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Key West questions...

Old May 24th, 2006, 06:48 AM
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Key West questions...

I am looking to kidnap my husband and take him to KW for an anniversary trip in late Sept. I am considering staying at Heron House or Heron House Court. Is one better than the other? How far is HHC from Duval? Also, I am unsure of the amount of days to book. If we get into KW at 4pm on Thursday and leave 1pm on Sunday, will that be enough time? We are not bar people and highly doubt we will see Hemingway's house. I would like to snorkel though. I am just on the fence about 3nts vs. 4 nts. It will be our first getaway without the kids (11&8). Looking for "us" time and R&R. Any tips would be appreciated!
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Old May 24th, 2006, 07:35 AM
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In my opinion, I would choose the Heron House over the Heron House Court. The HHC was a different property and the owners have always done an outstanding job with HH.

The location of the Heron House is a little closer to the action of Duval Street and Mallory Square but the HHC isn't too far away.

If you stay three nights, you'll basically only have two full days. I'd stay four nights.

There are tons of snorkeling companies out of Key West but Floridays has always worked well for my family.

If you spend the four nights, I highly suggest a day trip to the Dry Tortugas.
 
Old May 24th, 2006, 09:03 AM
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If money and time are not a problem I would take the 4 days just to do the Keys in a relaxed fashion but, do you need to stay in Key West? Other areas in the Keys are less expensive.
If you have a car you might want to take a drive through the Keys. Awesome scenery!
2 must do's, Dry Totugas and Bahia Honda State Park.
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Old May 24th, 2006, 10:47 AM
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No, we will not be getting a car. I don't want to be bothered with driving and worry about where to park down there (I hear parking is scarce). Dry Torugas is a possibility. There more I think about it, the more inclined I am to stay 4 nights. I don't want to feel rushed.
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Old May 25th, 2006, 07:28 AM
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I just got back from a week for the 2 dozenth trip (or so) and if my "trip impressions" will help...

My first impression is that Key West never disappoints me. After having gone down for twelve or thirteen years, as many as three times in one year, there are always places that I can go to for a sit-down, a drink, and a snack and be happy there. There are new places to explore, but there is never enough days to do everything I want to. It takes me about a day and a half to stop walking fast, and then I start to relax. I was scheduled to arrive at 12:35 but my flight from Newark came into Tampa early enough that I could be bumped to an earlier shuttle and got in at 12:05 – and extra half-hour in paradise. I stowed my bags and had a welcome back Key West Sunset Lager at Sloppy Joes. Just sitting there made me happy to be back. Then check-in at 2:00, swimming until 4:00, margueritas at Kelly’s by 4:30.


Secondly, Key West has recovered about 85 % from the last hurricane season. The Sheraton Suites, for example, has had the exterior repaired and re-painted, and it looks like new. It looks like all of the construction at the Hyatt is done and they are now finishing up the painting there, too. The vegetation has come back, more quickly than I would have guessed. The Royal Poinciana trees are blooming as are the hibiscus and various other bushes and plants. There are still a few dead or dying fronds on the palm trees, but these are slowly being replaced by new ones. The gardens at the Pier House are growing and all of the palm trees have survived. The Pier House still strikes ma as a great value, mainly because of the beach and the location, but it is critical that you get a good room. This is probably true of every place to stay.


Thirdly, if you want Key West to yourself, go in May. I didn’t have to wait for anything and there were times when I was one of only a couple of customers. Talk about good service! Even the Island T’ing did not fill up…32 vs. 40 people.

Because I was alone I got into a routine of going running in the morning, and then having breakfast, and again all of the old faithfuls didn’t disappoint; Turtle Kraals on Monday for the huevos rancheros special, Two Friends on Tuesday for an omelet, Pepes on Wednesday for another omelet, The Rooftop Café on Thursday for the Eggs Benedict with a crab cake on both, two eggs over easy on pancakes at the Secret Place on Saturday, and Martins for brunch on Sunday. I never made it to Sarabeth’s. Then I would spend most of the day reading and swimming at the Pier House beach, sneaking down one bottle of beer. (Only caught once but there was a new towel boy the first few days, and the regular, Nate, doesn’t usually hassle me).


Then I would go out for a drink and maybe a snack. Afterwards, I would walk for a while, then go back to the Pier House and read or snooze a little, then have dinner. I had more real dinners this trip than any other. Various items. Big Daddy Conchs does not have the 1.99 / dozen oysters, but at 10.00, it’s still not a bad place to go. I still like the peel-your-own-shrimp with a Sunset Ale at the Half-Shell Raw Bar and oysters and a Sunset Ale at the Conch Republic. But the best deal now is Alonzo’s. You bring your See Key West magazine with the free drink coupon on page 36 and order half-price oysters or clams or whatever, and end up spending maybe $6.00. You could do this every night And Kellys for margueritas and chicken wings. Again it comes to $6.00. IMO the best Bloody Marys are at the Pier House (thanks Markd) but for pleasant surroundings, go up to the Rooftop Café and have one. They are very good, cost $8.25, but the location is great – overlooking Front Street at about the level of the tower at the Wreckers Museum. The Duval Beach club is a good place to sit and have a Sunset Ale and overlook the ocean. I never actually went into Island Dogs or the Rum Barrel, but the thing to do on a Saturday night seems to be to get a bottle of beer at the former, then stand on the sidewalk and listen to the band form the latter. (The latter is going to get wise and call the cops, which would be a shame). And the Iguana Café (across from Capt’n Tony’s?) has been demolished and is going to be re-built. Croissants de France is still not done and I'm getting worried.


Dinners were great. Without too much detail…grilled shrimp with a kind of Key Lime chutney sauce and rice and beans at Turtle Kraals. A Cuban dinner of beef and pork with plantains, rice and beans and a glass of Spanish red wine at El Meson de Pepe. Finished with a café con leche which was better than D*mn Good Food Co. Blackened grouper with rice and beans (do we see a trend here?) at Blue Heaven with a Kalik. And two dinners of fish and chips and a Corona at B.O.’s Fishwagon, still my favorite place. I meant to have a dinner of Black (not blackened) grouper at the Rooftop, but never got around to it.


And in terms of activities, the Sebago Island T’ing is still the best IMO. And for a change I went out on the Caribbean Spirit for the snorkel, sunset sail. This is a little more expensive than the others, the Fury, e.g., but if they go to Sand Key, this is the best spot I’ve found for snorkeling. There are “fingers” of coral reef which you swim through and where all of the fish hang out. The only place I’ve found a coupon (2.00 off per person) is on their web page, but if they go to Sand Key it’s worth the extra money. Ask when you book. For deals, try Janet Masilgill at booth # 1 on Duval and Front, or Captain David Brown just before you come to the end of Front Street, on the right.


I always need some diet soda and orange juice for the room, and might need film or whatever. There is a coupon for $3.00 off a $10.00 purchase at the Walgreens in the See Key West magazine on page 51. Not usable for beer 8-(. I bought myself a nice tank top at Summer Salt on Front, and, finally, a new pair of patch-pocket shorts at the Saltwater Angler off the Mallory Docks. These are great for a vacation – wallet in one patch, digital camera in the other, and See Key West Magazine stuffed over one cheek in the back.

And!!! I left my initials somewhere at one of the places mentioned above. (Not at Sand Key) I’ll buy drinks for the first person who spots them.

Pjk
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Old May 25th, 2006, 09:06 AM
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Excellent report!

Shelby, a car in Key West is not only not needed but a PIA because of parking. Plus, you'll get charged for parking at many places in Old Town.
 
Old May 25th, 2006, 09:38 PM
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Ditto on the trip to the Dry Tortugas. We were there in December and enjoyed the trip to the fort. The snorkeling there is great. Also ditto on a Cuban dinner of beef and pork with plantains, rice and beans and a glass of Spanish red wine at El Meson de Pepe.
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Old May 26th, 2006, 04:00 AM
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I'd hate to discourage anyone from Key West, but you might bear in mind that August/September is the height of hurricane season. Having said that, we go annually at the end of October and have yet to be evacuated.

As for your original question about the Heron House...a couple of years ago I recommended the Heron House to one couple and the Marquesa Hotel to another. The people who stayed at the Marquesa are still raving about it, and those who stayed at the Heron House said they probably wouldn't stay there again. I think the Marquesa would at least bear looking into, and the Gardens Hotel probably would too. These places are all a stones throw from each other.

I'd definitely stay 4 nights. We go for 2 weeks twice a year and occasionally get a 3rd 2 week visit in. Key West is addictive!
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Old May 26th, 2006, 06:17 AM
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Well I did book our air for $342 pp from DTW-EYW. I also booked a suite at the Douglas House. This was the first place that I investigated and it looked really nice. Plus, HH was almost $200 more for the same time. I chose the end of September since the kids will be in school. I had to do it then since DH's beloved hunting season starts 10/1. Heaven forbid anything comes between him and hunting!! So, the 3rd week was my only option. I am considering buying the TravelGuard insurance. This would cover a cancellation due to a hurricane. I think it would be around $90 for the coverage. I am having Douglas House send a brochure of their place and asked her to toss in whatever other pamphlets/brochures she had for snorkeling, Dry Tortuga trips, etc. so I can package all this up along with flight/hotel confirmations and present it to him on our anniversary (9/5). Sound like a good plan???
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Old Jun 1st, 2006, 11:27 AM
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Hmm..my sister and I are going in early August from DTW and I couldn't find air fare as low as yours anywhere or anytime. I did find a lower fare than what I booked using two different airlines which is very chancy since neither one will want to help you if something goes wrong.

As for the Douglas House, it appears to be in Bahama Village. I sure would not want to be walking much around there at night. I think it's a bit spooky even during the day.

We've stayed twice at the Heron House and it was great both times.
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Old Jun 1st, 2006, 01:08 PM
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I have no first hand knowledge of Douglas House, but I agree that I would be a spooked walking around Bahama Village at night. During the day is fine. JMHO.
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Old Jun 2nd, 2006, 05:45 AM
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The best beach on KW is at Fort Zachary Taylor. There is a small admission fee but the beach is great. The fish will swim between your legs in a few feet of water.
The Dry Tortugas is spectacular and if you could afford it, take the seaplane there. It flies at about 500 feet and you can spot manta rays, turtles and even sharks!
There is also a shuttle bus that goes around the island if you feel the need to venture out.
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Old Jun 2nd, 2006, 07:48 AM
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My opinion is that for first timers, go on the Sebago Island T'ing rather than a Dry Tortugas trip. There are a couple of reasons.

One is that it is less expensive (half or more of the others) and two is that, while it is a full day trip, it is less time-consuming. The Sebago boards at 9:30 and leaves at 10:00, getting back at 4:00. You get back, change and relas a little, then go out.
The boats that go out to the Dry T's board at 7:30, go out at 8:00 and get back around 5:30. You have to think about that 7:30 boarding the night before so you don't miss the boat. And you spend 2 hours going out and two hours getting back. And when I got back off the Yankee Freedon, I was done for the day.

The seaplane is the way to go even though you don't get lunch or a tour of the fort, but this is really expensive and you have to get to and from the airport, usually by taxi.

The Sebago gets you a sail out , a snorkel, lunch, a kayak trip and another sail in. (And secret things). It's a bargain and IMO a better way to use up only part of a day in Key West.

Pjk
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