Tag Archives: Key West

Fats Waller Redux

For those who remember our visit to the Ernest Hemingway House in Key West, Florida there is a good story in today’s New York Times about the house, Hemingway, and the six toed cats who live there.

“There was very little that was safe or conventional in Ernest Hemingway’s life. The great writer hurled himself into danger in three wars, managed to survive two plane crashes on the same big-game safari in remote Africa, and precipitated many domestic dramas with a variety of love affairs in the course of his four marriages. “Moderation” appears to have been one word lacking from his otherwise superb vocabulary, even when it came to cats.

Leaving Key West

Key West

It is a sad day as our seemingly relentless journey south comes to an end. Key West is the southern most city in the U.S., so unless somebody builds a bridge to Cuba, we’ve run out of road and must turn around.

We really like Key West, but I’m not sure exactly why. It’s not a pretty tropical island like you find in the Caribbean. A sandy beach is almost impossible to find here. But at the same time, it has an island culture in what is otherwise a bustling town. Maybe that is the draw, all the conveniences of a landlocked city that is small enough to be traversed on bike, mixed with the laidback vibe of the tropics.

We’re not sure about much as far as our future goes. We don’t really have any plans. But one thing we know for certain: we’ll be back to Key West someday. Maybe when we’re done with the RV, we will trade it in for a boat. I can think of worse ways to spend time than anchored off the coast of Key West and using it as a base to explore the Caribbean. But that isn’t a plan, just an option. One on a growing list we’re assembling.

You know you’re in Key West when…

…you come back from sightseeing and there’s a rooster perched on the roof of your car.

Key West Chickens

“Gypsy chickens” have the run of the island, roaming streets and sidewalks, appearing in restaurant courtyards, nesting in trees, and making it completely unnecessary for an alarm clock. They’re said to be the descendants of birds brought to the island from Cuba for cock fighting before the barbaric pastime was made illegal.

The gypsy chickens have caused rifts among residents, with some thinking they’re a nuisance and others wanting to protect them. We’re rooting for the chickens, who so far are winning the war. They’re protected by law. Harass the feathered locals, and you’ll pay a steep price: a $500 fine.

Second Time Around

Santiagos Bodega, Key West Florida

For two and a half years, since the last time we visited Key West, I had been fantasizing about Santiago’s Bodega, a restaurant that serves tapas-style dishes. We tried completely different items than we had when we first dined there—except for one, my favorite, dates stuffed with goat cheese and wrapped in prosciutto—and thought it was even more divine this time around. Or maybe food just tastes better after biking four-and-a-half miles to get to it. The best part: Brian was inspired to recreate the date dish in the RV kitchen.

Meet Fats Waller

Six Towed Cat Image

If it looks like this kitten is wearing mittens, its because he has extra toes. About half of the fifty cats that occupy the Ernest Hemingway house in Key West are similarly “polydactyl” and are likely descendants of the six-toed cat, Snowball, who lived here 75 years ago as the great author’s pet.

This was our second visit to the Ernest Hemingway House (you can read Shannon’s original account on her Novel Destinations blog) and even as a rerun, it was still one of the most enjoyable author houses we’ve visited. It’s not just the house and grounds that are interesting, or the hordes of cats that seem to run the place, but the tour guides are a cut above what you normally find in other historic places. Professional and highly entertaining, without employing over-the-top theatrics, our guides at the Hemingway House were among the best we’ve seen anywhere. And Fats Waller–the cat, not the jazz musician–lent a paw by accompanying us the entire time, providing his unique perspective on what it’s like to live the high life in the tropical estate where Hemingway wrote To Have and Have Not. Although he could have easily fit in Shannon’s way oversize pocketbook, I wouldn’t let her smuggle him out.

Ernest Hemingway House, Key West Florida

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