Ernest Hemingway at the Hȏtel Ritz in Paris, France
Where our imagination can lead us…
Travelling with your imagination is often more intense than travelling in reality. Sitting in the library at home, I was reading the book by Hemingway A Moveable Feast (1964), set in Paris, and my mind started to fly away with him to the bar of the Hȏtel Ritz in the 1920s, when he was an aspiring writer and could only afford to go once a week, and then later, after he had become famous and could afford to visit it more often. It was in Paris that he and his friends of the “Lost Generation” fuelled the myth of the American expatriate writer and, with F. Scott Fitzgerald, would be staggering drunk in the bars of the Left Bank.
Long after the Second World War Hemingway wrote in his book A Moveable Feast that the bartender at the bar at the Ritz, Georges, had asked him who Scott Fitzgerald was, because in the 20s Georges had been a bell-boy and not a bartender. “You didn’t know him?” asked Hemingway. “No. And I remember all the customers of that era, but now everyone is talking about him and I cannot figure out why.” He went on to tell him that he remembered the baron von Blixen “…with whom you – always addressing Hemingway – were always meeting and whom no one can easily forget.”
Reading the name of the baron, I took off from the bar at the Ritz and landed in Karen Blixen’s villa, outside Nairobi, which I had visited about 30 years earlier. I remembered a specific afternoon, sitting on the porch reading her famous book Out of Africa and contemplating the scenery around. “Blixie was very proud of the writings of his first wife” said Hemingway to Georges, “but we knew each other before they got married.”
Trying to imagine “Blixie” with Hemingway in the bar at the Ritz in the 20s, and all the while sitting in the armchair in my library, I took intercontinental flights. From Place Vendȏme in Paris I moved to Ngong Hills in Kenya without any difficulty. I wonder why? Maybe when we immerse ourselves in the atmosphere of an engaging book, this moves our imagination from one picture to another in the most natural way. Travelling… with the mind can truly be fabulous.