April 12, 2016

Florida, Pt. 2


We're finally getting to the last of the Florida pictures covering days 3, 4 and 5 in Key West and an overnight stay in Vilano Beach, St. Augustine, on our way back home.  

Key West highlights: 

Eats
  • Six Toed Cat : We wrote our share of not so pleasant moments during days 1 and 2 in Key West, but this really was the beginning of when we started to feel that Key West didn't offer the friendliest of vibes. We experienced the absolute worst service here from the beginning when the waiter didn't tell us {after asking repeatedly} how to get up on their deck area with our dog {the entire area is enclosed and only accessible by going into their restaurant and coming out through a door that led to the deck area -- Yangkyu had to pass Piri over to me from the sidewalk over their wire fence and I caught him from up on the deck after getting no helpful answers}. They seated us in the sunniest spot without water for us and Piri for 20 minutes. They re-seated another family that came after us who was also got a sunny spot. And of course they were told only sunny spots were available before being seated, and we weren't told anything. That family also got information on what the special was while we were just asked to order {no biggie but the stark difference in treatment was beginning to bother me here}. We waited around to ask for our check but when our waiter just never bothered to show up I asked another waiter who actually got us our drinks {and who we observed as being really great with the people he was waiting on} but then he kind went cold and said, "I'll get it for you but you should really ask your waiter." That kind of did it for me. I was trying to stay patient throughout and the whole place just sucked after that. It takes a whole lot for me to express anger and disappointment and this place did it. Normally when I receive "bad service" I still smile, tip well and say thank you. But this? No. Our waiter was so attentive to two other tables and it was just such a stark difference in how we were treated. I couldn't even look at our waiter in the face when he said "have a nice day." I complained loudly for the other patrons to hear before leaving. I was absolutely and completely furious {and believe me when I say it takes a whole lot to get me this angry}. 
  • Kermit's Key Lime Pie : Our first time having Key Lime Pie and it was delicious. Unfortunately I had another unfortunate encounter with someone who very condescendingly told me I was standing in front of an active door - it was the only shaded spot that I could find for me and Piri while Yangkyu was inside ordering and there was no foot traffic at that door whatsoever and so I decided to wait there. Again, it's the way people say things that really got to me and the non-smiling faces when we walked into shops that was just really baffling. 
  • The Best Coffee in Town : Went back for our favorite Cuban coffee again. We were also back here the morning we were leaving. 
  • Garbo's Grill : We loved the outdoor seating area that is dog friendly and the place was full of friendly people as well. We had their Korean Bulgogi tacos {me} and Yangkyu had the burrito. It was delicious. Garbo's was one of our favorite places to eat while in Key West. 
  • Cuban Coffee Queen : Their pork, rice and bean is unbelievably delicious. I ordered the Shipwrecked Sandwich which wasn't that great {just wasn't my style and my goof in ordering it as they had the description on the menu}. But we went back after finishing our food for some smoothies {Strawberry and Pina}. I experienced some line cutting here, which the service worker allowed but promptly mouthed "sorry" to me, and there was also a bit more waiting but none of this got me angry or frustrated and I was willing to wait longer if it helped the girl who worked there clear her queue. I liked that she was friendly, was diligent, apologized {and whenever people actually apologize I am the first to say "don't worry about it"}. 
  • Frita's : We were either going to go to Kelly's or Blue Heaven for our last night's dinner but something happened this evening that did it for me and I think at this point I just really began to hate Key West. A kid {like 13 or so} said "fuck you" to us for running over his fish bait container which he put in the middle of the road {we were pulling into a parking lot when this happened}. Then he proceeded to put his hand up at us and said "It's fine. It's fine. Go ahead." I was just so appalled and seething at this point. After parking {and cooling down a bit first}, I went up to him because I couldn't let it go and I knew it would bother me for the rest of the night. I demanded an apology but he gave it half assed. He said "I paid a lot of money for it but it's fine so I'm sorry." You know, the thing is, if something happened to his bait container I would've felt really bad {even though he put it in the middle of the road} and I would've offered to pay for it. But his attitude? His mother was nearby and when she saw me walk up to her son she looked astonished. I'm completely astonished at her for letting her son behave that way. And I was just so done. And so after having a streak of bad service and meeting rude people, I didn't want to risk having another bad experience and so we ended up going back to Frita's, which was our first meal when we arrived, and ended up doing take out and ate in our room while watching some Syracuse Women's Basketball and packing to leave the next day. 
I do have to say, after that incident with that kid, we did end up meeting the sweetest boy {around the same age} and his mom who were so friendly and nice. It did make up for that terrible encounter. I almost thought they were angels sent to put me in a better mood as it happened right afterwards. They were dog people and wanted to know all about Piri and so we chatted for a bit before saying our good-byes. I think the warmest encounters we had in Key West were from dog people. 


 // Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum // 

 // Six toed cats at the Ernest Hemingway home. We weren't allowed to touch the furniture inside the museum, but these residents cats were allowed to scratch away at the chairs and beds all in display. :) // 



 // We saw a zillion people unload from this Disney cruise. There were a looot of people. // 


 // Conch fritters with key lime mustard sauce. So good! // 


 // There are lots of street cats and also roosters and chicken on the streets in Key West. That's Melvin dozing off on the right. // 

Activities

  • Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum : There is a entrance fee and it is dog friendly as long as it is well behaved, on a leash and easily carried throughout the house. Since Piri was inside his carrier and he's too big to be carried around, Yangkyu and I took turns going inside.
  • Key West Aquarium : While the aquarium is quite small and some people may think that the ticket prices aren't worth it, it was a welcome change for us as they are very dog friendly. The lady at the ticket booth was cordial and let us know that Piri was allowed to walk around and to let them know if he was thirsty and needed water.
  • Mallory Square : We enjoyed the most delicious strawberry smoothie and conch fritters here. We also did most of our souvenir and gift shopping in this area. Our last night in Key West was also spent here and there were street performers and a market that was held in the square. Both day and night vibes are great - so different from Duval Street, which wasn't wasn't up our alley.
  • Southernmost Point in the U.S. : Someone suggested to us on Instagram to take a picture here and we were glad we did! There was a line but it moved pretty quickly and people helped each other out taking group photos for each other. And people stayed out of the way in the background obviously, but of course when we went to take our picture there were people there. Sigh {just our luck, I guess}.
  • US 1 Mile 0 Marker : A quick stop for another photo opportunity. This is where Route 1 begins and ends. 
  • Higgs Beach Dog Park : We made sure to stop by here again for Piri to roam {or play the introvert card} and again we met the friendliest of folks. 
  • U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Ingham Maritime Museum & National Historic Landmark : We didn't plan on coming here and stumbled across it on our way to Fort Zachary Taylor. The museum was also closed and so we hung out in front of the ship to take a few photos before continuing our way.
  • Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park : There is an entrance fee that will take you to Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park. We drove in but there were plenty of people who biked and even walked. Dogs are not allowed in the fort but allowed everywhere else. Yangkyu and I again took turns taking a look around.
  • Fort Zachary Beach : We stumbled across this beach after taking a look around Fort Zachary Taylor. We didn't realize there was a beach inside the state park. And to our delight this was the closest thing to a beach where we can enjoy with Piri. There is a picnic area that naturally flows right onto the beach and so we ended up quickly going back to our hotel room to grab our beach towels and ice box and came back here to spend time lazying in the sun and sand. Yangkyu took a dip in the water, Piri was only interested in the BBQ action going on at a nearby table and I got to close my eyes for a little bit and just relax. 

Shopping 
  • Dog30 : Since we didn't have such a good experience over at American Dog Outfitters, we decided to check out Dog30 to buy presents for Piri's friends, Hiro and Mini. I'm not sure what it is but it was like walking into sudden coldness. No hello, no how are you, no smiles. Not that I want to force anyone to smile for me, but I guess if you walk into a store then a greeting would be something like, "Hello." and a smile? I got a queasy feeling that things weren't going to be that great and the first half of our time there wasn't. I just got a feeling that we weren't welcome inside and the owner was just really standoffish. But then he began to warm up to us and so I began to open up as well about why we were in Florida, Piri and his recent medical diagnosis and he ended up being really helpful and understanding. He also suggested different treats and foods we can try. And so what started off as a little wary ended up being pleasant. The only thing was we realized that when we got back to our room that he forgot to pack one of the treats we got for Piri {which he suggested}. We were going to go back and ask for it thinking maybe he's waiting for us to come back but then I just didn't want a situation where he'd mistake our action for trying to get something for free {like you know, we already got the treat but we claiming we didn't}. And so we ended up not going back. Sigh. Maybe I was just traumatized at this point. 
 // Southern most tip of the U.S. -- 90 miles to Cuba // 

 // Where Route 1 begins and ends // 


 // Garbo's! One of our favorite eats in Key West // 







 // Fort Zachary Taylor // 












We stopped by Wynn-Dixie, which is a large grocery store in Key West, before heading out to buy ham. It's the only thing Piri will take his medicine in and we also needed some snacks for the ride to St. Augustine. This is my final tale of rude service workers who just made our time so miserable at Key West. 

The woman at the deli made me wait - I had no idea what she was doing but she just kept saying hold on hold on. Then when she was finally ready to take my order she makes to go get the ham in the back but then gets distracted by a man who came after me looking at cold slaw. She proceeds to talk to him about it and gives him a cold slaw that has already been packaged. He wanted his cold slaw in a new container and so she stands there and chats with him and helps him and I am standing right there appalled at the two of them! I mean really? I think another woman in the deli saw fumes coming out of my ears and she asked what I needed again. The two ladies then had an exchange like no one did anything wrong and when she said "here you go" and handed over my ham I couldn't even look at her. It was the second time where I just could not say thank you. It's usual a once in a blue blue blue moon thing where I am so angry that I can't even say thank you and it happened twice in Key West. Not good.


I already went over how in love we were when we pulled into Vilano Beach and how friendly the vibe is here. We stayed at the Vilano Beach Garden Inn {I talked about it a bit here}. We spent the morning doing as much as we can before heading back home. 

Eats

  • Fire Wok : Yangkyu was just craving Chinese food as soon as we arrived and had to have it when he saw Fire Wok. It was clean and he loved that you can see them prepare the food. And it tasted good, too. I didn't have too much of an appetite although I did see a pizza store, but unfortunately I caught them right at closing. The guy who was working there was so apologetic though which made me feel bad and he even asked if I will be around for a few more days and told us their hours for the next day.
  • City Coffee Company : Nice vibe and friendly people. We grabbed breakfast - coffee and bagels. Their bagels {to go} came in a pretty box and had a little rosemary sprig tied to it. Did I say friendly people? So very friendly.
Activities
  • Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park : There is an entrance fee and this place is very dog friendly. They are allowed on all the grounds, inside shows and presentations, including their {small and a little outdated} planetarium and also gift shop. We wish we had more time to take a look and see all the shows and presentations but we needed to get going to pack up, check out and also head to the beach. Oh, and there are peacocks on the premise here and there were a couple of beagle puppies who couldn't get enough of them -- it is advised that dogs don't bother them. 
  • Vilano Beach : We pulled right on to the beach to park, which is allowed during some months of the year. It is $8 for non-residents {you also have the option to do street parking} and folks with 4-wheel drive can also drive on the beach. Dogs are allowed, in the water as well, as long as the are leashed, which was good enough for me {I know some people look for off-leash dog beaches}. It was clean, which was so welcoming, because the beaches in Key West were a bit dirty, and we really did wish we had more time here. So charming and untainted by heavy tourism. I don't think I saw any big hotel chains, but rather small inns. 

 // Fountain of Youth // 

 // Vilano Beach Garden Inn // 







 // Da boss // 



Yikes. One long post after another. Apologies! 

And I often hesitated while putting these Florida blog posts together, whether to include all our bad experiences or not because I wasn't sure if it came off too negative and readers get turned off by negativity. I understand that there will always be someone who we won't mesh well with while vacationing. It's just part of it - and we just move on and enjoy our time. The thing is, it happened all too many times in Key West. For a while I thought I was being too sensitive. But then after one too many of those "no no, it's me. I'm too sensitive," it just got to be too self deprecating and I felt a bit foolish for always putting it on myself. There was something definitely off here and it was too much to just let it go, even in a blog post. 

Our Florida trip was so-so, with Key West being a flop and St. Augustine being a complete hit. In the end, if we didn't go to Key West, we would always be left wondering and thinking what if, and regretting not going with Piri when we had the chance. So it's good to have it crossed off our list of places to go. And we're happy that we got to do it with Piri. 



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