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On the Trail of Hemingway

Arnie Greenberg

I had a plan. I made a list of all the places Ernest Hemingway once lived and I set out, filled with expectation and totally exhilarated. Little did I know how much walking I’d have to do but I had a goal and I wasn’t going to be deterred. Ernest’s life was well recorded after his first writing created his own myth. He was a fascinating man and somewhat bigger than life. Not only did he write in a way that gripped the imagination but he did it in a terse clipped style that was his own.  No need to describe the man we all know except to say he was complicated and driven. I would have enjoyed meeting him but by the time I started my futile search, he was long dead.

I did, however meet people who knew him or were even related to him.

I got as close as two of his sons and one son’s brother in law. Those two

Hemingway boys are dead now. Pity.

The first place I headed to was the obvious. It is well documented that Ernest Miller Hemingway was born in Oak Park, Illinois on July 21,1899.

His family home was a comfortable place at 600 North Kenilworth Ave.

At the turn of the century, Oak Park was a sleepy, mostly middle class, town with the usual main street, Victorian houses and the high school where Hem sang in the choir and played football while his mother drummed into him the strict disciplines of manners and obedience. It was then and there that he first had the feeling for the written word. But the Great War was on by the time he graduated and rather than attend college, young Hemingway went off to Northern Italy to serve as an ambulance driver. The war zone, north of Venice is a rugged place where, in the summer, there’s hardly any water flowing. It is usually peaceful and poor around Fissalta. When Hemingway served it was a place of carnage. He had multiple leg wounds while on duty.I found no relics of that awful war when I strolled in the arid areaoff the beaten track, but if the trees and rocks could speak…

I visited the spot where the American Red Cross Hospital stood in

Milan. Hem was there for months recovering from a leg wound and as I walked the sunny streets of old Milan I knew how the young soldier could fall in love with his nurse. Agnes von Kurowsky became Catherine Barkley, the central character of A Farewell To Arms. But that love affair was not to be and back he went to Oak Park and an attempt to return to normal. After seeing death first hand, He was drawn back to Europe or at least away from Oak Park. His marriage to Hadley Richardson at Horton’s Bay meant the need to find a way to earn a living. He was naturally drawn to journalism in Kansas City then in Toronto Canada. It was there that he was given a chance to go to Paris and it was here that my search began in earnest. Paris in the twenties was Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Picasso and the many expatriates from many lands. I was on a search for all of their haunts. Hemingway’s were easy to find.

There are many addresses where the future writer lived or partied or drank. He boxed, went to the races or just walked the streets he loved. He wrote there too and became what he became. He was only 22. I visited the Hotel Angleterre at #44 rue Jacob, for clues. I found none but I could see why this tiny hotel on a typically Paris street would draw the author. I found more clues on rue de Cardinal Lemoine in the 5th Arrondissement up beyond the Pantheon near Place Contrescarpe where Hem and his bride lived in a fourth floor walkup. I gazed at the modest building and noticed that the teahouse on the main floor at # 74 was called ‘Under Hemingway’s’. I walked to the tiny rue Descartes nearby where Hem had borrowed a top floor apartment at # 39 in order to escape and write. Up In Michigan was completed here. It was about this time that he spent part of Hadley’s legacy to buy a large Miro entitled ‘The Farm’. He still had that painting when he lived in Cuba years later.

At this time he and his wife and new son John moved to 113 rue Notre Dame Des Champs. I walked down that street carefully looking for tha Carpenter’s loft but, alas, it was no longer there. Still, I walked close to where the building once stood so I could stand on the spot where Hemingway’s shadow was once cast. Down where Notre Dame Des Champs meets Blvd Montparnasse I did find The Closerie Des Lilas where the author sat sipping café crème and writing in the quiet of this comfortable bistro. It still has the mark of Hemingway as described in A Moveable Feast and ‘voila’, there was Hem’s picture on the menu. His spirit still lives in Paris in the shadow of Marshal Ney, a hero of a glorious time.

The young family went on a vacation to Schruns, Austria and Gstaad. They found typical Alpine settings, small hotels and well-worn ski slopes. It’s still that way today. On that trip, Pauline Pfeiffer, Hadley’s friend came along. That was the beginning of the end of the Hemingway’s marriage. Now there was Pauline.

I sought out #69 rue Froidevaux near The Montparnasse Cemetary in the 14th where he lived in 1926 and #6 rue Ferou  in the 6th where he lived for a time with Pauline, his second wife. That was a more upscale apartment with a closed courtyard and whitewashed walls adorned with statuary. The Hemingways were doing well now and Pauline’s family had money. Hadley and young John took an apartment nearby at 35, rue de Fleurus almost next door to Gertrude Stein at #27. Hem visited his son often. They played in the Luxembourg gardens. Later, Hadley moved to #98 Boul Auguste-Blanqui.

The newly-weds went off to San Sebastian. Seventy years later I was dogging their footsteps. I tried to find evidence of them in Pamplona and finally visited their huge house set behind balconies to shield it from the s Key West sun. Here, Hemingway could fish, drink and write. He built a ramp from the second floor of the main house to the top of the garage where he had his office away from the street noises. Today, that house is a museum and often there are more cats there than visitors. The place is literally crawling with in-bred cats all having the wrong number of toes. The largest cat he called Gertrude Stein. One of the other features was a large urinal that Hem had ripped out of the walls (probably at Sloppy Joes) and set it up in the garden as a water trough  for his cats. I was in Key west when they had their annual Hemingway look-alike contest. It was interesting how many people looked like him. Like Elvis, there are still many Hemingway wannabes around.

After Key West I consulted my list. There was no way I could follow everywhere in his footsteps although I tried when in Paris. I frequented the Luxemburg Gardens where they say, Hem stole a pigeon and brought it home to cook. I went to Sylvia Beach’s Shakespeare and Co, the original location on the rue de L’Odeon. I knew he had walked though those doors. I went again to Gertrude Steins, stood looking at the building and thought of the time Gertrude read Hem’s work. “Begin over again and concentrate,” she told the starry-eyed novice. Her advise proved valuable in time. I went to the Ritz Hotel on Place Vendome where the man partied at war’s end in room #31 in style with a valet and maid. I never saw that room but I did see the bar that he went to liberate after the allies entered Paris. I even sat at Harry’s Bar at 5 rue Danou which is advertised for Americans as SANK ROO DANOO. Ah, Hemingway. You are everywhere. I retraced his walks to the Bois de Boulogne, near the racetrack he visited often. I walked up Ave Foch and looked for him on the Place de Concorde. I was soon back at the Ritz, Hemingway’s Ritz.

Then one winter I went to Cuba. Canadians can do that. One of my first stops was at the Finca Vigia where he lived, wrote and continued to build on the mystique called Hemingway. I was impressed with the way the Castro government had rebuilt the property and set it up for viewing. I couldn’t go in, but I could take pictures through the open window. I was also able to see The Pilar, his precious boat that served as a U-boat hunter for a while. The first swimming pool built in the Havana area almost sent Hem to the poorhouse. It didn’t impress me. But more than any place I’d seen, I felt the ghost was there watching. I sat on Veradero Beach where the writer frolicked and made a list of the places I had not yet seen.

I knew he had gone to China in 1941 and spent years in London. While he was traveling and writing, especially in Spain, his sons lived in the Lodge at Sun Valley Idaho. Hem spent much of his time there. After the war he went into Germany and in 1948 he went back to Italy (Stressa and Cortina ). We know much about his accidents in Africa on safari or in airplanes. We know about his experiences when we read The Snows Of Kilimanjaro. I remember a picture of him taken at Entebbe (another crash site). He was a presence in Venice and returned in the 50s to many places he knew in Spain. One day I will visit Guadalajara, Valencia or La Coruna.

Then I traveled west past his Oak Park home at 600 North Kenilworth Ave and on to Idaho to see Sun Valley for myself a place he loved so much. There I was fortunate enough to meet John, the man who was John Hadley Nicanor Hemingway, called Bumby. I left him a copy of a play I wrote about his baptismal party on rue Notre Dame Des Champs. John was then retired and the proud father of two beautiful movie stars, Margo and Marielle. He died, not long ago. Like his father he was a dashing looking man.

I left the Lodge and drove to the nearby house at Ketcham where Ernest died. He had put a double-barreled shotgun into his mouth and pulled the trigger. He was just shy of 62 years old. It was on July 2nd. The property was out of bounds but I could see it well from the edge of the driveway.I stood there for a long time thinking of all the places he had taken me and all the places I would visit in the future.

The tiny cemetery outside of Ketcham houses two plain stone slabs under a tree. On one is inscribed the name of Mary Welsh Hemingway and on the other simply the name, Ernest Miller Hemingway and the dates. It’s simple but very moving. For a man who was bigger that life, a legend in his own time, he was laid to rest in a simple setting without any visual ornaments. Ernest Hemingway gave us a new way to the written word. The man who befriended great names like Marlena Deitrich, Gary Cooper, F Scott Fitzgerald, and Fidel Castro, occupies a simple grave.

I thought then, and still do, about what might have been written on that stone. He was taught to say things clearly and in a plain way. I would say that about him, not that anyone needs reminding.

I returned to Montreal to check off the places I’d seen and make a list for another trip. One day I met a new colleague where I taught. He introduced myself as Michael Danby-Smith.

“That’s an unusual name,” I suggested.

He just smiled.

“Did you know that Ernest Hemingway once had a secretary named Valerie Danby-Smith. She married Hemingway’s youngest son Gregory.”

“ I know,” he replied. “She’s my sister.”

I gave him my play and now a second Hemingway would see my work.

I was extremely pleased. I was born too late to meet the man they called ‘Papa’, but I was getting closer.

I’m on my way to Madrid this summer and I hope to stay at the Hotel Suecia at Marques de Casa Riera 4, where Papa once stayed. I never run out of places that bear his name. For me, it’s a journey of passion. The thrill is still there for a man I wish I met.

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You can Contact Professor Arnie Greenberg at


Over the past few years, Professor Greenberg has traveled with groups to France, Italy, Spain, Greece, Budapest, Vienna, Salzburg, Prague and both Sorrento and the Bay of Naples plus most of Sicily. His tours traveled to the far reaches of the globe including Italy and most of China (Beijing -Hong Kong) and to Russia where his group cruised the waters from St.Petersburg to Moscow. 

"He took a group to Greece and another to northern Russia. In Nov 07 he took a tour group to much of India and ended his tour groups by revisiting France. He now travels with his wife and friends. They winter in Argentina or San Miguel Mexico.  His newly found spare time is taken up with his painting and writing. "I must write every day." His current work is a cautionary manual for would-be tour leaders..  "So You Want To Be A Tour Leader." 

Arnie now travels with friends. He continues writing Travel articles about unusual places but often concentrates on novel writing. Two books based on French Art will be published this year.  Keep reading his web for travel ideas.  His next novel HELLSTORM'S Folly, will be available this fall. He now lives in British Columbia.

Go to: or contact him directly at

(More about the writer.)


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