Travel Through Literature: The Sun Also Rises

Originally published in the Naples Herald in my Life with Moxie column

Unlike travel guides, fine literature provides us with some of the most eloquent and richly detailed descriptions of locations, food, scenery and people many of us have ever experienced. You can smell the smoke in the café, feel the summer heat on your face and hear the accents of the passers by while catching the scent of their perfume. It is not unlike the difference between selecting a nice wine from a list and enjoying it with dinner and your partner, versus drinking that same bottle with the winemaker himself while hearing all of the stories that influenced that specific bottle. The generations that have fought for and cared for the land, the epic storms, the deaths in the family, the droughts, the new love, the tears, they all had direct influence on and effected what is contained in that individual bottle. You will taste the history in that moment.

We have all experienced a piece of writing that swept us away to another time and place. That is one of our main draws to reading. It is the only form of time travel that really exists and we get to hand pick where to go every time. What an extraordinary privilege that is. Hemingway is one of my favorites when I need to be submerged in another time and I can think of no more fantastical time and place than 1920’s Paris in all is glory. Join the artists, writers, expats, with all the romance, drinking and debauchery of 20th-century Paris, while being escorted through it with Hemingway’s brilliant prose. With a new found individualism and exuberance that came post-World War I, the roaring 20’s in the left banks Montparnasse area of Paris was a place like no other and that’s where we begin our journey in The Sun Also Rises.

Hemingway is a master among masters, an undisputed icon of 20th-century literature. Raised in Oak Park, Illinois, he left after high school for the Italian front to enlist as a World War I ambulance driver then was sent home in 1918 for an injury. In 1922, he married Hadley Richardson and they moved to Paris, where he worked as a foreign correspondent and fell under the influence of the modernist writers and artists of the 1920s “Lost Generation” expat community. The Sun Also Rises (buy here, Hemingway’s first novel, was published in 1926. It is about group of American and British expats that journey from Paris to Pamplona, Spain for the Running of the Bulls with all the drama and dynamics that people behaving badly experience.

“Everybody behaves badly… Give them the proper chance” ~ Jake Barnes.

Beginning our journey in Paris with this group of expats, the Paris hotel where Jake Barnes waited for Lady Brett while writing letters, was the storied Crillon Hotel, “They were not very good letters but I hoped their being on Crillon stationery would help them,” he wrote and Lady Brett never showed. Crillon is currently under renovation so I recommend staying at the Hôtel des Académies et des Arts, this charming, artsy hotel is located on the street of the Montparnasse district where many of Hemingway’s favored locations are.

Hemingway’s now famous choices for cafes in Paris include the storied Le Select, with its mirrored walls and art deco lamps and a cat asleep on the bar. Le Dome , a fantasy of Tiffany lamps and potted palms and La Rotonde, all red banquettes and tasselled lamps. With Jake notably lamenting “No matter what cafe in Montparnasse you ask a taxi-driver to bring you to from the right bank of the river, they always take you to the Rotonde.” Last but not least, the Dingo (now Italian restaurant L’Auberge de Venise). The Dingo has long been extinct, although the restaurant that currently operates in its former location retains the infamous original bar. People behaved very badly at the Dingo with patrons drinking themselves into oblivion and could be found passed out in the trees or clinging to the lamppost outside. Hemingway references the Dingo several times in The Sun Also Rises; it is also the site of the scene in which Lady Brett informs Jake that she has been having an affair with Jewish heir Robert Cohn.

Leaving Paris en route to Pamplona, Jake and friend Bill Gorton take a train to Spain, meeting up with Cohn. They all drive together to picturesque Bayonne for a day of fishing and evening of drinking. Instead of staying to fish, Cohn decides instead to travel on to Pamplona to wait for Mike, Lady Brett’s fiancé, to arrive. Bayonne, with all its medieval charm, is in the Basque Country region of southwest France, where the Nive and Adour rivers meet. Narrow medieval streets characterize the old Grand Bayonne district. Here lie the Gothic-style Bayonne Cathedral, with its 13th-century cloister, and Château Vieux castle. Across the Nive river in the Petit Bayonne district is the Musée Basque, a museum devoted to the region’s arts, crafts and traditions. While in Bayonne, consider staying at the charming Hôtel La Villa in historic Bayonne (, where the staff are helpful and accommodating and be certain to visit the world famous chocolate shops.

The next morning Jake and Bill are off to Burguete for more fishing. Burguete is a town located in the province of Navarre in northern Spain and “the most wickedly wild and savage territory of the Pyrenees” according to Ernest Hemingway. Burguete has incredible beauty and charm, full of Pyrenees-style houses with hipped roofs that shelter walkers on their way through the village. Two streams flank the road that crosses the village and while there you will find the traditional meeting places – the church, the town hall and the frontón (pelota court) – in the centre of the village. There is also a food fair in September that dates back to the 14th century. Ernest Hemingway lodged in Burguete in 1924 and 1925 for a fishing trip to the Irati River. In the novel Jake, stays at the Hostal for about a week with his friend, Bill before continuing on to the bullfights in Pamplona. In the book, Hemingway writes about the two dining at the Hostal Burguete: “Bill plays at the piano to keep warm. The girl brought in a big bowl of vegetable soup and the wine.” Stay where Hemingway stayed or simply stop by for a bowl of the storied soup (see recipe below) before carrying on to Pamplona, just an hour away.

After our visit to Burguete, we are off to Pamplona. Pamplona is the historical capital city of Navarre, in northern Spain, and of the former Kingdom of Navarre. The city is famous worldwide for the San Fermín festival, from July 6 to 14, in which the running of the bulls is one of the main attractions. It is a city that Hemingway had a passionate love affair with and it paired perfectly with his obsession for bullfighting. This is also where our characters have their long awaited major falling out. Go to Pamplona but I would avoid festival as Pamplona is far more beautiful when it is not overcrowded and in a perpetual frenzy.

While in Pamplona, stay at Hemingway’s preferred hotel the Hotel La Perla The room of Ernest Hemingway remains the same he knew it. Centrally located in heart of the city, you will be able to easily walk, dine and drink the way the characters did.

The most popular location for the characters was in the Plaza del Castillo, the popular city square. “The square was hot,” says Jake of his first impressions. “The flags hung on their staffs, and it was good to get out of the sun and under the shade of the arcade that runs around the square.” “We had coffee at the Iruña,” Jake continues, “sitting in the comfortable wicker chairs, looking out from the cool of the arcade at the big square.”

The infamous Café Iruña This Café served as home base for the characters who would come and go throughout the day. During the days of the bullfights it took on a different energy. “There was a close, crowded hum that came every day before the bull-fight. The café did not make this same noise at any other time, no matter how crowded it was,” said Jake. After the fights, Bill returns to Paris, Mike stays in Bayonne and Jake goes to San Sebastian on the northern coast of Spain.

Jake heads by train to San Sebastian, where he plans to spend several quiet days alone, relaxing. San Sebastian is the setting for the major turning point in the novel. In Jake’s absence, Brett has left for Madrid with a bullfighter and had another affair. Jake receives word that Brett needs help and wants him to come to Madrid. San Sebastián is a beautiful resort town on the Bay of Biscay in Spain’s mountainous Basque Country. It’s known for Playa de la Concha and Playa de Ondarreta, beaches framed by a picturesque bayfront promenade, and world-renowned restaurants helmed by innovative chefs. In its cobblestoned old town (Parte Vieja), upscale shops neighbor vibrant pintxo bars pairing local wines with bite-size regional specialties. While in San Sebastian, stay at the Villa Soro, ( a century old villa with luxury hotel standards for the most unique experience available. A villa from the late 19th century that has been renovated and declared Historical Heritage of San Sebastián.

Then off to Madrid, for Jake to retrieve Brett. Jake found Brett alone in a Madrid hotel room. She had another affair and now wants to return to her fiancé Mike. Spain’s capital Madrid is a city of elegant boulevards and expansive, manicured parks such as the Buen Retiro. It’s renowned for its rich repositories of European art, including the Prado Museum’s works by Goya, Velázquez and other Spanish masters. The heart of old Hapsburg Madrid is the portico-lined Plaza Mayor, and nearby is the baroque Royal Palace and Armory, displaying historic weaponry. While in Madrid, stop in to Restaurante Botín, the oldest restaurant in the world, dating to 1725 “It is one of the best restaurants in the world,” says Jake. “We had roast young suckling pig and drank rioja alta. Brett did not eat much. She never ate much. I ate a very big meal and drank three bottles of rioja alta.” Jake books tickets for them to leave Madrid. As they ride in a taxi through the Spanish capital, Brett laments that she and Jake could have had a wonderful time together. Jake responds,

“Yes, isn’t it pretty to think so?”

No time to take this literary journey in person?

Pull out your copy of The Sun Also Rises (or order here, start a pot of Hemingway Soup from his hotel stay in Burguete, Spain, get a cozy couch corner readied with a blanket and mood lighting, change into comfy loungewear and make yourself Hemingway’s favorite severely dry, ice cold Martini and let your journey commence!


3 T extra virgin olive oil

1 onion finely minced

2 leeks white part only thinly sliced

4 garlic cloves chopped

1 lb cured ham – (serrano or possibly prosciutto) preferably one piece (vegan edition, simple swap out for same quantity of vegan ham, or leave out and simply add 3 black cardamom pods-not white or green! Or a few dashes of liquid smoke)

½ lb dry white beans

salt to taste

freshly-ground black pepper to taste

1 thinly-sliced green or white cabbage

5-6 fresh green beans snapped into halves

1 tbsp frozen green peas

In a medium (4- to 6- qt) soup pot over low heat, combine extra virgin olive oil, onion, leeks and garlic. Saute/fry till onion has softened, about 10 min. Add in 9 c. of water, ham, white beans and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer, covered, till beans are tender, about 2½ hours. Add in cabbage and green beans. Simmer, covered, for 20 min. Add in green peas and continue to simmer 5 min more. Remove and throw away ham. Adjust seasonings, and serve. This recipe yields 4 servings.

If you are looking for more Hemingway- the newly released Everybody Behaves Badly: The True Story Behind The Sun Also Rises may be just what you were looking for. Find it here

Have ideas you’d like to add to the list? Need more suggestions? Let me know!

Julie Koester is CEO of Life with Moxie, a Lifestyle Revolution Company and Host of Life with Moxie Radio, Saturday’s at 1pm on 98.9 WGUF in Southwest Florida. You can reach her at

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Author Dragon Horse

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