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

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

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

Sunday, January 15th – Arrival Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can read my full review here:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can read my full review here:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can see Zack Seemiller performing “I’m Not Jimmy Buffett” with Caffeine Carl here:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can read my full review here:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can read my full review here:

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

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

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

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

You can hear how loud the Bullet Boys were here:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can read my full review here:

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

It was a nice day to relax by the pool.

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

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

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

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

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

You can read my full review here:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can Watch Caffeine Carl and The Buzz with Zack Seemiller performing a “Born To Run”:

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

You can watch perform “Wild World” here:

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

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

January 21st – Departure Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can see my review here:

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

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

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

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

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

You can watch the video here:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can read my review here:

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

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

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

You can watch a video from that night here:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can read my review here:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can see my video here:

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

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

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

You can read my review here:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can read my review here:

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can see a video of them performing Dirty Laundry by Don Henley here:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can see a video of Caffeine Carl and Zack here:

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

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

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

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

We walked down Petronia and to Blue Heaven.

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

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

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

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

You can read my full review here:

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

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

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

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

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

You can see a video of Gabriel here:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can read my full review here:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can read my full review here:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can watch my video of the parade here:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can watch a video of the band here:

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

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

Saturday, October 29th – Saying Goodbye

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Arrival Day  7/2/22

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can check out the video here:

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

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

Sunday Funday 7/3/22

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

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

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

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

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

Both our meals were piping hot and delicious. It was a nice way to start our day. You can read my review here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When Carl and Zack were done we said our goodbyes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brent went on stage to set up his guitar.

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

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

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

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

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

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

We made back to the Gardens and went to sleep.

Friday – Last Full Day 7/8/22

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday – Time to Go 7/9/22

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday – April 16th – Arrival Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can read my review of Blue Heaven here:

Sunday – April 17th – Easter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(You can read my review of Latitudes here: )

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

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

Eventually we made our way to the Sunset Tiki Bar at the Galleon to see our friends Phil (the owner) and Ramsey (one of the bartenders that works there). We chatted for a bit and i