Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Key West - Days 3 & 4



I shared Day 1 and 2 of our anniversary trip to Key West recently here. On the evening of Day 2, we had our special anniversary dinner. We ate so much, that we continued our walk past our hotel and around a few extra blocks. 


Found a little gate with a pineapple cutout that I knew my sister would like.



The next morning we were up EARLY to get to our first tour. We booked an 830AM jet ski tour around the island. We had seen the jet skis on the ocean the previous days and said, “I want to do that!” We asked our hotel concierge to book it. Going early in the morning meant lower temperature and more likely to have availability. Key West is in bed until 10AM.

Our hotel restaurant opened for breakfast at 7AM and we were the first ones. I ordered $11 oatmeal, but it wasn’t ready so I then had $11 yogurt.



Mr. JCrew had the egg white scramble. The grain toast was awesome! They get it from a local bakery.



We then walked to the other side of the island for our tour. We decided to walk because we were unsure if there would be parking. It was a straight shot down Duval Street.

Duval Street is like Bourbon Street. I’ve never been, but from what I hear, it’s how I would imagine it. We walked past bar after bar. The Hard Rock Café is in a house. The Walgreens looked to be inside an old movie theater. The streets were clean and there were cleaners mopping the floors of the bars from the mess the night before. I could handle going down an empty Duval street. I could be nosey and take it all in without the crowds.

When we reached the end of Duval Street, we checked in for our tour. They told us to get there 30 minutes early and we did. But then we waited around a while. 

I then saw a restaurant that had been recommended…. Hot TinRoof.



They have a pier with tons of tables and you can watch the sunset as you eat.



We sat on the pier while we waited. We saw this island with houses on it and another island with boats anchored off the shore. We later learned on our tour that those two islands were man-made! And the houses on it were million-dollar homes.


Because water and phones don’t mix, I did not take my phone with me on the tour to take pictures, although I wish I would have. A Go-Pro camera would have been perfect!

You can also rent a boat to take out on the ocean. We saw a small family getting the tutorial while we waited.


On the tour, they explain the rules. We played a game of “Follow Me.” One tour guide was the leader and we would file single-file behind him. Florida law states we had to be so many meters apart from each other. Our line of nine jet skis was over a quarter mile long! We made four stops along the way during our tour. At each stop, the guide would feed us a little history. At the first stop, he mentioned we had stopped on the dividing line between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. The water in Key West is so clear, and you can see the grass on the ocean floor. He mentioned if you looked below, you could see the line they paint to mark the difference. HA! Jokes on us for looking down!

We then made some more stops and learned about what locals call Mt. Trashmore. It was where their trash was dumped every day and over the years, it was a huge mountain of trash! It is now a mountain with dirt and not used as a landfill. Key West now has their trash taken off the island and driven to Miami every… single… day! That is 150 miles away. Key West is only so big.

While zooming on the ocean waves, we past this tiny house in the middle of the water. At our next stop, someone asked about the house. The owner of the house use to have it hooked up and floating off the shore. He listed it on AirBnB. Key West started restricting AirBnB’s (don’t know to what extent) and asked this owner to stop what he was doing. As a way of giving the middle finger to the city, the owner let the house go and float away until it stopped at the grassline. Once it stopped, the owner put four 250-lb anchors to it and he uses it as his fishing spot. 

There was another stop where we were told we could see 30 islands from that spot. Not all are livable. There are a lot of islands on the Keys, and most are small with plants on them (most likely Mangrove Trees).

View from Southernmost Point of USA

I had so much fun on the jet skis. I could have done that all day and every day. We had a couple tailgaters in our group that annoyed us, but overall it was a blast! 

After our tour, we went to the hotel gym. We were still trying to work off the dinner from the night before! Mr. JCrew ran while I did a little bit of everything. They had the Pilates Suspension Trainers there and I’ve been wanting to try them out, so I did!
 


I enjoyed it. I can’t tell if it did anything because I did a little bit of everything at the gym and got sore. But I had fun!

We had planned to try this Chocolate Shop that a friend suggested but we chickened out at the last minute. It was a dessert only restaurant, but after reading more about it, it was definitely an adult-only place. We searched for an alternative and went down Duval Street again to Kilwin’s. 



There was so much chocolate and ice cream! Our favorite ice cream was the New Orleans Praline Pecan. 



We taste tested a piece of Sea Salt Caramel that was delicious!



We bought a caramel marshmellow that was my favorite.



And we bought a few Marzipan’s for Mr. JCrew to try. When I was in the Nutcracker, I danced the Marzipan dance a couple years and someone gifted me a box of Marzipan. Our local Publix bakery made it!  I forget the exact reason, but I was searching for them again with no luck. I tried describing it to Mr. JCrew and failed. So, I was excited to finally show him what I was talking about.



We also bought a caramel/chocolate rice krispie treat with nuts that was Mr. JCrew’s favorite. We saved it for the next day.



After all the sweets, we needed something to balance us out, so we walked across the street to Ana’s Cuban Café and Groceries for a sandwich.



It was the buffalo chicken and it was delicious!



As we ate our sandwich, Cheetos and V8 Splash, we also watched a wedding reception. We had been seeing the setup happen since early morning and wondered if the hotel was doing something special for the Fourth of July or if it was a wedding. We saw the guests arrive and we just watched from our balcony.




The groom was in the Army and he and his friends wore their dress blues, but the shirts underneath were different. With jackets on, the shirts were white. Once the jackets were off, the sleeves were a bright tropical pattern material and the back of the shirt had the same pattern. Great idea to the bride/groom!

House on Our Hotel's Property - Available to Rent

Most evenings we retreated to our room for the night and didn’t venture back out. But the night of the wedding, we went down to the lawn area and swung in the hammocks while listening to the wedding music.



It was fun to reminisce on how young we were ten years ago at our wedding.

Balcony View

The next morning we headed to breakfast at our hotel again. We bought the breakfast package there and made use of it. This morning I got to try the $11 oatmeal. It was good. I got berries, brown sugar, golden raisins and nuts to put in it.



Mr. JCrew got the egg-white scramble again.

Our planned excursion for the day was a kayak tour. We booked this tour through recommendations we read off trip advisor. The company is called Lazy Dog. It was a great tour!


I didn’t take my phone to take pictures, but this tour was similar to the jet ski tour, but slower. Mr. JCrew and I shared a double kayak. I was in the back for steering. We had nine kayaks on the tour. One poor lady had an infant and couldn’t get the hang of it. We kept having to rescue her and she ran into many of us. Her husband was in another kayak with their son and we lost them! We went in this tunnel of Mangroves and at the end we did a headcount and they weren’t there. They were being goofballs early, so it didn’t “shock” us. But after the guide went to fetch them and returned empty-handed, we grew a little concerned. We had just started the tour. The guide called back up to the shack to inform them and then we tried calling the guy’s cell phone. He was safe! He had turned around and was at the bar! He gave to guide a heart attack!

We continued on our tour. We stopped a couple times to talk of the ecosystem. We learned about the Mangrove Trees and their seed pods. They protect the coastline and are not to be confused with Mangoes. We got our hands on a sea cucumber and learned how they squirt water when they feel endangered. If a predator is near, they spit out a bag of their organs for the predator to go after instead of them. If the predator takes the organs, the sea cucumber grows new organs. If the predator does not take the organs, they suck the bag of organs back up. It’s amazing! All by God’s design!

One toddler held the sea cucumber and started to squeeze! The cucumber shot out water!

We also got to pass around a few conch shells and an upside-down jellyfish called Cassiopea. It does have a slight sting, but you kind of don’t notice it unless you have sensitive skin. The jellyfish lays upside-down with its underparts up toward the sun, exposing the algae growing on it. This jellyfish eats algae, so it is growing its own food!

We had a lot of fun on the kayak tour and I kept thinking how I wanted to get kayaks to use on our lake that is right out our front door! I’m putting it on my Christmas list!



Our tour ended right around noon, so we were starved! We set back to our hotel and went across the street Lobster Shack. We had read about it while searching for desserts the night before and it had great ratings. As we sat in line, I thought of how lobster is not in the Keys, but it’s tricky because you think seafood and think all the seafood is from there. 



Mr. JCrew ordered the Smothered Lobster Roll. It was a lobster sandwich but they poured lobster bisque on top of it. 



I ordered the Grilled Cheese. It was oh so good! I love cheese!



We had done so good this entire trip applying sunscreen and not getting burnt, but after eating lunch, we didn’t reapply sunscreen before heading out to the pool. We hadn’t needed to on previous days, so the thought missed us. We went out to the pool and stayed out there in the water. We saw the wedding party from the night before having fun at the pool. 

I stayed in the pool and swam and did flips. I tried to do all the things that I can’t do when I have three kiddos I am watching. I didn’t want to leave. I always say I want the kids to wear themselves out at the pool and I was going to do that to myself! I think I did. 

As we were exiting the pool, Mr. JCrew tried to get out and fell back down. He said he hit his shin. I laughed, because I ALWAYS laugh when someone gets hurt, but then I noticed the blood was pouring. Mr. JCrew thought he could get it to stop, but it wouldn’t. He tied a towel around it. 



We didn’t get a bandaid until the next morning as we were checking out.

We felt the sun and realized we were on the verge of being burnt. We stayed in the hotel for the night and enjoyed our Rice Krispie Treat from Kilwin’s.



We woke up early the next morning to get on our flight. I had the thought in my head as we drove the empty streets at 5AM, how most people probably just fell asleep a few minutes ago. 



The plane ride home was a little rough. The pilot did a lot of rocking back and forth. Our right wing would go up and then our left wing would quickly go up. It made all of us a little uneasy. But we landed safely and quickly drove home. We were ready to see our boys. 

The boys were so excited to see us walk in the door. We made sure to call them twice a day while we were gone. Little JCrew had a countdown he was keeping track of. It was actually hard to tell their voices apart on the phone. They both sounds alike. I was afraid of calling them by the wrong name, so I’d wait until they talked a few more sentences before I knew which one it was. And I shouldn’t have worried about calling them the wrong name because I do it all the time in person when I am looking straight at them! I even call them by the dogs’ names!



Our trip was amazing and refreshing. I am so glad we did it. Now I can stay home for the next ten years and save up my energy for the next!

Happy Ten Years, Hubster!

Recap of Days 1 &2 Here!

Friday, July 7, 2017

Key West - Days 1 & 2


This year, Mr. JCrew and I are celebrating our tenth anniversary! We didn't have a honeymoon, as we both went straight back to work, but we made up with it with our Tenth Anniversary Trip.

We originally had plans to go to Waco, TX and then a Mexican All Inclusive Resort. But I was the slow one to look at potential dates to travel, and because we hadn't booked anything, Mr. JCrew changed his mind. We then said we'd go to the Biltmore and hike the mountains in North Carolina. Again, I was slow to plan the dates for travel and Mr. JCrew changed his mind. He then came up with Key West as our destination and I quickly narrowed down the dates and told him to make reservations. He kept all the reservations a secret and I went in blind.


Oh, I forgot to mention... we went sans kiddos! Our first time ever away from the boys.

We left at 5:35 AM on a Friday morning and arrived in Key West shortly before noon. We normally travel early for work (less lines; more likely to avoid delays), but there was a huge line to check in at our airport at 430AM!! My Florida blood has thickened up since I moved to Alabama and I was feeling the heat! The Key West airport is small and the runway is smaller. We were warned of the abrupt landing we would have. They put on the brakes as soon as the wheels touch the runway.

We rented a Camaro convertible for the trip. Oh, how nice! It sounds sweet when you turn the engine on! They designed this car just right.



In the parking lot at the airport, we saw Mr. JCrew's dream car that I had to take a picture of. He was upset that it wasn't available as an option when he made the reservation. Orange is his favorite color.



It was so nice driving around with the top down.


Key West streets are narrow. Driving a car felt like we were over doing it. There was also not much parking anywhere. The Camaro sat around a lot. There was a lot of walking and many people rode bicycles or mopeds.



We stayed at the Southernmost Beach Resort the entire time. It was a nice resort. Our room had a beach right outside for us to enjoy. This was a small public beach. Key West does not have sandy beaches. It is not like the Florida coastline. You have Smathers Beach and that is it. Key West's natural coastline are Mangrove Trees and rocks. All sand has been trucked in to the island.

Southernmost Beach Resort

Southernmost Beach Resort

We checked into our hotel and had rose petals and champagne waiting on us.



We went out to the beach and lounged around. We made reservations to eat at Shor, located in the Hyatt Centric, but didn't make it. Most restaurants don't open until 6, so we were starving! We had arrived early and starting eating appetizers at the Blue Mojito across the pool from the restaurant. We ended up filling our bellies before our dinner reservation! It was half price appetizers, so we ordered two. We had Conch Fritters and a Seafood Taco. Oh. My. Goodness! So good!



It was so good that I forgot to take a picture until I was half-way through. Then we ordered two more appetizers: A cheese plate and a Seafood Slider.




Again, delicious! They are known for their Blue Mojito, but we did not try it as we were tired and needed to be able to drive back.

One thing we noticed is the chickens and roosters everywhere! They own the streets!



We explored a little bit of the city, and it was amazing the character that remains. Most businesses are housed in an old home. The city has strict ordinances, and a company can buy a property, but they cannot tear down the home. They have to exist in the house as it is.



And there are not street signs on every street. Some do, but not all. Instead, there is a white marker painted on light posts with the street names.



The next day (Saturday), we only had one thing planned... our anniversary dinner. We had reservations at Louie's Backyard, but not until 6PM. I wanted to take advantage of our convertible, so we went exploring. We went all the way up to Marathon Key so that we could go over the 7-Mile Bridge. There are so many Keys along the way.

Right around Sugarloaf Key


Sugarloaf Key had the most beautiful water!!



There was even an old bridge that is not in use anymore and had "breaks" at the beginning and end.



There was even an island that an old bridge went to.



I was wondering how those folks get to their home. Must be by boat. The old bridge that is there now, only looked to be a single-lane bridge.



During our road trip, we found a perfect radio station for Mr. JCrew. He is notorious for changing the radio station mid-song and repeatedly. I get frustrated that he can't leave the radio alone. But this Key West Radio Station stayed on during our entire stay. It was 97.7. The songs were all over the place! It was not a certain genre or a certain time period (80's, 90's). Oh, my! It was a little crazy, but Mr. JCrew felt like he found a soul mate! He plans to find them on iHeartRadio app.



When we returned from exploring, we took a walk to the Southernmost Point of the US to take our picture. The line was not too bad.



It was a very touristy thing to do.


There was a small door that right next to the buoy that had a plaque.



We returned to our hotel for a late lunch. We were trying to hold out for dinner, but needed a snack. We split the fish sandwich. (I was bad about forgetting to take a picture until I was commenting how good something was.)



The view from the cafe at the resort was of the beach. It was so nice.




There was a small pier right next to the cafe and our hotel. It's not as big as the White Street Pier, but there were a lot of people that still checked it out.



We hung out until it was time for our dinner at Louie's. Remember when I said all business occupy old houses? Louie's is a pink house!



It is located right next to the dog beach. The inside was gorgeous! It reminded my of my friend Kelly's houses that her parents raised her in (they moved and renovated old houses). There was an inside bar that was cozy, and we chose to sit outside for our meal.




I ordered the special for the night; pistachio crusted grouper and Mr. JCrew ordered the Shrimp and Grits with bacon and mushrooms.



OH. MY! The shrimp and grits were amazing! The grouper was as well.



We then ordered dessert, even though our stomachs were full. We ordered the chocolate brownie creme brulee.



The brownie was at the bottom!



It was the perfect ending to the night.



Come back for the recap to Day 3 & 4.

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