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Hemingway Adventure

Havana, Cuba (first day)

Havana, Cuba 
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Alfredo (filling the tank) remembers seeing Hemingway driving through Havana in a jeep.
Michael Palin - Hemingway AdventureIt’s not difficult to pick up the Hemingway trail. Its epicentre is the Ambos Mundos Hotel, on the corner of Obispo and Mercaderes in the heart of the old city. On the wall are two plaques - one commemorating the frequent residence of Ernest H., who stayed here on numerous bachelor trips in the thirties, and the other dedicated to one George Washington Halsey who established the first daguerreotype photo studio in Cuba on this spot.

I’d never heard of him. Which must be the fate of many who share a wall with Ernest Miller Hemingway.

On the fifth floor of the Ambos Mundos Hotel is the room in which Hemingway reputedly began work on For Whom the Bell Tolls in 1939. (Michael Reynolds, one of his biographers, disputes this, saying that Hemingway was so famous by then that he used the Ambos Mundos as a public front, and actually double-booked a room in the Sevilla-Biltmore to give him space and peace for writing.)

Whatever the truth, I prefer to think that it was in Room 511 of the Ambos Mundos that Hemingway wrote the words that firmly established him in the post-coital lexicon by having Robert Jordan ask Maria, ‘But did thee feel the earth move?’ Maybe it’s just because I’m a romantic and I’m right next door, in Room 509.

My good Cuban escort who is called Ernesto, but prefers the Beatles to bullfights, takes me to a small bar called the Bodeguita del Medio, on the grounds that it’s old, established, traditional and noisy enough to anaesthetise jet lag.

The speciality of the house is mojito - a mix of rum, lime-juice, sugar, mint and ice - which is sharp and refreshing and agreeably addictive. There is a band playing in the tiny, breathless space, urging awkward foreigners into that state of constant rhythmic gyration that seems the natural state of most Cubans.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Hemingway Adventure
  • Chapter: Havana, Cuba (first day)
  • Country/sea: Cuba
  • Place: Havana
  • Book page no: 201

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