My Jewish luck – “adventure luck” – played a trick on me again in Cuba. I really wanted to go to the SAS Hemingway tour on the last day, but really didn’t want to spend any money on it. At last I decided to buy the ticket from a girl who didn’t want it, and guess what – that very evening I saw a free ticket stamped to the board on Tymitz square. The world just didn’t want me to save this money… At least I hope someone was happy about the free ticket.
We got into them tourist buses (gosh I hate tourist groups, but it’s hard to move around Cuba with no driver’s license and bad public transportation system). Our first stop was the Cojimar village that inspired Hemingway to write his Old Man and the Sea. It’s a small village with shabby houses and a little fortress, with Ernest’s bust installed nearby. The pier smelled of salt and rotting seaweed, and tiny crabs were tanning on the rocks. It was a short stop, but enough for me to see Pilar, the Boat, carrying the man towards the horizon – it must’ve been a nice little harbor – and the skeleton of the giant Fish washed by the waves by the waterfront.
The next location was the villa that Hemingway and his wife used to rent. At first he really hated the villa, but later put up with it and grew very fond of the place. I suspect that a huge swimming pool, large enough to stage sea battles, might have played a role. And probably a little observatory on top of the tower, where he set up a cozy cabinet with a telescope. The more I wandered around the villa, the more jealous I grew: the place would’ve fit me perfectly. I wish I could visit when the famous host was still there.
I peeked into the open windows, observing the hunting trophies, and books and empty Bacardi bottles everywhere. Or was it jin? The house was full of light and full of personality, as if the owners just stepped out for a nice boat ride. But the boat itself was stored under the roof next to the pool, probably never to set sail again. I breathed in the fresh air, full of pine and green, and pet the dogs jumping around. There are still lots of dogs living in the villa.
Afterwards they brought us to Floredita, a cafe in the old Havana famous for its invention of daiquiri that Hemingway later popularized. The daiquiri was thrice as expensive as at any other cafe, but still tasted good. Ernest seemed to be winking at me from the bar stand, if statues can wink. They’re not supposed to wink, right?
The last stop was the hotel he loved to stay at. I sneaked away from the group to grab some churros, and then me and a few others had to search for the hotel, which we eventually found. Hemingway’s room was upstairs, kept as little museum. Very simple; white walls, almost no furniture, a lovely view on the city. I refused to go back on the bus – the port was just ten minutes away, and the weather was glorious. I kept gazing around, at the old shop windows that were not meant for the locals. They weren’t meant for me either – why would I buy all these fancy souvenirs and expensive luggage?
Walking instead of driving; discovering local juice stands instead of cafes; bargaining at the crafts markets instead of overpaying in shops. That’s my way.