Ernest Hemingway might be more closely associated with the time that he spent in Key West, Florida, but it was in Havana, Cuba that inspired him to start writing The Old Man and the Sea in 1951...
Circa 1946 (U.S. National Archives and Records Administration) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
...and it was in Havana that he lived while he tried to figure out how to start writing it, for over a decade.
He'd moved to Cuba in 1939, taking residence at Finca Vigía ("Lookout Farm"), a country home just outside of the urban constraints of Havana. By the time The Old Man and the Sea was published —and became a hit, and won him the Pulitzer—Hemingway himself was a bit of an old man, looking for a break.
He had two wives here, in this house built in 1886.
He witnessed World War II and two Cuban revolutions (including the ousting of a U.S.-backed government) here.
And once he'd left in 1960 to receive treatment for depression back in the States, he could never return. After the Bay of Pigs invasion, the U.S. had imposed a strict embargo on Cuba, which had declared itself a Communist state in 1961.
That same year, Hemingway committed suicide.
The house and surrounding property has been run by the Cuban government as a museum since 2007. The guest house—where Hemingway's sons once stayed during their visits—is occupied by administrative offices.
Tourists flock to the site, coming by bus or taxi.
And while the interiors are cordoned off, you can look inside from the outside...
...and you can climb up to the top of the tower where Hemingway did much of his writing...
...the only place he could seem to concentrate, and the only place to keep him out of the bars.
You can also take in the view that Hemingway himself must have had from up there.
There was a pool, though Hemingway himself preferred to be out at sea.
His fishing boat Pilar is now on permanent display there, dry-docked for the world to see.
But don't try to sit in the chairs.
At this farmhouse, you get a sense of who Hemingway was as a man—not just as a writer. This is where he famously began to keep lots of cats, but he also had an affinity for dogs, especially black ones—who have by now, of course, passed on.
But their progeny live on, greeting visitors from around the world and subtly begging for snacks.
Hemingway loved Cuba, and Cuba loved Hemingway. It makes you wonder what would've happened, had he been able to return—rather than instead retreating to Idaho, where he met his final demise.
He spent decades chasing and reporting on wars, and yet the home front he loved the most was one of the most war-torn of them all.
There must've been something about it—and something about Fidel—to draw him there and keep him there. And it must've been something that we couldn't possibly perceive in just three days' time.
Cruisin' Cuba in a Convertible