26 March 2015

Key West and Tourism

Sometimes you can't avoid tourism, I think in Florida in particular. It's obviously interesting that this huge object represents the southernmost point in the States, being only ninety miles from Cuba. We aren't used to tourism and do our best to avoid it, and we were amazed by the long line of people from different nations queuing to have their photos taken next to this marker. We didn't bother because we aren't that kind of people, and anyway in between the posing everyone had an opportunity to take a shot of it without anyone leaning on it and smiling inanely.

The Southernmost Point is at the end of Whitehead Street, while at the other end on nearby Duval Street is Sloppy Joe's Bar. Although 'Sloppy' Joe Russell was Hemingway's fishing guide and friend, I didn't include this image with my post on Papa's house because it seemed a bit tacky to do so. We walked straight in and straight out of this place: at about four in the afternoon it was crammed with drinkers and unbelievably noisy. I think it's somewhere tourists go to say they've been there, and they may well also buy a tee-shirt or a cap or something else associated with Hemingway in the attached gift shop. A few of these tourists may even have read one of the man's books. Or maybe not.


David Bingham said...

For some reason my wife is keen to go to Florida - it always sounds like hell on earth to me. These recent posts make me feel that maybe it isn't quite the cultural desert I had always assumed.....but I'm still going to do my best to avoid going there!

Dr Tony Shaw said...

Many people - even including a great number who live there - think that Mississippi is a cultural desert. They don't seem aware that this is where William Faulkner lived in Oxford, and where you can still see his house and grounds. Ditto Eudora Welty (in Jackson). Oxford University, Mississippi is also the original home of the splendid Southern cultural magazine Oxford American. And the state has much more to offer culturally.

My partner adores America, and would pack her bags in a shot if we could afford to live there, but even she felt some trepidation about Florida. We returned home a few days ago after a three-week driving tour of Florida, and she has to admit that she loved it, although she's seen it and just wouldn't want to see it again.

I can only describe the 127-mile drive from Florida City to Key West as one of the most remarkable I've even made, a really exhilarating experience, and not at all frightening like, say, going up and down the notorious Monteagle Mountain in Tennessee. Key West is full of tourists in parts, but like anywhere else as soon as you leave the main drag you start to discover many other things, and often there's not even a person in sight. Also, this of course is America, which contains multitudes, so you only have to filter onto the nearest interstate and within no time you're in a very different world although still in the same state. Even in Florida, there are no clogged-up motorways, everything is on a huge scale, and Americans are the politest drivers you could hope to find.

How can you miss Coral Castle, miss all the exotic birds and butterflies and lizards? Even Perky's Bat Tower? Hemingway's house is a haven even with all the people, and it has its quiet corners. Or is it that you're a dog person rather than a cat person? Go on, give your wife a treat! :-)

(But I don't think I'll ever feel the urge to go to Australia.)

David Bingham said...

I'm almost convinced! At least I know there is something beyond theme parks and retirement homes.