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Hemingway Adventure

Key West, Florida (first day)

Key West, Florida, USA 
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A waterspout off the Keys.
Michael Palin - Hemingway AdventureToday, as I drive south on US One from Miami, it’s hurricane season again. I’m on Seven Mile Bridge, the longest of the connections between the islands, with the Gulf of Mexico on one side and the Atlantic on the other, washing in over the long coral reef, six miles out. The sea is peaceful in all directions, the heat intense.

Remains of the shattered railway, which as Hemingway accurately predicted, was never rebuilt after the hurricane, can still be seen: chunky stone towers marooned in the shallow water.

Despite the splendours of this bridge, much of US One is a two-lane road with the feeling of going nowhere in particular. Driving through sedge-grass and mangrove swamp, passing straw-thatched pull-ins offering tropical cocktails, and signs warning of crocodiles crossing, I feel as if I’ve broken free from the corporate compounds of urban America and entered an unreal world where illicit pleasure is permitted and irresponsibility actively encouraged.

Of course it’s an illusion. Corporate America has its grip on the Keys like anywhere else. There are condos and apartment hotels and expensive resorts owned by insurance companies. It’s just that the grip seems a little looser here, and the feeling grows the nearer you get to Key West.

Not for nothing is US One known as the Overseas Highway. By the time I’m driving its last mile, past the clapboard colonial villas of Whitehead Street and the wide-open doors of the Green Parrot ­ ‘Last Bar on US One’ ­ it is not the Keys, but the rest of America that has become remote and unreal.
Key West, Florida, USA 
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Period postcard of the railroad which was destroyed by a hurricane in 1935.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Hemingway Adventure
  • Chapter: Key West, Florida (first day)
  • Country/sea: USA
  • Place: Miami, Florida
  • Book page no: 138

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