Everyone loves a holiday or vacation as you guys call it in the States. I love the use of that word, actually. The idea that you are vacating your every day life, your occupation, the dust and heat of the city for for the fresh, cool breeze of the sea air. The word comes from the Latin vacatio – to be unoccupied or free from something. What you may not know is that the use of the word actually originates from the UK. Vacation referred to the long summer break taken by the law courts and then later the term was applied to universities. The custom was introduced by William the Conqueror from Normandy where it facilitated the grape harvest.
My husband and I have travelled all over the world. We have many favourite places, but nothing compares to a place where you feel so relaxed it’s like you live there, like it’s your home. A place where you can totally unwind, vacate your busy life and recharge.
Fifteen years ago, Mr C, as my husband will henceforth be known, lost his mum to cancer. It was an incredibly upsetting time for us all, made worse by the fact that she passed away on her birthday. We needed to get away, to vacate the emotions and turmoil we had been experiencing back at home. So, very last minute, we booked a flight to Key West and managed to bag the last remaining room at a guesthouse called Alexander’s Guesthouse Key West. We were welcomed with open arms the moment we arrived. The staff could not have been more friendly and the guests from the other sixteen guest rooms treated us like they had known us for years, welcoming us back to the family. We stayed in room 4, which has become “our room” whenever we stay there. That holiday allowed us to temporarily forget the world back home. It allowed us time and space to just be, secure in a place where everyone was welcome, where we felt part of the family.
We loved our time there so much that we booked to stay at New Year again for the following year. That turned out to be a year that would change our lives and our holidaying habits forever. Alexander’s has a free happy hour every evening by the pool. It’s a great way to meet new friends. Whether you’re travelling alone or as a couple, someone will always talk to you and make you feel right at home. That year, two wonderful gentlemen named Jerry and Scott from Kansas City, had decided to call Alexander’s their home for the holidays. We hit it off straight away. Both Mr C and I were a little larger then than we are now and I remember joking about us both having the appetite of small birds. It broke the ice, conversation flowed and we ended up dining together that night. We became such good friends that we have holidayed with them every New year, bar one, since. The year we didn’t meet was a disaster on both sides of the Atlantic and it’s never been repeated since! We’ve travelled all over the world together, from Costa Rica to Thailand, from Turks and Caicos to South Africa, Provincetown, Sitges and everything in between. They came to our wedding in England in 2010 and we have visited their home in Kansas City.
This is the kind of friendship that happens so rarely, yet at Alexander’s it seems to happen quite often and that is testament to the beautiful, warm and friendly environment that Laura – the manager, the staff and owners have created.
Since 2005 we have visited the guest house every year in the spring. We moved our dates to make the most of the warmer weather. We’ve met other friends there since then and often our dates collide to meet again. My 40th birthday was held there and its almost certain my 50th next year will also be at our home away from home.
Alexander’s is an LGBTQ guesthouse which also welcomes all friends of the LGBTQ Community. They promote acceptance and respect for all, regardless of gender – one human family. The majority of guests are from the LGBTQ community. However, many straight couples also choose to stay there due to its relaxed atmosphere, acceptance for all and the friendly banter that the gay community are known for.
The guesthouse Comprises of two lovingly restored Key West Conch houses built in 1902 and a third house build in the garden after 1992. The three houses and the bar area form a horsehoe that gently hugs the pool and dining area surrounded by tropical palms, bougainvillea, bamboo and Sweet frangipani.
The main house and the house adjacent to it were originally owned by sisters whose husbands bought the homes so they could live next to one another. The sister that lived in the 2nd house had a son that died from tuberculosis at the age of 10. The grandfather also died about that same time. They haunt Alexander’s; many guests who have the gift of seeing spirits have seen and felt them in the rooms…especially rooms 11, 15 and 17.
A gay couple by the names of Dale and Walt created Alexander’s In the main house in 1982. A decade later, Michael Ingram bought Alexander’s from them. He was an architect interested in expanding the guesthouse. He bought the sister’s house next door and then built the 3rd smaller house by the jacuzzi.
In 2003 Orlando Torres and Raul Diaz bought Alexander’s and still own it to this day. Orlando and Raul wanted to take the houses and its interiors in a new direction. They chose a laidback coastal style with contemporary elegance and clean lines. All of the 16 guest rooms and the apartment are beautifully restored and appointed with original pine floors, stately windows and a simple monochromatic charm. You can expect insanely comfortable beds with crisp white linens and comforters. There is a beautiful heated pool and jacuzzi to melt all your cares away, delicious breakfasts to rejuvenate with and a friendly happy hour where guests are invited to mix and mingle with complimentary cocktails. There is even a guest loyalty programme! The day to day running of the guest house is managed by Laura Zequeira, who has been there since 2006. She is the warmest of hosts and has created a place that all of us can call home. It is her happy place and retreat for the soul for us all.
Alexander’s is listed in the National Historic Register and is located on a quiet, tree-shaded street in the heart of Key West’s “Old Town.” Instead of being a traditional hotel, it is a home away from home, where you are welcomed like long time friends. From Fleming Street you can easily walk to all the major attractions, shops, restaurants and beaches. There is something for everyone here on the island. We usually hire bikes to get around directly from Alexander’s. It’s an incredibly bike friendly island and it’s a great way to burn off those extra calories from all the delicious food you’ll be sampling here on the island. A word of warning though; there are no brakes on these bikes, you have to peddle backwards to stop, which takes a little practice! If you can’t face walking or using a bike, then taxis are readily available.
Key West is a crazy island where anything is possible. The Conch republic, as it is known, is famous for it’s nightlife – gay and straight, saloon bars, Margaritas, free-roaming chickens and laidback dining. It’s also a haven for water sports, sailing and fishing. On the other side of the coin there are many historic sites to visit, beautiful architecture, art galleries, a butterfly emporium and numerous interior and fashion boutiques. If all that gets too much for you and you just want to unwind, then there is nothing better than a day by the pool back at Alexander’s. They have cleverly created a peaceful idyl during the day, where you can fall asleep on a sun-lounger or read in the shade. At happy hour the mood changes seamlessly into a fun, yet chilled atmosphere preparing you for the night ahead.
I will be writing a second blog post later in the year about the island of Key West and all the wonderful things there are to do and see there. It’s a veritable treasure trove of experiences, views, fun and fabulousness!
Alexander’s T-shirts that say “Love Wins” were created way before the slogan was tweeted by President Obama when gay marriage became legal in the USA. Laura just loved the recipe website Pioneerwoman.com by Ree Drummond. On it, was a recipe for Spaghetti Bolognese from a minister friend of hers named Ryan. On her website was a photo of the handwritten recipe where he signed it….”Love Wins, Ryan”, which was back in 2009. Laura said: “ I loved that saying so much I made it the motto of the guesthouse. Little did I know that it would become the catch phrase for gay marriage many years later. I have always felt it was synchronicity.”
New year 2019 will go down in our history as an exceptional holiday. The year that we went back to the place where we met our wonderful life-long friends. I really cant recommend Alexander’s Guesthouse enough to both gay and straight travellers. In 22 years of travelling together as a couple, Mr C and I have never found another guesthouse quite like it, which is why we now go back every year. Why not make it your next holiday/vacation destination?
To book and for further information: Alexander’s Guesthouse.
Call: +1 (305) 294 – 9919.