I wanted to take my dog Max on his first road trip, and after doing some research, I chose Key West as our destination. A day’s drive from our west coast Florida city,it was far enough away to feel like a real vacation, yet close enough for Max’s first long car trip. I wanted a location where Max would be welcome in public, and not sentenced to spend his first vacation in doggy detention in a strange hotel room.
Key West turned out to be the most pet-friendly town I have ever visited on this side of the Atlantic. In Europe, it’s common to see dogs on the subway, in stores and at sidewalk cafes, but here in the U.S., those privileges are usually reserved for working guide animals. The Conch Republic obviously agrees with the European attitude that our pets are our companions, and therefore are welcome anywhere that we humans go.
On our first day of vacation, we strolled through the historic neighborhoods of the old city introducing Max to one of the many roosters that roam the streets, and visited the annual arts festival on Whitehead Street. Almost every artist’s stall had a doggy water station, and one out of three browsers had brought their pooch along for the day. We had no problem finding a place to lunch, as most of the restaurants in town have patios where well-behaved dogs are welcome. Similarly, many merchants have outdoor displays, and offer food and water bowls for both strolling dogs and Key West’s famous Hemingway cat population.
That evening, we headed down to Mallory Square for the nightly sunset celebration. Again, we found many of the vendors and exhibitors offering hospitality to their four-legged visitors. One vendor in particular, catered to the canine crowd, selling miniature tropical print visors, collars and bandanas.
The next day, we set out to find the Dog Beach, marked in bold letters on our tourist map as being located between the Southernmost Point and Higgs Beach. It soon became apparent that our map-maker had not drawn anything to scale, and we were disappointed to find that what looked like a long stretch of doggy beach on the map, was actually a 15 foot wide alley of sand between two resort complexes. That, however, was the only attraction in the city that didn’t live up to its advertised glory.
Our accommodations more than met our expectations at the romantic, old-world Curry Mansion Inn. In one of my favorite movies, Somewhere in Time, a successful playwright (Christopher Reeve) checks into a resort hotel, goes to sleep in the 20th century, and wakes up 75 years earlier in the same hotel room. When we walked into the Curry Mansion Inn in Key West, I had a similar experience of being transported to a more elegant time in the past.
The original part of the house was built in 1869 by Florida’s first millionaire, lumber baron William Curry. In 1899, Curry’s son Milton added the front section of the house, as well as the grand pillars and balconies on the faÃ?Â§ade to impress his bride-to-be.
Stepping inside the Inn is indeed a step back in time. Among the many original fixtures and pieces of furniture are the 1853 Chickering Grand Piano, the dining room buffet, the library sideboard, the original kitchen hearth , and the lavatory fixtures the Curry family imported from China.
The estate was purchased in 1974 by Edith and Al Amsterdam who painstakingly restored and furnished it , staying true to the period furnishings, fabrics and accessories of the late 1800’s. Avid antique collectors, the Amsterdams have showcased many of their own family treasures at the Inn. The Amsterdam Limoges service for 120 is on display in the dining, and many other family heirlooms and photos grace the walls and display cabinets. Beautiful art nouveau windows illuminate the main stairwell, and Tiffany stained glass doors separate the dining and sitting areas from the foyer.
We chose the Inn, not only for its old world ambience, but also because we were bringing Max along with us. The Curry Mansion Inn is one of 32 pet-friendly hotels and B & B’s in Key West listed in Eileen Barish’s guide, Vacationing with Your Pet. When I called the Inn to check on their pet policies, I was delighted to discover that no deposit was required. There is a 10- pound weight limit, and the Inn does ask guests with furry friends not to leave them unattended in the rooms. However, when we checked in, the front desk personnel offered to pet-sit if we had any plans that wouldn’t accommodate Max.
After depositing our luggage in our room, we were drawn by the sound of tinkling glasses and tinkling ivories to the nightly complimentary happy hour by the pool. Drinks and hors d’oeurvres are provided for the guests from 5-7 every evening, accompanied by a wonderful piano player whose contemporary selections contribute to the relaxed and playful mood. You feel as if you’re at a wonderful house party, socializing with newly-made friends, and Max was the center of attention . The sumptuous breakfast buffet the next morning , also poolside, is yet another opportunity to mingle. Served from 8-10 am, the hearty buffet features a made-to-order omelet station, a huge selection of bagels, muffins, croissants and cakes, fresh fruit, and several juice selections in addition to coffee and tea.
The Curry Mansion Inn is centrally located in the heart of the old town, just one block off Duval Street. Our suite was located across the street at 512 Caroline in the guest wing which was added in 1989.The room, furnished in airy white wicker and floral prints , was divided into a sitting room with a desk perfect for my laptop and printer, a sleeping area with a romantic four- poster, canopied queen bed, and a small balcony with a table and chairs for reading the newspaper over your first cup of coffee in the morning, or relaxing with a cool drink at sunset. Max liked keeping an eye on things from his perch on the high porch, always on the lookout for a stray cat or rooster down below.
Daily room rates in high season (Jan. 16th-April 15th) range from $180 a night for a queen room to $325 for a master suite. In off-season, rates drop to $145 for a queen, and $245 for a master suite. The daily breakfast buffet and happy hour are included with all rooms, as are free parking and local phone calls, a tour of the mansion, and 24- hour access to the heated pool and Jacuzzi.
Our stay in the former millionaire’s home left us feeling as relaxed, pampered, and welcomed as I’m sure William Curry’s guests felt a hundred years ago. If you’re looking for a vacation destination with a European pet-o-phile attitude, Key West and the Curry Mansion Inn couldn’t be more accommodating.
IF YOU GO:
The Curry Mansion Inn, 511 Caroline Street, Key West, FL 33040
Tel. (305) 294-5349
Fax: (305) 294-4093
Toll Free: (800) 253-3466
Sales tax 11 1/2 percent and one night’s deposit plus tax required to confirm reservation
Visit the comprehensive website at www.currymansion.com