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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrating July 4th in Key West 6.30.18 – 7.7.18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_3338My husband just read on the porch and I started to work on my blog. Around 11:00am Zack showed up and we were ready for the Zack tour of the Keys! I was so excited!! IMG_3342Our first stop was Five Brothers for a cup of coffee and few bottles of water. Soon we were on our way up the Keys. Before we got on A1A, Zack drove us around a few back roads telling us some stories which was really interesting. IMG_3348

We made it onto A1A and it was so cool to see the water surrounding the road. Our next stop was Baby’s Coffee. Zack told us how much they did for locals during hurricane Irma. We walked in and Zack got a bag of coffee for us to take back home with us. Then we drove up to Geiger Key and drove around. It was pretty interesting to see how quiet and beautiful it was out that way as compared to Key West. There was only one way in and one way out off of A1A. IMG_3350The next stop was Boca Chica where the Naval Air Station is located to see where their training. We got out of the van and walked around just for a few minutes. IMG_3349.jpgThere was a lot of seaweed washed up on the small beach so the smell was not very pleasant. IMG_3356

The next stop was Stock Island. IMG_3357Zack first took us to the new part of the marina, called Stock Island Marina Village and then over to where Hogfish Bar and Grill was. We walked around the pier for a few and it was intriguing. He referred it to what Key West looked like and felt like years ago – the old Key West. IMG_3358Then it was time to grab a bite to eat. IMG_3359I ordered the fried hogfish tacos and my husband had the fried hogfish and chips. The hogfish was really good. IMG_3365I wanted to try the sandwich but wasn’t too sure how I would like the fish with swiss cheese and mushrooms. I am not a huge fan of cheese and fish together.

IMG_3367Soon it was time to get back to Key West. We then had one last stop that Zack wanted to show us, the Casa Marina Resort where he just played with his son on the 4th of July. We parked and walked into the lobby. The place was impressive. I couldn’t believe how big it was. IMG_3370It was gorgeous, but to me it didn’t feel like Key West. It felt like it could be a resort anywhere in the Caribbean. Don’t get me wrong it was beautiful, but would rather stay at a place such as the Gardens where you get the true feel of Key West. IMG_3368

It was getting close to the time when Zack was going to play at Willie T’s so he dropped us off and we thanked him again for taking us out. IMG_3371

After regrouping at the Gardens, we walked back down to the Blue Macaw for a drink. There was some guy playing but it wasn’t the type of music that was enjoyable to me. He almost sounded like he should have been playing on a cruise ship or some cocktail lounge. We only stayed for a drink and unfortunately just when we were leaving Nick Norman was getting ready to start the next music shift. I wanted to make sure we made it back to Willie T’s so we couldn’t stay.

IMG_3372We walked towards the Green Parrot. We decided to stop in for a drink since we hadn’t gone in yet. The place was a bit more crowded then usual but we were able to find two seats at the bar.

We sat for a drink and wound up meeting a younger couple from Florida. It was funny because they asked if we were local. I guess after being in Key West for 19 times, people think you are – maybe it’s just the vibe we give. It was their first time in Key West so we were recommending places that they should go to. We told them to enjoy their trip and made our way to Willie T’s. It was crowded but again we were able to get a couple seats. IMG_3374

We stayed until the end and saw that John LaMere had returned and we wanted to catch a couple songs. IMG_3377Once Zack and Kai were done we said our good byes and told John that we would be back. We went back to the Gardens to freshen up again and tried to decide where to go for dinner.

We walked back to Willie T’s and stayed for a drink. IMG_3378We were both hungry again so we left Willie T’s and walked down Duval once again. We were thinking about the Roof Top but wanted to try something new. Their food is always good, but they haven’t changed their menu in a while. I remembered seeing on TripAdvisor that the Red Fish Blue Fish had decent reviews.

IMG_3380We walked in and sat at the bar. We ordered a couple of drinks. The bartender was friendly but she was really slow. We were ready to order, but a bunch of people kept walking in to order drinks to go. At this point I thought maybe we made a wrong decision?

IMG_3382After a while she was finally able to take our order. For an appetizer we shared the fried calamari which was decent. Then for dinner I decided to go with the fried whole snapper and my husband ordered the sirloin. We didn’t have to wait very long for our entrees to come out considering how long we had to wait to order. The fish looked better then it tasted. I think it was fried too long because it was pretty try and didn’t have much flavor. I tried some of the mango beurre blanc sauce that was served on the side, but that didn’t add much to the dish. My husband’s sirloin was just okay. All and all I probably wouldn’t go back there, but now I can at least say we tried. IMG_3384

It was getting to be about that time to go back to the Tuna and catch Carl for a bit. It was technically our last night where we could stay up late and not have to worry about getting ready to leave the next day and pack up our things.

IMG_3385We walked in and Joal Rush was finishing his set. Not before long Carl was back on stage. Kai, Zack’s son, also stopped by to catch Carl. IMG_3386It wound up being an interesting evening because the lights kept going out. Eventually they got everything back up and running and we had a great time listening to Carl play. IMG_3405And it is always nice to see his wife Erin behind the bar who always takes care of us. IMG_3396Time flew by and we realized it was getting pretty late. IMG_3406We headed out probably around midnight or so and walked back to the Gardens.

Friday, July 6th – Last Full DayIMG_3438We wound up sleeping in for a bit since we didn’t have any plans for our last full day. Where did the time go? The week began at a nice and relaxing pace, but before I knew it, we were leaving the next day. We got up and made our first usual stop at Cuban Coffee Queen. We chatted with Joe for a bit and he suggested Bagatelle’s for breakfast. We had not been there for a while decided to give it a try again.

IMG_3414We walked in and it was nice and quiet. We sat outside on the porch which is always great for people watching. Our server was very attentive and friendly. I ordered a mimosa and my husband ordered a screwdriver. IMG_3410I decided to go with the huervos rancheros and my husband had the regular breakfast of two eggs with a few sides. It didn’t take long before our breakfast was served and it was really good. After the dinner from the night before it was a relief that we made the right decision for breakfast. IMG_3437

After breakfast we went back to the Gardens and relaxed on the porch for a bit. I knew Zack was playing at Ricks at noon but had to wait until after 1:00pm in order to check in for our flight home on United. I didn’t want to wait until later on and wind up forgetting to do so.

I also took the time to make sure everything was packed and ready to go. You think by now I would be so used to it, but it always makes me sad to do every time. That’s the one thing with vacations, you get that great high when you arrive at your destination and then you get that low when you know it is ending. Finally 1:00pm came along and I was able to check us in using the computer at the Gardens. Once I printed out our boarding passes it was time to go see Zack for one last show. IMG_3423We walked down Duval and saw that our favorite outside seats at Rick’s were available. We waved at Zack and sat down and listened to him for a while. During his show I guess another fan of Zack’s, came up to me. She recognized that I was with one that works on all the ads with Zack. She wanted to meet me and complimented my work which I thought was really sweet.

Then I got in touch with Zack’s son Kai and he was able to come by and hang with us for a bit. The afternoon seemed to fly by and before I knew it, Zack’s show was over. When he was packing up another gentlemen came up to me and complimented my work as well. It totally made my day having two people come up to me.

IMG_3427-copySoon it was time to make our next move. We said goodbye again to Zack and Kai and hoped to meet up later that night. My husband and I were needed a quick bite to eat so we walked back to First Flight and sat down at one of the high top tables near the bar. We ordered a couple Moscow Mules and that probably wasn’t the best decision. They are very good, but strong. IMG_3430We ordered a basket of fries that was served with an amazing tasty cajun aioli. I getting really hot sitting there because the sun was beating down on me. It got to the point that we had to leave and get back to the Gardens to cool off with a shower. I knew i was overheating at that point. IMG_3434We walked back and freshened up again. I felt so much better and rejuvenated in a way. Before going to dinner we sat down at the bar at the Gardens. We saw a couple sitting there and we started chatting. It turned out they were from Austria. They were so friendly and nice. They had not been to Key West before, so we were telling them places to go. The husband was in a band so of course we suggested for them to go see Caffeine Carl at the Tuna that night. We said that we would hopefully meet them out later depending on how we felt.

IMG_3446For dinner, we heard from several locals that the old Mcconnell’s Irish Pub And Grill closed and a new placed opened up in its place called the Old Towne Tavern and the chef formally worked at Blue Heaven. We walked in and grabbed two seats at the bar. (As a side note, my husband tends to prefer sitting at the bar vs. a table. I used to be a table person but now I am so used to it that I prefer it as well. We looked over the menu and the first thing that intrigued us was their pork belly appetizer. I wasn’t starving so I decided to have their superfood salad which consisted of kale, mixed greens, quinoa, beets, almonds, citrus, sprouts, orange beets vinaigrette. I think I was craving something healthy. My husband decided to go with the shrimp scampi flatbread.

 

 

 

 

 

The pork belly came out and it was delicious. I have had pork belly before, but this one was probably one of the best I have tasted. The ratio of fat and meat was perfect and it was light and crispy – not chewy at all.

The salad I ordered was nice and refreshening – just what I needed. My husband’s flatbread looked great and he said it was delicious. I actually snagged a couple pieces of shrimp off the flatbread. It was really good. https://tinyurl.com/y9qoj8ef

We finished our orders, and then we walked back on Duval and then I saw these two ‘ladies’ I had to take a picture of. They were hilarious. IMG_3452

We were debating about going back to the Tuna again. We realized we didn’t have to be at the airport until 11:30am and that we could still sleep in a bit. IMG_3453So of course it was decided that we would return once again to the Tuna. It was pretty crowded this time, being it was a Friday night. IMG_3456We had to wait a few minutes, but finally a couple of people left where we were able to get a couple of seats. Not before long I saw Zack’s son Kai again. He sat down and we were able to chat for a bit before Carl went on. While we were talking, a fellow TripAdvisor Forumite came up to me. It turned out to be FLBoy22 who recognized me from my blog. I thought it was so funny that he recognized both myself and my husband. It was a pleasure meeting him. IMG_3457Once Carl started to play we saw two people walk in and it was the couple from Austria. They spotted us and we were able to find a spot to hang out and listen to Carl. As we were sitting there I looked over and then I saw Zack. I couldn’t believe he showed up! I was so excited to see him!! IMG_3459I walked over and we were able to talk for a little bit, but it was loud and crowded. He didn’t stay too long, but it still made my night. We were going to meet the next morning to for breakfast before we had to go to the airport. The couple from Austria wound up leaving before us and so did Kai.

Once again it was getting late and we needed get back to the hotel. My husband was going to ask for the tab, but it turned out the couple from Austria paid for it. We couldn’t believe it. They were such. nice people and they didn’t have to do that. We did finally made it back to the Gardens.

Saturday, July 7th – Leaving Key West and Returning Home IMG_3460We eventually woke up around 9:00am and packed up the rest of our things. I walked into the office at the Gardens to let Jim know we needed a taxi for 11:30am to take us to the airport. I also had him reserve our return stay next year, I figured that was the best way to lessen the sadness of leaving Key West.

IMG_3461I got a hold of Zack and we decided to meet up at Sarabeth’s since it wasn’t too far from the Gardens. We were able to get a table inside which was much needed because it was another hot day. Kai also joined us for breakfast. We all kind of joked about the mugs that the coffee is served in. They are huge and take up a lot of the table and since they are so large, the coffee doesn’t stay hot that long – not sure why they serve coffee that way. We had a great time just talking for a bit. I didn’t eat too much of my breakfast because I was really sad. I always find it hard to eat the day we are leaving.

 

 

Soon it was that dreaded time to say our good byes to Zack and Kai, who are such great people and friends. I thanked Zack for everything and told them we would see them next year which seems like so far away. IMG_2941We walked back to the Gardens to grab our luggage. Right before we were leaving we saw the couple from Austria again. We thanked them for their nice gesture, and told them to have a great rest of their vacation. The taxi showed up right on time. It turned out the driver used to work at M&M Mars which is located right in the town where my husband’s auto repair shop is located (and he works on cars as well from M&M’s). We thought how ironic is that? She was really nice and made the ride back to the airport nice and pleasant.

 

Since we already had our boarding passes printed, we walked right through security which is always so quick and easy in Key West. We walked in and saw the couple from upstate New York, Lisa and Rick. They were getting ready to board so it was a quick goodbye.

We didn’t have to wait to long to board our flight. Soon it was that time to walk out to the United plane, which for some reason is always parked so far away from the terminal. It was at that point I realized I was leaving my happy place and started to get upset.

Not before long we took off and we were on our way back to Newark, NJ. The flight was a quick 2 and half hour direct flight. We actually landed a little earlier then expected, around 3:30pm. Once we landed we found our car service driver to take us back home. At around 5:00 pm we were walking in our house. The weather was just so beautiful though so it made the return easier.

I was sad but it is always nice to get back home – getting back to work on the other hand… not so much. All and all this was probably one of the most fun trips I have had in Key West. We did a lot of things that I didn’t expect and tried new places. As always, Key West always brings a smile to my face and happiness to my heart – with such amazing people we have met that have become such great friends. This is why we keep going back to Key West. There’s no other place like it. IMG_3110bUntil next time…. thank you for taking the time to read my blog!

 

 

A Whole Lot of Fun & Sun in Key West – March 31st – April 7th, 2018

IMG_2314Once again we were making our way back to Key West. On our way to the airport I had to think back to myself how many times have we been to Key West since 2006? I couldn’t believe it when I counted 18 times! And this time we were lucky enough to spend a Saturday to Saturday stay in Key West. After getting the chance to visit Key West 3 times last year, I thought that I wouldn’t be as excited to return. However, that wasn’t the case. It seems as though every time we come down to visit, it gets harder and harder to leave.

Saturday, March 31st – Arrival Day

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We woke up to a clear morning which was a relief since we have been hit with a lot of late snow storms for the month of March. We got to Newark airport and being that we have TSA Pre now check in through security was a breeze. My husband and I did notice though there are a lot of people that have it now so the lines were long but they moved through security very quickly as compared to the regular line. Our direct flight on United wasn’t scheduled to leave until 8:55am so we had some time to check into the lounge. I was starting to get more and more excited just knowing we were leaving cold NJ behind and headed to one of the places I truly love, Key West.

Soon it was time to get to the gate and board our flight. Unfortunately we had to wait a while before we took off since there was so much traffic at the airport. IMG_1956Eventually we departed and we actually made up some time in the air. It seemed like forever to me, but then I finally started to see Key West come into sight once again. IMG_1957I was just so happy! I was also thinking how a great friend of mine, Zack Seemiller, who I have been doing graphic design work for several years now, had not idea we were coming down for the week. I wanted to surprise him like I have done in the past. IMG_1960Once we landed and got off the plane, it felt so amazing to feel the warm sunshine beaming down on us. My husband and I had carry-on luggage so we were able to get off the plane right away and grab one of the first taxis available. I always love the ride along A1A towards old town. I don’t mind it so much on the way back to the airport, but the way there brings a smile to face. Not before long, I saw the yellow wall that surrounds the Gardens Hotel. We have been staying there every time we come to Key West. As an added bonus I redid their logo a couple years ago and now you can see it everywhere throughout the hotel which is so gratifying. https://tinyurl.com/yc2354mjIMG_2311Surprisingly our room was ready and we were able to unpack all our things. IMG_1961We immediately got out of our winter clothes and changed into our warm weather clothes which is one of the best feelings. We left the hotel and walked down towards to Duval Street. My husband and I always joke about how we look forward to that first step onto Duval and turning right. IMG_1966We used to always to stop at Willie T’s for our first drink, but it was a bit too crowded. So we continued our way down to Duval and just took in all the sights again. It was good to be back “home”. As we were walking we realized that one our friends Al was working at Sunset Pier that day. Since it was such a beautiful day I thought it was the perfect spot to grab our first drink and look at the water. We walked in and saw Al and said hello. He welcomed us back and brought us out a couple of mojitos for us. Finally the reality of being back to Key West was settling in. It was a great feeling. IMG_1969We had more people to see, so we didn’t stay too long. IMG_1972Our next stop was Captain Tony’s to see our friend Gabriel Wright play. We walked in and he gave us his usual nod hello. It was a bit crowded, but we were able to find a couple of bar seats. IMG_1974We each ordered a couple of beers and listened to Gabriel play for a bit. Time was passing by kind of quickly and I noticed it was nearing 3pm and I knew Zack was only playing at Rick’s until 4. My husband paid the tab and we walked back onto Duval. As we walked into Rick’s, Zack immediately recognized my husband and not me. He blew the surprise! I was a bit disappointed, but it was all good – it was great to see him again! IMG_1977He had another show after Rick’s, so once he was done playing he couldn’t stay long. He did mentioned that he was going to be working on his house the next day and to swing by. IMG_1980When we left Rick’s we noticed that the old Lazy Gecko is now called Duval Central. The outside facade looks the same, but we wanted to see what they did with the inside. Once we walked in, the layout was similar as far as the bar being in the same location, but it is completely different as far as the look and feel. It was nice, but it could have been a place anywhere. The Lazy Gecko had that old Key West feel. We did sit down and had a drink and noticed that it is now smoke free which may be ideal for people getting away from the cigarette smoke at the other bars. IMG_1986We didn’t have dinner reservations at Deuce’s Off the Hook until 7pm, so we had a chance to have a cocktail at the Garden’s bar. IMG_1984Jim, the general manager was there so it gave us a chance to talk to him for a few. It was then time to get freshened up for our dinner reservation. Deuce’s is literally right behind the Gardens Hotel so it doesn’t take much time to get there, which makes it an ideal place to have dinner on our first night. IMG_1988

We walked on over and didn’t have to wait too long to be seated. They gave us a table right next to the window. It was a nice table, but unfortunately right outside the window is where they have their menu displayed. So from time to time, people would walk by and then stare right into the restaurant. It was a bit awkward, but the food made up for it. I ordered a dozen oysters while my husband ordered the grouper ceviche. Then for dinner I had the hogfish special and my husband had a burger. As usual, everything at Deuce’s was delicious. https://tinyurl.com/y7xymfsq

We were getting tired, but I knew that Caffeine Carl was playing at the Smokin’ Tuna that night and wanted to pop in for a quick listen before calling it a night. We walked back down Duval and being it was indeed a Saturday night, it was packed. After maneuvering our way down the street, we walked into the Tuna. Our favorite seats were taken on the one side of the bar, but were able to find a couple of seats on the other side. The first act was finishing up, so we stayed a bit longer then intended, waiting for Carl to come. It also gave us a chance to say hello to Erin, Carl’s wife who bar tends there. She always takes great care of us. Eventually Carl came on and it was a lot of fun! IMG_2005We finally made it back to the Gardens and it was time for much needed sleep.

Sunday, April 1st – Easter Sunday IMG_2071
We woke up to a beautiful day. I was so happy that the weather was cooperating because I made reservations to have Easter Brunch at Latitude’s. We had not been to Latitude’s for several years and I wanted to go back. I didn’t want to spend the money for dinner, so I thought having brunch was a better alternative. IMG_2011Our morning routine was after freshening up was to grab a couple of coffees at Cuban Coffee Queen. IMG_2014I love their coffee there – especially their Cuban American blend. I love it so much that I order it online and have it shipped home. IMG_2015 We walked over the location right off Duval and saw a familiar face, Joe! We met Joe a couple years ago at the Galleon. It was nice to see him. We sat down and talked to him before we had to make our way to the Margaritaville Resort (formerly the Westin) to catch the ferry to Sunset Key.

IMG_2016We walked down to where the ferry was docked. IMG_2019The majority of people sat on the outside part of the boat, but we opted to sit in the cool air conditioned part. Even though it is a small boat, the ride over is reminiscent (to me) of taking the ferry from St. Thomas to St. John. It only takes about 5-10 minutes to cross over to Sunset Key. Once we were docked, we walked over to be seated. I did request a table outside on the sand and we were seated at the perfect location. IMG_2024It was just so beautiful to sit out there and enjoy the view. It again, reminds me of being on a Caribbean island somewhere. IMG_2037IMG_2030My husband and I both ordered the lobster benedict. It was a little on the pricey side, but being it was Easter and on vacation why not? I am glad we did, because it was delicious. IMG_2029We also took a few pictures, thanks to our very nice server. IMG_2026It was a nice way to spend Easter brunch. IMG_2041

We took the ferry back and walked back down Duval Street to stop by and see our friend Miguel at Rick’s. As soon as we neared Rick’s, we saw his big smile. We ordered a couple of drinks while we caught up since the last time we were there back in late October/Early November of last year. It was fun to see him again. IMG_2043Then I remembered that Zack was working on his house and we told him we would stop by. So we finished our drinks and told Miguel that we would stop by and see him the next day. We made a quick stop at the Garden’s before walking down towards Zack’s house. It wasn’t that far of a walk. IMG_2059We walked in and also saw that Zack’s son, Kai was there and his friend Tim. It was fun to see them again. IMG_2053They showed us around and what they were working on. It looked like a lot of work, but I am sure once it is complete it will look great. IMG_2055We didn’t want to stay to long so that they could get back to work. Kai was playing sunset that night so I told him we would see him later. IMG_2062We left the house and started to make our way towards the Bight, at least that is what we thought. We wound walking all the way to Palm Ave. and realized we made a wrong turn. Eventually we found Eaton St. and we were able to get back on track. We were both pretty hot and thirsty at this point so we stopped at the Galleon Sunset Tiki Bar. http://www.galleonresort.com/sunset-tiki-bar-pirates-cove/IMG_2068We noticed that they did fix the pier and walk way that was damaged from Hurricane Irma since the last time we were there. It is such a great place to sit and have a cold drink with the view of the water. IMG_2067I am always surprised not more people know about it. I think people don’t realize it is open to the public. IMG_2069

It was getting later in the afternoon and I wanted to freshen up before we went to see Kai at sunset. IMG_2070We walked back to the Gardens and decided to have a light dinner at the Smokin’ Tuna before heading towards Mallory Square. We stopped in and our two favorite seats were available. We ordered a bunch of appetizers to share. I always enjoy their tuna fish dip. IMG_2074There was a singer there Kristen McNamara and she had a great voice – its another reason why we always enjoy stopping at the Smokin’ Tuna – always good music. https://www.smokintunasaloon.comIMG_2078

We walked down to Mallory Square and stopped by to see Jimmy. IMG_2079We also noticed that the bridge between Margaritaville and Mallory Square was also fixed. Luckily Mallory Square wasn’t too crowded (maybe because it was Easter), so we didn’t have to wait on line to order a couple of green things. IMG_2081We found where Kai was playing and listened to him while the sun was setting. IMG_2084It was a beautiful sunset even though it was partially going behind Sunset Key. IMG_2090We stayed for a bit before heading back to the Gardens Hotel. IMG_2100IMG_2102

While we were walking back I remembered seeing online that this band we saw back near our hometown a couple years ago, at a Crawfish Festival that happens every year, called Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes. http://www.crawfishfest.com We walked into the Green Parrot and noticed it wasn’t too crowded. IMG_2104Unfortunately they went on earlier and were done for the night. Just as well, it was time to pack it in for the night.

Monday, April 2nd – Blue Heaven, Captain Tony’s, Hogsbreath and back to the Tuna IMG_2112We woke up to another picture perfect day. We even caught Misha, who teaches a yoga class at the Gardens in the morning 3 times a week.  IMG_2113

I wanted to go back to Blue Heaven for breakfast. Usually our first morning in Key West we go there, but being the previous day was Easter we had to wait an extra day. However, our first stop was Cuban Coffee Queen. We saw Joe again and chatted for a few. He said that he wasn’t working that day and maybe we would hook up later. IMG_2115
We walked down through the Bahama Village to Blue Heaven. It was a Monday morning before 9am so I thought it wouldn’t be too crowded. When we walked in most of the tables were already filled. I was surprised, but we still made it in time where we didn’t have to wait for a table. IMG_2116Our server was very attentive so we didn’t weight long for our breakfast. My husband had the sausage benedict and I had a couple eggs with bacon and their multi grain bread. The breakfast was very good as always and even noticed that my husband’s eggs for the benedict were cooked perfectly. We have had previous experiences where the eggs tend to be underdone to both our liking, but this time everything was cooked spot on. IMG_2117

We walked back to the Gardens to relax for a bit. It was another beautiful day in Key West. Once we regrouped, we walked along towards the bight. We did not make it to the Schooner Wharf for a couple of our past visits, so we agreed to give it a try. IMG_2119We sat at the bar and I ordered a painkiller made with Cruzan rum which I prefer over Pusser’s. Disappointingly, it was not the right call. It was just too sweet and I couldn’t drink it. My husband had a beer and I realized that is what I should had ordered – all well. It was still nice to check out the Schooner Wharf and see the locals come and go and talk about what they did for Easter.

Once my husband finished his beer, we walked around a bit before checking out First Flight again, the old Kelly’s restaurant. IMG_2128I was curious to try their Key Lime Margarita. I noticed that the size of the drink was still on the smaller side as compared to how they used to be and the price was $12. IMG_2129I tried it and it was awful. I couldn’t pinpoint what it was but it just wasn’t right. At that price I persevered and finished the drink. It was a struggle but I managed to do it. At this point I was determined to stick with beer wherever the next place took us. Then I finally realized after the fact, there was NO lime/key lime juice in it! IMG_2130

Turned out the next place we went to was Captain Tony’s to see Gabriel Wright again. We sat down at a couple of the bar stools. I ordered a corona light and that seemed to be just the ticket. He played a couple of our requests which is always fun and talked to him for a few when he went on break. IMG_2134While we were hanging out, a familiar face walked in, it was Joe! We thought it was funny that we actually did run into him.

I knew that Zack was playing at Hog’s Breath, so I wanted to be sure to see him play again. We told Joe where we were headed and he wound up going with us to Hog’s Breath. Gabriel mentioned he was playing there as well the following day, so we made sure would stop by then to see him again. IMG_2151

We walked in and  a couple seats opened up. We sat down and ordered a few beers. I then saw to the side of me Zack’s friend Tim from the day before. I didn’t realize he was there but he moved over and we talked for a bit. Zack’s son Kai was also playing with him as well. IMG_2142It was a fun afternoon listening to them play and hanging out with everyone. IMG_2139Hog’s Breath never used to be one of my favorite places to go to, but with great music and friends – it is a lot of fun. After Zack and Kai finished their show, I had to get the obligatory photos with them before they left. IMG_2138And another… IMG_2137I mentioned to Zack and Tim that maybe we could meet up the next morning for breakfast. I remembered that there is this new restaurant called the Breakfast Club Too that used to be at the old Chicago’s location that maybe we could check out. So we made tentative plans and headed out. IMG_2158

We had every intention to go back to the Gardens hotel to freshen up for dinner, but then we saw Miguel once again at Rick’s. We had to stop by and see him again. IMG_2165

It was getting later and we knew we had make our move back, otherwise we would most likely not make it back out. IMG_2161So we left Rick’s and finally made it to the Gardens. IMG_2171I checked the Smokin’ Tuna schedule and saw that Caffeine Carl was playing again. IMG_2175Due to the fact that the Tuna is one of our favorite places, we didn’t hesitate to go back again for some food and music. IMG_2178We probably should have just stayed at the Gardens and/or found a quiet place to grab something to eat, but we stayed because we were having a lot of fun and even Kai stopped by to say hello. IMG_2185I think we overstayed my window, because I was getting really tired. We said our goodbyes and walked down Charles St. to Duval and my husband suggested that we should take a cab back. It was a good idea because I couldn’t see myself trying to dodge all the people on Duval to get to the hotel.

Tuesday, April 2nd – The Breakfast Club Too, No Sunset Sail and Berlin’s IMG_2186

Once again we woke up to another beautiful day in Key West. I couldn’t believe how lucky we were so far with the weather. We have been visiting for years and would always get at least one day with overcast, showers and/or just cold and breezy. So far each day was perfect. IMG_2114

We freshened up and did our usual stop at Cuban Coffee Queen. We thought we would run into Joe, but not that morning. After we got our two cuban americans we walked down towards the Bight, since we had some time to kill before meeting up with Zack, Tim and Kai for breakfast. IMG_2190I love just walking around the Bight and seeing all the boats getting ready to out for the day. IMG_2064We were on schedule to go out with our friend Billy for sunset. I reached out to him and he reassured me that we were good to go, but that a friend of his was borrowing his boat for the day, but would have it back in time for our trip. He said he would pick us up at the hotel around 5pm, which was perfect for us. IMG_2194We then walked over to The Breakfast Club Too. It looked really inviting from the outside. We walked in and we were the first to arrive. IMG_2195We told the hostess that we would just grab a seat at the bar and wait for them. The atmosphere of the restaurant is impressive. I never was in it when it was Chicagos but it is a decent size place. Once everyone else arrived we were seated at a table near the outside part of the restaurant. It was a fun morning just hanging out and eating a good breakfast. IMG_2196Everyone enjoyed what they ordered. I would definitely recommend checking out this place. https://tinyurl.com/ybjb8y4d

Tim was leaving Key West later on that day, so we said goodbye to him, but Zack and Kai were playing at Willie T’s later and told them that we would see them both later on. We thanked Zack for breakfast and walked around for a bit. IMG_2206On a side note: I recently just got a FitBit and could see how far we would walk each day. We would probably average between 5 and 6 miles a day, sometimes more. IMG_2204Feeling the sun coming down, we were both getting thirsty. We remembered that Al was working again at the Sunset Pier so we stopped down there to see him. It was perfect early afternoon to sit and enjoy the views from Sunset Pier.

Our next stop took us back to Hog’s Breath to see Gabriel once again. He was just getting setup so we were able to find a couple of seats. IMG_2209While we were listening to him, I noticed a couple sat down next to my husband. They started talking and noticed it was getting later in the afternoon. That’s what happens in Key West, you meet people and before you know it time just passes by. I wanted to catch Zack and Kai again at Willie T’s before it got to late. Again we got there later then I wanted to. IMG_2210Well we said good bye to my husband’s new found friends and walked down to Willie T’s. We were able to find a couple seats so I was happy. It is always fun listening to Zack and play and its a real treat to catch him with his son, Kai. Not before long we turned around and the couple that we saw at Hog’s Breath showed up. IMG_2212I am not sure if they followed us or it just happened – nevertheless we all wound hanging out again. IMG_2219I was looking at the time and noticed it was getting close to 4 o’clock and we were supposed to meet our friend Billy for the sunset trip.

A few minutes later, I noticed on my phone I got a text message from Billy. It turned out his friend somehow lost the anchor for the boat. I told Billy we could reschedule for later on in the week so it was fine with us. So with that news, we stayed for the rest of Zack’s show. It was a great time. IMG_2218

We needed to get back to the Gardens and freshen up for dinner. IMG_2228We were both pretty hungry and I didn’t have any plans for dinner. The following night I made dinner reservations for Cafe Sole, one of my favorite restaurants, but I figured that my husband should pick where to eat.

Last year we discovered Berlin’s Cigar Lounge above Alonso’s. We had no idea it ever existed and my husband liked the atmosphere in there and as an added feature, it is the same menu as the A&B Lobster House. IMG_2231
I felt so much better after we freshened up and made it to Berlin’s. IMG_2232Even the stairs leading up to it feel like you are entering an entire different experience. IMG_2234We walked into the dark lit bar and sat down. It was still a bit early so we didn’t have any trouble at all finding seats. IMG_2235For dinner I had their delicious oysters rockefeller, while my husband had the escargot special. Last time we were there, I made the mistake of ordering the lobster thermidor, which was delicious, but having very rich meals back to back doesn’t sit well with me. Our entrees consisted on the filet mignon (my husband) and the snapper (for myself). All the dishes were delicious. https://tinyurl.com/y82qpeyn

The prices are on the high side, but if are looking for a difference experience, I would check out Berlin’s (however do be aware it is a cigar lounge and smoking is allowed). IMG_2237

 

Since we were close to Dante’s, I remembered that another musician we like to see Nick Norman was playing there. IMG_2244We walked over and the place was pretty quiet. We sat down at one of the bars and then I turned around and saw in the back there was a large stage area where Nick was playing. We brought our drinks over and sat down. Unfortunately he was nearing the end of his show, but at least we were able to catch him for a song or two. IMG_2246It was a long day and we were pretty tired. We thought about stopping somewhere else, but made the better decision and just go back to the hotel and call it a night.

Wednesday, April 4th – Kermit’s, Blue Macaw, Rick’s, More Willie T’s and Cafe Sole

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Another beautiful day was in store for us. We did our usual stop at Cuban Coffee Queen and chatted with Joe again before walking to Kermit’s. I love getting up early in Key West and walking down Duval when there isn’t really anyone on the street. IMG_2253It is just so peaceful in a way. We made it to Kermit’s and ordered breakfast. There was actually a line of people this time so we had to wait for a bit, thankfully we already had our coffees in hand. IMG_2254Once we ordered our breakfast we sat back by the koi pond. IMG_2193It is such a pretty little spot. We didn’t wait long before our breakfast was served delicious and hot. https://tinyurl.com/ycc75t2xIMG_2256

After a delicious breakfast we began our walk again. We contemplating going into Peppers for a tasting, but I realized that we still have a bunch of hot sauces still at home from our previous trip. IMG_2257So we decided to just go back to the Gardens for a bit to relax. IMG_2259

Time seemed to pass by a little quicker then the previous days. I notice in the beginning of your trip, you feel like each day goes by at a comfortable pace, but as the trip nears its end, days go by faster and faster. Eventually we motivated ourselves to get back out and walk around. Our first stop was the Blue Macaw. IMG_2263It has a nice atmosphere and if you can find a couple of seats at the bar, it isn’t a bad place to have your first cocktail of choice. We walked in and it was more crowded then I thought, due to the lunch crowd. We noticed another musician we have seen in previous trips who is fun as well, John LaMere was playing. I thought what a nice surprise. We found a couple of seats after a large party left and just enjoyed listening to him play. We stayed until his set was over and said hello to him. He thanked us for stopping by.

We walked down to the Mile 0 Marker to get more photos. Luckily there were several people there, so we were finally able to get a picture of both of us at the sign. IMG_2270I wanted to go back to Willie T’s to see Zack play, but we made a stop at Rick’s for a drink and to see Miguel. IMG_2272We didn’t realize it was his last day working until the weekend so it was our last time we would be seeing him for this visit. When it was time to leave we said our goodbyes and thanked him for always being good to us. IMG_2274

We made it back down to Willie T’s to see Zack and Kai play. I did have to watch the time though, since we had dinner reservations at Cafe Sole at 5:45. We still had time to hear them play a few songs. IMG_2275It was hard not to stay but I didn’t want to miss our dinner reservations. IMG_2283

After we freshened up at the Gardens, we walked down Simonton St. and made the turn onto Southard St., which takes you right to Cafe Sole. As usual, we were seated at a nice table outside in the covered area. IMG_2287For starters I had the escargot and my husband had the conch carpacchio. Unfortunately I have discovered that I am allergic to conch and cannot eat it. It is such anomaly to me – I can eat every other type of seafood under the sun, but not conch. I guess it will always remain a mystery. Obviously we had to order their hogfish again for our main course. It was tasty as it usually is. It was a beautiful evening and a great dinner.

We walked back towards the Gardens hotel contemplating what to do next and then I remembered that Caffeine Carl usually plays at Rick’s on Wednesdays. IMG_2291So we made a quick stop at the hotel to regroup for a little before going back out. IMG_2293I was happy when we got to Rick’s that the outside seats at the bar were available. We sat down and Big Ed was working. IMG_2305It was nice to see him again. He began pouring us those grapefruit and club cocktails for us – one after the other.

We were having a great time, but probably should not have had that many. After a while I got to the point where I just had to leave. Thankfully my husband was able to get a cab back to the hotel because I might not would have made it back. Once we got back to the hotel I felt better. It was time to get some sleep.

Thursday, April 5th – Yes It IS a Small World

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I may sound redundant, but yes we woke up to another beautiful day in Key West. As each day passed, I could not believe how nice it was – no rain, no drop in temperatures, no high winds, etc.

Usually a couple weeks before we go to Key West I do go on TripAdvisor and do some research to see restaurant reviews and what not. A restaurant I have heard of in the past that tends to get good reviews is Azur. I looked at their breakfast menu and it intrigued me. The items they had for breakfast were different. I thought it was far from the Gardens, but once I mapped it on my phone it wasn’t that far.

IMG_2308We freshened up and made our walk towards Grinnell St. where the restaurant is located. When we got to the restaurant I was really impressed with the outside. It was nicely landscaped, but we had a bit of an issue finding the entrance. We did eventually find it and walked inside. The hostess asked if we preferred to sit inside or outside, and I picked outside. I try to sit outside everywhere I can unless it is extremely hot. I decided to stay classic and order a couple of eggs with breakfast potatoes and bacon. IMG_2309My husband had one of their frittata for breakfast. We were both very happy with our choices, it was very good. I was glad that we tried a new place – actually now that I think about it, we tried several new places for breakfast. I love going out for breakfast and it is always fun that there are so many options in Key West. https://tinyurl.com/y7nn5njv

Usually in the fall my husband and I make it back to our other favorite place, St. John in the Virgin Islands. Ironically, back in 2016 when we stayed at the villa Caribbean Palm Villa, the villa owners actually live in Key West. I contacted her a couple days ago and wanted to meet her in person. She mentioned to me that her and husband would be working on rehabbing a house that day and we could stop by. IMG_2310So after breakfast we walked down to Whitehead St. where the house was located. Denise came out and we chatted for a bit. She was telling us about St. John and how it is improving and that we should not have any hesitation to return. It was nice talking to her, but didn’t want to keep her away for too long since she was in the middle of working on the house. We thanked her for her time and walked down Whitehead St. IMG_2313We walked by the lighthouse and the Hemingway House. If the Hemingway House wasn’t so crowded we probably would have stopped by. We have toured the house several times, but we always enjoy seeing the cats. IMG_2266

Soon we saw the Green Parrot come into sight. My husband mentioned that maybe we should stop in and have a beer. I thought why not? It was pretty empty but nice in cool inside. There was just one other couple seated at the bar. We ordered a couple of drinks from the bartender and then my husband mentioned to me that he thinks he recognizes the one guy at the bar. He then asked him his name and sure enough he went to high school with him and his wife. I went to a different high school then my husband so I didn’t know who they were, but I couldn’t believe it. What were the odds? They started catching up on things and we all starting talking. We were going to stay longer, however they were meeting friends and going down to Fort Zachary State Park. My husband told them that we could meet up later at some point. IMG_2321The next stop took us to El Meson De Pepe for a couple of mojitos. IMG_2324Their mojitos are always very good, but I still can’t understand why they are so expensive for such a small drink. Regardless it was a nice stop to look at the huge cruise ship that was in port and look at Mallory Square. IMG_2322We only stayed for one and figured that we could have another drink somewhere before going back to Willie T’s and catch the end of Zack’s show. IMG_2325We went back to the Sunset Tiki Bar at the Galleon. Comparable to the Ocean Key Sunset Pier, I think this place has an amazing view. IMG_2327While we were sitting at the bar, we noticed one of the staff was bringing in new chairs for the bar area. Apparently they were getting rid of all the wood chairs and replacing them with black wicker type of chairs. We stayed long enough where we had to get off our chairs and try out the new ones. They were definitely more comfortable but a bit shorter then the previous ones. We had a fun time chatting with the bartender Grubby too.

It was getting to be that time to get back on to Duval and to Willie T’s. We got there just in time where we could catch Zack and his son Kai sing before their show was over. IMG_2344Meanwhile, my husband heard from his high school friends that they wanted to meet up later so we headed out after the show to get ready at the Gardens. We stayed until the end of their show and told Zack we would see him the next day at Rick’s. IMG_2341

I wanted to go back to the Half Shell Raw Bar for dinner so my husband reached out to his friends again and told them to meet us at the Schooner Wharf Bar since it is nearby.IMG_2351 When we all met up there for a drink, my husband told them about Berlin’s. I thought that they wouldn’t want to go, but they seemed really excited about going. I was a bit disappointed because we were just there and we only had 2 more nights left for dinner. I was outnumbered so we walked over to Berlin’s. It wasn’t such a bad option, the food there is that good. I ordered the oysters rockefeller again and then decided to try their paella. IMG_2357I was craving rice and thought that it would be a good choice. Regrettably it wasn’t the right decision. The paella had no flavor – especially the rice. I couldn’t taste any saffron. Thankfully everyone else enjoyed their dishes.

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At this point we probably should have said our goodbyes and just see them again the following day. My husband suggested that we should go to the Smokin’ Tuna to see Caffeine Carl play since they never saw him before. We made it to the Tuna and it was quite crowded. We all ordered drinks and not before long, a table opened up at the side of the bar. We watched Caffeine Carl for a while and my husband’s friends thought he was great. IMG_2373

We finally left with every intention of going straight back to each other’s hotels, but then my husband’s friend wanted to ride the bull at Cowboy Bills. I personally didn’t think the place was even still open. Then before I realized it, we were walking into Cowboy Bills. Thank goodness the bull was out of commission so we all left, but not before the guys did a shot of Jameson – no way I was going there.

We made it back to the Gardens and showed them the grounds. Then we realized it was 2am and needed to call it a night. Finally!

Friday, April 6th – Last Full Day IMG_2381
Why is it so hard to enjoy your last full day of vacation? You do have an entire day to enjoy yourself, but I consistently think about the next day – the flight, packing everything back up, the unpacking, etc. To make things a little easier we woke up again to another glorious day. I did reach out again to our friend Billy, about going out on his boat, but he had family in town so I told him that the next time we are in town we would go out. I was a bit disappointed, if I had known the boat trip wasn’t going to happen, I would have made other plans to get out on the water. It was a shame not being able to do it this trip.

Neither one of us had a breakfast place that we wanted to go to so after going to Cuban Coffee Queen we wound up going the opposite way down Duval St. towards the Southernmost Point. In the back of my mind I wanted to go to the Banana Cafe since we had not been there in quite some time. We passed a few options for breakfast but kept on walking. Eventually we made it to the Banana Cafe, however it was packed and there was a line of people waiting outside. IMG_2383On our way to the Banana Cafe, we passed by La Te Da and it looked very inviting from the outside and not too crowded. We walked in and my husband wanted to sit at the bar, which was fine, but for breakfast I prefer a table. It wasn’t too bad though since it was fairly empty. Feeling the night before we both decided to order a pick me up. My husband had a bloody mary while I had a mimosa. IMG_2385It did help – only for a little while. I ordered the breakfast special omelet and my husband ordered the traditional egg breakfast. It took a while to get our order, but once we did get it, it was very good. I am not sure if their service is normally that slow, if it isn’t I would definitely go back. The atmosphere and people watching was great. IMG_2386

The feeling from the night before was returning, so we headed back to the Gardens. We both sat outside on our porch/balcony to relax. My husband read while I just tried to relax. I then took the time to start packing up some of our clothes and making sure everything was in order and checked in for our flight, printed out our boarding passes for the next day. IMG_2390

After a bit, we picked ourselves off of our porch chairs and made it down to Rick’s to see Zack’s last show before we left. It was hard not to be sad, but it was fun to see him again. IMG_2389

While he was nearing the end of his show, my husband’s friends from high school showed up. They were feeling the night before as well. We were having a great time just talking about the night before. Then I noticed someone walk by and then it was another friend of ours that we knew. It was pretty funny.

After Zack’s show was done, we agreed to meet up for breakfast the next morning before we had to leave and before he left I had to get another photo! IMG_2396

We wound up hanging out a bit longer then we intended, but that’s why you never plan anything in Key West. Things just happen. IMG_2405Everyone was getting hungry so we were all going freshen up and meet up somewhere. Then we all realized why don’t we just go out like we are? It’s Key West! You don’t have to dress up. So I suggested that we go to the Rooftop Cafe. So if we had time we could catch the sunset at Mallory Square after. IMG_2408

We walked down to the Rooftop Cafe and the sky was beautiful. IMG_2409

Everyone wanted to sit at the bar so we didn’t have to wait for a table. IMG_2410The sun was setting behind as we had another delicious dinner at the Rooftop Cafe. IMG_2413By the time we finished dinner it was too late to see sunset. IMG_2416

Since it was our last night, big surprise, we wound up going back to the Smokin’ Tuna to see Carl one last time. He put on another great show.

We even saw Big Ed there!

We were all getting tired and there was no way we were going to make the same mistake twice. So I made sure I said goodbye to Carl’s wife Erin and thanked her again for always taking care of us. IMG_2423.jpgWe then went up to Carl and told him goodbye. It was sad but I didn’t get too upset otherwise I would never hear the end of it. Everyone made their separate ways and called it a night.

Saturday, April 7th – Back Home

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Were we really leaving already? It felt like we just got there, but yes it was time to leave. It was another pretty morning that made it even more difficult knowing we were going back to cold temperatures that were still hanging around in NJ. We freshened up and made sure all our things were ready to go. IMG_2436

We met Zack and Kai for breakfast at Havana’s Cafe which is located right on Duval very close to the Gardens. http://www.havana-keywest.net/havana-key-west-restaurant.html

Last year we had breakfast there and it was very good. I find it a bit odd though it doesn’t open until 9am. We had a later flight so waiting until 9am wasn’t an issue. IMG_2438

It was a nice way to spend the morning before we left. All the food we ordered was very good, especially the bacon. IMG_2434I was getting really sad about leaving Key West and our friends so I wasn’t too hungry. Then it was time to say our goodbyes – which I always hate.IMG_2443

Our flight was at 12:55pm so we had the cab pick us up at 11:30am which gave us enough time. We didn’t have to wait too long to board our flight and again it was direct. The flight was only 2 and 1/2 hours. We wound up landing about a 1/2 hour earlier then expected. Before we knew it, it was 5:30pm and we were back home in cold NJ. IMG_2446

Another Key West trip is in the books. Again, we had an amazing time seeing our great friends in Key West and meeting new ones. As I noted earlier, it gets harder to leave the more times we come to visit. Key West holds a special place in my heart. It is truly a magical island, not just because it is so beautiful, but because of all the terrific people that make up this wonderful place. IMG_2202

Thank you again for taking the time to read my blog. Until next time!

 

Key West is Strong – October 29th – November 4th, 2017

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Every year for the past fourteen years, my husband and I would go to St. John, in the US Virgin Islands for our anniversary. However, Hurricane Irma changed everything. My heart was broken after seeing the images of all the devastation that occurred to my beloved island. I then had to think about if we were still going to go away on vacation where would we go? I started to do some research for other options. I wanted to go some place that was warm and tropical. We had already been to Grand Cayman, Aruba (and several other islands) which were not affected by the hurricanes. After researching other islands, there wasn’t really place I wanted to go back to, except Key West.

We had already been to Key West 2 times prior this past year and obviously we truly love it down there. Then news started to come out that Hurricane Irma was headed straight towards Key West. I couldn’t believe it. Would this storm take out my 2 happy places? I knew that if Key West was spared I wanted to go back. I wound up contacting the manager of the Gardens Hotel and told him that we would love to return if Key West makes it through okay. I remember the night that Irma hit Key West, I couldn’t watch the news coverage at all. I was so worried for my dear friend down there riding it out.

The next morning I turned on the tv and started to look on social media to see how Key West fared. I could not believe it that my other beloved island was spared. I knew in my heart that we were meant to go back. A week had passed after the storm and I finally heard back from Jim, the General Manager at the Gardens Hotel. He told me he was still in Orlando but heard back from some staff that road out the storm, that the Gardens Hotel was fine. There was some damage with broken trees, but no structural damage. I was so relieved and so happy. I told him we would love to return if Key West would be open by the end of October. He reassured me that Key West would be ready for us and we were set. We were going back to Key West again!

Sunday – October 29th, Arrival Day IMG_0506

Normally I prefer to go to Key West from a Saturday to Saturday, but with Fantasy Fest, we had to wait to return until after it ended, which was on Sunday. To make matters more stressful for me, there was a nor’easter headed our way and it was supposed to arrive that Sunday. I was getting sick to my stomach thinking that another storm would affect us, but I just kept telling myself – don’t stress over the things you cannot control.IMG_0497Luckily, our flight was early enough in the morning not to be affected yet with the heavy rain and winds that were on its way. There was only some rain, but it wasn’t too bad at that point. While we were waiting for our flight to board, I saw an article about Fantasy Fest in Key West. I thought to myself how funny is that? IMG_0498 We had a direct flight on United and had no issues taking off. The flight was a little bumpy at first but then it did calm down a bit. After about 3 hour, I could start to see the Keys come into view below. It was a beautiful sight to see. Once I could see Key West, I began to smile and knew in my heart I made the right decision. IMG_0509It was on the windy side when we landed, but we were both so happy and excited to be back. We did have to wait for a cab since another plane had arrived just before ours. We had to share a cab, but fortunately we were able to have the cab driver drop us off first.

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We arrived at the Gardens Hotel within no time. At first it looked just like I remembered just a few months ago in July. Then I noticed a lot of the canopy was gone and so were the trees that would hide Simonton. There was a decent amount missing on the one side. IMG_0533It was a bit sad to see, but knowing what Hurricane Irma did to the other islands, it wasnt that bad. The staff was working vigorously throughout our stay replanting the trees that were lost in the storm. https://tinyurl.com/yda7lpyq

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We checked in, but our room wasn’t ready yet. It wasn’t a problem for us since we wanted to go see Miguel who tends bar at Rick’s down on Duval Street. We were able to change into our warm weather closes at the Garden’s cabana room and we were on our way. We always love that feeling you get when you first walk back on to Duval. My husband and I always make it a point when we make that right hand turn onto the street and say we are back! We walked down Duval and noticed that it was pretty quiet. Everyone had recently left Key West since Fantasy Fest had ended. We did see a few stragglers here and there, but overall everyone was gone.IMG_0644

We made it to Rick’s and saw that Miguel was working. He was so surprised to see us. We didn’t want to tell anyone ahead of time we were coming, because I wanted it to be a surprise. It was fun to be back and talk about how he faired during the hurricane. We also told him how our friends and co-workers alike couldn’t believe we were going back to Key West thinking it was devastated with the hurricane. There was damage, but not nearly what they were saying on the news back home. Some streets still had some debris in piles to be removed, but overall Key West did an amazing job cleaning up most of the debris  and was back, ready for visitors. IMG_0519

We finished our drinks and walked down towards the Galleon to check out the Sunset Tiki Bar. We walked along the boardwalk and then had to stop. There was damage to the boardwalk and it was blocked, so we had to go around through the parking lot. Once we got to the Tiki Bar it appeared that it faired well. It was pretty crowded so we didn’t stay too long.

 

 

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Our next place we wanted to check out was the old Kelly’s restaurant which is now called the First Flight Restaurant. IMG_0784We walked in and I personally didn’t notice too much change as far as the outside bar and dining area, unless the majority of the renovations were done to the interior dining room. We grabbed two seats at the bar and I ordered a margarita. IMG_0527It tasted like the old Kelly ones but it was half the size (not that I needed a larger one), but if they are charging the same price for a margarita during happy hour, I feel that they should have it be the size it once was. If it wasn’t broken, don’t fix it. We also ordered an ahi tuna appetizer just to get something in our stomachs.

 

 

 

The bartender was very friendly and we told her how we were pretty amazed how great Key West looked in such a short amount of time. She said that they need people to come back and get the word out that Key West is back. We thanked her for the drinks and food. It was time to get back to our room and freshen up for dinner. IMG_0532

On our way back we saw a familiar face playing at Willie T’s, John LaMere. I heard he was going to Memphis during the Meeting of the Minds (Parrothead Convention) that was about to start in a few days, so I wanted to stop in and catch a song. It was fun to see him and we probably could have stayed longer, but we were getting quite hungry at that point and didn’t want to miss our reservations at Deuce’s Off the Hook.IMG_0542

Jazz was already in full swing at the Gardens, so we had to walk through a bunch of people sitting at the tables (which we had to do in the past and it always feels a bit awkward even though we are hotel guests). We saw Jim and Kate (the owner) and waved to them both. We freshened up and walked right around the corner to Deuce’s. Besides the fact that they always having consistently good food, we love the proximity the restaurant is to the Gardens especially on our first night after a day of travel. IMG_0535

It was a good thing we had reservations, because there were quite a few people standing outside waiting to be seated. I made the reservations for the bar since their tables are situated somewhat closer together then I prefer and honestly feel that believe it or not the bar gives you more room. They had two seats reserved for us. I was also excited see that their catch of the day was hogfish, which is one of our favorites. I tend to start with their ceviche, but I noticed that they had a dozen oysters on the half shell on the appetizer special. I don’t normally order them, but it just sounded like a good idea at the time. I am so glad I did. They were absolutely delicious. For dinner my husband and I both ordered the hogfish special – which wasn’t a surprise.

 

 

 

Feeling rejuvenated after a much needed and delicious dinner, we wanted to catch the end of Joal Rush’s set who was playing at the Smokin’ Tuna. We were able to find to seats at the bar and listen to him play a few songs. IMG_0545Then the Marshall Morlock band came on to play. I had never heard of them, but they were quite good. We didn’t stay too long since the travel day had set in. It was time to get some sleep and call it a night.

Monday – October 30th – Seeing our Key West Friends IMG_0957

We woke up to a beautiful and breezy day. A cold front had moved in so it was on the chilly side. I wasn’t sure what to expect this time of year weather wise while visiting Key West since all of our previous trips have been either in the spring or summer. Even though it was cool, it was just still so pretty. IMG_0546

I always like to start our first breakfast at Blue Heaven during every trip. We first made our usual stop at Cuban Coffee Queen for a couple of Cuban American Coffees. Their coffee is the perfect beverage to jump start your day in Key West. Ironically we bumped into a friend of ours Joe (aka Kokomo Joe) that we met at the Galleon Tiki Bar back in April. We sat down and talked to him for a bit. He was telling us too how he fared with the hurricane, but overall he did okay. It was nice to see him before we made our way towards Blue Heaven. IMG_0884

We walked to Petronia and down to Blue Heaven. I wasn’t sure what to expect as far as the foliage, but remarkably it looked exactly the same as it did back in July. IMG_0547.jpgThere weren’t too many people so we were seated right away. I wound up having a cheese, spinach and mushroom omelette (with a side of their signature key lime hollandaise sauce) and my husband went with one of their old reliable stables the eggs benedict. The breakfast was good as it usually is, but my favorite part dining there is seeing all the roosters and chickens running around. It gives you that true feeling of Key West. IMG_0550

We walked back to the Gardens to relax for a bit, however it is always hard for me to sit still. I typically want to head back out and just walk around Key West. It was still too early to have a beverage so I did wind up taking at few pictures around the Gardens Hotel while my husband read on our front porch. IMG_0719IMG_0557I also stopped in to see Nancy and Jim who have been working at the Gardens for years. It was nice to see them and they thanked us repeatedly for returning to Key West and supporting the much needed tourism that needs to come back. IMG_0517.jpg

It was finally that time to get back on Duval and stop by to see Miguel who was bartending again at Rick’s. He was even commenting how cool it was that morning. I think it was around 68 degrees, but being from New Jersey it wasn’t too cold for us. The sun was out and it did start to warm up. I originally had reservations for Latitudes later that evening but with the cooler temperature and wind, I knew it would be too cold to enjoy a meal out on the beach. We figured it was just as well since we wanted to catch up with our friends playing around town. IMG_0569

Our next stop was Captain Tony’s where Gabriel Wright was playing. It was nice to see him once again. We hung out for several songs until he was able to take a break. We talked a bit and he was telling us how he was in Paris when Irma hit. He was only back in town for a few weeks. We also mentioned how the media made it seem like Key West was destroyed back up in New Jersey. P1030251It was then getting to be about that time to see my great friend Zack Seemiller playing at Hogsbreath. We have been working together for a couple of years creating fun ads that he posts on social media each day.  IMG_0571

We walked in and he immediately recognized us. We were lucky enough to find two seats at the bar. http://tinyurl.com/ybh5ldaq It was great to be back and listen to him play. It was also nice to see his son Kai stop by to say hello. We talked for a bit and stayed until his show was over. It was so nice to be back in Key West to see them both. IMG_0573

It was getting later in the evening and we knew we should get back to the Gardens and get ready for dinner. We said goodbye to Zack and his son. We were going to try and meet up later, but if we didn’t we would see him the next day at Willie T’s. IMG_0584

As we were walking back to the hotel we contemplated where to eat. We agreed that it would be nice to go back to the Roof Top Cafe since we have never had a disappointing meal there. We walked up the stairs and noticed it was getting quite breezy and the temperature was dropping. IMG_0588Thankfully I had a sweater on and my husband was wearing a sweatshirt we bought earlier in the day at the Conch Farm giftshop. We tend to gravitate to the bars at restaurants since we enjoy the interaction with the bartender and follow patrons, so we chose to sit on the outside section of the bar, which gives you a great view of Mallory Square behind you. P1030261I was thinking about going to see the sunset after dinner, but this time of year the sun sets earlier, around 6:45pm. It was going to be too late after dinner, but it was still nice to see the sunset partially from the restaurant.

For appetizers, my husband ordered the gnocchi with truffle oil and I had the shrimp and crab cake. They were excellent. Right after our appetizers we saw everything go dark. The entire place and streets were without power. It was kind of surreal at first. However, within minutes the power was restored. The bartender told us that it has become the norm since the hurricane, which is totally understandable. Then for dinner my husband had the sirloin and I had the snapper. Again, we both thoroughly enjoyed our meals.

 

 

 

At this point we were getting pretty cold. It was time to figure out our next game plan. IMG_0603.jpg

We wound up going back to our favorite place to watch live music, the Smokin’ Tuna. Scott Kirby was in town, so we saw him finish his set before Tony Baltimore went on stage. We sat back for a while and enjoyed the music. Another added plus was Erin, Caffeine Carl’s wife was bartending. It was so fun to see her again! IMG_0608

Before we knew it, it was getting pretty late. We figured that we should get back to the Gardens. All and all it was a great day seeing our friends again in Key West.

Tuesday – October 31th – Halloween in Key WestIMG_0632

This was going to be the first time in a while not spending Halloween in St. John. I heard that Halloween isn’t really a big deal in Key West since the week before is Fantasy Fest, which makes sense. We woke up to another cool but gorgeous morning. We made our regular stop at Cuban Coffee Queen before walking around Key West. I didn’t really have a plan as to where to eat breakfast, but was open to the idea of trying something new. IMG_0610Eventually we made it to the Bight and my husband suggested going to Kermit’s for breakfast. I thought that why not since we never had been there before we should give it a try. IMG_0616

We walked in to order our breakfast and sat down in the back while we waited for the server to bring it out for us. Once we sat down, I noticed how cute this place was. They had a little waterfall and a koi pond. A few minutes passed, and our breakfast was brought out. My husband had ordered the strawberry crepes which looked amazing, even though I prefer to order something savory for breakfast. I chose their standard breakfast of two eggs, bacon, home fries and toast. The bacon was cooked perfectly.

 

It was definitely a good call to give this place a try.  https://tinyurl.com/y8zdhr7d

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After breakfast we walked around for a bit and made our way towards sunset pier. As we approached the pier, you could immediately see that it was not ready to be open. IMG_0625IMG_0623You could see the damage that occurred from the hurricane and all of the extra tables and chairs were being stored in the garage area.

 

 

 

We made our way towards Mallory Square and again you could see some damage to the aquarium and also the bridge that connects Mallory Square to the Margaritaville Resort (previously the Westin). IMG_0627All and all though, that was really the only other things we noticed from the hurricane.

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We walked to the Gardens Hotel to unwind for a little while before going back out. We agreed to stop by at the Blue Macaw since we had not been there yet and also noticed that Joal Rush was playing. IMG_0637We sat down and listened to him play. It was such a beautiful setting, between the atmosphere of the place and the weather. http://tinyurl.com/yc8otcf3IMG_0642.jpg

I knew that Zack was playing at Willie T’s that afternoon, so I wanted to go and see him play since he was going to be off for the next several days due to the  Meeting of the Minds that was starting the next day. So we finished up our drinks at the Blue Macaw and walked down to Willie T’s. It was somewhat crowded, but after a few people left I was able to get us two seats near where he was playing. IMG_0649.jpgWe always have a lot of fun at his shows and even his son Kai stopped by and played a song. It was a nice afternoon before it was that time to get something to eat. We said good bye to Zack and Kai and hoped to catch them again later.

 

 

 

Its nice that the Gardens Hotel is located pretty close to Willie T’s so it didn’t take us long to get ready. IMG_0653One place I thought of going to dinner this time was the Half Shell Raw Bar. We had been there numerous times in the past, but we had never eaten there and after watching the guys shuck oysters each time we were there, made me quite intrigued. Plus it is a bit of a walk from the Gardens for dinner – so we tend to eat some place closer to the Gardens. IMG_0654IMG_0656

We walked in and the place was packed. I didn’t realize that it was happy hour and they offer 1/2 price appetizers. The hostess was able to find us a table. Of course I had to order the oysters for an appetizer. We also ordered the buffalo shrimp and calamari all which were half price for happy hour. It didn’t take long for the appetizers to come out and everything was fresh and delicious. My favorite though were the oysters. They also had hogfish on the menu so we both ordered the hogfish. I went with the grilled hogfish over a caesar salad and my husband had his with french fries.

 

 

 

I was so glad we finally made it to Half Shell for dinner because everything tasted so good.  http://tinyurl.com/ydcmh6dk IMG_0666IMG_0669IMG_0671

It was time to walk off our dinners so we walked along the bight and made it back to Duval and once again to Rick’s. I noticed a few people walking by with Halloween costumes on, but not too many. We had a couple of drinks and ran into this guy. IMG_0682

The temperature started to drop again and planned on going back to the hotel, but instead we stopped by the Tuna again. IMG_0685Caffeine Carl was finally playing! We probably stayed later then we first intended, but we were having so much fun that it was worth it. Eventually we did get back to the Gardens to get some sleep.

Wednesday – November 1st, Sunset Pier and Cafe Sole IMG_0717

We wokeup to another beautiful morning in Key West. It was later then we normally get up but it was okay. I also noticed it was slightly warmer then it had been but still was windy. We didn’t have much planned for the day. I had originally had a sunset boat trip planned with our good friend Billy at 6 Pack Charters, but he said that we should wait the next day when the winds would be calmer. IMG_0716

The night before, Zack recommended 5 Brothers for coffee. We never had been there before and wanted to give it a try. It was a perfect morning to walk along the streets of Key West, which I love to do. IMG_0699

Once we got to 5 Brothers we walked in but there was a line. I guess 5 Brothers wasn’t a secret. IMG_0704We noticed there were a lot of construction workers and cops in the shop. We planned on having breakfast there, however the place was quite small and there wasn’t enough room to sit. I wanted to try their coffee anyway, so we waited and ordered two con leches. The coffee was indeed delicious. I can see why all the locals go there for their coffee. It was a tasty start to our day. IMG_0705

A few days earlier when we were walking along the harbour walk, I noticed that the White Tarpon now offers breakfast. Since we were in Key West twice already this year, I again wanted to try another new place for breakfast. We sat down with our con leches and ordered breakfast. My husband had their egg sandwich while I had one of my favorite breakfasts, a bagel with lox (smoked salmon) and cream cheese. I normally stay away from bagels – a lot of carbs, but I was on vacation and enjoyed every minute of it. IMG_0707

After our late breakfast we walked around and did some shopping. IMG_0620I remembered that Al was working at Sunset Pier that day and realized that we had not seen him yet. IMG_0706We walked down towards Sunset Pier and found a couple of seats along the side of the pier. The actual pier that goes out over the water is sectioned off. Al immediately recognized us and brought us over a couple of beers. He was telling us how the pier wasn’t going to be repaired and ready until next Summer. Instead of just repairing it, they were going to rebuild it using cement so hopefully it will last a long time. It was nice to see him and hear that him and his family were doing well.

 

 

 

The afternoon seemed to fly by and I had changed our reservations for Cafe Sole from the next night to this night due to the fact we had to change the sunset boat trip to Thursday. The reservation was early but we still had some time to relax at the Gardens before having dinner at Cafe Sole. IMG_0721

We walked in and the hostess recognized us because we were there just a few months ago (plus I think it was the hat I like to wear while in Key West). We were seated at my favorite table near the road outside in the covered porch. IMG_0733IMG_0735

It was just 5:30 so the restaurant only had another table seated. The owner came over and told us how he was offering wine specials where selected bottles of wine were half priced. We knew we had to take advantage of the offer so we chose a bottle of malbec.

 

 

 

For appetizers my husband had their beef carpacchio and I don’t normally eat red meat, but wanted to try their lamp chops. And I probably don’t even have to write what we both ordere