I got the chance to go to Key West for a few days and the first thing on my list of to do, was a Mojito and a trip to the Hemingway House. The House was going to be a major problem for me. I am highly allergic to cats and there are just a few cats about the place.
So with a Pashmina wrapped around my nose and mouth, ( oh did I get looks) I made a very quick run into the house and back out again.
Even though the house was filled with tourists like me, I got the sense of how free it would have felt to wander through the house with the shutters and doors open allowing the tropical air to glide across one’s bare arms.
The Hemingway House was built in 1851. It doesn’t feel that old. There is a lightness to the place that must have appealed to Hemingway in 1931. The house still contains the family furniture and the cats. There are cats and cats and cats, all with an extra toe.
I made my way quickly and regretfully through the house. How I would have loved to spent even a half hour inside the house. I managed to snap a photo of Ernest’s portrait hanging above the fireplace.
It never fails to amazes me how little people needed back then. The kitchen was small, really small for today’s plethora of electric kitchen gadgets, but the Hemingway’s managed to entertain here just fine.
The cat’s were starting to get to me, so I made a mad dash up the stairs to the bedrooms and only stopped long enough to take a photo of the bathtub. All the bedrooms were crowded with people, and very rightly so, a few cats soundly sleeping on the beds. So the bathroom was ignored by all but me that day.
I loved how the house still had all the Hemingway’s furniture and tidbits. How I longed to stay, but sunlight and fresh air were not just gently calling me, but they were screaming at me to get out of the house!
Once outside, the heat was searing. The sky was a blinding blue. I just wanted to cool down. I found the swimming pool, which bears some mention here. It’s an in ground swimming pool and in 1938 cost a whopping 20,000 dollars. It was a mammoth task to dig out the hole in solid coral some 24 feet wide and 10 feet deep. Staggering. In 1930 it was the only swimming pool around for hundreds of miles. The pool sits on the site where Hemingway used to spar with the local boxers. The poet Elisabeth Bishop, a friend of Hemingway’s wife at the time, Pauline, wrote:
‘The swimming pool is wonderful- it is very large and the water from away under the reef, is fairly salt. Also it lights up at night- I find that each underwater bulb is five times the voltage of the one bulb in the light house across the street, so the pool must be visible to Mars- it’s wonderful to swim around in a sort of green fire, one’s friends look like luminous frogs..”
It was miserably hot and oh that pool looked so tempting. I thought it non too wise to take a jump in the pool and cool down. But gosh… wouldn’t that have been amazing? To swim in the great writer’s pool! How my imagination took off, but luckily the searing heat got to my brain and sense took over. Better not jump in, I thought, and walked on to find a lovely spot in deep shade of a bamboo grove, the Tiled Fountain.
It was now time to go find that perfect spot and recover from the cats with a cold Mojito in hand. I was in Rum Country after all and had just barely escaped jumping into the great man’s pool and avoiding the likely arrest.