Hello Fellow Travelers:
Welcome to our world of business information, museums, adventure, birding, botanical gardens, good eating and fine wines. This newsletter provides you with “The Welge Report for Key West.
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Recognition: We extend special thanks to the people who manage and/or own the institutions, museums and restaurants featured in our guides. In some instances we have relied on their descriptions and photos.
Birding Opps: Info for our birding friends. Where to possibly see the Black-Bellied Whistling Duck, the Masked Booby, the Magnificent Frigatebird and the Swallow-Tailed Kite.
Key West Botanical Garden (kwbgs.org) – This is a major migrating stopping point for neo-tropical birds.
Key West Wildlife and Rescue Center – See Day 2
Dry Tortugas – See Day 2
Botanically Yours – Interesting gardens for our horticultural friends.
The Key West Tropical Forest & Botanical Garden (kwbgs.org) – located on 11 acres of a frost-free arboretum that includes a botanical garden containing a fine collection of trees, shrubs, and palms, including several “champion tree” specimens.
Grape Experience - Local wineries. Florida has 16 vineyards throughout the state that produce wines from a variety of muscadine grapes. For more information on Florida wines visit (tryfloridawine.com/florida-wineries-map.php).
Transportation: Key West is very walkable. Bus routes are available at (kwtransit.com)
Amtrak (www.amtrak.com) – Your connection to more than 500 stations in 46 states. For online information and train schedules visit www.amtrak.com or call 1-800-USA-RAIL (1-800-872-7245)
Day One: Your first visit is the Harry S Truman Little White House – Daily: 9-4:30, Tours are offered every 20 minutes, 111 Front St, 305-294-9911
The Harry S. Truman Little White House is an unusual historic site in that it was the winter White House of America from 1946 to 1952, and continued to be used by later Presidents. Harry S Truman spent 175 days of his presidency here from 1946 to 1952.
The Truman Little White House Botanical Gardens consist of nearly an acre of tropical foliage and trees surrounded by the original 1890 wrought iron fence.
Next let’s visit the West Martello Tower that is maintained by the Key West Garden Club – Daily: 9:30-5, 1100 Atlantic Blvd on Higgs Beach
This secluded eden is one of Key West’s most tranquil spots. The grounds feature a rare collection of native and exotic trees and plants, including blooming orchids and bromeliads.
The fort structure is highlighted by vaulted ceilings, gun mounts and a conservatory. Gazebos catch the soft sea breezes, and are a popular romantic backdrop for weddings. The water lily pond and waterfall offer a soothing respite from the tropical sun.
The mission of the Club is to provide education opportunities for the community relating to tropical gardening and to the West MartelloTower that dates back to 1822. In 1984 the tower and center were renamed West Martello/Joe Allen Garden Center.
Cuba is 90 miles away but Cuban cuisine is at El Siboney – L & D: Daily, 900 Catherine St, 305-296-4184
They have specials every day but their most popular dishes are: the pulled roast pork, the Siboney skirt steak with sautéed onions and lime, the grilled shredded beef, the grouper or yellowtail filet, the barbequed chicken and the Cuban sandwich.
Sides include: black beans, rice, plantains and conch chowder.
If you call ahead or have more time consider the paella valenciana for two.
For your beverage they offer half pitchers and full pitchers of Chablis, rose and burgundy. They also make a mean sangria. For dessert choose the mango/guava cheesecake.
Our Cousin Joe believes it’s very important to visit the Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center – Tu-Sa: 9-4, 35 East Quay Road, 305-809-4750
The Center features more than 6,000 square feet of interactive exhibits which interpret the resources and management efforts of Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, two national parks and four national wildlife refuges.
Admission is always free, so be sure to stop by for a visit.
Another important stop to learn more about Key West is the Key West Aquarium – Daily: 10-6, 1 Whitehead St, 888-544-5927
The Key West Aquarium was a dream of Dr. Van Deusen, a director of the Fairmount Park Aquarium in Philadelphia.
It began construction during the Great Depression in 1933 as part of the Works Progress Administration Program which helped to build many of the historic Key West attractions that inhabit the island today.
On May 8, 1943 the U. S. Government leased the aquarium to the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard to use as an indoor rifle range. All the displays were torn down or filled in to make a level surface area for military firearms. In June of 1946 the aquarium was returned to the city of Key West and restored to its former glory.
Today the Aquarium stands as one of the top attractions and is home to sharks, turtles, stingrays, tropical and other various fish found in the waters of Key West. It is actively involved in the conservation of the eco-system of the Florida Keys.
Dinner tonight is at our favorite restaurant in Key West, the Café Marquesa – L & D: Daily, 600 Fleming St, 305-292-1244
Should we start with the blue crab cake with papaya salsa and remoulade or the tea smoked quail with micro greens, blood orange vinaigrette and quail egg?
Share a half bottle of Laurent-Perrier Brut with either.
For our main let’s go with the ginger, almond and coconut crusted mahi with udon noodles, stir fry vegetables and a mango~miso sauce or the porcini dusted diver sea scallops with truffle butter, saffron risotto and Swiss chard.
The ’10 Chalone Vineyard Chardonnay is a good match. Our dessert is the key lime Napoleon with tropical fruit and berries.
Day Two: Breakfast is at the legendary Blue Heaven – B,L,D: Daily, 729 Thomas St, 305-296-8666
Here you can “breakfast with the roosters”. Your choices include: Richard’s very good pancakes with several fruit choices and maple syrup, lots of benedicts, omelets with options and homemade granola.
They also have tortillas, sandwiches and good coffee.
Today we are in for a big outing to the Dry Tortuga National Park which is located about 70 miles from Key West, we suggest either the Yankee Freedom III National Park Ferry – 800-634-0939 or the Key West Sea Plane Charters – 305-293-9300 for this adventure.
The 100-square mile park is mostly open water with seven small islands. Accessible only by boat or seaplane, the park is known the world over as the home of magnificent Fort Jefferson, picturesque blue waters, superlative coral reefs, marine life, and the vast assortment of bird life that frequents the area.
The seven keys (Garden, Loggerhead, Bush, Long, East, Hospital, and Middle) collectively known as the Dry Tortugas, are situated on the edge of the main shipping channel between the Gulf of Mexico, the western Caribbean and the Atlantic Ocean.
The strategic location of the Dry Tortugas has brought a large number of vessels through its surrounding waters as they connect the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. Early on, the shipping channel was used by Spanish explorers and by merchants traveling along the Gulf Coast.
Here you can explore historic Fort Jefferson, snorkel the incredible marine resources, enjoy world class bird watching or just sit and enjoy the one of a kind ocean views.
Lunch is another legendary Key West experience at Louie’s Backyard – L & D: Daily, 700 Waddell Ave, 305-294-1061
Cousin Louie suggests that we start with a dark and stormy or a mojito, kick back and enjoy the view.
Now you can order some conch fritters with hot pepper jelly and wasabi and the fried anchovy stuffed olives.
Reload on your drinks to go with the snapper on an onion roll with remoulade or the fish tacos with soft corn tortillas and chipotle sour cream.
For dessert share a chocolate coconut terrine.
Take time to check out the Key West Wild Life Rescue Center – Daily: 9-5, 1801 White St, 305-292-1008
The Key West Wildlife Center is located inside of the eight acre Sonny McCoy Indigenous Park where you can enjoy observing native flora and fauna while walking on the paved trail through the park.
The nature walk includes a freshwater pond and two aviaries. The center is great spot for observing migratory birds in both the fall and spring.
The Key West Wildlife Center operates a clinic on the property that enables them to provide treatment to injured and sick wildlife. The KWWC’s annual budget for their wildlife rehabilitation program is approximately $30,000 of which 100% comes from donations.
More birds are to be found at Nancy Forrester’s Secret Garden – Daily: 10-5, 518 Elizabeth St, 305-294-0015
The Secret Garden is known as Key West’s exotic tropical botanical garden. It is listed under tourist attractions as Key West’s rainforest!
It is internationally famous for its beauty, shade palms, aroids, ferns, its rare and endangered plants and its parrots.
Nancy reports “Extinction looms for the last wooded undeveloped acre in the heart of “old town” Key West. Funds are needed now to save this precious land and its myriad life forms.
The human fiduciary response to this environmental need is the most important component of my art.”
Party time, people watching and dinner is at nine one five – D: Nightly, 915 Duval St, 305-296-0669
For your starter the tuna dome is a favorite composed of dungeness crab meat wrapped in tuna sashimi with lemon miso and avocado or the coriander lamb loin with Moroccan vegetable ragout and preserved lemon yogurt.
A glass of the ’07 Domaine Carneros Taittinger would be lovely.
For your entrée we suggest the duck confit with butternut squash puree, roasted cipollini onions and sage oil or the sake marinated grouper with scallop dumplings, baby bok choy and Japanese eggplant in a soy mirin broth.
Dee loves the ’07 Joel Gott Zin. For dessert we suggest the Petit Fours of assorted truffles, macaroons and jellies.
Day Three: Breakfast is at Croissants de France – B & L: Daily, 816 Duval St, 305-294-2624
Of course the croissants are wonderful, but so are the breakfast classics, eggs benedict, omelets, pancakes and galettes.
Today we have scheduled the Key West Museum of Art and History – Here you can journey through two centuries of Key West history by visiting three historic sites.
Each site serves as a museum, providing visitors with a unique perspective and understanding of the island’s past.
The Custom House – Daily: 9:30-4:30, 281 Front Street, 305-295-6616
The Custom House was originally home to the island’s customs office, postal service and district courts.
Today, “Old 91” has been faithfully restored and stands on the harbor as a national landmark, an award-winning museum and official headquarters of the Key West Art & Historical Society.
Experience two floors of exhibitions that weave together two centuries of history, art, people, and events.
The Lighthouse and Keeper’s Quarters – Daily: 9:30-4:30, 938 Whitehead Street, 305-294-0012
The U.S. Navy established a base in Key West in 1823, and immediately erected a lighthouse to assure the safe arrival of both military and commercial vessels navigating the shallow, reef-laden waters off the Florida Keys.
Today, this sentinel of the sea stands as a museum dedicated to Key West’s maritime heritage and to the men and women who bravely kept the light burning through the threats of war and weather.
You can walk up the 88 steps to the top of the light as well as explore the belongings, photographs, and words of the lighthouse Keepers and their families.
Fort East Martello – Daily: 9:30-4:30, 3501 S. Roosevelt Blvd, 305-296-3913
Key West remained a Union-controlled island during the Civil War, but the majority of Key West citizens supported the Confederacy.
Construction began in 1862 by the U.S. Army on this Civil War Fort and Tower in order to provide extra protection for Key West, and defend against the possibility of a Confederate sea assault.
Now you can explore the preserved battlement’s collection of relics from the Civil War, learn about the wrecking and cigar-manufacturing industries which shaped the Florida Keys, view the unique folk art of Mario Sanchez and the imaginative metal sculptures of Stanley Papio, as well as meet the Ghosts of East Martello, including the infamous Robert the Doll.
Lunch is at the Hogfish Bar & Grill – L & D: Daily, 6810 Front St, Stock Island, 305-293-4041
At Hogfish they say you will step back in time and experience the way the Florida Keys used to be – a true locals spot with fresh seafood, strong drinks, great water views and plenty of local characters.
The favorites here are all served with cole slaw and include shrimp, fish or chicken and chips, a lobster blt, shrimp or pork poor boys and a Cuban mix.
That’s just a start. It’s a big menu with a full bar.
It’s time for the best of men (and women) to visit the Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum – Daily: 9-5, 907 Whitehead St, 305-294-1136
The Hemingway home was built in 1851 in the Spanish Colonial style, and was constructed of native rock hewn from the grounds.
The massive restoration and remodeling they undertook in the early 1930’s turned the home into the National Historical Landmark that thousands of tourists visit and enjoy today.
A unique and extraordinary feature of the grounds is the pool, built in 1937-38, at the staggering cost of $20,000. It was the first in-ground pool in Key West, and the only pool within 100 miles.
The exorbitant construction costs once prompted Hemingway to take a penny from his pocket, press it into the wet cement of the surrounding patio, and announce jokingly, “Here, take the last penny I’ve got!” You are invited to look for the penny, still embedded between flagstones at the north end of the pool.
The Hemingways’ personal touches still abound throughout the house. Many of the unique furnishings are European antiques collected during their stay on the continent.
The trophy mounts and skins were souvenirs of the Hemingways’ African safaris and numerous hunting expeditions in the American west. Ernest’s presence can still be felt in his studio where he produced some of his most well-known works.
In addition, a very visible and living link to the past are the descendants of Hemingway’s cats. The story goes that Hemingway made the acquaintance of a sea captain who owned an unusual six-toed tomcat which captured Ernest’s fancy.
Upon his departure from Key West the captain presented the cat to Hemingway. Today many of the numerous cats that inhabit the grounds still possess the unusual six toes.
Let’s explore the Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Museum – M-F: 8:30-5, Sa,Su: 9:30-5, 200 Greene St, 305-294-2633
The Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Society operates a two thousand square foot conservation laboratory that specializes in conserving underwater archaeological artifacts.
Their collection contains approximately 100,000 artifacts, and consists of a variety of inorganic and organic materials such as gold and silver bars and coins; precious jewels; various metals; glassware and ceramics; ivory as well as some organic artifacts such as wood, seeds, insect fragments, bones and leather.
The objects range from cannons, cross bows and other weaponry to tools, ship’s rigging, hardware, navigational instruments, personal items, galley utensils, shackles, trade goods and coin chests.
Pisces – D: Nightly, 1007 Simonton St, 305-294-7100 is your restaurant choice for your last dinner on this trip
For your appetizer our cousin suggests the Roulade “Czarina” which is smoked salmon and goat cheese wrapped in crisp potato or the lobster, shrimp, and sea scallops baked in puff pastry with lemon tarragon butter.
For an entrée we love the pan roasted halibut with chive clam butter, jumbo lump crab, poached oysters and applewood smoked slab bacon or the broiled Hawaiian blue prawns filled with lump crab and served in lime and tomato butter.
Your wine is the ’11 Domaine Ostertag Pinot Gris. Dessert is the Double Chocolate Mousse served with raspberry coulis.
The artworks on display are all Andy Warhol original signed prints from owner Timothy Ryan’s personal collection.
Until next time, best wishes and happy travels,
Dick & Dee Welge
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