The great American author Ernest Hemingway fell in love with Cuba on his first visit in 1932, attracted initially by fishing he enjoyed so much. But it wasn’t until 1939 that he has decided to move to the island. He bought the house a year later, which I was on my way to (in a cart of a blue sidecar, remember!).


Lush greenery in the garden

In the next Glimpse we will cover that one year in between, along with another Hemingway’s passion – rum. But for now, my nice “taxi-driver” and I were creaking down the road, away from the center of Havana. The villa of Finca La Vigia was in San Francisco de Paula district. They say that Hemingway’s boat Pilar was anchored nearby and that people were thrilled that he bought this house in the neighborhood of fishermen and “common people”.


Charming living room of Ernest Hemingway

“Tito mucho good, right?”

I have brought couple of apples and juice cans with me that morning, since I didn’t know how that little trip out of Havana was going to turn out for me. “Better to have something at hand, it’s too hot”, I thought. And so, my “taxi-driver” and I were chatting about the world politics and such (I have mentioned in previous Glimpse that this was such well informed and educated gentleman who was giving “taxi” services to earn a bit more on a side).


View from the terrace

I was stunned that he knew everything about former Yugoslavia and where Belgrade was. (I mean, a lot of people “on the other side of the Ocean” usually struggle with even locating Serbia.) “Tito was mucho good, right?”, he asked about the former Yugoslavian president who died almost three decades before my trip to Cuba!


One of the buildings on the property

My snack also came handy. I knew that Cubans were proud and didn’t want to offend my nice companion. Took out one apple, he said no, but I took out another one and said: “Please, one for you, one for me?” And we shared those two juice cans as well. (It went through my mind that there were no cans on store shelves at the time. These were the ones available at hotels where international tourists stay, but there was no way to buy them out there somewhere. So many things we take for granted…)


Strolling around the garden

As Hemingway left it

And after few more turns, few hundred bumps on the road (and I felt each and every one of them in that cart, while the rubber was still pinching my knees), we drove through a gate. There was tropical vegetation all around. My “taxi-driver” sat in the shade to rest, saying he would wait for me there. And I walked up the lane to reach the famous Finca la Vigia.


Hemingway’s study

Hemingway lived here for 20 years. It was made a public museum in 1962 as soon as the news on writer’s suicide in the US reached Cuba. Everything in the villa is in the same meticulous order it was in when Hemingway lived here. There is his library with 8,000 books, various hunting trophies, personal possessions, pipes and typewriter, even a ceramic medal made by Pablo Picasso.


Cozy place to work

Just imagine – there you are in Hemingway’s study, there is his desk with bear skin on the floor. This is the place where few of his most famous work came to life! One of them – The Old Man and The Sea.


The famous boat Pilar

Pilar in the garden

Went outside again. There was a breath taking view from the hill, lovely lane through lush tropical greenery going to the swimming pool. On the way there, a pavilion with the Pilar itself, the genuine boat Hemingway spent so many hours on! It just may have been that he got his idea for The Old Man and The Sea while he was fishing and sailing on Pilar, this Pilar!

This was also the same boat he used to patrol by the sea north of Cuba during World War II, on a lookout for Nazi submarines in the area. The boat was taken to the museum after the author died.


Hemingway’s swimming pool

When I went further, I was by the pool. They say that famous Hollywood actresses such as Ava Gardner once swam here. Just imagine! Great view, the pool was not that big, but rather charmingly embedded in the surroundings, few glasses of wine or rum… Lovely!

And then – what I read about but thought it would be hidden somewhere in that greenery. Well, one of the curious features in the garden is – the cat cemetery. Hemingway actually adored cats and had 60 of them throughout his life. Here, you will find few of them buried.


Small cemetery for cats

Nobel Prize dedicated to Cuba

I was blown away by the place. It’s true what they say that it has that atmosphere of a lived-in house rather than a museum, since everything was left just as the great author has left it. I read somewhere that Hemingway was at Finca la Vigia in 1952 when he found out that he had received the Nobel Prize. He dedicated it to Cuba and actually placed it at the foot of the Madonna del Cobre.


Parts of the area were under renovation

This statue of black Virgin, richly dressed and decorated, is located in the Basilica del Cobre near the town of Santiago de Cuba in the east. Since it is proclaimed as the patroness of the island in 1916, it became the object of pilgrimage for people from all over Cuba. There are thousands of objects left by pilgrims there. And one of them is – the Nobel Prize.

I am still in awe!


The full Cuba SERIES


32 comments on “Cuba: STEP ONTO HEMINGWAY’S BOAT (3)

  1. Reading your posts make me wanna chat with you! I’d love to talk about Tito, about people who think Belgrade and Istanbul are countries, about sailing, about that bear laid on the floor, that great American who lived in Cuba, giving bonbon to kids or whether having no drink cans around is bad or good… Thanks…

    1. And it gives me such joy when you write back! 🙂 You know what, I’m sure that our paths are going to cross one day soon. What a chat session that is going to be, hehehe! 😀 Looking forward to that. 🙂

  2. How cool to have such an interesting chat with the taxi driver! I agree with you, I know several Americans (living here myself) that could probably only list 10 European countries and that’s it! Kind of embarassing actually haha

  3. Wow. That is something I didn’t know, I didn’t know that Ernest Hemingway used to live in Cuba. That really caught me out. 😀 Great read this.

  4. What an interesting article to read! It is great to step into Hemingway’s life for a moment and get to know a bit more about this interesting character and his lifestyle! By the way; That blue chair looks like a comfy one 😉

    1. It does, doesn’t it. 🙂 I was thinking how retro it is, but at the same time – something I’d definitely look up myself today. And Hemingway bought that chair 60 years ago, amazing! 😀

  5. What a great read – I have never heard of this place before! Your post really brings it to life. I would love to see that library with 8000 books – sounds like my kind of place. And that bear on the floor almost looks like he could still bite! Thanks for sharing your experience 🙂

  6. I never knew that Ernest Hemingway lived in Cuba. That library would have been amazing to see filled with 8,000 books such a dream library for a book lover.

  7. Super cool story. When I was in Havana a few years ago I was super sick and spent 5/6 days in bed, but alas what a reason to come back! Cuba has such an interesting history.

  8. How awesome that you could really connect with the taxi driver and he could engage in a conversation about world politics to such extent – it’s always nice being able to chat with a local and hear different perspectives from someone who lives in a different part of the world.

    Must have been incredible to be standing right there, in Hemingway’s study, next to his desk with bear skin on the floor! I had no idea that he had a cat cemetery, or such a huge love for cats. Very cool that it felt like a house as opposed to a museum – it sounds like a very authentic look into his lifetime.

    1. That’s exactly how it felt, as going back into 1940’s and 1950’s. It was easy to imagine the place bustling with famous Hollywood guests, murmur of people chatting, having rum, listening to records and strolling that garden. Just lovely! 🙂

  9. Great to know that Hemingway’s house still remains. It must be quite an experience to be in the room once inhabited by one of the authors I have always admired!
    I feel a little sad about the bear on the floor, but I love everything else about it!

    1. I know, I was trying not to think about that skin on the floor. That part is a little scary – there are a lot “trophies” from his hunting expeditions spread all over the house, a lot of heads on the walls and such. One just has to remember his passions, that’s what he was in the end. He adored cats, but loved hunting wild animals. :/

  10. You are right we take so many things for granted. A simple thing like a beverage can, available to hotel guests but not found on the shelves of local stores. Hemingway’s house would have been amazing to visit. I love how they have left it just as it was. 400 books, wow!

    1. Hope that things are changing now in Cuba related to supplies for citizens at least. That distinction just wasn’t right, it felt strange…
      The house is lovely! 🙂

  11. I didn’t know Hemmingway has a house in Cuba! It is so nicely maintained! That’s crazy that he had 60 cats throughout his life and even had a cat cemetery!!

    1. Yes, can you believe it! I read about the cat cemetery, but I thought it wouldn’t be marked as such, with a little tombstones and everything. The man really loved his cats! 😀

  12. Hemington’s house is lovely! I want to see the library with 8000 books. And it’s just amazing to be in the same house where a lot of famous people had been, too. I wouldn’t wonder why Hemington fell in love with the place. Cuba is beautiful!

    1. Yes, I agree, it’s one lovely experience to stroll around Hemingway’s hallways.
      And don’t let me even start on Cuba, I fell in love with the island! 😀

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