Monday 6 March 2017

Observations and Snippets from my Favourite Trippets #1

As we venture into our fourth year travelling the world, I’m planning a new series of retrospective blog posts to focus on some very special places that I’ve only previously covered on this blog in overview.

In this post, I’m highlighting Hemingway’s House in Key West Florida.

Our visit to the Hemingway House in Key West was one of the highlights of our trip to Florida. This was the home of Ernest Hemingway, the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1953 and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954 "for his mastery of the art of narrative, most recently demonstrated with The Old Man and the Sea, and for the influence he has exerted on contemporary style". The house too is impressive and has the distinct air and rich ambiance of old world elegance.

The house is impressive and has the distinct air and rich ambiance of old world elegance

A high brick boundary keeps the property private but the view from the first-floor wrap around porch takes in not only the garden but the adjacent street in what is an affluent residential part of town.

I loved walking around the airy rooms and the book-lined hallways, taking in all the family photographs and the personal effects. I could almost pretend I was a house guest exploring the place while Ernest and Pauline (Hemingway’s second wife) had just popped out momentarily.

I could almost pretend I was a house guest exploring the place while Ernest and Pauline had popped out momentarily

The house gives the visitor a real feel for the life the Hemingway’s led in Key West during the 1930’s.

Ernest and Pauline Hemingway

The life of Ernest Hemingway from photographs at his home in Key West

Our tour guide happily gave out lots of insider information about the history of the house, the escapades of the children, the Hemingway marriage, the huge row over the swimming pool and Ernest Hemingway’s ‘last penny’.

The story is that the swimming pool, which replaced what had been Ernest's personal boxing ring, was contracted at great expense by Pauline after she found out about her husband’s affair with Martha Gellhorn, his third wife to be.

When Ernest came back from assignment to find out the exorbitant cost of the pool, he was reported to have thrown a penny onto the ground in front of Pauline, saying, ‘you’ve spent all but my last penny, so you might as well have that!’

Pauline had the penny set into the path where it lay. It is still there today.

The swimming pool that Hemingway said had cost him his last penny

Another extraordinary feature of the house are all the cats that reside there.

These are descendants of a six-toed cat called Snowball. One of Snowball’s kittens (named Snow White) was gifted to Ernest Hemingway by a salvage and shipwreck captain (a respected and official position in those days) called Harold Stanley Dexter. Ever since, the six-toed gene has been passed down through all the generations of cats at the Hemingway house. All were named after Ernest’s famous friends. The cat in this photo is Rita Hayworth.

On the left - Rita Hayworth. On the right - a six toed paw!

I was so engrossed and enthralled by the house and its history and the life of Hemingway, that the following day we visited the Hemingway museum in town. 

There are many exhibits and pictures and movie posters reflecting his work but the centerpiece, which captures a young, enthusiastic, and adventurous Hemingway fishing off his beloved boat ‘Pilar’, is the bronze sculptor by Terry Jones (2005).

The bronze sculptor of Hemingway by Terry Jones (2005).

Ernest Hemingway’s first visit to Key West in 1928 was only meant to be a way stop, but once he’d felt the sun on his face, smelt the salty air and met the locals, he knew it would be his home with second wife Pauline.

A photograph of Ernest Hemingway with his parents and his second wife Pauline in April 1928

He soon became an avid sports fisherman. In 1938 he established a world record for catching seven Marlin in one day. He also garnered a reputation for hard drinking with his new friends Josie ‘Sloppy Joe’ Russell, fisherman Eddie ‘Bra’ Saunders and his brother ‘Burge’ and later Toby Bruce who became his right-hand man and life-long companion.

I’ll give you a short tour of the Hemingway museum using my photos.

A model of Hemingway's beloved boat 'Pilar' in the Hemingway Key West Museum

If you ever do find yourself in Florida I urge you to explore the Keys. We took a Greyhound Bus from Miami and stopped off in Key Largo for a couple of days (which really should warrant another #Trippets post!) before heading across the famous bridges down to Key West. There is so much to explore and lots to do there. The food is fabulous and restaurants plentiful. In Hemingway tradition, bars are a fun feature too. Sloppy Joe's is still there and a new addition is the first and original of Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville.

Here I am enjoying a Margarita at the original Margaritaville Key West!

I loved finding out more about one of my writer heroes and we adored Key West!

Author note: I so enjoyed meeting the six-toed cats that a fictional six-toed offspring features in my next romantic adventure novel 'Island in the Sun' and is aptly named 'Hemingway'!