Friday, May 2, 2014

Notes From Key West - Hemingway House from a Cat Lover's Perspective

One of the places I like to go back to when I'm in Key West is Hemingway House. Not because I have an affinity for Hemingway or his writings, but, you know, I'm a cat person. And what actors are to Los Angeles, cats are to Hemingway House. Basically, there's one around every corner. Not just any ole cat though. These are very interesting cats. Of course, as with anything worth noting there's a story here, and the story goes Ernest took a liking to a funny little white six-toed cat named Snowball who belonged to a captain of a ship. When the captain noticed this he gifted the cat to Ernest before leaving Key West. A short story, but interesting nonetheless.

Fast forward to now, where there are 40 to 50 cats on the property of the house/museum, about half who possess the poly dactyl (six-toed) trait. All the cats carry the gene.

The cool part for me is that you are free to wander the house and grounds and interact with the cats. (Granted after so much time around so many different people, they are fairly adept at ignoring you) There is a guided tour which is great for a first visit so you get to know Hemingway, his life, works, homes, etc. Last summer my daughter and I took a road trip to Key West from Miami Beach where we were staying for awhile, and we paid the admission just to wander the house, which I think is lovely, the gardens, even lovelier, and to take pictures of cats.

They make themselves at home - well - this is their home, so sometimes you have to make way for them.

Hemingway's writing studio is a small apartment you must ascend some very steep steps to get to. It feels like a tree house and is very peaceful with a beautiful tropical like setting outside the windows. This is where he would write early in the mornings and produced some of his most famous novels.

They look like they have mittens on!

 Just lounging about on a hot day outside the book store/ gift shop.

 And in the bookstore where there is air conditioning. Smart cats.

Along the paths,

And taking advantage of the shady places. They make their mark everywhere including little paw prints in cement.

There are meandering paths on the grounds, little hideaway spots, bridges, ponds, where apparently the cats leave the rather large fish alone.

And verandas that wrap around the second floor where you can look out over the gardens and pool area. This pool cost a fortune at the time Hemingway put it in. They purchased the house in 1931 and renovated and refurbished the entire estate. This was the first in ground pool in Key West and the only one around at the time for 100 miles. Reportedly when it was being finished up, Hemingway took a penny out of his pocket and placed it in some fresh cement and stated "Here, take the last penny I've got!" If you search the ground on the north side of the pool you just may see that penny embedded there.

Little water bowl houses dot the property so on those steamy hot Key West days (uh pretty much every day?) kitties have fresh water.

This was one of those steamy days

They also have a cat house which is a perfect replica of the main house

As well another house both of which are behind a gate where cats can go to seek refuge from tourists who sometimes can't resist playing with their toes. (o.k. in the picture up above I was not playing with or stretching the cat's toes, I was merely gently touching...) This is also where cats can be held if they need to see a vet for any reason. There is a Hemingway House vet who does all routine preventative care and administers annual vaccines, as well as other issues that arise. 

They must spend more time than other cats cleaning their toes because they have more of them!

They also have a breeding program, because, well they must carry on the poly dactyl trait to future generations. All the cats are named after famous people carrying on the tradition that Hemingway himself started. When we visited there were three new kittens - at least one of which had the six-toed trait.
Don't ask me to remember any of the names of the cats I took pictures of, however...
I do remember this little guy's name was Hemingway!

We ate at this little cafe down the street from Hemingway House for breakfast afterwards.  Obviously appropriate

and the resident rooster kept us company throughout the meal

In the afternoon, to complete the Hemingway experience, we stopped at Sloppy Joes, where he used to hang out with friends. The Sloppy Joe sandwiches are actually very good (so are the crab cake sandwiches)

And something refreshing to drink after walking in the hot Key West sun is a must, and a Papa Dobles hits the spot!

You can also enjoy some live laid back music and people watch. Interesting locals and tourists as well.

On the left is from the outside looking in (didn't know superheros hung out in Key West on their days off didya?) And on the right sitting inside looking out. Always something interesting to see. 

Speaking of refreshing drinks...It's Friday! And I hear tell there's a new drink in town created by a bartender I know called the Hemingway Daiquiri. So, I'm off to get ready because I hear this rum drink calling my name!

Here's to cats and Hemingway. Have a great weekend.

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