Key West

I've been out of the loop for awhile - getting some stuff done around the house and doing a bit of traveling. I went to Key West over Memorial Weekend and had a great time. We stayed away from touristy Duval street and found a lot of great shops, restaurants, and bars just off the main drag.

We started out eating lunch at Blue Heaven. Seating at Blue Heaven is all outside under a canopy of trees, jibs, and umbrellas. A number of cats lounge around and roosters a plenty (as in much of Key West) fly (yes fly!) from the ground to roof to tree branch. Definitely try the Vegetarian black bean soup for an appetizer and the pork tenderloin or the caribbean BBQ shrimp for the main course. Breakfast is also fantastic - there can be upwards of a 3 hour wait on some days! so get there early and enjoy a mimosa at the outdoor bar. Check the website for both the full menu and the history of Blue Heaven. The bartender explained that the restaurant originally started as a soup kitchen for the neighborhood and still to this day everyone in the community is welcome for a free soda or to play ping pong on the outdoor table.

We then headed a block down from Blue Heaven to Besame Mucho, a quaint little shop selling unique jewelry, bags, stationary, french linens, and much more. I tore a page from the February 2003 issue of Lucky highlighting Besame Mucho. It took me over 5 years to make it there but it was well worth the wait! I picked up some letterpressed gift tags from Austin Press and a beautiful quartz necklace for one of my good friends birthdays. According to Wikipedia, "Besame Mucho is a mexican song written in 1940 by Consuelo Velazquez before her 16th birthday. The phrase can be translated in english as 'kiss me a lot.' According to Velazquez, she wrote the song even though she had never been kissed yet at the time. Emilio Tuero was the first to record the song. It has since been performed by many artists including, notably The Beatles, who often played it at live performances. The composition has been used on the soundtrack of numerous films including Great Expectations, The Naked Gun 2 1/2, In Good Company, Juno, and Mona Lisa Smile." Listen here to Chris Isaak's version for "Mona Lisa Smile."

Two blocks in the opposite direction of Blue Heaven lies Santiago's Bodega, a tapas restaurant. We tried the beef tenderloin, spanakopita, and the chevre tartlet. This was the perfect combination of tastes and the perfect amount of food for a early evening dinner for two. The atmosphere inside or out is small and cozy, and the staff was polite and knowledgable.

For late night fun, head to the Green Parrot Bar, a locals hangout for good drinks and live bands. We caught a great jam band the night we visited. Schooner Wharf Bar was also a favorite. We walked the boardwalk a few times a day and happened upon Schooners Wharf. Seating is outside under the trees and Raven Cooper and her band, Honey Mouth, made for a great show. Raven sang a wide range of original music as well as covers of jazz songs and others in french, italian, and spanish. Her range of styles and sounds was mind boggling - as well as being able to sing in 5 languages!

We got up early the next day and headed down to Kino Sandals where all sandals are handmade in the building using natural leather uppers and natural rubber soles. Most sandals run around just $11 a pair!

A large cruise ship smoke stack could be seen rising from behind the buildings so we headed over by the Westin on the boardwalk where too huge cruise ships had docked. Passengers were starting to board so we hung around by the water until they pushed off from the dock. It was really neat to see this whole process and just a relaxing time as well. The Westin is just down from Mallory square and the restaurant right on the water proved to be a great place for watching the sunset as well.

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