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Havana Good Time – Part One

Welcome to my Blog at The Lair Of The Camrose


It’s my bespoke stomping ground in the Intermatrix. You are very welcome, and thanks for stopping by…

This time, a trip down memory lane, Cuban-style in a classic automobile…


We were in Cuba for a holiday almost exactly a year ago, before COVID took a grip on all of us.

Seems like years ago.

Havana in particular was awash with gorgeous classic American automobiles (not just cars: automobiles – they deserve to be called more than mere cars). Those automobiles are a Cuban calling card.

They had been sadly under-used, even before the outbreak of the virus, relying on a trickle of tourists rather than the flood which would descend from US cruise ships in better times. Times long gone, then re-instated, then once more long-gone with the bite of the further crushing US sanctions biting into the population, then COVID-19.

The time of cruise ships is surely gone forever, regardless of the political climate, a sobering thought for the Cuban population awaiting those better times.

We went on Ernest Hemingway’s trail in Cuba, keeping a low profile in our bright orange Buick (one of many that we hailed) in the sunshine. The trail was littered with bright shards of Hemingway’s life. Cuba was the place where he seemed most obviously at home until forced to leave by a sharp clash of revolutionary and reactionary politics. I thought I’d share with you some of that journey and what came out of it.

Finca Vigia – Hemingway’s home in Cuba for twenty years – is nowadays a place of pilgrimage and will no doubt endure. Bus-loads of tourists descended on the spectacular “Lookout Farm” (the blunt English translation from the as usual more romantic Spanish) while we were visiting. The tower that gave it this name is designed to accommodate hordes of tourists gingerly clambering up the one person wide rickety steps accommodating – or trying to accommodate – simultaneous up and down traffic. That is something to bear in mind when once again you get the chance to visit this place.

When I was already a long way up, I found that it would be a really short way down without civilised stair etiquette.

We were tourists, too, just in a smaller bus. Not that much smaller, come to think of it, given the Buick’s voluptuous curves and not-at-all dainty footprint.

The property is a place where, without the gold dust of the Hemingway connection, most people would draw level with the entrance to the winding drive, mutter ‘I wonder what’s up there’, then drive past. They would move on to the next attractive example of faded glory, inevitably mixed with pockets of quiet desperation. It’s a remarkable testament to the power of icons, infusing gravitas into bricks and mortar.The inside of the house is not open to visitors. Everyone must take their turn and crane their neck through the open windows. The house is mercilessly exposed to visitors by those open windows. That gives a strange feeling of space and connection, no tomb-like atmosphere.

Visitors are forced to perform contortions, not least to avoid an ear or a corner of someone’s parasol in their snapshots. All to catch glimpses of things like the nine thousand or so books stuffed into the building, untouched from Hemingway’s day except to be worshipped by the army of staff individually and relentlessly hand-cleaning each book. It would be a firing offence to smear a sticky finger from a stolen bite of a pastelito over one of the treasured tomes. Probably more than just firing.

Stretching the scene into a touch of the absurd, possibly even slightly grotesque, for a peso or two one of the guardians is happy to sneak your camera deeper into the house to take close-ups of the bathroom and elsewhere with the promise of transformation from the mundane to the magical. I politely refused the proffered virtual tour of Hemingway’s bathroom.

How all of that comes together with the Old Man and the Sea, will be in Part Two…

Cheers.

Alan

Alan Camrose

Alan Camrose with beard


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