04.18.2012 - 04.22.2012 82 °F
Hard to believe this was the 7th time my husband and I were headed back to Key West. Even though we had a very mild winter here in NJ, we were looking forward to this trip. We usually travel with a a bunch of people, but with everyone's changing schedules it wound up being only us and another couple. It doesn't matter how many people you go down to Key West with - you will have a great time.
After several flight scheduling conflicts, I was able to book our United Flight with a 2 and half layover in Tampa. It was a bit of a longer layover then what I prefer, but after a few beers at the Green Iguana bar in the Tampa airport we headed to the gate to board our plane. While we were waiting we met up with our two friends (Chip and Johnie) from NJ. It was funny how we live 20 minutes apart yet we wound up meeting up in Tampa. After about an hour and 10 min. we landed into Key West Airport.
We decided to stay at the Gardens Hotel. The only place we have ever stayed at in Key West, and the only place we will stay at. After a short cab ride we arrived at the Gardens, our home away from home.
Our friends were staying at the Ocean Key Resort so we would meet up with them later.
After freshening up we headed to our first stop Willie T's. We downed our first margaritas and were on our way. I was pretty hungry so we walked down Caroline St. to Kelly's to have a key lime margarita and a couple of appetizers. Our friends joined us there and also our friend Lynda, who lives with her husband for the winter down in Key West and heads back up to NY/NJ for the summer.
Key Lime Margarita:
We met up with our friends and wanted to go somewhere to watch the sunset. Avoiding the crowds, we headed down to the Galleon. Along the way I took some photos of all the docked boats:
We had a great time watching the sunset and catching up.
Our friends wanted to grab something to eat so we headed down Duval with Lynda. We stopped at Margaritaville to hear a Buffett cover band that I had seen a few years back while skiing at Camelback in PA. It was fun to listen to a few songs before heading out to the Green Parrot where Lynda told us the "Red Elvises" were playing.
We got to the Green Parrot and it was mobbed with people. Apparently there was this well known band by the Key West locals called "Igor and the Red Elvises". We squeezed our way towards the bar in the back and were able to grab one seat at the bar. It was enough room to drink a few beers and listen to the band. They were quite entertaining. Who would have thought a band from Russia would sound so good?
After a long day we called it a night and headed to the Gardens.
We woke up to a great day and I was starving. The Gardens includes breakfast with your stay, but I wanted to go to Blue Heaven like we always do every year for breakfast. It was before 9am so we knew we wouldn't have to wait too long for breakfast. On our way down Petronia St. we saw a van parked on the side of the road and just had to laugh (I guess the band was out late playing):
We got to Blue Heaven and were seated immediately.
I had an omelete while my husband had the regular eggs benedict. It doesn't matter how many times we go there, I just love the vibe of being outside with the roosters running around.
After a good breakfast we headed back to the hotel.
We were going to lay by the pool but it was a bit cloudy so we thought to walk off our breakfast.
You don't see this everyday in NJ:
The infamous conch train:
The sun was starting to beat down on us and we were getting pretty hot and thirsty. We were near the Ocean Key Resort and stopped at the Sunset Pier for a few cold ones.
Our friends texted us that they were at Sloppy Joe's and also Lynda's husband Will Hoppey was playing so we finished our drinks and made our way down to Duval to Sloppy Joe's.
After a couple of rounds of drinks and listening to some songs, we wanted to show them Captain Tony's. I just think the place is just like no other - so we headed to the next stop.
I ordered a pirate's punch but then realize there was gin in it. I'm not a big fan of gin so it wasn't something I could really get down. No worries though, the bartender gave me beer free of charge while our friend enjoyed the extra punch.
Feeling pretty good we headed to the Westin to see Jimmy (aka Mr. Mojito) and have one of his infamous "Green Things". It was great to see Jimmy again.
The green things weren't freshly made like last year but they still tasted quite refreshing.
The Majesty of the Seas cruise ship was in town:
We were feeling pretty good and a bit tired so we agreed to head to our hotels and freshen up and meet later on for dinner. They wanted to go to Alonso's which was fine by me because I was hoping that they would have hogfish on the menu.
We went back to the Gardens to freshen up and say hello to their resident cat:
We headed back out to the bight and met our friends at Alonso's. We had a 15 minute wait but just watched the fisherman come in with their daily catch:
Once we were seated we noticed the fish specials on all the blackboards had the word "hogfish" crossed out on it. A bit disappointed I ordered the coconut crusted grouper which was pretty good.
We also split an order of fried callamari:
All and all it was a good choice for dinner.
After dinner we had a quick walk to the White Tarpon where we watched Will play. It was great to see him again:
It was a great night of music and some good wine:
Last year while staying at the Gardens we were able to meet Billy the bartender. He told us that he does private charters. I wound up giving him a call about a month before we arrived and booked a day sail with him. It was a nice surprise that our friends also wanted to join in on the sail. Billy offered to pick us all up at the Gardens at 10:30 so we had time to grab breakfast.
Sarabeth's is located just a block or so from the Gardens so we walked down for a bite to eat.
Their smoked salmon scramble:
Fat and fluffy french toast:
The breakfast was very good and a perfect start to a great day. Billy picked us up from the Gardens and were on our way to the dock. Before we headed out, we stopped to grab some sandwiches and some beer.
After about a half hour or so on the boat we arrived at our first stop. A deserted beach.
Billy docked the boat and gave us some time to just relax and walk the beach while he got our fishing gear ready.
It was just so beautiful and peaceful:
We took turns taking our pictures:
And then my husband took a picture of me with "My toes in the water..."
Once we were all back on the boat, we headed out to do some fishing. On our way we made some stops as we watched a bunch of dolphins in the water.
Billy took us to stop where we anchored. We caught a bunch of fish - unfortunately most of the fish that we caught was grouper. We had to throw the grouper back since the season doesn't start for another month. All well - we still had a great time:
Since we still had some time left, Billy took us out to the reef to do some snorkeling. We all hoped in the water and snorkeled around. I couldn't get over the clarity of the water and the abundance of fish. Unfortunately the water was a bit cold for me so I couldn't stay out too long.
Once we got back in the boat we saw more dolphins swim on by. I tried taking a few pictures but it is impossible to catch one perfectly with the camera. We tried fishing again but only caught a few grunts and a yellowtail snapper. We realized we weren't probably going to be having our catch for dinner. After a long day it was time to head back to Key West.
Billy docked the boat and offered to filet our catch and drop it off the next day but we passed. He dropped us off at our hotels and we thanked him for a great day. We had a blast and hope to do it again next year:
We told Billy we would see him the next day since he was bartending at the Gardens.
It was a long day and we agreed that we would go our separate ways for dinner. We were going to try this new restaurant Billy recommended Grunt's, but we decided to go back to Kelly's for dinner.
I had ceviche for an app and a fried whole yellowtail snapper:
It was nice dinner and afterwards we headed back to the Gardens. We were beat!
Our last day already?!
I remember hearing on the radio on Billy's boat that there was chance of thunderstorms the next day but didn't think much of it. We woke up to pouring rain with thunder and lightning. We had never experienced weather like that before while in Key West. Because of the weather we decided to have breakfast at the Gardens.
A few days earlier I got a text from my friend Ashley who recently moved from St. Thomas to Ft. Myers. Last year she joined us with her sister for a few days in Key West. I was hoping for them to join us again but unfortunately they were unable to. The text said that they decided to come down for the day on Saturday by ferry. I wasn't sure if they were still going to come with the weather. I hadn't heard from her so I figured they were still on their way.
After a leisurely breakfast we freshened up. I also started packing up all our stuff since we were leaving very early the next day.
The Gardens provides umbrellas so we grabbed them before heading out for the day. We walked down Duval in the pouring rain and noticed everyone was wearing plastic bags and umbrellas. It was quite a different scene than what we are used to seeing. The roads were also very flooded. We made it to Sloppy Joe's to meet our friends. A bit soaked, we dried off and had a few drinks. I checked my phone and saw that Ashley and her sister Nancy were on there way. Sloppy Joe's was starting to get very crowded so we walked across the street to Rick's. Our friend Will was playing there so it worked out perfectly.
Soon Ashley and her sister arrived and we celebrated with "Pickleback" shots. (Jameson and pickle juice - I wisely declined...)
After a few shots we headed back to Kellys.
It was a great time!
Before we knew it, it was 5 o'clock and they had to head back to the ferry. It was great seeing them again even if only for a few hours.
We wound up meeting up with Lynda after walking Ashley and Nancy back to the ferry. The rain was starting to subside and the sun was peaking through. I saw the sign "Dante's" and have read about the place and wanted to try it. We headed in for a drink (or two):
I had originally booked reservations at Michael's restaurant but requested to sit outside. I knew with the weather that the availability probably wasn't very promising for inside. I cancelled our reservations and tried to think where to go. I remember Cafe Sole from last year and they always have hogfish on the menu. I gave them a call and they had availability for an 8 o'clock reservation.
We invited Lynda to join us so we headed back to the hotel to freshen up and say hi to Billy who was bartending that night.
We also stopped by to grab a glass of wine from the "wine bar" the Gardens Hotel put in over a year ago. It is great - you walk up with a glass, punch in your card, select the wine you want - and it just pours out! Genius!
After freshening up, we headed to Cafe Sole which is a pretty good walk. Thankfully the skies were clear. We had a great meal and yes we all ordered the hogfish!
We left Cafe Sole, said our goodbyes to Lynda and told her we would see her soon back up north. We walked back to the Gardens and joined up with our friends for a few more drinks. The Gardens had a special event that night so it was pretty crowded.
We told Billy we would see him next year and thanked him again for a great day out.
It was getting late and we had to get up early for our 7am flight out of Key West.
We made it to sleep and woke up (painfully) at 5am to head back home. The flight home was a bit turbulent, but made it home by 2:30 safely. Hoping to maybe extend our trip to for another day to Key West next year. Then again I'm not sure if our livers could handle another day!
Until next time....