American Nomad Blog
About this blog
American Nomad covers the best of U.S. travel—from vacation deals to festivals, weekend getaways, travel tips, and more. A seasoned traveler and Moon author, Laura is the perfect guide to help discover new gems when traveling domestically.
- A Southern Girl's Wintertime Adventure in Yellowstone
- One Novelist's Odyssey Across America
- Gearing up for a Family Camping Trip
- Mint Juleps and More at Oak Alley Plantation
- Avoiding Identity Theft While on Vacation
- Money-Saving Travel Tips from Nomadic Matt
- Fashion, Fun, and Convenience for the Modern Traveler
- In Search of Irish Museums Across America
- The Inspiring Journey of a Solo Kayaker
- Getting Fit for Treks in Yosemite and Elsewhere, Part 2
- Getting Fit for Treks in Yosemite and Elsewhere, Part 1
- Experiencing Yosemite with YExplore
- Two Travel Contests Worth Mentioning
- A Word About the TSA's No-No List
- A Reader's Advice About Airport Security
Rest, Relaxation, and Frivolity at the Eden House
The 30th annual Hemingway Days celebration, which I mentioned in a post last week, is currently underway in Key West, Florida. Yesterday actually marked the first day of fishing for the Key West Marlin Tournament as well as the first round of the “Papa” Hemingway Look-Alike Contest at Sloppy Joe's Bar (201 Duval St., 305/294-5717, 9 a.m.-close daily), two lively competitions that continue today. Of course, if you don't make it down to Key West for this year's event, which ends on Sunday, you should certainly consider planning a trip to this one-of-a-kind town in the not-too-distant future.
When making your plans, you'll discover that Key West boasts a plethora of lodging choices, from intimate inns like The Mermaid & The Alligator Bed & Breakfast (729 Truman Ave., 305/294-1894 or 800/773-1894, $148-318 d), which offers nine uniquely decorated rooms, to oceanfront complexes like the Mediterranean-style Casa Marina Resort (1500 Reynolds St., 305/296-3535 or 888/303-5717, rooms $149-559 d, suites $229-809), which features numerous well-appointed rooms and suites, two swimming pools, a gorgeous beach, a luxurious spa, and an on-site restaurant. If you're overwhelmed by all the available options, consider booking a room at the ecofriendly Eden House (1015 Fleming St., 305/296-6868 or 800/533-5397, rooms $105-370 d, lofts and apartments $255-475), one of my favorite locales in Key West.
Nestled amid various lodgings along Fleming, in a residential area northeast of lively Duval Street, the Eden House provides the perfect setting for a wide assortment of visitors, from couples on a romantic getaway to large family reunions. Comprising an art deco-style main building and four renovated Conch-style houses, the Eden House seems a world away from Duval, though it lies within walking distance of the busy thoroughfare. While not technically a spa resort, this tranquil, picturesque place – which once served as the backdrop for CrissCross, a 1992 film starring Goldie Hawn, Keith Carradine, David Arnott, and James Gammon – certainly has the ambience of one.
With a beachy, island-style vibe that's enhanced by the open lobby doors, Polynesian-style ceiling fans, and canned music on the outdoor speakers, the elegantly casual Eden House is a terrific place to unwind after a lengthy day of exploring America's Southernmost City. Of course, upon our initial visit, my husband and I were slightly dismayed by the snug parking lot, but considering how difficult it can sometimes be to find street parking in Key West, even a small lot is better than no lot at all. After managing to park our vehicle, we headed past the front porch and entered the airy lobby, where, at any time of day or night, guests can watch television, peruse the available brochures, enjoy complimentary Tazo Tea and Baby's Coffee, pick up beach towels that can be used off-site, and consult the helpful 24-hour staff for lodging needs or advice about the Key West area.
After checking in and visiting our cozy, air-conditioned room beside the pool, we wandered outside to absorb our environs. Encircled by the lovely buildings, most of which have breezy balconies or porches, the main focus of the complex is the freshwater pool area, where you'll find shady palm trees, potted plants, blooming flowers, gurgling fountains, several covered tables, and numerous lounge chairs. Here, you can also sway on a swing inside a peaceful gazebo, sunbathe on the sun deck, or relax in a six-person hot tub. In addition, while many hotels have strict pool hours, the Eden House is unique in that both the pool and the hot tub are unofficially open 24 hours daily, as long as quiet hours are observed. As the posted sign says, “The pool area closes at 10 p.m. If we can't hear you, we can't see you.”
In fact, there are many amusing signs on the premises, including one in the lobby that reads, “There are no strangers here – just friends who haven't met yet.” That offbeat friendliness pervades the atmosphere, from the quirky staff members to the wacky blue foot-shaped planters to owner Michael Eden's willingness to display guests' postcards – even negative ones – in the lobby. Of course, some of the signs are informative, such as the “Please recycle!” placard that sits above the recycling receptacles in the pool area. Naturally, that isn't the only evidence of the hotel's ecofriendly nature. In the bathrooms, for instance, you'll find shampoo, conditioner, and soap dispensers in lieu of the wasteful toiletries that many hotels still use.
Although the rooms and suites at the Eden House vary in size and amenities – from semi-private rooms in the main building, to a deluxe loft with a porch swing, to a two-level house with a hot tub of its own – all guests can enjoy the hotel's varied features, including a comfortable library area, wireless Internet access, relaxing hammocks, a daily happy hour (4-5 p.m.) beside the pool, and a gift shop that offers a small selection of maps, books, postcards, hats, T-shirts, sweatshirts, playing cards, and other souvenirs. As a bonus, the Eden House will let you store your luggage even after you've checked out by 11 a.m., enabling you to savor a few more hours in Key West. Be advised, though, that pets aren't allowed on the premises, despite the presence of several feral cats – one of whom is the spitting image of my own furry feline.
While several casual eateries and fancy bistros lie within walking distance of the Eden House, you might be pleased to know that the well-regarded Azur Restaurant (425 Grinnell St., 305/292-2987, 8 a.m.-2 p.m. and 6-10 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 9 a.m.-2 p.m. and 6-10 p.m. Sat., 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sun., $6-36) is right next door. Serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner on the shaded terrace or in the dining room, Azur features such delicious, Mediterranean-inspired creations as Brie and mushroom omelets; charred octopus marinated with garlic, lemon zest, and Italian parsley; and apple and almond tarts with cardamon ice cream.
For more information about Key West's accommodations, consult organizations like the Key West Innkeepers Association (316A Simonton St., 305/295-1334 or 800/492-1911) or The Lodging Association of the Florida Keys and Key West (3152 Northside Dr., Ste. 101, 305/296-4959). You'll also find assistance at the Key West Chamber of Commerce (510 Greene St., 1st Fl., 305/294-2587, 8 a.m.-6:30 p.m. daily), the Key West Visitors Center (1601 N. Roosevelt Blvd., 305/296-8881 or 877/296-8881, 8 a.m.-10 p.m. daily), and the Monroe County Tourist Development Council (1201 White St., Ste. 102, 305/296-1552 or 800/352-5397, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Fri.). In addition, you can always refer to Jason Ferguson's Moon Florida guide as well as my Moon Florida Keys guide, which will be available this fall.
As always, I’m open to ideas for future posts. If you have any suggestions, burning questions, or destinations that you’d like me to explore in greater detail, please comment below or contact me via laura [at] wanderingsoles [dot] com.
Disclosure: While I occasionally accept free or discounted travel assistance when it coincides with my editorial goals, my opinion is never for sale, which means that everything written in my American Nomad blog and my Moon travel guides is my unbiased reflection of the things that I see, do, and experience while traveling across the United States.
Photo of the Eden House / Text © 2010 Laura Martone