If you’re not sure what to do with a quick stop in Havana, Jules Torti has some suggestions.
Malecon, Havana Centro. Taut-bodied spear fishermen assemble gear while sinewy boys in surf trunks crowd-please with kamikaze dives into the water. Vendors troll along with cones of roasted peanuts and bags of popcorn. Vintage Chevys, Fords, and Ladas sail past.
Walk south on the Paseo de Marti (also called “el prado”), a grand tree-lined 19th century promenade that connects Parque Central with the Havana Harbour. Snag shots of Kid Chocolate’s boxing gym, chess players, colonial, and art deco along the way before a fill of pastries and stiff espresso at the Pasteleria Francesca beside Hotel Ingleterra. Lopsided rosquillas (ring donuts), bugle-shaped caracols filled with custard and guayaba pastels (guava cake) cost 30 to 75 cents.
From the pedestrian-only Calle Obispo (Bishop’s Street), join the slow-moving mass of people browsing the shops selling bespoke perfumes, makeshift art galleries, the helladio (ice cream) vendors’ flavors, and stores for everything from rare books to nautical maps to cheese graters and live birds. Be prepared for a barrage of restaurant staff trying to pull you in for drinks and snacks by flapping menus open in your face as you walk by.
Head toward Hotel Ambos Mundos (Obispo #153, esq. Mercaderes). Squeeze into the tiny lift and ask the jovial operator to see room #511 where Ernest Hemingway pounded out Death in the Afternoon and started the Green Hills of Africa. For $2, you can have a voyeuristic look at his writing quarters, typewriter (under glass), vintage photos, wardrobe, and Louis Vuitton trunk. After?
It’s probably time for a mojito on the rooftop of the hotel ($3).
Finca Vigia (Lookout Farm) is a hilltop retreat Hemingway purchased in 1949, after seven years in the cramped confines of Hotel Ambos Mundos. Located 18km from the city in the suburbs of San Francisco de Paula on Carretera Central…
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