How I Followed Ernest Hemingway Around The World—And Found Adventure

For better or worse, I have followed the travels (and words) of Ernest Hemingway around the world. His life of adventure and daring was legendary. I caught only a glimpse in his non-fiction book The Dangerous Summer.

Hemingway quotes that resonate with me include:

“Live life to the fullest.”

“In order to write about life, first you must live it!”

“Auto racing, bull fighting, and mountain climbing are the only real sports … all others are games.”

Key West, Florida — I first encountered Hemingway along the streets of this most southern Florida city at dusk after one of the most fiery sunsets I have ever witnessed. Appropriate, I suppose.

His home is located at 907 Whitehead Street nestled in the heart of Old Town Key West. This unique property was home to one of our most honored and respected authors. You can literally step back in time and visit the rooms and gardens that witnessed the most prolific period of this Nobel Prize winner’s writing career.  As you wander through the lush grounds you can enjoy the whimsy of the more than sixty cats that inhabit the place.

When the bar Sloppy Joe’s was officially opened, Hemingway and his “Mob” of cohorts were enthusiastic regular customers. In fact, the author once called himself a co-owner or silent partner in the enterprise. The “Mob” was comprised of some of the literary lights of the day as well as a variety of famous and infamous local residents: John Dos Pasos, Waldo Pierce, J.B. Sullivan, Hamilton Adams, Captain Eddie Saunders, Henry Strater. They wrangled, drank, and philosophized the days away, never knowing they were building a legend.

A few years later, I wandered into Harry’s Bar in Venice Italy. While sipping a Bellini (Harry’s Bar was the birthplace of this legendary drink), I read this story from owner Harry Pickering:

“During the long, cold winter of 1949-50, Ernest Hemingway installed himself comfortably in the Concordia room. Hemingway practically dropped in on us that year, and divided his time between the Inn on Torcello, the Gritti, and Harry’s Bar, where he had a table of his own in a corner. He was the only client with whom once during an outing to Torcello I had to drink a little myself—much, much more than a little, actually—just to keep up with him.

Hemingway was the only client, I was saying, because I have always believed that the client’s place is on one side of the counter, and the barman’s is on the other.  Everything in its place….but he had such an overwhelming personality that it was impossible to maintain any barriers.

He was generous to a fault, and filled more pages of his check-book than those of a medium length novel.

At the time, he was just finishing “Over the River and Into the Trees” in which he mentions Harry’s Bar many times. Every time I hear someone say “Hemingway sure gave you a lot of free promotion!” I say: “You’re all wet, Bud. It was me and my bar that promoted him. They gave him the Nobel prize afterwards, not before.”

Imagine my surprise, four years ago, when on Safari in Northern Uganda at the Paraa Lodge and the magnificent Murchison Falls to realize Ernest Hemingway had visited Paraa Lodge and Murchison Falls. His intention was simply to overfly the Falls while on a charter flight from Kenya to the Congo. However, his plane clipped an old telegraph wire strung across the gorge and cart-wheeled into the forest. Hemingway and his wife were rescued and taken to Butiaba where their rescue plane crashed on takeoff. The author sustained debilitating injuries that were blamed for his subsequent depression and suicide.

Hmmm, I wonder if my future travels will take me to Botin in Madrid, Spain…

Question: What is your favorite Hemingway book or trivia fact?

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8 Responses to “How I Followed Ernest Hemingway Around The World—And Found Adventure”

  1. Great post. Hemingway is responsible for converting me into an avid reader in college. My wife and I visited his place on our honeymoon in Key West and attended the Hemingway look alike contest. It is very hard to pick a favorite book. The two that I return to the most would be Islands In the Stream and (of course) For Whom the Bell Tolls. I love Hemingway’s dialogue. Sometimes it goes on for so long with no he said or she said that you have to turn back a page to remember who is saying what. No Fluff.

    Happy Birthday Hemingway

  2. Well, I would highly recommend a trip to Alice Town on the isle of Bimini and a visit to the Compleat Angler Hotel where Hemingway stayed for a few years in the 30’s. But just now finding out it burned in 2006. Sad. Think I was there in summer ’99
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compleat_Angler_Hotel

  3. Okay, Randy, admit it: you just wrote this post because you wanted me to comment. Right?

    You have to add the Montparnasse Quarter in Paris to your travel list. That’s where Hemingway connected with Gertrude Stein and the exploding artist community that included Picasso.

    I have a nice collection of Hemingway’s books and letters. I also have a decent collection of articles, biographies and literary criticism on him and his work.

    Favorite short stories: Hills Like White Elephants (about abortion), The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber (about marriage and manhood) and A Clean Well-Lighted Place (about adultery).

    Favorite novel: The Sun Also Rises
    Keith Jennings´s last blog post ..Redefining Patience

  4. In March, we spent a few day in Ronda, Spain where Hemingway spent many summers and wrote several novels. Walking the streets of Ronda made me want to sit down and write very short sentences.
    Wade Hodges´s last blog post ..A Clear Definition of (Spiritual) Fitness: Ready for Anything

  5. Here’s what I love about Hemingway and this post: both make me want to travel (more) and live a large life!

  6. There was a time when my reaction to the question “What is your favourite Hemingway book” would have been visceral in a most unpleasant way. I first read The Sun Also Rises as a Junior in High School because it was the favourite novel of a much-respected English teacher. I’d like to say that I was an instant convert, but I wasn’t. I actually had to work a little bit to keep up with this guy and I wasn’t used to it.

    It took me a while to develop an appreciation for Hemingway’s genius. When I got a chance to walk through Venice (stopping to have a Bellini at Harry’s Bar) and walked out into the center of the bull ring at Ronda, appreciation turned into admiration. Somehow, being in those places allowed me to make a very strong connection with his work that I hadn’t had before.

    All that is a long way of saying my favourite Hemingway novel is The Sun Also Rises. I was also strangely fascinated with Death in the Afternoon.

    Thank you Randy!

  7. I spent 5 summers on the shores of Walloon Lake in Petoskey, Michigan. Windmere Cottage is on the same lake. We canoed and sailed by often, wondering if Hemingway ever did the same.
    Joe Baumgarten´s last blog post ..I was hacked

  8. sounds like a trip to Shakespeare and Company in Paris is in store if you havent’t already made it there. he had quite a few haunts in Paris I would assume of the Cafe or Bar nature.
    Chuck Harris´s last blog post ..i had a friend ask me the other day….

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