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Trip Report Key West Trip Report

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I want to thank everyone on the U.S. Forum who helped us plan this trip. The advice is always spot-on!

We flew US Airways from NY to Miami which was a welcome treat after flying AA the week before to San Diego. The US Airways plane was clean and new as opposed to the AA plane which seemed incredibly dingy and dirty. The US Airways gate personnel were also very helpful in getting us upgraded seats. From there we rented a car and began the drive to KW. Surprisingly, we used less than a half-tank of gas on the drive. Once you hit the Keys, the views are great and despite being a hundred miles or so away from your destination, you already feel like you’re on vacation.

We made a reservation at the Marquesa Hotel after reading the very positive reviews on TA. The Hotel is just as lovely as billed. We were greeted by the manager who brought us complimentary glasses of wine and helped us settle in. We had a Junior Suite with a private balcony which was especially nice for relaxing before dinner. The room was beautifully decorated, with a very large separate living room and a large bathroom. I only had one complaint about the hotel: breakfast really should be included with the price. The hotel offers breakfast room service for $10pp to enjoy either pool side or on your terrace. While it’s true that there are a number of places to buy breakfast outside of the hotel, it would be nice to have it served free of charge on the terrace. Of course, $10 is not all that much to pay for breakfast, but when you’re already paying $495/night, it really should be included. Another note: when making your reservation, be sure to request a room away from the street. While KW is not all that noisy, the scooters driving past in the wee hours of the morning were something of a nuisance. Despite these minor quibbles, we really loved the Marquesa. The pool area was tranquil and quiet and the hotel hosted a wine and cheese hour one night which was very nice.

We dined at B.O.’s Fish Wagon the first night because it was an easy walk from the hotel and we’d read such good reviews about it here on Fodor’s. The grouper sandwich lived up to its billing, and accompanied by a beer and some live music, it was a fantastic first dinner.

We began our first full day in KW by the pool, but by 11 or so were ready to head out and explore the island. We began by walking around, wandering up and down the side streets to admire the great houses and beautiful gardens, and eventually made our way to the Mallory Square area. We saw the Conch Trolley Tour and not knowing much about it, bought tickets and boarded. While parts of the tour were entertaining, we found that there was simply too much information to absorb given the quick pace at which the tour was run. It also didn’t help us get our bearings on the island. I wouldn’t recommend the Tour for people who like to explore at their own pace. We didn’t realize that it wasn’t the type of the tour that allows people to get on and off at the various stops. Fortunately, once the tour took its halfway break we were able to escape. We went to the Lighthouse and climbed to the top for the views which were very nice. For lunch, we walked down to Santiago’s Bodega. It was quiet, and with the windows open and the breeze blowing through, a very relaxing spot for lunch, particularly with the yummy white Sangria. From there, we returned to the hotel to relax by the pool until sunset when we walked back to Mallory Square for the Sunset Festival. Note: definitely arrive early if you want a seat. Both before and after the sunset, the Square was alive with buskers, musicians, and merchants selling items. It was a great scene. We dined that night at nine one five. Since we didn’t have reservations we wound up at the bar which was perfect since we wound up spending the entire dinner talking to two locals and had some great conversation to go with our delicious meal. The bartender was very attentive too. We ended the night by wandering down Duval Street and taking in the scene. And it is quite a scene! The tee-shirt stores provide plenty of entertainment as do a lot of the Spring Breakers. It was pretty fun, but we were happy to return back to the tranquility of the Marquesa.

The next day we rented bikes and had a great time just riding around the island and admiring all of the beautiful houses. It’s difficult to keep your eyes on the road when you’re constantly looking at each house! We stopped at the Hemingway House and opted to explore it on our own in lieu of the tour. We were struck by the lack of attention paid to keeping the place historically accurate. The walls are decorated with numerous photos, sketches, and paintings of Hemingway along with the framed letters of visitors from this century and last. It was slightly bizarre. Nonetheless, the grounds are lovely and it’s obvious why he was able to write so well in such a tranquil spot. From there, we biked to Louie’s Backyard, again after having read so many good reviews and what a view!!! It was a great place to have a rum punch and some conch fritters (pre-lunch) to get some more energy for the rest of the bike trip. We had lunch at Blue Heaven. I had a fish sandwich which was pretty good, but my boyfriend ordered the lobster special. The lobster was terribly overcooked and the waiter was nice enough to bring out another order. Unfortunately, it was the same result. The atmosphere there was fun, but we couldn’t help thinking that it felt a lot like a tourist trap.

In keeping with our routine, we spent the afternoon poolside and concluded the day with dinner at the Marquesa Café. It was the best meal of the trip, particularly nice since we walked right out of our hotel and into the restaurant. The food really was very good, albeit pricey, and the service was very efficient.

Our last full day began on the Danger, a sailboat that we took a half-day sail on to go kayaking and snorkeling. Although the trip usually has twenty guests, we were two of eight so it was practically like having the boat to ourselves! The crew, Captain Jack and his first mate (who’s name I now forget!) had a lot to share with us about the history of the island and the waters and we were under sail for the first leg of the trip. The kayaking was excellent – the water was calm enough to allow us to kayak around an island bordered by mangroves and inhabited by an incredible amount of birds. We were able to get really close to a lot of them. After kayaking back to the Danger, we put on our wetsuits for the snorkeling. Although the colors weren’t as vivid as other places we’ve snorkeled, we saw a lot of fish up close and had a lot of fun doing it. I can’t say enough about the charter – the captain and first mate were extremely knowledgeable, very friendly, and very attentive. I would highly recommend them to anyone. From the docks in front of the Westin we walked to have some lunch at the Schooner Wharf Bar. We sat up top and enjoyed rum punches and a very satisfying lunch after a long morning on the water. We finished the day the usual way, by the pool, before going to dinner. We didn’t have a restaurant in mind and just wondered around, eventually stopping at Alonzo’s Oyster Bar. Perhaps it would have been better had we been there for Happy Hour because the service was absolutely terrible and the food wasn’t good enough to make up for it. We should have planned better!

The next day we had breakfast at Sarabeth’s before packing up and heading back to Miami for the flight home. Key West truly is a great place to go for a relaxing trip and we look forward to returning soon!

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