Historic Bar Crawl: Dublin, Venice and Havana

Historic Bar Crawl:  Dublin, Venice and Havana

Writers and bars.  There’s something in the combination that works.  The drinks, the crowd, the music, the people-watching.  Today I’m following James Joyce, Truman Capote and Ernest Hemingway.

SafariScreenSnapz015DUBLIN – THE BRAZEN HEAD

In St-Patrick’s day honor, I thought I’d start with Ireland.  Touted as Dublin’s oldest bar – circa 12th century – The Brazen Head has a courtyard and three bars and live music every night.  It’s a short walk away from the Guinness Brewery.  History has marked the walls of the bar, with revolutionaries drawing plans against the British, treason, arrests and more beer please!

Ireland is on my list of must-see places-before-I-die.  And the Brazen Head screams Irish fun.  Especially the Storytelling evening:  a night of food, folklore and fairies.

Born in 1882, James Joyce enrolled in the new Dublin University College in 1898, graduated in 1902.  He left Dublin briefly for Paris but came back when his mother became sick.  Known for getting into trouble, he drank heavily, and many of his friends – and enemies – ended up in his most famous novel, Ulysses.  He left Dublin in 1904 in self-imposed exile and came back only on occasion.  But his stories all revolved around Dublin.


It’s impossible to find to bars in the world where Ernest Hemingway has not visited.  Harry’s Bar in Venice has been patronized by Hemingway, but I’ll concede this one to Truman Capote.

Venice, Italy.  The charm of a forever sinking city.

My husband and I happened on Harry’s Bar at the end of a long walking day.  It was our first time in Venice and we did like all tourists:  oohing, aahing and pointing.  The architecture defies logic, the waterways are amazing, the museums seductive.

Feet aching, Harry’s Bar called to us like water to a parched throat.  But we didn’t drink water.  We had bellinis.  One can’t go at Harry’s Bar and not try the bellini.

The name Harry is after a young man, Harry Pickering, a young, rich man from Boston.  He hung out at Hotel Europa in Venice where he met bartender Giuseppe Cipriani.  His family cut his finances and Harry stopped going to the bar.  Cipriani loaned him some money.  Two years laters, Harry came back to Venice and gave Cipriani almost triple the amount and asked the bartender
to open his own establishment and to call it Harry’s Bar.

Truman Capote traveled Europe and published in 1950 Local Color, a collection of travel essays. He is known for this quote about Venice:  “Venice is like eating an entire box of chocolate liqueurs in one go.”


Conferences attract writers, even in difficult economic times, because it’s an occasion to meet other writers, to socialize, to commiserate.  In other eras – after wars especially – writers and other artists would gather at bistros and cafés, thirsty for mind-like company.

That’s how The Bodeguita came to be in the 1950s.  The bohemian Casa Martinez, as it was named then, attracted writers and journalists, musicians and choreographers.  It brought life to Old Havana.  Oh, and a new cocktail named “mojito”, an affair of rum, mint, sugar, lemon and club soda.

Ernest Hemingway lived a Ferrari life in a world of Peugeot.  He traveled intensely – that’s why he’s been in every bar in the world - married four times, had multiple accidents that should have killed him but didn’t.  He was there on D-Day, covered both world wars in person, and drew inspiration in every place he visited.  He was the Indiana Jones version of a writer.

He was known for drinking – a lot.  Chronic pain propelled him into self-medicating with alcohol.  Paris, Venice, Havana and Key West, many cities boast of bars where Hemingway spent time at.  At The Bodeguita, there’s a sign on the wall:  ”My mojito in La Bodeguita, my daiquiri in La Floridita.”

I hope you enjoyed my historic bar crawl.  Which one have you visited?  Please share with me in the comment section!


  1. A fun post! I haven’t been to any of these spots so this was a treat. I didn’t know much of this on Hemingway. Thanks for starting off my Monday with a smile.

    • Thanks for stopping by, Sandy. Starting the week with a smile is always good.

  2. Fun post, Carole! Hmm, I haven’t been to any famous bars. Most interesting alcohol-related encounter was in Bavaria where we drank a local beer. The waiter told us the monastery where they made the beer burned down and the result was a smoky-tasting beer. People liked it, so they continued to “smoke” the beer. Frankly, I didn’t care for it.

    • That is so funny, smoke the beer! I don’t drink really, but I love to visit bars made famous by patrons. It’s something to muse over: “Wow, I can’t believe Hemingway sat right here…”

  3. Because I’m so allergic to cigarette smoke, I avoided most bars in Europe, but we did get to Les Deux Magots. I think I would have appreciated it more if I’d been a writer back then.

  4. Ah Boston… Haaavard. I loved that city. I walked the red line for hours and hours.


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