that was nearly at maximum capacity, but the taxi driver insisted there was room for the 4 of us. So we wound up squeezing in the remaining spaces (barely). We had to first drop off a couple of people at the newly renovated Margaritaville Resort. It looked very well landscaped and reminded me a little of the Westin on St. John. I started talking to the couple seated behind me, and they said that they were staying at the Ritz. It was nearing 2:00pm so I figured we would most likely get the 3:00pm ferry since the next stop was the Ritz, however to my surprise the next stop was Red Hook. I couldn’t believe that we were going to make the 2:00pm ferry (which we never had before). I made sure I texted the villa manager who was meeting us at the ferry dock to let her know we would be arriving soon.

We were one of the last ones to get on the ferry but were able to find a couple of seats up top in the sun. The weather was just perfect and the anticipation of getting back to St. John was growing. After about 20 minutes or so we slowly pulled into Cruz Bay. 

We had to wait a while to get our luggage since there were so many people on the ferry. Once we gathered all our belongings we met up with the villa manager. She walked us over to her vehicle where she drove us to Bougainvillea Leasing to get our jeep rental. After all the paperwork was filled out, we were given the keys and we all hopped into the jeep. My husband has been driving every time we come to St. John so he had no problems following the villa manager up the steep roads to the Virgin Grand Estates to our home for the week, Arc Du Soleil. 

I saw the photos of the villa online and was apprehensive about the open air concept. As soon as we walked in to the villa I couldn’t believe how beautiful it was and the views of St. Thomas. It was incredible. 

The villa manager showed us around, including the two fully air conditioned bedrooms. My husband and I choose the master suite, while our friends had the other bedroom. Both were similar in size, but our bathroom was larger. There was a 3rd bedroom on the lower lever as well. I sent a few packages ahead and they were waiting for us at the villa, along with provisions from Starfish Market (which I highly recommend). 

Once the villa manager left we all unpacked our things and changed into our swim gear. It was so much fun to get in to the pool and take in the views. 

After watching the sunset we all freshened up and headed to town for dinner. 

We decided to go to High Tide and were able to get a table even though they were pretty busy. 

Of course I had to order a rum punch which tasted quite good. I don’t remember exactly what everyone had, but everyone was satisfied with their dinner. I opted for the seared tuna which was very good.

We were all feeling the travel day so went back to the villa and turned in for the night. 

Sunday, October 27th – Trunk Bay, Tap Room, Greengos, Cruz Bay Landing

I didn’t have the blinds closed all the way so the sun woke me up early that morning. I didn’t mind since it was our first full day on the island. I was also surprised that I didn’t wake up with many bites. I normally get bitten up a lot while on St. John, however so far I was pretty good. I did notice they had the electronic bug swatters, so that made me nervous, but all and all we never had a problem like we did one time years ago while staying at Island Stones in Catherinsberg area off of John Head Road. 

I freshened up and made a large pot of coffee for everyone. Everyone eventually woke up and we discussed where we would go for the first beach of the trip. While I was cooking breakfast I thought that Trunk Bay would be perfect since it is the most iconic beach of St. John. After breakfast we packed up all our things and made our way to town towards the North Shore beaches. 

Along the way we stopped at the Caneel Bay overlook to show our friends the view. We told them how we used to stay there several times when we first came to St. John before staying at a villa. They couldn’t believe the damage to the resort and it was still difficult to see how nothing has been done to it – just left in ruin.

The next stop was the Trunk Bay overlook. Everyone took a few moments to take a bunch of pictures. I don’t know how many times I have taken pictures of the overlook, but it never gets old. Compared to last year, the green definitely seemed more abundant. 

As we were standing at the overlook, I mentioned to our friends about the St. John “smell”. They both agreed that it did have a skunky smell in the air. 

We hopped back in the jeep and my husband drove us to Trunk Bay. There were only a couple vehicles parked so we were able to find a parking spot quite easily. We grabbed all our gear and headed to the beach after paying the admission fee. We walked onto the beach and found a perfect spot to relax for a while. I noticed that we were practically the only ones on the beach. I couldn’t believe how empty it was. It was nice to show our friends such a beautiful place without being crowded. 

We spent hours swimming and talking. It was a beautiful to be spent on Trunk Bay.

After a few hours we wanted to go back to town to catch part of the Giants game. We wound up pulling into Mongoose Junction and going in to the Tap Room for a cold drink. 

Our next stop that we wanted to show our friends was Greengos. We walked in and I was thinking – wow everyone else has the same idea, watch football there since they have a bunch of large screen tvs that line the walls. Once we were able to find a couple of seats we ordered a couple drinks and looked over the menu. I remembered last year their mango glazed shrimp appetizer was very good – so we ordered a couple of them. And exactly like last year they were delicious. https://tinyurl.com/y2qew452

We were able to watch more of the Giants game, so once they tied we made our move to go back to the villa for the rest of the afternoon to enjoy the pool and views. 

Unfortunately we had issues with the satellite dish and the tv so we were unable to watch the end of the game, which in hind sight it didn’t matter since the Giants wound up losing (again). 

We waited to watch the sunset again and hoped for a good one. It started off promising, but then the sun eventually disappeared in to the clouds. 

After everyone was freshened up, my husband drove the jeep back to Cruz Bay. We parked at Slim Man’s Parking Lot and walked over to Cruz Bay Landing for dinner. The bar was available so we sat down and ordered something to drink. I decided to go with the rum punch again. I was going to order the fish tacos, which I had there before, but they had a grouper special so I decided to go with that. I am glad I did because it was delicious. 
https://tinyurl.com/y2u6365y

Everyone else enjoyed what they ordered. There was even some live music which made it a festive evening.

We were all stuffed and thought it would be a good idea to walk on over to Drink for an after dinner beverage. We grabbed a couple of drinks but it was crowded so we didn’t stay long.

We walked back to pick up our jeep and my husband drove us back to the villa. I didn’t want to stay up late since we were going over to Jost Van Dyke in the morning so I headed to bed for a good night sleep.

Monday, October 27th – Day on Jost Van Dyke

Originally I had planned on taking the ferry over to Jost Van Dyke on Sunday, but later found out that since the customs office isn’t open on St. John, once you leave Jost, they take you over to Red Hook in St. Thomas and then you have to take the regular ferry back to St. John. I didn’t want to do that, so I wound up reaching out to Second Chance Charters, beachchartersvi.com. Michelle immediately got back to me and luckily we were able to book the day sail with her and her husband John whom we went out with last year and had a great time. https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g147404-d13662372-r724437359-Beach_Charters_VI-St_Thomas_U_S_Virgin_Islands.html

We woke up to another beautiful morning. I made a pot of coffee so everyone could have a cup before driving in to town. We grabbed our towels and passports and made our way back to Cruz Bay. Along the way we saw a beautiful rainbow. 

We looked for a parking space near the customs building, but with all the construction going on, there was no chance for us to find a spot since so many are no longer available.

We wound up parking at Slim Man’s for $30 for the day which wasn’t too bad. Then we walked over to have breakfast at Cruz Bay Landing. I wound up going with their standard 2 egg breakfast and my husband had the huervos rancheros. Our one friend ordered the tofu egg scramble and she said they were delicious and they actually looked like real eggs and our other friend had an egg sandwich. 

With our stomachs fueled up for the long day we walked over to the National Park Dock where we could see the Second Chance catamaran waiting for us. I gave Michelle a wave and they steered the cat close to the dock so we could all get on. 

We said hello to John as well and introduced them to our friends. They asked us if wanted to do any snorkeling but all felt like just going over to Jost for the day – so that’s what we did.

We set sail and it was gorgeous. The weather was perfect. It is always so nice to see all the surrounding islands out on the water on the way to Jost.

We made it to Great Harbour for customs, which is now up to $75 a person which I find quite expensive. John and Michelle used their dinghy so we could get to the dock. Once we got the okay we walked down towards Foxy’s.

There were only a few people walking around but did notice that there were more people by Foxy’s. We walked over and it was open. The bartender told us though that Foxy wasn’t there which I was a bit bummed because I wanted our friends to meet him. 

We all ordered a drink and hung out for a bit. I checked out the gift shop, but didn’t see anything that caught my eye. 

Once we were all ready we took the dinghy back to the catamaran. 

From there we sailed over to White Bay, which is always such a sight to see. The color of the water always gets me. It is just so beautiful. John and Michelle told us to have a great time and be back by 2:30pm. We thanked them and jumped off the cat and swam to the beach. I grabbed a swim noodle to make it easier. I usually don’t have a problem getting to the beach, it is the return swim I have problems, may be because of the painkillers?

Once we got to the beach, I found an empty table while my husband walked over to order us a round of painkillers. I did notice an unfamiliar face behind the bar. Unfortunately Leon Miller wasn’t working that day so we couldn’t get to see him. 

We still had a great time relaxing and taking turns going in to the water and enjoying the sun and beach. More people arrived as the day went on, but it wasn’t too crowded – most likely because it was a Monday instead of a Saturday when we normally would go.

It wasn’t 2:30pm yet, but I noticed dark clouds were coming so I mentioned to everyone that I was going to swim back to the boat because I didn’t want to get caught in the rain. My husband and our friends wanted to check out the One Love Bar before getting back to the cat, so I told them I would wait for them on the boat. I wound up talking to John and Michelle while I waited for everyone to return.

Eventually they did, but my husband and our one friend looked quite happy. Maybe too happy. Thankfully they were able to swim back and get back onto the cat.

We sailed back to Cruz Bay and settled up the payment before getting off the catamaran. We thanked John and Michelle and told them we would see them hopefully again.

We walked back to pick up our jeep and drove down to Margarita Phil’s to get our usual to-go order. When we drove by, we noticed Margarita Phil’s wasn’t open so we decided to go back to Greengos for our to-go order. We parked the jeep and our one friend wasn’t feeling too well. He was mentioning that he think he had a bad shot of alcohol at One Love. His wife wound up staying with him by the jeep while we went to grab dinner. Luckily we didn’t have to wait too long and we got our food order.

We drove back to the villa and our friend still wasn’t doing well. Once we got out of the jeep he had to go lay down for a while. Then my husband started not feeling well either. He also did a shot at the bar. I am not sure if it was a coincidence or not, but I didn’t have any and felt fine. It was still odd that they both wound up getting a similar reaction.

My husband was eventually feeling better to eat and the food was really good from Greengos. I wound up having the cheese enchiladas. After dinner we cleaned up and called it a night.

Tuesday, October 28th – Villa Gravity Day and Lobster Night at Morgan’s Mango

We woke up to another picture perfect day. I did the usual routine of making a pot of coffee. Everyone was feeling a bit sluggish from the day before so I mentioned to my husband about having a villa gravity and hang out the villa. He agreed and no one else seemed to mind – especially with the pool and the views the villa had it was hard to pull away from it each day.

We spent a good portion of the day relaxing in the pool and talking about the day before at Jost. No one could figure out if it was perhaps bad alcohol or what from that one bar but it was a strange. 

Everyone wound up rallying and we all freshened up and made our way down Centerline Road back to town. We parked the jeep at the usual spot and walked to Woody’s. https://tinyurl.com/yxe52qv7

We ordered a couple drinks and sat outside for a few. Then we made our way to Longboard for another cold beverage. 

I was getting hungry and their food looked very good, but I had made reservations at Morgan’s Mango for lobster night so wanted to be sure not to ruin my appetite.

We left Longboard and walked back down towards Mongoose Junction and walked up the stairs into Morgan’s Mango. The reservation was for 5:30 and it was already crowded. Thankfully I made reservations. We were seated at a nice table near the balcony’s edge. 

We all of course ordered the lobster special. My husband actually ordered a pound and a half. I just stuck to the one pound which was more then enough for me, plus I started off an order of their snapper ceviche. The lobster was so fresh and delicious. Everything was tasty as usual. https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g147410-d1046366-r724112116-Morgan_s_Mango_Restaurant-Cruz_Bay_St_John_U_S_Virgin_Islands.html

We walked back to our jeep and my husband drove us once again to the villa. It wasn’t too late so we all stayed up for a bit and enjoyed the night views.

We were also joking about the other night when I tried putting on flip flops that I thought were on a rug. It wound up being a running joke throughout our vacation. There was this rug with three pairs of flip flops on it. At night, the yellow colored flip flops were hard to see and the purple ones would stand out. So at first it actually looked like a real pair of flip flops on a rug. 

It was a fun evening hanging out. We all eventually got some sleep.

Wednesday, October 30th – Francis Bay, Beautiful Sunset at the Villa

Again it was another beautiful morning. I kept thinking to myself – can it be this nice for this long? 

I wasn’t really hungry from all the food the night before so I was content with a couple cups of coffee while everyone else got ready for the day.

The next beach we decided to take our friends was Francis. We thought it would be a nice beach to relax and snorkel. Once again we packed up the jeep and were on our way to Francis Bay. Along the way we stopped at the Maho Bay overlook so our friends could see the view. 

Ironically we were talking about how we hadn’t seen any donkeys as of yet and sure enough as we got closer to Francis we saw a pair.

We were able to find a parking spot at Francis even though it was already filled with a bunch of jeeps. We grabbed our things and found a nice spot to hang out for the morning. The water was beautiful and calm. 

It was the perfect opportunity to snorkel. We all took turns snorkeling. There were a lot of fish that I saw especially to the left when you face Francis near the rocks. I was a bit disappointed I didn’t get to see any turtles this time, but it was gorgeous just to see all the fish. 

After a couple of hourso, we were all getting hungry so it was time to pack up our things and drive back to town. We parked our jeep once again at Slim Man’s and walked over to High Tide. 

We sat at the bar and ordered up a round of drinks and much needed food. I decided to have the caesar salad with grilled mahi. It definitely hit the spot. 

While we were sitting there we ran into a friend from our last trip – Brenda! It was great to see her again. She mentioned to us that herself along with fellow forumites (from Virgin-Islands-Online.com) were all going to meet up at Maho on Thursday so we told her we would meet up with her then. 

On the way back to the villa, we decided to grab some things to grill later on that night and stay in for the evening. We stopped at the Starfish Market and bought some fresh red snapper and a few other items. 

We spent the rest of the afternoon swimming in the pool and watching the sun set. It was the perfect night to stay at the villa, because we all witnessed a beautiful sunset. 

After the sunset, my husband grilled up the red snapper, while our friends prepared some sides. 

After a nice dinner at the villa we all retired to bed for the evening.

Thursday, October 31st – Gibney Beach on Halloween

We woke up to another wonderful morning. The sun was shining once again. I was feeling a bit hungry so I decided to cook up some bacon and an egg frittata for everyone to enjoy. It was a nice start to the day. 

During breakfast we thought again where to go. I was thinking maybe Cinnamon for the day. Once we were all done with breakfast and ready to go, we took the jeep back towards the North Shore beaches. While my husband was driving, we were thinking that if Gibney wasn’t crowded maybe we should give that beach a try since we had not been there since before Hurricane Irma. 

As we neared the entrance to Gibney, we realized there was no one parked there. I couldn’t believe, especially since we were a bit later in the morning. 

My husband parked the jeep and we made our way down the road to the beach. We walked along the beach and noticed that now you can easily see the Gibney Beach Cottages since the hurricane took down a lot of the trees and plants. We found a perfect spot on the beach and all immediately went in the water. It was a bit wavy but a lot of fun. The sand was so soft and the water was so clear.

We spent most of the time just hanging out in the water. Our one friend tried snorkeling for a little bit but she said there wasn’t really much to see. It was still a lot of fun enjoying the water. 

Everyone had their fill of being out in the sun for a while so we decided to get back to the villa and relax by the pool for a bit. It was always nice to be able to go back and enjoy the pool. Last year we rented a villa without a pool and missed not having one immensely. It did have a hot tub, but it wasn’t the same thing.

Once again we watched a beautiful sunset while everyone was getting ready to go out to dinner. 

Our one friend knew the owners of the Lime Inn who used to have a restaurant in Long Valley, NJ called Chesapeake Bay, so she wanted to check out the place.

After we were all freshened up we went back to town and parked in the usual place. It really was the only option this time to park. Even the parking in front of Bougainvillea Leasing (where we rented the jeep from). 

Since it was Halloween we did notice a lot of people dressed up walking around which is always fun to see. 

We walked along the road in to the Lime Inn. We grabbed a few seats at the bar and ordered something to drink. While we were looking over the menu, our friend was talking to the bartender about the owners. It turned out they were not around but she was able to leave a message for them. 

The menu looked good, but nothing really jumped out at us. So we decided to make a move and try somewhere else for dinner. We wound up going to La Tapa. We didn’t have reservations but they were able to accommodate us by seating us at a table along the road (which I always find entertaining). 

We ordered a bottle of red wine to share and a bunch of items off the tapas menu. Everything was delicious as I remembered from previous trips. I was glad that we wound up going there to dinner since everyone had such a nice dining experience. https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g147410-d4456608-r724108458-La_Tapa-Cruz_Bay_St_John_U_S_Virgin_Islands.html

After a nice dinner we headed back to the villa for the night.

Friday, November 1st – Last Full Day

How did the time go by so fast and it was our last day? I guess as they say ‘All good things must come to an end.’

We woke up to which I thought would be another beautiful day, however while I was enjoying a cup of coffee, we noticed rain above St. Thomas. Eventually the rain did make it to our villa. Surprisingly even though it is open air, there is enough coverage that we were able to stay dry. 

I knew that we were supposed to go to Maho that day, but with the weather being a bit iffy – no one was really up for going so we decided to wait out the rain at the villa.

While waiting out the weather, we wound up taking the opportunity to pack up our things since we were leaving the next day. It did eventually clear up a bit so we could enjoy the pool once again. 

We had snorkel gear that I wanted to ship back home like we did last year through Connections. My husband suggested that we could go back to town, get that taken care of and have lunch. So we hopped back in the jeep and went back to town. 

My husband dropped me off and I grabbed our snorkel gear. I saved the box that I initially shipped the snorkel gear in, so it made the process of mailing it back pretty easy. It took a few minutes to get all the paperwork filled out, but once that was done we walked down to Mongoose Junction.

I wanted to check out the 18/64 Restaurant that is now located in the old Ocean Grill location. We wound up sitting at the bar and enjoyed a nice lunch. I decided to try the shrimp cocktail and they were fresh and delicious. I remembered that the restaurant is the sister restaurant to Extra Virgin so I didn’t think their food would be disappointing. https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g147409-d17700955-r724114105-1864_The_Restaurant-St_John_U_S_Virgin_Islands.html

After lunch my husband drove us back to the villa where we could enjoy our last afternoon at Arc Du Soleil. 

We were able to witness another gorgeous sunset. Earlier that day I called the Terrace Restaurant for reservations. Unfortunately the only thing they had available was a table inside at the time we wanted, but figured since we already have seen such spectacular sunsets at the villa, we wouldn’t be missing too much.

In addition during our stay, we had a couple of neighborhood cats stop by. Being that my husband loves helping animals (especially cats in particular) we stopped at Starfish Market to get food for them. At first we thought it was just one black cat, but then realized there were two that would come by throughout the day.

We witnessed once again another spectacular sunset at the villa.

We all freshened up and got ready for dinner for our 6:30 reservations. By the time we got to town, we still had some time before our reservation so we stopped by Drink for a pre dinner cocktail. The place was hopping again, but found a couple of seats at a table. I noticed that they got rid of the couches that they used to have, which I liked – but the tables and chairs did seem more practical.

Soon it was time to walk over to the Terrace Restaurant which is right next door. 

It was busy probably since it was a Friday night. We were seated inside – not the best table but it was okay. The server came over and told us about the specials for the evening. 

For dinner I went with the mahi mahi, our one friend went with the wahoo and the boys ordered the filet mignon. As a started I ordered the oysters rockefeller. The food was delicious as it was last year when we dined there. https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g147410-d3599329-r724401819-The_Terrace_Restaurant-Cruz_Bay_St_John_U_S_Virgin_Islands.html

When we were done with our dinner we wound up walking along Cruz Bay Beach before grabbing our jeep. It was a nice evening, but knowing it was our last it did make me feel a bit down.

We made it back to the villa and enjoyed the night views before getting some sleep for our long travel day the next day.

Saturday, November 2nd – Going Back Home 😦

My husband woke up first as he normally does on travel day since he can’t sleep in. We didn’t have to leave the villa until 9am so I tried to sleep in a little extra, but once he was up I couldn’t fall back to sleep. 

We took the time to clean out the refrigerator and make sure everything was the way it was when we first arrived. The villa had some guidelines for check out – such as leave all towels on the floor in the laundry room and leave the bedding on the beds, so we made sure we followed them as well.

Of course it was a gorgeous morning, which it always seems to be the day we leave. Once everything was cleaned and packed up we said our good-byes to Arc Du Soleil and made our way back to town.

My husband dropped us off near Cruz Bay Landing so we grabbed a table while he dropped off the rental. We noticed that everyone else had the same idea because of all the luggage lined up along the side of the restaurant.

We ordered breakfast while talking about what a great time we had. I decided to go with the smoked salmon eggs benedict which were delicious.

After breakfast we walked down to the “Creek” to catch the ferry that goes to the Crown Marina on St. Thomas. We wanted to take that ferry instead of the ferry to Red Hook to avoid the long taxi ride on St. Thomas.

We had to ask someone where the “Creek” was, but turned out it is the same location where we used to pick up the ferry to Jost Van Dyke before the National Park Dock. We walked through the gated area and were told to leave our luggage near the ferry.

The ferry was scheduled to leave at 11:00am. The person operating the ferry was very nice and told us that the ride would be about 30-35 minutes. Then it was time to board the ferry. We found a couple of seats in the shade. 

Soon we pulled away from Cruz Bay and St. John was left in the background. It is always so sad to see St. John “disappear”, but hopefully (fingers crossed) we’ll be back once again.

The views from the ferry were beautiful – after about 30 minutes we arrived at the Crown Bay Marina. We had the option to hang out at the Tickles Dockside Bar, but we figured it would be best to get to the airport.

Once again we were stuffed like sardines in a large taxi van, but thankfully the ride to the airport was only about 5-10 minutes vs. the 30+ minutes from Red Hook.

We arrived at the airport and decided to hang out at the outside bar/restaurant before going in through the terminal to the gate, since it was less crowded. A flight just arrived so the outside area was jam packed with people arriving which I always makes me so jealous – even though that was us one week ago. While we were waiting we got an alert that our 2:20pm flight was delayed until 3:10 due to it being delayed in Newark airport – great I though. At least we were not stuck in the terminal at that point so we were able to hang out a little longer.

Then came the time to go through customs, so we were grabbed all of our belongings and made it to customs. I couldn’t believe it was empty, so it didn’t take much time to get through. Plus the fact you don’t have to fill out a form anymore makes it a lot easier.

Once through customs we went through the TSA Pre line while our friends went through the longer regular line. While in line, we noticed a couple people behind us had pet carriers. It turned out they were doing the “Pets with Wings” – where you transport a shelter animal to the states for adoption. We thought about doing it but never followed through and regretted it after seeing them.

Then the couple had to take the two puppies out of the carriers to go through security. They were soooo cute. It turned out they were also going to be on our flight. They said it was very easy to do and that they would meet someone in Newark Airport to pick up the puppies. My husband and I agreed that we must do it next time.

We made it through security and as usual the terminal was packed. Unfortunately the duty free shop was no longer so we couldn’t get anything to bring home. However the restaurant/bar was back open so we found a couple seats in there. While sitting there, we saw another young lady with a pet carrier. She had a large black cat she was taking all the way to the west coast. She was also doing the Pets with Wings. We noticed even more people with pet carriers. It was great to see so many people participating in a great cause.

Eventually our plane arrived from Newark so we were able to board our flight. There were issues with one of the lavatories so we were delayed even more before take off. Finally we took off and the flight was uneventful. 

Once we landed we met up with the car service to take us home. 

We left the villa at 9am that morning and didn’t get home until 9pm. It was a long travel day, but I would do it again to go back to my “other happy place”.

I find that St. John is one of the most beautiful places with amazing beaches that seem to get more and more beautiful each and every time we visit the island. It is so great to see how much the island has rebounded after such a devastating hurricane just over 2 years ago. It was also wonderful to see our friends fall in love with the island as well. I have such great appreciation to have been able to visit this island so many times. Hopefully there will be more….

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

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.