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March 14, 2007

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WHERE'S JOHNNY JET?                                 Key West, Florida
KEY: BOLD = PICTURE, HYPER LINK = WEBSITE

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MEDIA ALERT!
Check it out! Have you seen all the press JohnnyJet.com has been getting lately? First, AOL Travel named JohnnyJet.com one of the "Ten Travel Web Sites You Should Know About". Then, the Los Angeles Times listed us as one of 10 websites with "Great Advice For Travelers" and in the March/April edition of Positive Thinking Magazine, they feature moi as one of five people who loves their life. Now how cool is that? If you own or run a website, write for a magazine, newspaper and/or online newsletter, or produce or host a radio or TV show in the U.S. or abroad, please throw me a bone by mentioning either JohnnyJet.com or any one of our other valuable resources like AirlineNumbers.com, HotelNumbers.com, CarRentalNumbers.com, CruiselineNumbers.com and AlternateAirports.com).

Greetings from Key West! Iím down here checking out the sights as well as an exclusive island resort. If you want to escape the cold then grab your bathing suit and sunscreen -- itís 84F down here! For those of you who are in a hurry or have ADD (itís okay, I have it too), thereís a 2-minute Johnny Jet video at the end of this weekís story. Also, our newest writer, Jaclyn C. Stevenson, wrote an interesting piece about a doctor whose life-long quest is to make the traveling public more aware of travel medicine, and the often simple ways you can keep yourself healthy and safe in even the most remote of outposts (click here to read it).

KEY WEST
Key West is an island that is roughly four miles long and two miles wide. Located at the southernmost tip of the Florida Keys, itís actually the southernmost point of the continental United States -- Cuba is just 98 statute miles south. One of the biggest attractions here is a huge painted buoy at the corner of South and Whitehead Streets, which boasts this distinction. Note: This is not the exact southernmost point; that is nearby on a secure piece of land belonging to the US Navy.

KEY WEST HISTORY IN A NUTSHELL
Key West has a long and interesting history. The first inhabitants were the Calusas, a native Indian tribe. They were eventually destroyed by warfare and European diseases. The first European to step foot here was Juan Ponce de Leůn in 1521. Spain gave Florida to the U.S. in 1821 and on March 3, 1845 it became the twenty-seventh state. By 1890, Key West had a population close to 20,000 and was the biggest and richest city in Florida and the wealthiest town per capita in the U.S. Most of the wealth was due to salvaging shipwrecks (check out the Mel Fisher Museum for more). The Navy added a small base at the beginning of the Spanish-American War in 1898 and then increased their presence to 3,000 acres during World War II. Other notable dates include: 1912 Henry M. Flagler's Florida East Coast Railway connected the island with the Florida mainland. In 1969 the first cruise ship arrived and now itís a premier port.

WHEN TO COME
I donít know if thereís ever a bad time to visit. For one, Key West has never had a recording of frost or snow since itís so close to the Gulf Stream. The coldest temperature ever registered was 41F in 1981 and the hottest was 97F in 1956. The average low and high temperatures in January are 67F/ 75F. The average low and high temperatures in July are 81F/ 90F. The high season is between November and April when everyone wants to escape the cold north (which also makes it the most expensive) and is the period when the island gets the least amount of rain. May through October is the wet season and hurricane season officially runs from the end of June to the end of November. Fortunately, Key West has been spared from most of the devastating storms but both Wilma (in October, 2005) and Georges (in September, 1998) did some damage.

GETTING THERE
Last week, I left off from the luxurious Breakers in Palm Beach. From there I drove down to the Fort Lauderdale airport and boarded a US Airways Embraer 170 jet. Whatís nice about this plane is that itís much larger than the rest of the aircrafts flying into the small Key West airport. This plane holds up to 70 passengers, has plenty of overhead compartment space and is very smooth. The flight time is just 26 minutes and the scenery is surreal. I almost hurt my neck doing a double take glancing out of the window and seeing a hundred or so tiny white sandy islands surrounded by outrageous shades of turquoise blue water. And with the cotton ball clouds and the flow of the current, the view almost looked like a painting. It was definitely one of the nicest views I have ever seen from a plane (see the video below). For those who prefer to drive, the only road to take is US Highway 1, which has 42 bridges. The 160-mile trip from Miami takes just under four hours. And now thereís a new ferry service.

HIGH SPEED BOAT TO KEY WEST
The high-speed Key West Express ferry service just launched a few weeks ago from Key Biscayne (itís adjacent to the Miami Seaquarium). The catamaran accommodates up to 367 passengers, travels 40 mph, has indoor/outdoor decks, six plasma TVs with satellite, a full bar and food service. It takes under four hours and roundtrip tickets cost $98 per adult, $66 per child 12 and under, and $79 for college students and senior citizens. They can be purchased online or at the dock and parking is free. The boat currently operates Thursday to Sunday departing Miami at 8:30 a.m. and Key West at 5:30 p.m. making day trips possible. For reservations or more information call 1-866-KW-Ferry (866-593-3779) or (239) 765-0808, or visit SeaKeyWestExpress.com. FYI: This same ferry company offers Key West service to/from Ft Myers and Marco Island.

CONCH REPUBLIC
At the Key West airport, passengers embark and disembark using the plane stairs. As you walk from the tarmac into the airport, a "Welcome to the Conch Republic" sign greets you. I had no idea what that meant but didnít think anything of it until I saw a Conch Republic flag painted on the wall outside of baggage claim. It turns out that the word "Conch" used to refer to someone with European ancestry who had immigrated to the Bahamas. Many of Key Westís first residents were immigrants from the Bahamas and today the term "Conch" refers to a native of the Florida Keys. Those who were not born here but have lived for seven or more years, are called "Fresh Water Conch".

GETTING TO THE HOTEL
Taxis are plentiful and offer a flat rate of $7.50 per person to "Old Town" which is where I was staying Ö near. For $1.50 more per passenger, you can hire the Florida Keys Group Transport (305-296-1800) and one of their drivers will be waiting for you at baggage claim with a name card. For those traveling solo, taxis charge by the meter and the 12-minute ride (without traffic) should cost $15.



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Copyright 2007 JohnnyJet, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Pictures From

The Trip

 

Boarding Time

 

US Airways Embraer 170

 

Inside Plane

 

View From Plane

 

Key West Ferry

 

Inside Ferry

 

Southernmost Point

 

Welcome To...

 

Conch Republic

 

Sunset Key Island

 

Westin Key West

 

Check-in at Westin

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