Influenced by Kansas City before Rocking the World
Emblazoned in large letters on a wall in the Kansas City Star’s newsroom for many years was a quote from Pulitzer and Nobel prize-winning author Ernest Hemingway praising the newspaper’s stylebook and editors for launching his literary career.
“Those were the best rules I ever learned for the business of writing. I’ve never forgotten them,” he told a Star reporter in 1940. “No man with any talent can fail to write well if he abides with them.”
Although it was a short six months in Kansas City in the fall of 1917 and early 1918, the incomparable Hemingway, born in Oak Park, Illinois, may be considered a homegrown product of our proud community.
He returned on occasion over the years, usually staying at the Muehlebach Hotel. Two sons, Patrick and Gregory, were born at Research Hospital.
But few people travel to Kansas City in search of Hemingway’s muse. Although he once compared us to Constantinople, there are other cities, exotic destinations, flung far and wide around the globe, where passionate literary fans pilgrimage to experience where the man later known as Papa once slept, wrote or drank. There was a lot of drinking.
As a child with his family, and later as a world famous novelist, Hemingway vacationed often near the northern Michigan community of Petoskey, the setting for Torrents of Spring. His family owned a home at Walloon Lake, but despite that, Hemingway spent several nights at the Perry Hotel in Petoskey. It’s a grand hotel today with a sweeping veranda overlooking Lake Michigan.
Nick Adams, a character in many short stories, was an avid outdoorsman, as was Hemingway. Both enjoyed the peace and solitude of northern Michigan’s forests and streams. Bring your fishing pole and seek out Horton’s Creek, one of Papa’s many fishing spots in this part of the world. More highlights can be found at MIHemingwayTour.org.
Hemingway’s first novel, The Sun Also Rises, introduced the world to Pamplona, Spain, and the San Fermin Festival, more commonly known as The Running of the Bulls.
If you’ve read the book (and you should have), you’ll remember that Jake Barnes and friends stayed at the Hotel Montoya, but Hemingway always stayed at the Grand Hotel La Perla and always in room 217. It was from this balcony that he watched the bulls run down Calle Estafeta and at this desk he wrote in the early morning hours.
The Perla today is a five-star boutique hotel with just 44 rooms. Hemingway’s has been maintained as it was in the 1920s, complete with twin beds, although the bathroom has been greatly upgraded. During most of the year, it’s a mere $600 per night, but during the Running of the Bulls, it will cost you more than $2,000 per night. Other rooms in the hotel and around Pamplona are more reasonably priced.
Located just a few steps from La Perla in the middle of the Plaza del Castillo, the Café Iruña is the oldest bar in Pamplona and where Hemingway emptied many a bottle. The café has maintained its authenticity from Hemingway’s days as a customer.
Now that Cuba is again open to American travelers, true Hemingway fans are eager to explore his home, which has been preserved by the Cuban government as a museum. For 21 years he lived here, crafting such works as For Whom the Bell Tolls and Old Man and the Sea.
Papa loved marlin fishing in the Caribbean waters, something he enjoyed both in Cuba and just 90 miles away in Key West. There are dozens of bars in both Havana and Key West that claim Hemingway drank there, and he probably did. But in Key West, where he lived during the 1930s, as many people visit his home for the descendants of his famous six-toed cat as for the work of the author.
Closer to Kansas City, explore the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum in northeast Arkansas. His second wife, Pauline, was from Piggott and, from 1927-40, they spent a considerable amount of time here. The movie version of A Farewell To Arms premiered at Piggott’s Franklin Theater in 1932.
Near Yellowstone, spend a night in his room at the Chamberlain Hotel in Cody, Wyoming or head to Sun Valley, Idaho, and room 206 where he worked on For Whom The Bell Tolls. Have a drink at Papa’s Bar at the Trail Creek Cabin and another drink at the Sawtooth Bar on Main Street in Ketchum.
The home he and fourth wife, Mary, owned together still stands, but is not open for tour. He died here, by his own hand, on July 2, 1961. His final resting place, under a stand of cedar trees in the Ketchum City Cemetery, is simple and without fanfare, a sobering contrast to the brilliant and complex man that was Ernest Hemingway.