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The Avalon Bed and Breakfast
By Deborah Straw

1317 Duval Street
(305) 294-8233

The Avalon, advertised as your "home away from home" is in the middle of Old Town Key West, just steps away from the beach. I saw a few pictures of Avalon online when I booked my reservations. The pictures don't do it the justice it deserves. To be 100 years old, this Victorian house is in tip-top shape. So is the service.

Avalon is owned by Tim Ryan, who also owns three restaurants in Key West, including Abbondanza (Italian), Cafe des Artistes and Duffy's Steak & Lobster House.

Built in 1895, the house was opened by a Cuban physician and has served as a Cuban club, hospital, upscale hotel and flophouse over the past 100 years. Ryan bought the house in August, 1997 from two men who turned the shabby flophouse into a bed and breakfast - the William House Guesthouse. In Sept. of 1998, the roof of the house was blown off by Hurricane Georges, sparking the complete renovation of the home, which stands near the Southernmost point.

Avalon's managers, Gert and Diba Oken, keep the place running smoothly. The two, who met in Sri Lanka six years ago, have managed Avalon for the past two years. When asked about recent bookings, Diba said "This summer has been as good as the [high] season (Dec. - May). Usually there is a difference, but this year we've been booked [solid] since January."

Is that because Key West has become so commercialized over the past five years or because travelers are starting to cash in on the lower rates of summer? At any rate, this says something about Avalon.

Upon entering the house, I was amazed at its old-world charm. The hardwood floors and high ceilings add to Avalon's home-away-from-home feel. The front room is almost like your own living room. Just outside, you'll find a huge sundeck with lounge chairs and a hot tub for all guests.

And that's not all. The rooms are Avalon's main attraction. Each of the ten rooms boasts a private bathroom, queen-sized beds, air condition, ceiling fans, cable TV and mini-refrigerators. Avalon is perfect for a romantic getaway. According to Diba, 98 percent of Avalon's guests are couples, but everyone is welcome. There are even three suites that house two double beds and a separate living area - suitable to families.

Because the bed & breakfast is situated near the end of Duval Street, you can easily escape the noise and heavy traffic typically found at the other end.

Breakfast is served every morning on the house's front porch - overlooking Duval Street. Indulge in some fresh bagels, toast, cereal and a danish before starting your morning in Key West. And for those of you who live by your morning newspapers, Avalon has those too - one at each table.

Avalon House is part of the Innkeepers Association, which hosts about 40 bed and breakfasts in the area. The association works as a networking source for innkeepers, eliminating competition and promoting teamwork among the owners.

"The association is a referral network. If someone calls and there are no vacancies at Avalon, we can look up other inns in the area and make recommendations on where to stay," says Diba.

Speaking of recommendations, I'd recommend Avalon any day.

Rates: Summer/Fall $69-$139
Spring $99-$154
Winter $129-$184

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