“My Mojito in La Bodeguita. My Daiquiri in El Floridita” – Ernest Hemingway.
I can’t repeat myself too much in these posts but the eginnings are similar because, I’m on the Hemingway trail and I now realise it’s easily enough on its own for another book…Hemingway and Palin combined. Years ago I was inspired by the travels of Michael Palin. It all started in the 1980s when Mum and Dad bought me first up a Panini football sticker album for the 1986 World Cup. I loved that book so much as it showed me 24 countries from around the world. As well as my Northern Irish heroes like Norman Whiteside, Gerry Armstrong, Billy Hamilton, Pat Jennings and Ian Stewart, I also loved Diego Maradona…
At Christmas in 1986, my parents then bought me a Concise Atlas of the World and at home we had two jigsaws. A jigsaw map of The British Isles and a jigsaw map of the world. By 1988, my attention turned to a Michael Palin adventure called Around The World In 80 Days. It was a television series inspired by the Jules Verne novel of the same name. In it, Michael Palin travelled around the world by land and sea, only – no flights. From the Reform Club in Pall Mall in London and back to the same place 80 days later. It was a classic television series and documentary and very successful, igniting within me some kind of fire and flair for backpacking the world. Later Michael Palin went on another adventure for a BBC documentary called The Hemingway Adventure. This was both a television series, and a book. Dad and I did what we could to watch them, usually of a Sunday evening on the settee over a cup of the Earl Grey.
Some of that series was focused on Cuba and therefore on arrival in Cuba in December 2022, I decided to copy some of the Palin trail on the Hemingway quest. My stories on this have all been ridiculous that I sometimes cannot fathom them nor contemplate them or work out why it all happens. Basically I also copied Palin on my Indian adventure in 2016. I only went to Gujarat to do the Palin alcohol permit and tour Gandhi’s home city, Ahmedabad. Two years before that, in 2014 I was into my “Writer’s Lairs” during my Central America tour and I actually celebrated visiting my last country in mainland America (and unknown to me at the time – country 100!) with a beer at The Hemingway Inn in San Jose, Costa Rica. My count was all wrong – I celebrated Tunisia as country 100, but actually, that award was done 6 months earlier in Costa Rica.
I was in Miller’s room – ridiculous as I’d be writing and touring with fellow writer Michael Miller – check his books. Then, later in 2014, I’d meet a tourist called Miller in Eastern Europe and she would play a huge role in my journeys. There was even more madness in 2015 when my ferry from Estonia to Finland stopped in the middle of the Baltic Sea and I was stranded. After a stressful day, I finally made it to Helsinki, where…the first port of call was The Hemingway Inn. Later, Gliwice reared another crazy head in the tales where I drank in the Hemingway Bar. Fool Circle again, I’ve shelved it for a book title. All of those wacaday stories will be fit for a separate book of mine one day. I just don’t have the time anymore. Anynow.
“TBL / Too busy living” – Jonny Scott Blair, 2023.
An even more ridiculous full circle /fool circle happened on my last night in The Bahamas in January 2023…I was sat drinking Micheladas for sunset in a bar called Margarita Club at Junkanoo Beach in Nassau in New Providence in The Bahamas…I got chatting to another guy drinking at the bar and then I mentioned to him that I am a big Michael Palin fan.
“Michael Palin? That’s my Dad!!” he said.
I was gobsmacked, flabbergasted and I didn’t believe him at first. But it was true…I met William Palin and was drinking with him on the 1st January 2023. This is Michael Palin’s son and I was destined to meet him on that final night of that trip as I was able to get inspired and write some great stuff on the flight after that.
However, let’s rewind a few weeks to my first night out in Havana, Cuba where I needed a Hemingway brace. I wanted to –
1.Have a Mojito in La Bodeguita Del Medio – the place where it was invented!
2.Have a Daiquiri in El Floridita – the place where it was invented!
The Hemingway quote on the wall in La Bodeguita references that this is what Hemingway did, it looks like the quote is on a tissue and signed by Hemingway himself, though this is debated and hasn’t been proved. We didn’t have Instagram in those days…but yet I wanted to nab the brace…
Here in the poky back streets of Havana Old Town, sits yet another bar made famous by Ernest Hemingway (shock shock). This bar sits on Calle Empedrado and is called La Bodeguita Del Medio.
“I shot myself hoarse for your supernatural powers” – Space.
It is famous for its Mojitos…made from Cuban Havana Rum of course and again, apparently the Mojito was invented here. I really hope that Cuba isn’t another fake Singapore. If you ever followed my blogs from Singapore in 2009, you’ll get what I mean.
“Sink is fulla fishes; she got dirty dishes on the brain” – Noel Gallagher.
Despite being so famous, I was a bit surprised to find that it is a tiny bar with barely enough space for 20 customers and a band – live Cuban music plays here.
There is no need for a menu as everyone just rocks in for a textbook Mojito…which chimes in at the pricey 750 Cuban Pesos – £6 Northern Irish pounds or 7 USA Dollars. Ouch! But hey ho!
What Is La Bodeguita Del Medio?
La Bodeguita del Medio is a restaurant slash bar in Havana, Cuba. La Bodeguita lays claim to being the birthplace of the Mojito cocktail, prepared in the bar since its opening in 1942, although this is disputed. It has been patronized by Ernest Hemingway, Salvador Allende, the poet Pablo Neruda, the artist Josignacio and Northern Irish tourist and blogger Jonny Blair was also here in December 2022. The rooms are full of curious objects, frames, photos, as well as the walls covered by signatures of famous or unknown customers, recounting the island’s past.
Here are the details of La Bodeguita Del Medio in Havana in Cuba:
Empedrado, La Habana, Cuba
Hours: Open 12.00 p.m. Closes 11:30 p.m.
+53 7 8671374
Here are some videos from my visit to La Bodeguita Del Medio in Havana in Cuba:
Another bar of the same name that I backpacked to in 2014 in Skopje, North Macedonia:
Tortillas and Beer in La Bodeguita del Medio Cuban Bar – Skopje – North Macedonia – December 2014
Here is Michael Palin in Cuba on the Ernest Hemingway Trail: