Sunday, February 28, 2010

Hemingway was here...

Some people really get around, you know? Italy, Paris, Africa, Caribbean Islands, Key West, Cuba... I'm not listing some of our travels (although we have been to all of those places!) but rather some of the locations that Ernest Hemingway traveled to and lived in.

Cuba was his home for 21 years and his last residence before moving to Idaho and committing suicide in 1961. It was here that he won the Nobel Prize in Literature and where he wrote his last novel A Movable Feast.

It's hard to walk very far in Havana without stumbling upon a bar or hotel where "Papa" hung out and we made our way to most all of them.  Our first cocktail upon arrival in the city was at the now very touristy La Floridita where they have an honorary bar stool and bronze cast of him. La Floridita is famous for their daiquiris and also the invention of the Hemingway Daiquiri.  There are many stories about the creation of this cocktail, one is that his fourth wife Mary Welsh urged head bartender Contstanino Ribailagua to create a drink without sugar as Ernest was diabetic. Knowing that his customer really liked to drink (he reportedly drank 16 one evening!) he came up with the Papa Doble or Hemingway Daiquiri, which replaces the sugar with maraschino liquor and includes a double shot of rum and grapefruit juice.

But Hemingway did not survive on daiquiris alone, there were mojitos. Lots and lots of mojitos served to him at La Bodeguita del Medio. And although we hadn't been to Havana before this was not our first time drinking at La Bodeguita.

Ernest's first year in Cuba was spent living at the Hotel Ambos Mundos in room 511. This is the view he looked out at as he wrote The Green Hills of Africa and Death in the Afternoon on the typewriter in the glass case. There is a very nice man who will give you a bit of history of the room and Hemingway's time spent in Cuba for a $2CUC donation.

In 1940 Hemingway moved to the southern outskirts of Havana into a beautiful house, Finca Vigia, in San Francisco de Paula. When he left for Idaho he left the house and all it's possessions to the Cuban people. The government sealed the house, brought his boat the Pilar to the site and reopened it as a museum.
We all thought the Hemingway house was a highlight of our trip, there is an amazing collection of nick nacks, wild animal mounts, trophys, records and approximately 9,000 books! Books everywhere!

You actually aren't allowed inside the house because there are so many things that it would be too easy for tourists to steal items. Instead the doors and windows are open and you can walk all the way around the house and see into each room, well almost each room. The kitchen and Ernest's bedroom are not viewable. Want to see some "secret" photos of them? Well lucky you!

One of the museum workers offered to take these pictures for me, just like so many Cubans it was an easy way for her to get a few CUCs as a "tip" from me. 
Next to the house is a tower and at the top is an amazing office with an even more amazing view of Havana. The museum has also filled one of the tower rooms with a collection of fishing trophies and memorabilia.

The large swimming pool, now empty, was once the site of many famous gatherings of writers and actors such as Spencer Tracy, Errol Flynn, Jean-Paul Sartre and Ava Gardner (who repeatedly swam naked in it). Nearby the pool are the grave markers of  4 of Ernest's dogs, interesting to me as I had only known about his cats before (rumored to be around 57 of them).
And then of course there is the Pilar, the 38 foot boat that Hemingway not only competitively fished on but also patrolled the Cuban coast for U-Boats and allegedly ran the Crook Factory, a pickup spy network during WWII. 

"Every man's life ends the same way. It is only the details of how he lived and how he died that distinguish one man from another."

Ernest Hemingway got around and so do we! Mix up a Papa Doble and view more pictures of Hemingway's Havana and the Finca Vigia here

Based on the recipe from La Floridita for 1 serving

2 jiggers Havana Club rum
(1 jigger = 1 1/2 ounces)
Juice of 2 limes
Juice of 1/2 grapefruit
6 drops of maraschino (cherry brandy)

Fill a blender one-quarter full of ice, preferably shaved or cracked. Add the rum, lime juice, grapefruit juice and maraschino.
Blend on high until the mixture turns cloudy and light-colored.


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