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Trip report, Dec. 16-22: Conch-mazing and Chill-tastic

The Frozen North...
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Trip report, Dec. 16-22: Conch-mazing and Chill-tastic

Well, I thought disaster had struck when husband's work heated up at last minute and he couldn't go on our much-anticipated KW trip. He insisted I go anyway and bring a friend, so i had my first KW girls trip. I think this was trip #7 to KW for me. Used so many good tidbits from this forum! Highlights:

1. Flew right into Key west on American via Miami. Easy, peasy. $16, 10-minute cab ride and I was at Pier House. Weather was great --77-78 and sunny whole time! Bliss. Pretty windy a few days.

2. I had the first two days to myself before my friend joined me; Day 1, I started with rum punch and oysters at Hog’s Breath (tradition) then had a lazy pool afternoon, followed by Mallory Square sunset, and coconut shrimp and a key lime mojito at schooner wharf bar -- my fav meal at my favorite spot! A very drunk grandfather sitting next to me at the SWB (with two daughters and a granddaughter in tow) declared “I’m not asking you to marry me, but would you like to dance?” He was so cute and I told his daughter so. Off he stumbled to the conch republic and I crashed, having been up since 4 am.

Next day, I did a 1:30 day sail on the Adirondack schooner for the first time, which was fun, including a friendly crew with no pretense. They had $1 beer, wine and champagne on the ship. At $35, pretty reasonable for a pleasant, easy way to get out on the water. Royal red shrimp for lunch afterward. Then a lazy stay on the Pier House beach and a quick trip to Mallory square to see a beautiful sunset. After 6 months of intense work at a new job, I was on island time. Had a nice walk around to see the pretty holiday lights on palm trees. Sent Key West Peppers hot sauce to my brother and sent myself a care package of key lime cookies and key lime salsa (yum!) from Kermits. I will crack that open on a cold winter’s night. More schooner wharf bar music. Back to the hotel.

3. Activities: We rented bikes the next day when my friend arrived (her first time to key west) and biked down past Hemingway House, southernmost point (where there was a Christmas tree, even), and along the smathers beach side, which is a very pretty bike route. Then we biked over to Ft. Zach beach and spent the afternoon there. Still one of the prettiest beaches anywhere, if you ask me.

The next day we went on the Lazy Dog 2-hour kayak tour, which was fun and at $35 a person, very reasonable. They picked us up at the Pier House and brought us over to the marina along with another couple from a different hotel. Our kayak group had maybe 12 people in it, including one family that had never paddled before and was having a lot of trouble with the mechanics of paddling (though I’m not sure why because the conditions in the mangrove/protected area where we were were not challenging at all.) This trip would be just fine for beginners. I think perhaps the guide took us on the easy route for this reason, but still, a very pleasant paddle during which we got to see some iguanas in trees, and sea creatures that he’d pick up out of the water every so often.

The next couple days were lazy beach and pool days at the hotel, a little shopping. The last night I did my only oops: My friend wanted to do a sunset sail and the concierge recommended Fury Commotion on the Ocean so off we went. It was fun – too fun. The crew kept pouring champagne and it was the only night I’d had too much to drink by 6 pm. If you do this one, be careful. I think next time I would choose a smaller boat; this one was very enjoyable but had more of a high school booze cruise feel to it and more than a few folks who seemed determined to get their money’s worth out of the free drinks and apps, for which there were a line. Still the crew was very nice, the music was good and the sunset, of course, was gorgeous. My bad on the champagne. (Although for 6 nights in key west, maybe I did ok!) By the way, I missed Key West Elvis, he seems to be gone, but we did meet “Captain Morgan” strolling Duval one night. I bought him a beer at Sloppy’s. I figure going to key west and not buying captain morgan a drink would be bad juju, right? He said he was from Ohio. LOL! A long way from Puerto Rico, friends.

4. Music: So much good music! Lots of good music at the SWB including the ever-amusing Raven Cooper. Saw The Doerfels at Sloppy Joes (fun!) for some Christmas music with edge. Saw Larry and Dora at Hog’s Breath. Saw several great bands whose names I don’t remember. Someone singing amazing Motown at Sunset Pier. Love, love, love the music in Key West.

5. Food highlights:

Cuban Coffee Queen -- Lord! Tried this for the first time thanks to this forum and words don't do this coffee justice. Try the cuban vanilla coffee with steamed milk and the pressed cuban bread sandwich with egg, bacon or sausage and cheese. The best $6.80 you will spend all week. Two people can split this sandwich, easily, but I was starving the first morning and greedily polished off the whole thing. I took the coffee and sandwich around the corner to eat by the bight docks. Pretty darn nice way to start the day. (That bacon/sausage was only meat I ate all week!) My ideal meal is a grilled fish sandwich, outside.

Think the best blackened mahi sandwich I had all week was at Dante’s (might have just been the best piece of fish, but wow was it good), and the ones at schooner wharf bar and turtle krall’s were also good. Turtle Kralls had 50 cent oysters both times I went in there and BOY were they good. We had amazingly stunning plantain-crusted mahi with fresh avocado at Conch Republic bar one night. Truly, maybe the best meal I'd had all year--until I tried the blackened grouper with lobster sauce the next night. These meals are the perfect size to split between two ladies, which was no problem at the bar. I’m not usually big on conch fritters but my friend wanted to try, and I must say they were excellent. The bartenders there took nice care of us. I prefer to eat at the bar there, they usually have good music and you’re overlooking the water. The restaurant part feels tourist-y.

We did happy hour at Alonzos for dinner one night, (1/2 price drinks and apps) where the mojitos and martinis were great. Tried the conch cevice, spiced shrimp and the key lime oysters, and the cevice and shrimp were out of this world. The very sweet waiter even brought us a “mistake” martini from the bar because he knew we were drinking those. I think it cost a grand total of about $44 for 4 drinks and 3 apps. Outside, beautiful breeze. What more can you want?

Also tried Croissant de France for the first time – wow that place is ridiculously good, I wanted one of everything in that pretty case (!) but enjoyed the almond croissant and iced coffee immensely. Last night we did Martin’s for drinks and appetizers (very varied tapas and appetizer choices) and I liked this civilized little spot very much. Brought me a pretty raspberry mmmm-martini with an orchid in it and we split seafood ceviche, brie with pear (yum yum!) and crostini with mushroom. A lovely light dinner, outside. As we ate, the Key West lighted bicycle parade folks drove past and waved. Perfect Key West. Very cool.

6. Pier House:

Chose this place because got a good rate (25% off promotion) and wanted big sunny pool and their nice little beach. (There is an iguana living on the beach now. He must get interesting nibbles.) Chose Lanai queen room, but it was in an unusual corner of hotel; instead of around pool, as many of these rooms are, it was back in a corner looking out at sunset pier and ocean key hotel. The plus of this room: great music from sunset pier every night at sunset time! The minus: delivery trucks at 6 AM weekdays. Next time think I’d ask for a room overlooking pool again. Still, lovely room, freshly redone bathroom and no complaints on Pier House at all for what we paid and got. Met a really nice bartender there who gave us second round rum punch on her after we discovered we were all from MA. Had a nice key lime martini too, but did not end up eating there at all. So many choices, so little time.

There were a few families with small kids at Pier House; more families in Key west in general than at other times I have been there. Guess some of them were staying through the holiday. Whole town was quieter than at say, 4th of July, but that suited me fine.

A delightful, relaxing trip. Thanks for being your awesome-people-filled, chill, sunny, bike-friendly, food-tastic, musical, chicken-and-dog-loving, sunset-mazing, brilliant blue water worshipping, unique self Key West. You did me much, much good and I am wishing it back at you.

New Jersey
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1. Re: Trip report, Dec. 16-22: Conch-mazing and Chill-tastic

Yes. If you ever decide to return, you should email or call and ask for an inward-looking Lanae room. These are nicer in terms of the vire - either overlooking the garden and pool with a small veranda or a patio. I like the 2nd floor anfd the view. And it's nice to have that beach, a few palm trees, and access to the ocean. Was Duane (Bongo D) the steel-drummer playing while you were there? He only plays one day, Saturday, now.

And, here...find the iguana in this photo...


Nice trip & report.


In the Country, NY
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2. Re: Trip report, Dec. 16-22: Conch-mazing and Chill-tastic

Nice report, thanks for sharing. The waterfront down by the bight is also one of our favorites!

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3. Re: Trip report, Dec. 16-22: Conch-mazing and Chill-tastic

Nice report, we are also from MA glad you had a nice trip.


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4. Re: Trip report, Dec. 16-22: Conch-mazing and Chill-tastic

Great report , got me jealous!!!

Key West
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5. Re: Trip report, Dec. 16-22: Conch-mazing and Chill-tastic

Glad you decided to make the trip to Key West, and it sounds like you had a great time!! I also love the Cuban Coffee Queen. My favorite is the Key Wester with Taylor Pork Roll. Thanks for sharing!!

Frozen North
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6. Re: Trip report, Dec. 16-22: Conch-mazing and Chill-tastic

Thanx for the great trip report, I am going to have to try the Cuban Coffee Queen, staying close to 5 Brothers I don't venture out much for coffee and cuban sandwiches, but it sounds like I should!!

Naperville, Illinois
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7. Re: Trip report, Dec. 16-22: Conch-mazing and Chill-tastic

Thanks for the great report, sounds like a perfect vacay!

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8. Re: Trip report, Dec. 16-22: Conch-mazing and Chill-tastic

Great report! Wife and I are planning first trip tp KW in mid-Feb and I printed your report as a reference. This forum is a great resource for first-timers!

Thanks for sharing.

Grand Rapids mi
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9. Re: Trip report, Dec. 16-22: Conch-mazing and Chill-tastic

sounds like a great time...THANKS for the trip report !!!

Athens, Tennessee
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10. Re: Trip report, Dec. 16-22: Conch-mazing and Chill-tastic

Nicw report! So glad you didn't have to cancel and found a friend to go along.