A Travellerspoint blog

Xmas in Key West: Come on Vacation, Leave on Probation, Pt 1

Of course, we didn't really leave on probation. But if eating too much, drinking too many, laughing too loudly, and lazing around too often were crimes, I'm pretty sure we'd be sentenced to life without parole after this trip.

large_2014_KW_Xmas_arrest_1.jpg

As it was, we compiled a pretty impressive rap sheet during our ten-day spree.

Count 1: False Advertising

On this visit we were joined by our friends Ellen and Brian, who had just started new jobs in California when we began making our travel plans. And so, by the time the four of us coordinated our schedules and decided on the dates for our visit, most of the rental houses we were interested in were already taken. And it didn't help that we wanted a nightly rental, not a weekly, Saturday to Saturday one, and that the house we originally settled on went to someone else due to a mix-up on the rental agency's part. And so we picked the best of the bunch from what was left, the Bahama House on Amelia Street.

2014_KWXmas_MCBH_23.jpg

2014_KWXmas_MCBH_22.jpg

large_2014_KW_Xmas_smost_11.jpg

The outdoor space was fantastic.

large_2014_KWXmas_MCBH_10.jpg

The pool was plenty big enough for four and heated to just-short-of-hot-tub, and was surrounded by comfy loungers, a covered porch with seating for four, and a small gated garden that was perfect for storing our bikes.

2014_KWXmas_MCBH_11.jpg

2014_KWXmas_MCBH_09.jpg

2014_KWXmas_MCBH_08.jpg

2014_KWXmas_MCBH_06.jpg

2014_KWXmas_MCBH_17.jpg

2014_KWXmas_MCBH_05.jpg

2014_KWXmas_MCBH_18.jpg

2014_KW_Xmas_Local_03.jpg

2014_KWXmas_MCBH_02.jpg

2014_KWXmas_MCBH_04.jpg

2014_KWXmas_MCBH_19.jpg

2014_KWXmas_MCBH_01.jpg

The inside, however, was apparently decorated by vampires. Neither bedroom had a mirror. Neither bedroom had a dresser. All of the hurricane shutters were nailed shut, blocking out all the natural light. And there wasn't a single hook for a bathing suit, wet towel, or black cape in the entire house.

2014_KWXmas_MCBH_21.jpg

2014_KWXmas_MCBH_13.jpg

There was nowhere to unpack anything, so we lived out of our suitcases. We hung our panties from the doorknobs and dangled our bras from the light fixtures. Within days, there was so much lingerie hanging around that folks thought a new bar had opened in Key West.

When we ran out of doorknobs, I fashioned this lovely underwear shelf out of a plastic platter.

2014_KWXmas_MCBH_14.jpg

2014_KWXmas_MCBH_12.jpg

We had a washer and dryer, but no laundry detergent, and even if we had, the dryer didn't work for the entire duration of our stay.

If the planet runs out of fossil fuels in your lifetime, you can just blame the four of us. No dryer, plus no hooks for drying (and all shade outside), meant that we went through approximately 400 towels in 10 days, each used exactly once before it was left for the maid so we could get a dry one.

Heck, we didn't even have plates.

2014_KW_Xmas_cheese_1.jpg

Okay, I'm kidding about that last one. But we did have only two wine glasses, even though the house sleeps six. Which, if we're counting down crimes, is probably the worst one on this list.

Count 2: Petit Larceny

Tequila and law-breaking go together like Tracey and tacos, which is why we made not one but two trips to Agave 308 on this visit.

2014_KW_Xmas_AgaveTP_01.jpg

2014_KW_Xmas_AgaveTP_10.jpg

2014_KW_Xmas_AgaveTP_08.jpg

Key West is home to dozens of bars, but you could probably count on just a few fingers those that serve drinks that aren't syrupy-sweet or made from bargain-basement booze. Agave 308, underneath the Rootop Cafe, is one of those few. Sure, the décor consists of sugar skulls and a multicolored marijuana-leaf lamp, but when the food and drinks are this good, you can decorate the place with poison ivy for all I care.

2014_KW_Xmas_AgaveTP_03.jpg

2014_KW_Xmas_AgaveTP_09.jpg

My favorite drink at Agave is the Paloma de la Fresa, which combines house-made strawberry-infused tequila and muddled strawberries with fresh lime and tart grapefruit to temper the sweetness.

2014_KW_Xmas_AgaveTP_06.jpg

One Paloma is good, and two Palomas are better. Three Palomas is just asking to be hauled away in handcuffs.

large_2014_KW_Xmas_AgaveTP_07.jpg

Angel's favorite, the Mexican Mule, is made with Milagro silver tequila, ginger syrup, fresh lime, ginger beer, and candied ginger, for a hot-sweet treat, served in a traditional Moscow Mule copper mug to keep it perfectly chilled.

2014_KW_Xmas_AgaveTP_05.jpg

Best of all, Agave serves the best pork tacos north of the border, made with house-roasted shredded pork, spicy slaw, and pico de gallo.

large_2014_KW_Xmas_AgaveTP_13.jpg

large_2014_KW_Xmas_AgaveTP_14.jpg

Okay, so they might be a little greasy.

2014_KW_Xmas_AgaveTP_15.jpg

But they're also so delicious that at two for just eight bucks, it almost feels like we're stealing them.

large_2014_KW_Xmas_AgaveTP_12.jpg

Almost.

Count 3: Aiding and Abetting

To get to Key West, our friends Ellen and Brian drove an hour from San Jose to San Francisco, boarded a red-eye for a 6-hour flight to Miami, changed planes there for yet another flight, then finally landed in Key West nearly 12 hours after they'd left the house the day before. (That's what you get for moving to a place where going on a hike, not nursing a hangover, is the preferred Saturday-morning sport.) They arrived at the house dazed and exhausted, plopping down in a travel-weary pile on the sofa for what surely would have been a nice, long nap.

2014_KW_Xmas_CM_16.jpg

If we hadn't dragged them off to brunch, that is.

2014_KW_Xmas_CM_12.jpg

I knew Ellen was still upset about missing the all-you-can-eat-and-drink Christmas Day brunch at the Casa Marina on our last trip, and I wasn't going to let her miss it a second time. And so we splashed them with some tonic water, waved some margarita salts under their noses, and dragged them off to the Casa. For their own good, of course.

2014_KW_Xmas_CM_22.jpg

large_large_2014_MemKW_CM_5.jpg

The Christmas Day brunch at Casa Marina features carving stations, a mile-long dessert table, and unlimited mimosas that start arriving the minute you sit down.

2014_KW_Xmas_CM_10.jpg

2014_KW_Xmas_CM_23.jpg

2014_KW_Xmas_CM_06.jpg

2014_KW_Xmas_CM_05.jpg

2014_KW_Xmas_CM_04.jpg

2014_KW_Xmas_CM_07.jpg

2014_KW_Xmas_CM_08.jpg

2014_KW_Xmas_CM_09.jpg

2014_KW_Xmas_CM_02.jpg

2014_KW_Xmas_CM_25.jpg

The day was glorious, with vibrant blue skies and reggae-tinged versions of our favorite Christmas songs floating on the warm breeze.

2014_KW_Xmas_CM_1.jpg

large_2014_KW_Xmas_CM_20.jpg

2014_KW_Xmas_CM_14.jpg

large_2014_KW_Xmas_CM_15.jpg

Of course, even on Christmas Day your teenagers will ignore you in favor of their iPhones, but at least they'll look festive while they're doing it.

2014_KW_Xmas_CM_11.jpg

Count 4: Identity Theft

Key West might be a tropical paradise, but you certainly wouldn't know it at Christmas. Over the holidays, the island disguises itself as a Christmas-y wonderland, complete with Christmas trees, snowmen, Santas, and Abominables.

KW_Xmas_Velv_30.jpg

KW_Xmas_Velv_41.jpg

KW_Xmas_Velv_22.jpg

KW_Xmas_Velv_04.jpg

2014_KW_Xmas_Abomin_1.jpg

KW_Xmas_Velv_39.jpg

KW_Xmas_Velv_19.jpg

KW_Xmas_Velv_08.jpg

KW_Xmas_Velv_05.jpg

KW_Xmas_Velv_01.jpg

KW_Xmas_Velv_21.jpg

KW_Xmas_Velv_25.jpg

large_straightstar.jpg

KW_Xmas_Velv_33.jpg

Of course, the island can't shed its beachy identity completely for the holidays. Then again, maybe those are Jesus fish?

large_KW_Xmas_VelvFish_1.jpg

KW_Xmas_Velv_37.jpg

KW_Xmas_Velv_12.jpg

large_KW_Xmas_Velv_16.jpg

KW_Xmas_Velv_13.jpg

KW_Xmas_Velv_09.jpg

KW_Xmas_Velv_03.jpg

KW_Xmas_Velv_02.jpg

KW_Xmas_Velv_40.jpg

KW_Xmas_Velv_38.jpg

Count 5: Reckless Endangerment

After a week spent shoveling down everything from tacos and meatballs to pot pies and cheesesteaks, even I needed a break. And so we headed off to Banana Café for a much-needed green salad.

2014_KW_Xm..nanaCafe_14.jpg

2014_KW_Xmas_TTG_Banana_1.jpg

2014_KW_Xm..nanaCafe_09.jpg

2014_KW_Xm..nanaCafe_10.jpg

2014_KW_Xm..nanaCafe_15.jpg

large_2014_KW_Xm..nanaCafe_11.jpg

2014_KW_Xm..nanaCafe_07.jpg

But this is Key West, where healthy hearts and functioning livers go to die. And so the salad I so dutifully ordered came topped with . . . mayonnaise.

2014_KW_Xm..nanaCafe_12.jpg

No, I don't mean a mayo-based dressing. I mean actual mayonnaise.

2014_KW_Xm..nanaCafe_13.jpg

A few days later I tried again to eat something that wasn't fried in lard, covered in lard, or actually was lard. I remembered that Caroline's Café had a good selection of salads, so off we went again in search of greens.

2014_KW_Xm..nanaCafe_18.jpg

2014_KW_Xm..nanaCafe_16.jpg

I forgot, however, that the best salad at Caroline's comes topped with bacon. And fried chicken. And Ranch dressing.

2014_KW_Xm..nanaCafe_19.jpg

My taste buds gave me a round of applause. My arteries gave me the finger.

large_2014_KW_Xm..nanaCafe_20.jpg

Eventually I just gave up on the salads and had some corn. Fresh, healthy corn.

2014_KW_Xm..nanaCafe_06.jpg

2014_KW_Xm..nanaCafe_02.jpg

Slathered in mayonnaise and cheese.

large_2014_KW_Xm..nanaCafe_03.jpg

2014_KW_Xm..nanaCafe_01.jpg

Count 6: Arson

Is it a crime to set someone's mouth on fire with a toothpick? If so, then Peppers of Key West would be guilty as charged.

2014_KW_Xmas_Peppers_01.jpg

2014_KW_Xmas_Peppers_02.jpg

2014_KW_Xmas_Peppers_03.jpg

An emporium of all things hot, spicy, saucy, and sweet, Peppers is the perfect place to mosey up to the bar and get your face melted off.

2014_KW_Xmas_Peppers_09.jpg

2014_KW_Xmas_Peppers_04.jpg

2014_KW_Xmas_Peppers_07.jpg

2014_KW_Xmas_Peppers_06.jpg

2014_KW_Xmas_Peppers_10.jpg

2014_KW_Xmas_Peppers_12.jpg

2014_KW_Xmas_Peppers_13.jpg

We started with the milder sauces -- like the fantastic coconut mango, a figgy steak sauce, and a sweet-but-spicy teriyaki -- and then Angel moved on to the ones so hot that they are stored in little coffins and carry warnings about death, diarrhea, and death by diarrhea.

2014_KW_Xmas_Peppers_19.jpg

2014_KW_Xmas_Peppers_08.jpg

2014_KW_Xmas_Peppers_14.jpg

2014_KW_Xmas_Peppers_15.jpg

2014_KW_Xmas_Peppers_16.jpg

2014_KW_Xmas_Peppers_17.jpg

2014_KW_Xmas_Peppers_18.jpg

You are instructed not to let the toothpick touch your lips, or they will shrivel up and fall off, and to wash your hands before using the restroom, or certain other parts may shrivel up and fall off.

2014_KW_Xmas_Peppers_20.jpg

2014_KW_Xmas_Peppers_23.jpg

2014_KW_Xmas_Peppers_22.jpg

2014_KW_Xmas_Peppers_21.jpg

So far Angel is still intact, but I'm keeping an eye on the situation.

Count 7: Harassment

On every visit to Key West, we stop by Eaton Bikes to harass our friend Chris, who with a patient smile attaches accoutrements -- flowers, streamers, and a bell that reads, "Get the %$#@& Out of My Way" -- to my bike, even though he knows that I am a menace on two wheels and that I will spend the next ten days ringing that bell nonstop like a deranged Quasimodo.

2014_KW_Xmas_Local_14.jpg

2014_KW_Xmas_Local_06.jpg

But how else am I supposed to get around? Sure, I've crashed my bike into a mailbox (2010), a truck (2011), a curb (2014), and Angel (1999-present), but if that makes me clumsy on two wheels, you should see me on two feet.

2014_KW_Xmas_Local_02.jpg

2014_KW_Xmas_Local_05.jpg

2014_KW_Xmas_Local_08.jpg

2014_KW_Xmas_Local_09.jpg

2014_KW_Xmas_Local_10.jpg

2014_KW_Xmas_Local_13.jpg

2014_KW_Xmas_Local_01.jpg

2014_KW_Xmas_Local_04.jpg

2014_KW_Xmas_Local_11.jpg

Count 8: Bootlegging

In the early 1900s, 105 Simonton Street in Key West housed a Coca-Cola bottling facility. Today, it is home to Key West's first legal rum distillery. Next time your grandpa goes on about how great everything was back in his day, you can refer him to this shining example of progress.

2014_KW_Xm..stillery_11.jpg

2014_KW_Xm..stillery_01.jpg

2014_KW_Xm..stillery_08.jpg

We decided to do the short guided tour of Key West Legal Rum, during which our guide, Mike Ehrmantraut, explained the distilling process and showed us all these cool machines and Angel impatiently tapped his toe waiting for the tasting portion of the program to begin.

2014_KW_Xm..stillery_02.jpg

2014_KW_Xm..stillery_03.jpg

2014_KW_Xm..stillery_04.jpg

2014_KW_Xm..stillery_05.jpg

2014_KW_Xm..stillery_07.jpg

2014_KW_Xm..stillery_10.jpg

2014_KW_Xm..stillery_12.jpg

2014_KW_Xm..stillery_16.jpg

2014_KW_Xm..stillery_18.jpg

Paul Menta, the chef at Amigos Tortilla Bar, is the brains behind this operation, cranking out homemade hootch infused with natural flavors like vanilla brûlée, key lime, and mojito mint.

2014_KW_Xm..stillery_13.jpg

2014_KW_Xm..stillery_06.jpg

2014_KW_Xm..stillery_14.jpg

2014_KW_Xm..stillery_15.jpg

2014_KW_Xm..stillery_17.jpg

2014_KW_Xm..stillery_20.jpg

2014_KW_Xm..stillery_21.jpg

Best of all, next time you crash your bike into a mailbox or feel like eating a bowl of mayonnaise for lunch, you've got a ready-made excuse.

2014_KW_Xm..stillery_19.jpg

Count 9: Fraud

About a month before we were scheduled to meet up in Key West, I received a two-word text from Ellen: "Meatball Cruise?" That, of course, is how we refer to the Sunset Sail on the Fury catamaran, which offers crappy margaritas and a decent live band and a great crew and who the hell cares because MEATBALLS! I naturally said yes and then quickly put together one of those "Christmas Countdown" chains, but instead of counting down to Christmas, I was counting down to MEATBALLS!

2014_KW_Xmas_Cruise_03.jpg

2014_KW_Xmas_Cruise_07.jpg

2014_KW_Xmas_Cruise_06.jpg

They didn't have the meatballs.

I don't know. Maybe people complained last time that the meatballs kept rolling off their plates and some skinny blonde girl kept swooping in and scooping them up? I'm sorry, but the five-second rule applies in international waters, too.

2014_KW_Xmas_Cruise_08.jpg

2014_KW_Xmas_Cruise_05.jpg

2014_KW_Xmas_Cruise_12.jpg

2014_KW_Xmas_Cruise_02.jpg

The sunset that evening was spectacular, a fiery orange that faded to a wisp of pink as we made our way back to Key West.

large_2014_KW_Xmas_Cruise_09.jpg

large_2014_KW_Xmas_Cruise_11.jpg

large_2014_KW_Xmas_Cruise_13.jpg

2014_KW_Xmas_Cruise_16.jpg

Although we were forced to sail along in meatball-less melancholy, they did have fried chicken, which, even when it comes frozen and is reheated in a Soviet-era microwave rusted out from salt spray, still beats not having fried chicken.

It does not, however, beat meatballs.

Count 10: Criminal Impersonation

I am often guilty of judging a restaurant by its nondescript cover, and Deuce's Off-the-Hook is one of them.

2014_KW_Deuces_12.jpg

Plus, I like booze as much as the next guy, but happy hour at 8 a.m. is a bit much even for me.

2014_KW_Deuces_10.jpg

2014_KW_Deuces_14.jpg

2014_KW_Deuces_11.jpg

Still, when friends Mark and Steven told me that Deuce's was one of their favorite new dining spots, I took a peek at the menu. And then I jumped on my bike and pedaled over there faster than you can scoop a rogue meatball off a boat deck.

2014_KW_Deuces_13.jpg

That's because Deuce's has lobster pot pie sandwiches. Let's just let that sink in for a moment: Lobster. Pot pie. Sandwiches.

We started off with the smoked fish dip and an order of spanakopita for the table, followed by the fish sammie for Angel, the gyro with sweet potato tots for Steven, and an entire deep-fried sea creature on a bun for Mark.

2014_KW_Deuces_01.jpg

large_2014_KW_Deuces_02.jpg

2014_KW_Deuces_08.jpg

2014_KW_Deuces_2.jpg

2014_KW_Deuces_1.jpg

And the Lobster. Pot pie. Sandwich. for me.

2014_KW_Deuces_05.jpg

Okay, so it's not even remotely a sandwich. But when your lunch entrée arrives and it looks like this, are you really going to split hairs?

large_2014_KW_Deuces_04.jpg

----------------------------------------------------
Next up, PART 2! Hide your kids, hide your wife, hide your food.

Posted by TraceyG 15:13 Archived in USA Tagged key_west

Email this entryFacebookStumbleUpon

Table of contents

Comments

Another brilliant blog! Thank you Tracey. I just had to google Off the Hook - looks fab! Will definitely be visiting the rum distillery and Deuces in three weeks time :-)!!!

by Janice Eustace

Tracey,
I have seen several of your posts and I am always amazed at the quality of the photos. Do you mind sharing with me what type of camera you are using?

by Warren

My wife and I love KW. We've been several times and have a couple more trips booked for 2015. If we didn't know KW as well as we do, this blog would make us want to go and give us SEVERAL great tips! Keep up the great blogging!

by Jude T Newman

Fantastic overview of your trip. My husband and I will be in Key West later this month. We spent a week there last year. You gave us new places to visit this trip - Thank You !

by Tracey Miller

I'm going to order some Colon Cleaner before my next "test." It must be easier to force down than that disgusting prep stuff. A little payback for the doctor too!

by BunsenH

Now that's my kind of Christmas holiday. Everything looked perfect (except that dead crab on a bread roll)!!

by Jan Clydesdale

Comments on this blog entry are now closed to non-Travellerspoint members. You can still leave a comment if you are a member of Travellerspoint.

Enter your Travellerspoint login details below

( What's this? )

If you aren't a member of Travellerspoint yet, you can join for free.

Join Travellerspoint