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Key West Trip Report

Old May 26th, 1999, 10:17 AM
Brian in Atlanta
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Key West Trip Report

My wife and I just got back from 4 days in Key West. Here's what I can report:

Accommodation: We stayed at Center Court Cottages in the "Treetop Studio". This was the entire top floor of a lovely cottage just off Duval. We had a private entrance, lots of bright windows, a kitchen, a big, private deck in the treetops (Mango trees!) with a private 2-person jacuzzi, umbrella table and outdoor shower (just private enough). The inside was immaculate with beautiful hardwood floors. Everything was included: CD player, VCR, pool towels, beach bag, etc.

The people who run the place were extremely friendly and made arrangements for bikes to be delivered to us and set us up with a snorkeling trip. They were very willing to please.

There is a small pool (though by what I've heard regarding what some other places pass off as pools, maybe it wasn't that small) and an open-air breakfast room with a big table and board games. There's also a cocktail hour, but we never seemed to remember to make it back for that.

If you go to Key West, be sure to choose a place that has a decent sized pool. Other than sitting in our room, it was one of the only ways to escape the heat. When the sun is high, it can be tough to find shade (the trees on Key West aren't all that tall) and few bars/restaurants have air-conditioning. Most are open-air and I surmise that electricity is very expensive, so you can't count on cooling down at your next stop inside like you can in New Orleans/Miami/Atlanta. And don't even bother trying to find a beach. You'll only be disappointed.

Food: Dinner - Cafe Des Artists - the most expensive meal that I've ever had (that I paid for) but it was worth it. Fabulous wine list, beautiful presentation, every bite delicious and very friendly service (except for the host who take one look at our youth and put us at the most undesirable table in the place though we had reservations and there were plenty of other tables available - I have learned to expect this and asked to be seated elsewhere and my request was somewhat reluctantly honored. Why must every nice restaurant we go to treat us like this just because we're young? Ahhh, I digress . . .

We also had dinner at Mangia Mangia after seeing numerous recommendations on this site. It's a bit out of the way (better to ride bikes to) and isn't quite as busy as I'd heard (no wait on Thursday or Saturday nights). It is good, but not as good as the hype. Any large city has a creative, homemade pasta restaurant as good as this one. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed dinner very much and it was pretty affordable. I think I just expected too much.

Our last dinner was at Michael's - on the same corner as Mangia Mangia. Same style restaurant as Cafe des Artists, but not quite the same caliber. The food was almost as good, the wine list almost as extensive, the service just as friendly, but the room not as romantic. The final bill was a good bit smaller.

Do not eat at Crabby Dick's on Duval. We arrived late, there were few choices to eat at and against my better judgement we went in. They were friendly enough, but the prices seemed very high at first and then seemed absurd after one taste. Poor cooking. Don't be dumb like me. Run from any restaurant that pays someone to call people in from the sidewalk.

We had good lunches at Half Shell Raw Bar and Blue Heaven.

Bars off Duval include: Grunts - clean, quiet, nice folks running it, beer/wine only though; BO's - near the marina on the north end, lots of character, all outdoors, closes at 8:00; Blue Heaven - a bit rough around the edges, service can be gruff, but a real Key West crowd, Green Parrot - loud, obnoxious, friendly service, great pinball; Schooner Wharf - at the marina near BO's, mostly outdoors, laid-back, friendly one pinball game.

On Duval - The Bull and Whistle (I think that's it) has a great New Orleans-style balcony over Duval for sittin' and sippin' and watchin', but don't fall for that 2-for-1 drinks crap. There's more alcohol in a tablespoon of Robitussin. Order a beer.

While I had a great time in Key West, I never got that feeling that I was somewhere special like I have when I've been in Mexico or Jamaica (though those places have their issues) or even New Orleans. Maybe I just missed it, or was looking in the wrong places, or maybe it was just too hot. I'll accept the blame for now.
Old May 27th, 1999, 08:08 AM
Owen O'Neil
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Thanks for the update on KW Brian. I visited there last July 4 weekend and had a similarly positive experience at the guesthouse where I stayed (Jasmine House - small and nice but no pool). It's even hotter in summer but there are a few good cooling off places including the indoor shopping area adjacent to the pier and the aquarium. Your comment about not perceiving the specialness of KW is, IMHO, a feeling that I share but I still appreciatred being there. The real appeal, as I see it, is simply that there's no other place quite like it in the U.S. For those of us whose budget or circumstances don't allow travel to Mexico, Jamaica etc., it is a refreshing experience. Having been there nearly 20 years ago and then revisiting last year I do acknowledge that commercialism has eroded some of its charm but I would still revisit there as a nice 3 day weekend getaway spot that's quick & cheap to get to.
Old May 27th, 1999, 08:22 AM
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My fiance and I are planning to honeymoon in Key West for one week at the beginning of October. Is it still unsufferably hot then? I don't mind the heat that much, but my fiance turns into a real bear when he's too hot. Is it the humidity that makes is so bad? Also, do you know what type of accomodations we can expect at a nice resort, like the Casa Marina, Galleon or the Hilton? We want to be able to relax and do nothing with waiters serving drinks poolside and beachside or to be able to go whoop it up in Old Town if we want. Do we need a car? Any ioformation would be helpful!
Old May 27th, 1999, 12:17 PM
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Hannah: You definitely do not need a car, unless you plan to explore the other Keys.
By October the worst of the heat is over. I was there in mid-November 1997 and I didn't think the heat was bad at all -- highs ranged from upper 70s on some days to low 90s on other days, and at night it was always in the 70s. I was usually at the beach in the daytime and there was always a good breeze, plus the waitress kept coming around so I ordered those lovely tropical drinks with the umbrellas which cool you right off! (This was at the beach on the Southernmost Point, which is a very small beach but I liked it fine).
I stayed at a B&B rather than a resort, so can't help you there, although I did have a great massage one day at one of the larger resorts -- I can't remember the name but the address was Zero Duval Street (Duval dead-ends into it). I can tell you they have a wonderful spa with excellent service, and the resort looked terrific and was very well-located.
By the way, one restaurant I liked that was very reasonably-priced was Mango's on Duval.
Make sure you tour the Hemingway House if you're into that sort of thing -- it was very interesting.
Have a great time.
Old Jun 5th, 1999, 04:48 AM
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The resort at Zero Duval street is the Ocean Key House. Very nice place, no beach though. It is right next to Mallory Square, which is where they have the nightly sunset ritual that is so much fun.
Old Jun 5th, 1999, 02:18 PM
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I've just returned from my fourth trip to Key West in slightly over a year. Although this time we stayed at the Galleon and absolutely loved it (and will never stay anyplace else), I don't think it's exactly what you're looking for. They have a nice pool, but nobody is there to serve drinks. There's an outside Tiki bar, but I'm not even sure they serve more than wine and beer. Nor do they have a restaurant. On the plus side, we got a one bedroom condo overlooking the marina that was great! It was freshly redecorated and had a jacuzzi and fully furnished kitchen and washer/dryer. We stayed at the Hyatt during our first 3 trips and it might be more what you're looking for. The Hilton has gotten lots of bad reports over the past year or so, so I'd be reluctant to choose it. You might look into either the Hyatt, which has a real nice pool area, or the Pier House, which is next door. These are all on Front Street.

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