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

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:

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

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.

It was getting hot however, and that pool was looking better and better.

Everyone else felt the same way and we all jumped in the pool. It was so refreshing and a great time. We wound up staying there for most of the afternoon. It was eventually time for us to make our way back to the Gardens, but Brent offered to drop us off since they had to run out to Publix to get a few things. Thank goodness too because it would have been a very hot walk back.

Once they dropped us off we were planning on freshening up for dinner, but we decided to say hi to Alan who is the other bartender that works at the Gardens. He is originally from Cape May so we always wind up talking about New Jersey, the tomatoes and corn in the summer, etc. Then we saw the General Manager of the Gardens, Jim. He always takes care of us during our stay and we always appreciate it.

Then I was starting to think about the 5K the next morning and still wanted to give it a try. When I signed up they said if you sign up as a runner you can run and walk if you want, so I figured why not? The race started at 7:30am so I knew we would need a taxi to pick us up around 6:45am in the morning. The race was at White Street Pier which is about a 1.5 mile walk from the Gardens. The last thing I wanted to do was to walk that distance before racing.

My husband gave our taxi driver Jennifer who picked us up at the airport a call.  Unfortunately her shift didn’t start until 7 but she said she would send another driver to pick us up. My husband thanked her and we were all set. I was actually going to do this 5K!

At this point my husband and I were pretty hungry. I wanted to be sure to eat something very substantial and nothing too light. Then we remembered during our last trip a friend of ours, Ramsey recommended Clemente’s for pizza. (Which used to be food truck but the owner was able to get a small store front to make it a restaurant.)

Clemente’s is also on Fleming so we basically walked back the same way we did to see Brent and Julie. We walked in and the place is small. It was bustling but luckily two people that were seated at the bar were leaving. 

We grabbed the two last available seats before ordering a mushroom pizza. I love mushrooms. I did order a glass of wine and my husband ordered a beer. It felt like forever to get our order because I was so hungry, but it really didn’t take that long. When our pizza came out, we both started digging in. It was delicious, so delicious there were no leftovers.

When we were done with the pizza we thought it would be for the best to have an early night since we both had to get up early. We walked back to the Gardens and Alan was still there. We each ordered a nightcap. I knew I had to get some sleep so I headed back up to the room while my husband finished his drink.

Monday – July 4th! 5K, Pie Eating Contest, Hogs Breath, Jolly Rover II  7/4/22

6:15am came very quickly that morning. My husband was the first to get up and then I pulled myself out of bed. I felt pretty good overall but I was a bit tired. When I shipped down our toiletries earlier that week I included a couple cans of this energy drink soda with ginseng. I didn’t want to have any coffee until after the 5K so I grabbed one to take with me. It was still dark out as we walked to the front of the Gardens.

My husband tried opening the front gate but it was stuck. A little sense of both panic and relief came to mind. Maybe I won’t do the race and can’t say that I did want to but we couldn’t get out of the hotel? Then we remembered that there is another gate along Simonton. We walked over to the other side and the gate opened up when we walked up to it. 

We had to run around the corner where the taxi was waiting. He was a very friendly fellow playing Radio Margaritaville in his taxi. I was starting to excited that I was about to run my first ever 5K.

Our taxi driver dropped us off at White Street Pier (which has been recently renamed as Edward B. Knight Pier), where you could see the tents set up for the race. My husband  took town the driver’s info so we could give him a call after. He wished me luck and drove off. As we neared the pier the smell of the sargassum was awful. 

I walked up to the tent to sign in. I already registered online ahead of time so it was just a matter of a couple seconds before the young lady handed me my official number to wear. Surprisingly it didn’t feel too hot yet. There was a little cloud cover and the sun was starting to rise.

It was only 7:00am at that point and thought to myself, we got here way too early.

Eventually they called all the runners up to line up and told all the walkers to start in the back. My husband wished me luck as I shuffled my way into the mix of all the other people. 

Before we started, they wound up playing the star spangled banner. Ironically one of the runners behind me, must have been a local, was all decked out, along with his dog, with the stars and strips and he had a large flag. So everyone turned and faced him as the national anthem played. I laughed to myself and thought only in Key West!

Then the signal to start the race was given and we were off. At first it was a bit strange running while surrounded by people, but not before long everyone started to separate. The faster runners obviously went ahead and the slower ones went behind. I was probably somewhere in the middle. 

As I was running I was looking up at the palm trees and couldn’t believe I was actually doing it. We went about a mile and a half down to Smather’s Beach. Along the way, as I mentioned earlier, the smell of the sargassum was so strong. At the half way point everyone turned around and we ran back towards White Street Pier. I did have to take a couple breaths and walk a little after about 2 miles. Once I got my composure back I started running again. Finally I could see the finish line and I wasn’t about to walk again.

I saw my husband cheering me on as I came to the end. I did it!! My first ever 5K in my happy place!! I was so happy and relieved that it was all over at the same time. Ever since I signed up for a couple of weeks prior, that was all I was thinking about. Can I do it? Should I do it? Overall it wasn’t that bad. Yes it was warm but not too hot. The worse part was the smell of the sargassum.

At the end of the race they handed out a little metal to wear along with a towel and bottle water. They even had bud light and michalob ultra if that is what you fancied. I was all about the water. My husband called the taxi while I was cooling off. It wasn’t before long that he arrived. He congratulated me as he drove us back to the Gardens.

It was only around 8:30am and I thought it would be a perfect time to go grab some coffee at Cuban Coffee Queen before freshening up. As we were walking by the Gardens we saw Phil the bartender taking out the trash. At first he didn’t see my run number on my shirt and thought I didn’t make the run, but once he saw that he was so happy that I did it.

We walked down to Cuban Coffee Queen and there was no line. It was so nice to walk right up and get a cup of coffee right away. The coffee never tasted so good. We walked back to the Gardens to take a much needed shower. While we were getting ready we were trying to think of a place to eat for breakfast. My husband didn’t want a huge breakfast because he wanted to partake in the Key Lime Pie Eating Contest that was happening later that day at the Southhernmost Beach Cafe.

We thought about going to the White Tarpon so we wound up walking down towards the Bight. I was still on my high that I did the 5K so I didn’t mind where we went. As we were walking I noticed that it was getting a bit cloudy. We made it to the White Tarpon and when we looked in, it was closed. We were both so disappointed. I guess they were closed for the July 4th holiday. 

My husband suggest Kermit’s Key Lime Shoppe for breakfast. We hadn’t eaten there in a while and I remembered that their breakfasts are surprisingly good. We walked on over to place our order. I grabbed a table near the koi pond. And I grabbed it just in time. As soon as we sat down it started to downpour. Once we were served our breakfast the rain began to dissipate. I had a couple of eggs with potatoes and toast. My husband just had a few eggs and one slice of toast. You can read my review here

Once we were finished we walked back down to the Gardens to relax for a little while. The pie eating contest wasn’t until 1:30pm but you could register at 12:30pm. We figured we would walk down towards the Sourthernmost around noon. 

Eventually it became that time to make the walk down. It was getting quite hot and steamy again. We walked down Simonton almost to the end before crossing on over to Duval. We got a message from Julie saying that Brent and herself were having lunch at the Seaside Cafe at the Mansion. We had never been there and since we had time to spare we thought let’s meet them there.

We walked down and they were seated right near the water. Thankfully there was no smell of sargassum there. It was such a nice setting. They were waiting for the lobster pizza they ordered, which the place is known for. The Southernmost Beach Cafe was right next door so it was very convenient. I ordered a celebratory cocktail for myself while we waited. 

It was just about 12:30pm so we walked over to the cafe.

We walked around the restaurant where the pie eating contest was all set up. It looked kind of funny, the long table with all the chairs. I kept picturing the scene from Stand By Me as we walked by. There was one gentlemen signing in before my husband and he was next in line. When my husband went to sign up, they said that the last person just filled up the last spot. My husband was devastated. They took down his phone number and said that they would give him a call by 1:00pm if someone was a no show.

So we walked back to see Brent and Julie. They were finishing up their lunch and thety were getting ready to leave. Then Julie suggested we grab a table on the porch at the Mansion and have a couple beverages while we waited for the call. 

Ironically there was a paper on the table that had my ad I did for the Gardens Hotel on it and it made me happy.

Well unfortunately the call never came and my husband wasn’t able to participate in the contest. Once we were done with our drinks I wanted to head up to Hogs Breath to finally see Zack Seemiller play. Brent and Julie had a couple of errands to run, but they walked with us for a little while before we made our separate ways. It was a long hot walk all the way to the other side of the island.

We finally made it to Hogs Breath. Unfortunately the seats that we usually sit in were taken. Luckily the seats at the raw bar area were open. And it turned out to be better because I didn’t have to turn around to watch Zack play. He gave us a hello before he started his next set. It was great to see him again. Plus I he had one of his new banners on display that I sent down to him for his birthday.

While we were watching Zack, our friends Wayne and Karen stopped by. They initially went to the pie eating contest expecting to see my husband compete. We told them how the contest filled up just before he could register. They told us that the guy that won the contest finished his pie in just over a minute. The contest wasn’t about how many pies you could eat, but how fast you could eat one. I don’t think my husband had a chance, but if the opportunity comes around again, I am sure he’ll be the first in line to register. 

I was glad that we were able to run into Wayne and Karen before they were leaving town. We chatted until the end of Zack’s show. When Zack’s show was over I had to get my usual photo with him of course. No trip would be complete without the photo!

It was nearing time that we had to go back to the Gardens to get ready for the Jolly Rover II that Julie booked for us a few months ago. We said our goodbyes to everyone and walked down Duval to the hotel. I was actually getting tired from all the walking. I think my Fitbit was up to 7 or 8 miles at that point. 

I wound up not changing because I figured it was going to be hot on the boat, especially waiting until we would set sail. My husband changed and we made our way towards the Bight once again. First though, we had to stop to grab some white wine for the boat and a few slices of pizza to fuel us up. 

The Jolly Rover II is a schooner but it is bring your own, which I thought was fine. You can bring what you prefer to drink and if you want to bring food as well. Plus makes it a very reasonable sail.

We made it to the Bight and saw all the people waiting to go out on all the other boats that evening to see the Fireworks. I was getting pretty excited because it had been several years since we saw the Fireworks from a boat. Soon Brent and Julie showed up and we were the first in line to get on the Jolly Rover II.

Being that we were the first to get on the boat I wasn’t sure where to sit. I wound up picking the side that was not in the sun and the seats towards the front of the boat. It actually was a great spot because the area where we sat only was able to seat one other person. The boat was fully booked and probably held around 30 people. Once everyone was on board, the captain went through all the safety tips and also mentioned there were two lavatories on the boat down below.

The sun was starting to get lower in the sky as we set sail for the night. It was so nice to be back on the water. The side of the boat where I picked our seats wound up being the perfect side. We were able to watch the sunset from our side without having to turn around. It was a beautiful sunset to see.

Then it came time to see the fireworks. Last year we weren’t able to see the fireworks so again I was excited to see them. The fireworks in Key West never disappoint and that night they were just as good as I remembered. They probably went off for about 20 minutes or so. It was so much fun to see. I tried to take pictures but it was difficult to get a good shot.

Eventually it was time to sail back. Brent and Julie wound up going to the Tuna to see a band called the Glass Cats. Between the 5K and the long day I was done. We thanked them for a great time on the boat and went our separate ways. We made it back to the Gardens and I looked down at my FitBit and couldn’t believe how many miles I walked – between the 5K and walking all around the island. As soon as I saw that, I was done for the night.

Tuesday – The Smokin’ Tuna and Red Shoe Island Bistro  7/5/22

After a good night sleep I was ready to face the day. (I think the Gardens replaced the mattresses in the rooms. They are super comfortable.) We both freshened up and walked down to Cuban Coffee Queen to grab some coffee. Luckily the line wasn’t that bad so we didn’t have to wait too long  before making our way down to Breakfast Club Too to meet Zack and his son Kai for breakfast. 

When we walked in there was no question we preferred to sit inside in the air conditioning. I like sitting outside but it was just too hot. We sat down and then Zack and Kai showed up. We had to order off our phones using the QR code on the table. They still don’t have menus since before COVID. It was a nice breakfast just talking and catching up since the last time we saw them a few months ago. When we were done with breakfast we thanked Zack and Kai and contemplated our next move. 

It was already later in the morning and nearing noon so we figured we hadn’t been to the Galleon Sunset Tiki Bar yet and it was a nice day to go there and take in the views of the water. 

We walked in and sat at the bar. A really nice bartender named Candice was working. We knew her from several visits ago as well and she recognized us. We talked for a bit before more people began to show up. Time seemed to be moving slowly that day and I wasn’t complaining. 

Then it was about that time to head on over to the Smokin’ Tuna to see Caffeine Carl and Zack play. We thanked Candice for the drinks and walked back down to Duval. We were trying to pick the shadier side of the street but there was no such luck. It was hot. 

We walked around the back way past Captain Tony’s to the Tuna. 

Carl and Zack were already on stage as we waved hello. The place was practically empty so I was able to maneuver a couple of seats from the tables to use at the bar. (Again I do not like the bar seats there, they scare me.) Phil the bartender was tending bar and he recognized us too. We ordered a couple of beers and settled in for the afternoon watching Carl and Zack. I always enjoy the band play, but for some reason I really like seeing just Carl and Zack play together. You can see a video here

Phil was enjoying himself as well and gave us a round of shots.

While we were watching them, a delightful couple came up to me asking if I was Susannj? I told them I sure was and they complimented me on my blog. It was really so nice to hear. They were visiting from Ohio and I believe their names were Maryland and Mark. I thanked them for all the kind words.

When Carl and Zack were done we said our goodbyes.

We wanted to get back to the Gardens to freshen up again for dinner. This was the only other night I made dinner reservations for us. I knew that July tends to be quieter so I didn’t feel the need to make reservations throughout our stay. After the 4th, it definitely quieted down in Key West. So for that evening we were going to go to the Red Shoe Island Bistro. I really like the place and it is located conveniently near the Gardens. Initially I had reservations for the two of us, but we asked Brent and Julie if they would like to join us so I was able to change it to the four of us.

Once we were freshened up we sat at the Gardens bar where we were going to meet up with Brent and Julie. I ordered a nice cold glass of white wine. While we were sitting at the bar we started to chat with a few of the other guests. And once again someone came up to me that was staying there asked if I was Susannj. They didn’t recognize me at first, but my husband. It was kind of funny.

We also began talking to a nice couple from NY. Lynn and her family were staying at the Gardens for a week with their older children. (The Gardens doesn’t allow children under the age of 16). They were really nice people and they also talked about how much they love Key West and the Gardens Hotel like us. That’s why I love just sitting at the bar at the Gardens. You wind up meeting such wonderful people. That’s how we wound up meeting Julie last October. We were just sitting at the bar talking. And now we have become friends.

Then Brent and Julie showed up. We had time for them to have a beverage before walking down to the Red Shoe Island Bistro. Our reservations were for 6:00pm. While we were talking I looked at my FitBit and saw it was almost 6:00pm. Time I guess got away from us with great conversation between Brent and Julie and the other guests. 

We managed to get to the restaurant fairly quickly so we were only a couple minutes late. The owner recognized us since this was our fifth time dining there since they first opened a few years ago. He sat us down at a very nice corner table. He told us the specials and I thought that the tilefish special sounded good. I do love their yellowtail snapper but I wanted to try something different. 

For appetizers everyone ordered the caesar salad but I went out on a limb and ordered the crabmeat stuffed avocados. It seemed like a strange combination but it was delicious. Everyone enjoyed their caesar salads as well. Julie ordered the sea scallops for dinner (which I was debating whether to get it myself but I have to be in the mood for scallops). Brent and my husband both opted for the yellowtail snapper. When my tilefish was served it looked delicious. 

I couldn’t wait to dig in, but for some reason my tilefish was a bit lackluster. I have ordered tilefish in the past and the same reaction happened. I guess I am just not much of a fan of tilefish. The sauce was delicious and also the shrimp that accompanied the fish were tasty. Of course everyone else was raving about their food. I did taste the sauce that came with the scallops and I was kicking myself for not ordering it. You can read my review here

Nevertheless it was a nice dinner. We were all too full to have dessert so we walked back to the Gardens. As we were walking by we passed Ramshead where Zack was playing. I wanted to stop in, but when we did he just finished his show. So it was a quick hello before he left. Since we were already there we wound up getting a couple seats at the bar for an after dinner (not needed) drink. We wound up talking for a while. It was so long that we wound up closing the place. We were the only ones left and got the signal that we should leave.

We walked back to the Gardens up to our balcony/porch. We chatted outside our room for a bit but realized we may be getting a bit loud for the other guests who were staying there. Plus it was also getting kind of late. So we said good night and headed inside our room while Brent and Julie walked back to their house. 

Wednesday – Bagatelle, Willie Ts, Martins and the Smokin’ Tuna 7/6/22

Since we were up kind of late the night before, I had no intent to get up before 9:00am. When we eventually woke up we both freshened up and walked down to our usual first stop, Cuban Coffee Queen. Surprisingly there wasn’t a line. Maybe because we were a lot later then the normal breakfast rush, Once we had our coffee in hand we walked down Duval. We wanted to try the White Tarpon again. It was already quite hot out so we tried to find the side of the street with more shade. 

When we got down to the Bight the same thing happened. The White Tarpon was closed. I am not sure if they stopped serving breakfast or maybe not offering it during the slower season. I was really craving that B.L.T. sandwich that I had during our last visit. 

All well.  Where to next? We both contemplated in our minds. Then my husband suggested Bagatelle. It isn’t too far of a walk so that’s where wound up. When we walked in we were seated on the porch. The restaurant wasn’t crowded at all. For breakfast I wasn’t in the mood for eggs so I ordered the bagel with smoked salmon. It is usually my go to breakfast if I don’t feel like eggs. My husband had the regular eggs benedict. While we were waiting for our orders we watched all the people walk by and the occasional conch train. It really is a great spot to people watch. Then our meals came out. Everything was delicious as to be expected at Bagatelle. (For the longest time I thought it was Bagatelle’s.) You can read my review here

After we were done with our breakfast we walked on over to Hogs Breath, I wanted to get a few shirts there, a few for myself and one for my sister. Since it was right across the street I thought that it was a perfect opportunity to check out the store. I find that they a nice variety of shirts and designs to choose from.

I wound up purchasing too many shirts for myself, but can you ever have too many? Our next stop was the Sunset Tiki Bar at the Galleon. The sun was beating down and we needed a place to get out of the sun. We walked in and we grabbed a couple seats at the bar. I also made sure to drink plenty if water. It was nice to sit back and watch the boats and jet skis go by. 

Time seemed to be speeding up a little and then I realized our trip was already half way over. It felt like we were there for a while but then at the same time when I thought about flying home that Saturday it felt too soon.

I wanted to see Zack at Willie T’s that afternoon, so we wound up walking back to the Gardens to regroup for a little. I also wanted to drop off my bag of shirts. I didn’t want to wind up leaving the bag somewhere. When we walked in to the Gardens, Phil was bartending. The place was hopping. People were in the pool and around the bar. We walked by hoping to grab a seat but there wasn’t any available.

We walked up to our room cooled off  in the air conditioning and downed more water. We sat back on our porch and noticed the voices at the bar got quieter. I walked down the stairs and saw a few seats had opened up.  I told my husband so we sat down and started talking to Phil and the other guests at the bar. Lynn and her family (from NY) were there as well and mentioned to us how they were renewing their vows the following day at the Gardens and if we were around we were welcome to join them. I thought that was really nice.

It was getting later in the afternoon and told my husband that I wanted to go Willie T’s before it gets too late and miss Zack’s show. I know it was a super hot day and my husband wasn’t exactly eager to go there sit in the sweltering sun. Luckily when we got there I found a table in the shade right next to a fan. It was perfect. We sat down and enjoyed listening to Zack for a bit.

My husband wanted to hit the happy hour at Martin’s so left a little bit before Zack’s show ended. We said our  goodbyes and mentioned we would try and stop at the Tuna later that night. We walked down to Martin’s and it was just about 5:30pm. Usually when we walk in, it is difficult to find a seat at the bar during happy hour, but not that night,.

We found two seats at the end of the bar and I ordered a glass of white wine and my husband had a martini. Then the freezy of ordering off the tapas menu began. We started off with the escargot, lamb chops, crab cakes, shrimp skewers, pork schnitzel and tuna. Everything came out at once and started with the escargot. It was delicious and garlicky. We made it through the rest and even ordered a second order of the escargot. 

And when we received the bill it was $76. That really isn’t bad at all and we were both full. You can read my review here

After our meal at Martin’s, walked back to the Gardens to relax for a bit. We heard from Brent and Julie that after their dinner at Latitude’s that evening they would meet us at the Tuna if we went. I really wanted to go so around 7:30 we walked back down Duval to the Tuna. 

It wasn’t too busy so we were able to sit at a table near the stage and not have to order any food. We ordered a couple of drinks while we were waiting for Carl and Zack and the band to set up. At this point we were both getting pretty tired. I wound up getting a second wind once the music started. I even wound up dancing with some local who needed someone to dance with.

Then I noticed my husband was getting tired and actually so was I. I checked my phone and Brent and Julie were still at Latitudes so we figured we would just head back to the Gardens. We waved goodbye to the band and walked back to Duval. There was taxi waiting right in front so my husband waved at him for a ride. It is a quick short walk back, but it was nice to jump into the cool taxi to take us back to the Gardens.

The taxi dropped us off and we were done for the night.

Thursday- La Te Da, Pool Day, and the Smokin’ Tuna 7/7/22

Once again we slept in again. We wound up grabbing coffee at the Gardens while we waited for each of us to get ready for the day. The coffee was very good and I was tempted to eat breakfast there. 

However, I wanted to go to La Te Da for breakfast. We had not been there yet during this trip and I was in the mood for their yogurt, granola fruit. When we were both ready we walked out on to Simonton. As we were walking the skies got darker. Then the drops of rain started to fall. We were nearing the front of the restaurant Lola’s where there is an awning. It was perfect timing because that is when the rain started to come down.

We had to wait it out for a few minutes. When the rain stopped it was even steamier than before. We made our way back onto Duval and down to La Te Da’s. We walked in and it was empty – perfect I thought. We were able to sit wherever we wanted. I choose the two seats at the bar along the side near the road.

The bartender gave us menus and chatted with us for a bit. Like Bagatelle, I enjoy La Te Da too for the people watching and of course the food is consistently very good. For breakfast I went for the yogurt with granola and fruit (no surprise) and my husband had the half order of the sausage and biscuits. I found that being it was so hot while we were there, I would eat less. I just wasn’t as hungry as I normally am. Don’t get me wrong I love the sun and heat, but after a few days it did get more intense.

Our breakfast came out fairly quickly. The fruit and yogurt was perfect for me; light and refreshing. My husband enjoyed his meal as well. While we were finishing up, we got a message from Julie inviting us over their house again. I was so excited because we had so much fun the other day,  plus the place they were staying at is beautiful.

When we were done with our breakfast we walked back to the Gardens, but first stopped at the liquor store to get some Miller Lite for the pool. We had to go back to our room to change into our suits and grab some towels. We walked back out onto Simonton down to Fleming.

We walked in and into the backyard area of the house. Julie was finishing some work while Brent was stringing his guitar. He was going to join Caffeine Carl and the band that night. We were all super excited. Then he told me that Zack was playing. I kept thinking Just George was going to play (and I think he’s good don’t get me wrong) but obviously I would rather see Zack. I guess George was out of town on vacation so Zack was on for the night. So then I was even more happy about that night.

We spent the afternoon again in their pool. We had a nice time just talking and enjoying each other’s company. 

We were thinking about either grilling something at the house or go out to dinner. Then we figured we would just eat at the Tuna since they wanted to go to the Tuna earlier so Brent could set up. We decided that 7:30pm would be a good time to have dinner. We thanked them again for their hospitality and walked back to the Gardens to get ready for dinner.

After a refreshing shower we had time to have drink at the Gardens Bar. Phil was bartending and he always has stories to tell. I tried to wear a hat that night but it was too warm. We told Phil about how Brent was playing with the band at the Tuna that night and he should check it out. Phil knows Brent and Julie as well since they also stay at the Gardens a lot.

It was nearing 7:30pm so we said goodbye to Phil and he said he would stop by the Tuna later. We walked down Duval and turned down Charles St.

We walked in and sat at one of the tables near the stage. There was a band that was still playing from the 5:00pm slot called the Casey Clark band. 

They were quite entertaining, especially when they played “I am a man of constant sorrow”. Not before long Brent and Julie showed up. We ordered a couple of drinks and looked over the menu. They wound up having the sesame tuna steak and my husband and I ordered the blackened mahi mahi over a caesar salad. 

The server brought out our order and there was only one caesar salad. I gave it to my husband thinking mine was arriving shorty, but it never did. I asked the server and she thought I only ordered one but it wasn’t a problem. The salad that my husband was such a large portion that we wound up sharing it.  We were finishing up dinner when we saw Carl, Zack and the rest of the band show up. 

Brent went on stage to set up his guitar.

When he was all set up he sat back down with us. The game plan was the band was going to open up with a few songs and then Brent would come on stage, and that’s exactly how it went.

When it was time for Brent to come on stage Carl introduced him. Within minutes Carl and Brent started to go back and forth playing. It was so impressive to see Brent finally play. Everyone in the band was killing it. It was so much fun, While we were watching them another musician we know John LaMere showed up.

He said he was watching the Tuna cam but had to come down in person to watch it for himself. Then even Phil, the bartender from the Gardens showed up. 

You can check out some of the videos I took here and here

We were all taking pictures and enjoyed every minute and Brent wound up playing the rest of the night with the band. It truly was a memorable night. 

When the band ended, we talked about the show before finally exiting the Tuna. Brent and Julie walked back with us since their house rental is close to the Gardens. We kept talking about what a great night it was. So great that I wanted to see if they wanted to have breakfast with us. We all agreed to meet at Bagatelle the next morning (later morning).

We made back to the Gardens and went to sleep.

Friday – Last Full Day 7/8/22

I think I woke up with my ears still ringing. I did have a scratchy voice too probably from screaming the night before. We both freshened up and walked down to Cuban Coffee Queen. The line again wasn’t too long again, so we were able to get our coffee without being late meeting Brent and Julie.

We were walking down Duval with our coffee in hand when a group of ladies (most likely from the cruise ship that was docked) asked if we were locals. For some reason that made me smile. My husband told them we weren’t but we have been coming down so many times so we mine as well be. They asked us where the best place for a fried fish sandwich. Immediately we both thought of B.O..’s Fish Wagon. We told them where it was located and they were very appreciative.

It was just about 9:45am when we made it to Bagatelle. Julie texted us that they got a table on the 2nd floor outside. We walked up the stairs and there they were. It was a nice table over looking Duval. I don’t think we have ever sat on the 2nd floor so it was a nice change. 

We wound up talking about the night before as we enjoyed another very good breakfast at Bagatelle. I was starting to get a little sad knowing we were leaving the next day, but I knew that I should enjoy the last full day we had in Key West.

Since it was our last day, we walked back over to the Galleon Sunset Tiki Bar to see if Ramsey (who bartends there was working). I kind of remembered that she worked on Fridays. We walked in and sure enough she was. We hadn’t run into her all week so it was nice to talk to her for a few. 

It was then time to motivate ourselves and get back to the Gardens so that we could pack up most of our things so we didn’t have to worry about it the next day, even though we had a later flight. 

I also had laundry done mid-week that was dropped off the day before so that had to be packed up as well. We walked back and again it was another hot day. We saw Phil was already at the Gardens bar as we walked by and told him we would stop by for a drink after we packed our things.

There wasn’t too much to pack up so it didn’t take us that long. We walked back down to the bar and ordered a couple of drinks. Then I saw the clock on the wall and realized that it was almost time for me to check-in for our flight the next day. It wound up being perfect so I could use the WiFi there and have no issues with my phone. However for some reason during our stay the WiFi was hit or miss everywhere we went that had it. So defaulting to 5G wound up working better. I was able to check us in which is always a relief. After hearing all these travel nightmares and cancellations I was still a little on edge. The United App still said our flight was on time.

My husband started talking to one of the guests staying there, Dmitry several nights ago. I think they even had shots together the other night? He was from Russia and what a hoot. Anyway he was sitting at the bar too so again time got away from us a little. I did want to catch the end of Zack’s show at Willie T’s since again it was our last night. He was also playing at the Tuna that night, but wasn’t very confident in myself that I would make it (it was a long week).

Once my husband settled up the bill with Phil we walked down to Willie T’s. Thankfully once again we found a table in the shade by the fan – the same table as the other day. We enjoyed listened to his last set and I was able to get a nice photo of one of his new banners (courtesy of yours truly). 

We wound up staying until the end and while Zack was packing up we noticed some sort of commotion down the side street where Mary Ellen’s  is located. There were a couple of police cars which you normally don’t see in Key West.

It turned out there was a guy that was knocking down bikes. We weren’t sure if alcohol was involved but my guess would be yes. After witnessing that debacle we said good bye to Zack and of course another photo.

I wanted to stay and catch part of John LaMere’s set, but my husband heard from Brent and Julie that they were having a bite at Fogarty’s. So we walked down Duval and I was thinking Fogarty’s? I have never been there besides maybe for a quick drink years ago.

We walked up to the restaurant and could Brent and Julie seated right there near the sidewalk. It was surprisingly a nice little table with great people watching since you are literally right there on the side of Duval. 

I didn’t think I was hungry until I looked at the menu. The fish tacos caught my eye but then I saw the mahi sandwich. I was in the mood for bad for you french fries so I decided to go with that. My husband ordered his typical go to, a burger and Brent and Julie order a chicken caesar and the ahi tuna.

It was nice to talk again while we waited for our meals. The food came out promptly and everything was really good. I had no idea. I know it wasn’t a linen napkins type of dinner, but hey if you are in the mood for a burger or a fish sandwich I wouldn’t hesitate to return. You can read my review here

After dinner, Julie wanted to check out this musician that was playing at Hank’s. I believe his name was Myles Mancuso. We walked down to Hanks and there were a few people sitting outside. Myles was already playing so we sat at a table outside. I ordered this drink that had watermelon, cucumber and vodka. It was so delicious. Everyone else wound up switching their drink orders to what I had besides Julie. 

When Myles went on break he came over and Julie introduced us. He seemed like a very pleasant fellow.

While we were enjoying the music once again, I started feeling tired and not well. I came to the point where I couldn’t drink anymore. I wanted to make it to the Tuna to see Zack play for our last night, but I just couldn’t do it. I told everyone how I was feeling and they totally understood. 

I even told my husband if he wanted to stay out I could walk back to the Gardens myself, but he was getting tired too. We mentioned to Brent and Julie that our flight wasn’t until 3:45pm the next day so if they were around we would be at the Gardens. We said our goodbyes and walked back to the Gardens. Phil was still working the bar at the Gardens so we sat down for one. I tried drinking a glass of wine but it wasn’t happening. I wound up going up to our room while my husband stayed up talking to Phil.

Saturday – Time to Go 7/9/22

Due to the fact that our flight wasn’t until 3:45pm we were able to sleep in. I think that is really the only plus side of a later flight. The negatives are you are prone to delays and I personally just want to get home when it is time to leave. I start to think about all the things I have to do once I get home (clean the house, unpack, laundry, etc.).

The day before when we saw Zack we made plans to have our last breakfast at Sarabeth’s with Kai. It has sort of become a tradition if you will. We were in no hurry so we agreed to meet around 9:45am. I was also able to get us a later check out at the Gardens. Instead of checking out at 11:00am we were able to stay in our room until 1:00pm.

Once we got ready we grabbed a cup of coffee at the Gardens. It was a bit later in the morning and figured that Cuban Coffee Queen would have a line. We walked down Simonton to Sarabeth’s. When Zack and Kai showed up we opted for a table inside. It was already starting to get hot and the cold air conditioning inside was everyone’s preference.

It was a nice breakfast as usual at Sarabeth’s. The waiter that we usually get is always extra enthusiastic which I find very comical. After breakfast we said our goodbye’s and walked back to the Gardens. We gathered all our things so we were ready to go. My husband got in touch with the taxi driver Jennifer who picked us up at the airport. We agreed the best time would be around 2:15pm. 

Everything was set and it was about that time to check out of our room. We brought our luggage down and left inside near the wine gallery room there at the Gardens. (Phil the bartender mentioned to us to leave it there). I gave our keys back to the front desk. 

We took a couple seats at the Gardens bar for one last time and ordered a drink. The family we met from Long Island were also there. They were flying back around the same time as us, but to LaGuardia.  We were all feeing the sadness of leaving and already planning our return.

Then Brent and Julie showed up to say goodbye. I wasn’t sure if they were going to show up but they did. It was a nice surprise.  I get watching the clock and it was finally 2:15pm so we said goodbye to them and of course Phil. 

We walked out onto Angela St. and our taxi was waiting. Jennifer gave us a warm hello and soon we were on our way to the airport. On the way I was showing my husband the route I ran for the 5K. It seemed a lot farther then when I initially ran it.

Jennifer dropped us off and we walked in to go through TSA. To our surprise it was empty. I think it took maybe several minutes to get through security? When we took the escalator down to the lower level we began to see all the people waiting. That’s what we were expecting! Luckily we were able to find a table to stand at near the food and beverage part of the airport. While we were waiting I saw Lynn, the lady from Long Island. Thankfully her flight was leaving on time and so was ours. I wished her safe travels.

We walked over when the announcement was made that our United flight was going to begin boarding. While we were standing at the gate we noticed a gentlemen was at the counter talking to the ticket agent. Apparently he wasn’t able to check-in for his flight due to some issue he had with the app. Also he was supposed to be in first class, but first class wasn’t available. He was refusing to sit in coach but they said they would give him a refund. Then to add to the situation, the only seats left were given to some people who was on standby. While the ticket agent was trying to figure out what to do, we started to board. Once we were all on board there was still something not right. About 20 minutes or so passed and finally they told the people who were on standby to leave the plane so the guy and his partner could get on the plane.

The debacle was finally over and the flight attendant closed the door. Then the captain came on the intercom and announced that there was a bad storm in the South Carolina area causing us take a different route to avoid it. So instead of a 2 and 1/2 hour flight it was going to be a 3 hours and 40 minute flight, because we wound up flying over the Gulf and then turned northeast.

We finally landed around 8:00pm instead of 6:30pm. Since we arrived late, our plane had nowhere to go. The gate we were supposed to go to, still had a plane that had to depart. So we just waited and waited on the tarmac for about 40 minutes. Finally we were able to get to our gate. The only thing positive about the entire situation was I had never seen such a beautiful sunset like I did that night. 

Once we got to the gate I was able to get in touch with our car driver. Eventually we made it home around  9:30pm or so. I was glad to be home but decided to wait until the next day before I unpack and went to sleep.

Key West continues to be a place near and dear to my heart. I love how we meet people along the way – some you may never see again, some you will and some become friends, even great friends.

Key West will always be my happy place filled with great memories and friends. Thanks again for reading my blog….. until next time!

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

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

Saturday – April 16th – Arrival Day

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

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

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

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

(You can read my review of the Gardens Hotel here:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can read my review of Blue Heaven here:

Sunday – April 17th – Easter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(You can read my review of Latitudes here: )

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can read my review of Firefly here:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can read my review of Cafe Sole here:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My review of Martin’s is here:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Berlin’s review:

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

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

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

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

We did make it back and crashed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My review of Off the Hook:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And made our last walk down Duval to the Gardens.

Saturday – April 23rd – Going Home

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thankfully it wasn’t raining.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday – January 16 – Arrival Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We ordered breakfast and everyone enjoyed what they had. 

You can read my review here:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can read my review here:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can read my review here:

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can read my review here:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can read my review here:

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

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

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

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

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

You can read my review here:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday – January 22 – Leaving Key West

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time…..

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

Originally my husband and I were planning on returning to St. John in the US Virgin Islands for our annual October Trip, however with the testing (even though we are vaccinated) and not being able to go to the British Virgin Islands I decided to postpone our trip another year. I contacted the villa company and they were very accommodating. So I (of course) suggested that we go back to Key West. I was aware that it was the same time as Fantasy Fest but was always curious about it. Plus I wanted to see some events, like the Zombie Bike Ride, the Parade, etc. And figured we could always avoid certain events. Luckily I was able to book a room for the week at our favorite place, the Gardens Hotel.

You can read my review of the Gardens Hotel here:

As our departure date was nearing, I found out that most of the large events for Fantasy Fest that I wanted to see were canceled. I was a bit disappointed but then thought how it was probably for the best with COVID and less people would be visiting Key West during that time. However, little did I know there were still many people planning on coming down to participate in Fantasy Fest even though there were only smaller events still scheduled. I had no idea what to expect.

Saturday – Oct. 23 – Arrival Day

A few months prior I registered my husband and I for Clear®.

Last time we were at Newark-Liberty Airport, the lines were crazy, even in the TSA Pre line which we do have. After our car service dropped us off at Terminal C, we walked up to the Clear Entrance and up to the kiosk. The TSA agent asked us if we had our eyes scanned yet, etc. and we hadn’t. So we had to leave the line and then go to another area of kiosks where there was another TSA agent standing by to assist with the process. It wound up not being an easy process, at least for me. I went up to the kiosk first. First you had your finger prints scanned, followed by a picture taken. Then you had to enter in your address which was fine. Then a series of questions came up. One of them for me, was the age of my mom. Mind you it was 6 am and I only had one cup of coffee, plus I was nervous not wanting to answer anything wrong. Then I selected the age range and got it wrong. My husband standing behind me even said something, but I hit the submit button already. So I failed. I had to start the process all over again. Then the TSA agent said that if I failed again then I wouldn’t be able to finish the registration process until 24 hours after. Thankfully the second series of questions didn’t require any math and were pretty easy. Of course when it was my husband’s turn, the questions that they asked him were super simple. In the end we both were able to get enrolled in Clear.

Relieved, we walked back to the Clear line. I think there were just a several people ahead of us, while the TSA Pre line had a long line. When we walked up to the kiosk the TSA agent instructed us to look into the machine where they scanned our eyes and then had to place our hands on the platform so the machine could recognize our finger prints. It took only a couple of seconds and once we got the green light we walked through to the security check-in. Next time will be a lot less stressful since we now just go up to the Clear line.

Our direct flight on United left on time (a little after 9am) and about after 2 and a half hours I was able to start to see the Keys below. This time our seats were on the left side of the plane so I wasn’t able to take a photo of Key West when we got close to land.

We landed just a bit after 12:30 and it is always such a wonderful feeling to walk off the plane and feel the sun and warmth on your face. When we walked outside to grab a taxi there was a long line, but thankfully it moved in a timely matter. The taxi ride to the Gardens was a little longer than usual. This was due to construction going on, once you exit the airport you have to make a left turn (you cannot go right). I didn’t mind so much. It was a different way where you could see different things that I normally have never seen, like the high school. 

Once we arrived at the Gardens we had to wait to check-in since another guest was in the office. I was so antsy to get to our room, that the wait felt like an eternity. Eventually the guest left and we were able to check-in. Due to the fact it was our 26 time staying at the Gardens, yes 26 times, check-in was quick. Our room was ready so we grabbed our carry-on and the box of toiletries I had shipped directly to the hotel. 

After we unpacked all our things and changed into shorts and flip-flops, we walked down the stairs and past the bar. As we were walking by, we recognized the bartender from our July trip. It was Phil! He gave us a warm hello with a big smile. So we wound up sitting down at the bar for a welcome beverage. Plus I think I needed to unwind after the flight down and the Clear enrollment process. It was entertaining talking to Phil for a bit. He even shared his ability to blow a conch shell.

Feeling a bit more at ease it was time to make our usual first walk down Duval Street.

Here is a video I took of us walking down Duval St.

I knew Zack Seemiller was playing at Rick’s so I wanted to be sure to say hello before he was done for the afternoon. We walked down Duval Street to Ricks. At this point there were not many people that I saw dressed up for Fantasy Fest. All looked normal on Duval Street. We walked in and Zack immediately recognized us. We watched his last set and afterwards talked to him for a few minutes before making our next stop.

I made dinner reservations at Red Shoe Bistro which is located not too far from the Gardens Hotel. During our last trip in July we dined there for our last dinner and were quite impressed. We still had some time, so I know my husband wanted to check out General Horseplay. When we walked in it wasn’t too crowded so we were able to sit at the bar. 

It was a warm day so the air conditioning felt good at first. We each ordered the drink we remembered from last time that we thoroughly enjoyed called the murricane. It is made with bourbon which I normally never touch, but the way they infuse the flavors in this particular craft cocktail make it taste really good. They are dangerous – since you cannot taste the alcohol at all. 

Before started to get too comfortable, we made the wise decision to pay our tab and head back to the Gardens Hotel to freshen up for dinner. The Red Shoe Bistro is located right down Petronia St. 

Our reservations were for 6pm, right when they open up so when we walked in there was just one other table. We decided to sit at the bar just for more room. One of the owners came up to us and told us the specials for the evening. One of the items that intrigued my husband was the beef stroganoff with fresh pasta. So of course he wound up ordering that for his main meal and decided to go with the fish of the day which I believe was snapper, but I could be mistaken. Regardless it was delicious. We each started with the caesar salad which was served with the romaine lettuce left whole and grilled. It was an interesting twist for a typical salad that most restaurants offer. It was really good. When we were finished with our meals we both started feeling the travel day. Sometimes we would go out to the Smokin’ Tuna afterwards, but instead we walked back to the Gardens.

You can read my full review here:

The Garden’s bar was still open so we sat down. While we were talking to the bartender Phil, there was a nice lady sitting by herself. She introduced herself (Julie) and mentioned how she was waiting for her husband to fly in the next day. He got held up with work back in Nashville so she flew down first by herself. Turns out she was staying right next to us at the Gardens. She was so sweet and friendly. We talked to her for a bit before turning in for the night.

Sunday – Oct. 24 – Galleon Sunset Tiki Bar, Garden of Eden, Bel Mare

When I first woke up that morning for a split second I thought I was home, but then realized I was in my happy place, Key West. Feeling revived from a good night sleep, we both freshened up for breakfast. As usual, our first stop was Cuban Coffee Queen for a couple cups of their cuban american coffee with an extra shot. 

With our coffees in hand, we walked down to La Te Da. I wasn’t sure if it was going to be crowded since it was the weekend (Sunday), but luckily when we walked in the bar area was more or less open. We sat down on the end near the street. For breakfast I just had the standard american breakfast. (As a side note, La Te Da serves three eggs instead of the typical two). My husband had their scrambled eggs with their infamous caramelized black pepper bacon.

The breakfast came out in a timely matter and everything was delicious and hot. Nothing frustrates me more is being served a cold meal. It was a nice way to start our day. I didn’t really have anything planned besides dinner at Bel Mare up at the Bight later that evening.

The weather was on the overcast side so it wasn’t a ‘relax by the pool’ sort of day. We decided to walk around and see where the day will takes us. Ultimately we wound up down on Front St. and walked to the Sunset Tiki Bar at the Galleon. 

We walked in and noticed that the side facing the water had a couple of ladies sitting where we normally like to sit, but there was room for us to sit beside them. Our friend Ramsey was bartending so it was nice to see her. We were talking to her when we saw Phil (who owns the Sunset Tiki Bar).  

He told us that in about a half hour there was going to be a big group of people coming in for some sort of event but wanted us to stay. He even bought us a round of drinks and even the two ladies next to us. We both looked at each other and thought well I guess we will stay. We started talking to the two ladies Mo and Kristen. They were from Minnesota, but Mo recently moved to Tampa. I mentioned to them how I work for a company based in Minnesota. They were on a girls only vacation without their significant others.

While we were talking to them, another familiar face stopped by Dave. He used to work at the Sunset Tiki Bar and that is how we met him. Ironically he is from New Jersey like us. 

As time passed, we started to notice people walking into the bar. Not before long it, the place was packed. A couple sat down next to us and began talking to my husband. I also joined in on the conversation with them in between talking to Mo and Kristen. Then we found out that the event was indeed a swingers event?! Okay then. We all kind of laughed about it and Mo and Kristen asked us if we ever have been to the Garden of Eden. And the answer of course from my husband and I was no. We had never been up there before nor have I ever wanted to after coming down to Key West for over 15 years. However I was always a little bit curious. 

After a bit of convincing from the ladies we decided why not? It’s Fantasy Fest so we were going to see a lot more things going on throughout the week. We saddled up our tab with Ramsey and walked down Duval to the Garden of Eden. I noticed that there were definitely more people walking around then earlier. Also I started to see people with body paint, some with costumes on, and some with not so much on.

We made it to the Garden of Eden and started walking up the stairs. I kept thinking to myself, I can’t believe I am doing this. I have no idea what to expect. Thankfully I had a few cups of courage in me so I wasn’t going to stop now. We walked all the way up to the top roof of the Bull. It was a whirlwind of what I saw. There a mix of both men and women hanging out at the bar and standing around. Some were clothed and some were not. I kept trying not to stare and look else where. The view of the town up top was actually really impressive. You can’t take pictures there for obvious reasons. After the initial shock we got a couple of drinks. We stayed long enough for just one drink before walking back down the stairs, and no, none of us disrobed at the Garden of Eden. At least now I can say been there seen that, or should I say unseen that. 

There was a couple of guys playing music down at the Bull that sounded pretty good. We grabbed a couple of seats at the bar and talked about what we just experienced. We couldn’t stop laughing. We were having such a great time, but I knew that we should probably head back to the Gardens and relax for a bit before freshening up for dinner.

Sadly Kristen and Mo were leaving the following day but suggested that they could join us for breakfast the next morning. I suggested Bagatelle’s since it was sort of in the middle of where they were staying and where we were staying. We said our goodbye’s and thanked them for a great time.

On our way back to the Garden’s I wanted to stop by Margaritaville. Kai, Zack Seemiller’s son recently started working there. As we walked by, there he was. I knew he was busy working, but wanted to say hello and get a quick picture with him. I told him that we plan on having breakfast with him and his dad on Tuesday if we didn’t get to see him again before then.

We made it back to the Gardens and their Sunday Jazz was in full swing. I completely forgot about it and wanted to listen to the music before going back out to dinner. While we were grabbing a few drinks at the bar, I noticed Kate, the owner of the Gardens. I walked on over and said hello. She is always so sweet and pleasant. Of course I had to get a picture with her and her little dog. She welcomed my husband and I back to the Gardens like she always does when we get the opportunity to run into her.

It was getting close to our reservation that we didn’t have time to change or freshen up. Thank goodness most of Key West has a casual dress code for dinner. We had to hustle down Simonton St. to the Bight. We were a little late to Bel Mare, but it wasn’t too busy so honestly we probably didn’t need a dinner reservation.

We were seated near the window and the sun was setting. The view was nice of the boats in the dock below. 

Our server was a young girl in training but she did a fantastic job. I (for some reason) was craving caesar salad throughout this trip so I ordered the caesar salad. Plus Bel Mare is an Italian restaurant which tend to have very good caesar salads.

My husband ordered the carne cruda, which was a filet of rare beef tenderloin served over a bed of arugula and cherry tomatoes, served with a grapeseed oil and soy dressing. I normally do not eat red meat, but it looked so good that I tried a piece and it was so tender and flavorful.

For dinner I had the Chef’s special piccata, which was wahoo. 

My husband had the pappardelle with Key West pink shrimp. Everything was outstanding and really enjoyed trying Bel Mare. We tend to stay away from Italian restaurants on vacation (being from NJ there is an Italian restaurant on practically every corner). However after having dinner there, I would make that exception again to return when we come back.

You can read my review here:

We were both too full to have dessert so we walked off our dinner back to the Gardens to turn in. It was a long and interesting day to say the least. 

Monday – Oct. 25 – Bagatelle’s, Hogsbreath, Boathouse

I We woke up to another overcast sky, but didn’t mind too much since it kept the heat down while walking around. After a quick shower we went down to Cuban Coffee Queen for coffee before walking down Duval to Bagatelle’s.

The streets were oddly quiet. The thing I realized during Fantasy Fest, most of the participating crowd stayed out late making the mornings quiet. In a way it was great because we never had to wait to be seated at breakfast like back in July. 

We made it to Bagatelle’s and walked up the stairs to see the hostess.  She asked us where we would like to be seated, but my husband wanted to sit at the back bar outside. So that is where we wound up. It was fine, especially being that we were expecting two more people to join us. I did get a text from Mo that they would be a little later so we wound up ordering ahead. I ordered the southern eggs benedict with pulled pork and my husband ordered the regular standard two egg breakfast. 

While we were waiting for our breakfast we saw Mo and Kristen walk in. They didn’t see us so I got up and showed them that we were sitting in the back. It was nice to see them before they had to leave. They sat at the bar with us and ordered a couple of drinks. We started talking about yesterdays events. Then our food came out. All I have to say, whomever came up with the combination of using pulled pork and grilled corn bread to replace the usual country ham and english muffins is a genius. It was delicious. Unfortunately though, very filling so I couldn’t finish it. Mo and Kristen weren’t hungry so we tried to figure out where to go next. They usually go to Sloppy Joe’s for their final drink, but being it was getting late Mo thought it would be too crowded. (Thank goodness because I really didn’t feel like going there.)

Then I mentioned that our friend Zack Seemiller will be playing soon at Hogsbreath which is literally across the street. So it was decided that that’s where are next stop would be. It was just before noon so I was hoping for good seats at the bar, but of course when we walked over they were already taken. There were seats open at the raw bar so we sat there. We ordered a round and after a few minutes the seats at the regular bar opened up. I was so excited that I made everyone move. No one seemed to mind, plus I wanted to see Stephanie who was bartending at that bar instead of the guy at the Raw Bar.  

Soon Zack showed up and we spent the afternoon having a great time between listening to the music and talking to Mo and Kristen. Unfortunately Kristen did have to leave since her flight was in the afternoon. We said good our goodbyes and wished her safe travels.

I also reached out to a friend of Zack’s, Zoltan who I recently did some artwork for several weeks prior. Instead of paying me through Paypal, I thought it would just be easier to do in person since we were coming down within a few weeks. He agreed to meet me at Hogsbreath. It was nice to meet him in person and he was able to hang out and talk to my husband and I for a little bit. And ironically it was his birthday.

Once Zack was done I had to make sure I get my usual picture with him.

After Zack’s show, Mo suggested that we should go to the Boathouse. Yes the Boathouse finally opened up in the old Turtle Kraal location. We walked in and the bar was packed. We were fortune it enough though to find a couple of open seats at the bar. And as a side note I don’t think the one bartender was wearing anything under her little skirt.

Mo and my husband ordered a bunch appetizers to share but I still wasn’t hungry after eating the benedict earlier. The food did look great however. Then it was the time that Mo had to leave and catch her flight back to Tampa. I always hate saying goodbye to friends you just met and also ones you have known for years. We told her we would stay and touch. 

I didn’t have anything else planned that evening so we walked back down to the Gardens to wind down and relax. We saw Phil was still bartending at the Garden’s bar so we sat down. Julie was there again so we talked to her again for a little bit before calling it a night. She told us that her husband Brent was flying down the next day and that we had to meet him. 

Tuesday – Oct. 26 – Breakfast Club Too, Smokin’ Tuna, Ramhead’s Southernmost

Finally we woke up to a gorgeous sunny day. It definitely made it warmer but I it felt great. I knew that once we get back home to NJ, winter is on its way so any warm/hot day is better then a cold/snowy one. We made tentative plans to meet Zack and his son Kai at Breakfast Club Too for breakfast. After a couple of quick showers, we made our first stop at Cuban Coffee Queen and then walked down Simonton. Again the streets were pretty quiet.

We walked into Breakfast Club Too to wait for them. We didn’t wait too long and soon Zack and Kai showed up. We were seated right away since it wasn’t crowded at all. It was a nice morning talking and catching up. 

We thanked Zack for breakfast and walked back to the Gardens to relax for a little while. Zack was playing later that afternoon with Caffeine Carl at the Smokin’ Tuna. I remember we saw them play back in July and it was a nice change instead of seeing them play with band so I wanted to make it a point to stop in and see them. 

After relaxing for a bit on our porch at the Gardens we rallied up and walked down Simonton St. We figured since it was getting later in the day, Duval St. was probably getting more crowded. Shockingly (I know) we wound up walking down to the Galleon and back to the Sunset Tiki Bar. It just seems to be one of those places we gravitate towards. It is never gets crowded (besides for that swingers party) and it is so nice to sit there and look out onto the water.

I didn’t want to stay too long so we could catch Zack and Carl at the Tuna. So after a couple of drinks we walked down Duval. We both noticed a lot more people out and about. Many were dressed up or not dressed so to speak, but in body paint. Also I remembered that it was Tutu Tuesday, so obviously there were a lot of people wearing tutu’s. 

We made it to the Tuna and found a couple open seats at the bar. Zack and Carl were already playing, but after they were done with the song they were doing, Carl said hello and welcomed us back “home” which brought a smile to my face. During the show, we observed more and more  people walking in.

They were all dressed up for Fantasy Fest. I almost felt out of place wearing regular clothes. It was still fun enjoying the show. I did get a message from one of Zack’s friends that we became friends with as well, Wayne. We saw him briefly back in July. It turned out that he was going to be having dinner with his wife Karen at Ramshead Southernmost. So we told him that we would meet them later. When Zack and Carl were down with their show, I wanted to get my usual picture with them. And then I realized Carl was wearing a tutu too!

Also while we were enjoying them play, a gentlemen came up to us. He said he recognized us from my blog. He mentioned how much he enjoys it, I thought that was so nice.

We had some time before meeting Wayne and Karen so we walked back down Duval to the Gardens. When we walked passed the bar I heard a familiar  “hello Susan”. It was Kate, the owner. I wound up sitting down next to her and chatted for a bit I waited for my husband to freshen up. Then it was my turn to get ready. When I walked back down I saw my husband talking to Julie and her husband Brent, finally showed up. It was nice to finally meet him. We talked to them for a few and mentioned if they enjoy music to see our friend Zack and Caffeine Carl play the following night at the Tuna. They were interested and we made plans that we would meet up with them.

It was nearing the time to meet Wayne and Karen at Ramshead so I headed down towards Ramshead while my husband finished talking to Julie and Brent and also squared up the bill with Phil.

I walked in and saw that Wayne and Karen were sitting at a table towards the front. Zack was also playing so it was fun to see him again. Soon my husband showed up as well. Wayne and Karen recently completed their newly built home up the Keys. It was  nice to hear about how they were adjusting to life in the Keys coming from New York. We had a pleasant evening talking to them and the good thing about where Ramshead is located, it was very subdude as far as Fantasy Fest people. Actually when Zack finished his show, the place cleared out. I think we were the only table left at the place. Wayne and Karen had to drive back up the Keys so we said good night and that we would catch up again when we hopefully return in several months. 

On our way back to the Gardens my husband stopped and suggested that we grab a slice a pizza. I realized that neither of us had eaten anything since breakfast. We each had a slice and realized that one slice wasn’t going to be enough. My husband ordered a few more slices for us to take back to the room. 

We walked back to our room and I devoured 2 more slices of pizza. While I was devouring the pizza, we heard two familiar voices walking up the stairs and it was Brent and Julie. They were returning from dinner and as I mentioned earlier their room was around the corner from ours. As a result, we hung out for a little bit talking and telling each other about what we did that day. 

I was getting tired, mostly likely from eating all that pizza so I called it a night. I am not sure how much later my husband hung out with them but I feel asleep right away.

Wednesday – Oct. 26 – The Lighthouse, Willie T’s, and a Night Out & About

It was another beautiful morning. I was still feeling all that pizza I ate the night before, so I wanted to go somewhere for breakfast that had a decent walk. Then I thought of Azur. After grabbing our cuban coffee queen coffees, we walked down to Azur. It is one of those out of the way places but always has consistently good food.

We walked and chose to sit inside instead of outside. It was a pleasant and quiet way to start the day being the only two in the room. My husband ordered the all american standard breakfast as usual, but I went out of the box and ordered a chicken caesar salad. It sounds weird, but Azur offers lunch options as well for breakfast. I guess they consider it brunch everyday starting at 9am. I was tired of eggs every morning that it surprisingly tasted quite good for breakfast. When we were finished with breakfast I suggested that we walk down to the lighthouse. I always curious about checking it out. The lighthouse is located right across the street from the Hemingway House and close to the Moondog Cafe.

We walked down Whitehead Street and there it was. I noticed a few people were already up the lighthouse. It was $17 per person but agreed that it was something different to do. Once we paid the elderly man at the window we walked towards the lighthouse. There was a sign that said it was 88 steps to get up and thought no problem. 

We began the climb up the spiral staircase, but we started to hear people coming down the stairs. And there was not much room for two people to pass on this spiral staircase. I was getting a little apprehensive as they neared. We were able to maneuver where the couple stayed towards the inside of the stairs and we stayed towards the outside. Eventually they were able to get by us. 

Of course several more turns up the stairs there was a platform for people to pass one another. All well, we made it all the way up to the top. We walked out to the balcony and it was so narrow. If someone was standing on one side, it was hard to pass behind them. For some reason I started to feel uncomfortable. I basically took a few pictures (afraid I was going to drop my phone down below) and had enough. I normally don’t have any issues being up high, but I think it was because the area was so small. It was beautiful don’t get me wrong and I was glad that we did give it try.

We made it back down to ground level and took few picture before checking out the little museum which was the old keeper’s quarters. It was really interesting to read the history of the lighthouse and how important they were to the Keys.  

We left the lighthouse and started walking down Whitehead Street and noticed our legs were a bit fatigued from walking up and down the stairs. I was caught of guard because I run 4 miles a day, but we were probably using different muscles in our legs that we were used to going up and down those stairs.

In the mood for a cold beverage, we stopped Mary Ellen’s for one. Last time we were there we couldn’t get a seat at the bar. This time there was just two other people in there. I do have to say if you are hot from walking around and need a place to cool off, this is the place. At first it feels good, but after a while it’s a bit much (for me). I was getting cold and couldn’t even finish my beer before we headed back out. 

Zack was playing at Willie T’s later on so I wanted to be sure we would see him. We wound up going back to the Gardens to relax for a bit before going back out to Willie T’s.

We walked into Willie T’s and it was pretty busy. I wanted to sit at a table but the one that was available was right in the sun so we grabbed a couple of seats at the bar. I noticed the servers were dressed up and a few patrons, but it wasn’t too crazy. 

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

We were such a good time, that we stayed to see John LaMere after Zack. My husband ordered a couple of appetizers for us. We couldn’t stay too long because we were planning on seeing Zack and Caffeine Carl at the Tuna with Brent and Julie that night. Before getting into too much trouble, we said goodbye to John and walked back down to the Gardens to regroup.

Feeling recharged after freshening up we grabbed a couple of seats at the Gardens Bar. Not before long, we see Brent and Julie. They were ready to go. I was excited for them to see Zack and Carl. We walked down Duval St. and it was starting to get crazy and crowded. 

It was around 8pm, but we figured if we arrived at the Tuna early we could get good seats. Well I was wrong. We walked down to the Tuna and noticed a lot of people dressed up standing outside. I walked in and the place was mobbed. And then there was some kind of event going on. Then I remembered reading that there was a homemade bikini contest of some sort going on at the Tuna that night that I completely forgot about. I reached out to Zack and Carl and they said they had no idea when they would be going on. I thought this is just great. 

Then my husband remembered he reached out to Gabriel Wright earlier that day to see when he was playing, and suggested going to Captain Tony’s to see him play. So we left the Tuna and walked to Captain Tony’s. However, it was the same thing. Mobs of people standing outside. I walked in just to see what was going on and the guy at the door said it was open to everyone. I ran back outside and told my husband that we could go in since it’s not a private event. 

So we walked in and saw the area that normally has the pool tables had several tables in their place. Luckily there was one available for us to grab, because the bar area was crazy. We sat down amongst the craziness. While my husband went to get us a round, I walked up to say hello to Gabriel. His wife who was also there filming his show.

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

Gabriel as usual played a couple of songs that my husband and I always request him to play. We stayed for a few before heading back out since his show was coming to an end. I was glad we were able to catch him, since the next time he was playing at Captain Tony’s was on Saturday and that’s when we were leaving.

We made it back onto to Duval and it was crazier then before. I don’t know if it was less people then normal or not for Fantasy Fest, but I had nothing to compare it too since we had never been had experienced it before. After a while seeing all these people, you almost get used to it. No one bothers you and everyone is having a good time.