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Varadero, Cuba

ALICANTE, Los Montesinos journalist Andrew Atkinson followed in the footsteps of Novelist author and journalist Ernest Hemingway with a visit to Cuba.

Hemingway, who committed suicide on July 2, 1961, aged 61, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954, was a journalist in the Spanish Civil War after which he wrote ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ in 1940.

‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ is based on Hemingway’s experiences as a correspondent during the Spanish Civil War. The Novel’s three days of conflict takes place near the El Tajo gorge, through the Andalusian town of Rondo, where a political massacre like the one led by Pablo, occurred early in the Spanish Civil War.

‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ is one of Hemingway’s best-selling novels of which movie rights were purchased by Paramount. Hemingway, who had residences in Key West, Florida, and Cuba, also recounts a Pamplona bull run in ‘The Sun Also Rises’.

The visit to Cuba took in the National Museum of Natural History of Cuba, Havana, along with a tour of a cigar manufacturer. On the journey to Havana from Varadero one-horse two-wheel taxis, dump trucks and local Cuban workers could be seen thumbing a lift by the road side. American cars – mainly Chevrolets from the 1950’s – are in abundance in the City of Havana, Cuba. Classic American cars.

Fidel Castro imposed a new law in 1959 preventing anyone without government permission from importing foreign automobiles thus making Cuba a car museum. Sloppy Joe’s saloon, a celebrated Cuban bar in Havana, circa. 1920s-30s re-opened in recent times – following a refurbishment in 2007 – after being derelict for over 50 years.

A photo shows Hemingway, Noël Coward and Alec Guinness, snapped when Guinness was filming ‘Our Man In Havana’ scenes in the bar. Closed in 1965 under Fidel Castro’s Communist Government when nationalising nearly all private enterprises, Sloppy Joe’s – where Frank Sinatra, Ava Gardner and Nat King Cole also visited – is bustling once again. Just like Hemingway Cuba Libre – rum, lime and Coca-Cola and Mojito – lime, mint, sugar, carbonated water, and rum – were sipped through straws while listening to live Cuban music.

Hemingway’s watering holes in Havana, La Floridita and La Bodeguita del Medio re-visit history. Hanging on the interior wall in La Floridita, is Hemingway’s signed quote: "My mojito in the Bodeguita del Medio and my daiquiri in the Floridita" The walls of La Bodeguita del Medio are covered in signatures and photographs, in situ on Calle Empedrado, near to the cathedral in Old Havana.

La Floridita is where Hemingway’s frequented his favourite daquiry.

Hemingway’s bar stool has a velvet rope, along with a statue, in situ at Monserrate, Old Havana. It was a pleasant surprise to see vast numbers of Turkey Vultures gliding through the sky, egrets taking a ride on the back of cattle and Palm Warblers – and Pelicans fishing in Varadero – along with Cuban blackbirds.

I sampled the Torres brandy in Cuba – as I do when in Los Montesinos, Spain. Along with Hemingway, I’ll raise a glass to Cuba – it being a privilege to follow in his footsteps in Havana.

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