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From Havana to beaches, Cuba is an exotic mystery

top: photos by essdras m suarez/globe staff; above left, david l. ryan/globe staff; above right, Sven Creutzmann/Mambo photo/Getty Images/file/2007

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HAVANA — When I entered Sloppy Joe’s Bar, one of Hemingway’s legendary haunts, I was surprised at how brand-new it felt in a city, and an island, that seems suspended in time. Then I learned that, nearly 50 years after closing, it had recently reopened following an extensive renovation. Today, it is sleek and dark, with a DVD of Frank Sinatra crooning, photos of Marilyn Monroe, and rows of top-shelf whiskey in glass-and-mahogany cases.

I much preferred El Floridita, where Hemingway drank his daiquiris. The barmen still keep the blenders busy, and serve fine ice-cold daiquiris. The only difference nowadays is that customers can have their photos snapped next to the bronze statue of Hemingway, who is leaning on the bar, his elbow next to a bronze paperback.

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