Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Finally...Hemingways' Estate and the cats!

Where yours truly finally gets to visit Ernie's place and see the cats!

I was up bright and early on Wednesday morning to get a good parking spot in front of Ernie's place.  The museum opened at 9AM so I had plenty of time to find a parking spot and get some breakfast.  As soon as I finished the tour I planned to hit the road and head toward Houston.  I wanted to get to Tallahassee by nightfall.

I found a parking spot around the block from the museum.  Ernie's house is on a very large lot and the blocks are really large.  A lot of people use Vespa's to get around.  They are parked in rows all along the road.  I got a good parking spot and paid for three hours....next to a Vespa!

There are chickens roaming all over the island.  I found a Denny's decorated in a Classic 1950s style.  While I was there I asked the waitress what was up with the chickens.  You know, if you want to know anything about anything...ask the local restaurant server...they usually know the details.

She said, "My mom is a 5th generation islander and she told me none of these chickens were here when she was growing up.  There were lots of cock fights in the 1960's and all the chickens were brought down from the mainland.  When the authorities cracked down on the gambling the birds were released to run wild.  Over the years folks collected them and sent them to a shelter but there were too many of them and the shelter was over run.   So the chickens were left to roam the island."
"So how do you control the chicken population?"  I asked.  She just looked at me and shrugged, "I don't know?"  As you walk around the island the chickens strut around everywhere.  I finished my breakfast and walked to Ernie's place, counting chickens along the way.

This estate is where he wrote the majority of his great fiction novels, "For Whom the Bell Tolls" "Farewell to Arms", "The Old Man and the Sea"...just to name a few.  He lived in Key West for 10 years during his 30's.  This was the most prolific period of his life.  The estate was sold after he died.  But the woman who bought it allowed people to tour it and she moved to the studio in the back allowing people to tour the main house.  The rest is history.
Hemingway as he was when he lived in Key West.

The tour guide met us at the front of the estate.  He was animated and interesting and really knew his literature...especially Hemingway's novels as well as his short stories (and poetry which isn't very good...believe it or not).  Most folks remember Hemingway as a white bearded man, toward the end of his life...but when he lived in Key West, he was youthful and vibrant.  He fished marlin and still holds the record for catching the most in one day...five...all over 400 lbs!  If you are a Hemingway fan (such as I) then you know he was a "man's man" and very popular writer for his time.  He hunted, fished, went on Safari.  He was primal and writing was his passion.  When asked, "Do you remember when you wanted to become a writer?"  His response was a stoic, "No, I have no memory of ever wanting anything else."  He was direct, complicated and well read. 

The cats roam all over the estate and the gift center.  There are 47 cats maintained by the estate,  many of them have 6 toes.  The cats jump on the furniture, roam through the gift shop, and keep the chickens off the property!  All the cats have been 'fixed' and only one male and two females are allowed to mate in order to maintain the population.  All the cats are named after famous people.
The entrance to the cat house! 
Yes, my name is Liz Taylor...what's your point?

One of the many resident felines!

Look closely at the right paw.  Almost looks like a club foot.

The original polydactyle pawed cat was a gift from a boat captain to Ernest's son.  This type of cat is considered good luck on a ship and Ernest was superstitious so he liked the idea of having the cat around the house and keeping its offspring.  All the cats are direct descendants of that cat.  I talked with the tour guide about the chickens.  He smiled and asked, "Do you see any chickens on the property?"  Well, OK then.  The cats don't wonder very far and the chickens don't cross the road...LOL! 

The tour lasted an hour and then I went to the gift shop where they have the usual stuff....you know, cups, glasses, cat dishes (LOL), books, and T-shirts....and cats!  I really enjoyed this tour.
Cat resting on the bottom book shelf.

I'm not fat, I'm fluffy.  Cat nap!

Buy the book...but not the one I'm on!
The Captains cat..gifted to the younger of Hemingway's two sons.

I got on the road at 11AM.  Now, I thought I'd be cruzing along at a reasonable speed.  However, my idea of  'reasonable' was not shared by the folks in the lower Keys.  Nope, it was not.  Nobody speeds on the lower Keys...nobody.  I swear, everyone is on massive doses of Vitamin B...everyone.  Nobody drives faster than 45 mph!  There is a lot of construction going on along the highway AND they were filming commercials along the 7 Mile Bridge.  It took me 6 hours to go 120 miles!  Ugh!  And that got me to Miami.  I still had to travel up Florida and into the panhandle to Tallahassee.  It took forever to get out of that state! 

Once I got to Miami I got on the accelerator and actually drove 65 mph...to Tallahassee!

A little about RV lingo....a Class A RV is a long bus like mobile home.  A Class C RV is a camper that is not separate from the motorized part of the the truck and is longer than a typical pick up truck with a camper.  A Class B RV is a van conversion.  Usually not longer than 19.5 ft.   I have a Class B...a most excellent Class B...(smile)...Go Buggy. 

I slept at a rest stop between two big rigs and surrounded by three Class A RVs and one Class C.   I woke up after 6 hours...fully rested.  It was 4AM....so I thought,  "I've got to get out of Florida!"  I hit the road and was out of Florida by 9AM!  Yippee!  I zipped through Alabama, Louisiana and rolled into Texas.  My destination was Houston to visit my brother, Clayton and sister in law Ginger.  Houston was also my halfway mark on this trip.  I arrived in Houston on Thursday evening about 8:30.   Ahhhhh, life is good.

Look forward to tomorrows installment.

I hope your day is wonderful and your travels are blessed.
Just go! 

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