Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Island Fish Co

On day 4, from Dry Tortugas, the ferry arrived back to Key West at 5:30pm. We shopped for souvenirs and then drove back to Miami. Along the way, we looked for someplace to eat just by simply touching a button on GPS. Lo and behold, it brought us to this fantastic restaurant and Tiki bar called The Island Fish Co, in Marathon.

The restaurant is divided into 3 sections: restaurants, tiki bar and souvenir shop.

I craved for Oyster Kilpatrick (Oyster topped with bacon and Worcestershire sauce). My eyes lit up when I saw there are a lot of Oyster menu. It was comparable to the Oyster Kilpatrick back in Australia. It seeems like the Oyster Kilpatrick is an Australian dish since all references/ recipes I found were mainly from Aussie site.

The Island's Oyster Combo $8.95. 2 of Baked BBQ Oyster topped with bacon and pamersan cheese. 2 of Oyster Rockefeller: baked oyster with spinach, parmesan cheese and Pernod liquor. 2 of Baked Key Lime Garlic Oyster, topped with garlic butter and bread crumbs. My favorite was the one with bacon. Everything with bacon is always nice.

Prime Ribs $19.95. Tender prime cut seasoned & grilled to perfection. Served with new potatoes & sautéed vegetables. The steak was very special, it was so soft like stewed beef but not quite "stewed".

Caribbean Special $18.95. Pan Seared Grouper with pineapple salsa, black beans & Chef's rice.

Pasta Basilico with Chicken $15.95. Vine ripe tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, parmesan cheese & fresh basil over linguini

Chicken Wings Island Platter 8.95. One dozen choice of mild, medium or hot chicken wings. Served with fries and coleslaw.

Ultimate Chocolate Cake $4.95. A house specialty baked on the premise, flourless, with two layers of chocolate served with raspberry puree and whipped cream.

Deep Fried Key Lime Pie $4.95. Key Lime Pie deep fried crispy, rolled in cinnamon sugar and drizzled with mango sauce. Finally served with whipped cream.

We ate so much, it was nice to try different type of food. The food was fantastic. We laughed so much during the dinner listening to Abhishek's lifestory. After the dinner, got back into the car and heading back for Miami. We arrived back at the hotel at 11 pm. It was an eventful day.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Vacation Day 4: Dry Tortugas

70 miles (113 km) west of Key West, out over the emerald water of the Gulf of Mexico, lies a cluster of seven island called Dry Tortugas. The area is known for its famous bird and sea life, and its legends of pirates and sunken gold. The name "Tortugas"(Turtles) was given by the Spanish Explorer Ponce De Leon in 1513 due to abundance of sea turtles. "Dry" because none of the islands have fresh water.

On the 4th day of the trip, we went for Dry Tortugas ferry which embarked from Key West. We left hotel 6 am in the morning as it took around an hour to get to Key West.

The boat trip included breakfast and lunch. I decided to eat on the deck eventhough it was windy. When the ferry set sail, it was even windier and so .. my breakfast flew. Half way the trip, the sea was choppy. Virteeka and I started to experience bad sea sickness.

Due to the location, it was impossible to get to Dry Tortugas by private boats. Trip to the island was pricey but really worth it. Seaplanes are available at $229/person and 40 minutes travel time. The ferry cost us $154/person with 2.5 hours travel time. Both provides around 3 hours of "island" time.

Our destination was Fort Jefferson, which is located on one of the islands in the Dry Tortugas. Fort Jefferson is a six-sided building constructed of 16 millions handmade red bricks. It is the largest 19th century coastal fort. Begun in 1846, construction continued for 30 years, but never finished. During the Civil War the fort was a military prison for captured deserters. The most famous convicted being Dr. Samuel Mudd, who set the broken leg of John Wilkes Booth during his escape in the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.
Aerial view of Fort Jefferson. Image taken from Wikipedia

We had to take all our belongings from the ferry as they had to clean it. We just put them on the beach. As I stepped out of the ferry, see the crystal clear water and instantly my sea sickness gone!

Inside Fort Jefferson.

View of garden, taken from top floor of Fort Jefferson.

When we walked to outer side of top floor, we could see gulf Mexico. OMG, it was sooooo beautiful. Never have I seen water so blue before. (no Photoshop adjustment, except for image resize)

Looking out through window of a gun room oon second floor.

Moat surrounding the fort.

Some damages occured due to poor foundation. Others due to hurricane.

There was a 1/2 hour guided tour which Jon and I missed because we were excited to take pictures. We really would have walked the whole Fort, but due to limited time, had to give it up.

After touring part of the fort, we went for lunch back on the ferry and proceeded to snorkle straight after. By the time we started snorkeling, it was a little cloudy, looked like it was going to rain. Purchased a disposable underwater camera, had lots of fun taking pictures underwater. It was so difficult to take picture underwater due to the fact that we were wearing those big sized goggles which made it extremely difficult to see thru the "view-finder" of the camera.

Then, all of a sudden, it started to rain. We started to swim ashore. So did everyone else, trying to safeguard their belongings from getting wet. The only shelter were the changing rooms or the ferry, which located some distant from the beach. Upon arriving back at the changing room areas.... and just when it was my turn to use the changing room, the rain stopped... Grr.

The boys went back snorkeling.

Jon lost the disposable underwater camera during the "run for shelter". Only the camera strap was attached to his finger... . He couldn't find it, so there goes all our snorkeling photos.

I really love this place, it is so isolated, surrounded by cyrstal clear blue sea. There was this lady said that she has been to so many places in the world and she's never seen water so clear like this before. Even though the voyage back and forth isn't exactly "smooth sailing", we totally enjoyed the trip. It was a great experience.

Related posts: Day 1 - Miami, Day 2 - Marathon, Day 3 - Key West

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Happy New Year

Happy New Year 2008. Hope 2008 will bring Happiness and Luck for everyone.
This is my first time celebrating New Year in New York. The decision to takepart in this first and last NYC celebration was partially due to to fact that Jon's cousin, Jasmine, visited us all the way from midwest, Winsconsin specially for New York City Times Square EOY countdown and fireworks.

"Each year, millions of eyes from all over the world are focused on the sparkling Waterford Crystal Times Square New Year's Eve Ball. At 11:59 p.m., the Ball begins its descent as millions of voices unite to count down the final seconds of the year, and celebrate the beginning of a new year full of hopes, challenges, changes and dreams. " (Times Square NYC)

Image from Times Square NYC

The crystal ball would be placed on the building on 45th street (red square). Good location to see countdown and ball drop would be in bow tie area (red line). As Jon couldn't finish work earlier, Jasmine and I went earlier at 4:30pm. It was so crowded, roads were closed, police only allowed people with hotel pass or employee pass to get in. We were only allowed to enter from 52th street (point 1) and walked to 50th street (point 2) where there were barricades surrounded the block. The block infront was vacant. We were told that police would open the barricade and we would be able to move forward at a later time. Many people wanted to get out of barricade to buy food or head off to the washrooms, however they were told if they got out of the barricade, they will not be able to join in again... talk about one way eh?

We waited there for 2.5 hours before police let us move forward. A small portion of the barricade was opened up. It was the scariest moment ever. Jasmine and I held hand so we wouldn't lose each other. People at the back kept pushing, not knowing that it was only a small exit in front. We were sandwiched between people, all trying to be "funnelled through the bottlenecked barricade. People kept pushing while the front couldn't move, I couldn't breathe and I started to get so worried. I couldn't see the road, I just moved where people pushed me. Somehow and sometime later we eventually moved 1 block forward.

We arrived at 49th street (point 3). Every hour, there were countdown for other countries, displayed on the LCD screen. When it was 6pm, the crystal ball was raised to atop One Times Square building. To be honest, the ball seemed a little tiny. I expected it was bigger since it was the highlight of NY Times Square countdown.

As soon as Jon finished work, he came to join us. It took us almost 3 hours to get to our current point and it only took him 20 minutes from his office. Road were closed, how did he get in?? He simply flashed his employee swipe card. LoL. Hmmm wonder how that worked. There were lots of people wearing tall hats... arghh.. blocking my views!

Standing there 1 hour, we then allowed to move 1/2 block forward. We ended staying at point 4. (Thank God the tall hat guys were gone) As crowd realised it was impossible to move forward anymore, everyone was more relaxed. Got to know people around us from all over the world. Met some aussies as well, singing songs got into some interesting was getting better.

Countdown started at 11:59pm. There were a lot of balloon on the sky. I was busy videotaping and kept moving so I could get better view for my video. In 2 minutes, everything was over. My first comment was "what????That's it? Where has the ball gone?" I had to replay my video to see what happened, that was pathetic. So this was what happened. As countdown began, the ball slowly descent. When countdown arrived at 1, 30 seconds worth of firework fired from the building and confetti being thrown by people from the top of buildings around Times Square. I kinda expected more. I waited 7.5 hours in the cold, without going to toilet and standing for the whole night just to see the small crystal ball and 30 second fireworks?????? That was a big disappointment! I could see firework behind me which came from Central Park but it was far and half blocked by buildings.

Lesson learnt: don't bother to take video, there is always better version in YouTube.

Confetti on the road and confetti shower (not captured well with my camera).

New York Times Square 2008.

To my horror, when I was typing this post, I searched some info on the said-to-be-world-famous-sparkling-crystal-ball, I read this line "Click here for a New York Post video of the New Year's Ball currently on display at Macy's Herald Square through December 10th." OMG, that was the ball? The ball that was displayed in Macy (department store). I would have taken photos with it back then if it wasn't so crowded. That was the ball that people all over the world are dying to see in Times Square.. *banging my head*

These photos were taken by my father in law during his visit to NY

The crystal ball wasn't even 1/4 the size of Sydney Disco Ball for NYE2004. Both Sydney and NY are in Top 10 destinations for New Year's Eve. But NY celebration is nothing compared to Sydney.

Sydney always puts big show on NYE. Sydney has an advantage being a harbour city, using Harbour Bridge as centre piece and water to create mirror effect. Every year there is different theme for NYE celebration and icon related to the theme will be constructed at the centre of the bridge. This year icon was hourglass to symbolise the theme "Time of Our Lives." It was the biggest celebration ever, with new Pyrotechnic effects including 3D fireworks and it was the first time that bridge icon was animated. Too bad I missed it.

Sydney 9pm fireworks with new 3D pyrotechnics.

Sydney midnite firework. With new pyrotechnic effects on the bridge and animated hourglass icon. Spinning hourglass could be seen better if standing right in front of the bridge.

I always like the end part of Sydney Harbour Bridge firework show, the waterfall effect.

Image from

I like London firework too, it was cool. I like the water spinning effect at 05:00 of the video.