“When I dream of an afterlife in heaven, the action always takes place at the Ritz, Paris.”
-Ernest Hemingway, in a letter to A.E. Hotchner
Ernest Hemingway moved to Paris with his new wife Hadley in 1921 and quickly became a fixture of Paris’ left bank expatriate community which included the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Pablo Picasso, and Gertrude Stein. As his home for 6 years and the inspiration for some of his most famous works, Paris was very important to Hemingway. The Ritz was his home away from home in Paris, and the Ritz Bar, where he and friends like F. Scott Fitzgerald had gotten drunk together, was one of his favorite places.
In August of 1944, French and allied troops paraded down the Champs Elysée to celebrate a Paris liberated from Nazi occupation. Amongst them was a 45 year old Ernest Hemingway, who had come as a war correspondent to report on the Allied soldiers for Collier magazine. Not only was he reporting but he joined the soldiers when they landed on the Normandy beaches in 1944 and stayed with them on the march towards Paris. One resistance fighter is quoted saying that Hemingway,
“Did not talk about anything else, but to be the first American in Paris and liberate the Ritz.”
The story goes that Hemingway had always had an attachment to the Ritz and remembered it from when he had first lived in Paris. It is said that he contacted U.S. General Patton to try and get in touch with French General Leclerc and ask him for the troops required to “liberate” the bar at the Ritz. Though this request was not approved he still went to the Ritz hotel in a jeep armed with a machine gun and with fellow resistance fighters by his side. Upon arrival, he asked the manager of the hotel, “Where are the Germans? I have come to liberate the Ritz,” to which the manager replied, “They left a long time ago, and I can not let you enter with a weapon.” Hemingway is rumored to have stayed at the bar and racked up a tab for 51 dry martinis.
The legend doesn’t end there. Hemingway returned to Paris in 1956 and discovered his old manuscripts in a Louis Vuitton trunk in the basement of the Hotel Ritz, memories he had believed to be lost. From these manuscripts, Hemingway got the material for one of his most famous works, “A Moveable Feast” as well as a short fictional story entitled, “A room on the Garden Side.” “A Room on the Garden Side” is a fictional account of the liberation of Paris which takes place at the Ritz bar. Neither work would be published until after his suicide in 1961.
With only 25 seats and the atmosphere of a gentlemen’s club, Bar Hemingway, situated at the Hotel Ritz Paris, changed its name to honor Ernest Hemingway in 1994. You can go today and sip cocktails made by one of the world’s most renowned bartenders, Colin Field. Ask for a dry martini and imagine that Ernest is by your side.
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