Casa Hemingway in Key West

A dynasty of cats welcomed me to the home of internationally acclaimed Author Ernest Hemingway on the remote island of Key West.  Literally, a dynasty of 23 polydactyl cats lounging casually and roaming around the property at leisure undisturbed by the number of passing visitors.

I’ll be straight forward – for someone who’s not so fond of cats {except for newborn kittens} – I was lucky to be traveling sola this day because I jumped a few times here and there as they surprised me in the most absurd corners.  This is also why I don’t particularly like cats, and remain an all time, true dog lover.  I find cats to be unpredictable, sly, aggressive creatures always secretly studying their next jump.  You just never know when they may attack.

Laughter and truth aside, as an avid reader and passionate writer, I had to pay homage to one of the most recognized American authors of all time, not necessarily a personal favorite, but nonetheless a visit to the house that he inhabited and that inspired a few of his most successful literary operas.    After having spent some time on the incredible island of Key West, I don’t know how anyone would NOT be inspired and invigorated by its natural flora and fauna.

Casa Hemingway in Key West  {Copyright Francesca Mignosa}
Casa Hemingway in Key West {Copyright Francesca Mignosa}
Gardens at Casa Hemingway in Key West  {Copyright Francesca Mignosa}
Gardens at Casa Hemingway in Key West {Copyright Francesca Mignosa}
Cats in Casa Hemingway, Key West  {Copyright Francesca Mignosa}
Cats in Casa Hemingway, Key West {Copyright Francesca Mignosa}

The house was the first ever owned by the author….but even this was a gift by the uncle of his second wife, Pauline, for their wedding.  The author married 4 times in his lifetime.  He was born in Illinois, lived in Spain, Italy, France, Kenya, Cuba, Key West and retreated to Ketchum, Idaho where he passed in 1961.  Two of his children are still alive today and live in Montana and Miami.   Memorabilia from all his international travels are sparse throughout the house.  You’ll find Moorish traces, French details, Italian gifts, Cuban tiles in a plantation style home.    The only salt-water pool on the entire Key West is also found here, the most studied balance for life and leisure all contained within the walls of this special property.

After his passing, the house was purchased by Bernice Dickson who lived there only for a few years because in 1964 the house became a museum and in 1968 it was recognized as national patrimony.   I particularly enjoyed walking through the gorgeous property, an ideal location for writing, resting, enjoying the almost-Caribbean lifestyle of this special destination.

I took some extra time to see Hemingway’s personal book collection, what he read, what fed his mind and his imagination.  I pictured him in his daily routine: rising early morning, writing until lunch time in the small studio located behind the bigger house, then enjoying lunch with his wife, fishing in the afternoon and enjoy evenings in Key West.

Ernest and Pauline Hemingway's bedroom, Key West  {Copyright Francesca Mignosa}
Ernest and Pauline Hemingway’s bedroom, Key West {Copyright Francesca Mignosa}
Ernest Hemingway's bathroom showcasing Cuban Tiles in Key West  {Copyright Francesca Mignosa}
Ernest Hemingway’s bathroom showcasing Cuban Tiles in Key West {Copyright Francesca Mignosa}
Ernest Hemigway's Library in Key West  {Copyright Francesca Mignosa}
Ernest Hemingway’s Library in Key West {Copyright Francesca Mignosa}
Salt water swimming pool at Casa Hemingway in Key West {Copyright Francesca Mignosa}
Salt water swimming pool at Casa Hemingway in Key West {Copyright Francesca Mignosa}

I enjoyed the most spending time in Hemingway’s writing studio, observing his most beloved surroundings and imagining his life and writing career unfold here from 1928 through 1940. It is in this very studio that he wrote “The Old Man and The Sea.”

Though, I had already read a “Farewell to Arms” and “The Sun Also Rises,” I purchased and read this 127 page short story on the island during my stay.  I wanted to be immersed in the same exact dimension, though not the same historical, political and cultural context of the time in which it was written.

I enjoyed the choice to narrate the story of a poor Cuban fisherman and his young assistant, their daily struggles, reflections, conversations, hopes and dreams…but I was not too fond of the 30/40 some pages entirely dedicated to the fishing of a marlin.

Conceptually, I understood the metaphor of the fisherman fighting to be redeemed from his extreme poverty, his struggle for a different kind of victory for himself and his life — but I felt the descriptive narrative could have been much more concise, direct.  This is simply my personal opinion.  Nonetheless, I am happy and grateful to have had the opportunity to read and digest this literary work immersed in the very setting where it was conceived.

Whether you are a cat, literature or history aficionado, you must spend an afternoon at Casa Hemingway during your first or next trip to Key West.   Your visit will enrich your travels with incredible depth and perspective.

Hemingway's studio in Key West  {Copyright Francesca Mignosa}
Hemingway’s studio in Key West {Copyright Francesca Mignosa}
Ernest Hemingway's Studio in Key West - where "The Old Man and The Sea" was written  {Copyright Francesca Mignosa}
Ernest Hemingway’s Studio in Key West – where “The Old Man and The Sea” was written {Copyright Francesca Mignosa}

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