Gluten Free in Charleston, SC – Day 3

We started day three in Charleston with a fairly long list of must see/do’s to accomplish. I also had a secret shopping list in my head that I didn’t bother to mention to Brian… why worry him, after all.

For breakfast I’d been voting on this cute sounding place with cinnamon pancakes, but Brian saw that it was also vegan and he wasn’t having anything to do with fake bacon. Instead we chose Breizh Pan Crepes. It sounded like a great choice since all of their savory crepes are already gluten free and any of their sweet crepes could be made gf easily. (Its such a relief when everything starts out basically gf.)

The crepes were delicious… the restaurant was microscopic. Like… really, really tiny….. 20 seats in the whole place, MAX…. and we were all pretty snuggly. The food was good, but the service was slow. (That’s not an actual complaint. I like sitting around over coffee and chatting…. it’s just a warning not to expect a quick bite and then be back on the road.) While guarding a recently abandoned, dirty table, I commented to one of staff that they were having a busy morning. He said it was like that every day as I sat down and glared at the family of four that had been eyeballing my table for two.

We found a farmer’s market where I knocked one item off the Secret Shopping list…. something for Mom – Plantation Peach Tea. It seemed to be one of those Charleston souvenirs that’s available everywhere until you decide that you should probably get it and then it’s no where to be found.

We had lunch at the Palmetto Cafe. I wasn’t quite hungry yet, but Brian was and I was more than happy to sit in the air conditioning for a bit.

Lunch was crazy expensive. There was a tiny note at the bottom of the menu that said there is a $20 minimum per guest….. we had NO trouble hitting that number.

The Palmetto Cafe is inside one of the fancy downtown Hotels, so I really shouldn’t have been surprised at the prices. Also, Brian picked this one….. I tend to pick weird/eclectic… Brian picks expensive…. or pizza.

Lunch was fabulous. Brian and I both ordered the Seafood Club….. at $30 it was the most expensive club sandwich I’ve ever eaten, but absolutely worth every penny. Three slices of gluten free bread were loaded with smoked salmon, shrimp, crab, tomatoes and cheese. It was insanely good. I will dream about this sandwich.

I also had a drink called a Chantilly…. ’cause it’s hot out…. and because Brian ordered the French fries which were not technically gf because they are cooked in a shared fryer….. and I needed a ‘side’ too. (Don’t laugh, my reasoning is perfectly valid!)

After lunch we visited the Charleston City Market. It is a series of several long, mostly open air building that go on for several blocks. Vendors line either side of the building with a walkway down the center for shoppers to shuffle along.

It’s not quite what I’d expected. I’d been expecting something more along the lines of the City Market in New Orleans…. admittedly though…. I’m probably still pining for the New Orleans Market from 15 – 20 years ago….. everything feels so commercial and mass produced anymore. I miss the actual hand crafted, one of a kind stuff that you used to be able to find. Many of the paintings and artwork are reprints. And the jewelry looks like the same stuff you get at just about any other market. (Great, now I feel old and jaded.)

The one thing that did interest me were the sweet grass baskets and roses that vendors were making. I’d been thinking about getting one for Mom, but even the small ones were $40-50. Brian pointed out she couldn’t fit a cat in one of those and a cat sized basket was a few hundred. The baskets were beautiful and I’m not doubting the price/value…. I’m just saying that the first time I saw Vickie (the cat) gnaw on a $200 basket I might have a coronary. It was better for everyone that I just got Mom tea.

We took a carriage ride through the city and learned tons about the city, the architecture and our horse, Gary.

For dinner we were just looking for something easy and casual. Once again Charleston had left us both sweaty, tired and not pretty enough for fine dining.

Taco Boy got good reviews on the Find Me Gluten Free app and tacos are always good.

The restaurant was noisy, but our waitress was great. She said we’d be safe with anything that wasn’t fried and just to choose corn tortillas instead of flour. There were several different kinds of tacos to choose from and only a few had anything fried in them that we had to avoid. Brian and I each chose three tacos and loved every bite of them all.

We also ordered a starter of Mexican Street Corn that was crazy good! I’m going to have to find the recipe. Normally I am NOT a fan of corn on the cob…. I pretty much hate it. (Why eat food that is just going to get stuck in your teeth and make you insane when you can buy it already sliced and in a can?!?) By some strange coincidence I’ve gotten corn of the cob twice this weekend and suddenly I’ve decide I love it. Yep, I’m weird like that.

We found the pretty houses on Rainbow Row. They’re pretty and all….. but they look a lot better on the postcards.

We also found the Pineapple Fountain in Waterfront Park.

We had a wonderful time in Charleston and we’ll definitely be back!

Gluten Free in Charleston, SC – Day 2

I did a ton of research skimmed Pinterest and decided to wing our trip to Charleston, SC. Pinterest led me to believe that I would need to visit a plantation, the beach, the City Market, take a carriage tour, visit the rainbow colored houses and see that pineapple-y fountain to conquer Charleston. I suppose I could have asked my friends who have actually been to Charleston, but when has Pinterest ever led me wrong? (Right?)

Day two and so far we’re doing good following our Pinterest itinerary. Pinterest points of interest are sprinkled liberally with Find Me Gluten Free recommendations.

First stop: Glazed Gourmet Doughnuts. The reviews were kinda iffy, but… doughnuts! Apparently, Glazed only offers GF doughnuts on Fridays and they don’t make a ton. Brian and I arrived around 9:30 and they still had enough to give us sugar shock. We ordered two Mocha and one PB & Banana (because Brian doesn’t like peanut butter…. weirdo!) I had to share my Mocha with Brian since I got the whole PB & Banana…. it was good, but I’d rather have had the whole Mocha.

OMG! They were fantastic! They’re not fried (boy, I miss fried doughnuts!) they are a very moist, cake-like doughnut. Super flavorful and delicious.

I was nervous about GF doughnuts from a ‘regular’ bakery, but the staff was great. I overheard the cashier reminding the doughnut kid to change his gloves, but he was already changing them. (Bonus points!)

After a nutritious breakfast we headed out to check off the first ‘Must See’ on our list – Visit a Plantation.

Magnolia Plantation and Gardens came highly recommended by Pinterest, Instagram and the hostess at our hotel. A number of movies (that I’ve never seen) have been filmed at the plantation… if that matters.

Admission to the Plantation was $20/ person and then and additional $5 (August special, normally $8) for each of the tours. We planned to spend most of the day and had brought enough cameras and equipment to shoot everything in sight, so we decided to take almost all of the tours.

Brian and I agree that the Tram Ride was our favorite tour. If you only take one, take the tram (you really should take more though!) The Tram Ride covered a lot of information about the Plantation, it’s history and the family. It also hit the highlights of most of the rest of the Plantation & Gardens. (The House Tour was very good too.)

Since we planned to spend all day we figured we could find something to eat at the Peacock Cafe on the property. Surely there would be a salad or a sandwich we could order without bread…. right? Wrong! The food is all catered in so everything is already assembled (and encased in bread) and no one had any clue about allergy info. I made do with a Sprite and a bag of Lays potato chips. Brian ordered the wrap and ate the insides, which turned out to be one slice of turkey, a piece of cheese and a bunch of lettuce. I realize that I’m the one with the health issue and the world doesn’t have to accommodate me and all that…. but there’s a lot of us GF people out there…. I’d have figured there’d be something that would work. (p.s. Vegetarians, you’re out of luck here too.).

We spent the majority of the day at the plantation so by the time we left we were sweaty, tired and hungry. Now we completely understand why early Charlestonians left and the city and headed north in the summer! If I’d had to wear a hoop skirt or petticoat I would be a little puddle of sweat.

I found Swig & Swine on the Find Me GF app. BBQ sounded tasty and it’s usually gluten safe….. and we were both too sticky to go to a ‘nice’ restaurant.

The BBQ was delish and our waitress was really great about pointing out what was safe and what to avoid. Actually there were only a few items that weren’t gf. I ordered the Three Meat Platter because I was starving and I figured that since I’d only had chips for lunch that I absolutely needed that huge plate of food. (I DID NOT!) Whew! That was a crazy amount of food. Brian and I could totally have shared that plate. It was all delicious…. I did my best…. but I ended up taking most of it back to the hotel.

The Baked Potato Salad was awesome! (I really have to find my own recipe for that so I can make it at home.) The recipes for the bbq sauces were posted on chalkboards in the restaurant. The Sweet Red was gf, but the Mustard had Worcestershire sauce which is generally not gf, so I avoided that one.

After dinner we stopped for cupcakes where I got distracted by the neighboring shops and completely forgot that I’d left my bbq leftovers in the car. Oops! I did find an absolutely adorable hat, so…. it was kinda worth it.

Cupcake Down South only had one kind of GF cupcake that day – Red Velvet. Red Velvet isn’t my favorite cupcake in the whole world….. but it’s still a cupcake.

And, of course, if you bought 5 you got the sixth one free. I did not need six cupcakes! That did not stop me from buying six cupcakes though.

At least we did go straight back to the hotel this time and we stuck them straight into the fridge.

Another delicious, not exactly relaxing….. (but definitely enjoyable!) day in Charleston!

Gluten Free in Charleston, SC – Day 1

I cannot believe that I haven’t posted anything since December! Of course, I haven’t had much free time since December either. My hubby and I run a renovation/design business and we’ve been crazy busy…. which is awesome…. and crazy. Last month I noticed that we had four, whole unscheduled days in the calendar…. in – a – row!! I blocked them off and refused to let Brian schedule anything over them. We were taking a vacation… whether he liked it or not!

Charleston, SC is only five hours from where we live and I’ve heard my friend rave about the city forever. Brian and I’ve never been to Charleston so we decided that it would be a great place to spend a few days walking around, eating and spending quality time together.

Food, of course, being a top priority, we planned for the drive north to land us at Tybee Island’s Crab Shack right at lunch time.

Low Country Boil & Crab Legs

We’ve eaten at the Crab Shack twice before and loved it. There is a huge patio/deck area under these gorgeous trees. It’s beautiful…. and swampy and just fun.

Brian and I ordered the Low County Boil for one and added a pound of crab legs. We told our waitress that we were gluten free and asked her to help steer us away from anything that would make us sick. She didn’t seem super GF knowledgeable, but we’d eaten there twice before and we just ordered the same thing. She did mention that someone had told her that the sausage in the Boil might not be GF (so go check! Ugh!) but I don’t eat it anyway and Brian was willing to risk it. She rattled off the ingredients in the house-made cocktail sauce and included worcestershire sauce which is generally not gluten free. (There are some out there though, so it’s not necessarily not gf, but I wasn’t willing to risk it.).

By evening we’d made our way to Charleston and we were ready to do a little bit of exploring and hunt down more food.

The Find Me Gluten Free app had good-ish reviews for The Obstinate Daughter… and honestly, I just liked the name.

I called ahead to make sure they still had a gf menu and tried to make reservations, but they were already booked for the night. They suggested that we could eat at the bar or patio if we didn’t want to go on the waitlist. (So make reservations if you plan to go!)

The staff were all great, knowledgeable and polite, and the food was delish! There were some GF ‘small plate’ options, but honestly, I was already focused on the pasta dishes and don’t remember any of them.

Brian ordered the Cavatelli (fennel and sausage ragu, parmesan) and I ordered the Bavette (lobster, shrimp, tomato, onion, garlic, parsley, chili flake).

The person that brought our food to the table wasn’t our server, which always makes me nervous, but before I even had a chance to ask he named each dish as he sat it down and said that gluten free pasta had been substituted for the regular pasta.

After dinner we walked a few blocks to the beach to burn off all the delicious pasta that we’d just narffed. The beach was beautiful with its white sand dunes and tufts of sea oats, but I’m relieved to say that I like my beach at home better. (Brian was super relieved too because he doesn’t want to have to move again for a while!) I’ll admit that I am jealous that they seem to have sand dollars. I’ve collected a lot of sea shells and other bits from our home beach, but I still haven’t found a whole sand dollar. I found pieces of sand dollar on the Charleston beach, but still not a whole one.

After all that walking (haha) we went in search of dessert. I’d read reviews for Republic Ice Cream which was located just a few blocks back from the beach. I didn’t even take a picture, I was so disappointed with the whole place. Yes, the lady knew about celiac and she said that the ice cream was GF, but that the cross contamination from the cookies and cream (the ONLY non-gf ice cream) was super high. I might have taken the chance, (I mean, what are they doing? Throwing ice cream around the freezer?!) but I got the impression that she really didn’t want me to eat the ice cream. She kept suggesting the soft serve ‘to be safe.’ Brian ordered a soft serve (blech!) sundae and I just skipped the whole thing. I wasn’t wasting calories on soft serve.

Day one of vacation and half a ton of food consumed and already we feel a bit more rested and like ourselves. We have more adventures planned and more foods to sample tomorrow!

Gluten Free Key Lime Treats in the Florida Keys

When Brian and I visited the Florida Keys recently I made an extensive search of all the Gluten Free Key Lime treats. It was a challenge, but I love my readers…. Diet be damned! I ate every gf Key Lime treat I could find…. ’cause I love you guys! 😁 

Coconut Fried Key Lime Ice Cream

Marker 88
88000 Overseas Hwy,
Islamorada, FL 33036
Not my favorite Key Lime Treat in the Keys. The coconut coating was good, but the ice cream was so frozen it was hard to scoop it up with the spoon. It had to be ‘stabbed’ more than scooped. 


Key Lime Sorbet

Key Largo Chocolates 
100470 Overseas Hwy
Key Largo, FL 33037
Again, not a favorite…. Key Largo Chocolates had good reviews on the Find Me Gluten Free app. Maybe I just got the wrong employee.  She seemed disinterested and not very clear about what would be safe for GF people. 

I was excited to try the Key Lime Ice Cream, but when pressed, the clerk said that sometimes, when one of the frozen Key Lime bars (which do have crust) break in manufacturing they’ll add it to the Key Lime Ice Cream…. so it’s not necessarily safe. The sorbet is gf…. but… it’s just sorbet…. meh. 

They also had truffles and other Key Lime treats at the store, but by the time I’d badgered answers out of the clerk about the ice cream I was annoyed and ready to leave. 


Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Shoppe
802 Duval St
Key West, FL 33040
Kermit’s had great reviews on the FMGF app and they were so right!  

The staff was sweet and helpful. The first day…. (yeah…. I had to go back a second time…) I got a slice of GF Key Lime pie. OMG! It was so good. Rich and creamy… super Key Lime-y…. and NOT geen…. yay!  (because it shouldn’t be green… that’s just dye… yuck!) Brian and I each got our own slice… because I don’t share pie! 


On our second day in Key West we went on a Sailing / Snorkeling / Kayacking tour. Afterward we ate BBQ and then went back to the hotel to clean up (from the salt water, not the BBQ sauce!)  Brian would have been happy to turn in early, but I wanted to find some Key Lime Ice Cream. 

You wouldn’t think it would be so damn hard to find ice cream!  


Here’s a list of where GF Key Lime Ice Cream ISN’T: 

  • Häagen-Dazs® Ice Cream Shop
  • Kilwins Key West Chocolates Fudge (crust in the ice cream) 
  • Mattheessen’s (this place really ticked me off.  When asked, the clerk said it only had ‘little bits’ of pie crust in it. Yeah… ‘little bits’ are still a problem! Grrrr 😡

After checking all the ice cream places close to the hotel and only finding ice cream with pie crust chunks I was annoyed and determined to find GF Key Lime Ice Cream. Brian and I headed back to Kermit’s where I knew they had GF Key Lime Ice Cream. 

Brian wasn’t ecstatic that I made him walk a mile for ice cream, but it was damn good ice cream… and I argued that all the walking burned up all the calories! 

Gluten Free in the Florida Keys

Uggh… that’s so close to rhyming… ‘gluten frees in the Florida Keys’?  Nope…. it’s kinda making me crazy. Maybe I should just change it to ‘What I Ate on Vacation.’ Boring, but the almost rhyme wouldn’t bother me then. *sigh*

Anyway… so Gluten Free Stuff That I Ate on Vacation in the Florida Keys. 

The first day as we drove down the A1A (between St Augustine and the first Keys) we stopped for a picnic lunch along the beach. (Because there are sandy beaches along that stretch, but not IN the Keys.) We’re back on track with our much healither GF lunches… lunch meat, nuts, fruit and water. It’s easy to pack, way healthier, lower carb and travels nicely in the small cooler. 

The Florida Keys are filled with Gluten Free Friendly resturants. You could walk around and eat forever…. which I strongly considered… and tried to argue for, but Brian wanted to be ‘healthy’ and sight see and stuff.  😩

Thank heavens for the Find Me Gluten Free App. I don’t know how any GF person can survive without it!  FMGF was filled with recommendations all throughout the Keys. 

For lunch we stopped at Marker 88 in Key Largo. They had good reviews on FMGF  and the sales guy from the Visitor Center gave us a card for 10% off. 

The food was really good and the staff was polite and helpful with ordering GF safely. They had a separate GF menu and I appreciated that the GF menu was posted on their website. It’s nice to see what’s available before you get to the restaurant. 

Brian and I were even able to stay on our Arbonne Detox plan (a little longer). Except for the Coconut Crusted Deep Fried Ice Cream that we shared for dessert…. umm… but I had to order that for you guys, right?!  I have a responsibility to my readers! 

Brian got the Shrimp Zoodles. My mom has been telling me to make zoodles for forever, but I kept resisting… they just didn’t sound yummy…. Mom was right (As usual) the zoodles were delicious! 

I ordered the Alligator Reef Salad. There’s no alligator in the salad…. but the crab, shrimp and hearts of palm were super yummy. It was served with a Mango Citrus dressing that really complimented the shrimp and crab. 

The Coconut Fried Key Lime Ice Cream sounded better than it actually was.  The coconut crust was good, but the ice cream was super frozen. Obviously it had to be really cold so it could be fried, but it made it really difficult to eat.

Marker 88
88000 Overseas Hwy
Islamorda, FL 33036

_________

By dinnertime I didn’t care about keeping to the detox…. I wanted pizza!  Off the Hook Grill was well recommended on the GFMF app…. for a good reason! 🤤

Brian got the Duck BLT… made with duck bacon. OMG! Sooo good. 


I got the Lobster Pie.  It was good… but also kind of odd, but good…. I liked it, but it wasn’t my favorite pizza ever.  The bits of fig and balsamic vinegar gave it a slightly sweet flavor. Not bad, but I prefer more savory pizzas. The crust was fabulous though! 

Our waitress brought me a sample of the blueberry cider from Slim Pickens Cider and Mead. (A local brewer!) I’m not normally a big cider drinker, but I couldn’t pass up blueberry. It had a nice berry flavor, but not overly sweet…. crisp.   Perfect with pizza. 

We liked the restaurant so much that Brian and I went back the following morning for breakfast. 

Brian ordered the GF pancakes. He liked them, but they weren’t my favorite. They were thick and a bit ‘biscuit’ like. 

Since we were going out on the Sailboat / Snorkel / Kayacking tour that day I didn’t want to eat anything that might upset my tummy. 

I ordered scrambled eggs and duck bacon with a side of potatoes and gf toast. The waiter was great and told us that the potatoes themselves were gf, but since they’re fried there could be cross contamination… but since we were the first customers that morning and they change their oil every day the potatoes would be safe.  I appreciate that he took the extra step to warn me that they were safe this time, but might not be next time. 

The toast seemed to just be Udi’s… I should have told them to skip the toast, but every once in a while I come across something new and yummy. 

Word of warning: the restaurant is tiny.  Seriously tiny… 18 seats at tables and about 8 at the bar. Make reservations! 

Off The Hook Grill
728 Simonton St
Key West, FL 33040
___________

After a fun / tiring day on the sailboat, snorkeling and kayacking we were starved. (They fed us a good lunch on the sailboat, but I tried to stay out of the after lunch snacks… and a day in the water will wear you out!) 

Brian had been craving BBQ. I argued for Mexican, but I caved when I heard that the BBQ place was closer. I was just ready to eat and then go back to the room and get cleaned up. 


The waitress gave us a separate GF menu (single sheet of paper). She didn’t seem very knowledgeable about what was GF or not. I asked if the potato salad was safe and she said she thought it should be safe because potatoes are gluten free. Ugh. We ordered the BBQ Plate for Two. All of the sauces were Gluten Free and we decided to stick with green beans for our sides since they were listed on the gf menu. 

Despite asking for a Gluten Free menu, talking about Gluten Free choices and SAYING that we were Gluten Free they still brought us a basket of cornbread. What?!? (Strangely, the only mention that I can find on their online menu about gf is that the cornbread isn’t Gluten Free… but no other mention of what is or isn’t gf. So why bother?) 

The food was good and we didn’t get sick…. I’m not confident that they had the best understanding of GF…. it seems more like the meats and sauces are gf and if you stick to those you’ll be okay. 

Charlie Mac’s 404
404 Southard St
Key West, FL 33040

_____________


I read some delicious sounding reviews for Le Petit Paris and had insisted that we weren’t leaving Key West until I got to go there for breakfast. 


Cinnamon Rasin French Toast with cinnamon butter and walnuts. *gasp* It was syrup coated heaven! I should have asked what brand of bread they used, but I was so busy stuffing every last bite into my mouth I never managed to ask. It was absolutely delish!  


Brian ordered the GF pancakes. They were…. cute?  Four very small, strawberry decorated pancakes made up Brian’s breakfast. It was almost comical compared to my heaping plate of French Toast. Fortunately for me, Brian doesn’t like raisins, so I didn’t have to share! 

Breakfast was not inexpensive. There was a $4 up-charge for all GF orders… which seems a bit steep to me…. but, the food was delicious. So just go in knowing that you’re going to pay an arm and a leg. (It’s worth it though!) The pancakes were $12 and the French Toast was $11 before the extra $4. Strangely, my French Toast got the upcharge, but Brian’s pancakes didn’t…. I took a bite of his pancakes and didn’t have any issues, so…. 

Le Petit Paris
825 Duval St
Key West, FL 33040

___________

I also made an extensive search of Gluten Free Key Lime treats, but that’s a whole other post. It was challenging, but I love my readers…. Diet be damned!  I ate every gf Key Lime treat I could find…. ’cause I love you guys! 😁  Post coming soon 

The Florida Keys

I’m just going to start his post by saying that I’m a terrible, spoiled snob about my vacation spots. I’ve visited Hawaii several times with my family and Brian and I went to Koh Samui, Thailand for our honeymoon. I warned him that starting off with a five star, tropical island resort was a terrible idea…. I’d expect everything to be that level from then on, but he insisted…. *sigh*  He really has no one to blame but himself. 

So that’s my basis of comparison for everything now. 

Me: It’s not Thailand

Brian: Not everything can be Thailand

Me: 😔

—–

We had some time to sneak off by ourselves for a few days. Since we live in Florida now I thought going to the Keys would be fun… and close…. but it’s not really ‘close.’  From Jacksonville it’s still a five hour drive just to the first Keys and another three to Key West.

I’m perfectally content to sit in the car, listen to music, Snapchat and nap. Brian could probabaly drive forever. We stop at pretty places and I take a few photos and then we drive again…. we’re good Road Trippers. 

We took the A1A or Hwy 1 most of the way down. I’d expected there to be more places to stop along the way… beaches, parks, cute little shops…. but not so much. 

(Brian told me to edit this and point out that there are cute shops, resturants and sandy beaches between Jacksonville and the Keys. Once you get into the Keys things change.) 

We finally stopped at Long Key State Park and learned that the Keys don’t have sandy beaches…. unless you’re at a resort that had sand trucked in. Huh, okay…. We paid our $6 and wandered off into the park. The Ranger told us that we could get to a rocky beach, so we figured we’d give it a try. Or, at least I thought we were going to the beach…. Mr Let’s See Where This Trail Goes led us off on a one mile hike through spider infested woods instead. 


With raccoons. 
When we’d passed the front gate I saw something fuzzy cross the road and I asked the Ranger what it was and he said it was a raccoon. In Missouri when we saw a raccoon durning the day we worried about rabies and distemper because raccoons are usually nocturnal… so Day Racoons = Bad, but the Ranger didn’t seem concerned. 

There were more racoons in the woods along the path… the narrow…. very quite…. spider infested path. 


These suckers were HUGE! (I couldn’t get my phone to focus of them, but I got some good pics on the big camera. I’ll post those when I get back to my computer.) 

The trail was long and hot and kinda creepy. 

We finally found the ‘beach’ which was actually just a strip of road and rocks with ocean on the sides. They had BBQ grills and picnic tables, but not what I was thinking when I heard ‘beach.’ It was fairly crowded already so we decided just to keep heading south through the Keys. 

We hadn’t booked any hotels… I just wanted to wander and see where we landed. Aside from the pictures I’ve seen online I didn’t really know anything about the Keys and I just wanted to take our time. It’s just a bunch of little islands… how lost could we get?  But the lack of planning/destination was just killing Brian. 

We stopped at a Visitor Information Center as we entered Key Largo. I was thinking it was the usual State Travel/Welcome Center that you come across on the highways as you enter a new state…. noooope. This was a commercial travel center. They’re selling shit. 


Now, I’m not entirely opposed to the commercial travel center… they’ve gotta pay the bills too, so if they make a commission for booking my reservations and I get a bit of a deal and good recommendations for going through them then that’s fine. Win-Win. What I am oppose to is the ‘used car salesman’ joking, badgering and juggling. We kept getting tossed between sales people. One did hotels, the other tours. Neither one could focus on the task in front of them or figure out how to use their own damn computer and they were both trying to work multiple groups of people. (Form a line, help each group in order. Duh!)  I’d have left, but Brian was having heart palpitations from the lack of trip planning and reservations. 

This is one of our big differences as a couple: When I’m with a group I plan everything down to the last second. I make itineraries. I have binders. I set alarms on my phone. I am ORGANIZED. I once earned the title ‘Evil Tour Guide Barbie.’  I’ve never lost a vacationer and the pictures always look great. The truth is though…. I HATE traveling like that. It’s no fun for the tour guide to lead 10 whiny people through a trip and answer ‘where are we going’ and ‘what’s for lunch’ ninetyeight times an hour. I like to just wander off and see where we end up. No schedule, no real destination. Brian hasn’t had to play tour guide as long as I have, so he doesn’t quite understand my aversion to ‘planning.’  Usually we compromise by choosing hotels in advance and leaving the days relatively open for wandering…. but this time I tried to skip reserving hotels and it was just killing him apparently. 

So we suffered through the sales pitches and finally got it down to a tour, a restaurant and a hotel. Brian was relieved but I wasn’t even entirely sure what we’d booked or IF it had even been booked at all. The whole thing felt sketchy to me.  (Since we survived the tour and the hotel I can tell you that it had all been booked and it did work out, but this still isn’t my preferred way of making reservations… it felt way too used car salesman-y.  Just know that when you go in and be prepared.)


We got reservations at the Pegasus International Hotel in Key West. The sales lady said it was right in the center of things and they had a special price in it. (We ended up paying $159 a night vs the $200 a night that I saw on Booking.com) The hotel was right in the middle of things…. read ‘noisy,’ but most everything was in a reasonable walking distance. It’s an older hotel, recently remodeled… ‘cheaply.’ (Cheap laminate floors, makeshift upgrades in the bathrooms.). Not high end, but clean and functional. I liked the location because we could walk to most of the stores and resturants, but it was quite noisy at night when all the other people were still out drinking or the trash and delivery trucks were out preparing for the next day. If we visited again I might check out The Garden Hotel of the Southernmost Hotels. They were set a few blocks back and looked pretty.  

I wanted to get some sunset photos so we killed time visiting the shops and taking photos. 

I wanted to get a photo at the Southernmost Point Marker…. but the line was crazy long. (I’d read that it would be.)  Brian and I ditched the line and stood in front of the wall. I caught a few photos in between the groups taking their photos. (We weren’t in anyone’s way, so I figure this is totally fair… I angled Brian’s head to block the couple standing next to the marker and I think we actually got a better photo by being a little further away from it.). 


We also got a photo at the “0” mile marker. 

The shopping wasn’t quite what I’d expected either. I was expecting something more along the lines of (again) Hawaii or Hot Springs, AR with an even mix of art galleries, tourist crap and nicer shopping. There were art galleries, but much more expensive ones, mixed in with ‘tourist crap.’ (Offensive t-shirts, lots of smoking/hookah stuff… I’m not complaing about the cigars,  those make sense here…. and tacky souvenirs.) I was hoping for the local artist galleries… but I didn’t see much of that. Maybe we didn’t make it to the right area?  

There were tons of food options. You could just roam around and eat all day. Even looking for Gluten Free food was easy.  That’s a whole other post! 


On our second day we took a sailboat tour with Danger Charters. It was a bit overcast that day so we didn’t get roasted on the boat, but I think that effected the snorkeling visibility and the kayacking location. 

I’m having trouble rating this tour… to compair it to the snorkeling/catamaran tour in Hawaii or the snorkeling/power boat tour in Thailand isn’t entirely fair….  Partially I think the weather kept us from potentially better snorkeling/ kayacking areas. I loved the sailboat, but I’m pretty happy anytime I’m in a boat.  The water was a murky green as we snorkeled and a darker blue as we sailed…. not the beautiful turquoise that I’d been expecting. 


The crew was great. They fed us constantly (with plenty of gluten free options like fruit, hummas, salsa & chips and a ‘make your own sandwich’ spread of chips, deli meats and cheeses.) and offered wine, beer, sodas and water every time we turned around. 

It was a smallish sailboat with room for twenty passengers and three crew. The crew, food and sailing were great, but I wasn’t impressed by the snorkeling and kayaking… again… consider my basis of comparison. If you’ve never been to Hawaii or Thailand, you’d probably love this tour. 

The Florida Keys aren’t what I expected…. I like em…. It’s not Thailand…. or Hawaii… or New Orleans for that matter (though Key West has some similarities).  If you can swing the air fare, go to Hawaii. Always choose Hawaii. The little islands of Thailand are also phenomenal, but depending of your starting destination the flight time (17 hours from LAX to Bangkok) is a killer. If you’re looking for fancy resorts and beaches I’d suggest Mexico. The all inclusive resorts and air fare are much more reasonable than Hawaii….. but it’s NOT Hawaii either. 

I was plenty happy with a three day trip, but we certainly could have spent more time taking other charter tours. There are jet ski, glass bottom boat, sail boat, kayack, SUP, parasailing and diving tours. There are also the historic walking and tram tours too. If we’d have stayed longer I would have liked to see the Earnest Hemingway house. You can rent bicycles, motor scooter and golf carts to get around since parking is limited and there are a lot of one way streets. Of course that makes things more interesting if you’re trying to walk and not be run over. 🙄

I enjoyed Key West. I’d recommend it…. and I’d be happy to go back sometime…. but I’m not in any big rush. 

Le Cellier Steakhouse

Brian finally managed to get lunch reservation to Le Cellier Steakhouse…. and I was so excited… until I woke up with a raging headache.

The nice thing about living near Disney and having Annual Passes is that it’s not like I’m ‘wasting’ a vacation day if I can’t get going…. but I really, really wanted to try Le Cellier and it’s not the easiest place to get reservations.

I took hot shower, aspirin and chugged a bunch of water….. then I moped around the hotel room and whined for an hour or two. Brian made me eat a banana and drink coffee… which because that cured my headache once, he assumes it should work every time.

I finally felt well enough to venture out… and I figured if the headache did finally kill me maybe the ghosts at the Haunted Mansion would take me in. You know there’s 999 ghost in the Haunted Mansion…. but there’s room for 1000!


Epcot was celebrating their International Flower & Garden Festival… which is GORGEOUS!!! They had a bazillion flowers and topiaries everywhere…. and food vendors. I love the food vendors at the Epcot festivals. The signs are clearly labeled with Gluten Free, vegan and vegetarian options. Most of the booths had at least one GF option. Since I was still whiny about my headache Brian stopped at every booth with a GF offering and made (oh, the torture!) me eat. And drink a bottle of water. I have a bad habit of getting my meals out of wack when I have a headache…. or letting myself get dehydrated…. so Brian just keeps shoving food and water at me until I stop whining.

I ate the scallops too fast to take a picture and Brian wouldn’t let me get another order even though I told him it was for the sake of the blog.

I did manage to restrain myself long enough to take a photo of the Raspberry & Chocolate Creme Macaron though.


We wandered around a enjoyed the topiaries until it was time for our lunch reservation.


Le Cellier Steakhouse is super hard to get a dinner reservation and only slightly easier to get a lunch reservation. It is one of Disney’s Signature Dining Experiences. (If you are on the Disney Dining Plan it will cost you two dining credits.) We’ve been wanting to try it for a while, but just haven’t gotten the chance. By the time we made it to our reservation my headache had mostly faded, but going from the lovely warmth outside to the air conditioned cool indoors made it flare up again. I felt guilty as I poked at my rather expensive chicken.

Poulet RougeAndouille-stuffed Chicken Roulade, Autumn Hash, Acorn Squash Purée, and Ginger-spiced Cranberry Glaze

Brian ordered the Rib-Eye.

Black Angus Rib-EyeCrisp Fingerling Potatoes, Neuske’s Bacon Vinaigrette, Heirloom Carrots, Maple Bordelaise Butter

I didn’t get a photo of the Rib-Eye, but I did manage to steal and eat about half of it…. The chicken was good, but headache-tummy likes steak better. (I don’t understand it either… don’t even try.)

The food was fabulous… even with a headache I recognized that the food was delicious. The restaurant itself was beautiful. Dark and rich looking with gleaming wood and soft lighting. I really wish I’d been feeling better and could have tried more of the menu. My headache just really hated the air conditioning so we didn’t get to stay long. Once back outside I started to feel better. (I’m such a weirdo.)


Le Cellier is defiantly on my list of Must Visit Again places. I’ll try not to have a headache next time!