By DEBBIE FLESSNER
So you find yourself in Old Town Key West with an open day ahead of you. Lucky you! There are enough interesting attractions there to keep you occupied for several days, but if you only have a limited amount of time, here are some that you won’t want to miss.
Start out at the Ernest Hemingway home. This incredible structure was built in 1851 in the Spanish Colonial style, and was constructed of native rock hewn from the grounds. When Ernest and Pauline Hemingway bought it in the 1930s, the home was in great disrepair, but the couple undertook a massive restoration and remodeling project on the property and eventually transformed it into the National Historical Landmark that thousands of tourists visit and enjoy today.
The famous five-toed Hemingway cats are a major attraction of the tours, so don’t be surprised when you see them lazing around all over the place — sometimes even on the chenille bedspreads atop Ernest and Pauline’s roped-off beds. www.hemingwayhome.com
Remember, the island of Key West is quite small, only two miles wide by four miles long. If you don’t have a car in Old Town, be assured that there are many ways to get around town, including: walking, bicycling, taxis, electric rental cars, mopeds, pedi-cabs, city buses and trolleys. So getting yourself over to Pepe’s Café for lunch shouldn’t be a problem.
Pepe’s is about 110 years old and is situated across Caroline street from the Key West Marina. There isn’t a lot of seating, but you can sit indoors or outside under cover. Inside is where all the eclectic photos and artwork are, and the diners can sometimes be just as interesting. Just make sure you don’t leave without getting a slice of authentic Key Lime Pie. http://pepeskeywest.com.
After a sizable lunch, you will probably not mind walking a little bit to the Whitehead and Green Street area, near Mallory Square. That’s where you will find two of the most interesting museums in Key West — the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum and the Key West Shipwreck Museum.
Mel Fisher, as most people know, was a treasure hunter best known for finding the 1622 wreck of the Nuestra Señora de Atocha. Though he passed away in 1998, some of his most significant findings can be seen at his museum. The Shipwreck Museum has artifacts recovered from the many shipwrecks that have taken place off the coast of Key West, and the exhibits cover some pirate lore, as well. www.melfisher.org. www.keywestshipwreck.com.
Sloppy Joe’s Bar
After touring a couple of museums, it will be time to wind up the day with some relaxation and libations at the infamous Sloppy Joe’s Bar. Opened up on Dec. 5, 1933, the day Prohibition was repealed, Sloppy Joe’s was a favorite of Hemingway, as well as the many residents and famous visitors who came and went over the years.
It probably now looks much as it did when it was moved to its present location, and just as back then, guests can enjoy a reasonably priced drink, some bar snacks and most likely, some live entertainment up on the big stage in the middle. Much like Key West itself, Sloppy Joe’s is a non-stop party. sloppyjoes.com.