Tracking Hemingway (Paris, Peru, Venice and Sun Valley)

Tracking Hemingway (Paris, Peru, Venice and Sun Valley)

Since reading Old man and the Sea in the 3rd grade, I have been mesmerized by Papa.  So many of his works have since impacted me at different points my life.  As Luci and I have traveled, we have unintentionally followed his footsteps.  Most recently in prep for my first visit to the African continent, I read his, “Green Hills of Africa.”  Granted, Africa today is much different than in Hemmingway’s his day, I could really feel the romance and love he had for the people and the place.

I feel a real connection with Hemmingway.  We are both travel writers. Of course, Hemmingway is in the majors, I’m still trying to get into the minors. I try to emulate Hemmingway’s approach of connecting with the locals, and seeing the off the beaten path places.  Then, in turn, share these stories with those who will listen.  We both have been known to be prone to a little embellishment at times….


“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”   Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway loved Paris.  Paris loves Hemingway.  We visited Paris last month and we decided to sign up for a Hemingway walk.  Unfortunately, we were greatly disappointed in the tour…too many people and despite the name of the walk, Papa was only briefly discussed.  I knew we were in trouble when at the onset the guide asked how many people had read “A Moveable Feast” and Luci and I and one other couple had read it.  What a shame!  But we did get to walk by his first home in Paris.  He and his wife Hadley lived in a small walk-up at 74 Rue du Cardinal Lemoine in the Latin Quarter, and he worked in a rented room in a nearby building.  Interesting enough, both locations claimed that he “lived” there.

View from the ET

It is of note the area that he chose to live in.  Most of Hemingway expat friends lived in more “upscale” areas in Paris.  Ernest chose to live in a real neighborhood.  Cardinal Lemoine was working man’s Paris at the time.  He brought up this fact in Moveable Feast.  By proximity to the working class, he was able to keep that simple voice in his works.  To contrast, another Idahoan that was a contemporary of Hemmingway in Paris, Ezra Pound, who chose to surround himself in very developmental years with the intellectually elite. Pound’s writings would reflect this foundation, and he never had the commercial success that Hemingway experienced. Hemingway would call Pound, “the poet’s poet.”  Quite a compliment for sure.

“Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know.”  Ernest Hemingway


“Somebody just back of you while you are fishing is as bad as someone looking over your shoulder while you write a letter to your girl.”  Ernest Hemingway

One of the really cool places we went in Lima, Peru, was the Grand Hotel Bolivar.  Now the hotel feels past its prime, but standing off the bar by a beautiful marble mantle where Hemmingway would have shared his fishing escapades is very moving.  I am sure a few good Cuban’s were lit here!

Hemingway made one trip with South America spending just under a month there.  While there he pursued his love of sporting fishing.  Peru is such a great place to visit!  It truly has it all: the sun,  the sea, and of course the jungle!


“My aim is to put down on paper what I see and what I feel in the best and simplest way.“  Ernest Hemingway

One cannot discuss Hemingway in Venice without starting with Harry’s Bar.  The watering hole is located just off St. Marks Square and is now a shell of the place it was back in the day.  In its hay-day it was the headquarters of all things important.  According to our friends at Wikipedia: “Harry’s Bar has long been frequented by famous people, and it was a favorite of Ernest Hemingway. Other notable customers have included Italian conductor Arturo Toscanini, inventor Guglielmo Marconi, Charlie Chaplin, Alfred Hitchcock, Truman Capote, Orson Welles, Baron Philippe de Rothschild, Princess Aspasia of Greece, Aristotle Onassis, Barbara Hutton, Peggy Guggenheim, and Woody Allen.”

Hemingway spent time in Northern Italy during the first world war.  Venice was a respite from the bloodshed and bombing that he witnessed.  It was here he was able to collect his thoughts and put them to paper.  Besides spending time at Harry’s, Hemingway at well in Veice, very well.  A Venice restaurant has recreated one of Ernest favorite meals:

Sun Valley

“A man can be destroyed but not defeated.”  Ernest Hemingway

Perhaps my closest connection to Ernesto was our common love of Idaho.  I grew up in Eastern Idaho and regularly visited Sun Valley and the Wood River Valley.  Hemingway chose to spend his last days there, and ultimately ended his life at his own hand there.  In the early morning hours of July 2, 1961, Hemingway “quite deliberately” shot himself with his favorite shotgun.  He is buried in the Sun Valley Cemetery just north of town.  My business often takes me to the area, and I try to visit to pay my respects.  There is always a Cuban cigar, or a bottle of Jack left as a tribute by fellow doting fans.

Sun Valley, candidly in and of itself, isn’t much to look at.  However, Sun Valley is the gateway into the Sawtooth Mountains.  They are some of the most ruggedly beautiful places in the world.  The mountain range lives up to its name.  Its craggy peaks and high mountain lakes are special.  Big game hunting is plentiful.  Winter transforms the entire area into a skiing mecca.

This post is missing two key Hemingway locations: Cuba and Spain.  (They are on our list! Have you been?)   Obviously, you don’t need to circle the globe to catch a glimpse of Papa.  All you need to do is simply read one of his masterpieces.

“Every man’s life ends the same way. It is only the details of how he lived and how he died that distinguish one man from another.”  Ernest Hemingway

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7 Responses to Tracking Hemingway (Paris, Peru, Venice and Sun Valley)

  1. Suzy June 21, 2011 at 9:59 am #

    That is really cool you are following in Hemingway’s footsteps around the globe. You will have to make it to Spain and Cuba at some point. I was on a tour of Lago Maggiore in Italy and they pointed out the hotel where Hemingway penned most of A Farewell to Arms. It is fascinating to see where such an admired writer composed his work.

  2. Cesar Portocarrero July 1, 2011 at 7:30 pm #

    You might have to revisit Peru and travel to a fishing village in Cabo Blanco, North of Lima, where Don Ernesto spent 30 plus days back in 1956. He came to fish for Black Marlin while a crew filmed sequences for The Old Man and the Sea. He was never in Lima. A new trip to the country would give you a chance to sample the new cuisine of Peru.

  3. Erica July 2, 2011 at 7:28 pm #

    Ooh! We got to visit Hemingway’s favorite bar in Havana! I love tours like this – especially when you can see where the inspiration comes from.

  4. admin July 2, 2011 at 9:07 pm #

    We would love to find some way to visit Cuba.

  5. lola January 6, 2013 at 11:53 am #

    Thanks for posting this! I felt incredibly silly going to one of his favorite bars in Madrid, but so cool at the same time :)

    You spelled his name wrong a few times, by the way. It’s Hemingway with one m.

  6. Dave B. January 15, 2016 at 11:50 pm #

    Hemingway’s Ghost

    I’ve never read much Hemingway. I suppose I should. I remember my Dad, when he was working hard at night school finishing the college degree he’d left behind at the start of the Korean War, struggling to deal with The Old Man and the Sea. Dad was a musician, the kind of man Hemingway wrote about, and not the kind of man to make much sense out of anything that held symbolic meaning. To him, that book was just a story about fishing.
    But I’ve found myself strangely haunted by Hemingway. The first time that I saw his ghost, I think, was in a ristorante on the Grand Canal in Venice. I’d taken the train down from Aviano on a Saturday morning, by myself (which was my habit). My F-4 squadron was deployed that summer of 1978 for semi-annual gunnery training; we’d try to “fill our squares” by dropping bombs on the crappy artillery range at Maniago. On a clear day, which was rare, you could stand on the tarmac at Aviano and watch your mates dropping little 25 pound practice smoke bombs across a washed out river away to the east. I didn’t know it, but Hemingway had trod this terrain driving ambulances for the Italians in the Great War. But that Saturday, hot in July, happened to be my birthday and I was enjoying a nice dinner of veal parmesan and chianti watching Italian kids hot rod up and down the canal in speed boats. Cruising had an entirely different meaning to Italian teenagers. At the table behind me were an older American couple and I overheard much of their gentle conversation. They were enjoying their vacation in Venice and I struck up a conversation with them. It was a wonderful, magical evening. I learned that Hemingway had sat in this exact spot. His ghost was there.
    18 years later, in October 1995, my boss, a Marine colonel and I stepped off the brow of a US Navy warship on shore leave. The ship was tied up on the quay at the east end of the Grand Canal, close to the old Venetian Arsenal. We’d just finished bombing Serbia into submission over the Bosnian fiasco and my colonel was looking forward to hitting the town in true shore leave fashion. We hoofed it down to Harry’s Bar, and I was surprised to learn that they didn’t serve beer there. So I had to settle for martinis. I was told Hemingway liked “toonies.” I was surprised to learn that Harry’s Bar was another of Hemingway’s haunts. The place struck me as a dive and they wanted $10 for a drink. Over rated, disappointing. His ghost was just out of sight, a flash in the corner of my eye.
    I’ve never been to the big fiesta in Pamplona, but did spend a memorable couple of six-week deployments to Zaragosa, again at “gunnery camp.” My squadron would go up to a rancheria just outside Pamplona and, for a few bucks, the Spaniards would let us fight the young bulls. Seems that this was how they trained ’em – put a half drunk fighter pilot in the ring with a baby bull and watch the show. It was a hoot. Hemingway’s ghost was sitting in the stands, making notes and sipping sangria.
    I love Paris. No, really, I had a girl friend years ago named Paris, and I loved her. I just finished reading a most excellent article by A.E. Hotchner in the October 2015 issue of Smithsonian relating the angst Hemingway withstood over his love for Hadley and Pauline. Hemingway had once asked Hotchner if he had ever loved two women at the same time. Hotchner had not; I have. Paris was one of them. But I’ve also spent a fair amount of time in the city of Paris, once again wandering Hemingway’s haunts without knowing it until much later. I spent a magical weekend on Montmartre, and several in the French Officer’s Mess, the Cercle National des Armees Saint-Augustin, when I was teaching a course at the Sorbonne. I understand the magic Hemingway found in Paris. His ghost is there too.
    I lived for a time south of Miami and very much enjoyed spending weekends in Key West. Back before it fell into the state it now enjoys, it was a sleepy little place that seemed to be stuck in time. Over Memorial Day (or was it Labor Day) in, I think, 1981, I helped crew a 28 foot Islander yacht during the annual race to Bimini. We weren’t last, but pretty close to it. The return winds were against us and we dallied in Alice Town a couple of days. I very much enjoyed sipping cold Kalik beer and the odd whisky at some little bar called the Compleat Angler. I noticed stuff on the walls that seemed to have some connection to Hemingway. I found out years later that his ghost lingered even there.
    I only made it to Cuba once (well, only once that I can talk about), after a 737 I was a passenger on was hijacked. It was in the early 1980’s and there were a rash of hijackings by homesick Cubans, but we really weren’t prepared for the experience. We’d flown a Phantom from Homestead over to McDill for some sort of technical upgrade and were hopping back from Tampa to Miami on a commercial flight. We’d quickly changed out of our fight suits and into civvies for the flight, and had our flight gear (helmet, flight suit, g-suit, parachute harness) crammed into a helmet bag as our carry on. It was only supposed to be a half hour flight, but about 10 minutes after take off some crazy old Cuban geezer races up the aisle yelling “Cuba, Cuba, Cuba” and sloshing an open Coke bottle full of gasoline all over the place. Generally not too concerning except he had a cigarette lighter in his other hand. The pilot wisely diverted to Havana. I was just a tad concerned about it all – just the week before I’d scrambled on some Cuban MiGs that had overflown Key West just to piss us off, and would have shot them down if I could have caught ’em. I was troubled enough to give my military ID card to one of the stewardesses with instructions to give it to American authorities if I was detained… her name was Paris and we became quite close later (but that is a different tale). When we landed in Havana, the cops drug off the crazy hijacker (and probably put him right back on a boat to Key West) and herded the rest of us into a waiting area complete with a duty free store (which the Cubanos conveniently opened just for us). Once I established that I wasn’t going to be hauled off to the hoosegow, I proceeded to browse the shop, bought a box of Cuban cigars and a bottle of rum. We were only there for an hour or so and then just got back on the 737 and flew to Miami like nothing had happened. They made us go through customs when we landed and my cigars and rum were confiscated. Alas. Hemingway’s ghost was laughing.
    I followed Hemingway to Africa a couple of times. When the Hutus and Tutsis were killing each other in the mid-90’s I spent a few weeks in Uganda putting together some sort of relief effort. How do you relieve the deaths of a million people? How do you relieve the displacement of millions more? Too little too late. Hemingway’s ghost was troubled.
    Some years earlier I’d been on safari in Kenya, while on leave from screwing around in Mogadishu. I climbed to the snow line of Kilimanjaro with some army buddies. One had a copy of The Snows of Kilimanjaro in his ruck – I thought it was a tourist guide. (Just kidding). We didn’t see any leopards. Hemingway’s ghost was tired.
    In the early sixties, my Dad took me on the bus with his band on a gig in the Alps. It was magical. I learned to ski on that trip, in a village in Austria on the slopes of Montblanc. Hemingway was there too. When my Dad moved us to Colorado I became good enough to join the Colorado Ski Patrol. I enjoyed skiing. So did Hemingway I hear. I skied in Sun Valley last year, and can see why he liked it there.
    It was that night of ‘toonies in Harry’s Bar in Venice that got me mildly interested in Hemingway. I’d been following in his footsteps for years without knowing it. But I was always an actor, a real participant in life, a real warrior and not just watching the war. Hemingway, where he walked, he was always just a witness. He was never a real player in any of the events of his life. He was always just a detached observer. It is not his fault I suppose. It was his job to report on life. It was my job to be doing the kinds of things Hemingway wrote about. He never lived life. Even when he was doing it, marlin fishing, driving ambulances, skiing. He was always just watching it. That, I think, is what killed him. That and loving the wrong woman. You know, my old friend Vern nailed that one. “Dave,” he said in a raspy gravelly voice, “If you find the right woman there ain’t nothin’ like it. And if you find the wrong woman, there ain’t nothin’ like it.” Hemingway found the right woman and the wrong woman. At the same time. That was his demon.
    My Dad died last week, and in going through his things I came across his tattered copy of The Old Man and the Sea. One day, I’ll read it. That should make Hemingway’s ghost smile.

  7. Jan 12345 August 7, 2017 at 8:08 am #

    Hey Dave B.
    You would have made Hemingway smile. Loved your story.