Many things can compel you to visit The Marquesa Hotel in Key West. Probably the first thing you’ll notice is the Marquesa’s charming elegance – those shuttered windows and old-timey front porch - that just seems to draw you in and make you think, “Hmm..now this place looks interesting!” Interesting it is, and exploring the property becomes a wonderful adventure. It’s like that Hollywood façade – it doesn’t look expansive at first blush – then, whoa! You get inside and you feel like you just discovered something secret and wonderful. (You can’t see everything from the front entrance of the property– so when you get inside you’re pleasantly surprised by how expansive, yet intimate, it is.)
Built in 1884, and located in the heart of Key West’s Historic District, the Marquesa is comprised of four buildings configured in a compound-like style, giving it an almost “private little village” feeling. There is a combination of 27 rooms and suites, each beautifully appointed with marble baths, fluffy, not-too-heavy robes, and exquisitely comfortable furnishings. (Yes – there’s complementary wi-fi and cable TV, making it even more comfortable. Note: The Marquesa is historically respectful in architecture – but not out of touch with modern life.)
There are no elevators here, guests have the opportunity to walk up beautifully banistered (my word) staircases. And don’t worry if you can’t carry your luggage up the stairs, the staff is more than willing to help you – with a smile. You’ll be like, “Am I in a time machine taken back to an era when service was actually good and people wanted to help me?” Yes, and yes. (For the less athletic, other accommodations include rooms just steps from the pools and waterfalls.) Oh, and there’s maid service twice a day. I never located the ice machine because the ice bucket was always filled.
The interior of the main building is like walking into someone’s home. And actually, that’s exactly what it was years ago. What is wonderfully unusual about the décor though - specifically the photographs and paintings - is that a good portion of it is created by local artists. As soon as you walk in, the main hallway features art by Alan Kennish III. Other artists in the main rooms include Susan Sugar and Lincoln Perry. Marquesa management is highly supportive of Key West artists and the hotel seamlessly incorporates contemporary artwork into its historical environment.
In the heavenly oasis relaxation area there are two pools; one is heated. But it’s the artfully designed landscaping that really pulls everything together. Plush and exotic, the plants, flowers and other botanical delights, make you feel like you’re in the REAL Florida. It’s very Zen-like around the pools; tranquility is encouraged and no cell phones are allowed. Isn’t that nice? What a joy to be able to relax in a beautiful environment and not have to listen to some blabbering loudmouth remind us of how important he is. How often do you get that? I rest my case – on a lounge chair near a waterfall.
Now here’s the thing – The Marquesa is just a block from Duval Street, on the corner of Fleming and Simonton, making it walking distance to all the action, but far enough away for a respite and privacy when needed. (And sometimes you really need a respite – or two- after a full tilt bar jaunt on Duval.)
Art lovers take heart; there are several great antique and collectibles shops within walking distance of The Marquesa. Directly across the street is The Duck and Dolphin Antiques, a high end antiques emporium that offers paintings, artifacts and collectibles dating as far back as the 1700s. But if that’s a bit pricey for your tastes – fear not, my bargain hunter friends, for a mere block down on Fleming, you’ll find Sam’s Treasure Chest. Here you’ll see all kinds of collectibles and memorabilia priced to sell - like a porcelain Kewpie doll (that this writer couldn’t resist) vintage jewelry, Americana items, and all kinds of wondrous treasures. And right next door to Sam’s is The Naked Artist, a gallery featuring the work of local Keys artists.
I like to mention these places, because they are off the beat of Duval Street. Little treasures you may not know about – or find - something different to whet your artistic appetite. And speaking of appetite, lest I forget – a mention about the restaurant at the Marquesa.
This writer has been to Key West on numerous occasions allowing me to dine at both high and low end establishments. Let me just say – you WILL be pleased dining at Café Marquesa. I’m from a family of European foodies – I know food - and this restaurant is just plain awesome. Nothing lacked. Not the service, the atmosphere and most importantly, not the food. Perfectly cooked and delicious, the food had my dining companion and me in culinary bliss. (We had the Grilled Black Angus Shoulder Filet with Asparagus) But don’t take my word – Zagat gave the café a 28/30 rating – Extraordinary to perfection. So that means…call for reservations. And it’s only open for dinner. Curious? Here’s a nifty pdf menu for your perusal. And just an FYI – AAA gave the Marquesa a 4-Diamond Award.
So if you’re looking for a getaway that’s also a closeaway to the action, and you want to relax, but then you want some fun too - and maybe check out some local art and collectibles shops– AND of course, you want a good meal after you do it all - then have I got the place for you!
The Marquesa Hotel, 600 Fleming Street, Key West, FL (305) 292-1919. www.Marquesa.com
The Duck and Dolphin Antiques, 601 Fleming Street, Key West, FL (305) 295-0499
Sam’s Treasure Chest, 518 Fleming Street, Key West, FL (305) 296-5907
The Naked Artist, 518 Fleming Street, Key West, FL (305) 509-7899
All photos by Anna Collins
Anna Collins is a writer, photographer and Realtor.