Down to the second to last day in Cuba and I’m getting jazzed for potentially the biggest day of the trip. Every day has exceeded expectations. The music, food, history and of course the deep sea fishing have been amazing. But now, in the hotel lobby, Bill Hamby, the best PR man in the country and Hemingway look alike with the aid of our host and guide Peter, gave a very brief Hemingway preview of what to expect to see at his Cuban home and museum and later, the fishing village where he kept his fishing boat.
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The drive to the now converted Hemingway museum was about an hour from the hotel in Havana. We paid the $4 per person at the gate and traveled up the driveway to the four and a half acre estate. Bill immediately procured a guide and off we went to the roped off home of Hemingway. The home had been beautifully restored and left exactly the way Hemingway left the house when he traveled to Spain then Idaho in 1961. I took a hundred pictures of all the rooms, including most of his books, paintings and typewriter. I was very intrigued with his bedroom and bathroom. He liked to write standing up in his bedroom and on the wall next to his scale in the bathroom he fastidiously wrote his weight on the wall every day as he feared in later life he was getting fat and less attractive to women.
At one point there were over 60 cats living in a room in his house. I asked but no one knew if he used ‘kitty litter.’ Descendants of those cats and some dogs are still living on the grounds. His 4 favorite dogs are buried there with small monuments marking their graves. The tower next to the house was built at a later date for the cats, with an office he never used and a large room to display paintings. Climbing to the top of the tower resulted in a panoramic view of Havana.
The pool was empty where Hemingway swam laps but the boat was on display taking the place of the tennis court. After Hemingway died, he left his boat to his Captain who promptly gave it back to the Cuban government to display on the grounds. The house was given to the Cuban government as a gift by Hemingway’s 4th wife who had no interest in living there after Hemingway committed suicide. The Captain of Hemingway’s boat just recently passed away at the age of 102.
The fishing village where Hemingway kept his boat was in the midst of a local festival when we arrived. There was dancing, music, food, swimming and just hanging out. We walked down to the local pub where Hemingway pictures and stuffed fish adorned the walls. I picked up a guitar of course as I was often to do on these side trips and led the local musicians in song and in this case a little dance. It was fun. I gave out some gum and peanut butter crackers and left knowing that once again, I had played in a Cuban bar and might have sat on the same stool as Hemingway.
What could possibly top off this adventure? How about a trip to the Tropicana? With a cast of hundreds, this show has been performed outdoors in Cuba since 1939. The singing and dancing was out of a Las Vegas production. No expense was spared on the costumes. There were also no Cubans in the audience as this was an expensive production and an expensive ticket. At the end of the show we danced with the performers and hung around taking it all in realizing that in just a few hours we’d be heading back to The United States and the twenty-first century.
See Chuck Allen in person Friday Night June 24th featuring a slide presentation and discussion at ‘Cuba Night’ with authentic Cuban Cuisine at the Village Square Cafe. Please call for information.
Village Square Café
66 Village Square
Village of Cross Keys
Baltimore, Md. 21210