Hotel Ambos Mundos
While few would argue that the Hotel Ambos Mundos is the best hotel in Havana, it does have one very strong endorsement – one that the management has been promoting for decades: between 1932 and 1939, Ernest Hemingway stayed at the hotel, and room 551 is where he wrote the first few chapters of “For Whom the Bell Tolls”. It was clearly his favourite room, and is now preserved as a shrine to the legendary author, with his affects – including the typewriter he worked on – exactly as he left them when he moved into his own house 9 miles outside of Havana. Local drinking establishments Hemingway was said to favour include La Bodeguita and La Floridita, so if you work up a thirst on your Cuba holiday, you can enjoy a mojito to Hemingway’s specifications.
Notorious gangster Meyer Lansky (known for his work in The Commission and heading up Murder Inc. in the US) used his relationship with corrupt Cuban leader Fulgencio Batista y Zaldivar to build this casino and luxury hotel in Havana in 1957. It was short lived though, as Zaldivar was overthrown by the Cuban revolution just two years later, and the casino was shut down, with the hotel becoming property of the state. In its two years of Vegas style glory, it managed to attract celebrities from around the globe.
The Nacional hotel in Havana has the longest list of celebrity visitors in the whole of Cuba. Holiday making celebrities included actors Errol Flyn, Marlon Brando and Buster Keaton, historical figures Winston Churchill, Alexander Flemming, Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra, and even various Italian-American gangsters such as Lucky Luciano and Frank Costello.
Santa Isabel Hotel
The Santa Isabel is another luxury Havana hotel that’s popular with celebrity visitors to the island. Amongst the likes of Jack Nicholson, Jake Bloom, Bruce Willis, Sting, Naomi Campbell and Robert Plant are heads of state including King Juan Carlos II and former US president Jimmy Carter. His 2002 visit was the first person to hold that high office to visit the island since 1928 when Calvin Coolidge attended the Pan American Conference in Havana.
Although time has been less kind to the Hotel Inglaterra, its heritage speaks for itself. As well as hosting guests from the world the arts (Garcia Lorca, Sara Bernhardt, Anna Pavlova) and sports (Jose Raul Capablanca and Ramon Fonst), the Inglaterra was host to Cuban national hero José Martí’s famous speech in homage to Manuel Marquez Sterling in 1879. More recently, the hotel has hosted Frei Betto – one of the creators of the Liberation theology.
While some of these Havana hotels may not be the most luxurious in town, what they lose in features and decadence, they more than make up for in character in history. If you want to walk in the footsteps of Winston Churchill, Federico Garcia Lorca or Ernest Hemingway, the historical hotels of Havana provide the perfect place to hang your hat on a Cuba holiday.
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Article Added on Thursday, September 25, 2008
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