The Carnival Freedom sailed at 4 pm. It was the first time we had been on board a cruise ship, but we didn't have any trouble with seasickness-thanks to the little patches our doctor had prescribed for us. We arrived in Key West-bright and early on Monday morning.
We had booked a shore excursion...a walking tour to the Hemingway House and Museum. Our guide was a colorful Key Westerner named Richard. He was filled with an infectious attitude and full of stories on why he considered Key West...Key Weird. These stories were a fun blend of truth, historical fact, legend, oral tradition and exaggeration. They included tidbits like Key West is a community of 25000 and has 100 A.A. meetings a week because of the large number of bars and taverns that tourists and residents alike visit for liquid refreshment.
He regaled us with stories concerning Harry Truman's Little White House. He had us in stitches with tales of Bill and Hillary's island escapades which included a campaign fundraiser that charged $5000 a plate and sandwiches were served.
Richard also walked on the creepy side as he spun the story of Count Carl Tanzler von Cosel and his obsession with a young woman Maria Elena Milagro "Helen" de Hoyos...a tale included intrigue, weirdness and a dash of necrophilia.
As we neared the Ernest Hemingway House, he told us of how Hemingway used to drink at Captain Tony's and Sloppy Joe's. The entryway was divided and a wheelbarrow was parked near the wall. Frequently, folks living on DuVal Street would hear a drunken Hemingway being wheeled home after the bar closed..."Do you know where I live? Have you ever taken me home? See that Light House...I live across the street from the Light House."
Richard had us shaking our head and wondering as he stopped and pointed out a fenced backyard. He told us that Hemingway had moved his boxing ring from his home at the insistence of his wife. He moved it to that location...which contained a bar and his favorite brothel.
We reached the Ernest Hemingway House and Museum. Chris decided she wanted to spend time in the garden with the cats. The rest of us were turned over to the house guide. After the house tour, I wandered the gardens too. We petted some of the polydactyl cats that are descendants of Hemingway's cats.
We thanked Richard and told him that we were leaving the group at this point. The cats were really the one thing on Key West we wanted to see. He called us a Pedi-Taxi...a combination Rickshaw and bicycle. The young woman who was the driver took us back to the ship by the scenic route. She pointed out things of interest to as she pedalled. All in all, it looked like the curse of interesting times was broken.