Hot Pink Travel
Around 11 a.m. our cruise ship sailed into Havana Harbor. It was an awesome experience heightened by the vintage cars heading down the Malecon to the cruise terminal awaiting our impending arrival.
For our first day in Havana, we set out to learn more about Earnest Hemingway, exploring his favorite haunts as well as his home.
The first stop was the bar the Floridita, birthplace of the daiquiri. It opened in 1817 as a fish restaurant and cocktail destination in the older part of Havana (La Habana Vieja). It lies at the end of Calle Obispo (Bishop Street), across Monserrate Street from the The National Museum of Fine Arts of Havana. The place was packed and there was a band squished into the corner playing some of the best Latin music I've ever heard. We checked out the Hemingway photos on the wall as well as the bronze sculpture in the corner and then slowly made our way to the back of the bar. The place was beautiful. Light blue fresco on the ceiling, deep red counter behind the bar and lots of brass metal. And did I mention the music? Barbara and I sat with a few new friends from the ship and toasted Mr. Hemingway with a pretty strong daiquiri, supposedly his favorite drink. It was an amazing place and I could have stayed for hours. It's touristy for sure, but if you come in the afternoon after all of the tour buses head back to wherever they come from, I heard you can find a table and enjoy the music in a slightly less frenetic setting.
Next, we drove a few minutes to another Hemingway haunt, La Bodeguita Del Medio where Hemingway supposedly enjoyed the mojitos. It is a famous tourist destination because of the personalities which have patronized it: Salvador Allende, the poet Pablo Neruda, the artist Josignacio and many others.
La Bodeguita lays claim to being the birthplace of the Mojito cocktail, prepared in the bar since its opening in 1942, although this is disputed.
The walls are decorated with signatures of everyone who had dined there before us, as well as photos and memorabilia from Nat King Cole. We had lunch of shrimp, sweet potato and red beans and rice and the food was much welcomed as we started everything off Mr. Hemingway's favorite drink: the mojito. As we ate family style we also enjoyed a Cristal beer and continued the conversations of the first stop. Again, the music was amazing and the whole atmosphere was fun and warm. Before we left, we were handed a black pen and asked to sign the wall. Something I relished.
Stop number three was the piece de resistance, Hemingway’s home.... Finca Viglia. It was quiet and lovely, the perfect retreat to write. The house was built in 1886 by a Catalan architect named Miguel Pascual y Baguer on a hill about 15 miles east of Havana. Hemingway lived in the house from mid 1939 to 1960. He rented at first and then purchased the property in 1940 for $12,500. It was at Finca that he wrote much of For Whom the Bell Tolls as well as the 1951 book Old Man and the Sea.
You can't go into the house, but only look into the rooms from the doorway, but you still got a sense of his style and the comfort of the home as well as his love of cats. He built a "tower" with a writing room on the top, but he preferred to write in the house.
We made one more stop at yet another bar and then it was time to head back to the ship. In the end, I was wondering if all I learned was that the great author liked to drink, but it was so much more than that. The places he liked to "hang" were warm and fun and real. Hemingway had a great sense of style and seemed to embrace friendship as vital to his being. People, regardless of their status, were what he really enjoyed. In fact, when we were at his home the docent told us that when Hemingway won the Pulitzer Prize he declined the invitation to the award ceremony and instead threw a party in the streets of Havana, choosing to be with his true for friends. You get the feeling that he loved the country and its people deeply. and after just a small amount of time in Havana, I completely understand why.
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