Key West: Part II

So, ya like how I left you all on the edge of your seats for six months, wondering when “Key West: Part II” was finally gonna be posted? Some of you may have even wondered if I was still alive. No posts for half a year? Who is this girl?! So sorry about that delay. My excuses? Travel/event season for work, holidays, and … there was something else … shoot what was it? Oh right … I got MARRIED!!! Waaahoooo! Happiest I’ve ever been in my life! I’ll be writing about all of my marriage happiness, the wedding, the days proceeding the big day, our honeymoon in Hawaii, etc. within the next week or two.

For now, it’s time to wrap up my Key West chapter last summer. If you’re forgetting where I left off, just take a little look at “Key West: Part I” to bring you up to speed.

FRIDAY

bike ride

This was, without question, my favorite day in Key West. The fact that it was a Friday had nothing to do with the day’s bliss because, in Key West, everyday is Friday at 5:00. One word that made the day so special for the five of us: bicycles. We each rented a bike for the day thanks to our hotel. It was so refreshing to self propel our day from one beautiful neighborhood in Key West, to the next. At our own pace, and on our own time, we fell even more in love with this place. Here’s a quick video I attempted to document as we began the morning:

I know that video is nothin’ special, just a few girls cycling through town, but believe me – it was total meditation for us. Starting that day off with a simple cycle through town while the rest of the world was at work (and far far away) meant so much to us.

butterfly

Our first destination started with breakfast at “La Te Da” which was so scrumptious! Really nice place to grab breakfast/brunch and it’s in an adorable part of town.

After breakfast we cycled over to a butterfly conservatory close by. BEST IDEA EVER!!! Which one of you girls thought of that one? I honestly can’t remember who brought it up, but that was so amazing! The photo to the right is pretty much the only photo out of, ohhhhh I don’t know like 743,048,309,483,908 photos that I took where a butterfly stayed still for me. Those little butterfly spirits are just too free for my iPhone to catch up with. If you decide to give it a try, I think it was only about $10 or less, and it’s at The Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory. It was magical. Plus, it was a perfect escape from the sporadic rain fall that Key West so commonly gets in the summer.

Next? We moseyed down the street a little further to find the “Southern-most Point” rumored to be a must-see. Well, yea…we found it…along with a lovely long line of tourists waiting to take their photo infront of it. Pppshhhh…we’re not those kinds of tourists! Instead we re-routed off to a side street where a vendor was selling freshly drilled coconuts with a straw. Yes please! It was a true taste of paradise. I plopped that into my bicycle basket and we were off again.

Hannah recommended that we check out the nearby state park – sweet! This was such a great ride as we wove in an out of residential roads on our way to “Fort Zachary Taylor State Park Beach.” We parked our bikes by the beach and jumped in the ocean before cycling around the park a bit more. As we left the park and made our way back into town, we realized there was one thing that we hadn’t tried yet. This was the hot topic of the trip after Kaitlin mentioned it…something that we HAD to experience: Key Lime Pie on a stick. Are you ready for this?! It’s exactly what it sounds like – key lime pie, frozen on a stick. SO GOOD!!! The key lime pie is frozen with a gram cracker crust, then the whole thing is stuck onto a stick and covered in chocolate. Seriously…..so…. incredibly….delicious.

Key Lime Pie on a stick photo (8)

We eventually made our way “home” to the Sheraton. After we all enjoyed a little resting by the beach, then resting in the AC w/ a little trashy TV and a side of goldfish crackers, and of course followed by Pinteresting, Instagraming, Facebooking, and deciding what we wanted to do that night – we were ready to take on Key West again.

This time we kicked off the night a little further from the touristy “Duval Street” and decided to enjoy a more local bar called “The Green Parrot.” LOVED THIS PLACE!!! Totally an easy going local bar with a ton of spirit and love for Key West all packed in there. The rest of that night was pretty classic – we’ll never forget the hilarious series of events that unfolded. Too many to even remember. My personal favorite memory was when we started the Cupid Shuffle (one of my favorite dances) in a side alley, and then proceeded to invite the rest of Key West to join us. Before we knew it – this impromptu dance party was being video taped, cheered for, and uploaded to YouTube in minutes. We were on fire. Cupid Shuffle – we made you proud!

SATURDAY

Lobster Taco - so delicious, not so nutritious ;)
Lobster Taco!

Saturday was our last full day in Key West, but there was something going on down on Duval Street that brightened up our spirits. What could it be? LOBSTERFEST!!!!!!!! How lucky we were to be in Key West only for a few days…which just so happend to hit their annual week of “everything-lobster.” Oh my gosh. Grilled lobster on a stick, lobster salads, lobster sandwiches, lobster tacos! So delicious, and a perfect send off.

After enjoying some more coconuts freshly cut for us by a nice man with a machete, we went back to enjoy a little more beach time and then to get ready for our dinner happy hour cruise!

Womp womp…the dinner cruise was unfortunately canceled due to the storm coming in. Luckily they gave us a full refund and let us still hop onboard for a little photo:

boat photo

The good news? We ended up having SO MUCH FUN on our final night out, despite the cruise cancelation. We grabbed some drinks around the corner before dinner time and watched the storm come and go. One drink after another, more and more “life chats” were accomplished (love catching up on life with these girls), our laughter grew louder and happier by the minute, Chop and Hannah were suddenly corn hole champions thanks to a game the bar was hosting, and we were the happiest ladies on earth. A lesson I’ve learned over the years though – drinks can be great, but drinks without food…watch yourself! With our new friends Bob and Cameron in tow, we went right into finding a perfect spot for dinner at this awesome restaurant/karaoke combination. See for yourself as the next two hours unfolded:

margs & karaoke

Looks like I’m about to spill my drink, doesn’t it? Well I did. Totally did. Margarita on the lap. Can’t take me anywhere!

cheering

singing

sun morning beach

SUNDAY

Saying goodbye to this place was tough. It’s pure paradise here, and I can’t wait to go back. This trip will go down in the books as one of my favorite vacations of all time. Kaitlin, Kendall, Chop, and Hannah – I’m so lucky to have friends like you in my life, and I can’t wait to keep these adventures going strong, even into our 90’s. Oh yes…maybe into our 100’s…oh it’s happening.

This last photo was our final beach time before hoping on the plane and heading back to Maryland. I came home to Sean with no voice, a nice little tan, about 490348230 photos, amazing memories, strengthened and renewed friendships, and a “newlie” peaceful soul.

Thank you, Key West. I can’t wait to go back!!!!!

So, like I said in “Part I”…have you booked your flight to Key West yet?!

Happy vacationing.

Key West: Part I

Have you ever been to Key West? If you have, then you already know that it’s nothing short of sensational. That’s the best word I can find to summarize the unbelievably refreshing and recharging vacation that my friends and I experienced last week.

As much as I love and adore my job, it’s been an insanely busy summer, and year. I really needed a break. And to speak for Kaitlin, Kendall, Christine (but we call her “Chop”), and Hannah…they needed it just as much. There’s something I can’t leave unsaid about our little group of 5 before I get into the glorious details of this trip: we aggressively love life. No other way to say it. We dance like crazy when any good song comes on. We “cheers” with our coffee, our mojitos, even our chocolate covered key lime pie on a stick. We chat it up with nice strangers to celebrate how diversely beautiful each “newlie” discovered place is. We take 483279432 pictures to remember how much we fell in love with every moment of our trip. We’re even still talking about how delicious the little airline cookies “Biscoff” were, and are contemplating having a “Biscoff” tea party down the road. Long story short – life is SO worth celebrating: and these girls are my beautiful friends who “get it.” So, now for the highlights. I’m splitting this trip into two posts: Key West: Part I includes the first two days. Part II is the last 3. Are yoouuuu readyyyy?!

WEDNESDAY

We flew into Key West with the biggest smile on our faces…even before getting off the plane:

We completely fell in love with our hotel room/suite at the Sheraton. STAY THERE if you’re ever wondering where to stay. It’s right across from the beach, and only about 2 miles from the main strip of town. The hotel has a free shuttle running every hour to & from Duval Street. We kicked off the first few hours with delicious fish tachos and drinks at Schooner Warf. Then we wandered around Duval Street and fell in love with every classic and brightly colored shop, restaurant and bar that we passed by.

Hopped the shuttle back home to enjoy some pool side relaxation at the hotel. Then we got ready for our first night out. Getting ready with your girls is…well it’s just part of being a girl. Hair dryer in the back ground, someone’s needing exactly 3 bobby pins, someone’s making coffee to get energized for the night, someone’s trying on 4 different outfits before going back to the 1st, someone’s putting on make up, someone’s checking Facebook, someone’s uploading Instagram photos, and we’re all feeling the excitement of Key West that night. And then, in all of our glory of bright Key West colors…we’re ready. We head back into town and kick off the night with Cuban food (El Meson de Pepe) at a lovely little outside table, seated next to some glorious live music. Within minutes, the alley is crowded with passersby as they can’t help but dance along. We’re in love with Key West already. THEN my mojito and our shared plates of melt-in-your-mouth food came: 

The rest of the night was spent dancing around town…but sadly also being turned down from bars because I had accidentally lost my drivers license at the BWI Security Check Point. WAY TO GO KATH! True story of a traveler’s problem in effect. Thank goodness it was turned in that day. I adore BWI airport for their lovely call to me the next day, telling me it was found. Bad news? We couldn’t get into a single place without my ID. Now, I’m twenty eight years old…well over the limit, but I’ve gotta give props to Key West for being so strict. Luckily a photo copy of my passport got me through the week. Thank you to Caroline Davis for sending me a copy from home!!! She saved our vacation 🙂

THURSDAY

Today was easy, breezy, beautiful. BEACH TIME – Hand stand attempts. Reading (shout out to Beth Kephart Books!!! If you’re looking for a GREAT read, then buy Small Damages). Real fruit smoothies from side street stands. Attempting the stand up paddleboard experience for the first time (LOVED IT!). Watching a gorgeously non-threatening storm come in from miles away. Laying in the sun with a little music in my ears and feeling perfectly content with my life. All of that was our morning:

And the beat kept on as we rolled back over to Duval Street for some lunch. One word: AMIGOS. SOOO GOOD! I ordered the “Skinny burrito” which is essentially just everything but the tortilla, and we also got …not just coke-a-cola…but “Mexicoke” which excludes high fructose corn syrup. Much better for you…and SOOOOO delicious!

Later that evening we got all glamorous for our second night out. Mallory Square was apparently a hot spot for watching the sun go down. It’s a Key West MUST to visit Mallory Square at sunset. As we strolled along the square we saw tons of street performers, side street vendors, and hundreds of happy visitors mulling about. One older man had his microphone all set up with space for background singers behind him. On his mic he gave our little group a shout out, and invited us to sing with him….uhhh YEAAAH!!!! Why the heck not?! Back up singers indeed. We were suddenly rockstar sensations. People were gathering around us, iPhone videos on record, cameras out, and cheering in order. We echoed him as he led us in “Day light come and me wann’go home.”

Poor Kendall was blocked by him in that photo, but all in all, it was a perfect moment that life treated us to. Special thanks to that random, lovely women who took photos of us with my camera. I practically threw it at her as we ran up to sing with him and she knew exactly what to do. I just love people!!! Moving on to the greatest street performer of all time. This dude performed the classics: high standing uni-cycle, juggling knives, then juggling knives with fire, making jokes (but his were actually good!), and keeping the audience on edge the whole time:

Later into the night we went to one of our favorite bars, Sloppy Joe’s, for dancing and drinks…while dancing…and did I mention we love to dance? Live music fills the soul of Key West, and that Thursday night was no exception:

Part II coming soon…stay tuned my friends! Have you booked your flight to Key West yet?!?!

The Lovely Locals

When Sean and I first moved to Silver Spring, we cooked, sure…but we definitely ordered take out and ate at restaurants more often than we should’ve. We’re now down to getting take out or going out to dinner once every week…sometimes even once every other week. This little effort has saved money, inspired new dishes, and puts the idea of “a night out” up on a pedestal. I feel like we’re total rockstars out on the town now. It simply celebrates the idea of going out so much more when it’s a less frequent occasion. And when I’m cooking, he’s cooking, or we’re both cooking together – it continues to bring us together and scents our home with harmonious culinary creations.

I’ve gotten WAY more excited about those rare nights that we actually do order take out or go out to dinner. I’ve kept a strategic eye on which local restaurants deserve our well earned, and saved, money. With this in mind, I figure my blog is a great little venue to spread the love of those glorious restaurants that DO deserve your attention and money when you and your loved ones decide to be “rockstars” as well for a special evening.  So, here’s my first contribution:

Pacci’s Neapolitan Pizzeria is located along Georgia Avenue in downtown Silver Spring. Shortly after we moved to Silver Spring, Sean’s parents wanted to take us out to lunch at an Italian restaurant nearby. When we found out that they were closed for the afternoon, we looked around for another option. We stumbled upon this pizzeria. Walking in, there’s a lovely outdoor patio to your right, and a beautiful selection of well stocked wine along the wall to the left. Before going in further, their beautiful wood-burning oven catches your eye; always a good sign of how classically authentic the pizza will taste. We sat inside towards the back of the restaurant. I ordered a pizza with buffalo mozzarella, arugula, fresh vine-ripe cherry tomatoes, a touch of olive oil, probably some additional spice that God recommended they add to the dough, and BAM! – I was in love, in Heaven, in the midst of a classical symphony written only for this pizza…you get the idea…it was marvelous.

Sean called in an order for us last night as we were both stuck in separate areas of D.C. traffic. Such a treat to know that this pizza was waiting for me to pick it up at the end of a long commute, and a very long week. The manager must have answered the phone when Sean called in the order, because as I walked in ready to tell him that I was there to pick up an order, he kindly smiled and say’d, “…Katherine?” That simple gesture of recognizing who I was and what order I was picking up was just as refreshing as the pizza itself. All too often, restaurants lack a sense of their own neighborhood and personability. This was different. This place made me feel right at home.

Pacci’s – on those rare occasions that we do go out/order out – you’ll be seeing us. As for all of you interested in a new place to explore – go try Pacci’s.

That’s all for now. I took the day off and am in happy Katherine heaven. I have a date with Stella (our yellow lab) for a walk around the neighborhood, a date with Silver Spring as I need to run some errands, a date with the computer for more wedding planning fun, and a lunch date with the left over Pacci’s pizza waiting for me in the fridge.

Life is good 🙂