“No, I think it was the other Ernest Hemingway.”

I wish I’d heard the rest of this conversation between two Americans who passed me in the street in Havana.

It would explain a lot if there was more than one, as the ubiquitous Ernest seems to be irrevocably linked to so many places – Paris, Spain, Venice, Key West, Havana … how much easier to achieve if there was more than one of him.

I seem to have spent a lot of time stalking Hemingway around the world. This was Paris in 2007 –

Venice in 2013 –

… although I didn’t actually make it to Harry’s Bar.

Then, finally, Havana in 2020 – and a pilgrimage to Hemingway’s house, Finca Vigia.

Good old Ernest …

… always one of the in-crowd.

When he left Cuba in 1961, after more than two decades there, the government appropriated his house and turned it into a museum. He left everything behind – it looks as though he’s just popped out to El Floridita for a daiquiri – so you have a very good sense of what it was like in his day. You can’t go inside, but all the windows are open, so you can wander around the outside and peer in to see just what a Nobel-winning author’s house looks like.

I wasn’t surprised by the books, the hunting trophies –

or the drinks’ trolley –

But I was surprised by all the chintz –

He really doesn’t strike me as a chintzy-type; I would have had him down as more of a leather Chesterfield man.

According to our guide, Hemingway had 57 cats and 9 dogs. That blows my theory out of the water that it’s single women of a certain age who obsessively collect cats … but perhaps it was just the influence of all that chintz. I don’t know what happened to the cats, but there is a small dog cemetery in the grounds of Finca Vigia –

For a distinguished author, he’s remarkably unimaginative in his choice of names.

Finca Vigia is in a beautiful spot, just outside Havana on a hill with cooling breezes and a wonderful view.

Hemingway had a boat, a swimming pool, a tennis court and a lookout tower with a huge telescope plus a day bed for siestas. The pool house is full of photos of him entertaining celebrities like Charlie Chaplin and Ava Gardner – and yet he still had time to write ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ and ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ while he lived here … a remarkable work ethic.

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