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Key West - 6th time back and still as good as the first

sunny 81 °F

My husband and I usually visit Key West in the beginning of March, but after last year’s cold spell, we decided the first week in April would be safer.

Day 1
We had an early flight and flew from Newark with a 2 hour layover in Ft. Lauderdale. It turned out our connecting flight was delayed for an hour. No reason was given, it was just delayed. We finally arrived in Key West around 2pm.

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After we got our luggage, we grabbed a taxi to the Gardens Hotel. We stayed in our usual Garden View room and had a wonderful time. We especially enjoyed the new wine room that was added. It can be dangerous though to get a glass of wine with the ease of using your key card. They had a nice variety of wines available each evening until 9pm. We freshened up and headed out to our first usual stop Willie T’s.
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Willie T’s is a great place to go if you want something quick to eat and drink. Their 2 for 1 margaritas are always a good deal. Our next stop was to go by the water so we met up with some friends at the Sunset Pier in the Ocean Key Resort. This is a great place to go if you want a nice view by the water. After a few cocktails, we figured that we should get something to eat. We wound up at the Rooftop Cafe and had a great dinner.

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Day 2
We woke up to another warm and sunny day. The Gardens Hotel does offer a wonderful buffet style breakfast outside in the grounds, but I wanted to go to Blue Heaven for breakfast. If you tend to get there before 9am during the week, the wait isn’t too long.
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We had a great breakfast and were contemplating what to do when we were done. I had reservations to go on an afternoon dolphin watch and snorkel sail so relaxing by the pool seemed like a good idea. The pool area at the Gardens hotel is very relaxing. You feel like you’re miles away from the hustle and bustle of Duval Street when you are only a few blocks away.

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Before long it was time to go for our afternoon sail. We had to meet the Echo 2 Catamaran near the Turtle Kraal Restaurant. We have been to the Turtle Kraal restaurant before, but never realized there was an upstairs area that overlooked the harbor.

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We had a quick drink and then checked in for our sail. We set out into the back country of Key West. It took a while but we did manage to sail into 2 dolphin pods. We also saw a couple of baby dolphins with their mother. It was a great day out.

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The Echo 2 also made a snorkel stop for anyone who wanted to snorkel. My husband and I just felt like relaxing on the boat. Pretty soon it was time to head back for the day. Once we got back, we headed to Captain Tony’s to meet a few friends.

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After a few rounds we headed back to the hotel to freshen up for dinner. We figured we would meet everyone back out at Kelly’s for their really good margaritas and wings. A great time was had by all and it was soon time to head back to our hotel, we were pretty tired, it was a long day.

Day 3
For breakfast this morning, I wanted to try Sarabeth’s. I never realized how close it is to the Gardens Hotel. They had a wonderful smoked salmon and cream cheese scrambled egg. The service was very prompt. I would definitely go back to Sarabeth’s on our next trip back. After breakfast it was time to relax by the pool for a few hours.

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Our friend plays out at different places and today he was scheduled to play at Rick’s so we would head down there in the afternoon. When we got to Rick’s, I noticed the sign that read “pickleback”.
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We asked Rick what it was and basically you get a shot of pickle juice and another shot of whiskey. I didn’t want to try it, but my husband did. Ironically he said it tasted quite good.

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We listened to a few good tunes played by our friend and headed back onto Duval. We wanted to go back to the Turtle Kraal restaurant and sit up top.
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It wound up being one of our new favorite places to hang out at. Nothing beats the view from the Sunset Pier, but the Turtle Kraal is not a bad 2nd choice.

Next it was time to get ready for dinner. I made reservations for Cafe Sóle and was eager to try their hogfish. I had tried hogfish the year before at Alonzo’s and was always craving it ever since. I read that Cafe Sóle was known for their hogfish so I added them to our list of restaurants to try this year. Along the way we made a few stops.

Hog’s Breath
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Western Union back in the water
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My husband and I had the hogfish and were not disappointed. I probably could have had at least another portion of the hogfish - it was that good!

Our friend was playing at the White Tarpon that night so we walked back and listened to some great music along with some great martini’s. It was a good way to end the night.

Day 4
This was our last full day on Key West. Some day we would love to go longer, but for now we can only do 5 days. To save a few dollars, we decided to have breakfast at the hotel. The Garden’s Hotel sets up a nice buffet breakfast outside near the pool. There is a nice selection of juices, breads, cereals and hot egg scramble. Being it was our last full day I wanted to do some shopping. We walked around for a bit and bought the typical souveniors found in Margaritaville. We then headed back down towards the Westin. We wanted to visit Jimmy (aka Mr. Mojito) for his infamous Green Things. These drinks do not disappoint! Jimmy gave us the recipe so we have been making them at home ever since we came back.
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We headed back to Rick’s for a bit to see our friend play. We didn’t stay too long since he was going to be playing that night at the Galleon Resort. It was then time to head back to the hotel and freshen up. We noticed that the bar was open at our hotel and had the opportunity to meet Captain Billy. He was a great addition to the Garden’s Hotel staff and made some great drinks.
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We then made our way to the Galleon Resort to listen to our friend play. It was a great night to watch the sunset.
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After a few hours we said our good byes and went to Bagatelle for dinner.
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I had whole fried thai snapper and my husband had the grilled lobster tail.
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Both were very good. Soon it was time to head back to our hotel since we had to be up early for our 8:00 am flight out of Key West.

Day 5
We woke up around 6:30 to get ready to leave. Unfortunately there is not a lot of flights that leave Key West. You either have to take an early flight to get home earlier, or take a later flight. My husband always prefers to leave on the earlier flight to avoid the delays. The cab picked us up around 7am and we were on our way back home. We did have one connection in Tampa, but overall the flights were uneventful and made it back to NJ by 2pm.

The Gardens Hotel has continued to be one of our favorite places to stay throughout our travels. The location and proximity to everything cannot be beat, while at the same time it is so peaceful to just relax in the pool area or the porch outside your room. We are already counting down the days until our return next year.

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Same time and same place.

Posted by susannj 12:57 Archived in USA Tagged keys_key_west

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