Hemingway’s Cuba

Ernest Hemingway had a deep and intense love of Cuba, and Cuba loves him right back. The various shrines set up to “El Papa” as he was known are a stark reminder of his status in the Cuban community. He donated (or rather his wife did) his farm to the “people of Cuba” and it is now preserved as a museum.

Our day tour around Hemingway’s haunts was very interesting and packed full of really fun facts! I have no idea if the facts were true or simply made up by our tour guide, but I’d like to believe they were all true!

We were expecting a regular car to pick us up. so were delighted and surprised to discover our tour was in a lovely racing green 1951 Chevy Deluxe!

First stop was at Hotel Ambos Mundos in Havana, to visit the hotel room Hemingway lived in for an extended period, (and where he supposedly wrote 3 of his novels).

We took the original 1929 elevator, which was fascinating and also a little bit worrying… 

In the hallway outside Papa’s room are various tributes to the great man

Loving this random table leg, clearly an important artefact.

Also enjoying this typewriter, inexplicably matched with a photo of him writing with a pen….

The room itself, the best room in the hotel with a spectacular view, has been kept exactly as it was, as an homage to the great man.

We were amused to discover that his clothes, hanging in the wardrobe, were Abercrombie and Fitch (who knew they were so old?)

And his trunk was Louis Vitton

One of my favourite pictures. According to Wikipedia, Hemingway thought cats were disgusting creatures when he lived in Paris, but later in Cuba he developed a deep love of cats, and eventually had something like 57 cats living at his farm in Cuba. I love that he turned into a cat person.

View from the rooftop of Hemingway’s favourite hotel

Next stop on our tour – Finca Vigia, or Lookout Farm, his house about 15km outside Havana

Our Chevy Deluxe fits right in here…

Definitely have some new #bungalowgoals at Hemingway’s casa

Sadly this part was closed for renovations, as it has fallen into disrepair, but this is the “guest house” #bungalowgoals

Peeking in through the windows at Hemingway’s house – once again, everything has been kept, shrine-like, exactly as it was pretty much. You can’t go inside but you can walk around looking in all of the windows.

You’ll notice the very large amount of dead animal heads on the walls – Hemingway adored hunting and went to Africa several times to do some big game hunting, and his trophies all have pride of place around the house (something that will NOT feature in my #dreambungalow)

Laid out on the bed are the newspapers proclaiming Hemingway’s death. He was involved in not one but two plane crashes in Africa, and on finally making it to Entebbe for medical treatment was bemused to discover all the papers had announced the death of him and his wife, and so he spent his recovery time at the hospital reading his own obituaries!

This room is just creepy

His military uniforms, and a LOT of shoes. I thought I was bad.

Hemingway apparently became obsessed with his weight later in life, and he recorded his weight daily on the walls of his bathroom

This is possibly the weirdest fact, but I find it oddly endearing. There are several jars around the house containing bats, large lizards/geckos, etc. Apparently, as Hemingway was such a cat lover in his old age, and also a fan of displaying his own hunting trophies around the house, he felt it was only fair that his cats’ hunting trophies should also get displayed, although only the largest and most impressive cat trophies were worthy of jars…. Totally weird but an oddly sweet gesture.

Another brilliant fun fact. Apparently Mussolini was very impressed with Hemingway’s ENORMOUS antlers, and wanted to buy them off Papa. Mussolini purportedly was so desperate to have these that he wrote Hemingway a blank cheque, but Hemingway responded that if he wanted antlers, he’d just have to hunt one for himself and refused to sell them.

El Pilar – his fishing boat

Another fun fact – apparently the American flag was placed on this boat by Michelle Obama on their official visit as a sign of friendship between Cuba and the US.

Hemingway’s dog graveyard. Strangely three out of the four dogs are called “black” in different languages, and one was called Linda.

The swimming pool that Ava Gardner apparently swam naked in.

Then we went on to Cojimar, a small fishing village near his farm where Hemingway docked his boat, and frequently got drunk and hung out with his local fishing buddies. This was his favourite restaurant.

Where once again they have kept his favourite table, and the best seat in the house, permanently reserved for Papa as a sign of respect.

Framed photo of Hem and a young Fidel, presumably in 1960.

Cojimar fort and dock

And this, possibly my favourite fact of all. Hemingway was incredibly close to the fishermen of Cojimar, spending a huge amount of time with them, either at the restaurant drinking or out on the water, and his brilliant novel, The Old Man and the Sea, is an homage to the wizened and hardy fishermen of Cuba. After hearing of his death, the fishermen of Cojimar donated their fish hooks to be melted down, as they wanted to make a bust of Papa as a tribute to him. Made us feel all warm and fuzzy and a little bit teary-eyed, seeing how much he was loved and respected.

Then we zipped back to Havana to one of Hemingway’s favourite bars – he had 2 favourite bars in Havana, and famously once said “I take my daiquiris at the Floridita, and my mojitos at the Bodeguita” so he had a different bar for each drink!

Of course both places now are CRAWLING with tourists, and the drinks are made en masse, so they weren’t brilliant, but it’s all part of the experience.

(Final fun fact – La bodeguita del medio means “The little bodega in the middle”. This is because most bodegas, or corner stores, are located on the corners of streets, and this one isn’t).

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