Key West July 2017 – Here We Go Again

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

Saturday, July 8th – Arrival Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, July 9th – Our First Full Day IMG_9346

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, July 14th – Back Home IMG_9410

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Easter Week in Key West April 2017

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

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

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

Saturday, April 25th – Arrival Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Sunday April 16th – Easter

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

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

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

Monday April 17th – Truman Annex and the Rooftop Café

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

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

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

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

Once we were finished looking around we thanked the owner.

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday April 18th – Overcast and Rainy Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 27th – Travel Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 28th – First Full Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 30th – Hawksnest Beach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday – October 31st, Halloween and Cinnamon Bay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 2nd – Salt Pond and Viva Cantina

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 5 – Travel Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Key West July 2016 – Play It One More Time

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

IMG_4790July 3 – Arrival Day (Day 1)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 5 – Small World (Day 3)

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

After breakfast we walked back to the hotel to relax by the pool for a bit and figure out what to do for the day. IMG_4962We had not stopped at the Galleon Tiki Bar and we wanted to see if the bartender Dave was working. IMG_4957When we walked up to the bar we noticed that Dave was working. It was great to see him and the ironic thing was he told us how he was leaving Key West in a few weeks to St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands. I mention the irony since my husband and I try to go every October to St. John for anniversary. Plus it turns out that he did get a job working at one of the bars on St. John. IMG_4960We talked for a bit before making our way on to the next stop. We told him we would try and stop by again to see him, if not we would see him in October.

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I felt like listening to some live music so we walked into the Hogs Breath. We found a couple of bar seats and ordered a couple of beers. As we were sitting there my husband notices a familiar face walking into the bar. It turned out to be his customer that we saw when we first arrived at the airport. He was walking in to buy a shirt so instead he sat down and called over his girlfriend. We wound up chatting for a while and they mentioned how neither of them had been to Key West before. Now of course my husband and I are fans of the Smokin Tuna so we talked them into going with us for a bite to eat and catch some live music.

I also looked at the music schedule at the Smokin Tuna to see who was playing the early evening shift. I was a bit disappointed that it wasn’t Nick Norman but a new artist by the name of Brent Byrd. So I did look up his bio to read a little bit about him and apparently he goes between Gainesville and Nashville. I thought well then he can’t be half bad and curious to hear him. Plus I wanted to see if he was in need of an artist to do some design work.IMG_4986.jpg

After finding our favorite seats at the end of the bar I saw Brent Byrd setting up. I wound up walking over to him to introduce myself. I told him that he was looking for any graphics work done to let me know. He seemed like he was so I was pretty excited. IMG_4984I walked back to join the others and we ordered much need food. As we ate, we really enjoyed Brent Byrd. His sound was really good.

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We both wound up having fishing charters planned for the next day so we didn’t want to stay out too late. We said good by and talked about maybe getting together tomorrow.

We made the walk back down Duval and back to the Gardens.

July 6 – Fishing with Billy (Day 4)

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A few months ago we planned to go out with Billy for a half day of fishing and the sand bar but unforeseen circumstances occurred and we had to cancel. However, this time it worked out perfectly. We had another beautiful day to be out on the water.IMG_5122

Since we didn’t have too much time before Billy was picking us up we wanted to have breakfast somewhere close by. Deuce’s Off the Hook right behind the Gardens offers breakfast so it made our breakfast choice easy that morning. We sat at the bar and I ordered their omelet of the day while my husband ordered the eggs benedict. Their breakfast was just as good as their dinner. I honestly can’t say anything negative about this place. If you get the opportunity, definitely check this place out.

When we were finished with breakfast we went back to the hotel to wait for Billy. I also had to stop in at the front desk to grab a few towels for our trip. Billy showed up and we headed to the marina. Once we got on the boat, Billy noticed that the wind had picked up. We didn’t go out too far, but far enough where we past Sunset Key.IMG_4992

We did wind up catching a bunch of fish but nothing worthy of keeping. It was still a great day out on the water.IMG_4995.jpg

After a few hours Billy took us to the sand bar. IMG_5004We just relaxed for a bit talked about things. I even jumped in the water for a little swim. We wound up meeting Billy several years ago when he used to work at the Gardens Hotel bartending. We had been going out with him fishing ever since. It was great to catch up. IMG_5008

We made it back to the marina and Billy dropped us back off at the hotel. We thanked him again and told him we would see him next year.

Being that we were out on the water for a good part of the day we wanted to freshen up before going back out.

When we walked to Blue Heaven last time we saw the new place that opened up a few months ago called The Blue Macaw. It looked quite inviting and we were really curious to check the place out. Plus an added bonus was that Nick Norman was playing. We walked down towards Bahama Village and to the Blue Macaw, which is not too far from the Gardens Hotel. IMG_5022

We sat at the bar while we listened to Nick Norman play. We looked around and the place definitely gave out the Caribbean vibe. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pozvtRshzUc&spfreload=10

IMG_5043We also read over the menu but weren’t quite hungry yet. After Nick’s set we walked back to the Smokin’ Tuna to catch Brent Byrd again. Plus my husband reached out to his customers and they were on their way as well. IMG_5053.jpg

We all met up at the Tuna and talked about our fishing trips. Neither one of us caught the big one but it was nice to exchange stories. As the sun fell lower in the sky we realized that we should take them to see the sunset at Mallory Square since its usually one of those things you should do if its your first visit to Key West. IMG_5054

Even though it is technically low season, when we got to Mallory Square it was still filled with many people. It wasn’t quite as crowded when we were there a few months ago but there was still a line to get a mojito and a green thing. IMG_5057Unfortunately Mr. Mojito wasn’t working but we did order a few of drinks and watched the sun fall behind Sunset Key.IMG_5060IMG_5056

We were all pretty hungry so we suggested the Rooftop Cafe, again another place where we have always had a very good dinner and plus its so close to Mallory Square.

We walked up the stairs and didn’t have to wait at all for a table. They sat us outside overlooking Front Street.   I am not exactly sure what everyone ordered, but I had the pork belly as an appetizer and the grey snapper special. IMG_5071It was delicious. Everyone really enjoyed dinner and we were stuffed.

Since they were staying at the Hilton on the other side, they needed to catch a taxi back. We walked back up to Rick’s and Sloppy Joe’s where there always seems to be an abundance of taxis.IMG_5074

Sure enough, within in seconds one appeared and they were on their way.

We were going to stop at the Tuna for one, but the guy that stands out on the corner for the Tuna recognized us and told us that Caffeine Carl was playing at the Lazy Gecko. IMG_5075So of course we had to stop in for one to hear him play. We didn’t last too long with the day out on the water catching up with us. We made the wise decision and called it a night.

 July 7 – Up a Little Too Late (Day 5) IMG_5092

We woke up again to another beautiful day. I couldn’t believe how lucky we were with the weather since this time of year in Florida can get those popup thunderstorms. Since we had a late dinner at the Rooftop Cafe the night before we weren’t that hungry. We started walking down Simonton while my husband asked me if there was any other breakfast places that we hadn’t tried yet. It took me a few minutes, but then I realized that I have heard good things about Harpoon Harry’s so we agreed to give it a try. IMG_5077I looked up the location on my phone and it wasn’t too far away on Caroline St. We walked pasted Pepe’s and then saw the retro looking sign. We walked in and it definitely had that old school diner feel. We sat down at a booth and ordered. At this point we worked up an appetite from the walk. IMG_5079 My husband ordered the 222 and i tried the salmon, tomato and cream cheese omelet with a size of grits. The food was quite good and everything tasted fresh. We would come back to this place for sure the next time we’re in Key West.

Since we were near Peppers we made that our next stop. IMG_5091 Neither of us wanted to do the tasting but we have been there so many times before that we know what our favorites are. We looked around and made our selections. And as usual we had them ship the box back home for us since we don’t have to worry about checking it at the airport. IMG_5100We decided to walk back to the hotel for a bit and relax by the pool. This is why I love the Gardens Hotel. It is conveniently located right off Duval, but if you need time to regroup, etc. you can.  IMG_5124Once we were fully recharged we made our way back to the Sunset Pier to see if we could catch Al working. We found two seats along the water with some shade. Luckily Al was working and it was nice to catch up with him. He told us how he was expecting his second and congratulated him. It was nice to see him but it was getting hot since the wind seemed to stop. IMG_5093Meanwhile I was checking to see if Gabriel was playing at Captain Tony’s but he was off today. I wound up getting in touch with him and figured out that we would meet up at Hog’s Breath for a drink. We said our goodbyes to Al and told him we would try and stop by again the next day before we headed back home that Saturday.
IMG_5095The sun was beaming down on us and it was time to move someplace with shade – Hog’s Breath. We walked on over and again found two seats right near the musician who was playing. it was nice and cool and there as we ordered a couple of cold beers. I was having fun with my friends to check out the webcam and they would send screen captures back to us. IMG_5099Then I saw Gabriel walking up to the bar. We managed to keep a seat open so we were able to stay where we were. It was good to see him and talked to us about visiting his family the following week. It was fun, but before I realized it we were there for a while. We all agreed it was time motivate. We wished Gabriel well and told him we would catch him next year.IMG_5133We wound up back at the Gardens to freshen up and figure out where to go to eat. I did have a copy with me of all the Happy Hours in Key West that is posted on Trip Advisor by one forumite. It really did come in handy since we wanted to hit one. However I remembered last time I wanted to try the Thirsty Mermaid and never got there. We decided it would be a good call since it was some place new to try. After having the opportunity to go to Key West 14 times, we should try something new. IMG_5103The Thirsty Mermaid is located just off Duval on Fleming and really close to the Gardens. We actually walked along Simonton to get there. It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but the inside is bright and clean. Only a few tables were taken so we had our choice to sit at the bar or a table. We decided to sit at the bar. I ordered the oysters rockefeller while my husband ordered the mac & cheese croquettes which I had to try.

They were delicious. For dinner we both decided to have the local snapper sandwiches which were also very tasty. I was glad we stopped in because the food was quite good.

https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g34345-d10055624-r392579792-Thirsty_Mermaid-Key_West_Florida_Keys_Florida.html#SHOW_USER_REVIEW

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Then it was time to catch Brent Byrd again before his set was over. We walked on over and sat in our usual seats at the end of the bar. He sounded great but unfortunately we got there just when he had only a few songs left to play. Soon it was time for Caffeine Carl to come on. Once Caffeine Carl came on we just wound up in our seats for quite some time. It was probably too long but we were having a great time. IMG_5113It was getting late but we figured that we could stay up since we could sleep in the next day. Eventually we did get up and leave but instead of going straight back to the Gardens, we heard a couple of guys playing at Willie T’s. IMG_5116The smart thing to have done would be to go back to the hotel. However I was feeling pretty good and said that we should stop in. As soon as I walked in I requested the guys to play my favorite band Pearl Jam and within minutes they started playing Elderly Woman. I was pretty happy to hear  it and then they played two more songs. Meanwhile there were a couple of german guys having a good time and we started to talk to them. They were hilarious and kept us there a little longer then we intended. IMG_5120.jpgAfter another drink to many it was time to get to bed. I think we wound up getting back to the Gardens around 2am. We had never stayed up that late before and probably won’t ever again!

July 8 – Last Full Day (Day 6)

IMG_5126Since we were up too late last night we slept in quite late for us. I think we didn’t get up until 10:30 which was unfortunate because we usually have breakfast at Blue Heaven for our last day. Regretting our decision to stay out like we did, we slowly made our way out to grab something to eat. We didn’t feel like walking too far so we decided to go back to Deuce’s Off the Hook. It was perfect since we were really hungry at this point. We were seated at the bar and I chose something a little different for breakfast. It was their shrimp hash with two fried eggs served on top and a much needed big cup of coffee. IMG_5123It was unexpectedly really good. I would definitely order it again.

After breakfast we had to relax a bit by the pool. It was our last day in Key West but we were both feeling the affects of the previous evening. I think the next time we return we will remember how we felt that day and not make that last stop at Willie T’s.IMG_5132I had made dinner reservations as well at Cafe Sole for our last night. The dinner reservations were at 6 so we had some time to hit a place or two before. We hadn’t been to Irish Kevin’s so we wound up going there for one. The beer wasn’t going down too well but it is always entertaining to in there. Plus it is nice and cold when its a hot day in Key West which it was. IMG_5128We then decided not to walk to far for our next stop before dinner and that was Rick’s. The bartender there definitely makes it quite entertaining while sitting there and people watching. IMG_5138
Then I remembered that Nick Norman was playing at the Lazy Gecko and I wanted to stop in to see a few of his songs before we had an early dinner. We stopped in and it wasn’t too crowded so it was perfect. He sounded great as always and it was great to hear him sing “Cheap Cocaine”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yGbXzEMPBbc

It was tempting to stay longer but we needed to get back and get ready for dinner. IMG_5139Cafe Sole is a little bit of a walk from the Gardens so we figured that we would get a taxi to take us there and then just walk back to Duval afterwards. It wound up being a great decision since right before we were ready to leave the skies opened up. It started to downpour. We had to wait a little longer for the taxi but the Gardens called the restaurant to let us know we were running late. Once the taxi drive came he told us how once it rains in Key West, its like snow up north, everything gets backed up and delayed. IMG_5148.jpgWe weren’t too late so it didn’t matter too much. He dropped us off at the restaurant and it was just about quarter after 6. The rain had stopped and the hostess sat us down at a very nice table. IMG_5149She then mentioned to us that since it was before 7pm all drinks and entrées are half off. I remember seeing that on the happy hour list but totally forgot about it. Cafe Sole is known for their hogfish snapper so we didn’t hesitate at all as to what to order. For appetizers I ordered the escargot and my husband ordered the beef carpaccio. Everything came out in a timely manner and was delicious. For dessert we shared the key lime pie which I don’t think we ever had in Key West before. Then since we have been dining at Cafe Sole for years (and apparently we are in the system) the hostess brought us out two little glasses of dessert wine – not that we really needed it, but it was a very nice gesture.

We were both quite full and it was a perfect plan to walk back towards Duval. IMG_5152.jpgIt was our last night in Key West and of course wanted to stop one last time to Smokin Tuna. By the time we got back to the Tuna, Brent Byrd was finishing his set. We wanted to see more of him play but we just got there too late. Not too long after we were there it was time for Caffeine Carl to come on. It was a nice surprise too that Claire Finley was playing as well that night. Back home we have an AppleTV and we stream the live feed a lot while at home and watch them play. IMG_5159It was kind of fitting for our last night in Key West. We both wanted to stay longer but knew we didn’t want to wake up for our travel day feeling like we did earlier in the morning. So we made the wise decision and called it a night. We waved good bye to Carl and made the last walk down Duval.

July 9 – Departure Day (Day 7)
IMG_5040Our flight was scheduled to leave at 9:00am so we had the Gardens Hotel call us a taxi to have them pick us up at 7:45am. We woke up at 7am to get ready to leave. It was still dark out but we knew it was the correct time. The sun rises a lot later in Key West then back home. We grabbed all of our things and took the walk of woe to the front of the hotel. I dropped off the keys and there was the taxi. The sun was starting to rise as we neared the airport. It was going to be another beautiful day in Key West but I knew it was time to get back home.

Once we got through security and got to the gate, we saw my husband’s customers waiting as well. They were on our same flight(s) home back to NJ. Our Silver Airways flight surprisingly left on time and made it to Ft. Lauderdale a little before 10am. Our connecting flight was at 10:41am so we only had minutes to wait before they began boarding.

Before we knew it we were back home by 3pm and it felt like we never left. As usual, we didn’t really have to much planned for this trip, but Key West continues to be a place where we have a lot of fun, meet terrific people and hear great music.

As I write this I am already trying to figure out when we can come back next year.
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Thanks again for taking the time to read my blog….. until next time!

Key West April 2016 – Ten Years in the Making

IMG_4110I am considering to change my blog to say “Key West” and “St. John” travel blog, since it seems to be the only two places we have been going lately, but if you find places you love, why not return when you can?

So this trip down to Key West marked our 10th year since visiting the island back in 2006. We had a mild winter but we were still excited. Meanwhile I met a musician down there during our last visit and have been doing a lot of his design work. I was so eager to get down there and see for myself in person all the things I have done and meet up with him. It was our first trip (since last July) that we didn’t have much planned and it was also the first time going in the spring without a group of friends. We figured that we would just see how it goes this time.

I also love going to Key West in the spring because living in Northwestern NJ it takes a bit longer for everything to come into bloom. It is almost like the Wizard of Oz… we leave NJ which is usually rainy, cold and gray, and then when we get to Key West its like when Dorothy opens the door and everything is in color. P1020937

April 3 – Arrival Day (Day 1)

 

As some of you may know from our last trip back in March of 2015, I wound up oversleeping and we had to get a later flight. And then our connecting flight in Ft. Lauderdale was delayed for hours, making us pretty much miss most of our arrival day. I was a bit anxious the night before but made sure as all of our alarms were set. Our flight was at 7:50am so we still had to get up by 3am to make it to Newark Airport. I made sure I went to bed by 10am and thankfully woke up on time. The car service arrived at 4am and we were on our way. P1020944

The United flight to Ft. Lauderdale was a nice and easy flight. We had no delays, etc. I was hoping that it would be the case since originally we were supposed to be on the Silver Airways flight at 10:20am. However after I initially booked our airfare, our first flight was moved from 7:30am to 7:50am, so they bumped us to the 12:35pm flight. We actually wound up arriving a little bit earlier then expect (9:45am) so we immediately went to the Silver Airways counter to see about getting on the earlier flight. They were very nice and wanted to change it for us, but the lady at the counter said that they couldn’t and we would have to go to the United counter. We ran over to United and at first, the lady would not change our flight saying that Silver Airways had to do it. We explained to her how we were already there and that they said to come to her. After a few minutes she did go back onto the computer and changed the flight for us. Hooray! We were going to be in Key West earlier then we first thought! Relieved and extremely excited, we waited to board our plane. It took us a while to finally take off (around 11:15am) but we were still got there sooner then expected.

About 30 min. into the flight, I looked out and could see the clouds clearing. And there they were…. the Florida Keys! IMG_3895

It was so beautiful and I just got more and more excited to be returning to one of our favorite places!!  P1020952

At about noon we touched down and grabbed the first taxi we could find. (Last year our flight landed the same time as a Delta Flight and we had to wait on a long line and then get into a van with other people and wound up being dropped off last.) In a few minutes the driver dropped us off at the place we have been staying ever since we first starting to come to Key West, the Gardens Hotel. http://tinyurl.com/hob82eh

As an added bonus, I just completed their new logo for their new website which should go live in a few months. Our room wasn’t ready yet but we were able to leave our luggage and change. That is always the best feeling of taking off your shoes and socks and putting on flip flops! (The one advantage staying at the Gardens Hotel, besides how beautiful it is, is the location. We love walking down just one block and there it is, Duval St.) We walked down and turned right and there it was Duval St. Just the sounds of the Conch Train and hearing the mopeds go by always brings a smile to my face.

 

Our tradition is to first stop at Willie T’s and have a margarita. The margarita’s aren’t the best, but they taste quite good when its the first one to start your vacation. P1020953And then I noticed a few banners that were displayed for the musician I have been doing work for. It was so cool to see!!! It was awesome quite frankly. I wanted to get a picture of it, but there was a group of people seated right in front of it. I knew we would be back in a few days so I figured I would wait until then. Some guy named Dallas was playing while we were there, not really a fan – so we decided to finish our margaritas and make our way down Duval. I was still in the mood for a margarita, so we went to the place that makes one of the best (IMO) Kelly’s. We sat down in the lush setting and just took it all in. IMG_3902

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I wanted to see the water so we left and walked down towards the Galleon and grabbed two seats at the Tiki Bar. We were hoping to catch the bartender David, but he wasn’t working. It was a good spot to have a cocktail and catch part of the Nascar race. IMG_3909

We didn’t want to make ourselves too comfortable since we wanted to get back to the Gardens to unpack and see some of the Jazz that they have on Sundays.

On our way back we just had to stop at Rick’s for one. It was getting a bit overcast but we didn’t care. We were feeling quite happy at that point but didn’t want to get too crazy since we also had dinner reservations at Deuce’s Off the Hook later on.IMG_3912

We made it back to the Gardens and our room was all set. It was getting close to Jazz time so we freshened up and found two seats to listen to some music. While we were relaxing, the manager of the Gardens Hotel came up to me and mentioned how much they love the new logo. He said that their new website was going live soon and asked if I wanted to see it. I said of course and we walked up to his office. It was pretty cool to see my logo on the website of the place we have been staying at for years.

It was nice to hear the Jazz playing and we were both starving. Luckily our dinner reservations were not too late. We walked right over and couldn’t wait to eat. We were so happy to see one of our favorite’s on the menu…. hogfish! I started out with the mahi mahi ceviche while my husband ordered the conch fritters. They looked so good and I wanted to try them but have learned the hard way that I am allergic to conch – which is odd because I don’t have any other issues with clams, mussels, oysters etc. For dinner we both ordered the hogfish (big surprise). It was delicious!! After a long day we were both exhausted.

Luckily Deuce’s is literally right behind the Gardens, so it was a quick walk back and bed!

April 4th – First Full Day (Day 2)

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I woke up at first thinking I was back home in NJ, but I quickly realized I wasn’t… I was in Key West! I was also excited because I was finally going to meet up with the musician I have been doing to design work for, Zack Seemiller who was playing at Hogsbreath later that day. It was a bit of an overcast day, but being it was a bit humid we didn’t mind.

Another tradition I like to do is walk down to Blue Heaven for our first breakfast in Key West. I always remember to get there before 9am then you won’t have to wait for a table. We walked in and the hostess seated us in the perfect spot. I ordered an omelet with a side of their yummy key lime hollandaise while my husband ordered their eggs bennie with their homemade sausage.

Their food is always good there and it tasted even better! After breakfast we walked down to Wallgreens and stocked up on several bottles of water for the room. Usually at this point we would walk around and buy a few souvenirs, but after 10 years going we have so many things… plus I wanted to save any room in my luggage for a few shirts from Zack that I did.

We regrouped at the Gardens and made our way back down Duval. We walked along towards the Bight. We wound up walking into the Fort Jefferson Museum. It was pretty small, but they had a great replica of Fort Jefferson on the Dry Tortugas. P1020967

We remembered our trip last in July when we took the Seaplane over. I would love to do it again, but it is a bit pricey. Our next stop was the Schooner Wharf. We each ordered a painkiller (which reminds us of another favorite places of our’s the Soggy Dollar Bar, on Jost Van Dyke in the BVIs).IMG_3923

We then walked down to Sunset Pier to see if Al was working. The winds were picking up again and it started to drizzle. We found a couple of seats at the bar protected from the rain and asked about Al. Unfortunately he doesn’t work on Mondays and Tuesdays but we knew that we would return at some point. I decided to stick with a light beer because I knew it was going to be a long day again.IMG_3925

Our next stop was Captain Tony’s. We remembered this one musician Gabriel Wright and we wanted to see if he was playing. We walked in and there he was. IMG_3926

We sat down towards the entrance and listened to him play. While we were sitting there, a young kid by the name of Jake sat down next to me. He was by himself and started to talked to us. He explained how he made his way all the way down by car from Montana! We thought wow that’s a drive! P1020982Soon Gabriel Wright went on break and I approached him and asked if he remembered us. Last year I requested my favorite artist’s song, Hard Sun by Eddie Vedder and he didn’t know all the words. He kind of laughed and did remember. We chatted a bit and I told him how I have been doing the design work for Zack and if he was looking for a designer to give me a shout. Turns out he was looking for someone to do his cd artwork and that we would be in touch. We talked a bit with him and Jake and told them we were going to check out Joal Rush later at the Smokin’ Tuna and catch Caffeine Carl after that. IMG_3939

Then I realized that it was time to walk on over to Hogsbreath to see Zack play. I wasn’t sure what to expect but we walked in and it was packed. He recognized us as I found one bar stool available. He gave us a shout out and told everyone how I was the designer of his work. I felt a bit embarrassed but also very honored!! Once he took a break he came up to us and I was so happy to see him!! IMG_3936

Plus he sang a favorite song of mine… Jersey Girl 🙂  https://youtu.be/M-yuN5_TN0c Unfortunately he had a wedding gig later that evening so we told him we would see him at Willie T’s the next day. IMG_4050

We left and wanted to make our way back towards the Gardens. We then remembered that Joal Rush was at the Tuna. We walked in and there was Jake and Gabriel! P1020990

It was funny to see them there. We hung out a bit and listened to Joal Rush before making it back down Duval again.

On our way back we decided to go the Roof Top Cafe for dinner. I always like the ambiance there sitting up above the street. My husband called and we were able to get a reservation for 8:30. We freshened up and made the long walk back to the Roof Top Cafe. (Just as a side note, my husband was wearing a fitbit during our trip and we would average around 6 miles a day walking around!) IMG_3945

I started with the crab and shrimp cake which was delicious and my husband had the fried calamari. For dinner, I decided on the mahi mahi while my husband had the shrimp and grits. Again this is another place where we always have a good dinner. Plus we were able to use the Key West restaurant card that we got for the 10% off.

Once we finished dinner we walked back towards the Tuna to catch Caffeine Carl. Unfortunately he called out sick and we couldn’t see him. We were a bit disappointed but figured that we would have one more drink before calling it a night. We did notice however, if he isn’t playing the place was empty! Soon it was time to go back to the Gardens.

April 5 – Beautiful Day (Day 3) IMG_4208

I woke up feeling a bit rough, but the sun was shining and it was gorgeous! The front moved through and the humidity was low. We walked down to Croissants De France for breakfast. IMG_3953

ordered the smoked salmon eggs benedict on fresh brioche bread while my husband ordered their egg platter breakfast. The coffee at this place is also very good. The only disappointment was my husband’s bacon. It wasn’t crisp at all and honestly it was barely cooked. Everything else was tasty so we just brushed it off.

We didn’t really know what to do after breakfast. We walked back to the Gardens and tried to think of a game plan for the day. I heard from Zack and we were going to perhaps meet up at Peppers. We always make that one of our stops to order a bunch of hot sauces for family and friends and for ourselves. We walked down Simonton and just could not get over how beautiful it was out. We also noticed a strange looking flowering tree. It kind of reminded me of something from the Dr. Seuss’ Lorax movie. IMG_3965It was the perfect weather.IMG_3970

We made it to Peppers and I just could not do the tasting. Someone had to take one for the team so my husband ponied up. He did well and we picked out a nice variety of hot sauces and marinades and had them ship it back home to NJ for us since we had carryon only.

Zack didn’t make and I told him he would catch him at Willie T’s later that day. After all the hot sauce tastings, my husband was bit thirsty. IMG_3977IMG_3971We walked down the Bight again and made it the Half Shell Raw bar. I sent a picture of the tshirts to Zack and told him I was getting more inspiration for tshirt designs for him (they do have quite a collection of shirts there).

We sat at the bar and were watching on tv highlights of the NCAA tournament and how Villanova won. As we were reminiscing about how the last time (in July) we were there we saw the news on tv how JPP from the NY Giants blew off his fingers with a fireworks accident, I look up and there is Zack.

(One of the few things I always wanted to do was to drive up the Keys. We always fly in to Key West and have never done the drive.) A few months ago, Zack offered for us to borrow his MG and take it up the Keys for the day. He actually drove the car to the Half Shell so we walked outside to check it out. Being that my husband is a mechanic (and owns his own car repair garage) he of course he had to check out the car. IMG_3974We found a spot and just hung out for a bit. IMG_3976

We thanked him again for letting us borrow his car the next day and told him we would catch up with him later at Wille T’s. IMG_3989

We walked along back towards Sunset Pier to catch up with Al. He was working that day so we grabbed a couple of seats at the pier and chatted for a bit while listening to the entertainment. IMG_3987Again the weather was just so gorgeous that we just took in the view of that green blue water.IMG_3994

We only stayed for one so we thanked Al and we were on our way again.

Another stop we wanted to do is Rick’s. We always see this bartender there and he is quite a character. IMG_4003.jpg

Plus if you can get seats right in the front, its a great spot to people watch. We sat down and had a few laughs and made our way back down Duval. P1030005

Speaking of laughs, we made to Willie T’s and watched the rest of Zack’s set. As we sat there, I just kept looking at the banner I designed. It came out so good and it looked so impressive. Once Zack was done, I made sure that we got our pictures next to it.IMG_4039

While my husband was taking our picture, people were actually saying how they loved the design. It just warmed my heart to here all the compliments. I felt so gratified and happy!

Zack told us he was playing at Rum Runners later so we said we would stop by later on. We wanted to get back to the Gardens and relax a bit.IMG_4051

Once we were ready to go we were getting quite hungry. I love the fish dip at the Smokin Tuna so we walked back down Duval. P1030007We grabbed some food and then made it to Rum Runners. Once he was on break we figured that he could drop his car the next morning after breakfast at the Gardens and we would make the drive up the Keys. At that point, the day was catching up with us so we didn’t stay too long.

April 6 – Bahia Honda State Park, Cafe Marquesa and Mallory Square (Day 4)

We woke up to another picture perfect day. IMG_3960

Since we were meeting Zack that morning we figured that we would just have breakfast at the Gardens. They had a nice spread but sometimes I just miss eggs benedict!

Zack showed up and we grabbed our things. We thanked him again for letting us use his car and we were on our way. IMG_4057

The one thing we didn’t realize… how to leave the Keys!! It took a few different turns, but we eventually found our way on A1A (also thanks to GPS on my iPhone). Soon we were making our way out of Key West for the first time. It was amazing to see all the Keys along the way. And one of the funny things was, as we were driving a song came on the radio. We are big fans of the show Bloodline, and sure enough the show’s theme song came on the radio. We both laughed and thought how “ironic” is that?? https://youtu.be/M0cU8VFV9FUIMG_4060

I called my sister along the way since she was quite familiar with the drive. We weren’t sure where to go, but she suggested Bahia Honda State Park. We made our way to mile marker 37 and there it was. P1030012We found a parking spot and walked along the beach. IMG_4076IMG_4078.jpg

We then realized on the other side was the public beach. As we walked over, my husband noticed the old bridge and people walking towards it. He asked one of the park rangers working there and he directed us where to go.IMG_4079

We took the trail that leads up to the Old Bridge. It was so beautiful up there. Just taking the view in was quite amazing. IMG_4080.jpgIMG_4083.jpgIMG_4087.jpgP1030017

We walked around a bit before making our way back to the car. IMG_4088

It was getting hot so we figured we would just drive back to Key West. It was actually a good idea that we did because we noticed there was a lot more traffic on Route 1 then before.IMG_4090.jpg

We made it back to the Gardens and Zack came to pick up the car. We thanked again and told him we would catch him later again at Willie T’s. IMG_4210

After the hot drive we both decided we should freshen up. We remembered that Gabriel Wright was playing again at Captain Tony’s so we made our way back again. We hung out for a bit and then we recognized a familiar face with his dog. It was funny because we saw him 2 years ago with his dog at Hogsbreath.IMG_4094

He mentioned how people like his dog better then him! We talked a bit before making our next move.

We wound up catching the end of Zack’s set and hare my favorite song of his “You’re Harmony” (about his daughter) before heading out to dinner. https://youtu.be/hLbVchQRSPcIMG_4098.jpg I had made dinner reservations at Cafe Marquesa and always wanted to eat there. I was quite excited and we were seated at a nice table. It wasn’t too crowded since it was early. Disappointingly, the dinner did not match up to our expectations. We found the food lacked seasoning of any kind.

And my husband’s lobster dinner had a vanilla cream sauce with it. I tried it and it was awful. I felt so bad because I wanted it to be a nice dinner. I had the yellow snapper entree wrapped in phyllo dough and it just smelled fishy once they brought it out. I could barely eat it. IMG_4108

After a disappointing dinner we decided to walk down towards Mallory Square to catch the sunset. We made it just in time and it was packed with people. We were able to find a spot to watch it. I always hope to see the green flash but no such luck, but it was still a beautiful sunset. IMG_4106IMG_4107

We walked back down towards the Tuna where Lewis Brice, Joal Rush and Nick Norman were playing. https://youtu.be/-EcLU2ZQnJ4IMG_4117

While we were enjoying the music, they took a break and friends of theirs from South Carolina came on stage. They were called Finnegan Bell and they were quite good. They mentioned that they would be back the next day at 5pm so my husband wanted to make sure we would see them again.

April 7 (Day 5) – No Fishing 😦

We woke up to another beautiful day. We were supposed to go fishing with our good friend Billy that worked at the Gardens. IMG_3962

I hadn’t heard from him so I wasn’t sure if we were going to go out with him. I checked my phone and he told me about the passing of one of his good friends. I was a bit disappointed but we both completely understood. I told him that we would catch up with him when we head back in July. IMG_4125

I wanted to go back to Blue Heaven for breakfast and it was still early enough to go. We walked and sat down. My husband and I both ordered the eggs benedict. I opted for the bacon bennie and my husband had the sausage bennie again. It was a nice morning to relax and try to figure out what to do. IMG_3957

After breakfast we decided to just relax by the pool at the Gardens for a bit. I heard back from Zack and he stopped by. He wanted to show me the new “meow” hats I did for him came in. They came out great! He mentioned how he was leaving town to take his son for his basketball tournament. He also said how he wanted to show us the other banners that I designed as well came in. So we hopped in his car and went back to his house. The other banners I did came out awesome! I can’t wait to see those displayed as well… we talked for a bit and then said our goodbyes. We thanked him again and hope to catch him in July. Really a great guy and so proud to be his designer!

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After our walk back to the Gardens we decided to freshen up for the day. We forgot how we never made it to Irish Kevins yet. So we walked back down to Duval and stopped in for a drink. They always have someone entertaining playing there so it was fun to sit down and listen and of course hear the perennial favorite cover of “Wagon Wheel” there.IMG_4143

I wanted to see the water again so we went back to the Galleon. Again David wasn’t working, but we sat down for one. As we sat there I was longing to go out on the water. I suggested for us to go out for a daysail on the Schooner American 2.0 for our last day. I gave them a call and luckily they had two seats available for us. IMG_4153.jpg

We were getting hungry, so we walked back down to Kelly’s to grab a bite to eat. I went with the fish tacos while my husband ordered their wings. This is another place where their food never disappointed us – especially their wings!

It was getting to be about that time to see Finnegan Bell at the Tuna. When we walked in to the place we noticed saw dust everywhere. I guess they were taking down a tree up above the Tuna. It was okay because while Finnegan Bell would play, it would look like snow falling! They sounded great especially their cover of Mumford and Son’s “Awake My Soul”.   https://youtu.be/6le6EiLKCHkIMG_4157

Once they went on break, we chatted with them for a bit. We told them how we saw them the night before and wanted to check them out. They were really nice guys (Shane and Warren) and they mentioned how they were playing with Nick Norman, Joal Rush, Lewis Brice and Chris Weaver at the Lazy Gecko the next night so we would be sure to check it out. They were actually all were down to play the Ramble unfortunately the next day after we were leaving at the Key West Theater.

We wound up leaving to freshen up again at the Gardens before coming back to see Caffeine Carl again. We new this was our last night in Key West where we could stay up late since the following day was our last full day.IMG_4160.jpg

We came back to the Tuna where we listened to Caffeine Carl play. We had a good time but realized it was getting late. We made it back to the Gardens and called it a night – it was late!!

April 8 – Schooner American 2.0, Lazy Gecko and More  (Day 6)

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It was a slow start but I didn’t feel like eating at the Gardens. It was after 9am so I knew Blue Heaven was out of the question (and it was also a Friday when more people are in town). So my husband suggest Bagatelle’s. We hadn’t been there in a few years and it was another terrific day to go for a walk. And another added bonus they have huervos rancheros – one of my favorite breakfast splurges!

We chose to walk down the quieter street of Simonton and made it to Bagatelle’s. We were seated upstairs outside with a great view of Duval. We both ordered the huervos rancheros. They tasted good but they were bit on the cool side. Maybe it is because they have to walk the food up all the way upstairs or not but it was okay.IMG_4170.jpg

After breakfast, we walked back down to the Gardens. We wound up packing up all our things so we had everything ready to go for the next morning. It is always so depressing knowing that you are leaving the next day, but that’s what vacations are. Our flight was at 9:10am, so we asked the Gardens to call us a taxi for a 7:45am pick up. We also made sure all our alarms were set. IMG_4204

Once everything was in order we left the Gardens and made our way back towards the Bight. IMG_4209We had our daysail on the Schooner American 2.0 at 1:30 but had to check in at 1pm. We walked around and figured we would have a drink at Turtle Kraal Tower Bar. It is always a beautiful view.IMG_4176

We wound up chatting with another person from Pt. Pleasant, NJ heading home on our same flight the next day. We talked about how you plan so many things to do in Key West and it just doesn’t happen. Before we knew it, it was time to check in for our day sail.IMG_4177.jpg

Luckily there was only 17 people so it wasn’t crowded at all. The boat itself is so beautiful. We found out ironically it goes back up to New York for the summer. The captain mentioned how it goes out of Chelsea Pier to the Statue of Liberty. Funny how being from NJ I have never been to the Statue of Liberty…. go figure! IMG_4189IMG_4185.jpgIMG_4197

IMG_4192The water was calm and so were the breezes. It was so beautiful to finally go out on the water. My only regret was that we weren’t able to get in the water during this trip.

After the sail it was time to get back to the Gardens and freshen up before checking out all the musicians at the Lazy Gecko. After we showered, we made our last sad walk down Duval. IMG_4097We noticed that it was definitely more crowded since the weekenders were coming in. We walked into the Lazy Gecko and it was packed. I honestly thought we weren’t going to stay but we ran into Shane and Warren. While we were talking to them, thankfully two seats opened up at the bar. IMG_4213

And that’s when the evening got better. All the guys from South Carolina would get up and take turns playing together. IMG_4212IMG_4220

It was so much fun! http://tinyurl.com/zwkfze8   http://tinyurl.com/ha8p4hcIMG_4219

Once the show was over everyone headed over to the Smokin Tuna. We probably partied a little too much for our last night in Key West but we had such a good time it was hard to leave. IMG_4226.jpg

We did eventually leave and said our good byes.

April 9 – Departure Day 😦  (Day 7)

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And the dread of going back home was upon us. We woke up just before 7am and heard how the weather forecast back home was for snow. We thought just great. We tried to make the best of it as we took the taxi from the Gardens to the airport. We just kept telling ourselves that we will be back in 3 months… but still we just didn’t want to go just yet (but I knew our livers did)….  our Silver Airways flight took off on time and we made our very close connection in Ft. Lauderdale. Before we knew it we were back home where it was in the mid 30s with snow showers.(And black and white like the ending of The Wizard of Oz.)IMG_4230

This may have been our tenth year returning to Key West, but it may be our most memorable one with all the people we met and the friends we made…

And a good rule of thumb is… the best plan to have while in Key West… is to have no plan at all!