Tuesday, June 25, 2013

More Fun-in-the-Sun Highlights

Tuesday was my mom's day to join us!

Chris and I headed to Duval for the morning.  We stopped at The Bull (which became our go-to place for most of the trip!), the oldest open air bar in Old Town Key West, for some 2 for 1 margaritas!  The Bull, which is the 1st level of the 3 bars, has stools right at the front, facing Duval Street, so you can drink, people watch and enjoy the good weather! 

There is a lady who sits right outside the bar; she is known as a barker.  She hands out drink tickets for all 3 bars there.  There is also a guy who sets up "shop" on the sidewalk in front of The Bull where he sells necklaces, braclets & anklets he makes. 

Neither the barker, nor the jewelry guy, work really hard at engaging the passersby.

Shortly before noon, I think, the barker took her lunch break.  Well, I was feeling good from my margarita and the sunshine, so I slid off my barstool and went out front to take over for her while she was gone! 

It was so much fun!  Chris & I laughed the whole time!  The jewelry guy even came over to chat.  He had some bubbles, so he asked these 2 girls sitting next to us (who were from Australia) to work the bubble machine in front of the fan.  I was totally hawking the drink cards!  I was making jokes and conversations with the people passing by!!  Telling the sweaty folks, "You look thirsty!"  Chris was taking pics of me working!  I think I was the hardest working tourist on Key West!!!  I know I got some people to head into The Bull for some drinks!  And I hope I made the real barker some money! 

When she returned, I hopped off her seat & we headed back to the condo to await my mom's arrival!  What a hoot!!  What a memory!!! 

Mom got there in no time and was so happy to 1) be on vacation, 2) be on vacation in Key West and 3) be on vacation in Key West with us!!!  We were glad we could do this for/with her, too.

After a short rest, the 3 of us headed to Blue Heaven for lunch.  We all got their grilled cheese sandwiches, which did not disappoint!  As I had suspected, Blue Heaven was certainly my mom's kind of place!  We made sure to take her upstairs to see the former bordello digs!!

We made a stop at The Bull, too, of course!  Chris and I got margaritas (with our 2 for 1 card that I snagged from the barker).  My mom drinks rum & coke and The Whistle, the 2nd floor bar, had 2 for 1 well drink cards, so Chris ran upstairs to get Mom's drinks while I got ours.  The 3 of us enjoyed sitting along Duval, while chatting with the jewelry guy and making the passersby happy with the bubble machine!!! 

I think we may have hit Mallory Square for the sunset activities.  We saw Catman ("This guy is a nut!") and this 55-year old man who does amazing acrobatic feats, even including brave audience members!

Eventually, the 3 of us made the trip to the Garden of Eden ~ the only clothing optional bar (well, for all sexual preferences...I am sure the strictly gay bars are less restrictive than most!).  There weren't too many people, as it was only 9.  Some drunk girls near the DJ, one or two couples and several people at the bar.  I believe there were 3 or 4 women who were topless (they had simply slipped their tops down to their waists).  We heard that it picks up around 11 and is a very interesting scene! 

Had I been able to drink some more, I like to believe I would have participated.  But wouldn't you know...for the first time in our whole trip...it started to rain.  And then it really started to come down!!!  We ran under a bit of cover near the bar, tho I was still getting wet, and when we didn't really see any sign of it letting up, we headed back down to the first floor...The Bull, of course.  There we sat, listening to some live music, having a drink, waiting for the rain to subside so we could walk back "home". 

On Wednesday, we walked to the Southernmost Point & got our pic together!  There is usually a decent waiting line, so since it was really short, we took our opportunity!!  From there, we walked to the Southernmost Beach Cafe for breakfast!  Just like the lunch Chris and I had, breakfast did not disappoint!!  My mom and I both took leftovers back to the condo, along with another piece of free key lime pie! 

We made sure to take a several hour rest period in the middle of the day.  Mom napped, while Chris & I went to the pool.  Our plan for the evening was to get to Alonzo's for Happy Hour again.

Just after we got to the pool, tho, here came some more rain.  We waited it out under cover of the little bathroom cabana.  It lasted about 20 minutes.

Would you believe that after we returned from the pool another 20-minute rain shower?!?  Well, that is fairly typical of Florida summer rains! 

We all got ready for our evening out.  I bought the 3 of us temporary tattoos which read "Happy Hour is the Best Hour": Mom wanted hers smack dab in the middle of her chest, Chris wore his near his right shoulder blade and mine was on my left bicep!  Now we were ready to head out to the wharf. 

Can you guess what happened almost right after we left the condo?  Yup, down pour!  We got under an overhang at a government building and huddled there for several minutes, debating if we should go back (which was MUCH shorter) or wait a bit to see if things let up (like the 20-minute showers of earlier) and keep on with the plan to Alonzo's.  At this point it's around 5, we have left later than maybe we should have b/c Happy Hour is only from 4-6:30.  We figure what does it matter if we are wet!  We are on vacation!!  And much of the time we have been sweaty, anyway!!!  So, we start the crazy journey from one overhang to the next, like Frogger, trying to make it for half price drinks and appetizers!!!  At one point, Chris is the scout, going ahead to find the next spot and my mom and I almost pee ourselves from laughing!!!  By the time we make it to Front Street, we are pretty wet...and the streets are pretty flooded!  So we are wading thru ankle deep water!  I would just take off my sandals as we crossed! 

Whew!  I think we made it by the hair on our chinny chin chins!  We wanted to sit outside at Alonzo's, (like Chris and I did our first visit) but the wait was questionable and we didn't want to miss happy hour pricing, so we took a booth inside.  We quickly ordered drinks and food, and another 2 rounds!!!   

From there, we walked along the boardwalk, easterly, and explored where Chris and I had not yet meandered.  We also found Flagler Station, where my mom had been incessantly talking about finding b/c she wanted us to see the video clips of the Flagler Railroad.  (Would you believe we were told by someone at the Visitor's Center that this place no longer existed?!  My mom was crushed, until we stumbled upon it that nite!!!)

We were back at Duval, so we landed at 801 Bourbon Bar for drinks and to listen to karaoke!  Mom loved this place, too, and we snapped a pic of her and Miss Pride 2013, Jessica Grabbit, in her Cleopatra costume!!

Details of our BEST nite to come.  Hint: Aqua Nightclub!!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Key West 2013

What a week we had on the island! 

Our first time on any island, I believe.

We had a rather long travel day getting there; having to layover in Orlando for a bit.  What better way to start vacation, especially to Key West, than to start drinking, right?!?  Well, we thought so and that is what we did at the Orlando airport...about 10AM!  We had mini bottles of liquor that we drank like shots!  We were feeling very vacation-y!!

We arrived at our condo, but weren't able to "check-in" for a few more hours.  We were able to stow our bags and make a quick clothes change before hitting the streets!

We immediately made a beeline for Duval Street and did some walking while trying to decide where to stop for a bite to eat.  It was Pride weekend and there were vendors along a few blocks, where we received huge pink beads ... oh, and condoms (which we sent back with my mom to my sisters!!)  Eventually, we went to Amigos, which was recommended by a friend from the gym.  We probably made our first, of many, stops at The Bull, too!!

After returning to the condo to really freshen up, we headed back out to partake of the night life!  We went to the 801 Bourbon Bar where they were having a 90's flashback.  We spent the whole nite there drinking (using our trusty flask) and singing along with the tunes.  Coincidentally, our bartender that nite was Ms. Pride 2013 (we learned this the next day when seeing her on a float in the Pride Parade), who was dressed in pasties, thong and thigh-highs!  BOLD!

Sunday found us walking by the Southernmost Point (the red, white, black & yellow mile marker that says 90 miles to Cuba), but not stopping to take pics b/c my mom wanted us to wait for her arrival.  We headed east, to more beach area, and decided to eat lunch at the Southernmost Beach Cafe.  This will turn out to be our favorite restaurant the whole trip!  It's an open-air place and the food is fresh, tasty and reasonably priced (did I forget to mention that Key West is expensive!!).  I had some coupons for free key lime pie, so we used one and shared a piece!  Pretty delish!!

From lunch, we went to the Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory.  This place blew us away!  I had been to a butterfly exhibit at the Smithsonian a few years back, but it really didn't compare to this permanent museum!  There were so many and varied butterflies!  These blue ones were super active, too.  They almost never stopped and so were very hard to photograph.  There were some gorgeous and colorful birds, too.  Everywhere we turned, a butterfly or 5!  I kept pointing them out to Chris to photograph.  We had to watch where we stepped b/c they sometimes just plant themselves in the walkway!  We would have loved to take advantage of coming back later that day, you can do so for free, but we weren't going to be able to work it into our schedule because ...

The BIG deal of the day was the Pride Parade along 12 blocks of Duval Street beginning @ 5.  We got ourselves ready and walked up early to secure a spot, as we didn't know how crowded the parade route would be, and I got us right up front at Bourbon St Pub.  I was able to get glitter-bombed by the manager of 801 Bourbon Bar!!!  Awesome!!!  We also had our picture taken by the official parade photographer!  

After the parade, we meandered and found ourselves at Mallory Square.  We stopped at El Meson de Pepe, where we shared an appetizer of Cuban nachos!  Rather than tortilla chips, they serve plantains!  It was great...alongside ropa vieja and the normal nacho accoutrements!!! 

We then stuck around for sunset at Mallory Square.  Street performers & vendors galore!!
We weren't out too late on Sunday as I think our long, long day on Saturday (getting up at 2AM and being out until midnite) caught up to us! 

Up pretty early on Monday, we made our way to Ft. Zachary Taylor state park right before it opened at 8AM.  We walked around and on top of the old fort, which is very cool.  We love historical stuff like that!!  We then made our way over to the beach...our first walk along the waters of Key West.  It's pretty rocky and going into the water would probably require aqua socks, but it is very beautiful.  With your paid admission, you can come and go all day until sunset!

We walked back to the condo to shower and then walked just a block or so south of our condo to have a late breakfast at Blue Heaven.  There was a bit of a wait, but we were able to look around the gift shop and then seat ourselves in front of the small stage to listen to Queen Catherine & Mike.  I didn't sit for long, tho, as Queen asked if I would hold her cell phone to capture video that she was going to upload to YouTube (this would turn out to be the 1st of 2 times I "worked" while on vacation!!).  We both enjoyed the Rooster Special breakfast.  (Altho, we didn't know we would each be charged $1.60 for syrup!!  Seriously, who charges for syrup?!)  This little bohemian hideaway is one of those "must-see" places.  In a former life, it once was a bordello ~~ you can still go up to the 2nd floor to see the rooms, complete with the peep holes on the doors, and a small stage, plus view the balcony from where the ladies of the nite would have "hawked their wares" to the passersby!  This area must be used for dining during bad weather or, perhaps, you can rent it. 

We then walked to the Lighthouse and Ernest Hemingway's house (didn't take the tours, tho) before heading to the cemetery (of course!).  It was a decent walk, especially in the hot, hot sun!  We walked around and got some pics of some pretty interesting structures and tombstones, but couldn't stand baking any longer, so we started the walk back . 

We treated ourselves to a stop in a small pub, Krawl off Duval, because they served craft beers (my favorite).  It was a perfect respite: A/C, cold drinks and seats!!!  Got to chat up the bartender, a young-ish guy who stays here & there for a couple years.  He had lived in SoCal a couple years, got bored, moved to Boston for a couple more, got bored, and was now in Key West.  He came from Michigan!!! 

We spent the evening at Ft. Zachary Taylor to watch the sunset.  I believe it was the best one all week!  We watched the sunset cruise sailboats pass by, along with the big Coast Guard ship.  I laid on a beach towel and rested to the calming sounds of the ocean.  Chris took lots of pics while I sort of napped.  AND...a wedding was in place for sunset, so we were able to listen the entire couple of hours to my favorite musical insturment ~ the steel drum!!  It couldn't have been more magical!!! 

At some point during these first few days, on a recommendation from Chris's sister, Natalie, we visited Alonzo's Oyster Bar for happy hour!  We were able to snag an outside table to enjoy our half price drinks & food!  Yes!  The buffalo shrimp, fried calamari and conch fritters were superb!  Our tropical drinks weren't too shabby, either!  All in all, they were a perfect meal!  We knew we would be coming back with my mom!!!

Whew....more tomorrow! 

Friday, June 7, 2013

Notes...scribbled on the back of an envelope

...during my last plane trip.  On my flight back from my quick Florida trip in April, I wrote some notes about things I wanted to remember, to practice, to learn about and to mention here.  Many have remained just that ~ Notes!!  Darnit!  I'll address them here and hope to expound on them in the future.

Travel is Transformative.  I came across this little nugget in the book I was reading that flight and it struck me as so very true.  Each time I have traveled, whether it be a quick family visit or the much-planned and adventure-filled weeks with my hubby, I return changed.  I learn something about the places we visit, the people we meet, the ideas I get for future plans, the talks Chris & I share along the way, the interactions I have with each of my family members...everywhere is an opportunity for growth.

On our Sedona trip, while taking a very early morning walk in the desert, we came upon a hot air balloon being set up for a ride.  Never thinking either of us would ever WANT to do such a thing, I didn't look into it before the trip.  But at that moment we both decided that, yeah, let's do it!!  If we were ever going to do something this daring, the beauty that is Sedona is THE place!  The next morning, we got to hold the sides of the balloon as it was being readied for flight and then we were up, up, up in the air above the red rocks ~~ it was magical!  It was freeing!  It was soul-transforming!

Our Colorado trip two years ago, left us both forever changed.  Upon cresting a hill and seeing Boulder at the base of the Rocky Mountains, we suddenly knew THIS is where we want to be...and we have been working on our move there since (which comes to fruition this September!!)!

When I visit my family, I try to see everyone, at least once.  I want them to KNOW me and I want to share in their lives.  We have, for the most part, lived states away (both geographically and the paths we have taken), but I don't want that distance to keep us from forging bonds.  Each time I return from these visits, I learn not only more about them, but also about myself ~~ where I am in my life and in the family dynamic, how to work on my relationships, how much I wish I could be right there as the little ones are growing.

Time is Fleeting and Memories are Everlasting.  I am now "in my 40's" and I have nieces, nephews and a great-nephew (with another along the way in August).  My grandparents are getting older, as is my mother.  I don't live near my mom and siblings (and their kids), so when I get to spend time with them, I want to treasure the moments.  I want my nieces, Shyla & Kennedy, to KNOW their Aunt Jennie.  I don't want to just be a photo, a phantom, an idea. 

I adore my grandparents!  Chris & I both enjoy spending time with them!  We love to hear their stories and just hang out!  I was able to enjoy a delicious meal with them & my mom, under a warm April evening sun at an outdoor eatery on the water.  With me, Grandpa & Grandma all enjoying a cold beer!  (Mine a Summer Shandy, of course!!)  I know how lucky I am to have a close, personal relationship with them and I will never take that for granted. 

Recently, my sister, Kelley, shared a photo of Kennedy snuggled up to her G-pa and it made my heart sing!  I am the first grandchild and I am the one who first snuggled up under his arm and I am the one who "broke him in" for all the grand (& great) children to come!  It had to be one of the most precious pictures I have ever seen!!!  It immediately took me back to being a little girl, visiting my aunt, uncle & cousin in South Bend, waking up to run to my grandpa and snuggling with him before he got out of bed!

I do like having photos from trips.  And digital photography has made it so much easier to take and keep so many more celluloid memories!  However, I like to be "in the moment" more than behind the lens.  So, my photos are few(er), but I am present and engaged.  I am practicing mindfulness...and that makes me happy!

Small daily indulgences.  Are necessary!  A glass of wine, meditation, conversation, mindfulness ~~ are to be practiced regularly.  Well, for me.  You may have your own list (and if you don't, I highly encourage you to give it some thought).  I would add in exercise, too!  Conversations with the important people in my life bring me joy.  When I get to spend time with girlfriends, especially those who are life-long pals, I am invigorated!!  I cannot forget the 2 most important girls in my life, Isis & Luna, who bring me unconditional love and with whom I enjoy daily belly rubs and snuggling! 

Ahoy, Matey!!

Chris and I are getting ready to leave on a jet plane!!!  Key West bound!  Our bags are stocked with rum & vanilla vodka...along with some beach-appropriate attire!  I checked us in this morning for our 6AM flight out of Midway tomorrow
.  We land in Orlando about 9:30, where we will change planes before finally making the island at 11:45!  In true pirate-style, we will begin drinking before 10AM! 

Our vacation mottos:
"You can't drink all day, if you don't start in the morning!"
"Drinking rum before 10AM makes you a pirate, not an alcoholic!"

We have a 2-bedroom condo, where my mom will join us for a few days!  We arrive during the middle of Pride ~~ in Key West!  CRAZY times ahead!!  We are going to drink & make merry, all  week long and on the flight home, just to delay the inevitable return to "reality"! 

I will practice mindfulness.  I will make memories.  I will step out of my comfort zone.

I will be renewed!!

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