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  1. #1
    Member Maria de los Angeles's Avatar
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    Default Maria's Keys and Key West Adventure

    Greetings friends! I'm actually writing from the Keys! While I'm here, got any questions about the destination or want to start chatting about this beautiful string of islands? Already someone gave me an extra assignment to find the best key lime pie. I think that warrants a whole trip on it's own, don't you? (And I must ask my waistline if she approves and besides, I already know the answer: yours truly makes the best key lime pie!)

    The best way to reach me or follow my adventure is to follow @vicequeenmaria on Twitter. You can also see my iPhone pictures here: Vicequeenmaria's Pik Stream on Pikchur - Photo & Video Sharing!

    I started my trip with some real Floribbean cuisine: conch chowder, fried grouper and a cold beer at Alabama Jack's -- such a respite from urban Miami, less than an hour away! Alabama Jack's - Welcome

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    My first stop is Hawk's Cay Resort on Duck Key. I'm on assignment for a romantic travel story, so it's ironic I'd end up at this VERY family friendly resort. Heck, there is even a Tranquility Pool for adults 21 and over who want to escape from the kids. Ironically, though, it IS a great romantic resort for couples with kids, because there's all kinds of things to do here for the little ones, so parents can spend time alone. In addition to activities, there's babysitting and even a club just for kids where they can play all sorts of games under supervision. It's like a daily summer camp. This resort is also very popular as a destination wedding spot. As I tweeted earlier ... if you're not here with your family, you're probably *making* a family.

    Florida Keys Luxury Resort - Hawks Cay Resort

    Below is a picture of the Tranquility Pool. I approve!

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    And here is the saltwater lagoon, where you can swim to your heart's content without worrying about marine wildlife biting your ass. Lounge chair cocktail service doesn't hurt, either!

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  2. #2
    Moderator Jess's Avatar
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    I love the Keys! I am so jealous! Enjoy yourself and keep taking photos!

  3. #3
    Member sungal's Avatar
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    Ginger can help you! She loves Key West-except when it rains. Antonio's Restaurant has the best key lime pie. Matheson's key lime pie is way too sweet.

    If you go to the Hemingway House please say hello to all the kitties from Gingie. Ginger's KW question: Does KW have a beach? I've heard rumors but I've never seen one.
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  4. #4
    Moderator Jess's Avatar
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    Key West has Fort Zachary State Park. I went on my last visit, really beautiful beach.

    Poor Ginger! Yeah, it floods in KW like it does in Miami!

  5. #5
    Member Maria de los Angeles's Avatar
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    Hi Ginger! Yes Key West has a couple of beaches that I know of! As Jess, pointed out, Fort Zachary is one of them and it's the best, I think. Smathers Beach is kind of yucky but I think that's popular with the tourists. I'll check when I'm down there and send photos!

    I will also stop by Hemingway's house and say hi to the kitties.

  6. #6
    Moderator Jess's Avatar
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    Smathers is kind of dirty... it is right by the airport too so kind of away from Old Town. Still, the views of the water go on forever, so it is worth a visit.

  7. #7
    Member Maria de los Angeles's Avatar
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    Default Hawk's Cay - Qik Video with Marketing Manager

    This morning, after a nice buffet style breakfast at The Terrace, I did a golf cart tour of the property with the Marketing Manager and shot a live-stream videom (see below). The beginning of it is a little bumpy but the rest is fine.

    Hawk's Cay is really ideal for secluded getaways (the villas are in a very quiet & private "neighborhood" adjacent to the main resort building) and also for destination weddings.

    One couple rented a gated-off area called the Sanctuary Village and threw a block party instead of a reception in the banquet rooms. Great idea! All the villas are gingerbread Key West style surrounded by tropical landscaping.

    You would never know, passing the Hawk's Cay sign on Route 1, that all this was back there on Duck Key. It's 60 acres and five little islands -- some people do bike tours while others kayak around the canals and waterways. The water is very calm and tropical looking here -- all the beautiful shades of blue and green. While it is a luxury resort, it's not exactly super hoity toity exclusive. Locals come to dine and drink at Tom's Harbour House, which is one of the more casual spots for the resorts. They have a Hook and Cook item on the menu, which means the chef will cook what you catch.

    Locals can also dine at Alma, the resort's more upscale restaurant, which boasts a Caribbean-inspired menu that I've never seen anywhere in South Florida. They serve food with real Caribbean ingredients like scotch bonnet oil, breadfruit, goat, coconut milk etc ; Last night I had the Caribbean seafood stew with coconut milk served over fragrant rice and it was absolutely delicious.

    And OMG the spa has a Key Lime Mojito treatment I must try when I come back ... I'm DEFINITELY coming back here to get away from the Miami craziness. They have great rates until the end of November which Florida locals can take advantage of ... $119 a night and up. I'll post more about that soon.

    One of the things I love about the Keys and this property in particular is that you are not surrounded by hi-rises. This gives you a sense of space that is so calming for the mind. I noticed that today on the tour -- while the resort is sprawling you never feel oppressed by concrete. You really do feel like you are on an island.


  8. #8
    Senior Member Blackford Oakes's Avatar
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    Back in January, we did divert onto Duck Key to check out the neighborhoods. Is it fair to say housing doesn't get better than that on the Keys ?

    Let us know if you come across any irresistable coconut shrimp in KW.

    Enjoy your stay.

  9. #9
    Member Maria de los Angeles's Avatar
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    Default Day 2 - Hawk's Cay to Key West

    Day 2

    :: Porky's Bayside BBQ Restaurant :: Home

    On my way to Key West, someone sent me a Twitter message to stop by Porky's BBQ in Marathon to try their key lime pie. I dutifully obeyed and I'm glad I did. Porky's is another shack style place like Alabama Jack's, right next to a tiny little canal dock where you'll find some fishing charter outfits and commercial fishing boats.

    Porky's lived up to its name with a delicious pulled pork sandwich "North Carolina" style. It was spicy with a hint of sweet molasses. I also tried the lobster bisque, which was also delicious.

    Of course, I had to order the key lime pie just to try a few spoonfuls, even though I was stuffed. The version they gave me was the fried kind, which while not traditional, was definitely good. They fry the pie while its frozen. If you're into desserts, you'll love this.

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    After Porky's, I wended my way down to Key West. I took a video of driving down the Seven Mile Bridge, but I'll have to post that later.

    Key West Resorts- Hyatt Key West Resort and Spa- Florida

    Once in Key West, I checked into the Hyatt Key West Resort and Spa right on the water, facing the gulf. There's not much parking on the property so there was a bit of a cluster f*ck finding out if I could valet or self-park. But no matter -- the staff took care of me. And parking is complimentary for guests. You don't really need a car here in Key West. Parking is as much a pain in the ass as it is in South Beach, so you're better off just leaving at the hotel and hoofing it or taking a cab.

    My first room was a partial gulf view and it was quite roomy and comfy.

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    Awaiting me was a chilled bottle of white wine and some scallop and avocado ceviche, mango and crab salad and jumbo shrimp cocktail. (I'm not sure if everyone gets this in their room, but you probably will if you're VIP or on assignment doing a travel story.)

    Needless to say, I couldn't try any of those goodies right away as I was still stuffed from my lunch at Porky's.

    The Hyatt resorts with a spa focus have wonderful big bathrooms with huge showers, which I appreciate during the hot summer as it's a schvitz fest outside. Nothing revives one from a stupor of high heat and humidity like a shower.

    The beds are very comfortable and the decor is done in soothing colors. The lighting is warm and intimate in the room, too -- all nice touches.

    I didn't want to miss a dip in the water before sundown, so I did just that in a tiny man-made beach just behind the hotel, near the dock. There isn't much beach at all, but it's nice to have some salt water to soak in that's not the pool or jacuzzi. There is a tanning deck for two or three people floating on the water that you can swim to just a few feet away from the sand. The water is so clear down here. I love it.

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    KEY WEST WEDDINGS: FLORIDAYS Sailing, Snorkeling, Sunset Sails

    After my swim, I enjoyed a two-hour sunset cruise on a 60-foot monohull called Floridays that docks right behind the Hyatt. This cruise was wonderful -- totally casual, laid-back, no obnoxious loud music, just a few people and free wine, beer or champagne. The captain and first mate were very friendly.

    (My camera's memory card isn't working well -- I lost all my photos from the sailing excursion. Luckily, I took some with my iPhone.)

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    Captain Roger recommended a few romantic restaurants so I tried Café Solé, which was 1 mile from the hotel. I figured I'd walk it and I did, and while I totally needed the exercise, I regretted it because the back streets of Key West are residential, quiet and a little too dark for my taste to be walking alone, although everyone has reassured me that save for a few ghetto areas, Key West is pretty safe.

    Cafe Sole - Contact Us - Key West, Florida

    In fact, the owner of Café Solé, John Correa, who was very friendly and spent time chatting with some other guests and myself, told me what little crime they have here, and he wasn't sugar coating anything for me.

    The food at Café Solé was amazing. I tried a whole bunch of things and these stand out in my mind as I write this: the lobster, orange and fennel salad with hints of olive and white truffle oil; the lobster bisque; the portobello soup with cracked pepper; the conch carpaccio provencal style (OMG that was good); the artichoke appetizer (aptly named "aphrodisiac"); and the signature hogfish entrée served over roasted pepper sauce.

    Chef Correa, who was really down-to-earth and caring for his customers, actually goes out fishing most days himself, so you know what you're getting is fresh. Obviously he only goes lobstering during season. He said it's pretty hard work, but worth it.

    Unfortunately, the were out of key lime pie, so I had to pass on a tasting.

    Was the restaurant romantic? I would say so! It's small, cozy and perfect for an intimate tete-a-tete. There is an outdoor seating area surrounded by trellises and the shade of trees.

    After dinner, I took a cab back to Duval street because I didn't want to walk in the dark streets alone. $5 to go less than a mile. Sounds like South Beach prices to me! Do keep that in mind that if you visit Key West and are going to use cabs to get around, it will add up.

    I walked Duval street back to my hotel. It was buzzing with people, specifically an inordinate number of highly inebriated, obnoxious twenty-somethings drinking at touristy bars like Fat Tuesdays that play ghetto music. Gosh, even Sloppy Joe's, the Key West institution, reeked of South Beach spring break. Yuck. Nothing romantic about this. I finally came upon Hog's Breath Saloon, which had some good old fashioned live rock and roll, but I was too tired to stay out more. I know there are some decent bars and live music spots on and around Duval, but as that's not really the focus of this trip, I don't even know if I'll venture back, though I do want to find that clothing-optional bar. It was, nonetheless, a lively stroll and I felt completely safe.

    Today, I'm getting a massage from the Hyatt, venturing out to check out some attractions (mainly the nature stuff), having a sunset dinner at the Hyatt, then indulging at Better Than Sex, a dessert and wine bar nearby.

  10. #10
    Moderator Jess's Avatar
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    Being the KW junkie that I am, I can tell you that the clothing optional bar is named Garden of Eden, and it is the 3rd floor bar above The Bull, I believe on the corner of Eaton St, opposite the Flying Monkeys!!! Well worth a visit... Have fun Vice Queen!

  11. #11
    Senior Member Blackford Oakes's Avatar
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    Maria, how much longer you in the Keys ?

    I currently have friends camping in Bahia Honda and I think they will wrap up ten stay stay soon. They have been going there for ages for the Lobster Season. I'm sure they have a couple ice chests full by now.

    If you're interested in reporting on the crustacean angle, I can give them a call.

  12. #12
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    Senior Member rk's Avatar
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    Maria, great report. I have passed by many ofthose places you mention but never been inside, but next time I have something to look for. I think you missed your calling as a travel writer.

    sungal, great photos. Is that a picture of Ginger on your bag?

  13. #13
    Member sungal's Avatar
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    The picture on my bag is a Cavalier, but it's not Ginger. I wanted a Cavalier for so long and couldn't get one so when I saw the bag I had to have it. It's from Anya Hindmarch, and she does Be-A-Bags where you can get any photo on a bag and customize a few other things. I got a new handbag, and was thinking of putting Ginger on it but thought it would be a bit much to walk down the street with her and also have her on my bag. So I did a beach photo of Miami instead.

    Here's the site, but I think temporarily they're not doing anymore Be-A-Bags, but hopefully soon. I think at some point I will get one of Gingie.

    Anya Hindmarch - Home Page

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Maria's Keys and Key West Adventure

    Hey Maria,

    For a laid-back totally locals bar, check out the Green Parrot on Whitehead and Southard.

    Also, having been to Key West several times, those dark streets get creepy, but they are totally safe. We usually stay in Bahama Village (deemed one of the "ghetto" neighborhoods) and have never had a problem.

    Also, Sungal, there are several small beaches all around the island. Several are man-made and small, but always nice to stop for a quick dip. On one of our last few trips, we stumbled upon Southernmost Beach, where we had drinks and then went swimming.

    Maria, Another cool little spot is B.O.'s Fish Wagon. The conch fritters are some of my favorites, along with the friend-grouper sandwich. And the fries are hand-cut each morning.

    I know your time is probably somewhat limited, but getting around on bike is the best way to discover the city. :-) We rented bikes from recycled bikes and they delivered and picked up for about $18 a day.

  15. #15
    Moderator Jess's Avatar
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    Good idea about the bikes. I did that on my last trip from Eaton Bikes. Totally professional service, they picked up my bike from the bus stop when I was ready to leave and the bikes also came with lights front and back for the evening time. Apparently KW police are getting really strict on the bike riders now, giving people tickets for running stop signs and so on... just a warning...!

  16. #16
    Member Maria de los Angeles's Avatar
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    Default Re: Maria's Keys and Key West Adventure

    Quote Originally Posted by Jess View Post
    Being the KW junkie that I am, I can tell you that the clothing optional bar is named Garden of Eden, and it is the 3rd floor bar above The Bull
    Hi Jess! Indeed that was it! I stopped by, climbed the three flights of stairs, but there was barely anyone there and the few who were, were fully dressed. I wanted to stop by again, but I was so tired later that night after a full day of activities.

    There's quite the warning sign at the entrance! No pictures allowed whatsoever! And of course, NO SEX!

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  17. #17
    Member Maria de los Angeles's Avatar
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    Default Re: Maria's Keys and Key West Adventure

    Quote Originally Posted by Under the Sun View Post
    If you're interested in reporting on the crustacean angle, I can give them a call.
    UTS, thanks so much for reaching out ... but I'm already back. I did eat so much lobster though! All of it was delicious.

  18. #18
    Member Maria de los Angeles's Avatar
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    Default Re: Maria's Keys and Key West Adventure

    Quote Originally Posted by Christina View Post
    Hey Maria,

    For a laid-back totally locals bar, check out the Green Parrot on Whitehead and Southard. . . .

    I know your time is probably somewhat limited, but getting around on bike is the best way to discover the city. :-) We rented bikes from recycled bikes and they delivered and picked up for about $18 a day.
    Christina! So nice to see you here in the forums again.

    You were right, I was limited on time. I really wanted to go to Green Parrot, but never made it.

    Jess and Christina -- I thought about renting a bike for 1/2 a day. One place was about $10 (return by 6:30), so obviously it's a great deal, BUT ... if the bike gets stolen you are responsible for it and have to pay $150. A scooter had a $400 replacement fee and so on ... I wonder if bikes/scooters getting stolen is an issue down there as there are so many tourists on rented bikes and scooters. Otherwise, both are hands-down a great option.

    It's one of my follow-up questions to place with a few locals and the tourism board when I start writing my "official" articles.

  19. #19
    Member Maria de los Angeles's Avatar
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    Sungal, I did find some more beaches all along the southern side, all east of Smathers Beach.There is limited access to them as they are the backyards to private properties. (Limited access from land, that is.) But the water seemed ok, at least when I was there.

  20. #20
    Senior Member GandJ's Avatar
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    Maria -

    Very nice review of the Keys. Janet and I really enjoy it there, especially Islamorada and Bahia Honda.

    Glenn and Janet

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