SPRING IS IN THE AIR (Well, actually, it was in the air)

Once spring has arrived our thoughts turn to traveling, before spring clean up in the yard begins and our attention is required at home for watering and trimming and all the little maintenance that summer requires.  The end of April we headed to Boca Raton, Florida to visit our friend Inge and then down to the Florida Keys where my hubby and I met,

oh sooo many years ago. . .

We took along with us so many

memories. . .

and the

excitement. . .

to search out places that are a part of our history.  As we entered Old Town Key West it seemed so much bigger than the image my memory held.  At 19 there were so many things lost on my young mind.  The history of this beach resort inhabited by writers and artists, old town architecture, expats and people that just wanted a simpler life away from city lights and fast food restaurants.

As we headed down the Keys our first big memory was the 7 mile bridge which carries you over the Keys and eventually guiding you into Key West.  The bridge has since been replaced with a more modern version, but leaving the old bridge as a piece of another time and a place to walk and bicycle.  As we wandered and searched we found pieces of memories, but it was pretty hard to find the Key West we remembered. Because of the high temps and even higher humidity not to mention the local mentality of the leisurely life that filled this place, leading the locals and tourists to much sipping, meandering and slipping into sidewalk caf├ęs to enjoy the local flavors of freshly caught seafood and cool tropical drinks.

My favorite part of our visit was touring Ernest Hemingway’s estate, the biggest and richest-looking house on the whole island, right in the middle of Key West, framed with a brick wall to secure his privacy and beautiful gardens with chairs tucked away under Mangrove trees where he and his second wife, Fife met for their afternoon martini.  Actually, the martinis began flowing shortly after breakfast.  We toured the charming upstairs of the tool shed, which actually looked more like a Carriage House.  (I’m pretty sure there was not a tool to be found) where most of Hemingway’s writing took place. His typewriter is still present on his writing table leaving you with a sense that he has just stepped out for a moment.  There are 15 resident cats, descendant's of Hemingway’s first cat.  I felt like I had stepped back in history.  Hemingway’s wife Fife who inherited the estate during her divorce from Hemingway, disliked Key West because of its casual atmosphere and lack of big city night life and fashion, but settling to live the remainder of her life there anyway.

As we toured the mansion, my mind took me back to an earlier time when servants walked the hallways, where dinner parties frequently took place around their dining room table entertaining notable artists and many of the island locals.  Hemingway loved to be surrounded by his friends and found it hard to be alone with his own thoughts. His legendary writing career was overshadowed and in constant competition with his love for alcohol, his dark mood swings, his wandering eye for beautiful women and his need for always falling in love with the next Mrs. Hemingway.  And somewhere in the mix he found time for his love of fishing where, once he stepped foot on his boat, leaving his depression on the shore and losing himself in the cool, emerald green tropical waters of the gulf that surrounded the Keys, he found temporary peace. 

As I walked the streets I noticed many locals mode of transportation was bicycling and bicycle drawn carriages replaced taxi cabs to show tourists the sights or just give you a lift when it was too hot for walking. With beaches framing Key West it was a mile walk from one side of town to the other, beginning and ending on a beach.  On our first night we took the walk stopping for dinner along the way.  Night life filled the air with music and conversation floating out from the open air restaurants.   It was easy to see why residents and tourists are drawn to this place. 

And yes, we did hail a bicycle taxi back to our hotel.

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