Did you know that Key West is located closer to Cuba than to Miami? The irreverent southernmost subtropical paradise is a unique confluence of history, climate, natural beauty, cultural diversity, architecture and unabashed romantic appeal.
Here you will find beautiful Palm-lined streets with gingerbread mansions and tin-roofed conch houses; the homes of Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, Elizabeth Bishop, Robert Frost and Jimmy Buffett. Discovering the solace and inspiration in the island city, and the Bahamian and Cuban heritage in large part inspired by Bahamian wreckers, commercial fishermen, spongers and Cuban cigar makers.
At night, streets are filled with sidewalk cafes, open-air bars, legendary pubs and world-class restaurants where island specialties come alive. In this city of fascinating contrasts, you could easily find yourself wanting to let go of mainland hassles and simply …enjoy.
Hemingway’s Key West was a town unlike any place he ever experienced. Filled with interesting people, ranging from well-to-do businessmen and lawyers, to down-on-their-luck fishermen, to shipwreck salvagers; these were the people and places he freely used in his literary works, and many Key Westers appear as characters in his novel “To Have and Have Not,” a novel about Key West during the Great Depression.
Once housed in Key West, Hemingway continued his Paris habits of writing during the early mornings, and taking time to explore his surroundings in the afternoons.
One of the highlights of this escorted Interlude tour is the Hemingway home. Built in 1851 in the Spanish Colonial style, it was constructed of native rock hewn from the grounds. The home was in great disrepair when the Hemingway’s took ownership, but Ernest could see beyond the rubble and ruin, and appreciated the grand architecture and stateliness of the home. The massive restoration and remodeling was done in the early 1930’s and turned the home into the National Historical Landmark .
Not to be missed is the unique and extraordinary feature of the grounds – the pool, built in 1937-38, at the staggering cost of $20,000. It was the first in-ground pool in Key West, and the only pool within 100 miles. The outrageous construction costs once prompted Hemingway to take a penny from his pocket, press it into the wet cement of the surrounding patio, and announce jokingly, “Here, take the last penny I’ve got!” You may want to look for that penny, still embedded between flagstones at the north end of the pool!
Take some time, on your visit to the Hemingway Home, to stroll around this lovely pool, enjoy the scent of gardenias blooming at the water’s edge, and imagine yourself in the company of Ernest, Pauline and their guests, swimming in the fresh salt water on a summer evening.
Hemingway understood that sometimes the beauty of a story, of a picture, is in its small, simple details and with that in mind, I invite you to look deeply into the aging beauty of this grand home and see her vintage attractiveness. Look beyond the impressive overall panoramas—what was elegant, lovely, and expensive when purchased decades ago, and certainly remains so today—and instead search for those small, sometimes hidden, facets of the home that have intrinsic and lasting beauty. Look for those architectural and decorative treasures that have not only aged well, but have also developed that stunning patina of timelessness. Also be sure to note the 18th century walnut Secretary which has three secret departments. Papa Hemingway was an avid collector of furniture from Spain from the 17th and 18th centuries and this piece is a gorgeous example.
Hemingway died in l961 and though Key West has been home to many writers and artists, none have had the presence and influence as profound as Ernest Hemingway’s. His estate remains the single largest residential property on the island of Key West.
Please review the complete itinerary of this wonderful travel destination and perhaps read or re-read “To Have and Have Not” – to put you right in the groove.
Eadie, Interlude Blog Team
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