South Florida Sunshine


Via Key West – Bring Funky and Fabulous Home

Ever have those days at work when you just want to run away?  Would even a few hours of sandy beaches and frothy drinks do your mind good?  Wouldn’t it be nice to have a few reminders of that last trip to Key West at home?  Of course the answer to all these questions is, YES!!!

My dear friend, Lisa Malcom, has the cure for your ills.  Well, okay, maybe a really good band-aid until you can get back to Key West.  I’d certainly call it the next-best-thing to being here.

Lisa is a long time resident of Key West, and an island style entrepenure.  Her website www.viakeywest.com brings all that is funky and fabulous about this little tropical paradise to anyone anywhere in the world.

Maybe what you need is a tropical treat, something to remind you of the famous Key Lime Pie.  Why not order one of Oprah’s favorite things, the Key Lime Bundt Cake?  Personally, I’m all about the chocolate.  Via Key West has an absolutely amazing Triple Chocolate Chip Fudge Cake.  Let’s all pause a moment while the chocoholics take care of where they just drooled all over the keyboard.

Maybe you’d like to recapture the memories of good times with friends hanging out on Duval Street? I bet a little live music from Yankee Jack would bring back all sorts of fond memories.

What about all of the beautiful historic homes and places that make Key West so unique?  Don’t you wish you had picked up some art in one of the galleries?  ViaKeyWest.com has a fantastic assortment of photography, water colors, and mixed media art to choose from.

Maybe you need something sentamental for that someone special you’d like to remind of lazy days falling in love and watching the sunset together.  How about a lovely pearl bracelet to remind her of long walks on sandy beaches?

And what if you haven’t made it to visit Key West and are waiting for the opportunity to go? Via Key West has several books to help keep the dream alive.  There are books to help plan your destination wedding, tales of what it’s like to live here, and even a book on how to “Quit Your Job and Move to Key West.” 

So take a break and satisfy that need for something uniquely Key West.  You’ll be so glad you did.

If you enjoyed this post, you might also like …

Key West: Where to Find the Perfect Beach Book

Key West: The Ultimate Art Colony


KEY WEST: SHIPWRECKS SHELLS SQUARES & SUNSETS – Guest Post

THANKS FOR VISITING!!!

Today we continue with part 4 of our 5 part special photo walk feature of Key West as presented by our friend, photographer, designer, and blogger Lynda Quintero-Davids.  Join us as we share Lynda’s inspiring viewpoint in this installment entitled: Key West: Shipwrecks, Shells, Squares, & Sunsets.

While putting together this series this week, I’ve learned about all the industries Key West has thrived on – some of which were: fishing, turtling, sponging, pineapples, cigars and pink gold: shrimp (from the GULF). One of the most surprising factoids I discovered was learning about how Key West was once the RICHEST city in the United States. How did they achieve such wealth & status? Back in 1828, Key West thrived on the salvaging of shipwrecks, which was known as the wrecking industry…

Photos above I captured at Mallory Square and edited on picnik.com

“Long established trade routes came close to the Florida coast and the reefs just seven miles offshore of Key West. Stormy weather, or a captain’s inexperience with this treacherous area, could easily cause ships with valuable cargoes to founder just off shore. As a result, wrecking and salvaging soon became the island’s primary business and its citizenry became wealthy on the proceeds. Storehouses and chandeliers abounded, and people came from all over to bid on the valuable salvaged items. Between 1828 and the 1850s, Key West was considered the richest city, per capita, in the United States.”

(Learn more about the history of Key West here.)

The Shell Warehouse at Mallory Square was a great little find because for our past three anniversaries, we’ve spent them on the Florida shores (Key Largo, Naples, and now – Key West). I’ve been collecting treasures of coral, starfish and shells from our trips. This shop – by far – has had not only great prices, but a wonderful selection – I may even turn the photos into coastal wall art… (click to read more and see the rest of Lynda’s photos for this segment)

For more information about planning your Key West activities as well as booking them please just ask me either by leaving a comment, by email, or on Twitter. I would be happy to help!


Key West – Blue By You – Photo Walk Guest Post part 3

Bio picToday we continue with part 3 of our 5 part special photo walk feature of Key West as presented by our friend, photographer, designer, and blogger Lynda Quintero-Davids.  Join us as we share Lynda’s inspiring viewpoint in this installment entitled: Key West Color Blocks Blue By You.

Just a play on words for Hurricane Season and the color of the season: BLUE … A color block post packed with so many blues to discover down in Key West: Caribbean and cool water blues, Gulf and pool aquamarine blues, navy and news blues, teals and turquoise blues, baby and sky blues, and peek-a-boo-blue … And mind you, this was unintentional. I was … (click to  read more and see the rest of Lynda’s photos for this segment) Key West T-Shirt Factory doors Key West colors
For more information about planning your Key West activities as well as booking them please just ask me either by leaving a comment, by email, or on Twitter. I would be happy to help!


Key West Photo Series Guest Blog Part 2

Bio picMy friend, Lynda Quintero-Davids, is back with part two of her Key West series.  This amazing photographer, designer, and blogger recently visited Key West and has a wonderful viewpoint to share.  I hope you enjoy this installment in a taste of:

THE HOUSES OF KEY WEST PART 2 – Hurricane Alley and America’s Southernmost Point

With the start of summer also comes the start of Hurricane Season. And like a carrot dangling in front of a rabbit, so is Key West. Builders far and wide come to Key West (and some should) to study its resilient architecture to learn how these homes have withstood hurricanes, termites, neglect and even the Great Depression. I too am learning about its style & architecture… Here’s some of what I’ve found, along with some photos I captured from our recent anniversary trip to Key West

Love the painted underside of the portico…
On Simonton gingerbread details and painted shutters
More details on Duval
Grand architecture of a conch house

One of the most recognizable architecture styles of Key West homes are simple shotgun homes (aka cigar makers house) and which can also be found in New Orleans architecture. Simple shotgun style Key West architecture traces its origin to West Africa and the French Caribbean. These balloon-frame homes for cigar makers were small and simple, one story and one room wide — with three rooms end to end so a shot fired from the front door could exit the back door without resistance.

Oh so coastal…

One of the more famous cigar houses of Key West was actually converted into a historic cottage inn called Simonton Court, and is located on Hurricane Alley. Cigar houses were established by Englishman William Hall in 1831 and the Cubans. The cigar industry was one of the three main thriving economies at the start of Key West’s history (wrecking industry*, sponge industry (from the Bahamians) and cigar industry (from the Cubans). I would have thought that with Key West having been so heavily populated with Cubans, the roof tops would have been finished with Cuban barrel tile (shaped on the leg of a woman), but because of fires, many roof tops were constructed of tin to deflect flying embers.

Although many of the houses were constructed of wood, over time and devastation from havoc of not only hurricanes but fires, buildings were also constructed of concrete or brick.  A portion of this brick can still be found at an old cigar house turned inn called Simonton Court.  If you’ve picked up a Summer Catalog from Pottery Barn this year, you’ve already been introduced to Simonton Court, and if not, you can learn more about Pottery Barn’s photo shoot in the Florida Keys here.
“Simonton Court is a group of very unique rooms,
created from an old cigar makers’ factory –

No two are alike, but each are charming.”
Simonton Court Resort
“A brick walkway, once a lane,
runs past sparkling pools and historic cottages
built in 1880 as the homes of cigar factory workers.”
Pineapples – the symbol of “Welcome”
are a prominent decor detail throughout Key West

Simonton Court resides on Simonton Street, which is said to be also named Hurricane Alley. Simonton Street was named after the purchaser of the island, John W. Simonton. Although he purchased the island in January 1822, he was deemed the legal owner of the island (Key West aka Cayo

Hueso) until May 1828. His story is actually a part Florida’s first land scam. Learn more about the history of Key West here.

For the rest of Linda’s beautiful photography and commentary please visit her blog “FOCAL POINT”

Key West: The Ultimate Art Colony

For such a little far away spot in the great big ocean, Key West is an amazing place for art, culture, music, and history. In particular, it is an artists’ colony like none other. Artists come to visit, fall in love, and eventually stay. The amount and variety of visual arts that can be found here in the Conch Republic is staggering. Come along with me and I will give you a little taste of what can be found in the Key West art scene.

When you arrive, I HIGHLY recommend that you pick up a couple of things right away. Get a Gallery Guide printed by the Florida Keys Council of the Arts and the 2010 Key West Art Guide. Both will give you a map and descriptions of the over 42 art galleries in Key West. They are simply a couple must-haves if you want to be sure and not miss anything.

Like I said, there are over 42 galleries in Key West alone. They cover every form of visual art from paintings, photography, and sculpture to amazing fabric art and jewelery. This blog would be a mile long if I tried to profile them all, so I will give you a little sampling of what you can find just along Duval Street.

My first stop was the Wyland Gallery at 623 Duval Street. Wyland is best known world wide for his life-sized Whale Wall murals. The gallery in Key West features many of his sea creature sculptures and marine paintings. He is not the only artist in the gallery, though. You will also find works by David Wight, Steve Barton, Adam Rote, and Steven Quartly. If you will be visiting the island very soon you can catch Quartly at the Wyland Gallery April 15-18 and Adam Rote with Michael Cheval during Memorial Day Weekend.

Next, I stopped in at the Guild Hall Gallery, 614 Duval Street. Established in 1976, this gallery is a co-op of only local artists, so if you truly want a local piece to take home and treasure, this is the place to find it. There are over 20 artists currently showing at Guild Hall, and you will find a little bit of everything. There are plenty of painters, photographers, as well as crafters of various kinds. With two levels of art to browse, I found it very difficult to tear myself away and move on.

Just a few doors up the street from Guild Hall is 7 Artists. The seven artists featured here were originally part of the co-op at Guild Hall, until their work began to take up more space than the Hall had room for. All of the artists are long term residents of Key West, and highly accomplished in their own right. They each take turns working in the gallery greeting customers and working the register. The day I dropped in, David Scott Meier was there to greet me and answer all my questions.

Then I crossed the street to visit Galerie Rue Royale, where I met Steve. Luckily it was a quiet morning and Steve was able to take his time and show me around. Not only is there a great deal of amazing art to be enjoyed in Key West, but there are lots of lovely people happy to share their art passion with anyone that walks through the door. I can’t begin to tell you how much I enjoyed talking with Steve about the incredible world class artists featured at Galerie Rue Royale. I particularly loved the collection of Todd White’s work available there.

After that I wandered further up to the two Key West Galleries on the corner of Duval and Southard. Both of these galleries feature fine art from all over the world and Gallery II specifically features the work of Bill Mack. Bill Mack is an absolutely amazing figural artist, and he just finished a showing at the New York Art Show. All of those works are now in Key West and he will be joining them April 29, 30, and May 1. His show will be kicking off a month full of weekend showings by major artists at the Key West Galleries.

But my friends and art lovers, I have saved the very best for last. On a whim, I entered the Peter Lik Photography Gallery at 519 Duval Street. The amazing images taken by this outstanding photographer absolutely took my breath away. I can honestly say I have never seen anything like it. The gallery director, William Dammann, very kindly took the time to show me around and explain how Lik captures these amazing living, breathing landscapes. All I can say is, you MUST see it for yourself.

Truthfully, I’ve barely scratched the surface.  There are sculpture gardens to see at the Botanical Gardens, and so much more.  So, hop on a scooter and take a tour of the cultured side of Key West for yourself.



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