Andrew and Laura

2012 Las Vegas and Key West

Sat 4th February

Hopefully off to Las Vegas in the morning, but we had so much snow here that we decided to book an hotel at Gatwick overnight to ensure that we are ready for the early take off in the morning.

Nick kindly drove us there, we stopped en route at Reigate for a lovely Italian dinner.

Checked in at the Hilton and Nick decided to drive home. It took him over 6 hours in the snow, plus to add insult to injury he got shunted up the rear, poor Nick!!!

Sun 5th February

Up early, the Intrepid Explorers walked through to departures, Nick texted us to say there was 4” of snow at home, just as well we left last night, there’s no way we’d have reached Gatwick on time this morning!

We sat on our plane for nearly 2 hours whilst they cleared the runway & defrosted the wings, but at least we knew that we were off to Vegas.

Arrived there at 3pm Vegas time & got a taxi to The Mirage – tower room 25047, lovely room with a good view of the strip, a jacuzzi bath & king sized bed.

Went down for a drink but the place was heaving with people, it was Superbowl day & unbelievable crowded & noisy, should have brought Jon.

Went across the road to the Venetian instead, had a drink and a wander around listening to the gondoliers serenading their customers. We ate at Tao again, one of our favourite restaurants last time; Kobe spring rolls & wasabi crusted filet mignon with sake infused mushrooms – all exquisite.

Andrew asked for the bill, minutes later our waiter arrived with a giant Fortune Cookie surrounded by fresh fruit with a candle in the centre of a slice of pineapple, accompanied by a glass of Champagne each to welcome us back! One half of the cookie was filled with some sort of Chantilly cream custard and the other half with a fabulous chocolate ganache. So wished we had a camera with us, it looked as good as it tasted. What a wonderful welcome back!

Back to the Mirage, we’d been up 24 hours or so and were exhausted. So to bed – but not to sleep, discovered that the lifts near us whine all night, the icebox located outside our room was out of order & bleeping loudly. I got up and dressed again at 4am and went to reception to request a room change. Found BB Kings Blues Bar on way back to our room – result!

Mon 6th February

Spent rest of night reading & dozing then were called at 9.30am to move to our new room, exactly the same style but so lovely and quiet!

Andrew is definitely not well, sore throat & feeling yukky, hope he doesn’t get any worse.

A lovely bubble in the jacuzzi bath made me feel so much better. We breakfasted at B B Kings then were off out, went to O’Shea’s first for tickets to Dirk Arthurs Wild Magic – booked front row for tonights show at 7pm.

Walked up the strip to Paris and up to the top of Eiffel tower 460 feet up with a great view of Las Vegas, but only teeny holes in the wire mesh. Andrews camera lens almost fitted, but I managed to get my vid cam and one hand through, difficult to film properly, all a bit wobbly. Would recommend the Stratosphere instead as it is glass all the way round so you can see more clearly. Went across the road to Bellagio but in the 5 years since we were last there nothing has changed, even the Chinese New Year exhibit was similar, though there were dragons instead of pigs. Had a sandwich at the Sugar Factory Brasserie in Paris where we watched the Bellagio’s waters dancing to Con Te Partiro.

Time then for a siesta.

The show was cool, Dirk is a good magician and his animals were lovely a white tiger cub, a Bengal tiger, and a Liger featured as well as chickens & geese. He showed a video of his home and how he rescues and trains the wild cats. www.vegas.com/shows/magic/dirk-arthur-wild-magic/

Back to the Mirage to catch up with zzzzzzzz’s.

Tue 7th February

I trotted off down to Starbucks to fetch morning coffee for both of us, 25 floors down, but we both felt human again after a good nights sleep, though Andrew is still not well.

Walked up the strip to Cosmopolitan, new since our last visit, had a sparkling water in their fabulous Chandelier bar, totally enclosed in crystal.

Walked farther up and had excellent margaritas & fajitas at Diablos Cantina in Monte Carlo.

Continued up the strip through the Excalibur & Luxor to Mandalay Bay the last hotel on the strip, a huge walk from Mirage – OMG we did it!!

We visited the aquarium there, then stroked the stingrays for a while & bought a magnet for my collection.

Caught the overhead trolley back as far as MGM & played on the penny slots at the casino until it was time for Cirque du Soleil’s Ka show, which Andrew had booked a few weeks ago.

Ka was fabulous – an amazing show, not to be missed if you go to Vegas. I felt the whoosh in my hair as trapeze artists flew by my head! Such a brilliant evening. www.cirquedusoleil.com/en/shows/ka/default.aspx We wanted to see Cirques Elvis show too, but unfortunately for us they are having a break just now – we’ll have to return to see that!

Back then to the Mirage for another play on the slots {$8 up} and a nightcap before bed.

Wed 8th February

A morning trot to Starbucks, then a lovely jacuzzi to start the day. Andrew had a lie in, throat getting worse & he sounds as if he has whooping cough.

We got picked up by Bill for our trip to the Hoover Dam, which we flew over en route to the Grand Canyon last time, but didn’t visit properly.

We spent some time in the power plant and viewing the dam from the roof, and Lake Mead from the dam. Lots of vid & pix were taken, it was a very informative tour, we both really enjoyed this day trip. Bought a Hoover Dam magnet for my collection too. Info is available at www.usbr.gov/lc/hooverdam

Bill dropped us back at the Mirage & we took a wander around Caesars Palace where we bought presents for Fi & Janey & Fin plus a couple of shirts for Andrew. Unfortunately the living statues were being renovated so no spooky show there.

Returned to Mirage to eat at Kokomo steak & Penfolds Bin 28 – both very yummy.

To the casino then for a play and a nightcap, this could become a habit, $22 up tonight.

Thu 9th February

Went to Denny’s for breakfast, then packed ready for leaving at 3.45am tomorrow.

Spend quite a few hours with the dolphins today, there are two new babies, both male & so sweet!

Lightning & Maverick that we saw last time are still there, spent ages videoing, taking photos and just watching these beautiful creatures.

Back to our room then for siesta, my poor darling needs more sleep, he’s coughing all night.

A last jacuzzi then down for a pre show dinner at Fin the fabulous Chinese restaurant at Mirage. It was time then to see Cirque du Soleil perform the Love show again. www.cirquedusoleil.com/en/shows/love/default.aspx We thought that it was marvellous & really enjoyed the show, but it seems to have lost some of the passion it had in 2007 when we saw it in it’s first year. It didn’t make us cry, as it did originally, but seeing it for the first time it would still be a magical show.

A nightcap & last play in the casino before an early night, our visit went so fast this time!

Fri 10th February

Off to the airport & arrived at 11.30am Miami time after a 4½ hour flight. The baggage machine came to a halt & took forever to put right. Eventually picked up our car from the airport car hire it’s a Chevrolet Camaro convertible in fluorescent orange/gold – we won’t lose this in a giant sized car park! Andrew has now lost his voice, has a temperature & feeling crap, wish we’d brought my licence so I could drive instead.

At 3pm we were finally on our way to the Indian Creek hotel on Miami Beach.

This is a pretty & bijou little Art Deco hotel with alligator key fobs and an ancient original elevator & the tiniest bathroom we’ve ever had in an hotel. www.indiancreekhotel.com

Went out after checking in & dumping cases in our room, we hadn’t eaten since Fin in Las Vegas 22 hours ago and were both so hungry. Found a wonderful Italian restaurant Cantina 27 on 2701 Collins Ave then went back to the hotel for a badly needed siesta.

Went out about 9pm for some sashimi and a cold drink at Kung Fu Sushi at 1756 Collins Ave so a fair walk there & back. No sign of the advertised Broken Shaker Pop Up Bar at Indian Creek so to bed without a nightcap.

Sat 11th February

On the road by 10am, and began our lovely drive down The Keys, Highway One, I think the most beautiful road in USA.

We stopped at Puerto Vallarta a Mexican restaurant at Key Largo for lunch fabulous fresh salsa, amazing sangria & excellent fajitas, this is one to remember on return visits!

We drove on down all the beautiful Keys to Pier Beach Hotel & Caribbean Spa, supposed to be the best in Key West – so disappointing. Luxury King Spa Guest room had no bath or balcony as expected, loo didn’t flush – repaired quickly but staff rude and dismissive re room expectancy!

We decided that this would not ruin our holiday, we both love Key West so we’ll have fun anyway.

Wandered up Duvall St.and ate yummy Key lime infused chicken at Overboard up on their balcony.

Back to base for music & wine in our room before bed.

Awoken in middle of night by running, shouting & screaming followed by a noise Andrew described as monkeys being strangled – heavens! Looked out of door to find other people looking as put out as we were, monkeys still being strangled at high volume.

Called reception to find out what the problem was and was told again rudely & abruptly that this had already been reported & someone was looking into it, then hung up on! Assuming from this that there was no fire we retired to bed again and eventually silence reigned and we could return to sleep. If this is Key Wests top hotel then I’m that poor monkeys uncle – we certainly won’t return, we’ve stayed in far better!!;)

Sun 12th February

Discovered this morning that our car has a flat tyre – just a coincidence?

We breakfasted at Azur then walked up to the Butterfly World at the other end of Duvall St. and spent a couple of happy hours watching and photoing beautiful butterflies, rare moths, turtles & gorgeous little birds.

A Costa Rican Blue Morpho sat on my hand, it probed my fingers for ages then I tried to put it on a plant but it wouldn’t leave me. Andrew took it & popped it on a plant & it flew straight back to me again. Walked around for a while longer till it agreed to stay on a piece of fruit. There are so many wonderful butterflies there bred from all over the world.

We’d looked in their Gallery on a previous visit & though we loved the Butterfly Artwork we didn’t like the idea of real butterflies being used, this time there were notices up stating that they only make the pictures once the butterflies have lived out their natural life span which is a relief. www.keywestbutterfly.com

Went over to the Wine Gallery for a wine flight sample of 3 to share, and a cuddle with Hunter the dog who settled down on my feet. Sat in the wicker work chairs on the balcony and watched the world go by for a while. We are up by the southernmost point here 90 miles from Cuba.

It’s 26C today, might be siesta time now.

Andrew still ill, very tired & still has no voice - sure everyone here thinks he’s terribly hen pecked as I’m ordering food, booze & bills & he’s paying but silent!

Later we went to the Mexican Cantina, one of our favourite restaurants and had their lovely Key Lime Margaritas with quesadillas & tacos. Time for music, wine & bed!

Mon 13th February

Andrew’s a bit better today & can talk again, excellent. I’m sure it would have been much nicer for him if I’d lost my voice instead, it would have given his ears a rest!

Left a note asking for loo roll, shower cap & coffee. {a top hotel should automatically provide these you’d think!}

Went for a long walk and stopped for brunch at the Roof Top Cafe in Mallory Square, lovely food & best Key Lime Pie to date. Booked a table for tomorrow for our anniversary.

Took car over to garage after pumping up tyre, found a large screw in it. They repaired it in 20 minutes & we went for a drive. Stopped at garden shop & bought red, pink & lilac Morning Glory seeds to try at home. Wandered up the keys for a bit then drove car back to hotel.

Walked to the Wine Gallery, had hummus & pittas, shared with Hunter who made a big fuss of us. Did some window shopping & dithered over the butterflies.

Went to a sushi bar for dinner, then on to the Conch Bar overlooking the sea for a glass of wine.

On the way back to our room I looked up & wondered again about a large balcony we could see above the main door. I went for a poke about once we were upstairs & discovered a door out to it.

Its lovely, the palm trees are rustling, the cicadas chirping and there are wicker rocking chairs and coffee tables and dimmed lights. We sat out there with our wine instead, wondered why the rude front desk woman couldn’t mention this area when I asked about a balcony originally?

At least we can use it for the rest of our stay.

Tue 14th February

Made decaf coffee & opened our 5th Anniversary & Valentines cards to each other, what soppy romantics we are. Asked room service for caffeinated coffee, shower cap & loo roll again.

Went for a wander to the hotel beach then walked up to the Mad Rooster Cafe for brunch, named after the hundreds of roosters that stroll wild around Key West.

Decided that we would buy a Butterfly Artwork as our 5th Wedding Anniversary present to each other, so went back to spend a good couple of hours choosing one. We can’t wait till it gets shipped home, it’s so beautiful.

Went for a wander to the beach at Southernmost Point then to Sweet Tea for lunch before our siesta,

Andrew still not so good.

We got ready for dinner then opened our bottle of Penfolds Grange – brought with us for this evening, it’s a spectacular wine & definitely our favourite. After a glass each on the balcony we went to the Rooftop Cafe for dinner, mushroom risotto, steak and some Penfolds 128, lovely but not comparable with the Grange, then Key Lime Pie to finish.

We started in Vegas to opt for sharing a starter or main course & an occasional shared pudding. It seems to work very well as American portions are so huge, we still have plenty and are always nicely full instead of at bursting point halfway through dinner & wasting the rest.

Whilst meandering back we found a “Winey Bitch” T shirt which Andrew bought for me, it’s excellent!

We collected another glass of Grange from our room & settled in the rocking chairs on the balcony to listen to the cicadas. A wonderful end to a wonderful day.

Wed 15th February

Went to get tickets for the Conch Trolley {like a tram} which does the City tour around Key West, ascended at Mallory Square for our trip. We got off at Higgs Beach, a lovely area we’d not been to before and walked along the beach to Salute, a beach front restaurant where we sat outside and had Capri salad with freshly caught yellowtail snapper in a bun, then a slice of Key Lime Meringue Pie to share for lunch – all wonderful.

Sat and relaxed in the sun for a while then wandered over to the Garden Club & West Martello Tower. This is a National Historic Site although the Civil War Fort & West Martello Tower {building of it started in 1860’s} was never finished www.keywestgardenclub.com/ The Key West Garden Club took it over in 1955 and have cleared and restored the four rooms in the tower and restored & replanted what is now a beautiful tropical garden with plants from all over the world.

It’s free to visit although they do ask for donations. There are lots of Iguanas living in the garden, a pest to the gardeners as they eat the lovingly tended flowers, but are brilliant to watch and come out of hiding if you sit still for a while up at the top of the garden where there is a little gazebo to sit in which has a wonderful view of the ocean. A very relaxing place to just sit and be amongst the plants, butterflies and birds.

Eventually caught the trolley & did the tour as far as Hemingway’s House & Museum. http://www.hemingwayhome.com/ We stopped for a coffee at the 6 Toed Cafe {named after Hemingway’s 6 toed cats, but decided not to go into the museum as we’d been on the tour before & you can’t just pay to go in to the gardens & play with the cats. At Andrews Inn next door where we usually stay we normally adopt some of them for our hols as they come over the wall to visit. We strolled down to Cork & Stogie{my Dad would have loved this place}for a beer & wine & watched a hen & her chicks while we relaxed.

Then it was siesta time again, Andrew is lots better now, though still has the cough.

We dined at Prime 951 in Caroline St. filet mignon, green beans & spinach, delicious – but the cocktails we tried were dreadfully sweet & we had to leave them.

Back at base still no joy with loo roll etc. so Andrew phoned down and asked if someone could deliver all 3 items now please? Hurrah – Success At Last!

Off to the balcony then to relax with the last of the Grange by the light of the moon & the cicadas.

Thu 16th February

It’s our last day already, I did main packing while Andrew slept then we decided to go to Blue Heaven for breakfast. There was a 45 minute wait for a table so I went into the gift shop & bought a Gecko brooch and Andrew found a cat called Jeske to cuddle. Delicious brunch, lovely friendly atmosphere here & discovered that they own Salute at Higgs Beach & sell the Key Lime Meringue Pies whole for $30 each {a man in the queue in front of me was buying 2 for his wedding later on a tall ship.}Meandered around for a while then back for siesta time.

Strolled up Duvall for our last time this trip & stopped off at Cork & Stogie again, a cool place with good wine by the glass, decent beer & 100’s of Cuban Cigars to choose from with outside seating so you can people watch.

Went to Pepe’s Cafe {the oldest restaurant in Key West} for dinner, lovely old place which looks really ramshackle from the outside but nicer inside, excellent food – must try their breakfasts next time.

Went to the Cantina as I fancied a last Key Lime Margarita before we go home, sat at the bar chatting to the lovely waitress & she insisted on giving me a freebee to take home, so we went to sit on the balcony & drink it before bed.

Fri 17th February

We had coffee, got sorted then finished packing and left Key West by 10am, roof down on our convertible, sun shining & heading back to Miami and our flight home to freeze through the rest of winter.

We’d decided to stop at the Boondocks at Ramrod Key for brunch as we’d loved the food last time & wanted a last stroll on the beach too, hence leaving early.

The Boondocks food was as good as we’d remembered New England clam chowder, and mahi mahi fish basket – wonderful!

Drove on then to Islamorada and parked at Anne’s Beach where we had a stroll then decided to have a paddle as the ocean is so warm. Saw lots of weeny little fish then walked back along the boardwalk to the car.

Drove on then to Miami airport, loads more traffic than we’d though so no more stops!

The night flight was the worst we’ve endured, middle seats, surrounded by 7 children & a manic father who never stopped talking in a loud & annoyingly patronising voice for the entire flight.

Missing Key West already!