Papa’s Polydactyls


I absolutely loved visiting the Hemingway House in Key West, Florida. The old stone mansion was gorgeous, with floor-to-ceiling windows lining the walls of nearly every room. All of them were open and fans hummed from the corners, circulating the air and gently stirring the curtains in the breeze.

I would have married Hemingway just to live there.

I fit some of the qualifications of his wives: like them, I am a writer. I hadn’t realized that all four of his wives were writers, mostly reporters. I knew he was a womanizer, but thought he was just looking for the next pretty face. Apparently he appreciated their minds, too. Just not their hearts, I guess, since he kept cheating on them.

Maybe instead of a Hemingway wife, I’d rather be one of Hemingway’s cats.

Descendants of his first polydactyl (six- or seven-toed cats) still roam the grounds of his beautiful Key West estate. It’s rumored that there are 44-50 of them still living there. We only saw five during our visit, and were amused that they were immune to the crowds. One cat strolled into the master bedroom and flopped down on the bed while we all circled around it listening to the tour guide.

         Hemingway’s desk

Hemingway wrote the majority of his novels while living in Key West. His studio was just as gorgeous as the house. I think that if I could live there, I’d get some great writing done, too. Or maybe I’d be as lazy as a cat, lounging on a bed in paradise.

What would draw you to the Hemingway House? His work, or his cats?

32 responses to “Papa’s Polydactyls

    • After wandering through his house, I had to reread my favorite novel of his: The Hills of Kilimanjaro. I would have been happy to curls up with his cats while I read… 😉

  1. Visiting Hemingway’s house was one the highlight of my Florida trip. I think you would’ve been much better off being one of his cats rather than his wife.

    • My pleasure! I hope you get to visit the Hemingway House someday if you haven’t already. It’s so easy to imagine him sitting there with the warm, balmy breeze blowing through his study as he penned his masterpieces.

  2. The whole house just looks like it’s bursting with writerly inspiration. Although I have to say, what’s with so many creative men being womanizers? Love that the cat so nonchalantly sat there on the bed. It’s got a “been everywhere, seen it all” kind of expression.

    • The cats were completely unimpressed with the people wandering around the house and grounds. They know it’s really *their* house. 🙂
      Yes, the house was bursting with writerly inspiration. I absolutely loved it. I wanted to sit in the living room of the house more than the separate office bungalow, and wished I’d had a notebook with me.

  3. Love the cats! Regrettably, with two young children, we never got further south than Key Largo the time we were in Florida. I read ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ many years ago but that’s about it.

    • Any place in Florida is a great place to take kids. This house wouldn’t have interested them much if they were young, unless they would have been content wandering around trying to find them all.

  4. We skipped Hemingway’s house when we were in Key West, and I’m thinking that might have been a mistake… (We did get key lime pie though!) Btw, if you want to learn more about Hemingway’s first marriage, I highly recommend THE PARIS WIFE by Paula McLain. Lots of great stuff in there about him and their marriage, but also about being a woman, being a wife, and being a writer.

  5. Hemingway’s house also was one of my favorite visits in Key West last year. It still holds that atmosphere, if feels like you could run into him around the corner; his desk and his famous cats are just the cherry on the cake!

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