Tony & Cheri's PlayaZone

Adventures in Playa del Carmen, Mexico

  • Subscribe

  • Top Posts & Pages

  • Categories

  • Archives

  • Blog Stats

    • 864,090 hits
  • Pages

  • Networked Blogs

Posts Tagged ‘st. patrick’s day’

St. Patrick’s Day 2014…when the Luna Blue turns Green!

Posted by Tony & Cheri on March 6, 2014

It happens each year, and St. Patrick’s Day 2014 is no different…the Luna Blue turns into the Luna Green for Playa del Carmen’s biggest St. Patrick’s Day Party.

This year, as always, we will be combining some great Irish traditions with the some south of the border style. St Paddy’s Day in paradise means there will be tequila shots and corned beef sandwiches on homemade rye bread (made by Playa’s very own Grumpy Bakers), Margaritas, Guinness, our very own special St. Paddy’s Day cocktails, and green bikinis in the pool.

It’s a unique Irish-Caribe-Mexican combination you can only find at the Luna Blue.

We are proud of our Irish heritage, grateful to our adopted country and happy to be the biggest and greenest St Patrick’s Day celebration in town.  The bar and pool open at 12 noon to the tunes of our own special Irish playlist. Live music starts at 3, and the party ends at 11 pm (so our hotel guests can still get some sleep!). There will be giveaways, lots of fun, and some interesting surprises. As always, women in green bikinis will get a free drink, and the first green bikini we see in the pool on St Paddy’s Day will receive a $200 peso bar tab!

Please be our guests on March 17th, 2014 at the Luna Blue….home of Playa del Carmen’s original St. Paddy’s Day party. And if you’ve never been to a St. Pat’s Day party at the Luna Blue, here is a slideshow of past years to show you what you have been missing. Don’t miss the fun!

Posted in Activities, Events & Happenings, The Hotel & Bar | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

St Patrick’s Day in Mexico

Posted by Tony & Cheri on March 5, 2012

We love St Patrick’s Day. We always have. It’s right up there with Christmas and Halloween as one of our favorite holidays.

Yes, we are Irish by heritage. Well, at least Tony is. His great-grandfather James Head emigrated from County Kerry in the 1800’s. And even if James was a bit of a scoundrel (drinking was his vice and gambling was his profession) he still managed to leave his descendants a legacy of love for all things Irish. Cheri is mostly Irish by choice rather than heredity, having fallen in love with the country and the people on a backpacking trip through the Emerald Isle after college.

St Paddy’s Day in the Irish Bars of San Francisco

We established our holiday traditions many years ago in San Francisco where a large Irish population joins with other hard drinking citizens each year on March 17 to wear the green and hoist a glass…or two…or twenty. There has never been a shortage of Irish bars in San Francisco, and we had several favorites when we lived there.

Harry Harrington’s Pub is a dive bar where lawyers and longshoreman rubbed shoulders (and sometimes exchanged punches) in riotous old school St Paddy’s Day gatherings; Pat O’Shea’s (sadly no longer in business, whose famous motto was “We Cheat Tourists and Drunks”) lined the bar with cups of beer and whiskey to be handed back through the packed, standing room only crowd; Ireland’s 32 featured pipers, step dancers and live performances of the classic rebel songs while the hat was passed for various Irish causes.

But our favorite St Paddy’s day destination was O’Reilly’s…owned by our old friend Myles O’Reilly who came to America to find fame and fortune. It was, and is, a classic Irish pub with good food and strong drinks and the finest St Paddy’s Day Party in town. In fact the celebration there became so popular that the local government finally just started closing the street in front of the bar to traffic so that revelers could sing, dance, drink and mingle on the boulevard.

Long ago we agreed we would never work on St Patrick’s Day. We took vacation days so that we could spend the holiday celebrating with friends and family. And each year would find us heading home at the end of the day full of beer and corned beef, covered in green beads and glitter, and with the sounds of “A Nation Once Again” ringing in our ears.

Finding Shamrocks South of the Border

When we left San Francisco for the sunny shores of Mexico’s Caribbean coast we were determined to hold onto our St. Patrick’s Day traditions. The only question was how. When we arrived here in Playa del Carmen, March 17 was just another day on the calendar. This or that bar might sell some Guinness or have 2×1 beers but nobody really celebrated “the wearing o’ the green” in the ways we were used to. We decided to change that. We wanted to show Playa how St Paddy’s should be celebrated.

And so it was that when we opened the Luna Blue Bar we held what we believe was the first real St Patrick’s Day celebration in town, and we have been holding them every year since.

What’s a “real” St Patrick’s Day Party?” you might ask. It’s loud, messy, fun and green. There’s corned beef sandwiches and plenty of beer. There’s Jameson’s Irish whiskey, Baileys and Guinness being served. There’s music…from live performers to recordings of Van Morrison, Christy Moore, the Chieftains, Flogging Molly and the Dropkick Murphys. There’s dancing on the floor…and on the bar. There are hugs and kisses and pretty girls stamping your cheek with shamrock stickers or draping beads around your neck. And there are toasts to the Irish…and on St Paddy’s Day the whole world is Irish.

Of course this being the tropics we added some new traditions to the mix…like giving free shots of tequila (or Irish whiskey) to any lady who shows up wearing a green bikini or thong…and like letting people float in the swimming pool among green balloons as they listen to the music and sip their beer (a St Patrick’s Day pool party…only in the Caribbean!). And there is another tradition surrounding St Patrick’s Day here in Mexico: Remembering the San Patricio Battalion.

The Story of the San Patricios

We first heard this story from San Francisco’s legendary bartender, Mike McCourt, who you may know as baby Michael in his brother Frank’s memoir, “Angela’s Ashes.” On a quiet San Francisco day just before we moved to Playa del Carmen we went to say goodbye to Mike. He smiled broadly when he heard the news. “Mexico you say? It’s a fine place where they treat an Irishman like the hero he is.” As he filled our glasses for a farewell drink he told us the story of the Irishmen who had fought and died defending Mexico.

It was in 1846 that young men fleeing the famine back home in Ireland arrived in America only to be shipped off to fight as conscripts in the war against Mexico. Many of the young soldiers saw the war as an unjust action against a poor, oppressed, Catholic population…not unlike the people they had left behind in Ireland. John Riley, a professional soldier and veteran of many battles, led about 200 Irish soldiers in crossing over to fight with the Mexicans in defending their homeland against the Yanks. The Mexicans called them “los San Patricios”… “the Saint Patricks.”  Most of the Irish soldiers were killed in the war. Those who were captured by the US Army were executed as traitors, but here in Mexico they are still remembered as heroes. A plaque listing the two hundred names of members of the Battalion can be found in Mexico City where several times a year bagpipers play in memory of the young Irishmen who gave their lives for Mexico.

A few years ago the famous Irish band, the Chieftains, along with American singer/songwriter Ry Cooder invited some of Mexico’s finest musicians to join in creating a musical history of the San Patricios on CD. We will be playing some of that music here in the bar on St Paddy’s Day as we raise toasts to Ireland, to Mexico and to the heroes they share.

St Patrick’s Day at the Luna Blue Bar

This year the Luna Blue Bar’s Annual St Patrick’s Day Party will be on Saturday, March 17th. We will have some Guinness (in limited amounts), Irish whiskey and plenty of beer and tequila. We will also have corned beef sandwiches…with real corned beef. Trust us…it ain’t easy finding corned beef down here…but we did. There will be plenty of music: local favorite Mike Grabow (who does a great Playa styled version of the Dropkick Murphys’ song “Drink and Fight”) will be playing from 3-7; and the legendary unshod troubadour of the Caribbean coast, Barefoot O’Skinny, will play from 8-11. In between live sets our own favorite Irish music playlist will provide the tunes. As always, ladies in green bikinis and thongs will get free drinks. The pool will be open so wear/bring a swimsuit. We promise a day of fun and surprises.

Please join us if you can…and if you can’t make it, wherever you are be sure to raise your glass high on St Patrick’s Day and say “Slainte!”

Here are some photos of past years’ celebrations at the Luna Blue Bar Saint Patrick’s Day Party.

A green thong will get you a free shot of tequila at the Luna Blue Bar

Ireland meets Mexico in a south of the border St Paddy’s Day

Everybody in green

Our shot girl, Ginger O’Cutie, with a guest

Tony and a bagpiper

Irish Consulate Anthony Leeman came down from Cancun for the celebration. Here he poses with Tony and Ginger O’Cutie.

A typical Tony moment on St Paddy’s Day…surrounded by pretty girls

Nothing says St Paddy’s Day like funny hats

Our friend Rob Kinnon making the most of St Paddy’s Day

It’s always a party at the Luna Blue on St Paddy’s Day

Posted in Activities, Events & Happenings, The Hotel & Bar | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

St. Patrick’s Day at the Luna Blue Bar…the Place to Be on March 17th

Posted by Tony & Cheri on March 16, 2010

The two of us always brag that for all the years we lived in San Francisco, we never worked on St. Patrick’s Day. This was OUR holiday, and the festivities for us would always start around noon. We would join in one of the many celebrations held around the City, which has a very large Irish population, and we would continue in the revelry until we dropped.

When we moved here to Playa del Carmen, we found that if we wanted to celebrate St. Paddy’s Day in the manner to which we’d become accustomed, we’d have to make our own party.

So, while our days of not working on St. Paddy’s Day are over, the work now consists of hanging decorations, blowing up green balloons, making fun drink menus and picking up beer bottles. And this year will be no different.

If you’re in Playa del Carmen on Wednesday March 17, come see how Mexico celebrates Ireland and all things Irish. Stop by the Luna Blue Bar St. Paddy’s Day Party! We’ll have live music from 5-11 pm with Mike Grabow and Brent Parkin, drink specials, Irish tunes, Ginger the Bikini Shot Girl, giveaways, and lots and lots of green fun. We’ll also be celebrating our friend Rick’s birthday.

Wear a green thong & get a free margarita. As always, girls in bikinis drink free.

Luna Blue Bar St Patrick’s Day Special Drink Menu
Loco Leprechaun (Jameson’s, Midori and Lime Juice) – $70 pesos
Jamesons Irish Whiskey – $50 pesos.
Irish Breakfast Combo (Beer & a shot of Jamesons)- $65 pesos.
Having a beautiful Brazilian girl in a miniscule bikini
pour whiskey or tequila right into your open mouth – PRICELESS

Don’t miss the fun. March 17. 5 pm. Luna Blue Bar. Calle 26 between 5th & 10th Avenues, Playa del Carmen.

Click here for pictures of our our last St. Paddy’s Day party

St. Patrick’s Day at the Luna Blue. Not for the timid. 🙂

Posted in Activities, Events & Happenings, Living the Dream, The Hotel & Bar | Tagged: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Our St. Patrick’s Day in Playa del Carmen

Posted by Tony & Cheri on March 20, 2009

The crowd at the Luna Blue bar
Our Green Past
We have always loved St. Patrick’s Day. For the many years we lived in San Francisco, we usually took the day off to celebrate with friends. There was always a St. Paddy’s Day party (or ten), as San Francisco has a huge Irish population. Over the years we celebrated at Harrington’s, Herrington’s, Pat O’Shea’s, Ireland’s 32, the Dubliner, The Plough & the Stars, Fiddler’s Green, Abbey Tavern, The Four Deuces and for the last couple of years, our favorite Irish bar, O’Reilly’s, owned by our friend Myles O’Reilly.

The Irish in Mexico
Here south of the border, things are a little different.  Mexico in fact has history with the Irish. An old friend of ours, legendary San Francisco bartender Mike McCourt (baby Mike in the book Angela’s Ashes, written by his brother Frank McCourt), explained to us once how in his youth he lived for a time in Mexico and was treated royally because of his Irish heritage. Mike was the one who told us about Los San Patricios, or “those of Saint Patrick.” It seems during the Mexican/American war of 1846, many young Irishmen came to fight on the side of Mexico against what they saw as American aggression. Some of them were American cavalrymen who deserted; others were simply Irish immigrants. It’s a fascinating part of history. Here’s a great site to learn more about it. In fact, we have discovered that many Mexican towns have monuments and plaques honoring the Irish who helped defend their country.  They even have a day set aside to honor Los San Patricios, which is September 12.

Party Preparation
However, Mexico does not celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day. So we thought it was our duty as American expats of Irish descent (well, Tony, anyway) to celebrate St. Paddy’s day in style. So…we decided that we’d have our own St. Patrick’s Day celebration at the Luna Blue Bar. Renata, our own little leprechaunWe wanted it to be one of the best St. Paddy’s day parties ever, so we put a lot of thought and work into it. Over the last several months, each time we would return to the US, we would spend some time shopping for decorations, prizes, giveaways…anything green, Irish or related to St. Patrick. We arranged for one of Playa’s favorite local musicians, Chris Bolister, to provide the music for our party. It seemed a natural fit as Chris’s mom is from Ireland, and he is well-versed in the old traditional songs (as well as a couple new outrageous ones whose lyrics can’t be published on a family blog).

As March 17 approached, we kicked it into high gear. Tony designed a poster, and we had a bunch printed up. We took them around town ourselves, hanging them on lampposts and empty fences. We took the same poster and had it turned into a “lona,” a giant poster on a plastic tarp, and hung it in front of the hotel.  At the same time we had another lona made for the party featuring a pretty girl in a leprechaun hat carrying green beer and proclaiming she was Irish and should be kissed. Oh, and did we mention she forgot to wear her shirt? 🙂

We also asked our good friend Renata if she would be our special leprechaun for the party. Renata is one of the sweetest people in the world and happens to dance at a local mens club. She’s beautiful, Brazilian, and has a great sense of humor about it all. She appeared as our special guest at our Obama inaugural party in a stars & stripes bikini she had specially made for the event. She agreed that she would be at our St. Patrick’s Day party in a new green shamrock bikini to help with giveaways, prizes and to pose for photos.

We put together a fun drink menu featuring things like the Irish Dream (Kahlua, Bailey’s Irish Cream and Jameson’s Irish Whiskey), the Irish Pecker (Jameson’s & a splash of lime) and a few other specialities. We ordered enough beer (we thought) for the crowd we expected. Then we sent out the word on the internet to locals and tourists alike. We gave “Kiss Me I’m Irish” buttons and other goofy green stuff to the staff. The day before and of the party we spent decorating the bar with “Happy St. Patrick’s Day” signs, green tinsel shamrocks, and hundreds of green balloons. There were a lot of balloons to blow up, but we had help not only from Genaro and Jorge, but even from some of the guests in the hotel, including a groom-to-be (who is getting married today).  All we needed now were people to show up for the party. As it turned out, we had more than enough of those.

The Party
By the time the party officially started at 7pm, the bar was already filled to capacity and people were overflowing into the hotel courtyard, the garden and the street in front of the bar. One group of about 30 people from Ireland and England who were in town for a wedding, showed up and took over the entire center of the courtyard. They were delightful. We also had a group of lovely ladies who had just arrived from Peru; a group from Iowa who came dressed in shamrock-festooned clothing (Kiss Me I’m Iowish); a young couple who came with their faces painted green; several babies in strollers; a couple of dogs; lots and lots of Luna Blue Hotel guests; a number of local Mexicans; and just about every ex-pat in town. We were packed to the palapa, as our firend Michele said.

Tony with the Dos Equis XX girlsThe great people at Superior beer company (our rep Rosa and her boss) brought us hundreds of little presents to give away. We had Dos Equis XX  lanyards to which we attached small green plastic shot glasses; Dos Equis XX  spring break t-shirts; Dos Equis XX  bottle opener/keychains; green beads; cigarette lighters and tote bags. To this we added our own flashing green headgear; Irish drinking gloves; Guinness coozies; and a bunch of other goodies. We had Renata (who everyone calls Ginger, but that’s another story) pass out many of the gifts. Needless to say, she was a huge hit. The beer company also sent over two young ladies clad in skintight black outfits, proclaiming them to be Dos Equis XX  beer girls. They were cute, friendly and not surprisingly, very popular.

Chris Bolister performed his usual terrific musical set. The poor guy had literally just arrived in town a few hours before and was pretty beat. But he came through as always, mixing some traditional Irish ballads and drinking songs with other popular tunes and some of his own compositions. If you ever get a chance to see Chris, do it. He’s great. And if you’re in town, stop by the Luna Blue and pick up one of his CDs. Or see him live next Tuesday at the Luna Blue Bar.

The Crisis
Around 10pm, with the party in full swing, we congratulated ourselves on once again putting together a fun event. It was just about that time when our friend Rick, a Playa local who was at the bar trying to pick up girls with the help of his cute little dog, Lenny (hey, whatever works), came up to us and announced, “YOU’RE OUT OF BEER!!!” No greater words could have struck fear into our hearts.  After a moment of panic, we found out we weren’t completely out of beer, but we were getting down to the bottom of the cooler.  We had to find a store that would sell us a lot of beer, fast. We asked our beer rep, Rosa, who was still at the party, if she knew where we could go. We might have been a little stressed. Rosa held up one hand to calm us, and with the other whipped out her cell phone. In a moment she had the beer company on the phone and was asking us how many cases we wanted. She gave our order and Cheri asked if it would be cold (frio). No problema. “Frio,” Rosa ordered into the phone. Fifteen minutes later up pulled a truck with our beer. Nobody had to go thirsty even for a minute. And the driver of the delivery van got the added bonus of being able to take photos of Renata in her green bikini with his cell phone camera. Rosa saved the evening!

The party went to midnight when people happily disappeared into the night. Chris went to get some much-needed sleep; Jorge, Nicho and Mario began to clean up the mess; and we put a slightly tipsy leprechaun into a cab home. We finally got to bed around 2 am.

Our Reward
Tony & Cheri's Own Little Beach ClubSince we had worked so late and hard at the party, we decided to reward ourselves the next day with a trip to the beach. Having spent the night with so many people, we now wanted a little quiet time to ourselves. So instead of heading for one of our regular beach clubs, Mamita’s, Blucacao or La Playa, we loaded the van with our own brightly colored beach umbrellas, folding beach loungers, and a small cooler and headed down the coast. We went down to Tulum, stopping first for brunch at one of our favorite places, the Pollo Bronco restaurant. If you’re never been, next time you’re in Tulum check it out. They are a small storefront restaurant on the main highway which runs through the pueblo of Tulum. They have a limited menu, but what they have is delicious. They serve roast chicken (quarter, whole or half) served with coleslaw, rice and potatoes twice baked with cheese. Unbelievably good, especially when you’re really hungry.

Then we headed to the beach. After stopping at a little store for ice, drinks and snacks, we drove down the beachfront road. The beach of Tulum stretches a long way, and there are many excellent beach clubs to be found. But since we wanted something more private, we drove until we found a part of the beach that was free of homes or clubs. Walking through an area of little sand dunes, we ended up on an undeveloped stretch of the Caribbean with our name on it. With no other people around, we set up “Tony & Cheri’s Own Beach Club.” We swam in the blue water, snoozed in the shade of our umbrella, read and listened to our tropical music playlist on the ipod. It was pretty much perfect.

Now, we’re back to work. The hotel is full, and the bar, while not as packed as St. Paddy’s Day, continues to be popular.

Next week we’ll take another day off. Maybe. But first, we have to start planning for next Tuesday when Chris Bolister is back at the bar.

Here are some more pictures of the Luna Blue Bar’s 2009 St. Paddy’s Day Party:

One of our official posters

Jimmy, Claudia & Heather (

The Dos Equis girls & Lenny


Our wonderful beer reps & a friend

Local Jez hitting on some pretty Luna Blue guests

Jez & Renata

Bartender Jorge trying to keep up with a demanding green crowd

Claire & Carlos

The beer delivery guy taking a picture of Renata with his phone

Locals Rob ( and John (

More pretty girls

Chris Bolister with the Dox Equis XX girls

Kevin & Dayna, Luna Blue guests and newlyweds to be (wedding today!!)

Tony & Renata

Locals Rob & Michele ( in a St. Paddy’s Day liplock

Can you get enough of the Dos Equis XX girls?

Check out the cooll hats!!

More gals in green

Renata & Cheri

Rob again, in a goofy beer hat

Folks relaxing in the reception area

Some of the large crazy wedding group from England & Ireland

More folks chilling out

Listening to music from the most comfortable spot in the garden

Chris’s view of the mayhem


More party girls

Chris Bolister

Everyone’s Irish!

Heather ( & Laura (Coco Cat Rescue)

More folks partying in the courtyard

The view from 26th Street

For some more pictures (and always great information about Playa and the surrounding area), check out our friend Michele’s blog, Life’s a Beach.

Posted in Events & Happenings, Friends, The Hotel & Bar | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Buddha, Target and the Blond Giraffe: Our Spring Break

Posted by Tony & Cheri on March 17, 2009

Tony in a garden Cheri at the Heron House with the beautiful Crown of Thorns plant

We don’t often travel without each other. It’s more fun when we do things together, and over the years we have defined our travel roles: Tony maps out where we are going; Cheri arranges the details of transportation and schedules; Tony packs for the trip out; Cheri packs for the trip back, etc.

However recently Tony took off on his own. His growing interest in the practice of Zen Buddhism had lead him over the past year to correspond and visit with Reb Anderson, a Zen Master, or Roshi, who lives and teaches at the Green Gulch Zen Center in Northern California. Reb, whose Buddhist name is Tenshin (meaning “naturally real”), is a renowned teacher who often travels to speak at other Zen centers and address groups around the world. A couple of weeks ago Reb was leading a four day Zen meditation retreat in southern Florida, and Tony decided to attend.

Zen is not a religion (it does not worship Buddha or anyone else) but is a discipline centered on meditation. And meditation is simply sitting quietly and looking within yourself, at your life and at the world around you…which can be a good thing whether done at the end of the day with a glass of wine, walking on a deserted beach or at formal sitting in a meditation hall under the guidance of a teacher.

The retreat was held at a small conference facility. Attendees spent approximately four hours each day in meditation and another three hours attending lectures on the teachings of Buddha. Attendees could also have private discussions with Tenshin Roshi if they wished. Meals were vegetarian (quite a change for steak-loving Tony), and the entire retreat was conducted under a vow of silence. No speaking except for exchanges with the teacher. Wow! What a difference from working at the hotel and bar where we spend the day talking with guests and friends.

The retreat ended on Sunday, Cheri’s birthday. We planned that she would fly to Miami that day and Tony would pick her up at the airport. Starting the next day we were going to drive through the Florida Keys to Key West for our own little spring break vacation. But on Cheri’s birthday, we were going to be in the Miami area. To celebrate, Tony suggested a night at a fancy South Beach hotel and dinner at some hip new restaurant…or any other thing Cheri might want. Cheri’s choice? She wanted to spend the night in Florida City, a small town that is the last stop south before entering the Keys. Why? It had a Target store and a couple of malls!

Key West: the end of Highway 1Life in Mexico is a life without the commercial rat race of the States. In some ways that is very good. We have learned to slow life down and to put “things” in a proper and less important space. Yet we still miss being able to go shopping for whatever we might need or want without traveling from store to store or even town to town to find it. And we miss the selection of items not often available in Mexico (clothes, personal items, English language books, meat marinade, cement screws, etc). So Cheri’s birthday wish was to spend some time shopping, starting with her all-time favorite store, Target.

After emptying Target’s shelves we headed for our hotel, the Florida City Travelodge. Yes, the Travelodge. Again, Cheri passed on some expensive place in Miami and went for the Tripadvisor #1 recommendation. The Florida City Travelodge is not a vacation destination but is a clean, comfortable motel for those traveling to or from the Keys. The next day there was a “little” more shopping (Macy’s, the mall, Office Max, Target again, JoAnn’s Fabrics and a few others) and then we were off to the Keys.

We know of two beautiful vista-filled roadways. The first is the Pacific Coast Highway in California as it winds along the ocean side through the mountains and forests of Big Sur. The second is Highway 1 in Florida as it meanders through the 100 miles or more of the islands known as the Keys.

The highway crosses the biggest keys first. Key Largo and Islamorada are large islands with plenty of development. Houses, stores and people are everywhere. It’s a strange combination of architecture and cultures. There are numerous strip malls, fast food restaurants and souvenir stores. But because of the nearness of the ocean and the gulf, there are also many dive shops and marinas. There are funky little docks filled with sailing boats and weathered cottages everywhere. The sense of being in a tropical, almost Caribbean, part of the world is added to by the sight of palm trees waving in the winds everywhere and the bright colors seen on buildings, boats and most of all on the art and crafts work that seems to be for sale everywhere.

Once past the largest keys the islands begin to shrink and the bridges between them start to lengthen. At this point you begin to have the sensation of driving on the water. To the left is the great darkening blue of the Atlantic Ocean while to the right is the blue-green water of the Gulf of Mexico. As we drove along in the late afternoon the setting sun bathed both bodies of water in a soft glow. If you are looking for a road trip with spectacular scenery, this is it.

The Heron HouseWe followed US 1 until it ended on the little island of Key West…the end of the road, the line and the rainbow for some. We had reservations at the Heron House, a very delightful Bed and Breakfast one street off of Duval, the main drag through the tourist zone of “Old Town.” The “other” Tony and Cheri recommended it to us as they stay there every year during Fantasy Fest. (BTW there will be a Tony and Cheri convention at the Luna Blue Hotel this August when the “other” T&C come to Playa for the first time!) And the management of the Heron House was nice enough to offer us an industry discount when they found we were also in the hotel business.

Our room at the Heron was ground floor and opened via French doors onto the central patio and pool. In the mornings they would fill a sideboard with breakfast foods (one hot dish…eggs one day, waffles the next… and fruits, cereals etc.). It really is a beautiful place. The staff was friendly and attentive and the location couldn’t be beat. Duval Street was just around the corner in one direction, with quiet walks through neighborhoods of lovely homes and flower gardens in the other direction.

In fact the Heron House was such a nice place some people just can’t leave it…ever! Cheri was talking with some of the staff about a beautiful plant in the garden (a Crown of Thorns it is called) when they mentioned that it grew over someone’s grave site! It turns out there are four people who, after cremation, have had their ashes buried in the garden there because they loved it so much. Now that’s customer loyalty.

We had last been in Key West in October for Fantasy Fest, the town’s crazy, adult, semi-dressed weeklong version of Halloween. This time we were looking forward to a less hectic, more laid back trip to visit some of our favorite spots. It was Spring Break, but even with lots of college kids wandering from bar to bar the town still kept its laid back vibe.

Duval Street is the heart of Key West’s “Old Town” with several blocks of stores, restaurants, bars, and clubs. Duval ends on the west side of the island at Mallory Square, a large open area dock/deck where each evening the crowds gather to watch the as the sun settles into the ocean, spraying the clouds and water with a pink coral glow. Food vendors, fortune tellers, craftspeople, acrobats, performers and hustlers of all kinds fill the Square to entertain, and make a little money from, the tourists. Stopping by Mallory Square for sunset is a must whether it’s your first or fortieth time to Key West.

In addition to long walks along quiet streets, we did some shopping on Duval where we got some great decorations for our bar and Cheri picked up what seemed like a dozen little sundresses perfect for Mexico’s coming summertime. We also dropped in a couple of times at the open air dockside Schooner Wharf Tavern to see one of our favorite musicians, Michael McCloud. Michael is old school Key West. He has a huge repertoire of songs including many he has written himself which he delivers with an easy patter of wry humor and comments. We have tried for some time to lure him to Playa to play at our own Luna Blue Bar, but Michael says he likes his quiet life in the Keys too much to disturb it. His wife jokingly says she can’t get him past the ballpark in Miami!

We also spent an evening sailing on the schooner Western Union. An aged sailing vessel, the schooner was built in the thirties and used to make runs between Key West and Cuba. Now it takes tourists out in the evening to watch the sunset from the deck of a rolling ship. The night we went the sea was calm and the sky clear. It was peaceful and sweet.

When we weren’t relaxing we were going to some of our favorite eateries. We ate at: Fogarty’s (which hosts “Red Night” during Fantasy Fest); Cheeseburger in Key West (a sister to another of our favorite places, the Cheeseburger in Paradise on Maui in Hawaii); Kelly’s Caribbean Grill (owned by actress Kelly McGillis and set in a lovely tropical garden…and home to Kelly’s Kinky Carnival during Fantasy Fest); Mangoes Restaurant ( right on Duval with a sidewalk level view of the nightly promenade); and Blue Heaven (the funky chicken roost of a diner made famous both by its breakfasts and the Jimmy Buffet song “Blue Heaven Rendezvous”). Tony also enjoyed stopping at the Five Brothers, a small grocery store out in the neighborhood that has a lunch counter known for its Cuban style coffee. Local workingmen gather there at 7 in the morning for the dark, thick, mud consistency espresso loaded with several heaping tablespoons of sugar and equal portions of steamed milk. What a great way to kick start your heart in the morning.

And of course, the Keys are not only famous for being one of America’s craziest and most beautiful places, but also for the Key Lime fruit which is used to flavor drinks, pastries, candy and above all else…the legendary Key Lime Pie. After much investigation and research on our part, we decided that the best Key Lime Pie in Key West is to be found at the Blond Giraffe Key Lime Pie Cafes. There are several in the area, and they all offer the same sweet but tart, flaky-crust piece of heaven. Sometimes we overindulged and ordered the Pie on a Stick version: a slice of Key Lime Pie, frozen on a popsicle stick, dipped in chocolate which then hardens. OH…MY…GOD. Believe us, it’s very, very good!

After thoroughly relaxing (and gaining more than a few pounds we suspect) it was time to head home to Playa Del Carmen. While we had been on vacation, two of our dearest friends, our almost daughter Sarah and her new husband Adam, were in Playa staying at our home and housesitting our many pets. After returning home, we got to spend a couple of days with the “kids,” which was a wonderful way for us to end our spring break. Now it’s back to work, even if work means running a hotel and bar in paradise.

The other Tony and Cheri on “Leather Night” at Fantasy Fest
The other Tony and Cheri at Fantasy Fest

A typical Key West garden
A typical Key West garden

The garden at the Blue Heaven restaurant
The garden at the Blue Heaven restaurant

The Heron House
The Heron House

Michael McCloud at the Schooner Wharf Bar
Michael McCloud at the Schooner Wharf Bar

The crowd at Mallory Square waiting to watch the sunset
The crowd at Mallory Square waiting to watch the sunset

Chocolate covered key lime pie on a stick. Mmm Mmm Good.
Chocolate covered key lime pie on a stick

Sunset over the Atlantic
Sunset over the Atlantic

Cheri on the sailing vessel Western Union, dreaming of key lime pie

Early in the morning at Five Brothers Coffee Shop
Five Brothers Coffee Shop

A sailboat silhouetted against the setting sun, taken from Mallory Square
A sailboat silhouetted against the setting sun, taken from Mallory Square.

By the way, HAPPY ST. PATRICK’S DAY!!! And if you’re in town tonight, be sure to stop by the hottest party in town, the Luna Blue Bar’s St. Paddy’s Day Party. 7pm to midnight.

St. Paddy's Day Party at the Luna Blue Bar

Posted in Living the Dream, The Love of Travel, Trip Report | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »