I don't know about you, but I am in need of a little bit of sunshine daydreaming today. On my last Florida visit, we went to Key West, it seems like a dream right now....anyway, we went to probably the top tourist destination of the isle, The Hemingway House and Museum. It's the house where author Ernest Hemingway lived during his first marriage, just as his career was really taking off.
|This Hemingway-esque fellow in the pic was our tour guide, he was excellent and I have to say after overhearing another tour, definitely the best!|
As you enter the somewhat modest grounds they feel very lush and tropical.
The first room of the tour is a sort of formal living room, dedicated to Hemingway's love of the sea and boating.
The tour consists mostly of a round up of Hemingway's influence on literature, and to be honest rather a lot of gossip about his personal life, which was of course notoriously tumultuous! I have an English major's grip on Hemingway, I have read the classics, and this tour did make me want to re-visit him even if it didn't necessarily go much into his work's importance or relevance in the canon of American authors. It was a little bit Hollywood Hemingway overall in theme in terms of his career. Which I guess is what keeps the tourists happy! ;-)
This house saw a brief period of settled domesticity for Hemingway, and his family continued to live in the house long after he decamped to Cuba and finally Idaho. There was one room dedicated to his literary era and had some interesting artefacts of his time living in Paris and friendships with authors like Ford Maddox Ford and James Joyce, and also artists including Picasso. These weren't very photo friendly things though, sorry! Hey, here is a pretty chandelier instead! Shiny shiny. Seriously, the chandeliers were amazing.
|When I win the lottery I am getting chandeliers in every toilet.|
|Pretty art deco tiles (I think?!)|
|The Hemingways' bed post was an old Spanish gate they spotted somewhere, apparently, and had re purposed. This cat was napping on the bed the whole time we were there!|
After the upstairs tour, we were led out to the wraparound porch, which was lovely, I want one. Then onto the grounds where you feel like you are in a lush tropical jungle!
Hemingway's office was a separate hidey hole from the house, which used to have a rope bridge leading to it from the second floor. Again, I want this to be a thing in my life someday!
I don't really know because there wasn't a guide for the office peeping part of the tour (there is a small roped off area at the top of a staircase where you can look but not enter the hallowed writer's grounds), but I can only presume the paintings of the author were added in recent years...I guess? Maybe Hemingway liked having lots of paintings of himself around? He did know a lot of artists...
Also legendary in the Hemingway history is his love of cats, which is quickly apparent as you are basically tripping over felines from the minute you walk in. Many of the cats (and kittens!) are descendants of original Hemingway cats, notable by the ones who carry the extra toe in their paw. Hemingway was obsessed with six toed cats, thought they were lucky or some such, and bred quite a lot of them. Only some of the cats on the grounds still sport this fetching sixth paw, I think maybe this one did:
|I think these are just regular paw prints.|
|It's exhausting living in a tourist trap and getting attention all day!|
|I was impressed by how modest the kitchen was.|
|Another gorgeous chandelier|
|Hemingway and Ingrid Bergman|
|I never knew he wrote this one, embarrassed to say as I love the film"|
|This pool cost more than the house to put in at the time, apparently one of the Hemingway's numerous tiffs stemmed from this|
I would definitely recommend a visit to the Hemingway House if you are ever in Key West. It was an almost unbearably hot day when we were there and the house was lovely and cool, and the grounds shaded and lush. If you like cats, you will love it. Even if you are allergic to cats, like me, it's not a problem really. Yes there are a lot of cats but they are really spread out/mostly outdoors. The cats are friendly enough (there is one who even does a trick at the end of some tours!), will say hello if you want them to but also are just typical cats: "Tourists, meh".
I came away with a better understanding of the man, perhaps not so much of his work, but he did lead a fascinating if ultimately tragic life (he killed himself at 61, from the sounds of it due to unmanaged bi-polar disorder). Which would explain A LOT of his history, in fact the disease did run in his family. Sad.
At any rate, he was briefly happy here, in this lovely house, and from the sounds of it, also often drunkenly happy, at notable Key West watering holes. On the grounds there is even a urinal from his favourite haunt Sloppy Joes* which was turned into a fountain/watering hole for the cats!
*There is a ongoing contention between two bar owners as to the right to the Sloppy Joe's Hemingway association, the Hemingway House seems to side with the original location (Captain Tony's) being the more authentic heritage site, as opposed to the one now called "Sloppy Joe's", which makes a pretty hefty tourist trade. We did not visit either so I can't compare!