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

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

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

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

Sunday – October 29th, Arrival Day IMG_0506

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

Tuesday – October 31th – Halloween in Key WestIMG_0632

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

 

For appetizers my husband had their beef carpacchio and I don’t normally eat red meat, but wanted to try their lamp chops. And I probably don’t even have to write what we both ordered for dinner, but yes we had their signature hogfish dinner. I don’t know what I enjoy better, the fish or that red pepper hollandaise sauce that accompanies it.IMG_0743

Once we left Cafe Sole I remembered that Gabriel Wright was playing again at Captain Tony’s. It was the last time he was playing before we were leaving so we stopped in. This time his parents and girlfriend were there so we talked to them for a bit. It was a lot of fun. IMG_0744

I checked the Smokin’ Tuna schedule and saw that Scott Kirby and Caffeine Carl were playing together. A couple years ago, we saw them play Last Flying Boat together and was hoping to hear it again. I wasn’t sure how crazy the place was going to be with the Parrotheads in town, but wanted to stop by and give it a try. So we said our goodbyes to everyone and said that we would hopefully see them next year.IMG_0747.jpg

We walked into the Smokin’ Tuna and I was pretty surprised that it wasn’t too crowded. We got great seats dead center at the bar, which was perfect because we were able to see them play Last Flying Boat again! http://tinyurl.com/ycboqxyt Once again, we probably stayed longer then we should have but it was fun to hear them play and see Caffeine Carl.IMG_0751

Thursday – November 2nd, Sunset Boat Trip with Billy IMG_0766.jpg

The day before I got in touch with Zack to see if we could get together for breakfast since we hadn’t seen him a couple of days. Luckily I set my alarm and we got up in time to meet him at Harpoon Harry’s around 9:15. I think this is the first time in Key West that we would sleep in and stay out later. Usually we get up early and call it a night pretty early. We were having fun so it was all good. IMG_0752

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We wound up taking the long walk to Harpoon Harry’s after grabbing a couple coffees from Cuban Coffee Queen. Once we were there Zack met us and we enjoyed a great breakfast. I always enjoy their grits there too. IMG_0758It was nice to catch up with a great friend. He was off again so we told him we would catch him at Rick’s the next day. IMG_0765

We did our usual walk back to the Gardens to regroup and relax for a bit. As I sat on our porch I noticed how blue the sky was and it was exceptionally clear. I thought to myself, now this is going to be the perfect evening for a sunset boat trip. I got in touch with Billy to make sure we were still on for later on that day. We agreed that 4pm would be perfect for him to pick us up.  IMG_0773

It was time to motivate once more and walk down Duval. However, first we had to stop and grab a few snacks for our boat trip with Billy. There is a liquor store close by to the Gardens on Duval, so it was perfect to grab snacks and a bottle of wine. We dropped off our supplies and got back on the road. We had not been to El Meson De Pepe and I was craving a mojito. They were refreshing as usual. IMG_0770IMG_0775

It was a picture perfect day and I noticed that it was starting to get warmer then it had been earlier in the week. We finished our mojitos and stopped at the Sunset Pier to see Al one last time. IMG_0782

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The time was going by quickly and we had to get back to meet Billy. We walked along Whitehead St. and I wanted to take another picture at the Mile 0 sign. Ironically, a conch train was coming by so it was a perfect picture that my husband captured. And I also noticed he got the pink maxi taxi in it as well. IMG_0789.jpg

We did make a side stop to DJ’s Clam Shack for a late lunch. I wasn’t exactly hungry but once I saw the lobster roll my husband ordered, I had to have a few bites. It was really good. IMG_0795.jpgWe were going to freshen up but realized that we were going out on the water and to wait until after we got back. I got call from Billy and he was waiting for us. We grabbed our supplies and he drove us to the marina. IMG_0797

Soon we set out for the sunset. It was a beautiful evening. Along the way, we did see some damage to some of the houseboats from the hurricane. It was sad to see.IMG_0798IMG_0801IMG_0803

We made it to the sandbar and Billy got out on the water to check for some shells. We did see a few stingrays swim around in the water. IMG_0809It was then time to open the bottle of wine and cheer a beautiful sunset that we were about to see. IMG_0818P1030269

We couldn’t have asked for better weather that evening. The winds were light and the sun just sank into the water. There weren’t any clouds to disrupt the few. It was truly amazing. IMG_0845IMG_0853IMG_0854P1030282P1030289We could not have asked for a better sunset. I didn’t want to leave and just the thought of going home in a couple days got to me. I just took in the view and thought how lucky we were to return to Key West and how lucky Key West was to be spared from the destructive storm Hurricane Irma. IMG_0863IMG_0866

After the sun had set, I noticed there was a full moon. I had never seen a moon like that while we were out on the water in Key West. It was just as beautiful as the sun.

On the way back, Billy noticed that a bunch of markers were down from the storm so my husband had to a hold a light at the front of the boat to help him navigate his way back. We got back safely and thanked Billy again for a great evening. http://tinyurl.com/y7y7cwxc

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We freshened up and wanted to grab something to eat at the Smokin’ Tuna. It was really crowded but we were able to get a couple of seats at the bar. We weren’t sure if they were still serving food so we just had a couple of drinks. It was getting really late and we were starving. We walked back towards the Gardens and found a pizza place. We ordered a few slices to go and enjoyed the pizza back on our porch outside our room. It was a good thing we had something to eat. ,Even though I hate to eat that late, it definitely prevented me from feeling terrible on our last full day in Key west.

November 3rd., Last Full Day – Rick’s and Berlin’s Cigar Lounge  IMG_0883

This was our last full day so I didn’t want to sleep in too late, but again we did. To save some money we figured that we would just enjoy the breakfast at the Gardens. We did run out first to get a couple of coffees at Cuban Coffee Queen. IMG_0885We sat down at the Gardens for breakfast. Because I had the pizza the night before so late, I really couldn’t eat much. I did take the time though, to get all our clothes in order and the painstaking process of packing up most of our things since we were leaving the next day.

Zack was playing at Rick’s that afternoon so I wanted to be sure we saw him before we left. On our way out we noticed that the Garden’s had out a couple of baby turtles that they were feeding. Jim, the General Manager of the hotel, told us that 7 turtles hatched during the hurricane. They were so cute! IMG_0882

I did hear that day was the street festival for the Parrotheads. It was odd to see Duval Street closed as they were setting up the stage. This was the first time we had ever been to Key West when there was something going on like that. IMG_0886IMG_0888

On our way we decided to stop at the Porch for a beer. It was a nice way to ease into the afternoon.

IMG_0899IMG_0898My husband then wanted to stop at the Sunset Tiki Bar too one last time. So we walked on over enjoyed a drink there too. I also was able to check in for our flight while we were there. It is always hard to enjoy your last day, just knowing you are leaving the next day but we made the best of it. IMG_0903IMG_0905IMG_0906

It was that time to catch Zack too. IMG_0907

I thought that Rick’s was going to be quiet since the Parrothead Street Festival was taking place, but it was crowded. Luckily we were able to get the two seats on the outside part of the bar. We had another great time listening to him as we always do. IMG_0912

Of course I had to get a few more pictures of us and the banner I designed for him. We were going to try and meet up later but if it didn’t I thought that we could meet up again for breakfast.

On our way back the street fair was ending but there were still a lot of people around. Besides the specific venues that they had reserved for Parrotheads, it really wasn’t that crowded for Meeting of the Minds.IMG_0922

We went back to the Gardens to get ready for our last dinner in Key West. For dinner I wanted to try El Meson De Pepe, however by the time we got there, the sun was setting so  of course being located right on Mallory Square – it was packed. I wasn’t sure where to go as an alternative, but I remembered my husband really enjoyed the newly discovered restaurant/lounge from our last trip in July, Berlin’s Cigar Lounge which is located upstairs in the A&B Lobster House. IMG_0612

We walked on over and went into the dark bar. It is definitely a throwback when you go in there. IMG_0929We sat down and ordered a couple of drinks. For dinner I had to order the oysters rockefeller and my husband had the tuna. Our entrees consisted of filet mignon and the lobster thermidor (which I had). In hind sight, I probably shouldn’t have ordered two rich dishes back to back, but they were so good.

 

 

Before we left for our trip, I noticed that a band we saw years ago down the Jersey Shore at Jenkinsen’s Boardwalk called Jimmy and the Parrots were playing that night at the Smokin’ Tuna for Meeting of the Minds. I knew it was going to be crowded because of the Parrotheads, but I remembered they were so much fun when we saw them years ago I wanted to see them again.

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With our stomachs full from dinner, we walked back down Duval to the Tuna. Before we got there, we saw that Big Ed was working at Rick’s so we wanted to stop in and say hello. George was also playing. It was pretty empty and we told them if we couldn’t get a seat at the Tuna that most likely we would be back.

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We walked into  the Tuna and with no surprise it was filled with Parrotheads. We said hello to Erin and were able to order a couple drinks. I even ran into Carl again who was there for a few minutes. As we were standing a couple of seats opened up at the bar. I couldn’t believe it. What were the chances? IMG_0939

We had fun for our last night in Key West. Since our flight wasn’t until 1pm the next day – again, we stayed out pretty late. Then it was that time to make our last walk down Duval and back to the Gardens.

November 4th – Last Day 😦 IMG_0633

I woke up around 8am in the morning and packed up everything. It is always hard for me to be happy on the day we leave – but I tried. I did get in touch with Zack and he was able to meet us for breakfast before we left. During our trips to Key West, we always noticed this little breakfast place right near the Gardens Hotel on Duval St. called Havana’s Cafe. We thought that we would give it a try. Once we got inside it was really cute. IMG_0952We didn’t know what to expect and the prices were reasonable. http://tinyurl.com/y8pg7375  I don’t know if it was from the rich dinner I had the night before and/or just the feeling of sadness knowing we were leaving in just a couple of hours, but I really couldn’t each that much, but what I had was delicious. Everyone else enjoyed their breakfast too. It was nice to have breakfast with Zack and see him once more before we left.

It was getting to be that time to get back to the Gardens and say our goodbyes. I felt so sad leaving, but it was a great trip seeing all our friends down in Key West.  IMG_0956

We checked out of the Gardens and took a taxi to the airport. We probably got there too early but it gave us some time to decompress before our flight. Again, we had a direct flight home, so it only took about 2 and 1/2 hours to get back to NJ. It was so nice not having that connection. Before we knew it we were back home around 5pm and reality of not being in Key West anymore was already setting in. IMG_0960

Although Hurricane Irma changed our plans to return to my other beloved island, St. John, I am so grateful that we were able to return to Key West – my second happy place. The more times I visit Key West, the more difficult it is to leave. I used to think it was because of how beautiful the island is, but now I realize it is because of all the great people that make Key West so special. IMG_0918

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

 

…..Until next time!

Key West July 2017 – Here We Go Again

IMG_9587Even though we were just in Key West 3 months prior we were excited to get back to the place we truly love. This would mark our 16th time in Key West within 11 years. Some say we are crazy for returning to the same place over and over, and others think that why not if you enjoy it so much? We didn’t have much planned but figured that it is always best not to have any plans in Key West.

Saturday, July 8th – Arrival Day

IMG_9283Similar to our most recent trip, we had an early 6am flight out of Newark, however due to the fact it was a smaller plane flying to West Palm Beach, the boarding time was only 30 minutes prior to departure. We still had to make the grueling wake up time of 3am, but knowing we were going back to Key West, made it a bit easier. Our car was on time and picked us up at 3:45am. Security lines were long, but we made it through within a few minutes to spare to have a quick cup of coffee at the United Club Lounge.IMG_9284Soon it was time to board our flight. The flight was on time and we had no issues. Once we landed in West Palm Beach we looked for the Silver Airways Gate. The airport is fairly small so it was a quick walk to the gate. We noticed a few people waiting and even the two pilots. The flight was scheduled to leave at 9:35am and soon it was time to board. We thought we are going to be in Key West at 11am! It would be the earliest time we had even been to Key West.IMG_9285

Well that all changed quickly. We loaded the plane and only about 8 of us were on the plane. The pilot came on to the intercom and said that we were the first flight out for the day so they were going through all of their preflight protocols and noticed a light that came on. And the light that came on wasn’t a minor issue. It basically meant that if we were in the air it indicates “Engine Shut Off”. So with that news they told us that they were trying to get a mechanic to see if they could fix the plane and if need be, there was another plane available.

We all had to exit the plane and go back into the airport. It was not a good feeling. A few of the passengers went up to the gate to ask what was going to happen. They said it could be at least a couple of hours for them to fix the plane and it wasn’t 100 percent if they could fix it. They were trying to see if there was another plane available, but there weren’t any additional flights that were on schedule for that day. They also mentioned that there may be a plane that they could get from Ft. Lauderdale, but it could be long wait.

Two passengers decided to get their money refunded and make the drive down to Key West. We thought about it for a second, but after checking Google Maps and that it was going to be at least a 4 to 5 hour drive, we decided not to do it. Then another passenger asked about any other options. They then said there was a flight out of Ft. Lauderdale at 1:40 in the afternoon and that they would give us a taxi voucher to drive us to that airport which was about an hour away. After debating what to do we decided to get the voucher and new tickets for the Ft. Lauderdale flight.

We walked to the taxi depot and the first passenger got onto the van. We offered to share the ride, but they said with the vouchers we had to go separately. Then the next vehicle pulls up and it was a beautiful Cadillac. The driver was very professional and soon we were on our way. We talked a lot about sports and how he met the Manning family years ago, since we were Giants fans. He made the 50 minute drive enjoyable.

My husband gave him a tip and we thanked him for his service. We had to go back through security but it wasn’t too long of a line. We also heard that there was another Key West flight going out at 1pm so we wanted to try and make that flight since it was only around 11:30am at that point.

We walked up to the gate and told the ticket agent our situation. She was very understanding and was able to change our tickets to the 1pm flight. However as she was working on changing our tickets, we noticed that they were announcing another Key West flight was about to board. She then told us that there was a 10:35am flight that was delayed and was about to leave. Then she said to wait right on the side and she would try and get us on that flight instead. We couldn’t believe it!! And within minutes she tore up our tickets and gave us new ones for the flight. Soon we were on the plane and on our way to Key West! We just thanked our lucky stars and our excitement started to return. IMG_9286

The flight was only about 45 minutes.IMG_9289Soon Key West began to appear below and I was so happy to be back. We landed and grabbed our luggage. There was another flight that just landed so we were worried we would be waiting a while for our luggage. Thankfully our luggage was one of the first to come out of the carousel so we were able to grab a taxi.IMG_9290Before we knew it we were back at the Gardens by 1pm. With all things considered it wasn’t so bad and could have been a lot worse. We walked in to the Gardens and saw Jim the manager at the hotel. It was nice to see him again. We checked in and our room was ready. I quickly unpacked our things. http://tinyurl.com/y7tdf6wpIMG_9292

Not before long, we were back on Duval Street. A good friend of mine and who I do design work for, Zack Seemiller, a musician in Key West was out of town so it changed some of our usual places to go and see him play.

We were going to stop at Willie T’s but it was too crowded. I wanted to go to Kelly’s, but unfortunately it was closed. New owners recently took over the restaurant and are currently renovating it. We walked by and it didn’t even look like anything was changed or under construction. We continued to walk towards Mallory Square. Then I started to crave a mojito. I remembered how El Meson De Pepe has delicious mojitos so that was our first stop.IMG_9294We sat down and enjoyed the delicious mojitos. We cheered and were both so happy to be back to Key West!IMG_9295We remembered that Al was working at Sunset Pier and wanted to stop by and say hello to him since last time we only saw him once during our trip. We walked over and it was a hot but sunny day. We talked to him for a bit before making our way to Captain Tony’s to see Gabriel Wright. IMG_9300IMG_9297IMG_9299Since it was so hot, Captain Tony’s was pretty crowded because of the AC. IMG_9305.jpgIt was great to see Gabriel again and listen to him for a bit.IMG_9307We had dinner reservations at Deuce’s Off the Hook so we figured that we would walk back to the Gardens to freshen up. IMG_9310While we were passing by Rick’s we noticed that Caffeine Carl and George were playing. Of course then we had to stop by and catch them for a few songs. It was fun to watch and say hello. IMG_9318It was getting later in the evening so we made the walk down Duval to the Gardens to get ready for dinner. It was a long day and I realized I hadn’t eaten yet at that point so I was extremely hungry for dinner. IMG_9491We walked into Deuce’s and we were seated at the bar. IMG_9326We actually prefer the bar then the tables since the place is small, we just feel like there is more room. For appetizers I ordered the grouper ceviche and my husband had a shrimp appetizer which was delicious. IMG_9329I decided to go with the snapper special while my husband settled on the burger. We were happy with both of our choices and enjoyed everything. Once we finished dinner, we felt the affects of the long travel day and ready to get some much needed sleep.

Sunday, July 9th – Our First Full Day IMG_9346

I woke up pretty early in the morning about 4:30am with a terrible headache. I realized that I also had forgotten to pack Advil. The combination of not eating much food, followed by a mix of rum drinks and beer was not the best idea. I tried to sleep it off but the pain did not go away. My husband woke up around 7am and I told him I was in a lot of pain. He offered to go to Walgreens to get Advil and some coffee from Cuban Coffee Queen. I felt so bad, because while he was out, I heard it begin to downpour outside. He did make it back completely soaked. After taking some Advil and sipping the coffee, the pain began to dissipate.

Also the rain stopped and the skies started to clear. We then saw a rainbow from our porch and thought that it was a good sign.IMG_9342Feeling rejuvenated if you will, we freshened up and walked down Petronia Street to Blue Heaven. It was before 9am so I knew there wouldn’t be a wait. I wasn’t sure if they would be serving breakfast outside, since when we went there back in April after a rain shower they kept the outside closed. Luckily when we got there we saw a few tables seated with people. IMG_9353Because it was Sunday, it was a brunch menu that offered more options verses the standard breakfast menu. We were both craving the eggs benedict so I went with the florentine version, while my husband chose the sausage benedict. I also had a side of grits which tasted really good. After our breakfast we stopped in the gift shop because I wanted to buy another tank top. IMG_9348We walked back to the Gardens to relax for a few. We made our way back onto Duval. We walked around up the bight past Dante’s. IMG_9358 It was a gorgeous day, but the humidity was high. We were getting thirsty so walked towards the Galleon. IMG_9359The Sunset Tiki Bar was open so we grabbed a couple of seats. We chatted with the bartender Ramsey for a bit. I remembered that I saw on the Tripadvisor Key West forum that a bar by the name of The Lazy Gecko was closing. She told us that today was the last day it was going to be open. It was a sad story to hear how a place was open for 17 years and when the lease came up, they wanted to increase it to $35,000 a month. The owner’s counter offered for a lower price, but someone from Nashville made the offer. We later found out the name of the new bar will be called the Tin Roof, a chain I believe in Nashville.

We finished our drinks and walked around for a while before making it back to Rick’s. Our friend Miguel was working so it was nice to see him again. IMG_9374He mentioned that Caffeine Carl’s birthday party was going to be held there on Wednesday so we would definitely made a point that we would go. We also talked about the Lazy Gecko and how it was it’s last day. IMG_9365We decided to go across the street to the Lazy Gecko and have a few drinks before closes. As soon as you walked in, it was pretty crowded and you can see the staff about ready to cry. It was so sad to see a place that has been an icon in Key West become no more. IMG_9375

We found a couple of seats open at the bar and ordered a couple of beers. The longer we sat there, more familiar faces appear, such as Caffeine Carl, Tony Baltimore among others. We stayed for a while thinking there would be a special show, but just the usual entertainers that they had on schedule played.

It was getting to be that time where we had to figure out what to do for dinner. We wished the staff all the luck and walked back to the Gardens.IMG_9325After we freshened up we walked back to Duval towards the Rooftop Cafe. We always have a solid dinner there and wanted to go back. IMG_9304We walked up the stairs and no one was really there yet. We were one of the first customers for the evening and chose to sit at the bar on the outside part. From there you can see Mallory Square nearby and the Front St. below. IMG_9389For our first course my husband had the shrimp and blue crab empanadas while I selected the tuna tar tar. Since we were practically the only ones there at the time, the food came out promptly which we don’t mind since we were pretty hungry. Our main course was the grilled mahi mahi (which I ordered) and the flame grilled NY strip.

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Again we did not have to wait long and each course was delicious and hot. The bartender was also very friendly and professional. We were too full to order dessert so walked back down the stairs towards Mallory Square. We joked how last time it took us practically to the end of our trip to go to Mallory Square, but this trip we were there on our 2nd night. IMG_9397We hadn’t seen “Mr. Mojito” in a couple of years and was hoping to see him. We walked near the Margaritaville Resort (formally the Westin) and sure enough we saw Jimmy in his cart! The line wasn’t too long so we waited a few minutes and said hello. It was nice to see him again and order his infamous “Green Thing” drink. They are so tasty and really hit the spot if you are looking for something semi-sweet and refreshing. IMG_9399

Since it was low season the crowds weren’t too many and we were able to find a spot to watch the sunset. Unfortunately this time of year the sun goes behind Sunset Key, but it is still nice to see. Once the sun went behind Sunset Key we walked back towards the Gardens. It was a beautiful evening and we walked by the Green Parrot. IMG_9415We were tempted to stop in but I was pretty tired at that point so we just kept walking to the Gardens and called it a night.

Monday, July 10th – Overcast Day – A&B Lobster House IMG_9478We woke up to cloudy day so we slept in a little bit. Our first usual stop each morning again was Cuban Coffee Queen. Sometimes you get there and only a couple people are there, other times you can wait for a while, but the coffee is worth the wait.  http://tinyurl.com/y8ym6ju9IMG_9417.jpgWe were going to go back to Bagatelle’s but as we neared the building it was closed because they were working on the front porch. So we thought about going to Kermit’s Cafe Kitchen for breakfast to try something new. I looked at the menu and only saw sandwiches and I was craving huervos rancheros. I remember last time I wanted to try Amigos for breakfast since I saw that they did have huervos rancheros on the menu. IMG_9419We walked to Amigos and just when we walked to the entrance the skies began to open up. We couldn’t ask for better timing. We sat in the front which is a great place to people watch. Since it was raining not too many people were going by. IMG_9421My husband ordered the egg burrito while I had the huervos rancheros. When they came out there were 3 instead of the usual 2. They were tasty but I personally prefer when the beans are refried and mashed verses just whole beans. IMG_9423Once we were done the rain did subside. It didn’t look like it was going to clear so we made the decision this would be the morning we walk around and do some shopping. It was actually good to pick the day we did since it wasn’t too hot to walk around with bags in tow. Our first stop was Hog’s Breath for a few shirts. They always have a nice variety of shirts to choose from. Then I remembered last time I saw a shirt I wanted for my husband at the Conch Republic Seafood gift shop so we went back. In addition, last time we never made it to Peppers and we were running low on our hot sauce inventory at home so we had to make it back. IMG_9426We walked down Greene St. to Peppers and noticed the red awning was no longer but a pepper sign. That was the only thing that was different – as soon as we walked in we saw all the hot sauces and other condiments. Neither of us was in the mood to taste anything but we knew what we wanted. The young lady at the tasting bar helped us with a few of our selections that we had questions about. We also wanted to ship everything home since we only do carry-on. It wasn’t a problem as usual and order was placed and ready for shipping. It is always fun too to have it arrive when you come home. A little reminder of where you were just at, which brings a smile to my face.IMG_9425We had a few bags to drop off at the Gardens before setting out for the rest of the day. It was still too cloudy to lounge by the pool so after freshening up we went back out onto Duval. Back in April we never made it to the Blue Macaw and wanted to go back to check it out. IMG_9429

A local musician was playing, James Whitehead so we sat down and ordered a couple of beers. We hung out for a bit before going back to Rick’s to see Miguel.

The weather that day never really got better so we just chatted with Miguel for a bit. And we just watched all the neon signs and other things get taken down/ removed at The Lazy Gecko. It will definitely be strange to see a different place in its location.IMG_9435

We were supposed to go out on a sunset boat trip with our good friend Billy (whom we have been going out fishing with for the past 6 years) but it didn’t look like it would be much of a sunset. So I wound up getting in touch with him and rescheduling our trip for the following evening.

That night Caffeine Carl was playing at the Smokin’ Tuna and before him was another musician Joal Rush from South Carolina that I wanted to catch since it was a couple of years since the last time we saw him play in Key West.

We told Miguel we would catch the next day and went back to regroup at the Gardens.IMG_9323We made it back onto Duval and into the Smokin’ Tuna. It was about the time Joal Rush was supposed to play and we noticed the place was quite empty and so was the stage. We then found out Caffeine Carl wasn’t feeling well so he wasn’t playing and that Joal Rush was playing at 8pm. It was only 5pm and we didn’t want to sit there for 3 hours waiting. IMG_9610.jpgSo we walked down towards the Bight to find a place to eat. Being it was happy hour, everywhere we looked was crowded – Conch Republic, Commodores, Alonzo’s, etc. You wouldn’t think it was low season. Then as we were walking around I saw the entrance to A&B the Lobster House. I laughed when I saw it because we have been going to Key West for 11 years now, and I never noticed the door to the fine dining upstairs. We walked up the dark staircase into the main dining room. It was beautiful with large windows overlooking the marina. The hostess told us that the dining room wasn’t open yet, but that we could have a drink in the bar which turns out to be Berlin’s. IMG_9446We walked in and the AC felt wonderful. It was on the dark side but we got a kick out of the old retro vibe it gave. The bartender was very nice and said that anything offered in the main dining room you could have at the bar. We tend to prefer eating at the bar at certain places and thought that it was perfect to dine there. IMG_9440.jpgWe each ordered a class of wine and I still couldn’t believe I finally found the entrance (not that it is hard to find, I just never noticed it before). For appetizers I decided to go old school and have the shrimp cocktail martini and my husband ordered the escargot sauté. When my appetizer came out a flashback of the movie Beetlejuice came to mind. The shrimp were huge hanging over the martini glass, but they were delicious and so fresh. My husband’s escargot was full of flavor as well. IMG_9441.jpgAnd the amazing food just kept going with my husband’s steak au poivre and my grouper oscar. It was probably one of the best meals we had on the trip. It is on the pricey side, but if you are looking for that one special dinner while you are on vacation, this is the place to go to. http://tinyurl.com/yb295f7e

Feeling fully satisfied with all the food we ate, we made it back down to the Smokin’ Tuna. Joal was already playing so we sat at the bar. We noticed the bartender Ed sitting at the bar instead of working. He is always very nice to us whenever we have gone to the Tuna in past. He came over and we talked to him for a bit. He said that he now works at Rick’s and that he would be bartending Carl’s birthday on Wednesday. IMG_9454We stayed for a while and listened to Joal play before calling an end to the evening. IMG_9455

Even though the weather wasn’t perfect, we still enjoyed the day – who wouldn’t while you are in Key West?

 Tuesday, July 11th – Beautiful Day & Sunset Boat Trip with Billy IMG_9489We woke up to a beautiful day. So like any other morning we walked to Cuban Coffee Queen for much needed coffee. We tend to prefer the Cuban American Coffee, so we ordered two of those and walked around contemplating where to eat for breakfast. The breakfast choice of the day wound up being the Blue Macaw. IMG_9480

We walked in and it was empty. The waitress then seated us at the smallest table possible right in the middle of everything. We thought about moving our table to something a bit larger and off to the side. Our server came over and told us to move to another table to be more comfortable. I understand if it is crowded you seat the number of people to the appropriate number of seats at the table, but if no one is there? Plus we noticed a couple more people came in, again it was very quiet and she sat them right on top of each other?! Then we saw the one table move to another one.

Once we were settled in and comfortable with our new table, we both ordered an omelet. The portions were quite large and definitely didn’t leave much room for a “make your own bloody mary”. I also noticed that they had sticks of bacon that you can put in your bloody mary. I just couldn’t do it – plus I am not a fan of bloody mary’s, I wish I was. Still the food was decent and the service was good. http://tinyurl.com/yahj595u

IMG_9488Since the weather was so nice, we took advantage of it. When we were done with breakfast we walked back to the Gardens just to relax by the pool for a bit. IMG_9499It was getting hot so we decided a nice cold beer was in order. We walked down Duval and grabbed a couple of cold beers at the Porch. It is quite a pretty area to sit out on the porch and watch the people go by.

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We only had one a piece since we were going out later that evening with Billy for a sunset boat trip. We walked back down Duval and saw Miguel was working again. We grabbed the two seats right outside by the bar which are our favorites. Miguel told us that Caffeine Carl’s birthday would start at 7pm the next day. So at least we could plan accordingly since we wanted to go.IMG_9502We scheduled to go out with Billy at around 6pm and thought it would be a good idea to grab something to eat before going out with him otherwise it would be a long time since we had breakfast. IMG_9506

We said goodbye to Miguel and went back to the hotel. We freshened up and decided to go back to the Blue Macaw since it is not too far from the Gardens. Nick Norman was playing that afternoon so I wanted to catch him this time since our last trip we never did. We walked in and found two seats at the bar. It was definitely more crowded then earlier that morning and then realized it was happy hour. We ordered several different appetizers that were being offered for half price since it was happy hour to share. Our favorite wound up being the ahi tuna tartare with wasabi guacamole. In fact it was so good we ordered a second one.

We didn’t have that much time to hang out so we as soon as the last appetizer was finished we paid our tab and went back to the Gardens to meet Billy. He picked us up promptly at 6pm, which was a surprise because he usually runs late. IMG_9504He drove us to the marina and it was a beautiful evening. IMG_9511He took us out past Sunset Key and then we eventually went back towards the sandbar. IMG_9513On our way we passed by Mallory Square. IMG_9526The sandbar was so shallow that we can the birds just running round. It was so nice and relaxing to sit back and relax. IMG_9557It was a beautiful sunset but then just when you thought it was going to touch the water, it fell behind the clouds. IMG_9590IMG_9595IMG_9601IMG_9603We still witnessed quite an impressive sunset. IMG_9568It was fun to hang out with Billy for a bit before going back to the marina. IMG_9605IMG_9607 Billy dropped us off back at the Gardens. We thanked him again and told him when we return, we would definitely do the sunset trip again. http://tinyurl.com/y7ml5jz3 It was pretty late so we turned in for the night.

Wednesday, July 12th – Another Beautiful Day & Caffeine Carl’s Birthday Party IMG_9647

We slept in a bit and when we woke up we saw it was another bright and sunny day. It felt a bit more humid then the previous day but still it was gorgeous. IMG_9494

We did our usual coffee run to Cuban Coffee Queen and a bite to eat. We walked along the bight once more and made our way back to the Sunset Tiki Bar at the Galleon.

IMG_9613IMG_9612IMG_9614IMG_9616This has become one of our favorite places, since it is sort of an out of the way place it never gets too crowded, the service is always very friendly no matter who is working there, and the view of course. IMG_9615I realized the last time we saw Al at the Sunset Pier, it was his last day working before he will be off for a few weeks. We headed back to the Sunset Pier to see Al. We wished him well and told him that we will hopefully see him next year. IMG_9637Then it was that time to say hello to Miguel again at Rick’s. We saw the posters set up for Carl’s birthday. They were pretty funny. It wasn’t that late but we were getting hungry. We thought to get back and freshen up so we could hit Martin’s for happy hour. Last time we just barely made it to happy hour but it was only about 3pm. IMG_9648After we freshened up, we walked down to Martin’s and it was just 4pm. It was perfect! There just one other couple there and we sat right at the bar. I think we ordered almost everything off the tapas menu we were so hungry. Each item was as delicious as the next. IMG_9651IMG_9656We had some time before Caffeine Carl’s birthday at Rick’s so we went back to the Smokin’ Tuna to listen to Joal Rush again. It started to rain again but not too bad. Just a few showers. We then noticed Carl walking in and grabbing a few things for his birthday show. We wound up walking back to Rick’s with him. He told us he had a terrible sinus thing but obviously he was going to play for his birthday. IMG_9660We were able to get our two seats right at the window. We saw big Ed and Carl’s wife Erin who was also bartending. It was funny when Carl went on with George, he mentioned how it felt like it was the Smokin’ Tuna in the bizarro world.

IMG_9667IMG_9687The music began and the drinks started flowing. More and more people came in and it was a lot of fun. IMG_9691IMG_9668Eventually even Joal Rush showed up after his show at the Smokin’ Tuna for it. IMG_9692IMG_9690We wound up drinking a lot and staying up late (for us), but it was worth it. IMG_9696We made it back to the Gardens and we were done.

Thursday, July 13th – Last Full Day – Already 😦 IMG_9331.jpgI would have booked our trip like we did back in April – Saturday to a Saturday. And that Saturday, the day we left, we were able to book a direct flight home to Newark so we literally got home by 10:30 am. This time of year there are no direct flights so the flights available if we stayed until Saturday would have had us arrive home later in the evening so we decided to leave a day earlier so we would still have the weekend to decompress. IMG_9701

I wanted to go to Blue Heaven for our last breakfast but we slept in and I knew there would probably be a wait if we went. We did go back to Cuban Coffee Queen and had to wait a while since we were late. Plus when we got our two coffees they weren’t the right ones. We didn’t realize it until we were already leaving. They were good but still not as tasty as the cuban americans.

We were going back and forth between Sarabeth’s for breakfast or Croissants de France and Le Bistro. Since we went to Sarabeth’s on our last trip, we decided to go with Croissants de France. I ordered the eggs benedict with salmon and my husband had the americanos which was basically 3 scrambled eggs with several sides. The food was tasty but we noticed the same thing last year when we went, the food wasn’t hot – at all. It was a bit disappointing but we still ate our breakfast. We also ordered a couple of double espressos to give ourselves a little boost which was served hot (thank goodness). IMG_9704.jpgWhile we were finishing breakfast a few more showers rolled in. So much for relaxing by the pool our last day – I thought. We did go back to the hotel to sit on our porch and relax for a bit before going back out for our final day. IMG_9710We wound up walking back to El Meson De Pepe. We were in the mood for sangria but disappointingly the Little Jazz Room Bar isn’t open during the day – not until 4pm now and we really enjoyed their sangria. We sat down and each had a glass of their sangria. It wasn’t the best sangria I have ever had but it hit the spot. We watched the clouds come in through Mallory Square. IMG_9712bOur next stop was Half Shell Raw Bar. We have never eaten there before and the next time we come back to Key West I want to make it a point to do so. The food that comes out of the kitchen looks so good. We had early dinner reservations at Café Solé so I didn’t want to have any lunch. IMG_9715

I wanted to get back to the Gardens to arrange for our taxi pickup the next morning and do the taunting task of backing up all of our things. We only stayed for a drink at the Half Shell and got back to the Gardens.

IMG_9719We wound up having some time to spare so after we were packed and freshened up, we sat at the Gardens bar for a drink. Kate the owner was there and it was nice to chat with her for a bit. We have been going to the Gardens every year since 2006 and the past several years staying there twice a year so she really appreciates our loyalty to the hotel and plus I redesigned their logo which I am really proud of. gardenshotelogoThe skies appeared to get brighter so we didn’t need to bring umbrellas with us. IMG_9356We made the left turn on to Simonton St. and then a right turn onto Southard St. IMG_9721We joke now because it took us several years to figure out where Café Solé is and it isn’t that far or difficult to get to from the Gardens.

We were seating in the outside covered area. It was bit warm compared to the inside, but I enjoy sitting in the outside area. Our server came out and he was very pleasant. He told us about the happy hour offering where wines by the glass were two for one and all entrees were $20. I remember hearing about their happy hour, but completely forgot about it. It was a nice surprise. For our appetizers my husband always orders the beef carpaccio. I usually try something different and being it was so hot I felt like a nice cold salad, so I went with the caesar salad and of course we both ordered the hogfish for dinner. After we ordered we were brought out soft warm bread and hummus which is always flavorful. We enjoyed our appetizers and obviously the hogfish was amazing. IMG_9731Café Solé is definitely one of my favorite restaurants in Key West. http://tinyurl.com/yacn7s2d

My husband start talking to our server and mentioned how I do design work for a musician down there and mentioned Zack’s name. And turns out the server Dan is a good friend of his. It was nice to meet him. IMG_9738He even brought us out a complimentary piece of Key Lime pie. And I hate to admit this, but I think that was the first time I have ever had key lime pie in Key West! I am not a big dessert fan so I usually don’t order it. I think maybe my husband had one of the key lime pies on a stick dipped in chocolate during our first time in Key West. The pie was delicious. IMG_9739We thanked Dan for a wonderful dinner and we were on our way again. IMG_9746It was our last night in Key West and knew we would spend it at the Tuna. We walked in and sat at the bar. Joal Rush was playing again. Erin was bartending too so it was nice to see her again. Then it was time for Carl to come on. We had to be up for our flight home around 6:45am. It wasn’t that early but early enough where we wanted to be back in our room by 10:30. Soon it was time to call it a night and say goodbye. Last time we were in Key West I knew we were returning in a couple of months so I was fine, but that night I realized we wouldn’t be back for a while and I did get upset. It is just seems each and every time we visit, it gets harder and harder to leave. IMG_9752We made it back and turned in for our long travel day ahead.

Friday, July 14th – Back Home IMG_9410

Usually I wind up booking an early flight so we have to be up and out the door before anyone is up. Last time we left our keys in the room and the front gate was still locked so we had to climb over it in order to leave. We didn’t want to make that mistake twice so we had our keys with us. The Gardens does have a place where we can leave them – once we open the gate. IMG_9484

The sun was up and the staff was setting up the tables for breakfast. This was a bonus for us since they had coffee ready. Knowing how terrible the coffee is at the airport I made sure I grabbed a cup.

Our taxi was scheduled to pick us up at 7:45am and showed up a few minutes early. My husband was wearing his Yankees visor and the taxi driver was from Boston (or just a fan – I can’t remember), so as soon as he picked us up he was picking on my husband. It was all tongue and cheek but it got to be enough by the time we got to the airport. On our way to the airport, we were stopped at a light and the taxi driver saw a girl on her bike being squeezed on the side of the road by this van across from us going the other way. As soon as the light turned green, the taxi driver drove towards the van as if we were going to get into a head on collision and then screams at the driver of the van “what are you doing?” Then our taxi driver told us how he doesn’t care since after that day he isn’t driving the taxi anymore. Wonderful.

We did make it to the airport and we were dropped off by the Silver Airways check-in counter. There were a few people ahead of us but we didn’t have to wait that long. Security was a breeze and we sat at the gate until our flight was called. It was nearing the boarding time and the Silver Airways agent came onto the speaker to tell us that the flight was being delayed a few extra minutes because they could not get one of the tray tables to stay up – apparently the little clip that holds it up broke. Seriously? We didn’t get delayed that long, maybe about 20 minutes. They solved the problem by just not having anyone sit there since they couldn’t fix it! We did make up the time in the air so we arrived only 5 minutes late. IMG_9288BWe had an hour or so layover so I wasn’t so concerned. I had the Silver Airways boarding passes and wasn’t sure if I needed to have them reissued at the United Gate. We walked over and I noticed a few people waiting in line. As I walked closer I saw that our 11:30 flight was delayed until 1:30. My heart sank, all you want to do is get home when it’s time to leave. Apparently there were heavy rain storms back up in the northeast that caused a lot of delays. Our plane was actually there in Tampa, but the time to land the plane in Newark had to be pushed back. So they called it air traffic control delay. People were not happy. Many of them had connections to international flights out of Newark. I didn’t need new boarding passes so we wound up finding a place to have lunch.

We noticed there were a lot of new restaurants. We used to connect in Tampa a lot, but recently the flights I have been booking have been taking us through Orlando. The food looked pretty good at this new asian restaurant Pei Wei. We sat at the bar. I just had a glass of water and my husband a beer. We shared this shrimp appetizer which was surprisingly good. Then I had a chicken salad which was gigantic and my husband had the chicken with egg noodles. We were shocked as to how good this “airport” food was. It made our wait tolerable . Then I noticed I received an alert on my phone that now our flight was delayed until 1:56!

Once we were done with our lunch, It was a little after 1pm so we walked back to the gate. I saw that they were showing preboarding on the digital sign, so we waited online. We made it onto the plane. We sat at the gate for 35 minutes before we took off. The pilot came onto the intercom to explain how there are certain windows when planes can land and once they get backed up with delays they have to find a certain time. He said that we would take off and would have to wait until there was a window.

We took off around 2:35. Once we were airborne people were expressing concern since several of them had connecting international flights in Newark. The airline stewardess reassured everyone that they would make it. At one point we were over Virginia and the pilot came on the intercom again and said he had to put us in a holding pattern and we would stay up there for about 30 additional minutes before making our decent into Newark Airport. I thought we were never going to get home.

We eventually landed around 5pm which was perfect for the rush hour home just before the start of the weekend. We all deplaned and people did make their connecting flights, thank goodness. Finally – we got home at around 7pm which we were originally supposed to be home around 3:30pm. It was a long day but at least we had the weekend ahead of us.

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Once again we had a great time in Key West seeing familiar faces and new ones alike, listening to great music, eating great food and experiencing all the beauty Key West has to offer. We will never get tired of visiting this special little island and hope to be back sometime in the not too distant future. endpic

Until then…. thank you for taking the time to read my blog!

 

Easter Week in Key West April 2017

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The anticipation of returning to Key West (even though this was going to make it our 15th time within 11 years – yes you can say we love Key West) was starting to set in. Normally we would have never picked Easter week, but good friends of ours were planning on going so I booked our trip for the same time. However, plans changed and disappointingly our friends couldn’t go, but I had already booked the airfare so we were committed to go. I was concerned that Easter week would be busy in Key West, but it turned out that many Florida residents do come down for the long Easter weekend, but leave on Sunday so besides being busy that Saturday – the day we arrived, it was just like any other week in Key West.

Our hotel of choice has always been the Gardens Hotel on Angela St. so once again we had our favorite garden view room booked for the week. As an added bonus, I designed their logo last year and was eager to see the logo throughout the hotel when we arrived. https://tinyurl.com/mon7x5e

And as an added side note, I started doing design work almost 2 years ago, for a local musician in Key West. My husband and I thought it would be fun to surprise him.

Saturday, April 25th – Arrival Day

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Our flight to Orlando was at 6:00am so we had to get up at 2:30am (ouch!) since the car service was scheduled to pick us up at 3:15am. It was hard to get up that early, but the excitement started to set it I was able to get going. When we arrived at Newark Liberty Airport check-in through security was a breeze. That’s one benefit of being so early – not many people are at the airport yet. Unfortunately it was 4:30am and all we wanted was a hot cup of coffee. Everywhere we looked didn’t open up until 5:00am, so we just walked to the gate and waited until we had to board trying to make the best of it.IMG_8286

Our flight left on time and we actually arrived about 15 minutes early which always seems to happen when we have a long layover. Once we got off the plane we saw a sign that said that Silver Airways was at Gate 13. We were not sure how to get there, but my husband asked one of the airport security and they told us we had to take a shuttle/tram to the next terminal which actually turned into two shuttles that we had to take to get to Terminal A. It was a scenic ride nevertheless.

We got to the Terminal and found a place where we could sit down and have breakfast. About an hour had passed and we walked down to the Gate where our Silver Airways flight was. We checked in and just waited for our flight. It was about another hour to go, but it felt like an eternity.
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Eventually it was time to check-in and board the flight. Our flight actually left a few minutes early. There were no issues and before we knew it we were back in Key West by 1:00pm.
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We were one of the first people off the plane and grabbed one of the few taxis waiting outside. It is always a great feeling seeing that water off of Higgs Beach on our way to the hotel. Once again we were staying at the Gardens Hotel. We have never stayed anywhere because we love the place so much.

We were welcomed by Jim the hotel manager and he offered us two glasses of prosecco while we quickly signed the paper work. I also noticed the new logo that I did even made it to the champagne glasses and towels.IMG_8294Our room was ready so we were able to unpack our things before making our way down Duval Street. IMG_8293When we entered our room we notice a card welcoming us pack. It read to check the fridge and so we did. It was such a nice gesture that they did. IMG_8296

Our first stop is usually Willie T’s to have a margarita. A local Key West musician, Dallas Doctor was playing. We walked in and it was packed. We couldn’t find one seat available. Standing room only.IMG_8303We decided to walk down further on Duval onto Caroline Street and grab a few key lime margaritas for our first stop at Kelly’s.IMG_8302It was a great call because the place was quiet. We sat down and just took it all in. We were back to one of our favorite places – Key West!
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After our margaritas we remembered that one of our friends, Gabriel Wright (who I also did some design work for) was playing at Captain Tony’s. We walked down and sat down at the bar. He recognized us and enjoyed listening to him play. IMG_8306

I kept checking the time because we wanted to see Zack Seemiller play at Rick’s. I have been doing artwork for him for a while now (as I mentioned earlier) and he had no idea that we were coming down. So after a few beers at Captain Tony’s we made our way to Rick’s. IMG_8308Once Zack finished a song we walked in and I think it took him a second to realize it was us! We had pulled off the surprise!! Of course I had to get a few photos with him and the banner that I designed after he finished his set. IMG_8312.jpgHe told us that he was playing also at the Smokin’ Tuna later that evening so we were excited to see him there. The Smokin’ Tuna is one of our favorite places to sit and listen to music in Key West.
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We walked back to the Gardens to freshen up before heading back to the Tuna. P1030204We made it back down Duval and to the Tuna. https://tinyurl.com/myqo2kwIMG_8321It wasn’t too crowded and we sat down at our favorite seats. It was a nice way to ease into the trip listening to Zack play. P1030206

We couldn’t stay for the entire show because we had dinner reservations at Deuce’s Off the Hook which is conveniently located just behind the Gardens. We said good bye to Zack and walked back. We were both quiet hungry at this point so it was a good call.


We were seated in a booth and I ordered grouper ceviche and the snapper with a side of cheesy grits and haricot vert. My husband had the tuna tartare and the french onion burger. Our meals were delicious. At that point we were feeling the affects of the 2:30am wake up and the long travel day. We wanted to try and catch Caffeine Carl at the Tuna but we just couldn’t do it. It was time to get to bed.

Sunday April 16th – Easter

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This was the first time we were away from home during Easter and heard that several restaurants in Key West are know for brunch on Easter. I heard that Louie’s Backyard was one of them, so i made reservations several weeks in advance. We haven’t been to Louie’s Backyard since our very first trip to Key West back in 2006.
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Our reservations were not until 11:30, but we figured we would walk down towards that side of the island and check it out since we usually don’t go that way. Before we started our long walk, my husband remembered that a friend of his who recently stayed in Key West recommended this place near the Garden’s called Cuban Coffee Queen. http://www.cubancoffeequeen.com/ It was only about a block away just off Duval. We had to wait a few minutes for it, but boy it was worth the wait. The coffee was delicious – I personally recommend the cuban american.
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With our coffee in hand, we walked all the way down to the Southernmost Point. IMG_8346I thought about getting another photo, but then i saw the line of about 50 people waiting to get their photo taken at the point so I decided that we’ve been there done that.
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It was getting warm out and we were getting thirsty. We agreed that a cold drink was in order, so we went to Southernmost Beach Cafe. We noticed that the water was quite rough too. It was a nice to look at the view from our seats.
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We then decided just to walk to Louie’s Backyard just to be sure we knew where it was. We walked by, but it wasn’t open yet. IMG_8351We then stumbled upon this little hole in the wall… the Patio Bar. IMG_8359You had to open the fence and walk through the back. We weren’t sure what to expect, but when we turned the corner it was a really neat little place.
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We had a drink a piece before it was time to walk back to Louie’s Backyard. We walked to the entrance and saw a line of people. I guess everyone had the same idea to have brunch at Louie’s Backyard for Easter. IMG_8364Luckily it moved pretty quickly and we were seated at a nice table outside on the porch.IMG_8360

It was perfect. We started off with a rock shrimp and mango appetizer served with chicharrones. For our main course, I decided to go with the eggs benedict while my husband had the Asian chicken salad with green tea soba noodles and a spicy peanut sauce – which was huge. Everything was delicious and the service was spot on. IMG_8362It was a nice way to spend Easter in Key West.
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We made the walk back to the Gardens to freshen up. Then we remembered that Gabriel Wright was playing at Hogs Breath. We regrouped and made our way back down Duval. (Yes we did a lot of walking during this trip – especially this day – over 8 miles.) We stopped at Hogs Breath for a while.
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I knew it was also Jazz at the Gardens later that evening and we wanted to stop by again before making our way to Mallory Square to catch the sunset. When we walked in, they were in the process of setting up, but we were able to find two seats by the pool. It was a beautiful evening to listen to the music for a bit.
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We only stayed for about an hour so we could make sunset – or at least that is what we had planned. IMG_8384We walked back down Duval and when we walked by Willie T’s we noticed that this musician John LaMere was playing. We saw him last year and thought it would be fun to stop in and we hadn’t been to Willie T’s yet. While I was waiting for my husband to get us two drinks, I recognized Zack Seemiller’s son, Kai. We talked for a few minutes and he was getting ready to play a few songs with John. I wanted to stay and hear them play so we sat down.
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While they were playing Zack wound up showing up. So then he wound up playing a few songs with his son. zandkNeedless to say we didn’t make sunset. It was fun though just to watch them play. Then we hung out for a bit before calling it a night. It was definitely a different way for us to spend Easter. https://youtu.be/HQ3QWUqnZRo

Eventually it was time for us to make our way back for the evening, but then we both realized we never had any dinner! Thankfully Margaritaville was still open so we stopped in to grab some much needed food. At this point I can’t recollect what we actually ate, but I think we shared several appetizers a piece. After that we were both ready to pack it in.

Monday April 17th – Truman Annex and the Rooftop Café

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Usually the first morning in Key West for breakfast we go to Blue Heaven, but since we had the brunch at Louie’s the day before for Easter, that was put on hold. Unfortunately we woke up to rain. We first made a stop again at Cuban Coffee Queen for coffee. The rain appeared to be stopping so we walked down to Blue Heaven. When we walked in all the tables were still wet and they were not ready to serve outside yet. They said there was seating available inside. I was a bit disappointed but we figured we would come back another day and try somewhere else for breakfast.

We walked along Whitehead Street when we both agreed to go back to Bagatelle’s. https://bagatellekw.com We always have had a decent breakfast there. Once we were seated I decided to go with the eggs benedict with smoked salmon. It definitely hit the spot. And the mimosa was a nice accompaniment.

After breakfast I remembered that I inquired about a potential place to stay for our return trip (whenever that may be). We do love the Gardens, but it is getting to be a bit pricey. I found this great 2 bedroom condo in the Truman Annex area. I got in touch with the property owner prior to our trip and agreed to meet him at 11:00am. We walked into Truman Annex and it was just so beautiful and quiet. Plus the sun had come back out. IMG_8408

We walked around the front and there was the owner. He greeted us with a friendly smile and showed us around. We both looked at each other and agreed we could definitely stay here at some point down the road. We especially liked how it was only a quarter of a mile off of Duval. IMG_8409

Once we were finished looking around we thanked the owner.

We went back to the Gardens to relax for a bit. Once we got our composure together we grabbed our things and you guessed it, made that walk back town Duval. When we walked by Rick’s we saw Miguel. IMG_8411We always seem to run into him at Rick’s when we go and he’s always an entertaining guy. We grabbed two seats that are just right outside the bar. We talked for a bit and just watched the people go by.   IMG_8413

It was getting to be that time to start to motivate to our next stop. Gabriel Wright was playing again at Captain Tony’s so that was our next order of business. https://youtu.be/svsPmg3WeN0 We walked in and sat down for a bit. It rained on and off all day, but we didn’t mind staying indoors for the rest of the day. P1030235 Then we recognized one of Key West’s most famous icons. Buddy! He is such a friendly dog and it was nice to see him. IMG_8416

Then our next stop was to check out Zack at Hog’s Breath. So after a few beverages we were on our way again. It was kind of crowded but managed to find a few seats to listen to him play. It was a nice afternoon. After he was done with his show I made sure I got a photo. IMG_8421

We were getting hungry and figured we should go back to the Gardens to freshen up and pick somewhere for dinner. I always enjoyed dinner at the Rooftop Café so we made the long walk back. http://www.rooftopcafekeywest.com It wasn’t too crowded so we were able to be seated right away. I ordered the pork belly appetizer and then the grilled mahi mahi with a mango salsa. It was delicious. My husband enjoyed the flame grilled 8 oz. filet that he ordered.

IMG_8506We have never had a bad meal there and this was another time it didn’t disappoint. After we finished our meals it was time for us to head back “home” to the Gardens.

Tuesday April 18th – Overcast and Rainy Day

IMG_8515We woke up to another rainy morning. I was disheartened because I wanted to go to Blue Heaven, but knowing what happened the day before, we would have to eat inside. We grabbed a couple of umbrellas from the Gardens and just started walking.

It was one of those mornings that we just felt like walking, probably since we had the late dinner at the Rooftop Café. Again our first stop was Cuban Coffee Queen. This time there wasn’t much of a wait. We got our two Cuban Americans and began the trek down Simonton St. As we were walking I thought about Harpoon Harry’s. http://www.harpoonharryskeywest.com As we started walking further away from the Garden’s the rain just got worse. Thank goodness we had our umbrellas, but when it rains that heavy, the water has nowhere to go. We were dodging puddles left and right. It was quite the adventure just to get to breakfast.

We finally made it to Harpoon Harry’s where we could sit down for breakfast and dry off. Once we ordered we did have to wait for a bit. Luckily we had our coffee to pass by the time. We did eventually get our order and it was a tasty breakfast. I always order the grits there because they taste so good. IMG_8429It was still raining once we were done so it wasn’t really the time to walk around. Ultimately we did walk all the way back in the rain to the Gardens – again we were soaked. We were supposed to meet up with Zack at this place called Don’s but the rain wasn’t letting up. We got in touch with him and told him we would have to take a rain check.

Once the rain subsided we both decided to go back out and walk around. We really hadn’t been to the Bight yet so we found our way back to the Half Shell Raw Bar. Usually when we go there it is before lunch so it is generally quite. However, by the time we got there it was close to 1:00pm and it was filled with people. Obviously with the weather it makes everyone want to find somewhere indoors to grab something to eat and drink like us.IMG_8430Luckily two people were leaving and we found two seats at the bar. It was a little tough to start drinking a beer but we got through it.

The skies started to get brighter and we both wanted to go somewhere with a view of the water. My husband suggested the Sunset Tiki Bar at the Galleon Resort. http://www.sunsettikibar.com It is kind of off the beaten path and the views of the water are always great there. We walked along the Bight and walked into the Tiki Bar. There were a few people there but it wasn’t too bad. It was nice and quiet while we enjoyed a few beverages. IMG_8435

Then I realized that it was Tuesday and our friend Al (who works at the Sunset Pier at the Ocean Key Resort) should be working. We thanked the bartender at the Tiki Bar and we were on our way again. IMG_8436The weather was becoming overcast again but once we got to Sunset Pier we saw a couple of guys playing. The one guy was Tony Baltimore but unfortunately I don’t remember who the other guy was. They sounded very good as we had another beverage. We then noticed that we didn’t see Al, and were told that he switched with another bartender. I guess we would just have to come back another day.

It was getting to be about that time to catch Zack playing at Willie T’s. We were on our way before we saw El Meson De Pepe which have really good mojitos. They are bit pricey but taste darn good. We only had one a piece before walking towards Willie T’s.IMG_8439We walked in and it was a nice surprise to see both Zack and his son playing together. We sat down and enjoyed them play until their show was done. https://youtu.be/elVijgUP3tkIMG_8447We then made our way back to the Gardens to get some energy back and freshen up. Both our stomachs were quite hungry and realized that we hadn’t been to the Tuna since our first night. IMG_8451We walked in and a young musician by the name of Mick Fury was playing. He is originally from Syracuse, NY and then moved down to Nashville, TN. He had a great voice and we listened to him for a bit.

We didn’t feel like moving so we ordered a few appetizers to share. Once he was done we talked to him for a bit. I was then starting to feel the day and it was time to go back to the Gardens. Plus we had a fishing charter with our good friend Billy Rentz of Six Pack Charters the next day, so we didn’t want to stay out too late. http://tinyurl.com/n5hfnxc

Wednesday April 19th – Fishing with Billy IMG_8460We woke up to a beautiful morning. Since we were meeting Billy at 9:00am we had our breakfast at the Gardens. The Gardens does offer a nice variety for breakfast besides the standard continental fare. They had several chafing dishes filled with several hotoptions. The one option we both went with, was the egg casserole. The Gardens also offers a Keurig espresso machine. It is a nice alternative to have vs. the regular coffee. After breakfast we met Billy outside where he took us to the marina.  IMG_8462We have been going out with Billy for years now and it was great to see him again. He did mention to us that it was pretty windy but he would to take us to a spot to fish that was on the Leeward side of the island. Another plus was that Billy just recently got a new boat. It was a little smaller then the previous one, but it had full seats, a great sound system and a bathroom which was a huge plus for me. IMG_8466Soon we were on our way and then I realized we never took any Dramamine which we usually do. Thankfully we never did get seasick. The first spot we anchored at it was pretty wavy. There was this perfect seat however where I could fish and sit all at the same time. It made it a lot easier for me. We started catching fish after fish right away, but they were too small to keep. Still it wound up being a lot of fun. IMG_8463About an hour or so had passed and Billy wanted to try another spot to fish closer to our eventual destination, the sand bar. Once we got to the next spot my husband still fished for a while. I was just happy to relax on the back of the boat in the sun.IMG_8465Again my husband did catch a bunch of fish, but too small to keep. We then went over to the sand bar where we just relaxed for a bit. IMG_8483We talked to Billy and just caught up with what we have both been doing since the last time we saw him. IMG_8486It wound up being a nice day to be out on the water and have a change of scenery.IMG_8470After a full day out on the water it was time to go back. IMG_8491We made our way to the marina and then Billy dropped us off back at the Gardens. We thanked him for the day and we made tentative plans to see him again later in the week.

Since we were out on the water all day it was time to freshen up. Once we were ready to go back out we realized that we both got pretty sunburned. It wasn’t too bad but I knew we wouldn’t be relaxing out in the sun the following day. IMG_8492It turned out that Zack was still playing at Willie T’s and so we stopped in to check out the end of his set before we made our second attempt to see the sunset at Mallory Square. We stayed until the end then and told him we were on our way to see the sunset. However, before we did we wanted to back to Martin’s for their happy hour special. https://www.martinskeywest.comIMG_8498It is a great deal where you have a variety of items to choose from off their tapas menu. I thought that the happy hour was from 4-7pm, but when we got there it was packed. We asked the gentlemen at the front if there were any tables available. He said to wait a few minutes and he could see what he could do. Only a few minutes passed and he found a table available for us.

We were seated outside in the back. It was a really nice setting. Once we got the menus the server told us that happy hour was about over. We literally made it by one minute! The happy hour only went until 6 not 7. IMG_8497We ordered their calamari ceviche martini, escargot, lamb chops, tuna tataki, grilled lamp chops and the pork tenderloin & bermuda onion skewer. Everything came out in a timely fashion and each one was as good as the next. IMG_8528IMG_8525Once we were done with our early dinner we were determined to make to sunset. We walked along Duval and onto Greene St. As we were passing Captain Tony’s we saw that Gabriel Wright was playing. I also noticed a gentlemen sitting at the bar with a familiar hat. It was Ralph DePalma. He is a very well known photographer down in Key West which so happens also photographs Zack and I had been doing some work for him as well. IMG_8502So we made the turn into the bar where I met Ralph. He was very nice and had some crazy stories to share with us. We asked Gabriel when he was playing next and it wasn’t until Saturday, the day we were leaving so we grabbed to seats at the bar since it was the last time we would see him play. We weren’t making the sunset again.

As we were listening to Gabriel play I noticed a familiar face outside on his bike. It was Zack. He came in and joined us for a while. We talked for a bit and then another artist came on to play. It wasn’t too late, but we were getting tired. When you are out on the water all day it definitely drains your energy.IMG_8505Zack mentioned to us that Caffeine Carl may be playing at the Lazy Gecko and we hadn’t seen him yet. We said our goodbyes and we walked down towards the Gecko. When we walked by it wasn’t Carl. Just as well because the best thing for us was to go back to the Gardens.

We walked back and got a couple glasses of wine at the Garden’s wine bar. IMG_8507It probably wasn’t the best idea, because once we sat on our porch we couldn’t even finish the wine. It was a long day and it was time to go to bed.

Thursday – April 20th – Cafe Solé and finally made it to Mallory Square IMG_8512We slept in a bit since we were going to attempt to see Caffeine Carl play at the Smokin’ Tuna later that evening. This was our last night without consequence as my husband always says. It’s basically our last night we can stay out late and not have to get up early.

It was a sunny morning and we could finally go to Blue Heaven! It was just past 9:00am and knew if we went to Blue Heaven we may have an issue since it was late. We figured that we would chance it, but the first stop was much needed coffee at Cuban Coffee Queen. IMG_8509We walked down to Blue Heaven and just like we suspected, it was crowded. We walked up to the hostess and she said it would be about a 20 minute wait to sit outside. We had our coffee already so it wasn’t really a big issue for us. We got a couple seats at the bar and my husband ordered a Bloody Mary. I tried it but I just can’t drink them. I wish I could because they look so good.
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Instead of 20 minutes it wound up being over 30 minutes. We were seated at a table where the server read all of the benedict specials. They sounded delicious but, I had eggs benedict for several days now, so I just felt like two eggs with grits and bacon. My husband ordered the same thing but with sausage and potatoes.

The breakfast was good as usual and it is always entertaining to watch the roosters and chickens run around. After breakfast we went back to the Gardens to relax on our porch/balcony for a while. IMG_8513
I was starting to get antsy and we got ready to go back out. We hadn’t been to Irish Kevin’s so that was our next stop. IMG_8520We were literally the only ones in there, which was fine since we were able to make a few song requests. Irish Kevin’s is a great place to go too if it is hot out since they always have the AC blasting, but after one beer I needed to get back outside. I was freezing.
IMG_8527We walked all the way out to Sunset Pier to see if Al was working. As we walked in, we saw a familiar face. It was Al and he recognized us right away. We found a couple of seats along the water. Al was pretty busy but he made a point to come over to talk to us for a bit. We caught up on things and it was great to see him.IMG_8521We said our goodbyes and then walked around for a bit. We wound up walking back to Sunset Tiki bar the Galleon. It was a beautiful day. IMG_8522.jpg

(On a side note, my husband wears a FitBit while we walk around Key West. On average we would walk between 7 to 8 miles a day. You don’t realize it.)
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We had a couple of drinks and then stopped back at Willie T’s to catch Zack play. We couldn’t stay for too long, since i made dinner reservations at Café Solé at 5:30pm. We were able to stay for a little bit before we had to leave.  IMG_8531We told him that we had dinner and that maybe we would run into him later. We made it back to the Gardens to freshen up once again. The Gardens is such a beautiful place to stay but we are barely there. I probably would have hung out more by the pool if I didn’t get so sunburn the other day on the boat.

We made our way towards Café Solé, which isn’t too far from the Gardens. We used to get lost trying to find it but basically you walk down Simonton Street which is right behind the Gardens and make a right onto Southard St. and it’s straight down the road. IMG_8532We walked in and were seated at a very nice table. IMG_8536I love the location and setting of the restaurant since it is off the beaten path and generally very quiet. My husband ordered the beef carpaccio while I had the angels on horseback (which are dates wrapped in bacon stuffed with garlic). Both appetizers were very good. Then we both ordered the hogfish snapper for dinner which the restaurant is known for. It was delicious. http://tinyurl.com/ludwg96

My husband and I were quite full after dinner and decided it would be the perfect opportunity to walk around and make our way towards Mallory Square.

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The skies started to get more overcast unfortunately but it just felt good to walk.
IMG_8546We walked on over to check out the new Margaritaville Hotel which is the former Westin. IMG_8552Everything looked the same besides the new branding of the signs. We wanted to see if Mojito Jimmy was working still at his cart. IMG_8553On our way we ran into Zack and Kai. At this point I started not feeling too well. I don’t know if was from the richness of the dinner or drinking but I needed to sit. They suggested that I should try coconut water which is served in an actual coconut. IMG_8582I was determined to feel better so I gave it ago. Let’s just say I wasn’t a fan. It really didn’t taste like much but it was lukewarm which just made it not very appealing. I eventually got most of it down.

We found a spot to sit down for a while to hang out and watch the acrobats perform at Mallory Square. It wound up being too cloudy for sunset but it was a fun evening nevertheless. We said our goodbyes and started walking back towards the Gardens.
IMG_8554 I was actually started to feel better so we walked to the Tuna wait for Caffeine Carl. I guess the coconut water actually worked! We grabbed two seats at the bar enjoyed Mick Fury play before Caffeine Carl came on. IMG_8600Once his set was over, he came by and we talked to him for a bit. He was a really nice guy. IMG_8604I was feeling revived in a way and we wound up staying out the latest we had all during our vacation. I think we made it to about midnight before we called it a night. IMG_8608

Friday – April 21st – Our Last Full Day
IMG_8615Was it really our last full day already? I thought staying a full week would feel like eternity, but the trip just flew by.

After being up the previous night pretty late (for us) we slept in for a bit. The weather was overcast again. We freshened up before we walked to Cuban Coffee Queen for coffee. Since we were feeling a bit sluggish, we wound going to Sarabeth’s for breakfast since it is so close to the hotel. http://sarabethskeywest.comIMG_8610.jpgWe walked down the Simonton St. and were seated outside at a nice corner table. IMG_8613The rain held off while we enjoyed a much needed breakfast. I had the cheddar omelet while my husband ordered the green and white omelet which is basically scallions and cream cheese. When we were done with breakfast we went back to the Gardens to relax for a bit. This gave us the opportunity to set up our pickup to the airport through the front desk before we went back to the room. We asked to be picked up by 6:00am since our flight was at 7:10am. I would have probably made it a little earlier, but I was able to print out our boarding passes from the hotel so we could go straight to the security line and not the ticket counter.

I also used the opportunity to pack most of our things so we wouldn’t have to worry about it later on. The sense of the trip nearing the end just sat with me for the rest of the day. I tried to make the best of it and realized how lucky we are for being able to return to Key West each and every year, sometimes twice a year. IMG_8614We relaxed for a bit and eventually made our way back towards the Bight. My husband suggest going to Dante’s for a drink since we had not been there yet. It wound up not being a very good suggestion. We sat down and noticed loud music playing. I looked around and noticed a lot of bachelorette parties. As we tried to get our drinks down a DJ came on and mentioned that it was the Dante’s Poolside Party. I was starting to get flashbacks of spring break in Panama City Beach, FL many years ago. We definitely felt out of place. We didn’t even finish our drinks before leaving. It wasn’t bad, but just not what we were in the mood for.

We walked back down towards the Galleon since we needed a quiet place to hang out. We found two seats where we just enjoyed conversation with the bartender and the view for a bit. IMG_8431Since we wanted to see Zack and Caffeine Carl play later on back at the Smokin’ Tuna, we didn’t want to stay out for too long, so we walked back down Duval to the Garden’s. Before we got back, we stopped in at Rick’s to catch the last few songs of Zack’s show. After the show was over, we did mention to him how I would love a picture of my husband and I with him and Caffeine Carl. He said that it shouldn’t be a problem when we went to the Tuna later. We made it back to the Gardens to regroup one last time.

We planned on going to the Tuna a bit earlier to catch Mick Fury, the musician we saw at the Tuna the night before from Nashville. Before we camped out (if you will) at the Tuna, we walked back to Kelly’s for one last key lime margarita. It was nice and refreshing.IMG_8621.jpgWe were getting a bit antsy making sure we would get our favorite seats at the bar, so we made our way back to the Tuna. It wasn’t crowded at all so we had no problem finding our seats. We also order some dinner while we were listening to Mick Fury.

I ordered the jalapeno poppers and fried snapper sandwich. It wasn’t the healthiest thing I have ever eaten, but I wanted to make sure I had enough fuel to stay up for a while that evening and not feel terrible the next morning.
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Zack came by earlier so we could catch the Yankees vs. Pittsburgh baseball game, however they didn’t have the broadcast on the tv, but it was just as well because it gave us an opportunity to just hang out for a bit.

Soon it was time for him to get set up for the show and my husband reminded me about the photo. We walked up and asked if it was okay for a photo and it wasn’t a problem at all. So we finally got the photo I wanted! I was so happy! IMG_8629

Once the band came on we just sat back and had a great time. https://youtu.be/4-80CjqrwfQ Mick Fury also wound up hanging out with us for a while too. It was a great night and the sense of leaving the next day started to hit me. I did keep it together without getting upset. It was so much fun but I knew we had to get back to reality.

When the band had a break, Zack came over and we were able to talk for a few minutes. Soon it was time to say our goodbyes and thought until next year (fingers crossed). We made it back just before midnight. I was quite relieved that I had packed all of our things ahead of time.

Saturday – April 22nd – Going Home IMG_8633
The 5:00am alarm came quickly and we freshened up before the flight back home. The one thing that we were able to do, is book a direct flight that United started offering during the high season. This made it a lot easier for us leaving knowing that we would be back home before noon.

Once we had everything ready to go I wasn’t sure what to do with our keys. We normally leave them in the drop off basket outside the main house, however sometimes they would call me later on looking for them. So I decided to leave them in the room.

We walked out to the front and realized it was a very bad decision. There is a gate that is locked to get out of the Gardens and you need a key to get out. During the day it is open. The sense of panic started to set in. We were not going to be able to get out!

Thankfully my husband thought quickly and hoped over the railing on the porch. I then handed him our luggage and I was able get over the railing as well. We were so relieved but then we hit another obstacle. We had the front main gate to tackle next! Fortunately my husband remembered the combination and we were finally outside of the hotel. A huge sense of relief overwhelmed us. Within minutes there was the taxi ready to take us to the airport.

We got to the airport and went straight to the security line. We had to wait a few minutes, but we had plenty of time before we boarded. When we got to the gate we noticed that the rain was coming down heavy. Even the airport personnel told everyone that umbrellas were available to use when we had to walk to the plane.

They called our flight number and we walked out onto the runway. It was pouring so hard it was hard to find our plane. There were around 4 planes that were boarding the same time and they all looked the same. Finally we saw one of the air traffic controllers and they were calling out United. Our plane was one of the furthest one away to get to and we were soaked.

Soon we were on our way and the flight only took about 2 and 1/2 hours. We wound up landing about 40 minutes early. Our car service picked us up on time and we were home by 11:00am. We both looked at each and thought were we just in Key West?

Once again, Key West is a special place that never disappoints. We have met some great people and made great friendships throught out the years of visiting. People keep asking me why do we keep going back to the same place year after year -and I just look at them and smile…. because there is no other place like Key West and we love it.
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Thanks again for taking the time to read my blog. Until the next time!

St. John 2016 – 10 days in my happy place.

img_6390This marked our 13th time back on St. John (14th time to the Virgin Islands) and couldn’t have been more excited to go since NJ was experience a cold spell right before we left. We were also staying at a new villa called Caribbean Palm Villa located in Point Rendezvous. https://www.vrbo.com/633622

Thursday, October 27th – Travel Day

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We woke up to 36 degrees and made our way to Newark Airport. Check in was easy and no issues with the flights.  img_6243

When we landed in Puerto Rico, however, the Cape Air terminal is all the way on the other side of the airport in the basement part in Terminal D. You have to walk through the newly renovated airport which almost seems like you are walking through a mall and it is quite nice. However, when you finally get to Terminal D, it is located in the basement of the airport and there is no AC. So it is the perfect place to change into your island wear – which we did. (which is always the best feeling trading your socks and shoes for flip flops) Luckily there was a small Margaritaville bar where we had a quick beverage before boarding onto the plane for our flight to St. Thomas (we had about an hour and a half layover). img_6245

Once they called our flight we walked out to the plane.img_6250

Unfortunately the pilot wasn’t there yet so we had to wait for her. Thankfully it wasn’t too long and before we knew it we were off and I could see all the Virgin Islands come into view from the plane. It is always such a sight to see. img_6253

We landed just about a quarter after 3 and didn’t think we would make the 4 o’clock ferry. I contacted our villa rep who was meeting us at the ferry dock and told her I would let her know. Surprisingly the taxi driver made great time and we made it to Red Hook with about 5 min. to spare! It was the earliest we had ever made the ferry and were so excited that we would see our villa during the day.

I texted our villa rep and she was ready to meet us at the dock. Once we got to the dock she had a sign that had our name on it so it was easy to spot her. img_6256We had to first pick up our jeep rental at Bougainvillea http://stjohnjeeps.com so she dropped us off at the rental. Even the owner at Bougainvillea said that he was expecting us a lot later to pick up the jeep but our 4 door jeep rental was ready. It was a nice gray/blue color which is a big change from the normal neon colored jeeps we have gotten in the past.img_6457

We got into our jeep and our villa rep went in front of us to follow her to our villa rental for 10 days Caribbean Palm Villa. The ride wasn’t too bad since we were familiar with the area and I thought the villa was right after Ditleff Point, but it was just before it. We took a left hand turn onto Point Rendevous and the villa was the 2nd one from the road. IMG_6456.jpg

We aren’t used to having a villa so close to the road but it’s location is very convenient to town. The villa has 3 large bedrooms with king size beds and a large great room with Italian style decor and also outdoor showers in every bedroom with a balcony. I didn’t realize that the great room didn’t have AC, but with the doors open there is a nice breeze. The bedrooms do have AC which I personally was really happy about since I like it nice and cool to sleep.img_6258img_6257

After our villa rep showed us around we thanked her and we opened a bottle of wine that we had provisioned from St. John Provisions and the welcoming platter I ordered. http://villafoodvi.com (I highly recommended St. John Provisions if you would like to have your villa stocked before you get there – Meredith was so easy to work with especially when I found out the bottles of Corona Light were not available. It turns out they have not been available on island for months now – not sure if it is a distribution thing or Corona has been doing very good marketing lately.) http://tinyurl.com/zzbdcg3img_6268

It was a perfect ending to a long travel day. We just sat for a while taking in the sights and listened to the coqui frogs come alive. It was so great to be back to one of our favorite islands, St. John.

Friday, October 28th – First Full Day

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I remember seeing the pictures of Caribbean Palm Villa on the website showing a beautiful sunrise so when I woke up around 6:15 I knew I had to look outside and take a picture. I wasn’t ready to get up yet so went back to sleep for a bit. We both woke up about an hour and a half later. It was a beautiful morning and enjoyed breakfast on the covered veranda.img_6281img_6288

We realized we needed a few things for the week (like laundry detergent) so we wanted to go to the market and grab a few things. Meanwhile back in July, one of our friends we met in Key West, Dave recently moved to St. Thomas. He was off for the day so we wanted to meet up with them.

We stopped at the Star Fish Market and got the items we needed, including additional bug spray. While we normally stay closer to the water, Caribbean Palm Villa is located further up in the hills so unfortunately more mosquitos and noseeums (which love me).img_6295

We then stopped at High Tide for a much needed rum punch. We always enjoy stopping at High Tide first since the views cannot be beat.http://www.hightidevi.com/ I then got a message from Dave saying he was at the Dog House Pub. We finished our rum punches and walked over. It was great to see him again but not in Key West, but St. John! We met his other half, Jacalyn who originally is from a small town in NJ not too far from where we live. Small world!

We wanted to show them where we were staying so we took a drive back to our villa. It was a nice afternoon just hanging out and taking in the views. They had to make the car barge back over to St. Thomas so we had to be back by 4pm.img_6301

We went back to Cruz Bay and said our goodbyes.  It was great to see them and hopefully would meet up with them again before we left. It was getting to be that time for happy hour so we walked down to Longboard for a drink. https://www.thelongboardstjohn.com/

I recently read how everyone seemed to love the Tuna Down Now at the Beach Bar and I was eager to try it. img_6309

Now usually we go to St. John the previous week in October but wanted to go the next week since more restaurants seem to open the first week in November. We noticed that when we walked down towards the Beach Bar how crowded it was. We have never experienced Cruz Bay that busy for happy hour. It was fun in a way to see. We were able to get a few seats at the Beach Bar. I ordered the Tuna Down Now and my husband ordered a cheeseburger. The food came out pretty quick and it was delicious. We were both quite hungry as well. http://beachbarstjohn.com/img_6306

After our meal we walked back down towards High Tide along the beach. img_6311

We were going to stop in for one more but knew we had a long day ahead of as we were going to Jost Van Dyke for the day.

We walked back to our jeep and drove back to the villa. We freshened up and relaxed for a bit before calling it a night.

Saturday, October 29th – Jost Van Dyke – Soggy Dollar Bar

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We woke up to another sun filled day. We had to be at the ferry by 8am to go to Jost. So we figured we would get to town early, around 7 or so and have a nice breakfast at Cruz Bay Landing. http://www.cruzbaylanding.com/ We drove into Cruz Bay and actually found a parking spot right near the ferry dock. We then walked on over to Cruz Bay Landing. We each had some coffee and a delicious breakfast. I had an omelette while my husband had the two egg special.

With our stomachs full we walked on over to the Inter Island Ferry. We checked in and waited for the ferry. More and more people were coming in to do the same and we realized it was definitely the start of the high season. My husband then saw a young gentlemen wearing a shirt that said High Point Lacrosse. He asked if it was High Point NJ and he said yes. It was funny because we live about a half hour from there. Small world again! img_6316

The ferry finally pulled up and we decided to sit up top and enjoy the views. Then we realized when we were going towards Jost Van Dyke that we would most likely be the last ones off the ferry and last going through customs. This happened to us once before and by the time we got off the ferry we couldn’t get a taxi.

As the ferry neared the dock we moved to a few seats where the stairs to exit to down below were located. Once we reached the dock they made an announcement that the customs agent missed the ferry from Tortolla and we would have to wait. The sun was beaming down and I think everyone realized the same thing – go down below into the shade. img_6317

So we made our way down below and just waited. It was only about 15 min. but it felt like an eternity since there was no air moving. The boat with the customs agent did finally arrive and we were the first ones off the ferry. There was a family of 4 that were on their way to Tortolla so they had to go through customs first to get back on the ferry. The rest of us were all staying on Jost for the day.

Once we were through customs we hoped in a taxi and turned out the gentlemen from High Point and his friends got on our taxi as well. They were actually staying at a beach bungalow type of place called Ivan’s for the night. So we stopped there first to drop them off. Now this place was definitely no four star type of place but it looked like they had a perfect spot on the beach since it was right on it. We said we would most likely seem them later as we were going to the Soggy Dollar Bar for the day. http://www.soggydollar.com/

The taxi took us back up the hill and you could see the gorgeous view of White Bay. We have been there so many times before but that view never gets old. The taxi driver dropped us off right at the Soggy Dollar Bar and asked us if he could pick us back up at 2pm to take us to Foxy’s later on and he said no problem.img_6319

We walked onto White Bay and it was so beautiful. You feel like you are just stepping into a world of bright colors with hues of blues and greens of the water, pinks and reds (from the bougainvillea), etc. We noticed that the tables were new and much more comfortable. We found the perfect table to camp out in for the day. We also noticed that the one ring toss game was no longer there. They still had the one closer to the gift shop though. img_6324img_6332

My husband went up to the bar and got us two Painkillers (which we both prefer made with Cruzan Rum vs. Pussers Rum). They were delicious and we were back on White Bay. We spent most of the day taking turns going into the water and kicking back with a few painkillers. img_6335img_6338The annual Cat Fight races were going on as well so we could see all the catamarans in the distance racing.img_6342

This time however, after a couple of painkillers I couldn’t drink them anymore – I think the OJ and pineapple juice was getting a bit too acidic – maybe I am getting too old but had to switch to a nice cold beer.img_6341

Later on we saw the guy from High Point and his friends. Turns out too one of them knew this bartender we met last year at Foxy’s Leon Miller. We talked a bit and before we knew it was nearing 2 o’clock. It’s amazing how much faster time goes when you are on vacation vs. spending a day at work.

Sure enough at 2 o’clock the taxi driver was there. He took us back to Foxy’s where we wanted to see Leon again. As I mentioned before we met him last year bartending at Foxy’s and turned out he was into photography. Being that I myself am a graphic designer, we hit it off trading points about working in Photoshop, etc. Once we got dropped off my husband asked the taxi driver to pick us up in about an hour and take us to the ferry dock. It isn’t too far, but it was a hot day and we knew walking down that road can seem like forever in the sun and heat. img_6365

We walked into the bar and didn’t see Leon right away. We asked the bartender and he said he was around setting up for the Foxy’s Halloween Party later that evening. A few minutes passed and then we saw him. It was great to see him again. We also got a chance to see a tarantula he caught earlier and his recent photography he did. He really is a talented guy and has a great eye for photography. img_6364

We hung out for a bit before the taxi returned to take us back to the ferry dock. We also wanted to get back about a hour early to see if Joan was around from Sugar and Spice restaurant. Last year I had been working with her daughter with a few t-shirt designs. Joan decided on one she wanted but we ran into issues with trying to get them printed and shipping them from the states to the British Virgin Islands. So my husband suggested to get one shirt done for her. So I made sure I had it with us when we walked into Sugar and Spice.

As soon as we walked in, she recognized us. She gave us big hugs and we gave her the shirt. She was so appreciative that we did that for her. In fact she wound up making my husband and I a big plate of rice and pork. I wasn’t that hungry so I only had a taste. It was incredible. My husband wound up finishing the entire plate.IMG_6372.jpg

We thanked Joan and I told her we would try and work out something with the shirts. We also said that we would see her next year and we were soon back on the ferry to St. John. img_6374

I actually wound up falling asleep on the ferry so the ride seemed to go by in a flash. I woke up and it was time to exit the ferry. We went through customs without any issues and by that time I was starving.

Our usual tradition is that after a day spent at the Soggy Dollar Bar we walk on over to Margarita Phil’s for some Mexican food to go. We walked on over and it was just opening up. The bartendar working noticed my husband’s visor that it is from the Smokin’ Tuna in Key West. She said she was quite a fan and we told her we’ve been going there as well for a bunch of years (since 2006) sometimes twice a year! We placed our order and talked for a few. Once our food was ready we thanked her and made our way back towards the jeep.

Along the way a young local approached us about how he just finished his new CD. Being that I am a fan of music I didn’t hesitate when I asked him how much for the CD. He said whatever we felt was appropriate – so we gave him a $20. He was very grateful and he was on his way. We put the CD in the jeep and it was definitely different from what we were used to listen to. We both laughed and said regardless it would make a nice souvenir.

We got back to the villa and had a nice Mexican meal. It was long but fun day as usual on Jost. After dinner, we both went to bed. And I think it was just barely 8:45.

Sunday, October 30th – Hawksnest Beach

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Since we went to bed so early the previous night we were both awake early. It was another beautiful morning on St. John. We made some coffee and had a bite to eat. img_6385

We figured that we would go to one of the beaches on the North Shore that day and the fact that it was so early we’d probably be one of the first ones there.

We choose Hawksnest Beach since it is really convenient and you don’t have to walk far to access it. I did have our snorkel gear with us but didn’t pack our fins since they take up too much room in our carry on. We stopped at Mongoose Junction to see if the one shop was open to rent the fins but they weren’t yet (not until 10am). So we just went without them for the day. img_6387We headed back out onto the North Shore Road, but first stopped at the Caneel Bay overlook to take a picture.

We got to Hawksnest and there was just one other family there. We picked a nice quiet spot on the beach and took in the views. It didn’t take me long to jump in the water. The water was so warm and clear. I wanted to try and snorkel, but in previous situations if I snorkel without fins – it can be a bit more difficult. Plus there was a bit of current in the water so I didn’t want to chance it. Nevertheless it was still beautiful just to be in that water. img_6398img_6394

As the time passed, we noticed more and more people on the beach. It didn’t get too crowded but getting to the beach early is key. About 3 hours had passed and we were feeling the sun. It was time to head back to the villa for the afternoon.

On our way back we stopped back at the one shop and got our fin rentals for the week. Since we were right there, we decided to go to the Tap Room for drink. (which is still going under renovations from the fire so the new place is not open yet) http://www.stjohnbrewers.com/taproom.htmlimg_6399

We didn’t realize that they had tv’s in there and it was funny to see the Redskins vs. Bengals game in London on. We wound up watching the ending since we are Giants fans we were hoping to see the Bengals win. The game wound up finishing in a tie so that didn’t really help the Giants too much in the division. However a tie isn’t a win so not so bad.

Being that we were out for most of the day before, we wanted to spend some time at the villa and enjoy the views from there. We drove to the Starfish Market where we picked up a few things to grill up later on that evening. They had fresh mahi mahi that I got – along with a few other things to make the fish tacos. (the fish selection was quite abundant which I don’t remember it being that way – which was a nice surprise) We then walked across to the liquor store to pick some wine to make sangria.

At home we like to have sangria while watching football. We call it our Sangria Sunday’s, and why not have it on St. John. img_6411img_6409

We got back and we were able to find a football game on to watch. Our Giants were on a bi so we weren’t too glued to the tv. We spent the afternoon checking a few scores while taking a few dips in the pool. It was a nice afternoon.

For dinner we grilled up the mahi mahi. The grill at the villa was easy to start up and my husband grilled the fish perfectly. It was a nice way to end the day enjoying fish tacos at our villa. img_6422

Monday – October 31st, Halloween and Cinnamon Bay

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We woke up again early to a beautiful morning. We knew it was Halloween and wanted to be sure to be in Cruz Bay later that day to see all the locals dressed up in costumes. We were both hungry so I made us some breakfast. Over breakfast we decided on Cinnamon Bay.

On the way I made sure we stopped at the Trunk Bay overlook to get that shot I think I have taken every time we come down. This time though, St. John was so much greener then it usually is this time of year. Some locals mentioned to us that they have been experiencing more rain – which is evident since it looked beautiful. img_6428

We also had to wait at a “traffic light” on the way. Apparently they are doing some road work that blocks a portion of the road. It was funny to see on the way to the beach. img_6435

Once we got to Cinnamon the skies got darker. We walked onto the beach and we were the only ones there. We were a bit puzzled but figured that maybe everyone had a late start. We walked down and found a spot to camp out for the morning. Then however, it started to rain. We looked up and saw that it was only a small area of dark clouds so that it would most likely pass. While it was drizzling we walked down the beach and noticed at the far end you pass a few rocks and there is another small beach that is part of Cinnamon but it looked like your own private beach. img_6439

We then walked back and grabbed our stuff. The sun was coming back out and we camped out near the rocks. By then more people were starting to come on the beach but we didn’t care – we had our own “private” one. I did snorkel a bit while my husband read on his kindle. I didn’t see too much but it was nice to see some fish.img_6442img_6447img_6451

Unfortunately the dark clouds returned and this time it looked like it wasn’t going to be a brief shower. We packed up all our things and made the long walk back to the jeep. As we got closer to the jeep it started to pour. We were thankful that we didn’t have too far to go. We made it back but got a bit soaked. img_6454

We got back to our villa and the sun came back out. We were able to spend the rest of the afternoon at our villa. At one point we thought we heard the villa cat eating the food, but turned out it wasn’t the cat. img_6459

Since we wanted to return to town earlier to hit a few happy hours and see the Halloween festivities, we got ready around 3pm.

We drove back to town and parked our jeep at the Slimman’s Parking Lot – which is so convenient. We figured the first place we would hit was High Tide for their delicious rum punch. As I mentioned before, it is a great spot to enjoy a drink and watch the sun go down. img_6477img_6478

We were getting hungry and I wanted to check out the Lime Inn since they were open. (plus the owners of the restaurant used to own a restaurant back in NJ years ago in Long Valley – called Chesepeake that I used to go to with my family) http://www.thelimeinn.com/

Normally we go to St. John the week before but we waited an extra week so we would hit more restaurants that were open for the season. We walked in and found a couple of seats at the bar. We ordered a couple of cocktails and a few appetizers. I had the bacon wrapped scallops and my husband had the cracked conch which was lightly battered. It looked so good that I had to try it. (I have tried conch before and it has ended with bad results – several hours later I feel sick to my stomach and you can imagine the rest) I figured I would just try a little – it won’t affect me. I was wrong…img_6487

The next stop was Cruz Bay Landing. It was getting dark out but town was definitely more crowded. Mostly everyone was at Mongoose Junction because that is where they have the Halloween festivities but we didn’t feel like walking down that way. We found another couple of seats at the bar. I ordered their fried calamari salad special while my husband had a shrimp and pasta dinner. I tried a few of the shrimp and it was delicious and so was my calamari salad. img_6489

We were surprised to see entertainment as well. It was nice to hear some live music which isn’t very common on St. John especially the time of year we go. After our meals we were getting tired. It is funny how in St. John you tend to get up early and go to sleep early.img_6491

Once we got back to the villa we turned on the Eagles vs. Dallas game. About a half hour passed and I did not feel good AT ALL – I was sick to my stomach. Yes it must have been the conch appetizer from the Lime Inn. I ran to the bathroom and it was not pretty. (I don’t know what it is – I can eat every kind of seafood, etc. without issue – however conch is the only thing that I react to in that way every single time I try it).

At that point is was time to turn in for the night.

Tuesday, November 1st – St. Thomas and Morgan’s Mango

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During the night there were some pretty strong storms blew through that woke us both up from time to time. So when we woke up in the morning the skies were gray. We knew right away it wasn’t going to be a beach day.

I also remembered that our friend Dave was bartending at this place called the Smoking Rooster in St. Thomas in Havensight. We thought it would be the perfect time to take the ferry over and see him.IMG_6505.jpg

After a few cups of coffee and a quick bite to eat, we went to Cruz Bay to catch the ferry. We originally wanted to take the one to Charlotte Amalie but it wasn’t running that day. We had no choice but to go on the one to Red Hook. It wasn’t a bad option since there are taxi’s available all the time from Red Hook.

We got to Red Hook and got in a taxi with a few others that were on their way to the airport. We asked the taxi to drop us off at Havensight, which is a newer area located just outside of Charlotte Amalie catered to the cruise ships that come into port.

He dropped us off but wasn’t too sure where the restaurant Dave was working was located at. We walked around and it was so crowded with cruise ship people. There were 3 large ships in that day and it was a bit hectic. Walking around I realize how much I would NOT like to take a cruise. I just couldn’t handle the crowds and always looking at your watch to see what time it is since you have to be back on the boat, etc. (I don’t wear a watch while on vacation)img_6508

We asked around and finally found the Smoking Rooster. www.thesmokingrooster.com We walked in and there was Dave! It was good to see him again. We ordered a few beers and could smell the bbq. It made us both hungry. I ordered their smoked mahi fish dip and my husband ordered their beef brisket sandwich. The food was so good and you could taste that wonderful smoke.img_6509

While we were eating our lunch, more and more cruise ship people were coming in. So we couldn’t really talk to Dave too much. After lunch we said our goodbyes and began our quest to find a taxi that would take us back to Red Hook. IMG_6510.jpg

There were a lot of taxi cabs available but they wanted people to do a tour of the island. I guess they figure they can make more money taking the cruise ship people around for a tour vs. taking two people back to Red Hook. We did find one taxi driver that said we should go in front of the Wendy’s. We walked on over and sure enough there was a taxi driver that would take us back.

I thought about maybe having another drink in Red Hook before going back to St. John and see if our good friend Joe was around (we met him back in 2004 when we went out on a charter with him on the Scubadu www.sailvi.com).

Well things changed after that ride. We literally made the 40 minute ride in 15 minutes. I have never experienced that fast of a ride through the windy and hilly roads of St. Thomas. When we got to Red Hook we were both so nauseous. I couldn’t even think about drinking anything. We thanked him for his quickness but boy it was rough.

It was just before 2 and thought to just catch the 2 o’clock ferry. I sent Joe a text but didn’t hear anything back not knowing if he was even on island or not.IMG_6511.jpg

We took the ferry back to Cruz Bay and were happy to be back on St. John. It was just before 2:30 and I wanted to have a mango Mojito at Joe’s Rum Hut. www.joesrumhut.com We tried to go there the night before but when it is happy hour you can’t even get a seat. We sat down and had two mojitos. I checked my phone and saw a text message from Joe. He was back on island and we just missed him as we were in Red Hook (where his catamaran is docked). I told him that we were on St. John until Saturday and hopefully we can meet up at some point.

We were still very full from the lunch and were debating whether or not to keep our dinner reservations at Morgan’s Mango. It was their famous Lobster dinner night and if we cancelled then we would miss out on the lobsters.

img_6513The weather was still overcast and occasional showers so we just drove back to the villa. We relaxed for a bit and thought we could eat lobster. I kept the reservation and we got ready for dinner.

Before dinner we stopped at the Ocean Grill for a glass of wine. We wound up talking to the bartender Elvin who was really nice. We would have stayed and have dinner there if we didn’t have the reservations at Morgan’s Mango. img_6518

We walked on over and as soon as we did – the skies opened up again. It started down pouring. We were lucky enough that we found a couple of seats at the bar. We noticed that parts of the roof were leaking and anyone seated near the balcony were getting wet. So unfortunately we were seated towards the middle part of the restaurant. At least our table was dry. The restaurant was filling up quickly since it was lobster night. Our reservations were for 6pm so we were one of the first to be seated.img_6530

At this point we were both ready for lobster. I started off with their white fish ceviche while my husband had their grilled shrimp. We both of course had the grilled Caribbean lobster which was accompanied with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc, beans and rice. It was delicious. http://tinyurl.com/z25qbjaimg_6527

Once we were done with dinner, we walked back towards where we had the jeep parked. The Ocean Grill was still open and it was still quiet. We went back in to see Elvin and a nightcap. He said that the lobster night at Morgan’s Mango tends to hurt their business. We talked a bit for going back to the villa.

Wednesday, November 2nd – Salt Pond and Viva Cantina

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We woke up to partly sunny skies but it wasn’t raining. We had some coffee and the skies seemed to clear up a bit.

Our beach of choice was Salt Pond. We were up again early and we weren’t very hungry so grabbed our things and into the jeep.

We made our way towards Salt Pond not before stopping near Chateau Bordeaux to take a few pictures of Coral Bay.

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It is about an hour trip to Salt Pond but it is worth it. We find the snorkeling here really good and the beach is very calm. Not many people make all the way out to it either so it is generally quiet and safe. img_6563

We found a spot on the beach to put our things down. We had to be careful where we stepped because there were a bunch of small burrs in the sand. (a lot as as matter of fact) This side of the island is very dry and there are a lot of hermit crabs that run along the beach.img_6568

It started to drizzle a little but then it did clear up. I went in the water to snorkel right away. A couple told me that there was a turtle several yards out and I wanted to see it. I swam out and it wasn’t long before I spotted him. He was a huge turtle just hanging out down below eating the sea grass. It was neat to watch him as he would swim up for air from time to time. I didn’t see too many other fish but seeing that turtle was more then enough for me.img_6570

There were not too many people at the beach which made it nice and relaxing.

It was getting to be that time to grab something to eat, so we packed up our things and walked the trail back to the jeep.We drove back to Coral Bay and stopped at Aqua Bistro for a bite to eat. I had the buffalo shrimp and my husband had the fried calamari. I probably could have had more to eat but we wanted to have an earlier dinner. IMG_6573.jpg

We made the long ride back to the villa (which takes about an hour). The sun was back out and it was another beautiful afternoon relaxing by the pool. img_6580

It was then time to shower and head back into town for dinner. When I was closing the villa doors I heard a loud meow. All of a sudden there she was Oscar – the villa kitty! img_6588

It was the first time we saw her at the villa. She was so sweet and adorable. We instantly fell in love with this little cat, especially my husband. We gave her more food and hoped that she would still be there when we got back.

The other night when we were walking to Morgan’s Mango we noticed the new restaurant Viva Cantina that used to be Virgin Fire. So we decided to give it a try.img_6608

We were seated on the balcony and the sun was setting. I ordered their house made margarita and my husband had their sangria. img_6592

It was a beautiful evening to sit out on the balcony and watch the sun go down. For dinner, my husband had the beef brisket burritos and I had the viva Mahi Mahi fish tacos.

The food was delicious but also made us so full. We also were served their house made tortilla chips and salsa. http://tinyurl.com/hogm4og

We were debating whether or not to stop at another place but we just couldn’t do it. We drove back to the villa and Oscar was waiting for us. At that point on she just hung outside of the villa keeping us company. She would never go inside but just would rest by us. Again she was so sweet.

Thursday, November 3 – Trunk Bay and returning to Caneel Bay

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We woke up to party sunny skies. The clouds would roll in and out but it was nice enough to enjoy breakfast on the veranda and decide on the next beach to go to. I felt like going to Trunk so that’s what it wound up being.img_6644

The water was a bit rough (for St. John standards) but it was fun to jump around in the waves. It wasn’t really conducive to snorkel, but we didn’t mind. It was a nice morning spent on the beach and taking the occasional dip in the water. Since the weather was a bit on the iffy side, it kept a lot of people a way which was nice. It never got too crowded and we just took it all in. Trunk is such a popular beach, but obviously because it is that beautiful. img_6651

The showers then came back so we grabbed our things and headed to town. We hadn’t been to Woody’s yet and stopped in for a few rum punches. The sun came back out and it was a nice afternoon. www.woodysseafood.comimg_6655

Later that evening we had reservations at Zozo’s, which is now at the old Equator Restaurant location at Caneel Bay. www.caneelbay.com Caneel Bay just opened up several days earlier so we were able to make a reservation for dinner.

Our very first trip we stayed at Caneel Bay back in 2003. We then started to switch up our stays by splitting it between Caneel and the Westin. Eventually we thought it made more sense to rent a villa where you can get an entire house, with a pool and all the amenities that you really don’t get at a resort. img_6680

However Caneel Bay always holds a special place in our hearts. So many memories there. We pulled into the parking lot and walked down to the beach bar for a few drinks. I had to have their bushwacker because I remember how good they were. img_6673And it tasted just like I remembered.img_6681img_6683img_6665

After our cocktails we walked up towards Zozo’s but not before seeing a few donkeys roaming the grounds. I was happy to take a few photos of them. We had seen some donkeys a few days before while driving but I wasn’t able to get their picture.img_6701img_6697

We were seated at a lovely table along the railing. The sun was setting and it was the perfect backdrop to a wonderful dinner. img_6724

We decided to split a bottle of red wine. For appetizers I had the pork bone marrow app and my husband had the pappardelle with truffle sauce. They were delicious. Then for our entrees I had the pistachio crusted mahi mahi and my husband had they 28 day aged beef tenderloin.

Their prices are not for the faint of heart, but this was our one “special dinner” planned for our vacation. And it was definitely worth it. The food was spot on and so was the service. It was probably the best meal we had on this trip. If you are looking for a special place for dinner, I would recommend Zozo’s without hesitation. http://tinyurl.com/jmbuxqf

It was also the night of Game 7 of the World Series. Unfortunately with the Dish network there we were not able to get the game. I would check my phone now and then at the villa for the score. It wound up going to extra innings and we just could not stay up.

After that dinner we were both ready for a good night sleep.

Friday – November 4th, Last Full Day on the Island – Villa Gravity Day and Meeting up with an old friend

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Since it was our last full day on the island I was a bit anxious to get everything ready for our departure the next day. After breakfast I spent the morning doing laundry and packing our things.

I finally heard back from our friend Joe, and he was going to meet us in town later that night around 6 or so. We did think about going to another beach in the morning but to us it made sense to relax and enjoy our villa one last time. We hadn’t had the “villa gravity” day (where you just spend the day at your villa) so it was a perfect decision. img_6745img_6741img_6735

I did have an odd occurrence while I was relaxing at the pool. I was just about to doze off for a moment, when I heard two ladies approach me with a friendly good morning. At first I thought maybe they were at the villa to clean or drop off things for the next guests that were arriving the next day. I was wrong – they were two jehovah’s witnesses – no joke. Now I know we are in a residential area in St. John, but that was the last thing I would expect! They asked me if I would like any information and I kindly said yes. They left me with a pamphlet and they were on their way. I guess it doesn’t matter if you are in the US or in the Virgin Islands – you have jehovah’s witnesses!

A few hours passed by and it was time to go into town to return our snorkel fins and fill up the tank in our jeep rental before returning it the following morning.

So we freshened up early and drove back to town around 3pm. There is a second gas station now on St. John so it makes it a lot easier to get gas. We filled up the jeep, returned the fins in Mongoose Junction. We saw that the Sun Dog Cafe was pretty empty and it looked like the perfect place to have an afternoon cocktail. http://sundogcafe.com/img_6746

We then parked our jeep at the Slimman’s Parking lot for the rest of the evening. While we were walking around we saw the same gentlemen who sold us his CD. He asked us how we liked his music and said we enjoyed it very much. He was so happy and thanked us again for listening to it (I didn’t have the heart to say we weren’t really into his music, but we’ll give it another try when we get back home). His website is www.yeahdehman.com and feel free to check out his music.

Another place we didn’t go to was Drink. It was after 4 so we new that they would be open. We walked along the beach in Cruz Bay and saw all the people coming out for happy hour.

I was getting a little sad knowing it was our last night but I was excited to see our friend Joe later that evening. We walked down to Drink and they were setting up for a wedding reception. We were able to order a couple Titos Cocumber mojitos which were on the strong side but delicious. img_6755

While we were sitting there, my husband recognized Max from last year. It turned out that one of his customer’s (my husband owns his own car repair garage back home) nephew works on St. John. Last year he was bartending at High Tide but we knew he got a new job at a dive shop. Turns out he works at the Low Key Dive Shop located right next to Drink. We talked to him for a bit before walking back to High Tide to wait for Joe on the 6 o’clock ferry.img_6764img_6766

We were both feeling the cocktails so went ahead and ordered the coconut shrimp at High Tide. It was tasty but we were still hungry. We had a feeling we would go out to dinner with Joe so we waited until he came over.

I looked down on my phone and he said he was there. I told him we were at High Tide. Not before long I saw Joe with his wavy long hair. It was great to see him! We missed him last year because he was off island for the low season.

I remember years ago he first took us to Rhumb Lines for dinner so we thought it would be fun to go back. http://www.rhumblinesstjohn.com/ We walked in and were seated towards the back at a very nice table. We ordered their pad thai and some wine and just talked about what we were up to. He told us he was selling his Scubadu Charter business to a few girls that works with him and that he was going to travel for a bit. It was kind of sad to hear but it was good to see he was doing well. img_6770img_6771

After dinner he suggested that we go up to Extra Virgin Restaurant for a night cap. Unfortunately the place was packed so we walked up further to the Quiet Mon Pub for a drink. img_6772It was quiet so it wound up being a good call.

We were having a lot of fun but knew it was getting late and we had a long day of travel ahead of us. We walked Joe back to the ferry and wished him well with his future endeavors. I told him no matter where he winds up to stay in touch. It was good to see an old friend.

Saturday, November 5 – Travel Day

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We woke up early so we had time to have a cup of coffee and say goodbye to Oscar. We freshened up and gathered our things. I cleaned out what I could in the fridge and took our last bag of garbage out. img_6783

We said goodbye to Oscar and Caribbean Palm Villa and made the last drive towards town. The funny thing along the way, there was a young man walking along the south shore road. We had no idea where he was going but he looked like he was struggling. We asked him if he needed a lift and sure enough he did. He was on his way to work at the Starfish Market and had to be there by 8am. If we hadn’t picked him up he would have been late. He thanked us for the lift and wished us a safe flight back home.

My husband then dropped me off near the ferry dock while he returned the jeep back at Bougainvillea. I then had that feeling of sadness again but realized we have been going to St. John every year for the past 13 years and thought how lucky we were to do so.

My husband came down to meet me and we walked over to the ferry terminal. Unfortunately there was no 8:45 ferry to Charlotte Amalie so we had to take 9am ferry to Red Hook. img_6782

Since we were so early and hadn’t had breakfast yet, we decided once we were in Red Hook, we would have the taxi driver drop us off at Charlotte Amalie where we could have breakfast.

Once we got to Charlotte Amalie we noticed there were no cruise ships in so it was very quiet. We did see a breakfast place called Bumpa’s. You had to walk up the stairs and there was a tiny counter with two friendly ladies working. We placed our order and sat out on the sun covered terrace while we waited for our food. It turned out to be quite a delicious breakfast. My husband had an egg sandwich and I had a cheese and spinach omelet.img_6785

After breakfast we walked around for a bit. We were hoping the one bar was open from last year where we had fun talking to the bartender and the staff there. It wasn’t open so we just figured we would head to the airport. It took us a little bit to find a taxi, but eventually we found one to take us to the airport.

Once we got to the airport check-in was quick and effortless. And plus not having to fill out the customs form anymore, made it even easier. Soon it was time to go on the plane and say good bye to the Virgin Islands.img_6789

I made sure I took a picture of St. John in the distance before it quickly disappeared.

Our flight was around 4 hours to Newark and we had no issues. We landed around 6:30pm and before we knew it we were back home. It is always great to go away on vacation, but it is always great to be back home. img_6792img_6793

Once again we had a wonderful time on St. John and every year the island seems to bring more memories. I do hope we can continue to create more memories on St. John next year and maybe I will finally work up the courage to finally drive on the left side of the road! meUntil then… Thank you for talking the time to read my blog 🙂

Key West July 2016 – Play It One More Time

IMG_4906Even though we were just in Key West 3 months prior, my husband and I were excited to return again to one of our favorite places. (Making it our 14th time back within 10 years does say a lot.) We were also returning to our usual place to stay the Gardens Hotel. It has sort of become a second home to us because of its familiarity with the hotel and staff. I shipped a box of our toiletries ahead of time to the hotel so we only had to bring carryon with us which we find to be more convenient then waiting for checked baggage and worrying about if it doesn’t make the connecting flight.

IMG_4790July 3 – Arrival Day (Day 1)

Once again we had to be up early on a Sunday morning and I still get anxious about our arrival day after oversleeping two years ago. I think by now I should realize that I won’t let that happen again. Ironically I wound up waking up literally 5 min. before my alarm was set to go off at 3:00am. After getting ready, it was soon 4am and time for our car service to take us to the airport. Luckily he was on time and we had no issues getting there. After all the things that have been going on around the world we were nervous with the security lines. Thankfully I have the United Credit Card which gives us the premier access. The lines weren’t too long and we actually had time to relax in the lounge a bit. IMG_4791Our flight left on time at 7:30am to Ft. Myers.

Once we arrived in Ft. Myers around 10:30 we checked to see where the Silver Airways gate would be. It turned out that we arrived in a different terminal then Silver Airways (unlike Ft. Lauderdale) so we had to walk through security again to get to the other terminal. It was a bit frustrating but we made it through quickly and had time for a beverage before going to the gate. Our flight was scheduled to leave at 11:43pm and with previous experience on Silver Airways, we had a feeling that the flight would not leave on time. It was just after 11:00 and we figured we would check and see about the flight. We had to take an elevator down one flight of stairs to the gate. As soon as we walked over, the ticket agent called our names and told us they were ready to board. We were both shocked. The agent gave us the baggage tags for our luggage and within minutes we were walking to the plane. The plane was barely half full so we all had to sit from row 7 back to keep the weight of the plane in balance (always comforting). IMG_4792.jpg

We were number 3 for take off so we didn’t wait long. The flight from Ft. Myers to Key West is probably one of the quickest routes we have ever taken. The pilot said it would be 36 min. but I am pretty sure it was faster then that. IMG_4794.jpgAround 12:20pm we touched down and we were back! In a way it felt like we never left because we were just there 3 months ago, which in a way was a plus because the trip did feel a lot longer then usual.

We were one of the first people off the plane and with no baggage to wait for, we were able to grab one of the first taxis in line. Once we got into the taxi, we noticed two people also waiting for a taxis and they started waving at my husband. After a few seconds he realized it was one of his customers (he owns his own auto repair garage back home). He asked the driver to stop but he didn’t hear him. Eventually he was able to get in touch with them later on, so that we could meet up with them at some point.

Meanwhile, a friend of ours, Nancy and her friend just arrived as well via the Key West Express Ferry from Ft. Myers. They were staying at the Gardens Hotel as well, so I had a feeling we would be running into them when we arrived at the hotel. IMG_4850

Once we got to the hotel we walked in to the receptionist desk and noticed two people already checking in. And sure enough if was them! We all hunged and she introduced us to her friend. So we wound up all checking in to our rooms the same time. We have been staying at the Gardens Hotel so many times that check in is very quick. Our rooms weren’t ready yet but we were able to use their large changing room near the pool to freshen up.

It was just after 1pm so we had plenty of time to hit a few of our favorite places. Our first stop is always Willie T’s. IMG_4796When we got there it was quite crowded so we had to sit in the back. It actually wasn’t that bad of a seat since we were out of the way of the action where we could catch up for a bit. zacksbannerI even pointed out to them the banner for the musician down there Zack Seemiller. Unfortunately he left town for a bit and I was bummed out that I couldn’t see him, but it did give us an opportunity to check out other music during our stay. IMG_5127

After a few mojitos we made our way to Kelly’s. It wasn’t too crowded so we found a nice table near the bar. Happy hour didn’t start yet so we didn’t order anything to eat. IMG_4802We probably should have but we enjoyed a round of their Key Lime Margaritas before walking back towards the hotel to check into our rooms. Before we did, we stopped at Rick’s. Our friend Nancy and my husband wanted to have a pickle back shot since they both had one a couple of years ago when we were visiting. IMG_4814.jpg

It was a quick stop and then we made it back to our room. Our rooms were both ready and all of our luggage was already brought in. We prefer the garden view rooms on the 2nd floor since they have great views of the grounds and lush vegetation throughout the property. IMG_4835Nancy and her friend decided to go for a swim while we unpacked and got ready for dinner. I made reservations later that evening for the 4 of us. Deuce’s Off the Hook is located conveniently right behind the hotel and serves delicious food. It is definitely a plus to go there after a long day of travel.

Once we were all ready we walked down the restaurant. We were a little early but the restaurant offered us a few cocktails outside while we waited for a table which we all thought was a nice touch. We were all quite hungry so we looked over the menus so we would know what to order once we were seated. There was no hesitation what my husband and I would order since hogfish was their special catch of the day. This is our favorite fish to eat. Its a type of snapper that has such a sweet and delicate flavor. IMG_4821

What felt like an eternity wound up only being about 15 minutes. We were seated in a booth and all placed our orders almost immediately when the server came over. I ordered their grouper ceviche and I can’t recall what everyone else ordered for their appetizers. My husband and I had the hogfish special, while our friends had the shrimp and grits and the Zuppa de Deuces (which was a combination of shrimp, scallops and other seafood over pasta). Everyone enjoyed their meal and we walked away quite satisfied.

https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g34345-d5565929-r392582836-Deuce_s_Off_the_Hook_Grill-Key_West_Florida_Keys_Florida.html#SHOW_USER_REVIEW

At this point we were all exhausted and called it a night. We decided to regroup at 8:30 in the morning and go to Blue Heaven for breakfast.

July 4 – Independence Day and Sunset Sail on the Appledore Star (Day 2) IMG_4837.jpg

We woke up and saw that the clock was 8:25am! We both immediately rushed to get ready since we were meeting our friends for breakfast. While I was getting ready we noticed it was still dark out. My husband went downstairs to get coffee for us. A few minutes later, he came back and said our room clock was wrong! It was only 7:15am! Well since we were already up, we walked down to Wallgreens to get bottled water for the room and a few other items I forgot to pack. IMG_4830I always like walking down Duval early in the morning. It is just so quiet and empty. We made it back and our friends were ready to walk down to Blue Heaven. IMG_4843

We were early enough that there wasn’t a wait. We sat down ordered our breakfasts. I really enjoy their key lime hollandaise sauce so I like to order as a side with their omelets. I find their prices to be on the high side for what you get but it is a Key West institution to eat there at least once during your visit. IMG_4846You can’t beat the atmosphere with the roosters and chickens running around.IMG_4818.jpg

Since our friends were leaving on the ferry later on that day they wanted to head back to the hotel to pack up.

Once everyone was ready to go we decided to walk along Simonton Street since it is less busy then Duval. We made our way up towards the bight looking at all the fish swimming in the water. Eventually we stopped in the Schooner Wharf for a drink. There wasn’t any entertainment yet but it is always great to stop in at one of the iconic places in Key West. IMG_4863When we left the Schooner Wharf we noticed up above the Waterfront Brewery, there was something going on. I wasn’t sure what it was, but then I heard Nick Norman started to play. I wanted to check it out but I wasn’t sure if it was open to the public or not so we just kept walking. IMG_4873.jpg

So we made our way back towards Duval. It was around 1pm and I knew Gabriel Wright was playing at Captain Tony’s. I wound up putting together the graphics for his latest album and wanted to stop in and say hello. We walked in and grabbed a couple of seats and said hello. IMG_4866.jpgIt was nice to just relax for a bit and listen to him play. Of course I had to request Eddie Vedder’s Hard Sun like I always do. I ask him to play Mumford and Son’s I Will Wait which was fun to hear. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OZthSmQsXy4&spfreload=10

We all then had to put the iconic dollar as a remembrance of our visit to Captain Tony’s. It was funny because I found our dollar from a couple of years ago which was faded, so I thought it would be perfect to put the new one on top. IMG_4870

Our friends wanted to head back to the hotel so they could grab their luggage and head towards the ferry terminal. IMG_4878We said good bye to Gabriel and made our way back towards the Gardens, but not without a pickle back shot at Ricks. Nancy and my husband did one last one for old time sake while I just took a few pictures.

Once we got back to the hotel we said good bye to our friends. It was a short visit, but at least we got to spend some time together. We used the opportunity to freshen up the July 4th Sunset sail I booked with the Sebago on the Appledore Star. We didn’t have to check in until 6:30, but I wanted to grab something to eat ahead of time. The Sebago sail did offer food but I wasn’t too keen on the food options.IMG_4885

Since it was around 5pm it wound up being the perfect time to check out Martin’s happy hour. We never made it back to Martin’s last trip and regretted not going. We walked down to Martin’s, which located just a couple of blocks from the Gardens, and sat at the bar. I ordered a glass of white wine, while my husband ordered a dirty martini (both which were half off for the happy hour special). We looked through the menu and agreed upon six different appetizers to share. We ordered the lamb chops, calamari, pate, tuna, escargot and the crab cakes. Everything was delicious. After making our way through the appetizers we were both satisfied enough to walk towards the Bight to check in for the sunset sail. IMG_4897.jpg

Once we got to the Sebago check-in it was packed with people waiting for all of the different sunset sails. IMG_5085I was glad I booked the Appledore Star since it only had space for 16 people. We didn’t have to wait to long for check-in and soon it was time to head onto the schooner. It was as a beautiful evening to watch the sunset.IMG_4899

We sat sail and started talking to a few people on the boat. We noticed a young couple on board with a photographer taking photos of them. I thought what a great back drop for photos. As the sun started to set, I started to take endless photos of it.IMG_4907

I was using my iPhone so I just kept hitting the button. The sun dropped straight down into the water and no clouds were blocking the view. While the sun was setting, we looked over and the young man of the couple with the photographer proposed to his girlfriend. When she said yes everyone started to clap. It was so nice to see that. Afterwards I started to look at all the sunset photos I took and then noticed a flash next to the sun. Could it be? Did I just capture the infamous “green flash”? sunset

Unfortunately the flash itself wasn’t quite green, but there was definitely something. I asked a few people and some agreed while others weren’t so sure. Then I realized that being I used an iPhone vs. a regular camera, it probably couldn’t process the green color as well. Throughout the rest of our trip I showed other locals my photo and I pretty much got the answer “yes that is the green flash”. That made me very happy!

Once the skies got dark, we sailed around to face the island. The staff then brought out the food for everyone. At this point it was getting late (just about 9pm) and was glad that we ate ahead of time because I would have been quite hungry. The fireworks began shortly after that and it was exciting to watch. We hadn’t been away in a while on the 4th of July and normally watch the NYC fireworks on tv so it was a real treat to see. IMG_4934IMG_4941

After the fireworks ended, it was time for us to make our way back towards the dock. It was just after 10 and we both remembered that Caffeine Carl was playing at the Smokin Tuna. IMG_4946It was on our way back so we stopped in for a few songs and of course see ourselves on the webcam. IMG_4951.jpgWe were both getting pretty tired so we thought it would be a good idea to just walk back to the hotel and call it a night.

July 5 – Small World (Day 3)

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We woke up to another beautiful sunny and hot day. We noticed that it didn’t feel as humid as it did the previous days. We usually make an effort to go to Croissants de France/Le Bistro for breakfast and it was the perfect day to go back. I ordered my normal go-to breakfast of smoked salmon eggs benedict why my husband had the regular style and as usual it was very good.IMG_4954

After breakfast we walked back to the hotel to relax by the pool for a bit and figure out what to do for the day. IMG_4962We had not stopped at the Galleon Tiki Bar and we wanted to see if the bartender Dave was working. IMG_4957When we walked up to the bar we noticed that Dave was working. It was great to see him and the ironic thing was he told us how he was leaving Key West in a few weeks to St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands. I mention the irony since my husband and I try to go every October to St. John for anniversary. Plus it turns out that he did get a job working at one of the bars on St. Jo