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

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

Saturday, April 15th – Arrival Day 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, April 16th – First Full Day 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Even John LaMere stopped by.

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

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

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

Thursday, April 20th – Be Like a Tourist Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With no surprise, everything was spot on delicious.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, April 22nd – Departure Day

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

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

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

The Gardens breakfast was delicious.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Winter Break in Key West January, 15 – 21, 2023

For the past couple of years, we added a January trip into our rotation to Key West to help break up the long cold and gray Winters in New Jersey. It felt like we were just in Key West (well technically we were 3 months ago in October), but I was ready to get back (which I always am). And this trip made it our 28th time to Key West.

I wound up not packing our things until the day before our arrival. I kept checking the weather and each and every time I did, the temperature (for when we would arrive) kept getting colder and colder. I couldn’t believe it was only going to be around 62 degrees. Luckily the forecast showed that it would warm up later in the week. I thought how I would rather have our trip start off cold and warm up vs. the other way around. So I wound up packing more pants and long sleeve tops. The low 60s doesn’t seem so cold, but in Key West, if it is very windy and damp from the humidity, it does feel cold. 

Sunday, January 15th – Arrival Day

Our flight was scheduled for 8:45am that morning, so I had the car service we always use pick us up at 6:00am. I remember last year when we left in January for Key West, it was around 2 degrees. This time it wasn’t bad – in the low 30s. Actually we were having a very mild weather for January and also not much snow. The last time we did get snow, was right before Christmas but it was only a couple of inches – if that.

The car service showed up right on time and we were on our way to Newark-Liberty International Airport. It was a beautiful morning. As usual our airline of choice was United since they offer the direct flight to Key West. Unfortunately United knows that, so the cost of airfare for the direct flight is now outrageous. 

We went through TSA with ease and I was hoping the United Club Lounge was finally open in Terminal C, but it was still under construction. It feels like it has been under construction for a couple of years now. We wound going to the same restaurant we went to the last time we were waiting for our flight to Key West. 

We sat down and I took the painstaking time of ordering a couple of drinks and breakfast for us. I find it so frustrating trying to order from the iPads they have set up. By the time you set up your account, place your order, we should have had at least something to drinik – and the staff is just standing around waiting there. Can’t they just ask you for your order and then enter it? That would be too easy. 

Eventually we did get our order and enjoyed a adequate breakfast before our flight. Meanwhile I was checking the weather forecast and it said that Key West was only around 59 degrees. Yikes I thought – that’s cold. At least I was dressed warm and I thought if worse came to worse I would just keep on what I was wearing when we arrived.

It was getting close to the time we were scheduled to board so we grabbed our carry-on luggage and walked down to our gate, which is generally the last gate in the terminal on the lower level. We took the escalator down one level and saw a few people waiting. The flight didn’t look crowded at all. We grabbed a couple of seats and waited for our group to be called. Once all the preflight options were announced, people with disabilities, people with children under 2, service people, Premiere 1K and so forth, our group one was finally called. 

We boarded the plane and settled in for the two and half hour flight. We were delayed a bit waiting to take off as usual at Newark airport, but we did wind up making up for it in the air. Not before long I could see the view of land change to water. Then the blue and green hues of the water. I always get that sense of excitement once I start to see all the of the Keys below.

The captain took the plane past Key West to our right and came back around to land. I always try and find the Gardens Hotel (where we always stay at) while we are landing, but I can never pin point it out. 

Once we landed, the captain came on to the intercom and announced the weather in Key West was mostly sunny, breezy and only 62 degrees. I knew at that moment that I was leaving on my jacket. We were one of the first ones off the plane and once we started walking on the tarmac, you could feel the cold wind blowing – but the sun was shining brightly above. I also noticed that we were directed around all this construction. The person directing us to the entrance of the airport mentioned that the airport recently began construction. This was due to the expansion project for a larger airport It is greatly needed with Key West becoming such a popular destination with so many airlines/flights available. 

After walking through a maze, we made it to the entrance to the airport. With our carry-ons in tow, we bee-lined it outside and to the taxi line. No one else was waiting, so we were able to hop in the first taxi waiting. 

Meanwhile friends of ours, Brent and Julie were already down in Key West and they were also staying at the Gardens. We coordinated our trip again so that we would be staying in Key West at the same time. On our way to the Gardens I texted Julie to let her know that we were on our way.

While we were en route to the Gardens, my husband and I noticed that the taxi driver was taking us a different way to the Gardens. Somehow we were in New Town and then went down Southard St. Once we made the left turn onto Simonton I realized we were almost there.

He dropped us off and we walked up the stairs to check-in inside. When we walked in, no one was at the front desk. There was a bell on the desk so we gave it a rang. Still nothing. So I tried calling the main number and Jim, the General Manager answered. He told us that the receptionist George was checking in other guests and he would be right back. While we were waiting we heard two familiar voices walk into the building. It was Brent and Julie! They were about to come into the office as well to check about the status of their room. They were changing rooms for one night since the room they were staying at for the following week wasn’t available.

It was great to see them again. George made it back to the office and we quickly checked in. Julie and Brent’s room wasn’t ready  yet, so we walked out past the pool to the bar where another familiar face was behind it, the bartender Phil! He welcomed us back and we all sat down. It was chilly out, but I didn’t care – we made it back!

After a very cold beer we grabbed all of our things and went to our room to unpack. Thankfully the room felt warm. I was worried how some places in Key West do not have heat. Plus it was forecasted to get down into the upper 50s that night. We were all unpacked and walked back to the bar. Brent and Julie were still waiting on their room so we ordered another beer.

My husband and I were also quite excited. Being that we are NY Giant fans we were anticipating the game later that evening. We thought about going down to Jack Flats to catch the game, but Brent and Julie mentioned that the room they were moving to was on the new side of the Gardens, in Cottage 1. We thought it was a possibility but really didn’t want to impose.

George walked outside and told Brent and Julie their room was ready. My husband offered to help them move their things. I decided to stay and hang out and talk to Phil and his niece who was beginning to set up for Jazz at 5pm. It was nice to settle in and chat for a bit.

When Brent and Julie were settled in they came back. They told us that Cottage 1 would be perfect to watch the game since there is a separate living area with a flat screen TV. Sold! My husband and I decided yes – why not? This way we didn’t have to walk all the way to Jack Flats, which wasn’t far, but it was cold and getting colder. And most likely it would be crowded.

First, however, we both wanted to run out to the nearby liquor store right on Duval to grab a few things for the game. We told them that we would meet back at their cottage shortly. We walked down Duval and noticed everyone sporting sweatshirts and jeans. This was an uncommon sight in Key West, but it was cold. Instead of making our usual right hand turn onto Duval, we made a left hand turn where there is a liquor store a few steps down on the left hand side. I noticed that Duval St. was still decorated in its holiday splendor.

We walked in and after having a couple of beers at the Gardens, I wasn’t in the mood for beer. I decided to go with some hard seltzer, I can’t remember if it was White Claw or High Noon but one of those. My husband grabbed some beer for himself and also some sake for Brent and Julie.

We walked back, but into the other entrance to the Cottages located right next door to the Gardens Hotel. It is a cute little area with several cottages surrounded by a pool that is someone smaller than the one in the main area, but it is still a decent size.

We walked to the Cottage and it was adorable. Brent greeted us at the door and we sat down while the game was about to start. I was both nervous and excited to watch the game. Ironically most of the people I work with are from Minnesota, so it gave me extra anticipation leading up to the game. I figured how it would be amazing if the Giants could somehow pull off the win, but if they couldn’t, at least I was in my happy place to distract me from feeling disappointed. 

While the game was going on, the sense of hunger started set in. We thought about ordering a pizza, but one would have to be gluten free for Brent and Julie. I have a Doordash account on my phone so  I looked around for options. Out of all the pizza options that were on Doordash (not many) I couldn’t find one with a gluten free pizza.

So our next option was mexican. I saw that nearby Old Town Mexican delivered on Doordash. We all picked out what we wanted and then Brent decided to pick it up instead of waiting for the delivery – otherwise it was going to be a while. My husband wound up accompanying him while I continued to watch the game.

I couldn’t believe that the game was as close as it was. I started to think that the Giants were actually going to win the game. By the time Brent and my husband got back I was starving. They wound up having a drink at the restaurant while they waited for our to-go order. I ordered some sort of tuna tostados for myself, while my husband and shared some fried calamari. It wasn’t great, but decent for what it was.

Then the unthinkable happened. The Giants won! We were all so happy. I was especially happy being that we were in Key West to watch them win.

When the game was over we were all getting tired. We thanked Brent and Julie for their hospitality and went back to our room to watch the late night game. I remembered that a fellow forumite on Tripadvisor Flboy22 was going to be at the Smokin’ Tuna that night to catch the Marshall Morlock Band. I had every intention of going a few days ago, but it was so cold out and walking down Duval didn’t seem so appealing at the time. Next time I thought!

We wound up only catching the first quarter of the game and called it an early night.

Monday, January 16th – the Saint, Hogs Breath, Red Shoe Bistro

After a good night sleep we both freshened up and were ready to start our first full day back in Key West. I opened up the door to outside and noticed it was still chilly out so I decided to go with a pair of my run pants and a jacket. 

We made our first usual stop to Cuban Coffee Queen for two cups Cuban American. There wasn’t a line so my husband was able to order right away. Once we had our coffee in hand, we walked onto Duval. I wanted to try the Saint for breakfast for two reasons. First we had heard about it from locals during previous visits, how it is a good place for brunch/breakfast. Second, it was a place we had never been before. Plus it was still a bit on the cooler side, so I wanted to go somewhere that was indoors. 

We walked down Duval and made a left hand turn onto Eaton St. Then we both saw the unassuming little black and white sign that said “The Saint”. As we got closer, you could see the red carpeted entrance. This is definitely the place I thought. 

I wasn’t exactly sure where the restaurant was, but when we walked into the lobby area, I could see the bar to our right. The lobby itself was quite eccentric if you will. I thought this is going to be interesting. 

When we walked into the restaurant, we asked the young lady behind the bar where we should sit. She said we could sit anywhere, so we decided to sit at the bar. There were only two other couples in the place. She asked us if we were staying at the hotel and we told her we weren’t. Then she asked if we were locals, which always makes me smile. We told her how we were staying at the Gardens. Since we weren’t staying there, we had to leave credit card while we were having breakfast, which was fine.

The bar itself was interesting with the unusual chairs to sit on. I loved the chandeliers. We perused the breakfast menu and I wound up going with two fried eggs over medium with a side of the cheesy grits. My husband ordered the avocado toast that came with two fried eggs as well. While we were waiting for our order I had to use the ladies room. I asked the bartender where it was located. 

I had to walk outside where there were tables set up for outdoor dining and then back inside through a couple of doors. When I walked back to the bar I notice a sign pointing to the Halo Lounge. I heard about it as well and wanted to check it out. We didn’t have an opportunity during this trip, but at least now I know where it was for maybe in the future.

I also reached out to our friend Mo, whom we met with her friend Kristen about a year and a half ago during our first visit during Fantasy Fest. We made plans to return after that trip and January wound up working out for both of us. Unfortunately her friend Kristen couldn’t make it this time. 

Our breakfast was served and it was very good. I saw my husband’s dish and thought to myself I should have ordered it. It wasn’t just avocados on pieces of toast, they were on top of a large slice of ciabatta bread with two eggs on top. Also on the side was a fresh arugula salad. My eggs were very good and the grits were cheesy and delicious.  

You can read my full review here: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g34345-d256868-r876533231-The_Saint_Hotel_Key_West_Autograph_Collection-Key_West_Florida_Keys_Florida.html

While we were settling the bill, I heard back from Mo. We agreed to meet up at the Galleon Sunset Tiki Bar, since it was where we met initially. We had some time before we were meeting up, so my husband suggested we walk around the shops at Mallory Square.

I realized the day before that I had forgot to pack my sunglasses. I usually remember them, but since we have been experiencing endless cloudy days in New Jersey, it totally escaped my mind. We walked around and I wasn’t having too much success finding a pair that fit my face. I was thinking I wasn’t going to find a pair, but then we walked over to another sunglass display. And there they were. A pair of $14 sunglasses that fit. Perfect!

Once I purchased my high end sunglasses, we walked down Front St. and then towards the Bight. I wanted to see if all the holiday decorations were still up and sure enough they were. I was trying to imagine what they would look like at night since we had never been to Key West during the holidays. I was hoping that we would make it back to see it before they took the lights down.

We walked around past the Conch Republic Seafood Company down towards the Galleon. I still don’t understand why they block none guests from walking through parking lot now to get to the Sunset Tiki Bar anymore. So we walked along the water and to the bar. 

Mo was already there and she recognized us right away. Our friend Ramsey was working the bar as well, so it was nice to see everyone again. We chatted for a while catching up with what we had been up to. It started to warm up a little as well.

I remembered that our friend Zack Seemiller was playing at Hogs Breath that afternoon and wanted to catch part of his show since we had not seen him yet. I mentioned it to Mo and she was ready to go. We joked how last time we went there we were feeling pretty good and wound up buying a bunch of apparel at the Hogs Breath retaili store. We thanked Ramsey and said we would see her later on in the week. 

It was a quick walk down Front St. to Hogs Breath. The sun felt so good walking on the sidewalk. Usually when we walk around in Key West we try and pick the side of the street with the most shade. This time we were welcoming the sun to warm us up.

We first walked into the retail shop to look around. My husband suggested that he would go on ahead and see if he could find a few seats for us. Meanwhile Mo and I looked around to see if they had anything that we liked. There were a few things that caught my eye, but I figured that I would wait until later on to purchase something. Then I saw that I got a text from my husband telling us he found a few seats for us at the bar. 

We walked through the store and out to the bar – it was crowded. I couldn’t believe my husband found us seats. We walked around the side of the bar while I waved hello to Zack. Unfortunately it was hard to see Zack where our seats were. However, within a couple of minutes, I saw several people leaving the seats where I prefer to sit. So once we ordered our a round, we moved over and it was much better to see and we also had more room. 

We spent the afternoon both listening to the music and chatting away. We had dinner reservations early that evening with Brent and Julie at the Red Shoe Bistro so we couldn’t stay too late. I told Mo how Zack is playing the next afternoon at the Smokin’ Tuna with Carl and that we should meet up there. 

Once Zack went on break I was able to get my usual photo with him before we had to head out. We said our goodbyes and made it back to the Gardens. It was still on the cooler side, so there wasn’t much of a reason for me to change. I did grab a hat for dinner, but that was about it.

We met up with Brent and Julie at the Gardens Bar for a quick drink at the gazebo before walking down to the Red Shoe Bistro.

When we arrived at the restaurant we noticed a bunch of people waiting outside of the restauarant. It was just before 6pm so they weren’t open yet. After a couple of minutes, the owner opened the doors and luckily I was standing right in front. We were seated inside at a nice table located in the corner by the window. Our server walked over and told us the specials of the day, and one of them was black grouper. My eyes lit up because grouper is one of my favorites. We ordered our drinks and looked over the menu (even though I knew what I wanted). 

For dinner, my husband and I shared the scallop and deviled egg appetizer and caesar salad. Brent and Julie had the caesar salad as well. Brent and I both opted for the black grouper special, while my husband ordered the beef stroganoff and Julie ordered the scallops. 

Like last time, and the time before that, everything was served in a timely manner and delicious. This has become one of my favorite places to have dinner in Key West. Plus the location is so convenient to the Gardens Hotel. 

You can read my full review here: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g34345-d21141783-r876537627-Red_Shoe_Island_Bistro-Key_West_Florida_Keys_Florida.html

After dinner, we wanted to walk around a little due to the fact we were all so full. We walked down Duval for a bit, but we really didn’t have any idea where to go. It was a Monday night and I wasn’t sure who was playing at the Tuna. I also knew Gabriel Wright wasn’t at the Salty Frog that night.

We agreed to head back towards the Gardens and have a night cap there. On our way back, Brent and my husband mentioned that when they went to Old Towne Mexican Cafe to pick up our to-go order on Sunday night, the bartender was really nice. So we decided to stop in for one. Plus the last NFL Wildcard game was on between the Cowboys and the Buccaneers. There were a couple of seats at the bar right in front of the TV – so it worked out perfectly.

We all ordered around of margaritas which probably wasn’t the best idea since I had two glasses of white wine with dinner. It was enjoyable however, to finally see what the place looked like inside, being that we pass by it almost everyday while we are in Key West.

It was getting late (for us) so we went back to the Gardens. We were going to have breakfast together, but I made plans to have breakfast with Zack at Breakfast Club Too (like we try to do when we are in town). We said good night and that we would meet up at the Smokin’ Tuna the next day to see Zack and Carl at the Tuna. 

Tuesday, January 17th – Breakfast Club Too, The Smokin’ Tuna, Woman’s Event at the Gardens, Kaya

We woke up to another beautiful sunny day. Unfortunately I didn’t sleep that great and I had a bit of a headache. After a shower and some Advil I felt a lot better. I opened up our door and felt outside. It was getting warmer! Excited about the temperature I picked out a pair of capris (no running pants this time) and a t-shirt. I still grabbed my jacket just in case it was still chilly near the water.

We walked back to Cuban Coffee Queen for some much needed coffee. I was going to wait until we got to Breakfast Club Too, but I knew the coffee would give me that extra jolt. We headed back onto Simonton and down to Greene St. 

The hostess seated us towards the back. We looked over the menu while waiting for Zack. I remember last time I ordered the chorizo poblano rostis. It was really good but it was a lot of food and I wasn’t exactly starving. When Zack showed up, we waved him over. I reached out to his son the day before as well to join us like he usually does, but he wasn’t able too. 

We all ordered breakfast and I went with an omelet. It was a fun way to start the day just talking and catching up since we saw each other several months ago. Everyone enjoyed what they ordered. I also thought the omelet was very good. however I prefer mine more on the fluffy side. 

We thanked Zack for breakfast and told him we would see him later with Carl at the Smokin’ Tuna. My husband got a text from Brent and Julie. They wanted to meet us at the Galleon Sunset Tiki Bar. Since we were already down on that side of the island, we made our way there.

I also reached out to Mo that we would meet up in the afternoon at the Smokin’ Tuna. We walked in to the Sunset Tiki Bar and this time Candace was working. She recognized us and started talking when Brent and Julie showed up. They grabbed a couple of seats and just enjoyed the view. It also was getting warmer out. I was finally able to take off my jacket without feeling cold. 

Our next plan was to walk down to the Tuna. Once we paid our bill we walked back down onto Duval. There was a cruise ship in  town so the streets were more crowded.

We made it to the Tuna while Zack and Carl were getting ready to start. I looked towards the end of the bar and there was Mo.  I waved her over and then explained how the seats they have at the bar make me nervous, especially after seeing more then one person fall off them.

In a way it worked out better because we were able to get a table at the front of the stage making it easy to talk to everyone and watch the entertainment. Phil the bartender (same name but not the same bartender that works at the Gardens) was working as usual and took our order.

Once we had our drinks in hand we sat back and enjoyed the music.

You can see Zack Seemiller performing “I’m Not Jimmy Buffett” with Caffeine Carl here: https://youtu.be/DyKI7mRsROk

While we were there a familiar face showed up, Zack’s mom. It was great to see her back in town. I talked to her for a bit before I noticed another familiar face, Jolene. Ironically I never met her in person, but we have had our fun exchanges going back and forth on social media while watching Zack playing live. It was great to finally meet her in person. We talked for a little while and she was so sweet.

When Zack and Carl took a break, I had to get a picture with them. I try not to do it every time we see them, but it had been a while (in my book) so I thought I was due.

Everyone was having a nice time and then we were thinking that we should maybe head back to the Gardens. Mo had never been there before, so I thought it would be fun for her to see the hotel. We send good bye to everyone and walked back to the Gardens.

When we got back to the Gardens we noticed that Phil was setting up and there were a bunch of people standing around.  It turned out the Gardens was having some sort of Women’s Event Fundraiser / Benefit of some sort. I can’t remember exactly what it was for, but knowing Kate (the owner of the Gardens) I am sure it was for a great cause. She is always doing some sort of benefit helping Key West. And then speaking of we saw Kate. It is always nice to see her. 

The rest of us began contemplating where we could go for dinner. Neither of us had dinner plans for the evening. Then I thought about Kaya. So we planned on freshening up and then meet back at the Gardens bar. 

When we met back up we made the quick walk down Angela St. and across Duval. Since the temperatures were beginning to fall again we opted to set on the side where it is enclosed. I had never been inside that side of the restaurant before. It is still hard to picture the place back when it was Cowboy Bill’s. That’s Key West for you – always changing. 

We grabbed a couple of seats at the bar and all of us ordered a mai tai (which I really really didn’t need). Once we ordered our food I started to look around. The place had a decent amount of TV displays. I thought to myself, it would be a fun place to watch sports. Who knew?

Our appetizers came out – the tuna poke nachos. They are one of my favorites. The tuna was delicious and fresh.

For dinner my husband had the rasta pasta while I had some sort of tropical shrimp salad. I probably should have stuck with the old reliable mahi mahi fish tacos, but I didn’t feel like making a mess. The salad was delicious, don’t get me wrong, but it just wasn’t what I felt like. Luckily my husband couldn’t finish all of the rasta pasta, so I volunteered to help him. That’s the go to dish to order at Kaya for sure. Everyone enjoyed their meals. 

You can read my full review here: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g34345-d23162562-r876538542-Kaya_island_Eats-Key_West_Florida_Keys_Florida.html

We made the short walk back to the Gardens and wound hanging out in the gazebo for a few. We made plans to go to Bagatelle for breakfast the following morning.

Wednesday, January 18th – Bagatelle, Mo’s last day, Little Pearl, the Smokin’ Tuna

For the first time, when I opened our room door, it was warm. So warm I could wear shorts! I was so happy. We freshened up and met up with Brent and Julie. We grabbed a quick cup of coffee at the Gardens before walking back down Duval.

It was a beautiful warm morning. One of those mornings that make you smile and appreciate how beautiful Key West is filled with flowers, palm trees, the brilliant blue skies. While we were walking, we noticed that there were police officers standing along the side streets and they were closed off preventing people from driving down Duval St. It was definitely odd. There was something going on. Maybe a movie being filmed?

We made it to Bagatelle and were seated outside on the first level. Once we sat down we noticed a couple more cops were standing on the side of the road and there was no cars, conch trains or trolleys going by.

Only a few people were walking along the side walk. After we placed our order, we saw a car drive down Duval with three people inside. One of them was holding a camera. I thought who is in that car? What actor? When our server returned with our cups of  coffee, he said they were filming a Hyundai commercial. Really? All of that for a commercial? It was kind of fun to see even though that’s all it was.

For breakfast I went with the eggs benedict that are served over pulled pork and cornbread with a spicy hollandaise sauce. I have had it before and I find it a bit indulgent, but oh so good. The poached eggs were cooked to a perfect medium – not runny at all. Everyone else enjoyed what they ordered. As we were finishing up Mo got in touch with me, letting us know that she checked out of her B&B and would be at the Sunset Tiki Bar at the Galleon. I told her that we would meet her there after breakfast.

Brent and Julie were planning on going back to the Gardens to relax. After breakfast we told them we would meet up with later at the Tuna to catch Caffeine Carl and The Buzz. We walked along down to Front St. and around the Galleon boardwalk to the tiki bar. The sun felt so good and the temperature was perfect, mid 70s. 

When we arrived at the tiki bar there was Mo. She had all her bags with her and I was starting to get a little sad that she was leaving. We ordered a round and talked for a while. Our bartender wasn’t exactly the most attentive type so we decided to go somewhere else. 

Our next stop was the White Tarpon. It was the perfect spot to sit at the bar near the water. While we were there, we saw a charter boat come in with everyone’s catch. It was entertaining to see all the pelicans come up to the dock waiting for the guys to through any remnants from cleaning the fish.

Unfortunately Mo had to head to the airport to catch her flight home back to Tampa. We walked out past the Conch Republic Seafood Restaurant to right in front of Kermit’s thinking it would be a good spot for her to catch her Uber. Within minutes her ride showed up and we said our goodbyes. We wished her safe travels back home and we didn’t get upset this time.

I had made dinner reservations a couple nights before for Little Pearl. I prefer to eat earlier for dinner, since we usually do not have lunch. However, Little Pearl only offers three seatings, 5, 7 and 9. Well 5 is too early and 9 is too late, so I made the reservation for 7pm. I was a little hesitant going there, because I read a lot of reviews about how once they changed over to the chef tasting menu, the portions are very small. We had not been to Little Pearl since the change, but I always enjoyed their food. 

On our way back to the Gardens we stopped at the Treehouse Bar next to Rick’s to see Terry the bartender. We started talking to another young couple. They mentioned how it was their first time in Key West. Then they said how they were having dinner at Little Pearl and so were we. And their next stop was Willie T’s and we told him we were doing the same thing. It was kind of funny. They left while we were finishing our drink. We did make it to Willie T’s to see Zack play. When we sat down, the young couple came over and bought us a round. I thought that was so nice.

We didn’t stay too long again because we had the dinner reservations at Little Pearl. We made it back to the Gardens to relax for a bit and freshen up.

Feeling refreshed, we walked down Simonton to Olivia St. I love walking down the side roads off of Duval. It is so quiet. We made it to Little Pearl. A friend of Zack’s Danny, was working. I reserved two seats at the bar so when we walked in he sat us right at the bar. My husband ordered a glass of red and I ordered a glass of white. The place was packed with people, then again it is a small restaurant but I am glad we made reservations. We looked towards the back of the restaurant and saw the young couple from earlier sitting in the back. We both gave them a wave.

My husband decided to splurge and ordered a dozen oysters for us to start (they costs extra). Then we each ordered something different from each course so that we could sample as much as possible.

The oysters came out first and they were fresh and delicious. 

The next course I went with was the salmon carpaccio and my husband had the grilled octopus. Both did not disappoint whatsoever. Our next course consisted of pork belly for me and the grouper cheek bao bun for my husband. And no complaints from either of us, as far as the portion size. 

Then for our next course I ordered the catch of the day, but unfortunately I can’t remember what type of fish it was, but my husband ordered the halibut. When our courses came out, I tried the fish I ordered, but it was a firm texture that I wasn’t exactly excited about. I prefer a flakey fish. I tried the halibut that my husband ordered and preferred it to what I had. So we wound up swapping our plates. My husband didn’t mind, at least I don’t think he did. 

For our final and last course I had the cheese platter and my husband had the ghost pepper sorbet – which I had to try. Again, I preferred what my husband ordered so we swapped plates again. All and all I would highly recommend making a reservation at Little Pearl. The food was outstanding and we both thought the portions were adequate. We thanked Danny and made our way to the Tuna.

You can read my full review here: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g34345-d12231430-r876536906-Little_Pearl-Key_West_Florida_Keys_Florida.html

In a way I was wishing the walk was farther then it actually was, so I could walk off all that food. We made it to the Tuna and Brent and Julie were already there. They already secured a table so we sat down to join them. Cliff Cody was finishing up his set, so we were able to listen to a few songs. 

Once his set was over it was time for Carl, Zack and the rest of the band to set up. During our visit, there was a RokIsland Festival going on. Apparently the guy who runs the Mile 0 festival, which was happening the following week, added the RokIsland Festival last year. Basically it consists of different hair bands from yester-year aka the 80s. Ironically I was fan back in the day before changing over to completely different music – such as Pearl Jam (my favorite band)

Due to the festival, the band started at 8pm instead of 9pm and would only play for an hour and a half to make room for an 80s band that night – The Bullet Boys. We wound up staying all through Caffeine Carl and The Buzz’s show and then came the Bullet Boys. I was getting tired, but just out of curiosity I wanted to check them out. You could tell they were coming on next. I saw this one tall guy with the longest hair I have ever seen obviously in the band. 

Then the placed started to fill up with people from the festival. The band began to play. I could not believe how loud it was. I mean it was LOUD. We stayed for a couple of songs, but honestly I didn’t recognize any of them and don’t even know what their hit was? 

You can hear how loud the Bullet Boys were here: https://youtu.be/SCZRVcEVK7o

It was getting late and we all had our fill. When we walked out of the Tuna neither one of us could hear each other speak for a few minutes. My ears were ringing. Eventually our hearing came back by the time we got back to the Gardens. Then it was time to get some sleep. 

Thursday, January 19th – The Seaside Café at the Mansion, the Gardens, Lola’s

Since we were out pretty late the night before, we slept in a little later. We dragged ourselves out of bed and freshened up. It was another beautiful warm sunny day. Brent and Julie were going to go to the Seaside Café at the Mansion at around 11:30for their gluten free lobster pizza. 

I was kind of hungry, so my husband and  I told them we would find a place for breakfast and meet them at the café for a drink. We walked down Duval to La Te Da.  As we got closer, I could see that it was packed. Most likely because it was later in the morning. So we walked to the next possibility – La Grignote (I always wanted to try it or breakfast) – but like La Te Da it was crowded. Then there was the Banana Café – another negative. There were groups of people standing outside waiting to be seated, so that was the indication there was a wait.

At this point it was almost 11am so we figured that we would walk around a bit and wait to eat. Then meet Brent and Julie at the Seaside Café. We had some time to kill and we were near the Southernmost Buoy. We walked by and the line wasn’t that long. The last time we had our picture taken was our very first visit to Key West back in March of 2006. We both looked at each and thought why not? 

While we were waiting, I could hear the people approaching the buoy for a photo. It was kind of an understood gesture to do if you will. You would ask the people behind you (or in front of you depending on how it worked out) if they would take your picture and then you would offer to take their picture. This way everyone gets a photo with whomever they are with. So I turned around and asked the nice couple behinds us if they would take a picture and they easily obliged.

After being tourists for a few moments, we walked down to the Southernmost Beach Café for a cold beverage. We sat at the bar and ordered a couple of screwdrivers. It was nice to be surrounded by the water. Usually we are on the side of the island, but it was a nice change.

It was just about 11:30am so we walked over to the Seaside Café. They were just about to open when we saw Brent and Julie waiting. Unfortunately it was too windy for them to have the umbrellas open at the tables near the beach so we sat near the bar. We would have fried if we sat out in that sun. 

Our server came over and we both knew what we wanted – the lobster pizza! Brent and Julie ordered their gluten free version and my husband and I ordered the regular version. Again it was so nice to take in the water views and it was a gorgeous day.

I was quite hungry at this point and I was eagerly anticipating this lobster pizza. I have read so many reviews of it. And then I saw the food truck. I forgot how they do all the cooking in a food truck – pretty impressive. 

Our pizza orders came out and looked delicious. I took the first bite and it was exactly what I expected if not better. The lobster was delicious and it paired well with the cheese and the garlic white sauce. The garlic wasn’t too strong, but just enough. Maybe my only slight critique would be that it could use a little more lobster? 

You can read my full review here: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g34345-d15829055-r876534857-Seaside_Cafe_at_the_Mansion-Key_West_Florida_Keys_Florida.html

Once we were finished with our pizza we leisurely walked back to the Gardens. When we got back to the Gardens, we didn’t feel like doing much. When we are in St. John in the US Virgin Islands and rent a villa, we tend to have one of those days people refer to as a “villa gravity day”. It refers to a day where you don’t want to do much and relax at your villa. So we decided to have a “Gardens” gravity day. 

It was a nice day to relax by the pool.

Julie made reservations for all us at Lola’s at 6pm that evening. So after spending the afternoon relaxing, my husband and I went to the nearby liquor store to grab a bottle of wine for dinner.  Then it was time to get ready for dinner.

Lola’s is one of those places where they do not have a menu. I find it exciting to hear what is offered that particular night. 

We made the quick walk to Lola’s and had to wait a couple of minutes before the owner opened the door. I think we were the last ones to be called to the door to be seated. We were seated at our usual table near the entrance. The place still had all its candles lit on the walls. It still amazes me how that’s not a fire hazard, but it does look pretty.

Our server came over and went over what the appetizers and the main courses were that night. When I heard the words “hogfish” for one of the entrées I knew I was going to order it. Funny, my husband and I both ordered it. For the first course I had no idea why, but I decided to go with the half braised duck. When it came out, it was a huge portion. It probably could have been enough for dinner. I told myself only eat half of it so you don’t fill up, but I wound up eating everything. It was absolutely delicious and fork tender. My husband had the calamari steak which he thoroughly enjoyed. Brent also had the duck and Julie had their scallops, which they are known for.

Like most times we have eaten at Lola’s, there is a bit of a delay between the appetizers and the main courses, but it is just one chef cooking. It does give you some time to digest your food if you had a large appetizer like I did. Our main courses came out and everything was delicious. The hogfish tasted so good and I forgot how much I enjoy it.

You can read my full review here: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g34345-d19247202-r876539198-Lola_s_Bistro-Key_West_Florida_Keys_Florida.htmlhttps://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g34345-d19247202-r876539198-Lola_s_Bistro-Key_West_Florida_Keys_Florida.html

After dinner we walked back to the Gardens. Everyone was so full that we didn’t feel like doing much of anything. I still had some wine left over so I grabbed a glass from our room and Julie and Brent did the same. We all walked over to the gazebo and had a nightcap before calling it a night.  

Friday, January 20th – La Te Da, Willie T’s, Smokin’ Tuna

When I woke up I couldn’t believe we were leaving the next day already. It just goes by way too fast. I wish I could be like one of those lucky people who can rent a place for a month. That would be great, if money was no object and I didn’t have to work. Well technically I can work from anywhere but my husband cannot.

We freshened up and met Brent and Julie back at the gazebo. They were having coffee and we joined them for a cup as well. We decided to got to La Te Da for breakfast. I was hoping that it wasn’t going to be jam packed like the other day.

We walked down Duval to La Te Da. Again it was another beautiful and not too hot of a day. We walked in and all the seats at the bar were taken and the tables towards the back were full as well. Then Julie and I noticed two high top tables towards the front, right where you walk in available. Those could work if we put them together. When we walked in the bartender told us we could sit anywhere so we grabbed the two tables. We couldn’t push them together, but they were close enough. The table worked out really well in a way. We were still near the sidewalk where you can people watch, which I always enjoy. 

Besides my husband, we all ordered the tropical fruit with yogurt and granola. I guess we were all still quite stuffed from the night before at Lola’s. My husband ordered a half order of the sausage and gravy. Our food arrived in a timely matter. Everything was very good. I don’t think you can mess up fruit, yogurt and granola though. We enjoyed sitting there for a little bit watching the world of Key West go by before making it back to the Gardens to relax for a bit. 

Brent and Julie wanted to back to the Sunset Tiki Bar that afternoon so we would give them a text when we were going to head back out. 

After relaxing for a little bit I was antsy to get back out. This was our last full day and I didn’t want to spend it all day at the Gardens like we did the day before. We texted Brent and Julie but we didn’t hear anything. So we decided to walk to the Sunset Tiki Bar and they could meet us there when they were ready.

We made it back to the Sunset Tiki Bar and Ramsey was working again – yey! I was glad that she was working so we could see her before we left. We talked for a bit before Brent and Julie showed up.

I remembered that Zack was playing at Willie T’s that afternoon and wanted to catch part of his show. Julie wanted too as well, since both her and Brent never were at Willie T’s before. 

We said our goodbyes to Ramsey and set out to our next stop, Willie T’s. We walked down Duval St. to Willie T’s. Luckily just as we were walking in, a group of people got up and left so we were able to get a table.

We said hello to Zack and ordered a few drinks. As I mentioned, Brent and Julie had never been to Willie T’s before, so it was fun to take them someplace new. We had a fun afternoon listening to the music. 

Julie wanted to catch Cliff Cody at the Tuna that evening and he was playing from 5-7pm. So we headed out of Willie T’s and back to the Gardens to freshen up. We figured that we would get to the Tuna, hopefully find a good table and also grab something to eat. Plus I wanted to start packing up our things so it wouldn’t be too much to do the following morning before we left. 

Once we were all ready, we walked back down Duval to the Tuna. When we walked in, it was packed. So much for getting a good table. Then my husband found one in the back behind the bar. They aren’t my favorite tables to sit at, since the view is obstructed of the stage with the bar. We had to get something to eat regardless, so we went ahead and sat down and ordered dinner.

My husband had his usual favorite at the Tuna, grilled mahi mahi over a caesar salad and also a side of wings. Brent and Julie ordered the same as well. I wanted to try their fish tacos so I went ahead and ordered them. While we were waiting, Julie recognized Cliff Cody’s girlfriend and she was sitting at one of the tables near the stage. So she walked over and came back telling us that we could join her at the table.

We already ordered so we decided to stay at our current table since it was easier to eat and then would join Cliff Cody’s girlfriend. Our food came out fairly quickly. When my fish tacos arrived, I couldn’t believe how big they were, but they looked delicious. And they were. I wound up finishing them without any problems. Everyone else enjoyed their meals. Again, nothing fancy, but if you want a casual dinner that won’t break the bank and listen to music the same time – you can’t go wrong with the Smokin’ Tuna.

After we paid our server the bill for dinner, we walked over to Cliff Cody’s girlfriend. There were several other people sitting around the table as well, but thankfully there were enough seats for everyone. 

We noticed a lady that got up on stage and joined Cliff Cody. I can’t remember her name but she played the violin really well. My husband and I usually don’t catch Cliff Cody so it was nice watch him play.

When his set was over he came over to say hello. He wound up leaving with his girlfriend and a few of the others that were at the table so we had more room at the table.

Then we saw Carl and Zack arrive and began to set up. Again they were only on from 8pm to 10:30pm because of the RokIsland festival. Then Zack’s mom, his friend Jolene and a couple others showed up. Since we had extra seats available, I told them they could sit with us. 

Soon it was time for the band to start. I was both happy and sad, because we were leaving the next day but we were all having a good time. As it got later into the evening, more and more people showed up. I would probably say the majority of them were from the RokIsland festival. This made it quite difficult to watch the band because  a lot of people were dancing and just standing directly in front of the table we were sitting at. It is what it is, but it does get a bit frustrating if you want to see the band.

You can Watch Caffeine Carl and The Buzz with Zack Seemiller performing a “Born To Run”: https://youtu.be/tsLOre8wSDc

We did stay until the end of their show. The next band that was scheduled to perform was Mr. Big. I only remember their one hit “To Be with You” back in the dayy and was curious to hear  it. So we wound up staying even longer. It took a while for the band to set up, but once they did, the lead singer sounded really good. There were also two other band members from another hair band, Trixter. It was definitely entertaining and not as loud as the Bullet Boys the other night. We stayed for a few songs and unfortunately never heard their hit song, but most likely they were saving that song until the end. 

You can watch perform “Wild World” here: https://youtu.be/KmWTAxDUjxE

It was getting late and we were leaving the next day and I didn’t want to feel too terrible. So we left the Tuna and made our one last stroll down Duval St. 

We made it back to the Gardens and it was time to get some sleep. Brent and Julie weren’t leaving for a few more days, but told us that they would be around before we had to leave.

January 21st – Departure Day

I had made plans with Zack the day before, for our usual last breakfast at nearby Sarabeth’s. We agreed on 9:30am, so I made sure I sat our alarm clock so I wouldn’t oversleep.

We woke up and freshened up. We had a little time to finish packing up any last minute things that were left out. Our flight was at 1pm so my husband went to the front desk to have them call us a taxi to pick us up at 11:45am. 

Then we walked down to Cuban Coffee Queen to get our last cuban coffee before walking down to Sarabeth’s.

We waited a couple of minutes but then we saw Zack and his mom walking down the street. 

We couldn’t get a table ahead of time though. Sarabeth’s won’t seat you until your entire party is there, similar to Blue Heaven. They weren’t terribly crowded so we didn’t wait long to be seated. We decided to sit outside since it was a beautiful morning.

As usual, it was a nice way to end our trip. We just chatted for a bit and enjoyed a good breakfast at Sarabeth’s. Then it was getting to be about that time that we had to go back. We had to be out of our room by 11am and I didn’t request a late checkout since we would be leaving shortly after that time.

We thanked Zack and his mom for breakfast and said our goodbyes.

Quickly we walked back to the Gardens. Everything was pretty much all packed. I made sure I checked my phone to see the status of our flight which was still showing on time.

We rolled our luggage across the grounds to the bar area where Brent and Julie were waiting for us. Phil the bartender was there as well starting to set up for the day. We just talked about the fun week we had together and that we need to do it again.

11:45am came quickly and we had to get going. We said our goodbyes and rolled our luggage out to the front of the Gardens. Soon our taxi showed up and took us to the airport. It is funny how driving down the road (A1A) from the airport to the Gardens makes me so happy, but driving from the Gardens to the airport is the complete opposite.

Once we got to the airport, the TSA check point was a breeze – no line at all. We took the escalator down to the gate. That’s where everyone was – waiting for their flight. My husband found two seats at our gate. There wasn’t really enough time to get something to eat before we took off, plus I was still pretty full from breakfast.

Our flight was delayed a few minutes due to the fact it was delayed leaving Newark-Liberty International Airport. Once our flight arrived we began boarding. Thankfully this time, our plane wasn’t the furthest one away. 

The flight was a little bumpy throughout, but not too bad. I knew we were getting closer to New Jersey, because I could see all the cloud cover below. “Back to being gray” I thought to myself.

We wound up landing about 20 minutes ahead of time. However, by the time we found an open gate, it was around the time we were scheduled to arrive at 4:30pm. Our driver from the car service met us outside the terminal and we were on our way back home. Soon we were back at our house and the memories of Key West quickly faded.

For dinner, my husband and I were both craving pizza. That’s one thing that New Jersey is known for – good pizza. So I picked up my phone and ordered a pepperoni and mushroom pizza. It was just what we needed after our travel day. We were able to make it back in time to catch the Giants and Eagles game, but unfortunately the game didn’t go as we both had hoped so called it a night at halftime.

Key West will always be a special place to me. I appreciate returning time and time again to see our friends and making new ones. There is always something special each and every time we visit that I will always remember. Hopefully we can continue making more memories in my happy place.

Thank you reading my blog. I truly appreciate it.  Until next time! 

Key West Fantasy Fest Back in Full Swing – 10.22.2 – 10.29.22

Originally my husband and I were planning on returning to St. John, in the US Virgin Islands for October. I had postponed the trip last year due to COVID. However, at the beginning of this year I was uncertain about the testing requirements and the availability to visit the neighboring British Virgin Islands. I contacted the villa management company about pushing out our St. John trip another year to 2023. They were very accommodating and appreciated the fact that I gave them enough notice so they could easily rebook the villa with that amount of time. 

So without hesitation I wanted to return to Key West as the alternative. It also turned out that our friends Brent and Julie would be in Key West the same time. I immediately contacted the Gardens Hotel and we were all set to return to Key West (for our 28th time!) I knew as well, that it was Fantasy Fest, but after getting a small dose of it last year, I knew we could either avoid it or see it so I was not concerned at all.

Saturday, October 22nd – Arrival Day – The Gardens, Rick’s, Latitudes, The Smokin’ Tuna

It was only about 3 months ago that we were in Key West, but with the weather turning colder I was eager to get back once again. Our flight was scheduled out of Newark Liberty International at 9:30am so I had our usual car service pick us up at 6:30am. We arrived at the airport in just over an hour. The airport wasn’t too crowded when we walked up to the TSA checkpoint. Recently we had to renew our TSA Pre status along with the Clear Pass. Everything was up-to-date providing a quick walk through security. Then my husband and I both got the random check light. I had never seen it before, but all they did was take each of our cell phones and scanned and wiped them down. I would assume it is to trace any amounts of something illegal on the phones? Nevertheless our phones were handed back to us and we walked down towards our Gate. The United Club Lounge was still under renovations so we found a place to have some coffee and something to drink. 

It was nearing the time of when we were scheduled to board. We walked down to the end of the terminal to the lower level. This seems to be the usual gate for Key West lately. I noticed that mostly everyone waiting to board the plane was older. There weren’t any kids or families in sight – most likely since it was Fantasy Fest. Soon the announcement was made and we were able to board the plane. We were lucky enough to get the 2nd row in First Class because of my miles and the United Card. The plane was full, but being that it is smaller plane it doesn’t take too much time for everyone to board.

It was actually a beautiful morning for flying. Usually we have to wait a while before take off, but this time we were able to take off in a timely manner. 

During the flight we were offered breakfast. The flight attendant told us it was some sort of cold chia seed cereal of some sort. I decided to pass and I am glad I did. When my husband was handed the breakfast I could see is look of disappointment. Thankfully there was a decent fruit bowl and yogurt.

Our flight was a bit bumpy throughout the duration but we managed to make great time. It was around 12:30pm and I could start to see all the blue and green hues below – which is always a sign that we are getting closer. The captain announced that we were approaching Key West and would be a few minutes early. 

 I was so excited that we were going to be landing with so much time left for our first day. 

Once our plane landed we anxiously awaited for the door to open. Soon we were given the go ahead sign to deplane. This time though, our escort waited until we all excited the plane. Usually they will escort you while everyone is still walking off the plane. It seemed like an eternity but finally she started walking us towards the entrance to the airport. 

The weather was absolutely incredible. The sky was so blue. We had our usual carry-on luggage so we breezed through the small airport and outside to grab a taxi. When we walked out of the airport we saw one of our friends and musicians picking up a friend, John LaMere. We quickly walked over to him and gave him a hug. He welcomed us both “back home” and that just made me smile. 

We walked back over to catch a taxi and there was no one waiting. We were able to get in the first taxi in line and we were off to the Gardens Hotel. As I mentioned earlier, this marked our 28th time in Key West and also our 28th time staying at the Gardens. We just can’t seem to validate staying anywhere else in Key West since we love the place so much. 

You can see my review here: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g34345-d227346-r866991940-The_Gardens_Hotel-Key_West_Florida_Keys_Florida.html

After a quick ride down to Simonton St. I could see the familiar yellow that surrounds the Gardens. The taxi dropped us off and we walked up the stairs and into the main building to check-in. There wasn’t any other guests checking in, so we were able to check-in quickly. It was just after 1pm and our room was ready. I also shipped a box of our toiletries ahead of time that they already brought to our room. 

As we walked through the building and out onto grounds we saw two familiar face at the pool bar. It was Brent and Julie waiting for us! Also Phil who bartends at the pool bar, whom we have become friendly with, was also working. It felt like it was a welcome wagon. We were going to drop off our things, but first Phil handed us both a cold beer. We sat down and talked to Brent and Julie for a few. While we were catching up, my husband brought up our luggage and unpacked his things. Then came my turn to do the same. When I walked into our room I noticed that Kate, the owner of the Gardens left us a bottle of wine welcoming us back. I thought it was so sweet.

It wasn’t terribly hot that I didn’t feel the need to change at that point and neither did my husband. Julie had booked us dinner that night at Latitudes so I thought that we would just freshen up later. I was also hoping to stop at Rick’s to see our friend Zack Seemiller. I wound up getting a shirt for him and his son Kai from the Pearl Jam concert we saw last month. 

It was just around 2:30 and there was just enough time to catch the end of his show. We told Brent and Julie we would meet up with them around 5:15. Brent was also playing later that evening with Caffeine Carl and the Buzz with Just George so he wanted to drop off his guitar before dinner.

We walked out of the Gardens and quickly crossed Angela St. Brent told us last year about the short cut down to Cuban Coffee Queen. Since we didn’t have too much time, we took the short cut and onto Duval. Duval was busy as usual with locals and tourists walking around. I did spot a few that were already dressed up for Fantasy Fest.

You can watch the video here: https://youtu.be/7PsBSFGvOUs

We made it down to Rick’s and Zack was playing. He acknowledged us as we walked in. It was great to see him again. When he was done with his show we had a chance to talk for a few minutes and I was able to give him the shirts from the show. He thanked me and we told him we would see him again at Hogs Breath, but not before getting our usual photo together.

By the time we got back to the Gardens we had just enough time to freshen up and get ready for Latitude’s. We even had time for a quick chat with Jim, the general manager at the Gardens. It is always good to see him. 

We met up with Brent and Julie and we walked with them down Duval to the Tuna. Brent quickly dropped off his guitar and we were on our way towards the Opal Resort to catch the water taxi to Latitudes.

As we got closer to the resort I saw they had a large Fantasy Fest sign on display. 

It was a gorgeous evening and I thanked Julie for making the reservation. I originally thought I would be too tired to go to Latitude’s our first night after a day of travel, but looking at the water and sky made me excited for dinner. (Plus I had made reservations for us later in the week for breakfast and thought it would be too much, but it wasn’t at all.) We only had to wait a few minutes before the water taxi approached the dock. 

There were several other people going to Latitude’s as well as we boarded the boat. The ride is pretty short, but it still reminds me of the ferry ride from St. Thomas to St. John. Once we docked we walked off the boat onto the pier and to the restaurant.

The hostess seated us at a table right outside. I knew we were in for a terrific sunset that night. Our server came over and asked us for our drink order. They didn’t have any specials that evening, but everything on the menu was available.

For our starters I had the lobster and crab cake and my husband had the tuna poke. Our friends had the scallops and shared the wedge salad. Then I figured that my husband and I would share the caesar salad. For our main meals my husband and Brent with the yellowtail, Julie ordered the scallops and decided to go with the grouper. 

While we were waiting for our first course to arrive we watched the sunset and the view was magnificent. It was a long time since my husband and I had been to Latitudes for dinner. 

Our first courses arrived and I could not believe the size of the lobster and crab cake. I thought it was going to be a light first course, but it was delicious nevertheless. My husband’s tuna poke was just as good, which I had a taste of it myself. 

Then our salads arrived. They actually split the portions of our salads ahead of time before serving them to us. I didn’t realize you could do that and I would definitely do it again since the portion of the regular salad is more then enough for two people, especially having it as a second course. The caesar salad was perfectly dressed and was refreshing.

Once we were done with our salads, I departed to the ladies room. When I walked back to our table, I could not believe the view while the sun was almost set. I had to make sure I took a picture and I was so glad I did.

Soon it was time for our dinner courses. The grouper was tasty and fresh as well as my husband’s yellowtail. Julie loved her scallops. I was a little hesitant going back for dinner, due to the last time we went to Latitudes (for Easter Brunch) the food was just okay. However, this time everything was spot on and that’s important especially when you look at the prices for dinner. And I don’t mind spending the money when the food is that good and also the view.

You can read my review here: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g34345-d680742-r867000974-Latitudes-Key_West_Florida_Keys_Florida.html

After we were done with our main meals, no one had room for dessert. Plus we were planning on going to the Smokin’ Tuna when we got back. Once we were all set with the bill, we walked back to the pier to wait for the water taxi. We timed it right that one was on its way. I believe at night the water taxi’s leave Sunset Key every half hour. 

Again it was a short ride back and we walked down to the Tuna. It was pretty crowded when we walked in, but there was one table that was open right in front of the stage. It was if it was left that way for a reason. While Brent went on stage to set up with Carl and the band, we ordered a couple of drinks. Erin and Ed were also working behind the bar so I made sure I said hello to them.

At this point of the evening I was starting to feel the long day but as soon as the band came on, it was if it gave me my second wind. The band sounded great that night and it was a lot of fun. When they took a break, Carl and George came over to say hello. It was nice to see them again.

You can watch a video from that night here: https://youtu.be/zHDh8FzZCcQ

I was able to power through until the end of the show even though I was getting tired from the long day of traveling and being up since 5:30am. I believe it was just after midnight when things started to wind down. Once the band was done, we waited for Brent and made our way back towards the Gardens. It was a lot of fun, but I was ready to get some sleep.

Sunday, October 23rd – Bagatelle, Jazz at the Gardens, Zombie Bike Ride, Kaya Island Eats

After a good night sleep, we woke up a little later with the sun shining through the curtains. I don’t mind though since the sun rises a bit later in Key West then what I am normally accustomed to. We both freshened up and walked down to Cuban Coffee Queen. I was happy to see there wasn’t a line, so were able to get our coffee in quickly. 

With our coffee in hand we walked down Duval. It was just around 9:30 and it was still quiet. I remember last year when we went to Key West during Fantasy Fest (even though it wasn’t the full Fantasy Fest) mornings were very quiet. Most likely due to the fact a lot of the Fantasy Fest activities start later in the evening and end late.

We walked down almost to the end before stopping at Bagatelle. It is one of our usual spots to have breakfast. Usually though it is in our rotation towards the end of our visit, but I was in the mood for their southern eggs benedict. We walked up the stairs and the hostess seated us at one of the tables on the front porch. I think it was the exact same table we sat in a few months ago.

Since we already had our coffee, we ordered breakfast when our server came over. I of course had the southern eggs benedict and my husband ordered the huervos rancheros. While we waited for our breakfast, I watched the conch trains go by and all the tourists starting to fill the streets. Then I realized there was a cruise ship in town. We didn’t notice too many ships in while we were in Key West. Maybe one ship every other day. It wasn’t like it used to be, 2 or even 3 ships in at once.

Soon our breakfast was served and I was hungry. The benedict was just what I was in the mood for. The braised pork that replaces the usual ham and the cornbread all go so well together. Plus I enjoy the spicy hollandaise sauce that they serve on top of the eggs. Speaking of eggs, my poached eggs were cooked perfectly. The whites were set and the yokes had a slight doneness around the outside. One of my pet peeves is having eggs benedict that are so underdone that when you put your fork in them they disintegrate into a puddle. My husband had no complaints on his huervos rancheros and enjoyed them as well.

You can read my review here: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g34345-d447767-r867003688-Bagatelle-Key_West_Florida_Keys_Florida.html

Once we were done with breakfast, we wound up going for a walk around the Bight. It was another beautiful day. The humidity was low so even though it was in the low 80s, it didn’t feel too hot. Plus there was a nice light breeze as well. 

We wound stopping in one of our favorite places, The Sunset Tiki Bar at the Galleon. Our friend Ramsey was bartending so it was fun to see her again. The manager Phil stopped by too so we chatted with him for a while. We joked about how a year ago we were there while they were getting ready for some sort of gathering, not knowing what it entailed. (Let’s just say it is for couples that enjoy the company of other couples). (And if you wearing an upside down pineapple on your clothing it is a sign, which we had no idea as well.)

Luckily it wasn’t starting for a bit, so we had time to sit back and take in the view of the water in the background. We talked to Ramsey for a bit as well and before we knew it, they arrived and started to set up for the up and coming festivities.

That was our signal to tab out and plan our next move. We thanked Ramsey and made tentative plans to meet up the next day and if not we would see her again later on in the week.

It was a nice afternoon to walk around while trying to decide what to do. Then we heard from Brent and Julie that they were back at the Gardens. So wound up walking back to the Gardens to meet up with them. We walked in and grabbed a couple of seats at the Gardens Bar. Phil was behind the bar again, which is always entertaining.

It was a relaxing afternoon talking and telling stories. And every so often, a few guests would walk by all dressed up to go out later in the evening. 

I remembered as well that the Zombie Bike Ride was going on that afternoon. We asked around throughout the day where it was starting but no one really knew exactly where it was. I then saw Kate, the owner of the Gardens all dressed up wearing her Fantasy Fest Queen sash. That evening the Gardens was honoring all the past and present Fantasy Fest Queens and Kings right before Jazz.

The staff began setting up the area for jazz by moving around the tables and chairs near the pool area. At this point my husband and I decided to stay and listen to the jazz before heading out for dinner. Brent and Julie had plans to go to A&B Lobster House that evening so we figured we would go some place close by for dinner once Jazz was over. 

Everyone started to arrive and grabbed their seats at the table while the Jazz started. I walked up to Kate and talked to her for a few. She had the former Fantasy Fest Queens and Kingssitting with her and she asked to get a picture of all of us. I thought that was so nice.

Then she had to excuse herself because it was time for her to honor the Fantasy Fest Queens and Kings. I took a few pictures while she read their names and congratulated all of them. The jazz was nearing the end and my husband and I were getting pretty hungry at this point. 

We walked down Angela St. to Duval and decided on Kaya Island Eats since it was so close by and the food has always been good the couple of times we have tried it. Once we crossed Duval St., my husband noticed that the road was blocked off and there were a couple of police officers stationed on their motorcycles right in the middle of Duval. Then as we looked around, we saw everyone was waiting for something.

And without even planning it, it was the Zombie Bike Ride about to come down Duval. I thought what timing! I immediately grabbed my phone and out started filming. Then there it was. The bicycles started to ride by us on Duval one by one, then group by group. It was such a fun sight to see everyone dressed up as Zombies. There were people of all ages and kids as well. I couldn’t believe we actually got to see it.

You can see my video here: https://youtu.be/THbKwcpQR4s

The bike ride was still going on, but we knew we had to get something to eat. We walked in and saw that the seats at the little bar area were opened. So we sat down and ordered a couple of beverages. Like last time, as soon as we sat down, flashbacks of this little restaurant in St. John called Longboard came to mind, which brought a smile to my face and also a little sad. Next year we’ll be there I thought to myself.

For our first course we wound up sharing the tuna poke appetizer. I remember it was a decent portion and figured it would be enough for the both of us. My husband ordered the rasta pasta for his main course with chicken and I was in the mood for their mahi mahi fish tacos so I went with that. 

The tuna once again was delicious as well as our main course choices. When we were finished I flagged over the owner. I showed him the review I did on Tripadvisor back in January. In the review I included a picture that was taken of us and all of the staff. He remembered and said we should do it again as a tradition. He could only wrangle up just one other server because the rest of the staff were busy, but we did get a picture and told him I would write another review about how much we love the food and the place. He was very appreciative.

You can read my review here: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g34345-d23162562-r866994429-Kaya_island_Eats-Key_West_Florida_Keys_Florida.html

We walked back to Duval and the Zombie Bike Ride was still going on as well. 

We watched a few more of the bikers go by before going back to the Gardens. Phil still had the bar open so we had a nightcap and listened to more of his stories. We also realized someone left behind the Fantasy Fest Queen crown.

While we were winding down for the evening, Brent and Julie came back from the A&B Lobster House. 

We all decided to go to the gazebo to hang out for a bit. While we were talking about how we enjoyed our dinners, another couple Ann and Mike stopped by. They also came back from dinner and a Fantasy Fest event. We wound up hanging out for a while with everyone before retiring for the evening. It was nothing that we planned but it was fun.

Monday, October 24th – La Te Da, Hogs Breath, Cafe Sole, The Glass Cats

The night before we made plans to go to breakfast with Brent and Julie. So I didn’t want to sleep in too late. It was a bit of a struggle for me though to get up that morning. My husband got ready first and then I managed to get myself out of bed and into the shower. 

We walked out of the room and again it was a gorgeous day. When I felt the sun shining, it made me feel a lot better. We walked down to meet up with Brent and Julie. We all grabbed a cup a coffee before we walked down to La Te Da. The streets again were pretty quiet.

The bar at La Te Da was all filled up so we grabbed a table, which was better because it makes for easier conversation. I ordered the La Te Da eggs benedict which consists of two poached eggs, served on top of breaded fried tomatoes and english muffins. I have ordered it before and do enjoy the different approach. Everyone else ordered scrambled eggs. Our food didn’t take too long to arrive. Everything was delicious as always when we have breakfast at La Te Da.

Brent and Julie had plans to go to the beach that day, which worked out perfectly, because I wanted to see Zack Seemiller at Hog’s Breath. Plus Brent was playing at the Tuna again that night with a band called The Glass Cats, so we would meet up with them later at the Tuna.

We walked back to the Gardens to relax for a little while. I was finally feeling like myself so motivated myself to get us both going. We walked back down Duval towards Hogs Breath. The streets were filled this time with more people. Some people were also dressed up or not so dressed up for Fantasy Fest, but there was a mix of people.

We were walking by the Tree Bar next to Rick’s when I noticed Terry was bartending. So we stopped in and said hello. We each ordered their signature fresh squeezed orange juice with some Tito’s. The orange juice tasted nice and refreshing. It also felt like a little vitamin c boost. We talked to Terry for a few and also some of the other patrons that were sitting there, including this beautiful dog.

My husband was wearing a High Tide t-shirt that we got a few years ago while we were on St. John. It is a restaurant located in Cruz Bay. While we were talking a couple noticed my husband’s shirt. They told us how they were supposed to go to St. Thomas, but do to the COVID restrictions implemented earlier in the year they changed their plans to Key West like us. And ironically the husband was from New Jersey, such a small world. 

We finished our conversation and our drinks then headed down to Hogs Breath but not before thanking Terry. When we walked in Zack was still setting up. I wanted to sit at the bar near the stage, but all the stools were taken. Luckily the stools near the raw bar were open so we wound up sitting there. I also wanted to see the hats that Zack got in. Earlier in the year I designed these trucker hats for him. It was a bit of a long process, but he finally got them. He brought a few extra to give to me and my husband. I was so excited. I thought they came out really good if I do say so myself. 

I immediately put the hat on and sat back as we listened to his show. It wasn’t too crowded so it was nice to enjoy the music without worrying if you are sitting to close to someone and/or move down a stool for someone else to sit, which we always do if there is room (even though I prefer the empty seat next to me).

After a couple of hours we made our way back to Duval. I had made plans with Zack to have lunch the following morning with his son Kai like we usually do at Breakfast Club Too, so we said we would see him then.

We were planning on going back to the Gardens but then I thought why don’t we stop by the Tuna to see who is playing the afternoon slot. We walked down Charles St. to the Tuna. It was pretty quiet, but another bartender we know (also named Phil) was working. He recognized us right away and welcomed us back. 

We grabbed a couple of seats and ordered a drink. There were two guys playing and I believe their name was Dogwater. They were pretty good and I enjoyed their music. We only stayed for one because we knew we were coming back later that night. Plus I made reservations at one of my favorite places to eat, Cafe Sole for dinner.

We thanked Phil for the drinks and mentioned to him that we would back the next day to see Caffeine Carl and Zack play so we would see him then. 

We made it back to the Gardens in enough time to freshen up for dinner and regroup for a few. Then it was nearing our reservation time so we walked back down Simonton and made the right hand turn onto Southard. I still can’t believe years ago when we were newbies in Key West, we could never find Cafe Sole and if we did, we would walk way out of the way and eventually find it. It is only a few minute walk down Southard to Frances, where Cafe Sole is located right on the corner.

We walked in with just a minute to spare. The covered outside porch area was already quite busy. I originally had reserved a table there, but then my husband noticed that the little bar area was empty. My husband asked the server if we could sit there. She said they normally don’t seat people there and didn’t have anyone stationed there but she would do her best. We weren’t in any rush and didn’t mind. 

I picked out a bottle of red wine while we looked over the menu. It didn’t take us long on what to decide since we always order the hogfish. Our server came over and we ordered the hogfish for our main dish of course, but to start I went with the caesar salad and my husband ordered the escargot. He was contemplating the conch carpacchio but I am allergic and can’t eat it, so he ordered the escargot. That way I could have one or a few.

Our appetizers came out pretty quickly. The caesar salad was very good, which is really hard to mess up a caesar salad. I guess maybe if it is over dressed, but I tend to like extra dressing on a caesar salad. I tried a few escargot that my husband ordered and they were very good.

Then our hogfish arrived. It looked terrific. The sauce I think makes the dish but either way it was delicious.

You can read my review here: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g34345-d495527-r867007089-Cafe_Sole-Key_West_Florida_Keys_Florida.html

Once we payed our bill we walked back to the Gardens to meet up with Brent and Julie. They were already waiting for us so we walked back down to Duval to the Tuna. We wanted to get there before the show started so we could get good seats. Being that it was a Monday night, it wasn’t too crowded when we walked in as opposed to a Friday or Saturday night at the Tuna.

Cliff Cody was just wrapping up his show and came by to say hello to Brent and Julie. Then it was time for Brent to set up with the band The Glass Cats. We saw the lead singer Myles Mancuso back in July playing at Hanks, so we were familiar with his voice, but I wasn’t sure what type of music The Glass Cats play.

Not before long Brent and the band were set up and the show was about to start. They started playing and immediately I recognized the song. It was Atlantic City, a song I really like. I thought if this is their first song, this is going to be a good night. 

And a good night it was. Song and after song, the band sounded great. As the night went on more Fantasy Fest people arrived and started dancing. We even ran into Ann and Mike (guests from the Gardens Hotel that we had been hanging out with).

Then we noticed a larger guy wearing justs a thong and fishnet stockings dancing with a few girls. And this guy could dance and so could the women. We found it was the lead actor from the musical that was being played at the San Carlos Institute called Bum Farto. He was very entertaining.

All and all it was a fun night. We stayed all the way until the end and were able to meet Myles and the rest of the band. While we were all talking they said that they could get us tickets to see Bum Farto that Wednesday night. At first I was like see Bum Farto? What is it? Who is he? Then I thought why not? Something different to do in Key West. 

You can see a video of them performing Dirty Laundry by Don Henley here: https://youtu.be/sk2_DZx3Q9I

We thanked them and headed back to the Gardens. Brent and Julie were mentioning that they would probably just have breakfast at the Gardens and we decided to do the same. Plus save some money since it is included. We said good night and headed in for the night.

Tuesday, October 25th – Tutu Tuesday (Breakfast Club Too, Carl and Zack, Blue Heaven, The Salty Frog)

I told Zack that we would meet him at 9:30 for breakfast so I made sure I had the alarm set not to oversleep and to give us enough time to shower. It was another beautiful morning and the sun was shining. We each grabbed a cup off coffee a the Gardens before walking down Simonton St. to Greene St.

We walked up to Breakfast Club Too and it was busy, but not too bad. The hostess seated us inside since the outside was all taken but it was fine. Soon Zack and Kai showed up and we waved them over. I wound up going with the chorizo rostis. I have had it before and I know the portions are huge but I was just in the mood for it. Everyone enjoyed what they ordered. It was nice to catch up with Zack and Kai. Having breakfasts with them is one of my favorite things to do while we are visiting Key West.

We thanked Zack and Kai for breakfast and told them we would be at the Tuna later.  We decided to walk around the Bite for a few to burn off a few calories from breakfast. Again the weather was just spectacular. I couldn’t believe it. It wasn’t too hot or humid or windy – just perfect. 

My husband got a message from Brent and Julie mentioning how they were having a late breakfast at Shor at the Hilton (which is located right next to the Galleon). We told them about the Sunset Tiki Bar at the Galleon and they had never been. They wanted to check it out since we kept mentioning to them and how it is one of our go to places during the day. So we told them we would meet them at the Galleon for a drink.

We walked on over to the Tiki Bar and this time Candace was working. It was nice to see her as well. We ordered a couple of drinks, deep eddy sweet tea and water with a lemon. I find the drink to be refreshing and it is a nice way to ease in to the day.

Not be before long we here Julie and Brent show up. They couldn’t get over the view. I guess I take it for granted because we always go there and are so used to it. We talked for a bit and just enjoyed the view. Eventually they wanted to get back to the Gardens because Brent had some work he had to get done.

We all walked back on to Duval, but we took a turn down Charles St. to the Tuna and they continued on their way to the Gardens. I also made dinner reservations for all of us that evening at Blue Heaven so we told them we would catch up with them later.

Another favorite thing I like to do is go to see Caffeine Carl and Zack play at the Tuna. They have a great dynamic between the two of them and sometimes you don’t get to see it as much when the entire band plays together. Don’t get me wrong I still enjoy the entire band, but there’s something about just kicking back on a Tuesday afternoon listening to just the two of them. 

We walked in and as expected Phil was behind the bar. We grabbed a couple seats and ordered a couple of drinks. Then I noticed the tables in front of the stage were open and asked Phil if we could sit there. I know they are usually used for people to have something to eat, but there weren’t too many people there so it wasn’t a problem.

It was a fun afternoon watching Carl and Zack play. I wanted to stay until the end, but my husband thought it would be better to start moving around since we had dinner that evening. We said our goodbyes.

You can see a video of Caffeine Carl and Zack here: https://youtu.be/kaahLFfCULk

We walked back on to Duval. The streets were filled with people wearing Tutus. I forgot it was Tutu Tuesday. Some were wearing tutus with garments underneath, and some were not. And the ones that were not, you wish they were.

By the time we got back to the Gardens, there wasn’t too much time before dinner. I made our reservations for 5:45pm thinking we could maybe catch Zack playing at Ramshead Southernmost after. 

We did have time for a pre-dinner beverage at the Gardens Bar with Brent and Julie. I was debating about hopping in the shower but it wasn’t that hot of a day that I felt fine and Blue Heaven is casual, like most places in Key West.  

Once we were done with our drinks we walked back out onto Simonton down a side street, which I love doing. You kind of get the feeling of what Key West is without all the tourists walking down the quiet side streets. 

We walked down Petronia and to Blue Heaven.

There wasn’t a line this time so I walked right up and gave the hostess our name. She sat us at a nice table on the left side of the stage area.

Our server came over and he was a hoot. He was very energetic but very good. He went over the specials including stone crab. I remember I ordered it last year and was sticker shocked when we got the bill. So this time I asked him how much the appetizer was for two claws and he said $45. Pass. 

I wasn’t in the mood for seafood that night so I wound up going with the Jamaican jerk chicken. To start with, I went with the miso baked eggplant that I had been eyeing since our last time we had dinner at Blue Heaven back in July. My husband and Julie ordered the filet mignon. She told us how the filet mignon is one of the best steaks in Key West, which I was surprised to hear. You would think a place like Prime or something. Brent wound up going with the yellowtail snapper. 

We all ordered salads for our first course. When I first saw the miso baked eggplant, I knew I ordered the right thing. It was so good. The char they had on the eggplant was delicious. My Jamaican jerk chicken was good, but it was mostly just a mild dry rub. I tend to prefer jerk chicken that is spicier and has more of a sauce if you will. My husband loved his filet mignon so Julie was right. I even had to have a little taste and I do have to say it was extremely tender and flavorful for a filet.

You can read my full review here: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g34345-d447631-r867009280-Blue_Heaven-Key_West_Florida_Keys_Florida.html

No one had room for dessert so once we were done we walked back down Petronia. When we walked by Ramshead I popped my head in but disappointedly Zack was on break and the bar area was pretty full so we kept walking. My husband suggested that we go back to the Gardens for the evening, but then I remembered that Gabriel Wright was playing at the Salty Frog and we had not seen him yet.

So I convinced everyone to walk back down Duval all they way to the end to the Salty Frog. Along the way we saw a lot. Maybe too much. There were so many people dressed up or not dressed depending on how you looked at it. It was quite the sight to see.

After dodging the Fantasy Fest people, we walked in to the Salty Frog and there was Gabriel playing towards the back. As usual his wife Kim was filming him. My husband went to the bar to order us a couple of drinks while we grabbed a table.

When Gabriel went on break he came over to say hello and we introduced him to Brent. Ironically they are both from Ohio so that was kind of a fun fact. 

We probably stayed longer then we should have but it was a lot of fun. When Gabriel was done, we took a few pictures and headed back to the Gardens. 

You can see a video of Gabriel here: https://youtu.be/kAAj9LXVkaY

We had to dodge the Fantasy Fest people once again, but in a way it was entertaining seeing everyone. 

We did make it back to the Gardens. We wound up going back to the Gazebo for one last night cap. I grabbed the bottle of wine that Kate left us and poured myself a glass which probably wasn’t the best ideea. We were having so much fun that I didn’t even care. We stayed up for a while longer before it was definitely time to get some sleep. We parted ways and said we would meet them for breakfast in the morning right at the Gardens.

Wednesday, October 26th – Captain Tony’s, Willie T’s, Bum Farto

After the late night we had, I definitely had a hard time getting out of bed. I was in no hurry to get up early that morning. Thank goodness I packed some Advil and it was much needed that morning. It was a slow start but after a shower I started to feel a little better. We walked down to one of the tables at the Gardens outside and then saw Brent and Julie. They were already eating breakfast but asked us to join them.

The breakfast that the Gardens offered that morning was a tasty omelet with vegetables and cheese. I tend to forget that the Gardens does offer a very good breakfasts each and every morning, but we usually go out for breakfast since we skip lunch. It is a great option though and especially being that it is included in your hotel rate. Brent and Julie also reminded us that later that was the Bum Farto show. The show started at 7pm so we had to be there a little earlier to pick up the tickets. 

I may sound redundant, but again the weather was incredible. After breakfast we went back to sit on our porch for a little bit to regroup. Feeling slightly better, we walked down Simonton all the way down to the Sunset Tiki Bar. We each ordered our usual sweet tea and water.  

Usually the day we tend to feel all the days of Key West catch up to us, is on Thursday. This time it was one day earlier, Wednesday. We only stayed for one and wanted to start moving around again. 

We walked down to Captain Tony’s to see if Gabriel Wright was playing, and sure enough he was. So we grabbed a couple of open bar seats and ordered a couple of drinks. I think I just had a White Claw. I couldn’t really do beer at that point. I don’t think I really drank much beer during the trip, and normally I will have Corona Light, but maybe since it wasn’t as hot? I don’t know maybe I just wasn’t in the mood.

Of course Gabriel played a few songs that we always request like he always does. I do really appreciate it that he does that and remembers the songs I want to hear. We were finally feeling better and stayed for a little while. We even had a chance to talk to him for a few when he went on break.

Meanwhile I had reached out to friends of our Wayne and Karen. They were also going to the show later that evening and fans and friends of Zack. So I thought that we could meet up at Willie T’s before the show and grab something to eat and see Zack play.

So after Captain Tony’s we wound up walking back to the Gardens.  It was nice just to hang out and talk to the other guests. Plus Phil was bartending again and as I mentioned before he is quite comical. We also ran into Kate’s dog, Valen”tiny”. The dog is tiny but adorable.

We also ran into another couple we met during our last trip in July, Lynn and her husband Alan. They wound up going back the same time as us so it was nice to see them again. Brent and Julie showed up. They had dinner plans so we figured we would meet up with them after.

It was getting later in the afternoon and I wanted to catch at least some of Zack’s show. Plus we were supposed to meet up with Wayne and Karen. I did get a message from them that they were heading there shortly. (They live up the Keys a little bit). 

So we walked back down Duval to Willie T’s. Willie T’s is actually pretty close to the Gardens. We walked in and there wasn’t a table available. Well there was one, but it was right in the sun, and the last thing we wanted to do is sit in the sun right before going to a show at the theater. While my husband ordered a couple of drinks at the bar I noticed a couple leaving, so I grabbed the table. Zack was playing and waved hello to him.

While we were listening to Zack’s show I got a message from Wayne and it turned out that they were going to go Virgilio’s for dinner instead. So we wound up ordering food anyway at Willie T’s since we were already there. We shared some coconut shrimp and I had their mahi mahi sandwich and my husband had a burger. Surprisingly the food was really good. I remember a while back having their wings there and also their peel and eat shrimp. While we were eating, Wayne and Karen stopped by. It was nice to see them again. They were excited about the Bum Farto show as well. 

Zack was finishing up his show and then John LaMere was up next to play so we stayed for part of his show. We still had some time before the show so we made the short walk back to the Gardens and ran into David! He used to work at the Gardens, it was great to see him.

Then it was time to get to the theater. Actually it is called The San Carlos Institute (they call it an institute now instead of a theater, because I found out they have classes there).

We made it to the theater and were about to go in, but all of a sudden we heard a fire alarm. Someone must have pulled it accidentally. So we had to wait for the fire department to show up. (Ironically the story of Bum Farto was that he was initially the Chief of the Key West Fire Department.) 

Once they gave the clear we were able to enter the building. I was always curious to see what the inside looked like.

Our seats were located on the upper level so we walked up the stairs and sat down. It was just us and a few other people (in the upper level). 

Soon the seats below filled up and thhe show began. It was so cool to see all the old photos of how Key West looked back then. The first halaf of the show was good but it felt a little long. We were able to break at intermission to use the facilities, which were co-ed, very interesting.

When the second half started, the pace picked up and it was really good. There was this one singer I believe his name was Aarron Lavigne and his voice was incredible. The show ended and all of us were pleasantly surprised how much we enjoyed the show, plus it was something different to do.

By the time it ended we just agreed to go back to the Gardens and get some sleep.

Thursday, October 27th – Latitudes, the Gardens, Lola’s

Several months prior I made reservations for breakfast at Latitudes, but moved it to Thursday (I originally had it booked the reservation for that Sunday) since we were going to have dinner our first night there.

We woke up to another beautiful morning. The reservation wasn’t until 9:45am so we had some time to sleep in. We both freshened up and met Brent and Julie for some coffee at the Gardens. 

It was the perfect weather to walk down Duval to the Opal Resort to catch the water taxi.

There were a few other people waiting as well, but definitely not as many for dinner. We boarded the taxi and we were on our way back to Latitudes, but this time for breakfast which I always enjoy.

We walked in to the restaurant and ironically were seated at the same table we had dinner the other night.

Our server came over and took our orders. I wasn’t in the mood for eggs that morning so I went with their smoked salmon. 

The breakfast was very good and better then when we went for Easter Brunch back in April. We talked about walking in the Locals Walking Parade the following day. Brent and Julie told us how they would do it every year while they were in town. We were excited to walk the parade, but we didn’t have any costumes.

When were all done with our meals we took the water taxi back. It was a short ride as usual. Once we got off the taxi Brent and Julie headed back to the Gardens. I didn’t feel like going back just then and wanted to walk around for a bit. 

Eventually we made it back to the Gardens to relax for the afternoon. We would occasionally see other guests that we became friendly with throughout our stay. It was a nice afternoon just taking it easy. 

Julie had made reservations at Lola’s that evening for the 6pm seating. So when it was time for dinner we met up and made the short walk down Simonton to Lola’s. When we arrived they were just opening up. We only had to wait a couple minutes before we were seated. The owner’s wife came over and told us what the menu would be for that evening. I find it exciting not knowing what they are going to offer until you sit down. I do wish however, they would tell you the prices, especially being it is a cash / check only place. What if you didn’t bring enough?

I wound up ordering the pork belly for my first course and the lamb chops for my main meal. Brent and my husband went with the Halibut for their main courses and Julie went with the snapper. Our first courses were brought out and I noticed their portions were huge. I couldn’t get over it. My husband’s lobster tail appetizer was quite large. My pork belly was the only one that was probably a normal portion, but it was excellent.

I wish I took a picture of the halibut when it came out. The piece of fish looked like a brick. When my lamb chops came out I couldn’t believe how many there were. Everyone enjoyed what they ordered and including me. The food is expensive, but worth it in my opinion.

You can read my full review here: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g34345-d19247202-r867011766-Lola_s_Bistro-Key_West_Florida_Keys_Florida.html

Everyone was pretty full after dinner that we just walked back to the Gardens. I wanted to go to the Tuna but I knew Caffeine Carl and Zack were not going on until 10:30pm. I knew I wouldn’t make it after that dinner.

We wound up going back to the Gazebo near the Gardens Pool and had a nightcap (or a few) before calling it a night and again it wound up being a late night. 

Friday, October 28th – Shor, Locals Walking Parade, The Smokin’ Tuna

I was in no hurry to get up early that morning (again). I wanted to sleep in so that I would feel refreshed to start the day. We eventually got up and I did feel a lot better getting the extra sleep. By the time we freshened up it was after 10:00am. We knew breakfast might be a challenge because we were later.

We decided to give it a try and walked back down Duval towards Bagatelle. While we were walking, we noticed that there was a cruise ship in town and there were a lot more people walking around. We made it to Bagatelle, but it was packed. We walked by Two Friends and joked about going in there, but it was crowded plus I am just not a fan of the place.

Then we looked across the way and Island Dog was serving breakfast again, but it was also crowded. We kept walking and I thought about going to the Kermits again for breakfast, but then my husband had an idea of trying Shor at the Hyatt. Brent and Julie talked highly of the place so we figured why not?

We walked in to the Hyatt parking lot and followed the signs to the restaurant. We have walked by the Hyatt numerous times going to the Galleon, but we had never walked in. It took a couple wrong turns, but we eventually found the restaurant. 

Once we were seated, our server asked us politely if we could order soon, since the breakfast service was over at 11:00am and it was almost that time. So quickly I decided to go with again, the smoked salmon and my husband ordered the sausage gravy and biscuits. The view from our table was beautiful. I thought to myself, why hadn’t we ever eaten here before? Maybe I just thought it was for guests only, but obviously it is open to all.

The serve then brought out our breakfast. I almost took a second take because the portions were enormous, and I mean big. My husband’s breakfast look like a couple of softballs and mine was loaded with smoked salmon on top of grilled rye bread. Regardless of the portions, both our meals were delicious. I think for future visits, maybe we would share something instead.

Our server came over and asked us how everything was. We chatted for a few minutes and he was very nice. Once we were done we thanked him and walked back through the parking lot. 

You can read my full review here: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g34345-d1368286-r867013493-Shor_American_Seafood_Grill-Key_West_Florida_Keys_Florida.html

Since we were right there, we walked to the Sunset Tiki Bar once more. Ramsey was working again and I was glad to see her. We sat down and started talking about the Local Walking Parade later that evening. She said she would walk in it, but didn’t have a costume. And the more and more people we talked to, made it seem like you should wear a costume in the parade even though it isn’t required. Ramsey told us about a place that had costumes we could check out. We actually pasted it walking down Front St. on the way to breakfast. The place was called Fairvilla. We thanked Ramsey for the recommendation and once we finished our drink that was our next move.

We walked back down Front St. to Fairvilla. We walked in and everyone else was doing the same thing, looking for a costume.  One of the staff came up to my husband and asked if he needed help. He had no idea what to wear so that was quite helpful.

In the meantime, I walked around trying to figure out what to wear. I remember I had these black yoga pants I packed that I could wear as a base. Then I saw this cute pirate bandanna. I immediately wanted to be a pirate. Turned out the outfit my husband wound up picking out was a pirate as well. So we were going to be pirates for the parade. I was able to find a top as well to wear. There was a sense of relief from the both of us that we did get costumes and also a sense of excitement as well. We were going to be in the parade! 

We made it back to the Gardens to again relax for a little bit before getting ready. Once we were all dressed up we saw the other guests dressed up as well, including Lynn!

It was time for us to head out and walk down Simonton to Olivia St.

We started to see others walking as well. We walked down past the Cemetery and onto Frances where the parade started. It was quite a wild scene, seeing everyone dressed up.

Local B&Bs had drink stands set up along the way if you wanted something to drink. Unfortunately all of the drinks that were free, tasted like from my old college days of going to parties – everclear mixed with a fruit punch mix.  It didn’t cost anything so I had a couple.

It was a slow walk but a lot of fun. Some of the locals would through beads out as well to catch. 

We wound up back on Simonton and past the Gardens hotel.

You can watch my video of the parade here: https://youtu.be/cLfRhciFze0

Shortly after that the parade came to an end. It was again something fun and different to do. Since we were right near the Gardens, we walked back to figure out what our next move was.

I always forget that the Gardens Bar is open to everyone and we a few stragglers from the parade stop in. When we saw this guy we all started singing Purple Rain. It was pretty funny.

I wanted to see Caffeine Carl and Zack that night, but again due to a Pat Benatar cover band playing, they were not scheduled to play until 10:30. Then we figured that we would go there and grab a table and have something to eat. My husband loves their blackened mahi mahi over caesar salad so it was an easy sell.

We regrouped and we made our way back down Duval to the Tuna. John LaMere was playing as we walked by. The streets were filled with Fantasy Fest people once again. 

We made it to the Tuna and it was packed. The only table available was behind the bar, but it was fine to have something to eat. As predicted, we had the caesar salad with the blackened mahi mahi. We all ordered some wings as well. The food isn’t high end, but if you want something reasonable and very good, the Smokin’ Tuna does have decent food. Honestly I can’t remember the last place I did have a bad meal in Key West?

We finished our dinner and then Julie and I went on a mission to find a table close to the stage. The Pat Benatar cover band was just about finishing up. They were surprisingly good, even though I am not really a Pat Benatar fan. 

There were no tables empty in sight and it didn’t look like anyone was going to be leaving anytime soon. Then I noticed a table that had a couple of people still sitting at it, but it was covered with empty drink cups and bottles. They were talking to one another and I asked if they were leaving and they said no. Then I thought well maybe Julie and I could sit on the end until they left. So I asked if we could and they said no problem. And shortly after that, they wound up leaving.

I ralled my husband and Brent to come over to the table. After my perseverance we were able to enjoy a table near the stage. Plus it was our last night and I wanted to make sure we were able to see Caffeine Carl and Zack play.

It wasn’t before long the band showed up. We said our hellos as they set up. Once the band came on it was a lot of fun. We did get the occasional dancers in front, but some of the costumes were impressive while other costumes not so much.

We stayed for most of the show, but then we all started to feel the day and evening. We said our goodbyes and left. 

You can watch a video of the band here: https://youtu.be/TZPBYzJqdTQ

It was our last walk down Duval during the craziness of Fantasy Fest. Again it was very interesting to say the least. I couldn’t imagine how it was going to be the following night for the big parade, but we were leaving so we were going to miss it.

We made it back to the Gardens and got some much needed sleep.

Saturday, October 29th – Saying Goodbye

Our flight wasn’t until 4:30pm that afternoon so again there was no need to get up super early. As usual, I made plans to have our last breakfast at Sarabeths before we left town with Zack and his son Kai.

I set my alarm that morning for 8:30am so I wouldn’t oversleep. I wound up getting up before the alarm. After we were both freshened up, I started going through our toiletries, throwing out what wouldn’t make the trip back. This way we wouldn’t have to check our bags and still do carry-on.

We didn’t have much time to go to Cuban Coffee Queen, so we just walked down to Sarabeths. When Zack and Kai arrived, we were seated outside. (They won’t seat you until everyone in your party is there). The usual and very enthusiastic server was working. He was dressed up as Napoleon Dynamite and the other server was dressed up as Pedro. It was pretty funny, especially when he would recite the lines from the movie and do some random dance moves. I wish I took a picture.

My husband and I both ordered scrambled eggs with bacon. Zack ordered an omelet and Kai had the french toast. It was a nice breakfast but unfortunately when both my husband and I tried the bacon, something was off. Way off. I don’t know if it was bad or what, but after that neither of us could eat our meals, which was unfortunate. I am sure it was just a fluke because we have never had a bad meal there.

It was a nice time nevertheless. After breakfasts we said goodbye to the both of them.

I was able to get a later check out. So we were able to stay in our room until 1:00pm. We got back to the room and packed up the rest of our things, this is the part of the trip I dislike – the waiting until you leave. This was unusual for us. Usually our flight leaves Key West earlier in the afternoon, but this time they changed the flight for a later time. 

We were sitting out on our porch and thought we have time for one quick walk back down Duval. So we did just that. We started walking back down Duval and I thought that we could stop in at Rick’s and see Zack play one more song before we go, since we didn’t see him that much during our trip.

While we were walking, we noticed all the barricades were set up along Duval and a lot of people sitting in fold up chairs along the way. We thought to ourselves are these people waiting for the parade tonight? It was only noon and the parade was hours and hours away. 

We made it to Ricks and Zack was just about to get started. He seemed surprised that we made it for a song. It was fun to see him play one song before we headed out. He told us too regarding the people sitting along Duval. Apparently they come from Miami in a large bus. They sit there all day and bring their own drinks (coolers). It annoys the locals because they don’t pay for anything while they are there all day and take up all that room.

We said goodbye to Zack once again and told him we would see him soon.

It was nearing 1:00pm and we had to be out of our room. We walked back as quickly as we could and made it back just in time. We grabbed our luggage out of room and brought it in the wine room area where they said we could store it while we wait for our taxi. We didn’t have our taxi picking us up until 2:45pm so we had some time.

Phil was opening up the bar so we sat at couple of seats. Brent and Julie showed up soon after. Funny how they welcomed us there and then they were sending us off. They weren’t leaving for a few more days after us.

Even though the thought of leaving always makes me sad, it was a pleasant afternoon talking about all the things that we did in the past week. Eventually I got the call from the Front Desk our taxi was there. We said goodbye to Phil, Brent and Julie.

Soon we were at the airport. The TSA checkpoint had no line, so we went straight through without any issues. Our flight wound up boarding a few minutes earlier then it was supposed to.

The flight seemed shorter then normal. Just after 2 hours, the captain came on the intercom telling us we were making our decent into the Newark Liberty International Airport. We wound landing just after 7pm – about 30 minutes early. We did however, have to wait for a few planes to clear the area before we could get to our gate. All and all though, it was a very uneventful flight which is always a good thing.

We met up with our car driver and in about an hour or so, we were back home. It wasn’t too cold yet but it was dark out. Soon the thought of being in Key West was a distant memory. 

When I tell people how many times we have been to Key West, most of them scratch their heads and ask why don’t we go anywhere else? I tell them we love it, because of the people, the beauty, the vibe, the music (especially) and just everything about this tiny island has to offer. We have made great friendships over the years that makes it harder for me to leave each and every time. I am just so grateful that we have been fortunate enough to be able to do so, so many times and never take it for granted.

Thank you reading my blog. I truly appreciate it.  Until next time! 

Hot Sun, but oh what fun! Key West 7.2.22 – 7.9.22

I tend to start off my trip reports with some sort of worry or concern, but this was one of the first times the weather forecast was actually going to be perfect. Yes it was going to be hot, but unlike last year with Tropical Storm Elsa, there was nothing on the horizon. So with a big sigh of relief I was all geared up to return for our 27th, yes you heard me 27th time to Key West, my happy place!

My husband and I were also really excited that friends of ours were going to be in Key West the same time as us. We were looking forward to see them and of course a bunch of locals we have met along the way that have become great friends as well.

Arrival Day  7/2/22

Usually our flights are around 9-9:30am in the morning, but United changed our flight to 11:00am. I was a bit annoyed because I knew if we had any delays or whatnot most of the day was going to be shot. Plus with the recent flight cancellations there was a bit of uncertainty. Thankfully our flight was still scheduled to be on time. Our car service picked us up around 8:00 am (that was the one positive with the later flight was that we were able to sleep in a little). Once we were dropped off at the United Terminal C we were a bit surprised. The airport wasn’t that bad. We were flying out of Newark Liberty International Airport mind you, but there wasn’t much of any lines. We still have the TSA Pre and the Clear Pass, so again like last time going through security took just a few minutes. 

Once we got through security we saw a sign that the United Club Lounge was closed. All well, so we just walked down towards our gate and found a place to have breakfast. It turned out not to be a bad breakfast at all, actually quite good. The only frustrating part was ordering. You had to scan the QR code and their app to order food. It did pass the time nicely however. Soon it was time to get to our gate. 

Since I have the United Card I was able to upgrade our tickets to first. The plane is very small so it really doesn’t pay for first class, but it is nice to be first on and first off. Our boarding group was called and we got settled in our seats. While we were watching all the people board the plane we notice music was playing over the intercom. It was so nice and festive. You can see the people walking on the plane also noticed and it gave them a smile. There was even a lady who came on the plane with a full grown dog. He didn’t look like a service dog or anything but they were seated right behind us. He was a beautiful dog and I thought to myself this is good luck. 

We didn’t have to wait too long in line before our plane took off. The flight was pretty calm for the most part. It was about the usual 2 and 1/2 hours when I started to see the Keys down below. 

We landed a little pass 2:00pm so it wasn’t too bad. Then we noticed there were about 5 other planes on the tarmac. Another flight had passengers unloading at the same time and we both thought there may be an issue with getting a taxi.

When we made it outside to the taxi line, there was no line and we were the only ones out there. We were able to get the first taxi that was waiting in line. The driver was super friendly and told us how she is having a website done so people can go on it and find info about Key West and such. Her name was Jennifer and she told us if we ever needed another ride, even though we tend to walk everywhere, to give her a call. So my husband took down her number.

As we were passing Smather’s Beach I started to notice this horrid stench. It was awful and I knew what it was, the sargassum. It was super potent. As we made our way farther from the beach, the smell went away. Note to self, I would never want to stay on that side of the island during the hot summer months. Soon I could see the yellow brick wall that surrounds the property of the Gardens Hotel along Simonton which always gets me super excited. And yes once again we were staying at the Gardens Hotel.

Jennifer pulled the taxi up and we grabbed our things. We thanked her and told her we would definitely give her a call if we needed a ride somewhere.

We walked up the stairs and saw that no one was checking in. So we both walked in and dropped our luggage down. It was newer lady working the front desk. As a result she didn’t realize how many times we had stayed at the Gardens. So she asked us if we needed any help with reservations, bike rentals, etc. It was very nice, but I just wanted to check in, so I could unpack our things and take off my sneakers and put on my flip flops.

After several minutes she handed us our keys. It was around 2:30pm so our room was ready which I expected. We rolled our luggage through the courtyard. (Ironically I love the sound of our luggage rolling towards our room, but despise the sound when we are rolling our luggage to leave.) 

As soon as we neared the bar we saw a familiar face. It was Phil! We were so happy to see him and he as well. We each gave him a hug and sat down for a cold beverage before unpacking our things. It was so good to be back I thought. No matter how many times we return , it never gets old.

We both finished our drinks and brought our luggage up to our room. Once everything in our room was in order I looked at my watch and it was 3:30pm. I had a feeling we wouldn’t make it, but I was hoping to see our friend Zack Seemiller at Rick’s but he was only there until four. I was a bit disappointed but then my husband got a message from our friends Brent and Julie. They just arrived the day before us and were renting a house on Fleming. They had dinner reservations that evening but wanted to stop by and say hello.

So my husband and I sat back at the bar at the Gardens. We talked to Phil for a couple minutes before I saw Brent and Julie walk in. It was so nice to see them again. We also had dinner reservations, at Blue Heaven. We couldn’t talk for too long but we made plans to meet up at the Smokin’ Tuna after dinner. Once they left we went back to our room to get ready for Blue Heaven.

Usually our first steps on to Duval is making a right hand turn, but this time we made a left hand turn down towards Petronia. The sun was still quite hot even though it was nearing 6:00pm. We walked in and it didn’t appear to be too crowded. Then again many tables had been removed during COVID.

The hostess seated us to the area on the right side of the bar. We had never sat on that side before, but it was a pleasant change. There were just a few tables and a lovely display on the stage behind us of roosters done by a local artist (who was sitting on stage as well). 

I was a little apprehensive as to how the service was going to be since we were seated away from all the other tables. However our server was excellent. He immediately came over to tell us the specials and take our drink order.  A couple specials were tuna poke as an appetizer and black grouper for an entree. I wound up ordering both. My husband decided to go with the sea scallop appetizer, which was recommended by our friend Julie. Then for his main meal, no surprise, my husband ordered the burger. 

It didn’t take long before our appetizers arrived. My tuna poke was delicious and fresh. I was curious to try the sea scallops and when I did I knew why our friend was raving about them. The sauce was delicious. Then not before long our entrees came out. Of course my husband enjoyed his burger and I really thought the black grouper was cooked perfectly. The sauce that accompanied it paired really well. You can read my review here https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g34345-d447631-r847395097-Blue_Heaven-Key_West_Florida_Keys_Florida.html

We were both too full to order a slice of their key lime by so we asked for the check. It was a perfect time to walk off our meals and head down to the Tuna. 

When we walked in it wasn’t too busy and saw there were a few tables in front of the stage that were open. I asked if we could sit at the tables even though we weren’t ordering any food and the server said it wasn’t a problem – thank goodness because I cannot stand the seats they have around the bar. They are very unstable and saw someone fall off one the chairs during our last visit and again this visit. 

Caffeine Carl and the Buzz were playing that evening with Just George being the frontman that night. The band came on around 9:00pm and we  were having a great time. The drinks were flowing and we enjoying the music. I figured that tonight was the night to have fun since I was planning on taking it easy the following day since I was running in the Rotary Club July 4th 5K on Monday.

You can check out the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UUY4I4w_v9Y

Eventually we pried ourselves out of our seats and said goodbye to the band. Since Brent and Julie’s house was towards the Gardens we walked down Duval together. When we got to their street Fleming we said our goodbyes and would get in touch the following day. 

We made it back to the Gardens and I was definitely ready to turn in after the travel day and what not, and that’s what we did.

Sunday Funday 7/3/22

Since neither my husband or myself pulled down the shades in our room the sun woke us both up. Thankfully the sun rises later in Key West then here in NJ. We both freshened up and were ready to face our first full day in Key West. As soon as you walked outside you could feel the heat instantly. It was hot, but that’s what you expect when you to Key West in July. Nevertheless the sun was shining and it was a beautiful morning.

We did our usual short cut walk to Cuban Coffee Queen to grab a couple of cuban americans. When we got to Cuban Coffee Queen, apparently everyone else had the same idea. The line was ridiculous. It would take a long time before we would have coffee in our hands and I was in much need of it that morning. 

We walked back onto the street and noticed the this place called the Cafe. We had never eaten there before, but I have read great things about it online. Since it was right there we figured let’s walk in. When we walked in there were a few tables and also a counter / bar. We opted for the counter. The server, assuming maybe one of the owners gave us a couple menus while we ordered coffee. 

Looking over the menu, I noticed there were many intriguing options to choose from. I remember reading too about their salmon benedict so that is what I decided to go with. My husband ordered the green goddess omelet. It sounded really good to me, but due to the fact it had pesto served on top, I was worried the garlic would be repeating on me all day. 

While we were waiting for our breakfast, I noticed more and more people walk in. We got there just in time. It took a little bit of time but we weren’t in a rush, we were in Key West. When our server brought out our breakfasts you could immediately smell the garlic. It smelled great but I was glad I ordered the benedict. While we were eating our breakfast my husband got a text from Julie inviting us over to their house. I thought what a perfect day to do so. Sundays tend to be a quieter day in Key West as far as entertainment so I was so excited to check out their house.

Both our meals were piping hot and delicious. It was a nice way to start our day. You can read my review here https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g34345-d447774-r847395863-The_Cafe-Key_West_Florida_Keys_Florida.html

After breakfast we walked down Duval to the liquor store to grab a few Miller Lites to bring over. Again, I kept thinking about the race the next day and if I was really going to do it. (I do run 4 miles 5 days a week so I was up for the task, but I was mostly concerned about the heat.)

We walked back to the Gardens to grab a bag and some towels that the hotel provides. It wasn’t a very far walk on to Fleming and to the house. We knocked on the door and Julie welcomed us in. She gave us a tour of the house and it was just so pretty.

We walked out to the back where there was a beautiful pool and jacuzzi. There was also a large covered area for a few chairs and tables. We sat down and talked for a little bit.