Food and Fun in Key Largo

The diving off of Key Largo is great but we also had a lot of fun in town. Live entertainment and new restaurants were two themes of the week.

Eileen and I both liked the hotel. This was my second stay at the Courtyard Marriott at mile marker 100. One advantage of the hotel is that it’s located right next to the Rainbow Reef dive boats and not far from Coconuts restaurant.

Key Largo 2012 - Courtyard
By Eileen Moran

This year we had a 3rd floor room facing east. On Sunday morning we woke to an impressive sunrise outside of the balcony door. This was the first trip I have been able to enjoy the sunrise like this.

Key Largo 2012 - Sunrise July 8
Key Largo 2012 – Sunrise July 8

I have been going to Coconuts at the Marina Del Mar Hotel since my first trip to Key Largo in 2005. It’s close to all four hotels near the “fishing village” at mile marker 100. This means it’s in walking distance, which is nice after you have had a few (or a few too many).

Photo by Eileen Moran

Coconuts has an outdoor dining deck and a bar under a large tent.

Key Largo 2012 - Eileen at Coconuts

Happy hour is from 4pm to 6pm. In addition to drink specials you can get appetizer specials from the raw bar. We enjoyed our share (and then some) of peel-and-eat shrimp from the raw bar during the week.

They have nightly live entertainment on the deck from 6 to 9pm. I was pleased to see that some of my favorite musicians from years past were still playing on the deck.

Key Largo 2012 - Kim at Coconuts
Kim Bankston at Coconuts. Photo by Eileen Moran.

On Tuesday evenings you can listen to Kim Bankston perform. This guy in incredible! During the show he plays the saxophone, xylophone, and guitar in addition to singing. Website CD Baby tells us,

“Kim Bankston is a truly gifted multi-talented musician.he plays a variety of instruments including vibes,and marimba,and is also a gifted singer as well. He brings a fresh new sound to the music scene with a mixture of contemporary jazz,R&B,Island,and beautiful love songs.”

I just discovered that he has published three CD’s which can be purchased at CD Baby.com or on iTunes.

Eileen with Key Largo musician Bobbe Brown

A long time favorite entertainer at Coconuts is Bobbe Brown. Bobbe plays a lot of classic rock and singer songwriter hits from the 60’s and 70’s. He tells the crowd to, “Request your favorite songs”. However he seems to play many of my favorites without a requests, which is really cool.

A few examples of songs he plays include:

  • For What it’s Worth by Buffalo Springfield
  • Brandy by Looking Glass
  • Carefree Highway by Gordon Lightfoot
  • Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is? by Chicago
  • Stormy by the Classics IV
  • How Long by Ace
  • Never my Love by the Association
  • Ain’t No Sunshine by Bill Whithers
  • Plus dozens of other hit songs

He often jokes that he is required by contract to play Jimmy Buffet songs. I suspect he says this for the benefit of the locals who are probably sick of the songs. However I like Buffet’s hits and Bobbe does a great job playing them. It seems right to hear some Jimmy Buffet songs while in the Keys.

Key Largo 2012 - Mark with Bobby Brown
Mark with Key Largo musician Bobbie Brown.
Key Largo 2012 - Sunset from Coconuts
Sunset from Coconuts

We caught this nice sunset from the Coconuts bar. The sunset was even better since we were at a bar, enjoying good food and drinks while listening to good live music.

The Key Largo Conch House came highly recommended by several friends that live in Key Largo. This is a place I  had wanted to go since my 2011 trip to Key Largo. The Conch House is close enough to the hotel so that we could walk there.

Key Largo 2012 - Courtyard

The Key Largo Conch House is a small one room restaurant with outside seating on the porch.

Key Largo Conch House
Inside the Key Largo Conch House – from http://www.keylargocoffeehouse.com/

The daily sangria special is a treat. My favorite is the Very Berry sangria followed by the Star Fruit sangria. Eileen got a frozen smoothy drink that is tasty. Of course we had to try their award winning conch chowder. I also enjoyed a piece of their award winning Conch House key lime pie with a glass of milk.

A large flat screen TV inside the restaurant was showing a fantastic HD video featuring many of the best dive sites in the upper and middle keys. It was cool to see some of the sites we had recently been to while eating and relaxing.

Key Largo 2012 - Mark at the Conch House
Mark at the Conch House near the man vs. Food banner.

The Conch House is featured in an episode of Man vs. Food Nation. Host Adam Richman tried the Conch House conch fritter eating challenge. Naturally I had to get an order of the same fritters.I have never had a fritter before and was not sure what to expect.I discovered a conch fritter was conch mixed with vegetables mixed with flour, eggs and milk then deep fried. It was served with a really good dipping sauce. The Conch House fritters had a faint curry taste and smell. There were good but I could see how they could fill you up fast.

The place is surrounded by lush trees, plants and flowers teaming with birds and lizards. On one of our visits we spotted this small Brown Anole lizard watching us from a tree. Eileen was able to get pretty close for a photograph before it darted off.

Key Largo 2012 - Conch House Brown Anole Lizard
Brown Anole Lizard at the Conch House in Key Largo by Eileen Moran

Since this article is about fun as well as food I have to mention our jet ski rental experience.  I had rented a jet ski down in Islamorada on a previous trip and had a blast. This time I tried Keys Skis.

Key Largo 2012 - Eileen on a Jet Ski
Eileen on a Jet Ski

Keys Skis is located just down the road from our hotel at Key West Inn. The rates were among the lowest in the immediate area.

Key Largo 2012 - Mark and Eileen on a Jet Ski
Mark and Eileen on a Jet Ski

We went out the boat canal along Ocean Blvd and Ocean Cay to the ocean side of the island. We were allowed to ride in an large area between the boat channel and shoreline for an hour. I had the jet ski up to about 30 mph at one point. We both got totally soaked. I even got some video footage from the experience.

Key Largo 2012 - Eileen near the African Queen

Key Largo is also home to the African Queen. It is the actual boat used in the movie staring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn. During the last few years I had noticed the boat was showing its age. During this trip I was happy to discover that a local businessman, Captain Lance Holmquist and his wife Suzanne, had undertaken the job to restore the boat. They have done a wonderful job! You can even go out on the boat for a short cruise now. The boat is now powered with an outboard motor, there is a fund-raising project underway to restore the boiler to power the boat.

Key Largo 2012 - Sunrise July 13
Sunrise on Friday July 13 2012 in Key Largo, FL

On Friday the 13th we were treated to another amazing cloud formation and sunrise from the balcony.

Sadly our stay ended on July 14th when we flew back to New Hampshire. We both hope to go back to the Keys soon.

The Three Musketeers

The Three Musketeers book coverI finally read the Three Musketeers after finding the e-book for free at Barns & Nobel. My only real exposure to the The Three Musketeers previous to reading the book was the 1993 movie staring Charlie Sheen, Kiefer Sutherland and Chris O’Donnell as D’Artagnan. Although I discovered it did not exactly follow the book, I enjoyed it because of the actors.
Upon doing some more movie research i discovered that most of the movies that have been released did not closely follow the book either. The 1973 movie titled the Three Musketeers and 1974 movie titled the Four Musketeers seemed to do the best job staying true to the story. Hopefully I will get the opportunity to watch these movies at some point.

Reading the book did inspire me to do a little historical research about the siege of La Rochelle and the conflict in France between the Catholics and Huguenots (Protestants). One of the better resources I found on the siege is on Blog named Impact and Salvo.

In the story Milady de Winter convinced John Felton to help her escape imprisonment in England and kill the Duke of Buckingham, George Villiers. Through the History Learning Website I discovered that John Felton was the person that actually murdered the Duke. Although his motive in real life was different from the book, Dumas did a wonderful job including actual historical figures in the plot of the story.


2011 Reading List

In 2011 I finally created a list of the books I had read throughout the year. I was inspired to do this after reading the Louie L’Amour autobiography, Education of a Wandering Man. He kept similar lists, which he published in his book.

I picked up River of Death by Alistair MacLean early in the year. It was so good that I started buying more and ended up reading seven of MacLean’s in 2011. The Game of Thrones HBO series and the upcoming release of Dancing with Dragons inspired me to read George R.R. Martin’s masterpiece series again. It made it easier to pick up the story when reading Dancing with Dragons. Another pleasant surprise this year was the Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins. I am looking forward to the Hunger Games movie which should be out in March 2012. Towards the end of the year a Facebook post and conversation inspired me to read the Nero Wolfe series by Rex Stout in the order they were published. I always liked Nero Wolfe mysteries.  I have owned and read three or four of the books but did not realize Stout wrote so many. The Wikipedia article informed me that Stout wrote ” 33 novels and 39 short stories from 1934 to 1974.” I’m sure that will take me well into 2012 and maybe 2013 tread them all.

  1. Serpent by Clive Cussler
  2. River of Death by Alistair MacLean
  3. Towers of Midnight by Brandon Sanderson
  4. The Jungle by Clive Cussler
  5. Ice Station Zebra by Alistair MacLean
  6. The Walking Drum (Re-read) by Louie L’amour
  7. A Game of Thrones (Re-read) by George R.R. Martin
  8. A Clash of Kings (Re-read) by George R.R. Martin
  9. A Storm of Swords (Re-read) by George R.R. Martin
  10. A Feast for Crows (Re-read) by George R.R. Martin
  11. A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin
  12. Smoking Seventeen by Janet Evanovich
  13. The Kingdom by Clive Cussler
  14. The Eiger Sanction by Alistair MacLean
  15. Shibumi (Re-read) by Trevanian
  16. Where Eagles Dare by Alistair MacLean
  17. The Spy by Clive Cussler
  18. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  19. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
  20. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
  21. HMS Ulysses by Alistair MacLean
  22. Guns of Navarone by Alistair MacLean
  23. The Race by Clive Cussler
  24. The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
  25. When Eight Bells Toll by Alistair MacLean
  26. Fer-de-Lance by Rex Stout
  27. The League of Frightened Men by Rex Stout
  28. The Rubber Band (Re-read) by Rex Stout
  29. The Red Box by Rex Stout
  30. Too Many Cooks by Rex Stout
  31. Some Buried Caesar & The Golden Spider by Rex Stout
  32. Explosive Eighteen by  Janet Evanovich
  33. Over my Dead Body by Rex Stout
  34. Where There’s a Will by Rex Stout

When Eight Bells Toll – Book and Movie Comparison

When Eight Bells Toll Book CoverJust as I was finishing the book When Eight Bells Toll, I found the movie on the Hulu Website. I wondered how well this film was adapted from the book. They did well with the adaption of Where Eagles Dare. They did not do so well with the adaption of The Guns of Navarone  and Force 10 from Navarone.

As stated in Wikipedia, “The story is very close to the novel, and features some of the same witty dialogue – not surprising since MacLean elected to adapt this film himself. Some of the twists in the ending have been changed, however, and an explosive shootout replaces MacLean’s original Agatha Christie-style summation.” Anthony Hopkins did a fantastic job in the role of Philip Calvert. I would recommend both the book and the movie.

Alistair MacLean Novels on my 2011 Reading List

Alistair MacLean has always been one of my favorite authors. Barnes and Noble has been publishing many of his popular novels in ebook (EPUB) format.  There were some books where I had seen the movie adaption but had never read the book. There were other MacLean ebooks I had not read at all yet sounded good.

My first MacLean novel of 2011 was River of Death. This was one I had not read before. The story was excellent and exceeded my expectations.

The next book I read was Ice Station Zebra. This was one where I had seen the movie many times but had not read the book. The book was slightly different from the movie but still a dam good story.

Going on the movie theme the next MacLean novel I selected was Where Eagles Dare. I loved the movie. The movie followed the book very well except for one interesting exception. In the book Lieutenant Schaffer (Played by Eastwood in the movie) would call Major Smith “boss” when speaking to him. Thankfully they changed that for the movie script. I can’t see Schaffer as portrayed by Clint Eastwood calling Major Smith “boss.”

The next MacLean novel I selected was HMS Ulysses. This was his first novel which he published in 1955. It’s an excellent World War II story “based on the ill-fated Convoy PQ-17.”

I just started reading The Guns of Navarone. This is another example where I had seen the movie and had not read the book. I plan to move right onto Force 10 from Navarone for my next book. It will be interesting to compare Force 10 with the movie.

Movie Review: The Dark Knight

The Dark Knight finally hit Pay per View! It has been on my list of movies to see since it was released. This is another film by Christopher Nolan, producer of Batman Begins.

It was as good, if not better than everybody said it was. It set a tone to the story that was more realistic and less “comic strip like” than previous Batman films. There is a lot of potential for another sequel film in the same style and cast of characters.

Heath Ledger did a fantastic job as the Joker! Ledger’s unexpected death and the subsequent success of the Dark Knight have been mentioned as one of the top entertainment stories of 2008. He has recently been nominated for a Golden Globe award. A Reuters.com article even mentioned for a “rare posthumous Oscar recognition.” I would vote for him! What do you think?

New movies and upcoming releases

10 to Yuma

Summer stated out with some disappointing movies but a few fall releases look promising. 3:10 to Yuma looks like a good story. It’s a western staring Russell Crowe as outlaw Ben Wade and Christian Bale as Civil War veteran Dan Evans. Wade (Crowe) is arrested and Evans (Bale) takes the job to deliver him to the train that will take him to trial. Wade’s outlaw gang is hot on their trail with plans to free their leader.

The movie opened Friday, September 7th. I noticed the Nuggett has the movie but I did not see it listed on Entertainment Cinema Website.

The Brave One staring Jodi Foster is an upcoming release to watch for. Foster stars as radio talk show host Erica Bain, a woman on a quest for vengeance. The previews on TV look good. I bet Foster will deliver an intense performance.

Another upcoming thriller is Eastern Promises starring Viggo Mortensen. It looks like the plot involves the Russian Mob and takes place in Europe.

If anyone watches 3:10 to Yuma, be sure to leave a comment and tell us what you thought about the film. Anyone see the Bourne Ultimatum? Was it good?