Where Papa’s Spirit Lives On
Ernest Hemingway spent most of the 1940s and 1950s in Havana. Today his spirit is alive and well at La Bodeguita del Medio (“The Little Bar in the Middle”) and the slightly more formal La Floridita, two legendary watering holes in the historic Habana Vieja district that provided him with much of the inspiration and local color found in The Old Man and the Sea and Islands in the Stream.
Both of these haunts were established long before Papa showed up, and neither has changed much since he checked out. A visit is de rigueur, to test-sample two of Cuba’s classic rum-based cocktails, of which Hemingway imbibed vast quantities: La Bodeguita’s refreshing mojito (originally a farmers’ drink, as common as beer; the rich added shaved ice and club soda) and La Floridita’s frozen daiquiri, which Papa is said to have helped perfect (there are reports that the author could down as many as fifteen Papa’s Specials and still walk out the door).
Havana isn’t known for the refinement of its cusine, but La Bodeguita offers some of the best available in its upstairs room, serving such Creole specialties as lechon asado (roast suckling pig). Hemingway’s home, La Vigia, is 9.5 miles outside Havana in the village of San Francisco; it has been left untouched and is open to the public. He lived here until returning to Idaho in 1960, where he committed suicide a year later.