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

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

Saturday, March 31st – Arrival Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We even saw Big Ed there!

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

Saturday, April 7th – Back Home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Sunday – October 29th, Arrival Day IMG_0506

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

Tuesday – October 31th – Halloween in Key WestIMG_0632

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

 

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