Traditionally, Key West was one of those end-of-the-world places that attracted those who were keen to get away from it all. (I always get a kick out of seeing the signs for mile 0 that mark the beginning and end of Route 1.) For many years, it was a refuge for artists and writers — most famously, Ernest Hemingway, but also Tennessee Williams, John Hersey and Elizabeth Bishop. More recently, Key West acquired an off-putting reputation as a venue for vacationing college students, and the main thoroughfare, Duval Street, still has a stretch of a few blocks that can be politely described as raffish. Lately, however, there has been an influx of well-heeled retirees, who have restored cottages and raised the prevailing tone.
We had decided to try two places. First, we checked into the Marquesa Hotel in Old Town’s historic district, which brings together four 1880s cottages done in the local “conch” style that collectively form a charming property of 27 rooms. These are set around a central area with two pools — one heated, one not — amid lush planting.
Our suite stood at one end of the pool area, up steps flanked by a small waterfall. A large veranda overlooking the pool area led to the high-ceilinged accommodations. These were divided into a living area and a sleeping area by a column supporting a crossbeam with a scrim curtain. Bright and airy, with light wood floors and comfortable furniture, the suite struck us as pleasant if not luxurious. The bath offered a single vanity with a combined tub-shower.