Hemingway

Hemingway House, Key West by daintydora

It was such a gorgeous day, the light so perfect and the heat waning slightly by the time I arrived at the Hemingway Home & Museum in Key West. Visiting Florida as part of a family holiday, this adventure to the southern-most tip of America felt very special to me, having accidentally followed Hemingway around the world (Paris, Cuba, Italy, Spain...) He certainly had the right idea about how to enjoy life.

Hemingway House, Key West
Hemingway House, Key West

The house is open every day but shuts at 5pm and it took much longer to drive the US1 from Key Largo than I'd anticipated, having not taken into consideration the often 35/45 mph speed limits. (Are they strict about these things in the States? I don't know. I didn't want to find out.)

Hemingway House, Key West
Hemingway House, Key West

Luckily, it was well worth the wait. And the drive. The drive was actually beautiful, the ocean on each side and the roads very quiet. What more could you ask for?

Hemingway House, Key West
Hemingway House, Key West

The house sits back from the road on a picturesque corner (on Whitehead Street and Olivia Street), with palms surrounding it providing plenty of shade. A huge brick wall encircling the property guarantees privacy... or maybe not:

Hemingway built the wall to keep out the 'riff raff' of tourists after his home was referred to in a tourist guide of the day, not long after he moved in. Ironically, tourists began to flock in even higher numbers to get their photograph taken in front of the wall.

Key West has at least doubled in size since Hemingway's day, and the house originally boasted sea views. There's even a lighthouse next door.

Hemingway House, Key West
Hemingway House, Key West

But the first thing you notice - aside from the old colonial beauty and the deep hues of mustard and green amidst the palms - is the abundance of cats.

Hemingway House, Key West
Hemingway House, Key West

I think this tabby above is one of the six-toed tribe, likely to be a descendant of Hemingway's cat 'Snow White' who was gifted to him by a ship's captain. All the cats who live at the house apparently carry this 'polydactyl' gene, so even if they don't sport six toes themselves, their off-spring just might.

Hemingway House, Key West
Hemingway House, Key West
Hemingway House, Key West
Hemingway House, Key West

I thought it a nice touch they're all named after famous writers, artists, musicians and stars of the stage; a tradition started by Hemingway (now with a few wives in the mix!), and each name is then scribed into the cement/brick in a little area that is clearly the 'cat cemetery' when the inevitable day comes around ('Death in the Afternoon', perhaps?). Sorry!

Hemingway House, Key West
Hemingway House, Key West

I took a moment to worship at the grave of 'Zsa-Zsa Gabor':

Hemingway House, Key West
Hemingway House, Key West

Even the windows had net curtains featuring cats - would they have been Hemingway's personal choice I wonder?

Hemingway House, Key West
Hemingway House, Key West

Inside, the house was set out with much of the original furniture, artifacts and antiques collected by Hemingway, but the most fascinating to me were bookshelves laden with his personal collection - the books he had physically touched and read - as well as memorabilia from the film versions of many of his books.

Hemingway House, Key West
Hemingway House, Key West
Hemingway House, Key West
Hemingway House, Key West
The colours and shapes in details such as the tiles on the bathroom floor were worth much more than a passing glance, and it became clear that nowhere is off-limits to the cats.

The living room downstairs was dedicated to Pilar, Hemingway's Boat (also the title of a book by Paul Hendrickson that I took with me to read, but just didn't get around to), and a few more of his typewriters. I was pleased to note he wasn't particularly brand-loyal. Underwood, Remington, Corona...

"This boat is a marvel for fishing. Takes any sea comfortably and can turn on her tail to chase a fish."
Hemingway House, Key West
Hemingway House, Key West

Outside, second wife Pauline's highly controversial swimming pool replaced Hemingway's beloved boxing ring.

It was the first and only pool in Key West by years, and ran well over budget, relying on manual labour to dig out the concrete because the use of dynamite was ruled out by the city. It was originally a saltwater pool as there was no running water in Key West until 1944. But it is a beauty - over 8ft deep. How truly decadent!

Hemingway House, Key West
Hemingway House, Key West
Hemingway House, Key West
Hemingway House, Key West

I love the story about Hemingway's last pennywhich is embedded in the concrete in front of the pool. Or maybe that's just a gimmick for tourists? I snapped it anyway.

Hemingway House, Key West
Hemingway House, Key West

Not far away was Hemingway's other 'trough' - a urinal from his favourite bar Sloppy Joe's, which he brought home as a kind of revenge for the pool. Apparently he told Pauline:

'I'll get rid of mine when you get rid of yours'.

Oh the rage!

Hemingway House, Key West
Hemingway House, Key West

Instead she added decorative tiles and an urn. It all worked out OK. She made the best of it. And the cats are apparently too clever to consider drinking from the 'trough'.

Finally, stairs lead up to a separate building, a kind of loft which at one point was joined to the house by a little tree-top walkway.

It served as Hemingway's office/study/writing room and I'm not sure if it was set up just how he left it - especially given the history of the house being sold on before becoming a museum - but there was a lovely sense of solicitous solitude there that made me feel close to the great man himself.

Hemingway House, Key West
Hemingway House, Key West
Hemingway House, Key West
Hemingway House, Key West

It made me want to rush home and read more of his books as well as get more prolific with writing my own. And I say that having never really gelled with his writing style.

I struggled with A Moveable Feast. I couldn't wait to read A Farewell to Arms, then didn't.

I think there's just something special and charismatic about his life and the way he lived, battling many demons while traversing the world, like he was trying to escape himself in his pursuits. The sea, his boat. Living in remote outcrops: Cuba, Key West. Or maybe I'm just a sentimental writer trying to capture an ounce of inspiration from this big bold bear of a man?

But what a special place (and places) he chose to live.

I would definitely return to Florida, and to the Keys. Key West had a lot more going for it than simply the literary connections, but alas I had only scheduled one day in which to see it all.

Hemingway House, Key West
Hemingway House, Key West

Before traversing the slim road back towards Miami, I did manage a quick look at the Tennessee Williams exhibition. There was a lot to see/read and not much time, though I was able to view a collection of his first editions, albeit through display glass.

"There is no friend as loyal as a book"

Apart from maybe a cat - or is that just an oxymoron?

Hemingway House, Key West
Hemingway House, Key West

Paris: It's a Moveable Feast by daintydora

I said I was going to read A Farewell to Arms, and I am, but first I was lured by the much slimmer volume of A Moveable Feast. (I'm not scared by big books - I got through The Goldfinch in a week...)

But who wouldn't be tempted by these first words on the back cover, so evocative of a carefree youth; a wistful existence, smoked in a thousand cigarettes, fresh from the lips of literary giants, and immortalised in film, music, art and iconography the world over?

Exactly.

Paris: A Moveable Feast

I've been to Paris three times, (once as a student, once with a lover, once with a husband...), though I've just realised: never in summer.

And I like to think that the implied resonance applies equally to 'young women'. Thanks Ernest.

Still, in my head I can imagine the French musicians and the artists with their easels around the Montmartre and the Sacré-Cœur.

I can see the pigeons and the crêpe vendors, almost taste the chocolatey squidge of Nutella in my mouth, as elegant Parisians stalk the streets, stopping in little cafés to drink coffee and wine and smoke and talk in their language of love.

Ahhhh. I'll leave you with that thought!

Bon samedi, mon amie.

 

Friday Diary: A Farewell to Arms, Stresa, Italy by daintydora

Last week I was in Italy and it was more than Bellissimo. I stayed in Cadenabbia, Lake Como, but ventured far and wide taking trips to St Moritz and Lake Lugano in Switzerland, and to Stresa on Lake Maggiore.

Grand Hôtel des Îles Borromées, Stresa, Italy

The streets were picturesque with beautiful gardens and walkways, wide roads, tall trees providing shade and a breath-taking view to the lake at all points (with gelaterias in abundance - my favourite flavours were limone e pesca).

Statue, Stresa Street scene, Stresa, ItalyView to Isola Bella, Stresa, Italy

I've accidentally followed Hemingway around the world: to Paris, Cuba, Spain - and now to the beautiful town of Stresa, Italy where he recovered from war injuries at the Grand Hôtel des Îles Borromées.

Grand Hôtel des Îles Borromées, Stresa, Italy Grand Hôtel des Îles Borromées, Stresa, Italy

I'm up here in Stresa, a little resort on Lake Maggiore. One of the most beautiful Italian lakes.
Hemingway, 1918

Grand Hôtel des Îles Borromées, Stresa, Italy

I love this photo and the way the sun bathes the welcoming cherub in an almost holy light; though the light everywhere was so vibrant and intoxicating.

Lake Maggiore, Stresa, Italy

I've heard that some of the scenes from A Farewell to Arms were set/based in the Grand Hôtel des Îles Borromées, and one scene in particular describes taking a fishing boat over the lake to Isola dei Pescatori.

It is in the evenings, when silence falls and the lights are reflected in the waters of the lake, that the island is at its most evocative..."

I was immediately immersed in the experience of following in Hemingway's footsteps, so of course I had to visit the hotel, see inside, take in the luxurious, opulent surroundings.

Grand Hôtel des Îles Borromées, Stresa, Italy

Here's my souvenir - a beautifully monogrammed paper coaster. It's not enough, can never be enough, but for now it will have to sate me.

Souvenir, Grand Hôtel des Îles Borromées, Stresa, Italy

I will continue my Italian-Hemingway adventure by reading A Farewell to Arms (and all its 47 alternate endings...)

A Farewell to Arms, Hemingway

One day, I hope to return to the Grand Hôtel des Îles Borromées; maybe even staying in the Hemingway suite...

Buon fine settimana!