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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Tropical Bliss: Romance at Moorings Village Islamorada

Tropical Bliss
Romance at Moorings Village in Islamorada
On a stretch of land that was once a coconut plantation and includes 1,100 feet of pristine beach -- a rarity in the Florida Keys -- sits the Moorings Village, the ultimate place to drop off the grid. Hidden under a jungle of banyan trees dripping in long vines are sandy pathways, folded between coral rock and fragrant pink and purple azaleas, that lead to cottages with bright orange, lavender and teal Bahamian shutters and tin roofs. The beachfront Maroni House provides front-row seats for early risers who want to see the sun wake up. Whether you're newly married or a longtime pair, the Honeymoon Cottage has cozy, overstuffed furniture, a king-size bed with sumptuous linens and a requisite tub built for two. But it's the African masks and statuettes from French owner Hubert Baudoin's private collection that are most noteworthy.
Before you completely settle in, make a quick trip to the Trading Post gourmet market and Martini's Liquors, where you can stock up on fixings for two: pâté, cheese, caviar and a bottle of Chateau de Beaucastel. For a sweet treat put in an order for a morning delivery of fresh pastries at nearby Bob's Bunz bakery. Before the sun rises, a bag of sweets will be left hanging on your door handle.
The easiest way to fall into the island rhythm together is with a private yoga session for two on the palm-studded beach. Or perhaps you'd relish doing nothing but swaying in a hammock or gazing at the horizon from the resort's pier. If restlessness sets in, take the complimentary two-seater kayak and paddle a mile out to the Cheeca Rocks Sanctuary Preservation Area. Tie off on a buoy and snorkel around the protected inshore patch reefs to get a better look at parrotfish and blue tang. Low tide is the best time to go.
For more door-to-door service, Tavernier Bicycle (305.852.2859) delivers too. Take a ride through Upper Matecumbe, Islamorada's downtown area and site of the Moorings, to check out the miles of boutiques and art galleries. At the Redbone Gallery, the Keys landscape and indigenous wildlife provide the focus. Eight miles south is kiteboarding-centric Anne's Beach. Adventurous couples book a two-hour kiteboarding lesson with Otherside Boardsports (305.853.9728), taking advantage of the two-for-the-price-of-one deal. Harnessing the wind's forceful energy in your hands as you maneuver a 7-foot kite while balancing on the water is an exhilarating experience.
That aforementioned bottle of wine will come in handy at the BYOB Spanish Gardens Café, where you can pair it with tapas such as bison empanadas or calamari in sherry. And for the ultimate sunset on the Florida Bay, score a coveted upstairs table on the veranda at Pierre's Restaurant. Sharing biscotti and mandarin oranges dipped in Valrhona chocolate fondue is a romantic -- and delicious -- way to wrap the day together. -- Claudia Miller

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Viva Florida 500: Civil War Heritage Days Key West

Viva Florida 500: Civil War Heritage Days Key West

February 5th, 2013

image-civil war heritage days
Key West Civil War Heritage Days
History buffs will have a chance to travel back in time at Fort Zachary Taylor, a Civil War–era fort on Key West’s Atlantic Ocean shore,February 8-10 during Civil War Heritage Days. The three-day event will re-create the era when Key West was the only Deep South port to remain in Union hands, much to the consternation of many residents at the time. Fort Taylor played a major role in the Union blockage of Confederate shipping along one of the most important open water channels in the United States. While Ft. Zachary remained in Union hands throughout the Civil War and never saw any actual fighting, the festival provides a fascinating “what if” scenario, playing out skirmishes between the forces, as if the Confederate troops had actually made it to Key West.
The grounds at the fort and surrounding state park will be transformed into both Union and Confederate camps, providing a glimpse into how the soldiers lived in the 1860s. Over 100re-enactors dressed in period costumes will play the roles of military personnel, merchants, craftsmen and civilians and provide living history demonstrations throughout the weekend. Of course, the most excitement will come during the land and sea battles, as patrol skirmishes offer artillery demonstrations and schooners face off on the ocean, cannons booming across the water. The event is free with park admission.
This event is part of Visit Florida's Viva 500 commemoration, honoring the anniversary of Ponce de Leon's landing in Florida. Find more events around Florida at Florida Travel + Life'snew events calendar.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Best Places to Eat in Islamorada Florida Keys

Originally published in Florida Travel + Life Magazine 

Travel through the Florida Keys, and you'll find a foodie scene percolating in Islamorada, a group of six islands halfway between Miami and Key West. 

Green Turtle Inn 

Look for the iconic green neon sign that marks the Green Turtle Inn. Established in 1947, it's still the locals' "clubhouse" where musician Dave Feder revs up Friday evenings with his mixture of hillbilly and Flamenco style. The atmosphere is well matched by the Cajun touches added to the hearty turtle chowder (hence the restaurant's name); pair it with an ice-cold Yuengling lager draft. Don't miss the luscious seared scallops doused in truffle oil and sherry brown butter. 

Atlantic's Edge 

Lunch is at Atlantic's Edge in the Cheeca Resort, where lingering in comfy bamboo chairs with your toes in the sand just steps from turquoise waters is encouraged. Watch sailboats in the distance and people fishing off the dock jutting into the Atlantic Ocean. Try the ahi ceviche, served chilled in a fresh half coconut, with spicy red peppers, green cilantro and sweet coconut sauce. Finish with New Zealand's crisp Nobilo sauvignon blanc. 

Kaiyo Grill 

Kaiyo Grill is the Caribbean-Asian go-to spot for uncommon catches like tripletail and tilefish as well as island-inspired sushi like the namesake roll with crispy tempura Florida lobster, mango, avocado and cilantro. Informal sake tastings take place at the long mahogany bar adorned with blue-hued mosaics. Start with the sweet, unfiltered Dreamy Clouds, and and then snack on warm naan bread fresh from his tandoori oven.