Posts from the ‘Florida’ Category

Forget I Asked…

When I was 15 years old, my parents sent me to my aunt and uncle’s house in Florida to spend a week with them in their condo. They had used to live in New Jersey, less than an hour from us and we would see them a couple of times a year. However they had moved to Florida after my uncle retired from his job as a printer so I didn’t get to see them nearly as often as I used to and they were cool so I looked forward to the trip.

My aunt (my dad’s sister) and her husband were both Read more…

Key West Weekend ’08

Key West! Finally! Dar and I had been planning this trip for 3 or 4 years but it kept being put off for plans with higher priorities, changing work schedules, etc. But we finally had dates that worked for both of us and, after driving to Dar’s house on Wednesday afternoon (with dinner at a Japanese/Thai place so everyone was happy) we were on the road at 10:15 Thursday morning. Sorry hubbies – y’all don’t like Key West so this is Girls’ Weekend Out!

Dar took the wheel (actually, she drove all the way there and all the way back – I offered to take over the driving but she said she was OK) and off we went. The drive was without problems – we were able to avoid major traffic with Dar’s recommended routing and timing, and we had good tunes thanks to rigging my old XM receiver to her AUX input.

We eventually started to get hungry and, since we couldn’t find any chains (we figured we could trust them and know what we would get), decided to take our chances and eat at a local place called Hobo’s Cafe. It was a sports bar and restaurant in Key Largo and we figured, with all of the cars in the parking lot, that it couldn’t suck. And lo and behold, it didn’t! I got a grilled chicken sandwich that was really good and Dar got a burrito that besides being delicious, was freakin’ HUGE! As it turned out, there was an Arby’s about a quarter mile past Hobo’s and a Wendy’s a half mile past that, but we didn’t know that until after the fact and we think we did better anyway.

Hobo’s Cafe

Since Dar is a travel agent, we made one or two quick stops on Rt. 1, so she could possibly find places to recommend to her clients. One was the Largo Lodge – it was very pretty…very tropical and isolated, with its own lovely, private beach. And then we took a second look and saw a dozen or so turkey buzzards on its lovely private beach. Ummm…no. We also made a quick stop at a resort on Duck Key, which looked a LOT like DVC’s OKW. We didn’t stop at Ramrod Key but did get a giggle out of the name (grin).

We finally got to Key West around 4:30pm and found our bed an breakfast, the The Cypress House. The staff was friendly and the place was clean but the room was a little run down – most of the furniture was antique, or at least old, but it was nicked and scratched and really needed to be refinished. And the carpet, a 6′ square place carpet, was FILTHY. Besides being worn, the white areas had turned gray – that’s how dirty it was. It was just gross and not something I would walk barefoot on. The bathroom was across the hall – something of an inconvenience but we knew about that ahead of time and it was something we agreed we could deal with – however the lack of air conditioning in the bathroom was not expected. We weren’t going to sweat the small stuff though – it fit our priorities (clean, not mondo expensive, 2 beds and high speed internet access) and as inns built in 1888 went, it was fine. And the 2 resident Schipperkes, Ben and Gabi, were ADORABLE!

Street view of Cypress House

Their front porch

Above and Below: Views of our room. It didn’t look bad from a distance but even in the top picture you can see all the nicks and scuffs on the furniture in the foreground. And the rug was just icky.

Above and Below: Our bathroom, which was across the hall from our room. Nothing fancy, and certainly without A/C, but clean.

Loved the artwork in our bathroom

By the time we finished unpacking, it was Happy Hour at the B&B. Happy Hour ran from 6p to 7p and I have to admit it was THE BEST Happy Hour at any hotel or B&B I’ve ever visited. They had chips and salsa, cheese and crackers, crudite fruit and veggies and I can’t remember what else. And the booze – THE BOOZE! – dark rum, light rum, scotch, whiskey, you name it! All for free! Not that either of us are big drinkers by ANY sense of the imagination, but as someone who has been a guest in several B&B’s in her time, all of that to be complimentary, as part of Happy Hour, is VERY impressive!

Backyard/lounge/pool area where they do Happy Hour

During Happy Hour: Cute gay boys staying at our hotel

After Happy Hour was done, we went back to the room and hung out for a while. Eventually we started getting hungry walked up and down Duval Street for something to eat. We almost settled on the Hard Rock Cafe (again, a consistent old standby) but went to Caroline’s Cafe, across the street, instead. I had the Asian Salad (with some grilled shrimp added) and Dar got the Makin’ Bacon Salad. Both were really good!

Caroline’s Cafe

It was about 10pm by the time we were done eating and we decided to walk along Duval Street some more. The bars, obviously, were open, as were most of the restaurants. Many of the crap shops were still open, although some were closed, either because of the time or because of the date – I found it amusing that nearly every store that sold Harley Davidson stuff, bongs and penis-shaped items were closed for Yom Kippur (grin). Anyway, with some Kohl’s custard in our bellies for dessert, we went back “home” and to bed, ready to be tourists the next day.

We woke up on Friday at 9am and enjoyed the breakfast buffet – there were all different kinds of cereals, fruits, breads and pastries to enjoy, along with coffee and a variety of teas.

Breakfast buffet at Cypress House

After breakfast, we walked to Mallory Square and checked out some crap shops – especially the shell shop where I had gotten my Mary On The Half Shell a few years ago. They don’t sell it anymore, BTW.

We had bought tickets for the Conch Train Tour on our way out the door that morning (our B&B sold discounted tickets) and grabbed the conch train when the sun was getting hotter and our feet were getting tired. It was a nice 90-minute ride with Gary, our engineer. It turned out that Gary used to be the musician for the Schooner Western Union, which was the ship we had ridden on for a sunset tour during our last trip to Key West, several years ago. Anyway, despite the 10-minute “Code Molassas” that we encountered, the tour was fun…we criss-crossed the “old” parts of Key West and Gary gave a history of many of the sites, buildings and architecture styles.

Conch Train Tour “train”

We were STARVING after the Conch Tour and decided to find something to eat. Well, Dar and I had been debating about what sunset cruise to take and I think Gary’s history with the SWU finally put us over the edge of decision-making – we would take the Schooner Western Union. We worked our way there, figuring we would eat at one of the restaurants on the wharf and came upon the Conch Republic Seafood Company. I got a salad with rare grilled tuna – not sure what Dar had. The place was “iffy”, as per Trip Advisor but we must’ve caught it on a good day cuz our food was great!

Conch Republic Seafood Company

After standing and walking for so long, Dar needed to sit and rest, not long after lunch. I stayed with her for a while, then went off on my own to look at some shops that were off the beaten path. Lots of pretty, artsy stuff but nothing that screamed “buy me!” When I got back, we went to a nearby ice cream shop (ice cream was becoming something of a tradition on this trip) and by the time we were done, we were almost ready for our sunset sail on the Schooner Western Union.

The Schooner Western Union

Information about the Schooner Western Union

The ship was set to sail at 6pm and we needed to be there at 5:45. We arrived at 5:30pm and, after a beautiful day all day, that’s when the heavens opened up. Fortunately, the launch was right near a bar so we hung out in there for a while until the rain stopped. We boarded the ship and were off! As I said, we (me, Joey, Steve, Gary and my in-laws) had been on this ship years ago, when we were on the Disney Cruise and ported in Key West for the day. Times have gotten hard for them in recent days (hell, times have gotten hard for everyone in recent days) and they’ve had to cut costs by excluding the conch chowder, drinks and music. The crew is as friendly as ever though and that, the rainbows and the sunset we saw were worth every penny of the trip.

Leaving the dock

Rare double rainbow

Even more rare: Seeing the end of the rainbow. No pot of gold but maybe there’s treasure from a sunken ship in that spot?




Mother Nature ROCKS!

If we weren’t tired before the sunset cruise, we were EXHAUSTED by the time we were done 90 minutes later, so we headed back to the Cypress House and called it a night. I think we were asleep before 10pm!

Saturday was shopping day. After breakfast (same as yesterday, except with cheese omelettes in the crock pot – they were yummy!), we strolled up and down Duval Street. Four hours. And hours. And hours. And although the art shops were hit or miss, there wasn’t a crap shop we didn’t visit.

Above and Below: Some of the shops we hit. Of course I LOVED the flamingo crap shop!

Some stores had merchandise that was just too funny to not take pictures of:

Thought of Rob & Scott

I think they stole that from the “I Found Jesus” website

Yeah, I guess Key West is Family friendly

I thought we were finally done with this for forever. Apparently not.

Gee, who did THIS remind me off?

LOVED these!

I laughed because it was true


Pity I didn’t have this during the Freakathon

Sometimes it wasn’t the stuff in the store that made you laugh

Although we generally went past the bars without a second glance, we did stop off at a bar called Cap’t Tony’s Saloon that claims to be THE spot (not the Sloppy Joe’s down the block) where Ernest Hemingway hung out during his Key West years. Whether he actually did or not, I don’t know or care – the place was old and had charm and character – I LOVED it (grin). And just like drinking at 10:30 in the morning at Castaway Cay, having a beer at Cap’t Tony’s at 12:30 in the afternoon is just “right”.

Cap’t Tony’s Saloon

Above and Below: Inside Cap’t Tony’s. On the left side of the “below” picture, that’s the trunk of a huge tree – it’s growing inside the bar and goes through the roof

Gift shop of Cap’t Tony’s. Cap’t Tony is still alive (he’s 92!) but apparently he got his tombstone made early

We did stop for a complimentary tour at the Oldest House in South Florida. After visiting all the big ol’ opulent houses in Savannah not long ago, seeing another big ol’ opulent house wasn’t really all that, but the tour guide was something of a train wreck and was rather interesting to watch and listen to (evil grin).

The Oldest House in South Florida

After some more crap shops, we decided to do an early dinner at Santiago’s Bodega. It was a little off the beaten track in a not-so-great neighborhood but it caught our interest in a commercial and turned out to be the number one restaurant in Key West, according to Trip Advisor. It was a tapas place so Dar and I shared a variety of things: bocconcini di mozzarella (marinated and mixed with roasted red peppers, kalamata olives, garlic, and fresh basil), dates (stuffed with goat cheese and wrapped with prosciutto ), bacon and basil wrapped mushrooms (with basil aioli), pinchos morunos (spicy marinated skewers of pork tenderloin with apple-mango chutney), beef tenderloin (seared and topped with bleu cheese butter) and croquettas (cayenne spiced pan-fried patties of potatoes, house ground prosciutto and provolone cheese with scallion cream). The food was all good, although not great. The sangria (Carlo Rossi, with orange rum and a splash of Sprite) was awesome though (grin).

Santiago’s Bodega

We started to make our way back on Duval Street and decided to go to Mallory Square for one last sunset. But not before a stop for ice cream! Anyway, the crowds were good for people-watching and the sunset was terrific – a nice way to end a nice weekend.

The crowds at Mallory Square

A Key West Sunset:

The trip home on Sunday (after breakfast that included pancakes and bacon in the crock pots) took a little longer than the trip going, simply because of the REALLY crappy (in a good way) crap shops we stopped at on the way.

The crap shop to beat all crap shops

And they had the toilet I wanted when I was a little kid (I’ve since grown up and although my tastes remain as tacky as ever, comfort and practicality have taken over and I’d rather have a Toto Washlet)

Lunch was at Dairy Queen (ice cream for dessert, of course) and we got back to Dar’s around 4:30ish. I made it home by 6:15pm and did a quick turn around and change of clothes so we could meet Rob, Scott and Tyler for dinner before the concert we were going to that night.

It had been a nice weekend in the Conch Republic, even though I didn’t each one freakin’ conch! Next time…