Hemingway haunts: Michigan to Florida, Cuba to Spain

In Oak Park, Ill., is a museum that pays special attention to Hemingway's youth.

Sixty years ago, “The Old Man and the Sea” was published in Life magazine, and author Ernest Hemingway won a Pulitzer Prize for the work one year later.

Now is the time to get better acquainted with the brilliant, troubled and iconic writer. New on HBO is the film “Hemingway and Gellhorn,” starring Clive Owen and Nicole Kidman, war correspondents whose work collided during the Spanish Civil War.

But there’s more – across Lake Michigan, across the Atlantic Ocean, just over the Wisconsin border, far south in Florida and 100 miles beyond. For literature lovers, it’s merely a matter of how far you want to travel.

The international and 15th biennial Hemingway Society Conference lands in western Michigan, where Hemingway fished during boyhood summer vacations and recouped from World War I injuries as a young man.

Most activity – academic lectures, tours, movies – occurs June 17-22 in Petoskey and Bay View. “The Hemingway Society has visited many places in the world with connections to Hemingway’s life or to his work, but the participants will never have seen any place which is still so much the same as it was during the early part of the 20th century,” asserts the Michigan Hemingway Society.

For more: hem2012.com. Only Hemingway Society members can attend; membership is $40 (less for students, retirees). Learn more at www.hemingwaysociety.org.

Visiting the area during another time? Check out the Hemingway exhibit at Little Traverse Historical Museum and take a guided Hemingway history tour. A walking tour explains the family’s connections to Petoskey. An auto tour to Horton Bay and Walloon Lake (home to Windemere, a National Historic Landmark and longtime Hemingway family cottage) includes sites that inspired the author and his Nick Adams short stories.

For more: www.petoskeymuseum.org, 231-347-2620; www.petoskeyarea.com, 800-845-2828.

Search “hemingway” at www.michigan.org for other locations in Michigan with a Hemingway history.

Hemingway’s “Death in the Afternoon,” published 80 years ago, took a look at the proud heritage and grisly business of bullfighting in Spain. The author developed a fascination with the sport and the annual Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, which is July 7 this year.

You can imagine the event as Hemingway witnessed it from a balcony at the Gran Hotel La Perla, whose Hemingway Suite – room 217 – remains the same in décor and design as when the author stayed there. Expect to pay at least $650 per night.

For more: www.granhotellaperla.com, 888-578-2711.

Hemingway made his way to Michigan often because he was born in Oak Park, Ill., and lived there until high school graduation. Inside the Hemingway Museum are videos and artifacts about the author’s life, particularly his childhood and adolescence. Next door is his birthplace, and the house can be toured.

Only open for tours until June 3 is Hemingway’s boyhood home. The house then goes into private ownership. Also in the neighborhood: First United Church of Oak Park, where Hemingway was baptized.

For more: www.hemingway.org, 708-848-2222.

Len Amato, HBO Films president, and Alexandra Ryan, executive producer of the new “Hemingway and Gellhorn,” visit Columbia College Film Row Cinema – 10 miles east, in Chicago – at 5 p.m. June 8 to discuss the film after a free screening. Reservations required.

One of the most endearing author sites is the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum in Key West, Fla., where dozens of six-toed cats rule. They lounge on museum furniture and under shade, catch geckos and stare at strangers, preen and pounce. Look for little cat houses in the yard, and a sweet shrine for the permanently departed.

A sea captain gave Hemingway his first six-toed feline, and the rest is history. All but a handful of the cats are neutered; there are exceptions because of a desire to extend the polydactyl lineage.

Guided tours provide scads of Hemingway history, but the cats are easily the big talker here. For more: www.hemingwayhouse.com, 305-294-1136.

Hemingway sure wasn’t the only literary giant to gain inspiration from Key West, where he lived for a decade, but the natives seem to like his story more than the others (which include Tennessee Williams and Robert Frost).

Hemingway Days, July 17-22, includes a Hemingway Look-Alike Contest that attracts international contestants. Add a fishing tourney, short-story competition, literary readings and many cocktails. For more: fla-keys.com, 800-352-5397.

Finca la Vigia, which means “lookout house,” is in a small fishing town near Havana where Hemingway lived and wrote “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” “The Old Man and the Sea” and “A Movable Feast.” It is under restoration but open for tours in Cuba.

Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum, Wausau, and Academic Travel Abroad have secured a federal people-to-people license to present two “Discover Cuba: Its People, Art and Birds” trips. The dates are Oct. 31 to Nov. 8 and Nov. 7-15.

Also on the itinerary: arts museum and architecture tours, bird watching and meeting local residents, including art students. The $5,500 cost (add $495 for solo travelers) includes airfare between Miami and Havana, accommodations and travel in Havana, site admissions and most meals. The deadline for completing a visa application and submitting a $1,000 deposit is June 30.

For more: www.lywam.com, 715-845-7010.