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Published: March 16th 2006
It's February 25, snowing up north, and here I am enjoying summer! Yes, that's right - SUMMER! Ok, technically it's not "summer" -- but it sure feels like it. As I sit typing this blog the temperature sits at a comfortable 74 degrees. It is 11:30pm. Where are April & I? We are on an island, yet still in the US. We are closer to Cuba than Miami, 90 miles to be exact. We are on an island known as the Conch Republic. An island popular with parrotheads (April and I included). An island known for its fantastic diversity, excellent fishing, emerald/turquoise water, flowing palm trees, funky beach bars, fish shacks and Gay Pride. An island that once was home to Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams and my personal favorite - Jimmy Buffet. An island known for it's pirate folklore and ghosts. And yes, an island that is blessed with a perpetual summer-- Key West, FL!! No plane was needed, just our trusty jeep, full tank(s) of gas and an i-pod filled with great music.
We left Providence, RI on a February 22, 2006. A cold (yet sunny) day. Temps hovering around 29-30 degrees. After a tricky fall and early winter
This rainbow appeared out of nowhere - South Carolina.
(health wise) Ape and I were both wondering if we would ever be able to travel again! :-) After all, we hadn't been on an "official" vacation since July 2005. In travel agent time that is like 20 years! Granted, it was an AMAZING vacation (3 months of the road--- as my earlier blogs list). It seemed like every time we had plans to go away something would go wrong. Whether it was the jeep, our health, work -- whatever -- but that's life! You accept the good with the bad and when you have a long period of BAD, the GOOD time feel even BETTER!
The trip started with our first stop -- Fredericksburg, Virginia. We stopped at 'Cheeseburger in Paradise' for dinner (the restaurant that Jimmy Buffett endorses). April loves their burgers and I must agree, they are very good. As we sat down to dinner I was still not 100% feeling well..... (too long a story to get into)....BUT I was WAY better than I was the day before. Progress. I looked at Ape and said I couldn't believe we were "actually on the road again" -- she laughed and agreed. Although she always had faith
Beautiful moss covered tree in Savannah, GA.
we would be traveling again. I know it seems silly but the burger tasted better than any burger I had eaten in the past 8 months! I chewed to the acoustic music of a local musician playing on stage. I was almost chewing to the rhythm. I had such a huge smile. Not only on my face but way deep inside. Trust me -- this was beyond cool for me. A major accomplishment after the tough health issues I had been through.
After dinner we checked into a Hilton Garden Inn (located in the same plaza as Cheeseburger in Paradise -- Central Park Plaza, exit 131B). This plaza is amazing. They have every major store imaginable and a theme-type restaurant for every taste. If you are on a roadtrip and find yourself on I-95 South heading toward Fredericksburg -- please stop here. You will find everything you need. Hotels, gas stations, stores and tons of great restaurants.
The Hilton Garden Inn was just OK. Great for business workers. April and I liked having access to the business center's fax machine, computer and printer -- but the hotel room itself was lackluster. There wasn't a hair dryer -- yup,
Cool looking old house in Savannah, GA.
can you believe it!? Also, breakfast wasn't included! We had to pay $6.95 per person for continental breakfast which 99% of all other hotels give for free!!! On the plus side they did have a nice pool and exercise room. Like I said, great for the business traveler, but not a good deal for people with kids or on a budget. We paid $89 for the room which isn't bad during this time of year. I would pick a Holiday Inn Express or Hampton Inn ANY DAY over this hotel.
We couldn't believe our luck when we awoke the next morning. Temps were in the low 60's. Heaven to two girls fleeing the cold winter up north. It felt like spring! With the sun shining and the smell of grass sifting through the air, the ride through North & South Carolina was beautiful. The driving was so pleasent and we were greated by a beautiful rainbow that seemed to appear out of nowhere! Just a tiny little rainbow that assumed the role of Southern Ambassader. It welcomed April and I to the beautiful south. We arrived Savannah, our stop for the night, around 9pm. We were so excited (even
River Street in Savannah, GA
though we would have to leave by early afternoon the next day).
Savannah is beautiful & mysterious. It has the appearence of a seafaring city. It reminds me a lot of Charleston, South Carolina and New Orleans. Words that come to mind when I think of Savannah right now as I type are: pirates, grog, dark wood, bricks, gas lanterns, moss covered trees and.....ghosts? YES! Savannah was voted the #1 most haunted city in the United States -- bypassing places such as New Orleans, St. Augustine and Salem! I can see it, although I feel like the "ghosts" (if they do exists) would possess that southern hospitality as EVERYONE is so polite and nice down here -- so it seems. We drove around the streets of downtown Savannah, past the historic district -- Riverwalk Street and Congress Street - etc., -- The weather was perfect, high 50's with a slight breeze. The streets were illuminated with gas-lamp lights. Very atmospheric! We stopped at every big name hotel in the city only to find out every hotel in the city was SOLD OUT! Wow! Ape and I were VERY tired so we found a hotel - a Holiday Inn Express
Riverboat on River Street - Savannah, GA.
- just outside of town for around $99 a night (breakfast included).
The next morning couldn't have been any better. The weather was perfect. Sunny with a high of 70 degrees! NICE! It really FELT like spring and the beautiful flowers and trees added to this feeling. Our plan was to have lunch at Food Network/TV personality, Paula Dean's restaurant -- The Lady & Sons. We knew this would be a VERY UNHEALTHY FOOD CHOICE. Paula loves to cook that "pure southern way" (a.k.a. damn bad for yur' health)-- she doesn't skimp on butter, butter, butter and, oh yeah -- butter. The lady is nuts and those who eat there must be nuts too so count us in. She loves her cheese and for some reason -- mayonaise???? Why, I just don't know. Ape and I feel we gain weight just by WATCHING her show, nonetheless, we were psyched and willing to pay the consiquenses -- this ONE time. When we finally arrived at The Lady & Sons there was a line out the door and a sign that read: WE ARE NO LONGER TAKING NAMES FOR OUR LUNCH SEATING....ugh! The Lady & Sons is open from 11am-3pm for
river street buildings
River Street Buildings - Savannah, GA.
lunch and 5pm-11pm for dinner. We couldn't make dinner because we had to be on the road. Ape called the restaurant just to make sure this sign was true and was told that a bus group had come in and they were booked solid! I was actually relieved thinking of all the calories I avoided but I had an instant back up plan -- The Pirate House Restaurant. I had seen this restaurant featured on a GREAT HOTELS episode on the Travel Channel with Samantha Brown. It looked very cool. It had that old and rustic decor- like the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at The Magic Kingdom if that makes sense?
We were instantly seated at The Pirate House. This was a surprise considering we were there during lunchtime. This place was awesome! They have 15 individually decorated rooms. The Pirate House is just that --- a Pirate House. Pirates use to gather here in the mid 1700's! It has been in operation ever since. You can tell how old the building is by the squeaks the wood makes when you walk on the floor and the smell of the building as a whole. I love places like
Trolly on river street
Trolly on River Street - Savannah, GA.
this. I usually go dining just for the experience of the place -- who cares about the food -- seriously! However, in this case, I was starving -- so bring on the "grub"! 😊 The "grub" was their special (and famous) $12.95 southern buffet -- OH NO! I had just escaped Paula Dean's mayonnaise chaos and now I was being lured in by the tasty thoughts of pecan honey fried chicken, sweet potatoes, chive mashed potatoes and, my favorite -- cheese macaroni! I filled my plate with a sample of the foods listed above and some green beans for good measure. I could barely wait to sit down and taste the delicious smelling food. A table of Australian tourists seated behind us were saying things like, "Yeah mates that was amazing...really amazing..!" --- My stomach was growling -- I picked up my fork and dug in! First a bite of the mashed potatoes--YUM-O! A nibble of chicken--freakin yum-o! A little scoop of sweet potatoes--not as good as my moms but yum! And then.....OH BOY....the cheese macaroni....one spoon....two spoons.....three.....four.....five -- DING! DING! YEEEEER OUT! I WAS FULL!!!! YIKES! TOO FAST!! I literally had what I just wrote and I was full.
Beautiful sky - Savannah, GA
I had an ENTIRE plate of food in front of me. Food that you can't get up north (or anyplace for that matter). No place but HERE at the Pirate House. It happened though -- that SOUTHERN FULLNESS hit me -- yup, you know the kind -- I explained this in a blog from last summer when we ate at Loveless Cafe in Nashville. The fullness exceeds anything you can imagine. It hits you hard and weighs you down. I sat there in amazement. April, the trooper she is, wouldn't give in! Heck no! She paid her $12.95 and was going to take full advantage of it, damnit! LOL! Yes, I was to ignore the red cheeks and slight tilt in her chair. She ignored my "stop" warnings and continued. I thought Ape was a goner when she went up for (gulp) desert, but bless her heart, she did!! She heard the Aussie talking to his "mates" about an incredible desert and HAD to have it. She came back with two things that were jello-like and SO sweet MY teeth felt it!! The piece of pecan pie she had on her plate almost made me cry. It looked THAT good.
Stately Savannah Building
And I was THAT full. Too full to even try a nibble. Nope, no desert for me....ugh. That cheese macaroni got me good. That SOUTHERN FULL had knocked me out in the first round. The bell had been rung. The theme to all gazillion (and counting) Rocky movies played. I was out.....but Ape.....April was in.....and she fought that southern fullness until she couldn't take it anymore. By the time she was 1/2 way done with the pecan pie she was a goner. I thought for good. Seriously. Ape was silent. Almost melancholy. She didn't smile. She didn't Laugh. For a few seconds -- she didn't breath. She was red and hadn't even had any exotic drinks. I was afraid -- very afraid! Then a clear of the throat came and a nervous giggle....a "boy that was good" declaration.....like 10 times......then a quick...."can we have the check?" -- BOOM! BAM! -- We paid and headed to the ladies room and then out the door. We went straight to the jeep. April still melancholy. I, at this point, was laughing hysterical!! April is so funny --- especially when she isn't trying! She would never admit defeat -- NEVER -- but I, being
Downtown Savannah Street
the faithful partner, knew what she was feeling, I just knew! I went into my little bag and pulled out a pepcid and secretly grabbed one for her too. As I popped the life-saver in my mouth I saw April's eyes follow it down. With a nervous voice she said, "do you have any extra?" -- That's like asking the Easter Bunny if he has any eggs!!!! :-D I laughed and handed it to her. She took it and then cracked up laughing. April didn't eat for a full 24 hours after that meal. I am not kidding. I on the other hand was grabbed by the hunger bandit later in the evening. I don't even remember what it was from Wendy's that I had but it had the consistency of cotton candy -- like when you eat something and it disappears BEFORE you swallow. Yup, even Wendy's tastes like cotton candy after having real southern food. Nothing compares to the full you feel after southern food. Nothing. Woah.
We crossed the Florida state line around 4pm Friday and made one of my favorite stops -- The Florida Welcome Center stop. Man do I love that stop! Being Florida's
Pretty Savannah building.
self proclaimed #1 fan I get all geeky over the brochures at this center. I literally brought in my OWN bag to stack up on reading material for every (yes -- every) city/town/attraction in the state of Florida. April, my faithful accomplish, was revved as well. I think she sees it as a challenge. I also think we may have even elbowed and knocked down a few elderly people??After we get our stacks of brochures there is another tradition. This is of course, is an April tradition. The tradition of getting our miniscule free samples of orange juice (a.k.a. acid enemy). I must always get one and give it to April. April then proceeds to chug them down with regret. She then looks at me with a sad expression and that look you get after having something really tart and says, "I didn't even want that" -- it is after that, and ONLY after that --I know we are truly in Florida! 😊 Yes, we are strange and oh so honest.
We drove until we couldn't drive any more. We stayed the night at another Holiday Inn Express, this time in Fort Pierce. Nothing too exciting that night....just work
pirate house 1
Front of the Pirate House Restaurant.
and sleep BUT the same couldn't be said for the next morning. Let me explain for those new to reading my blog......I love to travel....travel is my life....my passion....my work.....I love everything about it and I think April feels the same. One of the most fun things to do for April and I when we are traveling is dine out. Never anything fancy -- we go for more of the "atmosphere" of a place than the food but we do like to eat sooooo a lot of my blogs explain our dining experiences and yes, they are usually EXPERIENCES...lol! That brings us to our breakfast at WAFFLE HOUSE. I had been waiting over 8 months for one of the delicious tasting waffles. There is something in their batter that just sets them apart from everyone else's. I had one thing on my mind that morning --- a waffle. I should've known we were in for a "time" when we were stuck standing near 3 dirty tables for close to 10 minutes. The staff of 300 (and I think one lady gave birth while there) behind the counter failed to clean them. It wasn't until we moved toward one that a
pirate house 2
Inside Pirate House Restaurant.
small little bit of a lady came out and wiped it down (in a gruff "I can kick your ass" manor I should add). No problem, we are pretty easy going. I was happy to be minutes away from a delicious waffle. Ape ordered and trying to make up for her southern fullness, ordered eggs without the yolks (like egg beaters for those who know what that is). To make a long story short -- Ape's food came out looking, well, gross. I, being the NUT that I am, hyper sensitive to sights/smells/words etc., was INSTANTLEY grossed out when April said to the waitress that her eggs look, um....errr..."SOUPY" --- RED LIGHT! THERE GOES THE APPETITE -- I am STRANGE -- I know -- but I hate eggs as it is, I mean HAAAAATE EGGS -- don't like to look at them, smell them, see them or talk about them (it is very hard to type THIS...lol)! If Ape said they were "runny" all would have been well as that is a more common expression, but nope, poor little April had to said SOUPY and my stomach went south. I lost my appetite (which of course was short lived). She
pirate house 3
Pirate House Restaurant -- delicious southern buffet.
sent them back and ordered fried eggs or something like that BUT my mind couldn't escape the words (or the image) of the "soupy eggs" -- lord help me...lol. Ape got that nervous look....the look she gets when she knows I am about to cut our eating plans short. That panic look. That HURRIED look. I told Ape we had to get our food to GO....no problem, she said. We paid, tipped the waitress and out the door we went. We had our plastic utensils and Ape was already to eat her breakfast in the jeep when I freaked out and banned(her from the car!!! I am sorry, but it's true. Laughing I told Ape she couldn't eat the eggs in the car (even though the eggs were new and fried to her liking....not...s....o....u....p...y). I pleaded with her and she, already not too happy with the whole egg situation, gave in and started munching while leaning up against the jeep -- sounds of birds chirping above her head. I, in my phobia induced frenzy, ate my waffle in peace in the comforts of the jeep -- away from the "soupy" fried eggs.....lol.....Life goes on! 😊
The rest of the
pirate house 4
Pirate House Restaurant -- so old and rustic.
day was spent in pure delight. The temp was in the 80's but felt more like the 70's with a cool breeze. The sun was shining and the drive was amazing. We drove one of my favorite highways in the entire word --- US 1 South. The drive through the Florida Keys. Wow, the second we reach this stretch of highway it is like every muscle in my body releases. Just like in Destin. We were greeted with glorious sunshine, beautiful green/turquoise water, tall swaying palm trees, funky shanky shacks, cute motels, shops and a plethora of exotic birds. This all adds up to one of the most scenic drives in the entire United States (and April and I have been around most of the US)! We started around 3pm and coasted through one gorgeous key after another, but nothing could prepare us for the surprise of the SETTING SUN in front of us. Key West is known for their spectacular sunsets and this one was pure magic. It felt like it was LEADING us to Key West and, at times, setting directly on top of us. The sun never seemed so big, so bright, so orange! It lit the
pirate house 5
Pirate House Restaurant
land AND ocean on fire. Everything had an orange glow. Words and pictures will never do it justice. You have to experience this drive for yourself.
We checked into our resort, Wyndham Reach Resort, and was greeted by the friendliest valet/bellhop ever -- I'll call him Pepe. He helped us with our bags, walked us to a parking spot, took the bags direct to our room, offered advice and I think even proposed to April?? Anyway -- our room is gorgeous! Ape somehow managed to trick the hotel clerk to upgrade us to a jr. suite -- oceanview!!! HOLY ALL THINGS FREE AND SNEAKY! The room has a private balcony w/ table, huge sitting area, living room area, queen bed, separate shower/tub area and little sink/fridge -- all for the travel agent rate of $119 a night!!!! Our room, according to the little sign on the door inside the room, can sell for as much as is $800 a night during this time of year! Amazing and crazy if you ask me. I don't care how beautiful it is. We really scored. Once again we thanked God for how fortunate we are. We appreciate every second -- trust me.
Downtown Savannah Trolly
We were so excited to be in Key West! After resting for an hour we decided to go out for a quick bite. Of course we went to Margaritaville! It was hopping but not too crazy. A nice crowd of people and live music. Ape had conch fritters and I had Jimmy Buffett's signature Key Lime Pie....WOW....WOW......this is the best desert I ever had -- period. The thing I like about it is that it doesn't taste like Key Lime pie! LOL! It isn't tart. It is creamy -- like pudding -- and has meringue on top. It is TOO good. I shared with Ape and she also loved it. I had a (virgin) Pina Colada that was thee best I ever had (and I have had a lot of these--trust me--all virgins--yeah...I know...wuss). The pina colada was creamy with lots of coconut. I loved it. Ape had a margarita -- her first official drink of the trip -- and her cheeks were evidence of how happy she was. She was aglow! :-D
After dinner we drove up and down Duval Street and OOH' D and AAH' D over all the stores. I mean there are MORE stores
Welcome to the Florida Keys! I love this picture.
on this one street then in the entire city of Providence -- Seriously! Not to mention the funky restaurants and bars. I am SO in love with it down here. Nothing compares. I can't compare it to Destin because Destin is my #1 Florida love and completely different. Key West is SASSY. It's SO quaint and cool. There is SO MUCH TO DO in such a small area. Every street has a selection of shops, restaurants, bars, cafes, attractions....not to mention the GORGEOUS ocean and roaming roosters and cats (no joke). We headed back to our room about midnight and went to bed with the ceiling fan and cool ocean breeze lulling us to sleep.
Today, Sunday, we awoke to a brilliant sunrise, the glow of the turquoise ocean and the sound of swaying palms. One of my fantasy images. I know I wrote a song about this. We worked a little, showered and headed out for a walk and early lunch at Schooner's Wharf. Schooner's Wharf, frequented by Jimmy Buffett when in town and close to his recording studio, is a PURE KEY WEST SHACK! I mean it has the waterfront bar thing going on, the stage w/
Tropical Florida Keys!
acoustic music guy (or girl), an inside bar/shack with wooden tables and buoys hanging from the ceiling. This is one of the best shanky shacks I have ever seen. Ironically the only one that comes close to being as cool is Bo's Fishwagon -- also located in Key West. The best thing about this place is, well two things -- first they have a drunk parrot that swigs beer and loves rum -- no lie -- and they allow pets to sit at the tables & bar! Seriously, dogs SIT at the table with their owners and eat. Unfortunately we didn't see the parrot. Maybe he had a wild night and was passed out somewhere. Maybe next time! :-D We did see dogs and cats -- that made us miss Speck and the cats so bad. Schooner's was filled with characters. Locals. Tourists. Young. Old. Gay. Straight. Every type person imaginable -- but all NICE! This is a MUST do when in Key West. For lunch Ape had a veggie wrap with chicken and I had chicken fingers. The food was yummy and not expensive. The cool thing was our seat. We were on these tall stools, kinda half inside/outside
-- looking out into the bay where all the boats and yachts are. There was a thunderstorm approaching so the sky darkened and made the blue/green water look more vivid against the white yachts that lined up. It got VERY windy and the rain came down hard. There was no place else in the world I wanted to be at that moment. Some guy was playing Buffett on his guitar outside, in the rain, covered only by a small awning. Jungle Love by the Steve Miller Band was playing loud at our end of the bar/restaurant and the wind was blowing through the open windows with the rain coming down and the ocean glowing -- really glowing that beautiful green color. I was in love with the moment and had to pinch myself...literally. Pure bliss. Pure paradise. A memory I will never forget.
After lunch it was still rainy and very breezy so we drove around the island (instead of walking) and stopped at a couple of stores. We then went back to the hotel to do some work. Around 7:30pm we went back out and it was actually chilly!! You could see all the people from the cruise
Tropical paradise - Islamorada
ships (Carnival & Disney Cruise Lines were docked) walking around in their shorts and t-shirts shivering. It was 67 out but the wind chill probably made it feel like 50! I know that doesn't sound bad when it is in the 20's and 30's but when you are in shorts and a polo like I was -- it is COLD!! The wind rips right through you, but dinner at Margaritaville was enough to warm me up. We were going to eat at Crabby Dick's (seriously) or Hog's Breath Saloon but Margaritaville was closer to where we parked and I was shivering!! We were seated right away. I had a cheeseburger in paradise w/ a virgin pina colada. Ape had a cajun hotdog & fries. It was so good + we got to listen to Jimmy's music and relax. I ordered my favorite dessert, Jimmy's key lime pie, to go. Very nice night. After dinner we went next door to the gift shop and I found some great Jimmy t-shirts 50% off!! What a score. Actually, Ape found the sale -- so she gets all kodos! I wish there was a zipper sweater because I could've used it! Luckily I packed
One of the many bridges over the Florida Keys.
jeans and some long sleeve knit shirts -- just in case, however, with the sun back out tomorrow and temps in the 70's/80's all should be back to normal.
That brings us to now -- 9:30pm! Both Ape and I are doing some work and getting ready for sleep. Tomorrow we are heading out at 8:00am to go for breakfast at Blue Heaven and then drive through the keys. We want to explore all the islands -- especially Islamorada.
I found out Key West has this big Mardi Gras celebration on Tuesday and that RSVP vacations (a gay tour operator) is pulling into port on Tues/Wed of this week to celebrate. How funny! Some of my clients are on that cruise. I didn't even realize. They are closing Duval Street (or the one next to it) on Fat Tuesday for a big celebration -- should be fun!!
OOOH and just a side note --- I forgot to mention that after lunch on our drive around the island I heard a rooster crow and then it got louder and louder than softer and softer. I was on the phone but April said she saw a little red rooster
Beautiful Florida Keys - Birds Resting.
cross the street and head toward Duval street crowing....LOL.....SERIOUSLY! Key West is known for their abundance of cats and chickens/roosters. They walk around freely. This is their land. The rooster was out for an early afternoon stroll. Maybe he wanted to wake up all the people hung over from Saturday night? LOL! Where else BUT Key West can you ask WHY DID THE CHICKEN (ERR..ROOSTER) CROSS THE ROAD? For the love of God.....now you know I can be fresh about this, but a' hem....I will not! ;-D
Until next time....
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