An Inn That's Really Out There

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Swaying palm fronds: Very Keys. A life-size fiberglass camel looming as you drive up to your home for the night: Not so much.

Casa Thorn, which also sports a stone-lion fountain propped under a wooden trellis, is not exactly what you'd expect of a B&B on a quiet residential street in the Florida Keys. You can thank owner Thorn Trainer for that.

Trainer, a former Marylander who has lived in Florida since 1964, holds court in the Islamorada inn and is always ready with restaurant recommendations and insider tips. We'd barely checked in before the chatting began and house dogs Neiko (a Yorkie-Chihuahua mix) and Baci (a Shih Tzu) were in our laps. They're always around for petting yet never seem to bark.

A gate allows access to the pool area, the greenery-filled breakfast nooks and the inn's five guest rooms, all decorated with the exotica picked up during or inspired by Trainer's travels. The Moroccan Room (perfect if you fancy a Jacuzzi and a bar with champagne glasses) boasts a headboard and lamps that would be at home in a souk, while camel No. 2 adorns a mural painted across one wall.

We bunked in Suite 4, which is nearly overwhelmed by a queen-size bed. (The room shares a bathroom with the Tiki Hut, a small stand-alone structure with room enough for two tucked into the far corner of the property.) A tiny elephant, its trunk extended, sits on the bedside table next to a Buddhist head, complete with topknot and elongated earlobes -- and somehow it's comforting, not creepy. An Indonesian puppet stands on the dresser.

Each room has a fridge, CDs, TV and a VCR. Breakfast is served at your choice of tables in the courtyard area. The inn was full during our stay, yet we had our coffee, scrambled eggs and toast in almost complete seclusion, feeling far from the traffic on U.S. 1, just a few blocks away.

-- Anne McDonough

Casa Thorn is at 114 Palm Lane (bayside, near Mile Marker 87.5) on Plantation Key. Rooms start at $69 a night. Small children are not encouraged; small pets are welcome. Info: 305-852-3996,

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