Tuesday, February 16, 2010

We’ve just come up from happy hour at Big Ruby’s Guest House here in Key West to change for dinner. Happy hour is part of the room rental along with a custom cooked breakfast. It’s turning out to be ten to fifteen degrees colder here than normal. The day wasn’t so bad but tonight is somewhere in the 50s with a healthy breeze.

We arrived yesterday afternoon after a trouble-free but tiring trip down the coast: Manchester New Hampshire on U.S. Air to Philadelphia where we changed planes to Fort Lauderdale. U.S. Air operates the most cramped, leg room-free planes I’ve ever encountered. Combine that with the fact that people are trying to avoid the checked bag fees by bringing huge rolling suitcases on board that fill the overhead bins immediately, leaving no room for most passengers’ carry-ons and you wind up with an extremely uncomfortable flight.

In Fort Lauderdale we took a Continental twenty-seater to Key West, a prop plane that flew low, giving us splendid views of islands, boats and the shallow bottom of the Gulf of Mexico in the area of the Florida Keys. We arrived in time to join our friends for wine around the pool and a delightful dinner for ten at one of the better restaurants along Duval Street; this is our first time in Key West and we had a very pleasant introduction.

Today we had two tours on our agenda, the first being the house that author Ernest Hemingway owned and lived in from 1931 until 1940 when his second marriage collapsed and he decamped to Cuba with the woman who was the reason for the collapse. Originally built by a wildly successful merchant in the middle of the 19th century to be hurricane-proof (the walls are 18 inches thick and made of coral blocks cemented together—it has never been damaged by a hurricane in its 160 years), the house is a typical tropical mansion with wide verandas on both floors, high ceilings and gracious proportions.

Part of the dining room looking through the pantry into the kitchen.

The over-mantel painting in the living room, an aerial view of Key West from the 1930s.

Headboard of Ernest and Pauline Hemingway's bed. Made of two twin beds grafted together (queen-sized beds not being in existence at the time), the headboard is the garden gate with its gateposts of a 17th century Spanish monastery. Hemmingway adored Spain and much of the house is furnished with 17th and 18th century Spanish furniture.

There are forty three cats resident on the property, all direct descendents of the six-pawed cat one of Hemingway's children brought home one day. he was delighted with it and the tradition of cats having the run of the place began
Key West's lighthouse from the second story veranda outside the bedroom. Wags said Hemingway had wanted this particular house because of the light house's proximitgy--its light would guide him home after long nights of drinking down at Sloppy Joe's Bar.

Hemingway's studio on the upper floor of the carriage house that Pauline had converted into a guest cottage. He wrote from six in the morning until noon. The rest of the day was devoted to lunch, friends, fishing, dinner and Sloppy Joe's where he gathered character portraits and storied that went into his writing. More than half of his published work was written in this studio during the nine years he lived in Key West

A cat in the garden,

and another on the edge of the studio roof.

The second place on our agenda was the Key West Nature and Butterfly Conservatory. Pictures on Thursday.

Looks like a grand time! One of these days I'd like to see Key West. I have a long list...
I love Key West. I too visited the Hemingway house and loved it. What an inspirational place to write.
Looks beautiful. Am I succumbing to hearsay, though, or wasn't EH a terrible homophobe who crossed the steet to punch a gay?

Great news about the New Hampshire little victories - bur I pre-empt you, having learned from your post on Entartete Musik.
If that happened during his years here, David, it wasn't gone into during the docent's fine and detailed commentary. Given the hyper-macho style Hemingway cultivated and his aggressive heterosexuality, it certainly would be a credible story.
Will I have had good luck with US Air, but I do agree with you on leg room. Great photos of the cats and house.:)
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