Hemingway had a few quirks – I’ve seen his house.
On our first day in Cuba while we awaited Zomi’s arrival, Bronson and I took a tour of Ernest Hemingway’s house. Since I have an English Lit degree and Bronson is an English Lit teacher, we were really excited to get an insight into the life of this peculiar character.
Again, it was lucky Bronson was with me since I needed most of the Spanish translating, but we had our own guide (for about £3) which meant we could ask for repeats and plenty of questions. I loved finding out about Hemingway’s quirks. The dining table was always laid for him, his wife and a mystery other just in case a friend popped in. And they often did. The house was full of chatter and laughter, Hemingway entertained all the most glamorous stars of the day from Errol Flynn to the beautiful Ingrid Bergman, but never a writer. He was friends with plenty of them, but believed it bad luck for them to cross his threshold. An enormous swimming pool could be viewed from a tower next to the house. It’s rumoured that the telescope on the top floor afforded a good view of naked swimming starlets.
Books in 25 different languages filled every room except the dining room. That was reserved for spoken words only. But dead animals? That was different. Their heads were allowed in every room. Hemingway had killed every one of them, he found amazing peace in Africa. Ironically.
The house has been kept exactly as it was left after Hemingway’s death in 1961. You view it from outside, meaning its tranquility, space and light lies untainted.
Hemingway loved hunting with a passion, but he also loved cats. While the top floor of his tower was his reading/chill out/perving room, the rest of it housed over 50 cats. The most interesting creatures they caught – bats, lizards etc, he pickled and kept in his bathroom.
Despite several perfect places to write at, Hemingway only ever wrote standing up in his bedroom, much like I’m standing now. Apart from I’m in a Colombian mobile phone shop in an enormous shopping centre charging my laptop. The assistants must think I’m mad – I’ve been standing for about five hours! Anyway, back to the 1950s and Hemingway.
Did you know Hemingway liked to drink? If you didn’t, you didn’t know much about Hemingway! Of course Bronson and I frequented his favourite bars – La Floridita for daiquiris and Bodeguita del Medio for fabulous mojitos, um frequently.
The tour took about one and a half hours, our taxi driver accompanied us on it and our kind guide was incredibly patient. The house looked a little like the one I grew up in (from the outside), so I loved it on sight and I’m a sucker for a bit of colonial lifestyle. If you go to Havana, hunt down the house. But find someone to translate for you or you’ll miss out.