To many, Nobel Prize in Literature recipient Ernest Hemingway, author of such classics as The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms and The Old Man and the Sea, was a literary giant whose ‘iceberg theory’ proved to be a tour de force in the world of letters. However, any literature enthusiast would tell you that Hemingway’s life was not just defined by his literary achievements.
Throughout his life, Hemingway hopped on from one place to another, whether it was to cover a war or to have a gala time in Paris’ cafes or witness the thrill of bullfighting in early 20th century. In that process, he also dabbled in travel writing, and thus, works such as Death in the Afternoon and A Moveable Feast were born, wherein he talked extensively about his experiences in Spain and France respectively.
Here’s a look at five of the places in Paris and Madrid that Hemingway had lifelong love affairs with:
Hemingway’s Love – The Ritz Paris
Widely considered as one of the top luxury hotels in the world, Ritz was established in 1898 by the Swiss hotelier César Ritz. The hotel was among the first European hotels to treat guests with an en suite bathroom and a telephone (and electricity to make it run, which was a big deal for its time) for each room. In a short span of time, the hotel became a hallmark for luxury and attracted a clientele that attracted reputed people from all sorts of fields. Coco Chanel as well as Hemingway have suites named after them in this iconic hotel, and the cocktail lounge Bar Hemingway is also named after him, who often used to drink at the same bar with his dear friend and another iconic American writer F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Hemingway once said, “When in Paris the only reason not to stay at the Ritz is if you can’t afford it”. He has also been quoted as saying “When I dream of afterlife in heaven, the action always takes place in the Paris Ritz”. It is his love for the Ritz that lead him to gather a group of resistance fighters on 25th August 1944 and mount a liberation of the Ritz’s bar. The Nazis had left by then and the victorious Hemingway celebrated by running up a tab of 51 dry martinis. He spent the next few days at the hotel and Charles Ritz ensured Hemingway had one of the best rooms overlooking the Place Vendome.
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The rooms of Hôtel Ritz overlook Place Vendôme and the hotel’s garden. The palace and the square are classical architecture masterpieces that belong to the Louis XIV era. In 2012, the hotel closed its doors for a major renovation project. Many people at that time claimed that it was done because France had introduced a category of hotels even above the 5 star ones – The Palace Hotel. However, Ritz wasn’t included in it for some reason. It should be noted that this is only speculation and should be taken with a pinch of salt. Special attention was paid to recreate the original 1800s décor of the place. The hotel was then finally reopened in 2016.
A: The Ritz Paris, 15 Place Vendôme, 75001 Paris
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As a young expatriate in Paris, Hemingway resided in a small apartment in the Latin Quarter. He often found himself strolling along the Left Bank. In his memoir A Moveable Feast, Hemingway recounts visiting the Musée du Luxembourg without any food in his stomach, which made him appreciate Paul Cézanne’s paintings all the more because of his hunger.
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He would also make sure to stop at Brasserie Lipp on Boulevard Saint-Germain for some beer coupled with pommes à l’huile with sausage. The brasserie, which is situated at 151 Boulevard Saint-Germain in the 6th arrondissement of Paris also sponsors an annual literary prize, the Prix Cazes.
A: Brasserie Lipp, 151 Bd Saint-Germain, 75006 Paris, France
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Madrid’s Casa Botin (Sobrino de Botín)
Hemingway called Casa Botín, located in Madrid, the best restaurant in the world and the final scene of his debut novel The Sun Also Rises also happens to be set here. He often dined at the historic restaurant, established in 1725 (the world’s oldest, according to the Guinness Book of Records) and was friends with the owners. Casa Botín, even after two centuries, retains its 18th-century charm with centuries-old ovens, ancient wooden beams, and antique furnishings and décor. The restaurant is very much known for its signature dish sopa de ajo, which is an egg poached in chicken broth and laced with garlic and sherry.
A: Sobrino de Botín, C. de Cuchilleros, 17, 28005 Madrid, Spain
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La Cervecería Alemana was established by a group of German manufacturers on the Plaza Santa Ana in 1904, and its décor feels like it has been untouched ever since. Hemingway frequently visited this place in 1950s after returning to Madrid after reporting on the Spanish Civil War and WWII. He would often get the opportunity to have a drink with Ava Gardner and her love interest, Luis Miguel Dominguin. One could easily imagine Hemingway sitting in one of the corners of the bar, on one of the marble tables, and guzzling litres of the bar’s exceptional beer.
A: Cervecería Alemana, Plaza de Sta. Ana, 6, 28012 Madrid, Spain
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Since the Spanish Civil War days, nothing much has changed in this place. In those days, Hemingway would just drop by to know about the latest updates of the war from the Republican soldiers who often visited the bar. Some of the rules that were laid out at that time, like taking no photographs and no tipping are still in place, and believe it or not but the tabs here are still written in chalk on the bar and the sherry is stored in huge wooden barrels.
A: La Venencia, Calle de Echegaray, 7, 28014 Madrid, Spain
Hemingway’s fascinating insights of Paris and Madrid in his works makes one desire to visit these places, and they also reveal his excellent choice of places. ◼
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© This article was first published online in Aug 2021 – World Travel Magazine.