Special Occasions, This Day In Literature

Hemingway’s Havana

Born – July 21, 1899
died – July 2, 1961

On the trip I took to Cuba several years back I found myself in the famous city of Havana. A van was rented and a driver brought my parents, my brother, and myself to tour around for the day.

A huge part of this tour revolved around infamous American novelist Ernest Hemingway and the spots he frequented while he made his home there in the thirties and beyond.

I must admit I have never been a huge fan of his novels. I started to read The Sun Also Rises a long time ago and I didn’t make it very far. I found his writing a little too cold, distant, and lacking emotion. Perhaps I am too stereotypically a female reader, liking what women apparently look for in a well-written narrative, or else I just didn’t give it enough of a chance, but I was a teenager and I couldn’t escape or deny the boredom. Did Hemingway write more for men? That, supposedly, is a question for another post and time. (Clears throat) Anyway…where was I?

Oh yes…

Anyway, our tour featured some of the places he made famous, for tourists and locals alike. Being a lover of literature as a whole I was curious.

We stopped, at one of the bars he drank at, to have a sample of the drink he made famous: the mojito. I can’t say that this was my sort of drink either, but my mom was excited. I was excited to see our next stop on the tour.

We rode up in the open-air elevator with its screen, to check out the place where he lived and wrote. The Ambos Mundos hotel is visited by travellers from all over the world, every single day. I pictured him sitting there and writing.

“It is said that if a visitor stays in this hotel he or she will surely dream of the characters in Hemingway’s novels.”

I couldn’t deny that I felt brought back in time, in history to his life in that marvelous Cuban city, so full of inspiration.

The small room where he used to stay is obviously a museum now (Number 511) and it is there where it is said he was inspired to write For Whom the Bell Tolls. I haven’t got to that one yet.

Recently I tried once more; second time is a charm? I started reading The Old Man and the Sea and I got out on the open water with the old man and then put the book down, not to pick it up again. I hope to return to this story to complete it at some point.

I thought today, in remembrance of Hemingway and the fact that it would be his birthday if still alive, that I could share my one-and-only Ernest Hemingway related travel experience. Tomorrow is Tuesday and I often post about travel. Cuba was a special place and I hope to write more about the rest of my week on the island on a later Travel Tuesday. I will have to return to Havana one of these days to be able to not waste the opportunity to write about such a famous location and maybe even to visit his home there (Finca La Vigia), which is currently being restored. Now that I have this blog there are so many literary travel spots I need to visit and revisit so I can write about them and give them the appropriate attention they deserve.

Happy Birthday to a legend of a literary mind.

Note: I took a few of the details I was unaware of from this interesting post from a new travel writing site I just discovered.

Traveling Tales online travel magazine

Also: it appears that even if I could be headed for Crazy Cat Lady status, Hemingway was quite the cat lover himself. I can’t tell you what a huge comfort this is.

“Hemingway named all his cats after famous people so we follow that same tradition today. Cats are capable of learning and responding to their names, particularly if they have an affectionate relationship with the person who calls them.)

Hemingway and Kijewski

It’s amazing the sorts of things you find out when you bother doing just a little bit of research.

Travel Tuesday

Travel Tuesday: April Fool’s

“I can’t find them,” my father said these four little words, and my stomach dropped out.
We were wide awake in the hotel room that morning, all ready to go to The Magic Kingdom, Disney World. We had been waiting for this day, my brothers and sister and myself, and now he was telling us he lost our park tickets. This was a cruel joke.
Actually , that’s exactly what it was. My father was never one for playing a lot of pranks on his children or anyone else, so this was unexpected in itself, even if it just so happened to be April first and April Fool’s Day.
We were on our family vacation to Florida; two whole weeks touring around the state in our mini van, sleeping on a bed of blankets my mother made on the floor. The middle seat had been removed, a definite no-no in this day and age.
It was the best moment of my eight-year-old life when, at supper one evening, my parents blurted out that they were taking us to Florida. I remember, all these years later, that amazing feeling when they told us the news.
I have been lucky to go to Florida three times in my life: once as a child, again as a teenager, and once more last year. I know a lot of it is the hype of the world of Mickey Mouse, but it is an experience not to be missed out on at least once. As an eight-year-old I was terrified of a lot of the rides and as an adult a lot of The Magic Kingdom and the other parks wouldn’t interest me, but it is a right-of-passage and I really do believe all children should experience Disney at least once. It is a place of magic and thrills. I treasure the memories made there with my siblings and my parents.
I would sit with my mother while my father and older sister and brother would go on certain rides, but they eventually talked me into going on Space Mountain. I vowed never to ride on anything that went up-side-down, but they assured me this one did not.
I sat, tense and biting my fingernails down, so far that the skin around them became red and raw. As we reached the middle of the ride it suddenly broke down and a huge feeling of relief washed over me.
We were informed that the ride had broken down and our only option was to get out and walk back through the mountain and to please enjoy the rest of our day at Magic Kingdom.
As we walked down the rock steps and through the mountain, I wore my Daisy Duck souvenir hat proudly and happily. This couldn’t have gone better. It must have been magic that worked to save me from the terror of that roller coaster.
I tell these stories fondly, the first being fitting for today, it being April Fools and all. I retell it, not wanting to harp too much on the past, but as an adult and even as a child I’ve wondered what possessed my father to play such a horrible prank on his poor little excited children. Was my mother in on it too and had they been planning it since the inception of the trip? They really are amazing parents and I try not to hold such small infractions against them. That really was an epic April Fool’s Day joke and very deserving to be remembered, aptly timed and the worst possible thing that could have befallen my siblings and myself in that moment.
What is the cruellest April Fools joke you ever played on someone or had played on you?