Article by Dee Brun originally published in one edition of the Atmosphere magazine. Read the latest edition here.
“Never go on trips with anyone you do not love.”
Wondering where to go in Cuba? You could certainly lie on a lovely beach at an all-inclusive resort and drink fabulous cocktails all day. However, you could also get a little adventurous and see Cuba, specifically Havana, through the eyes of one of the most prolific writers in history. Here is how to spend a day in the life of Ernest Hemingway in Havana, Cuba–with him as your guide, you won’t be short on things to do in Havana.
Ernest Hemingway was extremely well-travelled. He had a wide repertoire of destinations under his belt, including extended stays in Paris, East Africa, Italy and Cuba. For Hemingway, Cuba must have held endless inspiration, as he penned a total of seven books while living there.
What was it about this part of the world that inspired such creativity in Hemingway? What makes a culture so inviting it makes a person want to lay down roots and spend time there? While we will never know exactly what drew Hemingway to Cuba, after spending a day travelling through the city as he would, it is not hard to see why he would want to lay down some roots.
A day in the life of Hemingway would start at the amazing Finca Vigia (look out farm) just outside Havana in San Francisco de Paula, where Hemingway lived from 1939-1960. The house is now a museum and has been left in nearly the exact state that Hemingway left it in 1960. One of his favourite things to do there was play baseball with local boys in the area. As a baseball lover, Hemingway would always pitch for both teams. The cost to visit is a mere $3 CUC per person and worth every penny. Located on a beautiful hilltop, it is the perfect photo opportunity.
With the warmth of the day taking shape, the next stop would be for a cocktail. Make your way through Havana to the El Floridita bar, a restaurant and cocktail bar in the older part of town, famously frequented by Hemingway and other well-known travellers of the day. Not much has changed in the bar since the 40s and 50s, except that now most of its patrons are tourists there to get a glimpse of history. Hemingway’s favourite libation was a simple lime daiquiri, which he once described as “feeling the way downhill glacier skiing feels running through powdered snow.” Sounds good to us—make it a double!
After quenching your thirst, drive a short 6 miles east of Havana to Cojimar. This small fishing village is depicted in Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea and was where he docked his boat, the Pilar. Here, you will be able to enjoy some afternoon fishing. Once you’ve taken stock of your catch, you can head to La Terraza, a restaurant and bar with a gorgeous view of the bay, and enjoy a good old fashioned sundowner just as Hemingway would. Now a popular tourist destination, Cojimar feel a bit more like a hustle and bustle town than a lazy fishing village.
With dinner time looming, it’s time to head back into Havana—Barrio Chino, to be exact. Hemingway was a lover of Havana’s Chinatown and enjoyed the cheap entrees available at its restaurants. Cuba has had a rich history of Chinese immigration since 1847. Currently, most Chinese Cubans live outside the Barrio Chino; however, it is still a vibrant part of the city and a worthwhile stop when looking for things to do in Havana.
After a long day, it’s time to make your final stop at the Hotel Ambos Mundos. This beautifully eclectic five-storey building can be found on the corner of Calle Obispo and Calle Mercaderes in old Havana. Built in 1924, it was home to Hemingway for seven years in the 1930s, during which he rented Room 511 for $1.50 a night. The room is now a small museum with regular daytime tours. There is also a corner of the hotel lobby dedicated to Hemingway, with a collection of photographs and memorabilia.
With these tips, you will be able to truly enjoy Havana through the eyes of Ernest Hemingway. Don’t forget to bring a good book!