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Most of my truly great ideas usually begin with Pearl Jam. To say that I am a PJ fan would be a bit of an understatement – I am actually more of a PJ freak. I have been loving their music, seeing their shows, and following them around since Ten was released in 1991. So when Eddie Vedder’s solo tour was postponed from the spring, I decided to ditch the cold NJ weather, and head south to Ft Lauderdale to see rescheduled 11/30 show. I also decided to use the rest of my vacation days to rent a car and drive down to Key West to chill after the concert.

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I arrived in Ft Lauderdale on Friday morning to balmy & breezy weather. I took a lovely walk along the beach to relax before heading to Eddie’s show. The above photo shows an amazing fish sculpture on Las Olas Blvd & the beach, made completely of plastic water bottles!

I wanted to grab a bite before the show. Since it was a Friday evening, most places were packed. With my tummy rumbling, I stumbled upon Squiggy’s NY Style Pizza . It is a run down hole in the wall kinda place right in the middle of the downtown area. Anyone who was born & raised in NJ is very discriminating about pizza, and Squiggy’s did not disappoint. The slices were huge, the crust was thin & crispy, and there was just the right amount of cheese. My friend & I managed to snag the only table in the place (most people either stand & eat at the counter or order to go); open pizza boxes were used as tablecloths! Squiggy’s also serves beer ($3 domestic & $4 import bottles), so we just stayed there talking to the owner & enjoying the colorful cast of characters strolling in for a slice until it was time for the show. Squiggy’s is located at 207 Southwest 2nd Street, near all of the bars. It is also walking distance to the night’s destination, Broward Center for Performing Arts.

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This is the third time I have seen Eddie’s solo show. He plays small venues for a more intimate experience (this particular theater seats about 2,800). It is also a very casual affair – there is no backing band – just Eddie with his acoustic guitar, electric guitar, mandolin, or ukulele. This show was 2 hours & 20 minutes of sheer awesomeness! He played several tunes from his Ukulele Songs CD, including Tonight You Belong to Me – a sweet duet with special guest Chan Marshall. He also jammed on several songs with Glen Hansard – my favorite was Society from his Into the Wild CD. He played just about every other song from that amazing soundtrack, including his finale of Hard Sun. The set list also included Better Days (from Eat, Pray, Love), the Beatles’ You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away (from I Am Sam), and Neil Young’s Rockin’ in the Free World. the night would not be complete without any PJ tunes. Eddie played acoustic versions of Just Breathe & Unthought Known from Backspacer, I am Mine, and the already raw Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town. While I am hard pressed to pick my favorite moment of this incredible show, I have declared it a tie between a hauntingly beautiful version of Betterman performed on his mandolin, and an acoustic version of Porch from Ten. The energy of both the crowd and Eddie was just as intense during this stripped down version as it is during a PJ arena show. All in all, a completely amazing experience, and a perfect way to begin a vacation!

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Hit the road early the next morning, taking Route 1 South from Ft Lauderdale all the way to Mile Marker 0. Once you hit the Keys, Route 1 becomes the Overseas Highway, and the ride turns very scenic: classic Florida kitsch and the expanse of beautiful blue waters. Stopped off at Bob’s Bunz (Mile Marker 81 on Isla Morada) for breakfast. The portions were generous, the prices were reasonable, and the onsite bakery was scrumptious!

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The Douglas House was so welcoming with its friendly staff and comfortable appointments that I immediately melted into both the adirondack chair on the front porch and that famous Key West vibe. I highly recommend this guesthouse. The location is great – it is right off of Duval Street, but it is closer to Southernmost Point than Mallory Square – making it quiet for sleeping and easily accessible for attractions. The price is also very reasonable. Check out their website if you are planning to stay in Key West:

http://douglashouse.com/

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Sunset Celebration at Mallory Square is a must do! Experience the lively performers – jugglers, flame throwers, street musicians, etc – and shop the local vendors for one of a kind souvenirs. And, of course, stick around for the famous Key West sunset! After, dine on fresh seafood and wash it all down with a cool beer. Since this is Key West, there are many, many choices.

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My favorite meal in Key West was at Blue Heaven (729 Thomas Street in Bahama Village). The place truly lives up to the hype. I opted to go for lunch during the week to avoid the long lines.

Other places I recommend to eat include: Six-Toed Cat (823 Whitehead Street – near Hemingway House) for a hearty breakfast or lunch and Old Town Mexican Cafe (609 Duval Street) for its shrimp & crab burrito and $12 domestic beer buckets.

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If you are in Key West, you must go to Smokin’ Tuna Saloon (4 Charles Street – just off Duval) and see Rusty Lemmons. The crowd at the Tuna is more mellow than the typical Duval scene and the music mix ranges more towards blues, southern rock, classic rock, and alternative country than pop. I had the pleasure of getting acquainted with Rusty while I was in Key West, and not only is he an outstanding performer and talented musician/singer/songwriter, but he is also a warm, friendly, genuine person. He brings such soul to his set, whether he is playing If I Had a Boat by Lyle Lovett, Up On Cripple Creek by The Band, or one of his original songs.

These two bars Are notable for their great happy hour specials. The Lazy Gecko (203 Duval Street) has BOGO from 5-8 (5-Midnight on Sunday & Monday). Two Friends Bar (512 Front Street) has half price appetizers (try the conch fritters) and the best slogan on the island: “No greater love than the enduring, tender love…of one drunken friend for another.”

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Since my blog is primarily about jewelry, I decided to round out my little travelogue with some of the treasure I brought back from Key West:

The bright turquoise flower ring at the top of the photo is made from leather and only cost $5 at Toko Indo (513 Duval Street.) This is a great little boutique with fun finds from my favorite place on the planet, Bali.

The sterling silver & blue opal crab pendant is from Local Color (425 Green Street.) The selection of sterling jewelry here is vast, the prices are fair, and the service is friendly without being pushy.

The luminous teal fused glass pendant is a one of a kind find from a vendor at Mallory Square.

The last pendant, a beautiful pink and yellow mandala, was purchased from my favorite boutique in Key West, Wanderlust (310 Petronia Street.) All jewelry is locally made, and all clothing and other fashion accessories are from up & coming indie designers. Definitely check it out next time you are in Key West.

Always remember, when traveling, leave only footprints and take only memories (& a really great piece of locally crafted jewelry!)

Peace, Love & Pearl Jam!
~Erin

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